Rovarsson's EctoPlasmic Exhortations

A deluge of Petit Morts, a less crowded Grand Guignol. I’ll pick and choose according to my whim of the day.

First:

Nowheresville

Hell is utter brand-new squeaky-clean boredom. Explore and escape.

Nowheresville offers an interesting image of the afterlife. The town looks as if it has just been taken out of its airtight plastic wrapping and given a quick wax-and-polish just for you.

The newness and cleanness of the surroundings create an alienating atmosphere. The game world is very sparsely implemented, entire side-rooms are dismissed as scenery, NPCs are unhelpful plastic dummies.

During the exploration phase, the unresponsiveness of the world actually helps in setting the disturbing and unsettling tone. It seems as if the PC is wandering amongst the fake façades of an unused film set while something is barely suspected to be brewing underneath. The NPCs mutter their repetitive responses, and the fact that they’re often just-off adds to the eerieness.

Unfortunately, the suspenseful façade-world loses its effectiveness once the puzzling starts in earnest. Nothing is happening outside of the PC’s actions, there is no sense of urgency or rising tension. The creepy “unused world” dissolves into “boring background” while you solve a sequence of mildly challenging puzzles.

The first NPC I met mentioned that my PC had attempted to escape before but was retrieved by “him”(?). Nowheresville would certainly benefit from a threatening presence behind the scenes to add a certain amount of tension.

I really liked the open ending. Since there was no arc of tension leading up to it however, it felt abrupt and it didn’t have the impact it could have had.

A pleasant diversion with the potential for more.

7 Likes

A Pumpkin?

A minute ago you stood there, just about to plunge your carving knife into the waiting pumpkin. Your head started spinning and now you’re… where the heck is here?

I love games with a portal to parallel worlds. The cozy and festive everyday world where you’re preparing for trick-or-treaters to come along stands in stark contrast with the alternate world where Halloween comes a lot closer to its otherworldly origins.

There are bugs. Some. There are typos. Many.
(@fos1 : I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to exit the Pumpkin World by going east from Pumpkin World and re-enter it by going west from Out Back).

But mostly there is the clicking and clacking skeleton of a great spooky game here. As it is now, I felt as if I were in an abandoned playground under construction. Lots to see but only a few things to actually do. This world is lying in wait for a more robust and extended story.

I had a lot of fun.

5 Likes

Thank you for the kind review. I basically started learning I7 when EctoComp was introduced. I didn’t have time to implement a conversation system with the NPCs. And, I brute forced the “Hint” system.

I will definitely do another pass to exterminate the typos. The east/west passage was added after beta tester’s had a difficult time navigating back and forth with my portal system. When I rewrite the game, I will remove them and leave better trail of breadcrumbs to get back and forth.

It was more complex before I simplified it late in the day.

It is my first published game, a milestone and a big learning experience!

Thank you, again. On to Version 7. :wink:

7 Likes

Well done for getting it out there Jeff! First of many I hope.

3 Likes

Thanks Christopher,

I have a few on the back burner. Now that I’m over the hump…

2 Likes

The Trials and Tribulations of Edward Harcourt

First off: that’s a great title.

The premise of the story is not original, but it is a premise I enjoy very much. You get a letter from an old acquaintance requesting your help with an investigation into the occult.
The prologue has you enduring a bumpy coach-ride through rough and stormy weather to the acquaintance’s Gothic manor. The introduction is, again, not original, but it sure had me rubbing my hands together in anticipation.

As is the norm in long-form choice-based interactive novellas, there is a (barely disguised) sequence where you create your character (gender, pronouns, skin colour, facial hair/beauty marks, hair colour, eye colour, toenail length, navel specifications (innie/outie), body odour, earwax consistency,…). I don’t like this. Give me a well-drawn character and I’ll happily roleplay along.

Gothic writing is hard. Holding the tension amidst these verbose descriptive passages of dark and dank and gloom while keeping a straight face is no easy feat. The author here (@manonamora . Edit: apparently the head writer is MelS. Kudos to MelS.) succeeds admirably in this task. The text is a bit heavy on the similes in places, and some sentences and paragraphs could be pruned for poignancy, but that’s nitpicking.
Also, “ominous” is a very good word. Don’t wear it out…

The sudden leap from being invited along by your friend who received two invitations for the Secret Club to becoming full-fledged members of said club about half an in-game hour later was a bit hard on the old suspenders of disbelief.

