Stian's Ectocomp 2020 reviews

I suddenly found myself taking a break from IFComp… to play Ectocomp games. Well, some variation in life is always good.


The Long Nap
An interactive fiction by Paul Michael Winters

The Long Nap is written in Dialog, and the first Å-machine game I have played locally. It’s short, clever, appropriately spooky, and solidly implemented for a La petite mort game. The playthrough took about five minutes, and I was smiling with enjoyment all of the time.


A Pilgrim
An Interactive Fiction by Abandoned Pools

Another game made in less than four hours, A Pilgrim provides an intriguing glimpse into a different world. As a lonely wandering pilgrim in an area reminiscent of a mythical South America, the protagonist allows you to experience a day (well, a night really) in their sandals, sharing their perspective and their dreams. There is no spooky twist or clever puzzles here, but rather strong and imaginative imagery that is strange yet familiar, lending an eerie sense of the Unheimlich.

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An Interactive Fiction by Ralfe Rich

Also in the La petite mort category, Fracture is a very short and slightly experimental parser IF that puts you in a precarious position and allows only a single command to be used. The whole IF is actually based around this limitation, and it makes very good use of it. Thematically centred on suffering and decay, the story is splendidly horrid, and the writing is excellent.

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A Pilgrim is set in the same really cool world as Caleb’s two entries in the Veeder Expo:


Nice to know!

1 Like

Last Day
An Interactive Apocalypse by Earth Traveler

In Last Day, the only progression you will achieve is counting down to the apocalypse. With a ambitiously large map for a game made in less than four hours, it is not surprising that there is little polish, and no puzzles involved. What this IF offers you is a bit of time to explore your neighbourhood and decide how to die. In the end I managed to experience four different endings, one of which the author seems to regard as optimal.

transcript.txt (22.7 KB) - first playthrough
transcript2.txt (16.6 KB) - second playthrough


Ritus Sacri
An Interactive Fiction by quackoquack

A meticulously crafted parser IF, Ritus Sacti starts off innocently enough with a school task of translating a Latin passage into English. This is as far as puzzles go in this game, and for me, someone who is interested in languages and knows next to nothing about Latin, it was actually a fun and interesting exercise. I have been wondering, as a matter of fact, whether Latin is the most evil sounding language to modern ears. The author may agree. Here, Latin is used to great effect and builds up the horror slowly, slowly. The writing is excellent throughout and may even offer up a surprise or two.

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by Jac Colvin

A very short Choicescript game, Phantasmagoria provides a single puzzle of escape, with several endings available. As a puzzle, however, it is fairly easy; it took me two playthroughs in five minutes to emerge victorious. The writing seems to be more essential here, but though it was horrific enough, I found it a bit too chaotic to properly enter the story. It has bits of Lovecraft, touches of Shakespeare, and references to both christian and pagan occultism, but all this was disjointed and lacked a certain coherence. It certainly has its scary elements, but it would have been more terrifying with a more solid foundation that could have suspended my disbelief.

1 Like

Death Plays Battleship
by Nerd Date Night

Really more funny than scary, this choice IF parodies the famous chess scene in The Seventh Seal. Death Plays Battleship is very short, so you can easily try all paths in a matter of minutes. As far as parodies go, this is a rather good one; Death is recognisable as based on the character in the classic film, though this one is more fun to hang out with.

Duck Diary
by Brian Rushton

The most realistic story I have encountered so far at this year’s Ectocomp, Duck Diary is all the more scary for it. Dealing with anxiety and trauma, the protagonist finds comfort in a rubber duck that keeps them company through baths and through dreams. As a choice IF, it does not appear to be properly branching. Rather, the choices affect only the next screen. As such, you get one narrative, but with some variations in the details. The writing is of course the essence here, and it’s positively superb, mixing the realistic melancholy with touches of comforting humour provided by your rubbery friend, and a gradually unveiling horror that builds up as the story unfolds.


