Stian's IFComp 2019 Reviews

Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment: The Text Adventure
An Interactive Fiction by Pippin Barr

This is not so much a game as a demonstration of ancient Greek myths, with Zeno’s paradox thrown in for good measure. It’s a fun idea, and decently implemented, but only slightly more fun to actually play than the punishments themselves. On the positive side, you can quit whenever you want. Or even restart and try another punishment.

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Jon Doe - Wildcard Nucleus
Some retro spy fiction by Olaf Nowacki

Jon Doe - Wildcard Nucleus clearly alludes to the classic James Bond stories, most notably in its opening scene, but generally lacks the humour to be characterised as a good parody. In fact, the absence of humour throughout the game becomes rather noticeable after introducing two silly names in the beginning: Miss Bestbeforedate and Adolf von Bolzplatz (Adolf of the football field). I do get the feeling that the game was intended to be essentially parodic and funny, but that this focus was lost during production.

While the descriptions generally are good and paints a decently vivid picture of retro-modernity, some of the language bears the mark of a rudimentary translation. This, along with several bugs and the fact that little of the described scenery is implemented, made Jon Doe a somewhat disappointing experience. The puzzles are also few and not that interesting – and I still got stuck twice. However, I would probably not have been equally disappointed if it weren’t for the promising premise and the intriguing blurb. Jon Doe has a lot of potential, but requires more work to fulfill it.

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Bugs and notes for the author (contains spoilers)
  • Typo in the comment from Miss Bestbeforedate: your were > you were
  • ‘mainframe’ should be a synonym of ‘system’:
>x mainframe
You can't see any such thing.
>x system
This must be at least thirty or forty metal cubes, all about seven feet high and with a footprint of ten square feet. This is supposed to be the second largest computer system in the world.
  • Some strange responses:

use towel with tap
“A couple like used towel and small tap”? That does not seem to be a classic.

ask robert about robert
“I don’t know much about Mister Robert,” Mister Robert says.

search desk
There is nothing on the messy desk.

tell guard about me
“I don’t know much about yourself,” the gatekeeper says.

ask adolf about console
“I don’t know much about the console,” Adolf von Bolzplatz says.

  • The elevator should use the pronoun ‘it’, not ‘he’:

push button
You press the silver button and the elevator rushes upwards.
After a few seconds he stops at the top.

  • I’m not sure ‘plastic’ is a good word for a steel sculpture (I might be wrong though; check with a native English speaker)
  • The first question to Valerie, “Hey, are you more often here?” should probably be “Do you come here often?”
  • Cutting things with the wristwatch that don’t need cutting gives no response:
>cut guard with wristwatch
>cut key with wristwatch
  • When trying to avoid/distract the guard at night, it’s still possible to talk to him, which gives the same response as during the day:
>talk to guard
"You will find Mr. von Bolzplatz in his office upstairs, Sir," he says.
  • Even though I have a gun, the verb ‘shoot’ is not recognised.
  • A lot of things mentioned in the descriptions aren’t implemented, e.g.:
By the Eastern Fence
From here you have a good view onto the back of the power plant buildings. In one of them a row of windows is brightly lit. The fence continues west and south from here.
>x windows
You can't see any such thing.

>x buildings
You can't see any such thing.
>x view
You can't see any such thing.
  • After you get and wear the uniform, if you approach the gatekeeper from the south and not from the north, the gatekeeper acts as if you’re still wearing civilian clothes:
>wear uniform
You put on the uniform and it fits surprisingly well. Hopefully that will work as disguise.


Entrance Gate
This is the Main Entrance to the site of the nuclear power plant, though a wide sliding gate blocks the way. Next to it sits a small gatehouse. North of the gate is th
e central yard, the parking lot is to the south  .

You can not help but notice that there is a security key hanging in the gatehouse .

You can see a gatekeeper here.

>take key
"You think you belong to the guards, buster?!" the gatekeeper growls at you.
>talk to guard
"Civilians must not be here! Please leave the site!" the guard says.
  • If you examine yourself wearing the uniform, the description should reflect that you’re wearing it.
  • If you try to go west when hiding in the shade, you shouldn’t have to ‘go out of the shade’ first.
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Very Vile Fairy File
Less Lame Guess Game: Double Dip Trouble Trip by Billy Boling

I quickly realised I wasn’t going to get far in Very Vile Fairy File without the walkthrough. Almost all of the interaction in the game consists of coming up with a suitable alliterative rhyme. I can absolutely acclaim an admirable alliteration (with or without a rhyming sensation), but managing this was beyond me. In the required rhymes were old English, American slang and several words I had never heard. For those who feel they are up to a serious rhyming challenge, the game does feature an innovative help system, and for those who don’t, it’s still worth playing through with a walkthrough. Very Vile Fairy File is funny, clever, and well implemented.

