Quick thouhgts on comp13 games

So, since I have nowhere else to put my brief reactions (more or less my during-play notes) to the entries I’ve played …

In the order of my randomised list:

The Challenge
online-only HTML, moved to the bottom of my list.

online-only HTML, moved to the bottom of my list.

Who among us

Interactive fiction? This doesn’t seem particularly interactive (no obvious branches, just a few shortcuts), although I can’t claim to have replayed it to check this hypothesis. The fiction side is a bit meh, not much characterisation going on for a relatively large cast. Urgently needs proofreading, or at least a spellchecker. One dead-end bug encountered (the option to continue at one point wasn’t actually an active link).

The Cardew house

I liked: listing the exits in the header instead of in the room descriptions. That’s about it.
This is very short, and not even nearly ready for publication. Very sparse descriptions and implementation. When I look at a trapdoor in the ceiling, I don’t particularly need to hear that it’s “the way into the attic”; I’d like to gain some information about what it looks like and how it appears to work. The electric lights overhead flicker on and off outdoors. Confused about the end: Is there an actual ending and I missed it by hitting a key at the wrong time, or did something crash?

Blood on the heather

Good mindless fun. Get a proofreader (same author as who among us). Some of the dialogue goes on a little too long without speech attributions.
My friend has gone to a concert, and the next thing I hear about her is that I tell someone else she turned into a vampire …?
Another dead link somewhere in there (but not a dead end: another option on the same page is active).

Ollie ollie oxen tree

I haven’t played this much yet, and I’ll depart from the randomised order. I can’t get the right emotional connection. If there’s time I’ll go back to this one before tackling the online HTML entries.

Dad vs. unicorn

I like: all three characters are unlikeable, no playing favourites here.
Random is not automatically interesting. Excessive characterisation-by-f-bomb comes across as ludicrously inept writing. Not sure if trying too hard to be funny or trying to make an incomprehensible point.

Machine of death

Seems competent and well presented, although within the 2 hours I only saw 2 of the announced 3 stories (is the choice of story randomised, or maybe based on choices made at the supermarket?). Unfortunate: In the snowstorm story the PC promises to wait quietly, but then the player has to make them do random things simply to, literally, get time to pass.

Their angelical understanding

It’s hard not to unreservedly love an entry which has, at one point, a command to “lose interest”. Unfortunately this one was marked and marred by technical problems. Regular “macro exceptions”, apparently related to stopping sounds I never heard in the first place.
Not-sure-if-intentional: particularly at the beginning the narration drifts seemingly aimlessly between first and second person. At some decision points the available options run together; it was not necessarily clear before clicking whether I was making a choice or just performing a “click to continue”.
Is’t possible that the system runs through all the decisions-so-far on every turn? Certainly the story seemed to get less responsive the longer I played; I eventually got stuck entirely at “your nemesis”. Lecture aborted. Pity, I was quite impressed up to there.

Final girl
online-only HTML, moved to the bottom of my list.

Mr Wobbles and the tangerine house
online-only HTML, moved to the bottom of my list.

A wind blown from paradise

A general impression of an author writing beyond their stylistic means - too much icing for too little cake. Game insults the player (“the train isn’t here, idiot”), which is particularly embarrassing because that same train can still be examined (and be described as “waiting”) when it’s already left the station. Is it intentional that the player can’t find out where the PC is traveling and why? (signs on train not readable etc.)
New players who follow the instructions and type >help, then choose the first option (“what is this?”) are hit in the teeth with a rant which might begin to make sense after one’s read the story. It’s certainly not a welcoming start to the experience.

Autumn’s daughter
online-only HTML, moved to the bottom of my list.

100,000 years

Can’t tell if pessimistic (history repeating itself) or optimistic (there’s always time to build huge spaceships in time for the exodus). Little fiction, barely interactive.

The house at the end of Rosewood street

Ending(?): I can’t tell if I hit a bug and covert reset, or if the loop back to the first Monday is intentional. Interestingly I got an “afterlife” vibe quite early on, but don’t know if that’s the intended interpretation (if it is, then why does Elisabeth disappear again towards the end of the week, and how was Caius able to be announced in advance?)
A parser rejecting a command should hint at what’s wrong. One blatant example: putting Caius’ paper behind the fence on Monday, when attempted one location too far down, was met with “You don’t think that would be appreciated”. Yes, it would; the problem here is that the fence is out of scope.
This is not a minor problem. The required actions (paper round) are very repetitive, and the game punishes any further experimentation with these non-responses. Outside of the comp I would probably have dropped this game as not worth my time.
Why does everyone live alone (except for Theo, who “knows nothing” when asked about his wife)? Why does nobody have a letterbox for their newspapers? Why don’t they go get their own damn paper if they’re up this early anyway? (Seriously, this was my first trip to the walkthrough. Delivering an early-morning newspaper in person? WHAT.) It’s also a bit frustrating, at least on Monday, that although I carry my paper around all the time, I can only read it (and mark it as read so as to put it in the bin) during the cut scene at the end of the day.

The paper bag princess

Simple, crude story, well put together. Doesn’t seem to have time for the fairy-tale rule of 3 when 2 will suffice.


Quite basic, a very bare world (though that’s probably in-theme). The ending (final line) feels incredibly bathetic - rush job? choice? Interesting choice to use memories not as anchors to the old world but as a prerequisite for passage.
Seems a missed opportunity not to distinguish more between the remembering (in the significant locations) and the re-remembering (at the colour gates). One obvious choice (obvious to the optimists in the room at least) would have been to focus on the pain and grief of the loss of everything ever on the first instance of each memory, and then, for the second remembrance, move on to a happier enjoyment of the memory of good times.


Things I liked: … well, it didn’t crash. On the negative side, the answer-checking never worked for me. I went through by checking the page sources for which file comes next.
Quite apart from how weak it is to just use a real-world quiz as puzzle replacements: What is supposed to be going on here? Who, within the fiction, provides the hints? What benefit do the thieves derive from my answers? Why are they so obsessed with the 1960s? How were they going to abuse records which are behind a hidden panel in my own office all along? Zero points for effort. This IF story is not only a lame excuse for a quiz, it’s a lame lame excuse for a quiz.
Ah, and as for the how-to-play file: there are easier ways than trial and error when converting from base 36 to base 10.

Tex Bonaventure

Not bad, but not that good either. And then there’s a game-breaking bug.
Opening text: an unexplained he->you shift, and the expectation of treasure, cards and stone temples in a swamp. Not promising, I’m afraid (and neither is the “very agitated” snake “basking” in front of the temple).
Speaking of appropriate vocabulary: a glaive is a polearm, not a long gauntlet.
The descending-ceiling switch: It’s not clear to me how you’re supposed to go from noticing the glint off the far wall to knowing there’s a switch; but going to the hints and just referring to the switch you haven’t technically noticed yet does work. Died to guess-the-verb there: “pushing” / “pressing” the switch doesn’t work, and takes a turn. (Where is that wall the switch is mounted on, anyway? I got the impression that these rooms connected directly to the entrance hall, so the nearest opposite wall would be either on the base of the statue or on the far side of the bottomless pit.)
In the bathroom: More guess-the-verb. “open door with hook” or “put hook in door” kind of need to work here. I would never have thought of trying as vague a verb as “use”. That done, >open door results in a description of how the trapdoor opens, but fails to actually, y’know, open the trapdoor. Stuck on bug, reading aborted.