Social Lycanthropy Disorder
by ejoyce

This is a choice IF with lots of endings and achievements, presumably a mechanism designed to have you replay again and again, to discover all there is. I’m afraid it did not grip me enough to motivate more than one play. The foremost reason for this, I guess, is the stereotypical American party setting that the game takes place in. The choices are to a large part dialogue options that lets you choose between fake sincerity and disinterested excuses to shift your focus elsewhere, and there is a discomfort number that is supposed to represent your feeling of awkwardness. Suffice to say I have never attended an American party, and the situation described in Social Lycanthropy Disorder is so far from my reality that it was impossible to feel any involvement with the story. The writing is decent enough, however, and although it was low on spookiness, it does fit the Halloween theme well.

by bminus7

I have no idea what is going on here.

It really doesn’t seem to be randomly generated.

The sentences are cool and coherent.

It’s very, very short.

I played it ten times in a few minutes.

But I have no idea what is going on here.

1 Like

Rat Chasm
by Hatless

Not really interactive, Rat Chasm features a single link that takes you to a news article on which the story is based. Apart from that, it simply consists of scrollable text. The story behind it is gruesome enough. Here, it has received a subjective treatment of the accounts, and a truly hellish one at that. The ending was a bit abrupt though, with a message that may be a bug of sorts. Perhaps there should be more to it.

1 Like

The Imposter
by Carter Gwertzman

Capturing some of the same eeriness as Alien, The Imposter is a very short story set in a spaceship. It’s hardly interactive though; the only choices you make is the order in which you visit the different locations. The little text there is is well written; the only issue is that it did not always feel coherent with the spectacularly creepy ending.


Several Other Tales from Castle Balderstone
by Ryan Veeder

It’s hard not to love Veeder’s Balderstone series of parser IF – perfectly framed horror anthologies where each tale has its own style, both literary and in terms of play. This latest instalment may be the most impressive yet, if only for the second of the evening’s tales, one which gives a whole new meaning to the term interactive fiction. Although I’m not sure I can vouch for the literary quality of that particular story, it was certainly a delightful experience. The other several other tales here are as elegantly written as I have come to expect from Veeder, although I do sense a slight shift to a more humoristic approach than the previous tales offered. Puzzlewise, all the stories here are very straightforward and you’ll hardly be stuck for more than a minute, leaving you to enjoy the imaginative descriptions from Veeder’s dark side.

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The Curse of the Scarab
by Nils Fagerburg

Not particularly scary, but hilariously funny, The Curse of the Scarab is an optimisation parser IF inspired by Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder and Sugarlawn. Here, you are attempting to loot an Egyptian tomb, which is not only filled with treasures but also deadly traps and flesh eating creatures. I have never used UNDO so many times in an adventure, and never had so much fun doing it. The Egyptian lore and hieroglyphs present in The Curse of the Scarab may be meaningless or fake, I don’t know, but they are perfectly convincing and really contributes to the immersion. I also don’t know what authoring system Fagerburg has used for this game; while there was no download link, the online interface was really lovely, with tasteful fonts and adorned by subtle decorations. All in all an excellent game!


Cabin in the Forest
by William Loman

Playing this game was a truly horrifying experience. I’m afraid I can’t say more; the memories are too painful…


Ebony & Ivory’s Halloween Party
by M. Nite Chamberlain

Another choice IF set at a Halloween party, this one has only minimal amounts of dialogue, something I was thankful for. Here you are tasked with a puzzle of sorts, which involves going back and forth a bit. I’m not entirely sure what to take from this story, but the writing was pretty decent, and the cover art was nice.


A Very Dangerous Criminal
by C.C. Hill

Despite some lack of polish, this is actually a pretty good horror story. I’m mostly impressed by its narrative arc, which is well grounded in classic storytelling while also offering a few well placed extensions in just the right places. On the other hand, there is no interesting interactivity here; you get to choose a few traits for the protagonist, which I don’t think has any bearing on the story, and a few details that appears to be completely arbitrary. I think A Very Dangerous Criminal easily could be a great novella, but a lot of work would be needed to turn it into a good piece of IF.

1 Like