Spike's IFComp 2020 Reviews

Creatures: a review.

The last several games I played and reviewed partly because, at the time I played them, they had no other public reviews. I’m going to take a break from that selection heuristic for a bit to finish and then review several of the games we looked at during Sunday’s Seattle IF meetup.

One of those was Alone, by Paul Michael Winters.


Mike, thanks for the great review. You hit it right on the head that this game was inspired by my anxieties from the past year and I thought a lot of people might be able to relate to that. I’m glad to hear it’s resonating, at least for some. If anything, I’m surprised there aren’t more pandemic inspired entries this year.

Also thanks for the feedback about the implementation. I did have a few beta testers who were excellent, but I clearly need to have the discipline to finish my game with enough time to have multiple iterations of testing. The positive feedback I’ve gotten this year will certainly give me motivation to have an nice polished work for next year.


Paul, you might be interested in the place in Alone where I resorted to the walkthrough.

Spoiler on one puzzle

To open the bunker door, I was convinced for a while that the solution was to tape Joe’s hand to the touch screen so that I could flip the fuse and have Joe’s hand open the door even though I was locked out of the junkyard. When I finally gave up and looked at the solution in the walkthrough my response was “I should have thought of that!” :grin:

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That is very clever. I could probably implement that as an alternate solution.


I had the exact same idea. I was going to mention it to Paul after the meeting but I forgot.

The solution would have had a similar feel to the three light bulb riddle.

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Next up in my reviews of games from the Seattle IF meetup a few days ago: Jared Jackson’s Tragic.

Thank you for the review and of course for Beta Testing. There are several quality of life improvements that everyone playing Tragic gets to experience because of your feedback.

On the conundrum of getting to the end

As noted in the review, I often try to fit round pegs into the square hole that is IF Comp. In this case I tried to write a Rogue-like game into a format where judging happens after two hours. My ideal for the design of the game would be that once you die, that’s it. You start over. The idea being that you learn a skill in playing the game and each successive run is a better experience.

To better fit the Comp format I added the ability to resurrect with more health and keep playing. This is a double edged sword. In a game like this, your deck composition has a lot more impact on your success than your health pool. So in one sense it lets you keep going and see more, but also it’s not giving you the tough love to send you back and learn from your last run.

Maybe I could have been more creative - let you drop a card and pick another each time you die? That would have to wait to post-comp.

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We also played Pace Smith’s Limerick Quest.


And we played Brian Rushton’s The Magpie Takes the Train; I’ve reviewed it as well.


Thanks for the review; I thought you might be interested in J. J.'s original prompt he gave me:

It would be a one-room game taking place over a very limited number of moves, which would require multiple replays to win. The idea would be that the train would go through tunnels on the way, plunging the compartment into darkness, during which time the Magpie would have the opportunity to switch disguises, switch bags with the victim, etc. On subsequent play throughs, the player would be able to plan, learning exactly what to do when, although the train’s ‘schedule’ would be available from the start (perhaps as a feelie).

The timing/replay aspect got written out as time goes on, but the costume part was there from the beginning!


It was a game I originally planned to write myself, but which got pushed to the back of my schedule. When I saw Brian’s prize on the list I couldn’t resist seeing what he would do with the idea. He has done a fantastic job and I couldn’t be happier with the result! The Magpie Takes the Train is hilarious and introduces some memorable characters into the Magpie universe. A third Magpie game is in the early planning stages and there might be a couple of cameos!


Thanks so much, Brian and Jason, for chiming in with additional background on The Magpie Takes the Train.

I look forward to playing the third Magpie game!




Back to reviews of games that didn’t yet have a public review… Here’s Saint Simon’s Saw.

As a reminder, the reviews spreadsheet keeps track of reviews. As of right now there are just three games out of the hundred and four in the competition that don’t have public reviews!


I didn’t finish this one, but I wrote a review based on the two-and-a-half hours I spent on it: Return to Castle Coris.


I just posted my review of Just Another Fairy Tale.

I believe all the games in this year’s IFComp now have at least one public review.


Thanks for your work, this is great!


Thank you for your kind and thoughtful review. This was my first text adventure, and I’ll take your suggestions to heart.


No problem. With three years as an IFComp author myself, I know how much feedback matters to authors! And, of course, I wasn’t the only one helping to give every game at least one public review. :slight_smile: