Sophia de Augustine's IFComp Corner

Not going to call it a Review thread quite yet, since these are just first impressions of what looks especially delightful to me- but I’ll also probably shove my reviews under the same thread for the sake of gathering it all up in the same place.

Going through the list right now and taking a cursory scan for what jumps out at me (maybe for a review thread after midterm season… study week is soon!) and I’m pretty excited about the following: (the short list is not in the order that I scrolled through and wrote a blurb about my first impressions, it’s a list of the order I’m most excited to play- though this isn’t a promise to play them for suresies!)

  • January
  • INK
  • The Archivist and the Revolution
  • Admiration Point
  • Graveyard Strolls
  • Lucid
  • To Persist/Exist/Endure, Press 1
  • Nose Bleed

The Archivist and the Revolution
I’ve followed Chen’s development of this over on Tumblr, and it’s been an interesting deviation from what I’ve come to expect from her work (sort of slice of life Asian American growing up girl experiences). It seems to be a lot more grim, (though I wouldn’t say that the tone of her work is particularly light either, perhaps melancholy or wistful is a better fit) and much more adult- but I am curious about what the ‘sort of alternate universe versions of some of the characters we’ve come to know, but not really quite them either’ are up to. Dendry games from Chen are quite easy to hop into and play interface wise, though I did hear more about stats in this one- so hopefully it’s not too puzzling for me to crack into! I also just like apocalyptic stuff, so I’m curious what’s inside.

Nose Bleed
Tiny little snippets of web based horror are always up my alley- and ‘Please, stop embarrassing us’ is a very odd little opener that makes me wants to find out more of what exactly the dynamic between the speaker and the player/player character is. Plus, I always find it amusing to see how depictions of excessive bleeding are done- a friend of mine jokingly mentioned putting in a hemophiliac mode in their murder sim game because I always snap out of the immersion when the player character gets stabbed and keeps on trucking instead of immediately perishing like a squished fruit gusher. The cover art is almost too minimal- I would have skipped over this one probably if it weren’t for that curious little line. I also appreciate the use of trigger warnings here for those among us more squeamish about gore.

To Persist/Exist/Endure, Press 1
Again, I like little web horror games! I also like the direct ‘speaking to the reader’ in the blurb, as if we really had dialled in to their line. It’s pretty common in short horror stories to have the monster under the bed, though I always found that kind of funny, since my bed doesn’t have the little crawlspace beneath it like in the movies- the elevation in height is too dangerous as a hemophiliac who has night terrors and moves about/used to sleepwalk as a child. So what would the agency do in that sort of set up? What about with someone who sleeps on the top level of a bunk bed, isn’t under their bed sort of also the lower bed area? But under the bed proper still exists, so I guess that means the monster could technically slip out from beneath the bed and hang out on the lower mattress- wouldn’t wanna be the guy sleeping there… Combining a therapy service and supernatural exorcism one is hilarious to me, I’d like to see how seriously the concept takes itself.

I love gothic horror AND gothic romance, so I perked up immediately when I saw that they used those tags (gothic, horror, romance) on their game. The ‘mysterious letter that changes everything’ conceit is pretty classic, and I really do hope there’s a brooding lord with an attitude problem I can draw in silly little poufy sleeves blouses and dramatic lighting. The cover’s quite nice- reminds me of some randomly generated art I’ve used for placeholder icons before (this art doesn’t exist I think?) and it’s got a funky maybe-eyeball on it melting into the background that lends itself nicely to the surrealism apparently tucked into this game. I wonder who died! I hope it wasn’t a beloved husband or wife…

Admiration Point
Well, as a huge romance fan, ‘anti-romance’ is certainly a tag that piques my interest. The quite forward, no nonsense tone to the blurb helps paint a pretty good picture of the protagonist without too many frills- and that is such a tantalizing little problem in a story: married? Mormon? And having the hots for your coworker? Scandalous!

