I didn’t have a game ready for this competition, but the upside is, I get to judge! Games will be played in order of which ones manage to grab my attention.
Edit: For conveniences’ sake, I’ll put the list of all the games I’m rating so far, with my scores and brief summaries of why, below. Final ratings subject to change.
Detectiveland: 9. Fun, clever, and well-written noir adventure, artfully presented.
Fair: 9. Complex, funny simulation of one hour in the life of a science fair judge; looks great on the surface and is surprisingly deep underneath.
Night House: 8. (In spirit–I playtested this one, so I can’t actually vote for it.) Creative, creepy, and perfectly atmospheric; puzzles can get a little too obscure at times. Amazing, eerie ending.
Ariadne in Aeaea: 7. Short, fairly easy puzzle game set in ancient Greece, with a charmingly lusty, booze-soaked priestess-in-training for a protagonist.
Theatre People: 6. Short game set in a theater; very well implemented in some areas, rough in others, but puzzles aren’t too hard to solve, at least for the first ending.
The Little Lifeform that Could: 5. It’s pretty much Spore rendered in Choicescript; fast-paced and a little light, but entertaining.
Zigamus: Zombies at Vigamus: 4. Unique real-world setting and basically functional, but that’s about all it has going for it; viewpoint is just a little gross in a mildly off-putting way.
You Are Standing In A Cave: 4. Cliche scenario; writing and puzzles exhibit a lot of potential, but the game in its present form is rife with technical problems.
Steam and Sacrilege: 3. Wonderful concept, strong writing, glimpses of a fascinating story–unfortunately, it’s also hopelessly broken.
Toiletworld: 2. Seems to be a troll submission.
Manlandia: 1. Not interactive in the least=bad; entire text ripped off wholesale from someone else’s novel with only minor changes=worse. Forced me to calibrate the scale so there was a level beneath ‘troll’.
First up is Fair by Hanon Ondricek.
Having played Transparent and The Baker of Shireton, I expected Fair to be an innovative, enviromentally ‘busy’ game, and that’s what I got. In Fair, you play as a self-published author who’s been invited to judge an elementary school science fair. The game world is relatively small but extremely lively, crowded with science fair contestants, their parents, and a principal who mostly just wants the fair to be over with so he can set up for community theater rehearsal. As in The Baker of Shireton, the world is full of things happening around the player.
Where Baker faltered due to the opacity of the goal (I don’t think I’m the only one who never caught on that there was more to the game than unsuccessfully baking bread), Fair shines by giving you a few possible priorities and letting you choose. You don’t have time to do everything–will you try your best to judge the finalists’ exhibits, or try hawking your book and then award the prizes at random? I played through twice, and I have a strong suspicion that there are a lot more possibilities than I found.
A few spots are a little clunky (at one point, you’re told the principal is beckoning you over, but given no indication which direction you’re supposed to move) but in general the implementation was pretty solid given how many parts are moving at once. Like last year’s Midnight Swordfight, a single playthrough is quick, but it rewards revisiting if you want to find everything. Fun and recommended!
So, if you’ve played this–
how did you rank the exhibits? I chose to award prizes in reverse order of, in my opinion, how evil they were. So the one about how climate change is fake got fifth, the Lil’ Gideon kid with the plants got fourth, the kid who beat up his brothers got third, the mouse-killing girl got second, and the cheerleader got first by default because I didn’t get a chance to talk to her my first playthrough. Though I’d argue she actually deserved to win anyway; she was the only one who took an actual scientific approach to the project and collected data, even if it didn’t end up being very useful.