The level of interaction varies throughout the story. There are high-level choices, mostly during conversations, that serve to characterize the protagonist and steer the narrative (I believe? I have only played through once). In other sequences the game allows a more direct hands-on approach while investigating certain locations. I liked this a lot.

Unfortunately, this is only a two-chapter demo. I liked what I read, it got my interest piqued and I would certainly like to read the rest.

5 Likes

Thank you for the review and taking the time to play through the whole thing!
I cannot take all the credit for the game, my writer MelS is the one who wrote everything. I helped a bit and coded it. I will pass along the review to him too :slight_smile:

This is supposed to be a memory. Some memories are not always true to reality :wink:

I hope you like the rest of the demo (when we are done with it, we have a lot planned still).

Edit: MelS sends his thanks as well. The review is a fair critique.

1 Like

Would that happen to be the same Mel S (Mel Stefaniuk, iirc) that wrote previous ECTOCOMP entries like Steve Van Helsing: Process Server or Return to Dracula’s Castle II: Revenge of Dracula’s Castle?

No (he’s not anywhere on the internet either). It’s his first IF ever too!

1 Like

The Sun Doesn’t Shine Here

Well this is something different!

The Sun Doesn’t Shine Here uses primitive blocky blue-grey graphics to represent a pixel-dungeon with little characters in it. The conversational options are linked to the arrow keys. The player can move the PC around (also with the arrows). Walking up to an NPC or an object (in a slightly different colour) initiates an conversation or something equating to X. (There aren’t many objects in the game. Maybe a few more might give some extra background.)
(Apparently the videogame djinni whose lamp you have to rub for making these kinds of games is “binksi”. I hope this “binksi” thing catches on. I’m curious how far people can push it. There’s a similar game in the Spanish EctoComp, but my rudimentary grasp of the language is not nearly up to the challenge.)

Most of the story outside the conversations is recounted in the usual 2nd person, the narrator filling in for the PC’s viewpoint and inner voice.

The story itself is well-written, gruesome as befits EctoComp. I found the prose very effective at setting the desperate tone in short paragraphs. The character’s different voices and personalities were easily recognizable.
Even with the horror on top, the story is nothing too original. It does succeed in evoking a bleak hopelessness, with the writing and the graphics working in tandem.
The revelation at the end does put the whole experience in a new light. A very strong epilogue serves to wrap up the whole gloomy package with a black ribbon.

There are a few choices that have an obvious and immediate effect. I don’t know how much some of the conversational choices affect the direction of the story, or if they’re mostly for characterization purposes.

A great IF experience. I enjoyed this a lot.

5 Likes

The Enigma of the Old Manor House

Aaah… The comfortable reassuring familiarity of the old haunted mansion.

This is a wonderful piece of lovingly written and meticulously coded craftsmanship. A true joy to play.

A missed default description here and there (“You see nothing special about the shattered china.”). A few random commands that could use a response, just to deepen the atmosphere (LISTEN). A bit more characterization of the protagonist after the introduction perhaps.

(A smoothly balanced introduction by the way. Funny yet suspenseful.)

Small criticisms aside though. This is a good work. Clear writing without sacrificing the mood. Very efficient gating and pacing. Beautifully simple, clever and elegant puzzles. A delightful ending.

Very, very good.

EDIT: I just saw that this is a Petite Mort entry. I’m more than impressed. Wow.

7 Likes

Zombie Eye

Um…

Silliness inspired by a particularly bad case of conjunctivitis?

I played through twice now and I have this lingering feeling there’s more to this. An undiscovered Halloween Egg waiting to burst and spew forth slimy goo when I find the right command?

For now, I shall repeat:

Um…?

3 Likes

HSL Type Ω MEWP Certification Exam

I am woefully, brutally, dangerously underqualified to operate an HSL.

Good to know.

The author did get his certification for “Getting chortles and chuckles out of Rovarsson”.

Several times.

A funny 15 minutes, especially if you read the answers afterwards.

4 Likes

Uveitis, but yes, it was eye-frustration-induced silliness.

And what an idea! BURST EGG might make it into the post-game release now.

2 Likes

Something Blue

A retelling of Bluebeard, one of the most horrifying horror stories I know. (Categorized as a fairytale most of the time, but hey, all fairytales are horror underneath).

I was drawn in by the directness of the epistolary approach to the narration. You are in limited control of the content of the new bride Helen’s letters to her sister Anne. You can choose how much of her worry and suspicion she puts in her letters, In so doing, you shape her attitude as docile, panicked, decisive,…

I found the game too short to be truly engaging, the tension doesn’t get the chance to build enough.

Still, presenting this story through the words of the protagonist herself in her letters brings the reader in closer. Very good choice.

I have yet to reach a good ending, but I’ll keep trying.

5 Likes

This Old Haunted House

In a pleasant and engaging framing story, you are the host and interior designer of what should be the ultimate Haunted House. An expert horror-duo of stylists give suggestions. It’s your task to balance out their personal favourite themes to create a Spooky Experience that will give chills and thrills to scare-seekers of all tastes.

The framing story does grow a bit thin after a few iterations. Underneath the Haunted-House theme, this is a tinkering game. After a few playthroughs (which come immediately after each other in the same frame story), you will have seen the recurring themes. You can then start changing things around, tweaking the appearance of one scary theme over another (gore, cosmic horror, classic monsters,…) and see what the producer has to say at the end of preparations.

This was fun for a while. The game (in the guise of the producer) does seem to have a pretty definite idea of what “the perfect haunted house” should be. I preferred the ones where I went with one theme throughout, but that doesn’t appeal to the greatest number of visitors.

The narrator’s/producer’s voice is enthusiastic, the suggestions for horror-rooms vividly written.

Horror-house make-over. Fun.

4 Likes

Escape from Hell

A very neat Gruescript puzzler (EDIT: Is it Gruescript though? Robin Johnson’s Versificator is mentioned in the credits as inspiration but the development system listed on IFDB just says 'Custom". {I’ll edit my review if I’m wrong.} EDIT²: It’s not. It’s @nilsf 's own hellish spawn.) The main mechanic of switching between different creatures with their own particular abilities (vampires can change into bats, for example) makes for inventive and engaging puzzles.

I loved how this game inspired me to dream up far-fetched possible solutions. Even if they didn’t work, I enjoyed feeling my brain working creatively in the background even when I was away from the computer.

Full Review: Escape from Hell - Details (ifdb.org)

3 Likes

Quintessence

The story of Galina, a young woman searching for a kernel of her own personality underneath layers of inhibition and perfectionism instilled on her by her upbringing.

It’s based on Eastern European folktales. As such, there are a good deal of familiar fairytale elements. Threefold repetition, water spirits, the granting of a boon…

The writing is vivid and evocative, the attention to the water for instance was mesmerizing. Aside from being beautiful in its own right, the language is very effective in mirroring the protagonist’s internal emotional restraint.
It’s somewhat studied, distanced, as if the language itself has rules of etiquette and social norms to follow. Any raw or piercing emotions are veiled by exquisite but slightly artificial sounding turns of phrase and choice words.

This is very much a story first. There is some interaction in the updating of the Dramatis Personae and the Codex depending on which characters you meet (and click on). From my two playthroughs, I could discern only two meaningful choices.

A touching folktale. I do think it could stand as regular fiction however, perhaps with footnotes or an appendix to take the role of the Codex and Dramatis Personae sections.

4 Likes

You are a Zombie Yelp Reviewer

Probably really funny to play during your lunch break. If you don’t feel queasy too easy.
Preferably read out loud in your best zombie voice, so your lunch date (and the rest of the restaurant) can enjoy it with you.

2 Likes

Thanks for the review! I’m glad you liked the epistolary format. I wish I’d been able to make it long enough for the tension to build properly, but the Petite Mort constraints are tough that way.

1 Like