Talk about a nice little piece of cover art- wow. That looks like a movie poster, or a book cover- though the font on the title itself kind of does remind me of some of the edits the roleplay community would/does make over on Tumblr. I like games about family, I love games about death- and the urgency behind the end of the world crashing down around your shoulders is one of my favourite areas to explore in fiction, so it’s cool to see it in a game. I like the opening line a lot too- “It’s the end of the world and everyone’s handling it in their own way.” Very snappily to the point. The cover and what little we have to go off of the blurb makes me feel like it’s more likely to be slanted towards like, a young adult coming of age angst-y kind of ride though, which isn’t really as interesting to me personally- (I prefer exploring the apocalypse’s start from the perspective of a father with a young child, or older adults with very well established lives, since the stakes are a bit more intense there) but that’s just general vibes and could be totally inaccurate.

Graveyard Strolls
This is a very sweet premise. I’ve always enjoyed works that explore our relationship with the dead and death- (I’m happily looking at a copy of Caitlin Doughty’s memoir of her first 6 years in the funerary industry, titled ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Other Lessons From the Crematory’ that I picked up as a treat the other day, place currently held by a pretty pink kitten adorned bookmark with beaded tassel) and the idea of a skeptic in particular being the one that ghosts can communicate with does offer some interesting friction to what might otherwise be something a bit too… linear? The disbelieving aspect injects the opportunity to add some choice and character agency, though of course, I’ve no idea if that’s actually present in the work.

This is a very personal quibble, but there’s just something intensely freaky about stations to me- the liminal quality to them, the dozens of hundreds of bodies passing through them namelessly, the unease in half recognizing people but not quite, the confusing signage, the anxiety of missing your ride or mixing it up with a totally different one and almost exiting the city entirely (as I’ve done myself) and also, being trapped on the actual vehicle. It’s a deeply anxious setting for me, and horror that invites other people to feel similarly trapped is really interesting- since most people don’t think twice about their daily commutes, seeing how its transformed into a similar zone of discomfort and fear by an author is cool to see. Also, I just like setting roleplay games in cities, because there’s so many possibilities for the worldbuilding to contribute to the interactions, so urban horror is fun to read for me, as someone who lives in a big city.

The cover art snagged my attention first- it’s pretty simple, but I like the clean black and white contrast, the slight blur of the snow- the striking image of a shovel being jammed into frozen ground, especially when paired with the desolate image conjured by ‘a year in the life of a man after the end of the world.’ This is exactly my sort of jam. I love post apocalyptic work with older characters. (Joel Miller from the Last of Us is like, the ideal protagonist.) I was left wanting a bit more in terms of maybe hinting at how the world ended (maybe it was a nuclear fallout bringing on an endless winter from the cover art? But it could also just be winter…) and maybe a bit about the man in terms who he was before the world ended, or if not, why he chose to remake his identity or obscure it- but then my eyes flicked to the author and I knew it absolutely had to go on my to play list, no matter what- and probably right to the top. I LOVE litrouke’s work, and I’ve really enjoyed their older take on a zombie apocalypse- the thick dread, the haunting horror of the undead and plain ol’ dead in the building alongside you- so I’m expecting a similarly scary, atmospheric ride.

Honourable Mentions
Honourable mentions go to games that I may have played under different circumstances, but either found too emotionally difficult to get into at this point in time, saw some potential in terms of an interesting universe but not enough of a pull character wise to play (whether strongly pre-established, defined character, or open enough with some direction for a self insert), too challenging or puzzle-y (I am not a puzzles gal!), or had a familiar and comfortable horror set up but without enough sparkly new-ness to have me pick it up over the others I’ve blabbed about:

Am I My Brother’s Keeper, i wish you were dead, The Pool, Death by Lightning, According to Cain, A Long Way to the Nearest Star, Prism, The Absence of Miriam Lane, Under the Bridge, No One Else Is Doing This.

So. Many. Games!

A warm congratulations to all of the authors for pulling it off, and being brave enough to join- I hope that you all get oodles of lovely reviews and the warm fuzzies for accomplishing what you did with aplomb. It’s going to be a great year for IFComp games!