The wizard’s apprentice

Deeply mediocre. Needs descriptions rather than mere mentions: I’m “chained” in one of three “sets of chains” - what does that mean for my freedom of movement? hands or legs tied together? ankle attached to the wall? chains wrapped all around me, Obélix style? I-the-player have no idea what I-the-character can possibly attempt at first.
Similarly, it turns out from the hints that the key to the cell is in the keyhole. If I see “through” the keyhole that it’s “on the other side”, I’ll assume it’s lying on the stairs or something.
Making the potion: So I immediately turn off a brazier somehow? Impressive. I must have cast freeze at it …
Implementation: “fold list” should do something, if not succeed altogether. Also, “throw plane” seems to be special-cased: “make plane” followed by “throw it” produces “You can’t throw the aeroplane.”, which of course I can, and in fact need to do to succeed.
No clue (that I’ve noticed) that the magic mirror might be hiding a passage (and I’ve been living there how long now?). Also, the way to open the passage seems a completely random, read-the-author’s-mind moment.
Let me just review the plot one more time: I’m in an exam situation. My examiner, who is entirely free to decide whether or not I pass, specifically orders me not to give the witch the scroll (in an optional conversation, when asked about the scroll). He also reminds me I’m not allowed in his room. I sneak into his room, steal the scroll, and go give it to the witch, which almost gets the examiner killed. Thus I … um, pass the exam. WHAT.


Why exactly do I enter the unfamiliar building at the beginning? … turns out it’s not the kind of game where this kind of question matters. According to the “logic” file it seems to be a kind of word puzzle with a terrible interface for word puzzles. I don’t really understand what’s going on, and have no particular desire to find out. Probably not going to rate this, unless I do give it another go.

Saving John
online-only HTML, moved to the bottom of my list.

Adam, you’re right about the interactivity being a possible end or device in itself.

In who among us:

I didn’t really see that effect at work: the message I took away from the “choices” here was that there was generally one “correct” (i.e. implemented) way to proceed, and the other options contributed flavour. But again, these are just one person’s impressions from a single playthrough.

A few more reactions:


Frustratingly buggy. I started with the one trying to make a fire and quickly ended up with a fire pit containing “a deadwood”. I then accidentally placed the branches in the pit before the twigs, and couldn’t “take branches” any more, either from the pit or from the environment. Since burning twigs on top of branches doesn’t light the branches, it was time for a restart.
Next attempt, the guy with the tent. Again not a happy experience in terms of implementation, description or cluing: for instance the tarp is described as having holes in the corners only, but suddenly develops another one in the middle when being placed on the pole. Examining the still-closed bag doesn’t suggest that the knot is relevant, or even that it remains knotted past opening the bag. “Tie hitch” raises an interpreter error (in Gargoyle, which I think uses a version of Git for glulx files).
On the whole, this doesn’t look anywhere near ready for release. Get testers.

Impostor syndrome

Unusually for IF, the second person narration struck me as a bit of a problem, perhaps because the text pretty much is the PC’s internal monologue. Referring to herself as “you” comes across a bit self-aggressive, which is not per se out of place for this character; but throughout?
Like: the underexplained context was very well pulled off. The necessary information was there, without much clumsy infodumping. Generally well told, well paced.
Technical: at one or two points a bit of text which narrates a transition from the previous scene (and should only appear once) was included in the section which repeats after a non-progressing choice.
The character overrules the player on whether or not to check the live feed. Turns out this is the core point of the work, so it’s probably justifiable (and making it a decision point at all makes sense, pacing-wise: it’s a natural pause), but still it feels forced when it happens.
I should probably replay and try what happens if you acknowledge the problem in public, just to watch the train wreck.

Nine lives

This is a series of unconnected scenes about … ethical choices is probably what was intended. A bit like that Thursday Next trap in one of the Fforde books, only badly plotted and written. Maybe this too has an “escape the sequence altogether” twist at the end, but I really really don’t want to sit through nine of these scenes to find out.
Games with constantly changing protagonists should not leave the “As good-looking as ever” library default in place.
Much guess-the-verb-age (and in the superhero scene, I couldn’t figure out how to phrase the “naughty” choice at all, in terms of flight destinations). The uncharacterised, zero-player-investment PCs invite behaviour which gets them killed.
Useful hint for time travelers: If your castle is under siege, don’t leave the door wide open.

Our men in uniform

I feel like this uses its narration as a pretext to argue a point, but I don’t really understand it. Diffuse storytelling, which can be done very well, but isn’t reallly in this case. The basic mechanism chosen is annoying: Read the author’s mind, and if you get it wrong, return to square one.