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Ocean Beach
An Interactive Landscape by James Banks

Ocean Beach is primarily meditative, beautifully and frustratingly so.

Pauses are part of the game.

Pauses are a big part of the game.

They take time. At sunset.

Sunset begins.

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By Bitter Karella

Poppet seems curiously to be partly made for children, and partly definitely not made for children (Though I think that the image of the dead cat is essentially what I would deem unsuitable for children, and it also doesn’t fit well with the rest of the game, so why not just remove it). Unfortunately, the many bugs in the game as well as an absurdly strict parser for some actions made it rather frustrating to play, and impossible without the walkthrough (especially using the poker). Also, I wasn’t able to run it locally and the online version suffers from serious intermittent lagging, sometimes even freezing altogether. It’s definitely a neat idea though, and mostly the writing is good, but I’d rather see it implemented in another engine.

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Frenemies: Or, I Won an Andy Phillips Game
An Interactive Tribute to the Games of Andy Phillips by B F Lindsay


Gone Out for Gruyère
An Interactive Fiction by B F Lindsay

Having really enjoyed Bill F. Lindsay’s Bullhockey games (1, 2), I offered to beta test his two entries to IFComp 2019, Frenemies and Gone Out for Gruyère. In my humble opinion, they both turned out really well!

The homage that is Frenemies does not only feature a die-hard fan who has filled his dorm room with objects from Andy Phillips’ games, but is also centered around a single puzzle that should make Phillips proud. Of the games alluded to in Frenemies, I have only played Inside Woman, which is without doubt the longest and most difficult game I have completed. The main puzzle in Frenemies is possible to solve in five minutes, but more likely to take you close to two hours of tears and frustration, followed by a deep and fulfilling sense of accomplishment. If the game were significantly larger, I would have probably regarded this puzzle as too clever, but as it stands more or less alone in a one-room game, I think it’s just perfect. The writing is mostly excellent, though the humour a bit juvenile at times, while the protagonist carries some of the naïve, self-mocking touch that characterised Tom from the Bullhockey games.

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Gone Out for Gruyère, on the other hand, is based on one of the most silly, crazy and absurd premises I have encountered in an IF. It’s also much easier than Frenemies; here I ultimately find the writing and the humour more essential than the puzzles. And with a talking cheese that mocks your every move as its antagonist, it is very funny.

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Mental Entertainment
An Interactive Fiction by Thomas Hvizdos

Mental Entertainment was a curious piece of IF. It is essentially puzzleless, and although conversational you don’t really get responses to anything but the set of keywords listed in ‘about’ and whatever the replies are to those. You are assigned the heavy task of assessing three people’s mental states and deciding whether they are addicts or not. However, the outcome is the same regardless of your decision; you do not get to see the consequences.

As such, as a work of IF, Mental Entertainment doesn’t really reach very far. What we are left with then is the fabula, the story behind the plot. In this, Mental Entertainment is slightly unique and somewhat cliché; we are exposed to a world of the future where everything right and real is gone, and where VR is the only reasonable escape. To me, this is a decent premise, and the world has been crafted with passion and care, but the IF aspects, or rather lack thereof, left me somewhat dissatisfied.

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Fat Fair
A Crime Sandbox by AKheon

Fat Fair is really well implemented, with special verbs, alternative endings and several secrets. The main task is rather simple to achieve, while the challenge lies in finding the alternative paths. I was very impressed to read in the ‘about’ section that this was the author’s first game. However, the humour that is integral to the game did not really appeal to me. I really hope the author continues to make IF games, though somewhat less crass.


Flight of the CodeMonkeys
By Mark C Marino

Flight of the CodeMonkeys is based on the neat idea of setting an IF into a programming notebook. You can play it even if you don’t know any programming from before, and probably even learn something through it. The game doesn’t go very deep into coding, however, and the opportunities you get to hack the system end up feeling less than immersive. Still, I liked the idea, and think it demonstrates how you can use IF as an educational tool to teach programming. My main criticism of this game is that you need to create a Google account in order to play it.


Thanks for reviewing it. And I think this is only the beginning. Would love to see what others do with this and similar coding platforms!

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Limerick Heist
By Pace Smith

Limerick Heist does impress,
its story impresses no less.
I thought I was smart
but then must restart,
finding myself in a mess.


Randomized escape
An Interactive Fiction by Yvan Uhlmann

Randomized Escape did mostly not make any sense, as even the descriptions seem randomly generated. Still, it tries to be scary, and that is noticeable: There is some thing, in some fog, and some blood. However, as long as passages such as “This van is very dity. Maybe I should limit my examination to visual perception. And you did.” and “You cannot see any obvious issue through the fog. There is no time for hesitating.” appear, it’s hard to become immersed in the horror. The introduction recommended drawing a map, but I found that to be difficult and not very useful; many rooms have the same name, and the protagonist might suddenly run only to find themselves in a different (random) room. Still, despite not being a particularly enjoyable game, it’s interesting to see an experiment like this.

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And that was the last of the parser games I was practically able to play from this year’s IFComp. My next post here will contain micro-reviews for the rest of the games I have played.

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Abandon Them
By Alan Beyersdorf

The metaperspective was kind of neat. The font made it hard to read. Very short.

Arram’s Tomb
By James Beck

After two minutes, I’m either dead or on my way back.

Bad Water
By Waking Media

FMV. I didn’t get the reference. Tedious interface.

Black Sheep
By Nic Barkdull and Matt Borgard

A difficult murder mystery.

A Blue Like No Other
By Dan Cox

Mimics a broken learning module. I did not get this at all.

Break Stuff
By Amy Clare Fontaine

Cathartic, but also very serious. Not suitable for escapism.

The Chieftain

Primitive and repetitive resource management game. I won quickly by throwing a party every day.

Chuk and the Arena
By Agnieszka Trzaska

Quite original. Would have made a very nice parser game.

De Novo
By cyb3rmen

Really nice graphics, but you have to kill two people every day. Didn’t seem reasonable.

Dull Grey
By Provodnik

Very peculiar fiction and beautiful illustrations. Very low on interactivity.

Dungeon Detective 2: Devils and Details
By Wonaglot

Not my kind of humour. Too much scrolling.

By Jac Colvin

Horse-choice. Quite serious.

Eldritch Everyday: The Third Eye
By Norbez

Curious contrast between the seriousness of the story and the pulpiness of the presentation.

Eye Contact
By Thomas McMullan

I didn’t really get the story. It was nice with images, but they should have been preloaded to avoid delays.

By Peter Eastman

The colour and font shifts were heavy on the eyes. I liked the futile lemonade stand.

Flygskam Simulator
By Katie Benson

Doesn’t have anything to do with shame. Bus ride simulator would be a more apt title.

For the Cats
By Lei

All cats are beautiful.

Girth Loinhammer and the Quest for the Unsee Elixir
By Damon L. Wakes

Funny RPG parody.

The Good People
by Pseudavid

Very pretty design. Not my kind of story.

Heretic’s Hope
By G.C. Baccaris

So much work has gone into this I almost felt bad I didn’t enjoy it more.

By Jo Lourdez

Quite nice chatroom simulator. Comments on the role of technology and poetry simultaneously.

The Legendary Hero Has Failed.
By Tom Martin

Constrained interactivity and lots of waiting. Its lesson didn’t reach me.

By Dimitri Kaviani

Very short. No interactivity.

The Milgram Parable
By Peter Eastman

Funny twist then brutal war. Disconcerting.

The Mysterious Stories of Caroline
By Soham S

A realistic and brutal story. Too much for me.

Night Guard / Morning Star
By Astrid Dalmady

Quite original, but somewhat messy as a story. It would have been nice to actually see the paintings.

The Ouroboros Trap
By Chad Ordway

The game seems metaphorical. The choices seem arbitrary.

By Robin Johnson

The hybrid point-and-click/parser concept doesn’t appeal to me. Otherwise decent.

Planet C
By Mark Carew

Good premise, decent story. The grey font on white was hard to read.

Rip Retold
By Hipolito

Made me sleepy.

Roads Not Taken
By Doug Egan

A big and serious story with good writing.

By Hanon Ondricek

Excellent implementation with a very nice sci-fi feel. The score is great too.

Saint City Sinners
By dgallagher

A primarily very funny murder mystery.

By Charlotte

Quite cute, despite the abundance of slugs.

Summer Night City
By ghoti

Very philosophical. Not an easy read. I don’t think I got this.

The Surprise
By Candy Meldromon

Predictable, but sweet.

The Sweetest Honey
By Mauro Couto

Quite nice, though the translation could have been better.

Truck Quest
By Donald Conrad and Peter M.J. Gross

Very repetitive, but ends interestingly.

URA Winner!
By Carter Sande

Seems to be a parody, but not of anything I have experienced. Hence, I didn’t get it.

By Ann Hugo

Cute story, but it doesn’t seem like the choices affect it very much.


FMV? Fun May Vary?

You sure have managed to play a lot of games from the Comp though. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Being prone to stuckness, I’ve found the transcripts really useful: being able to look over your shoulder as you play has helped me a lot. Thanks!

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I’m very happy that my transcripts were useful :slight_smile:

Of course.
I was thinking of YMMV (your mileage may vary) you see.

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Thanks for the review of House on Sycamore Lane. Firstly, sorry for the typos! I’ll go through and clean those up. I’m a horrible editor and can’t see my own mistakes if they hit me in the face.

I’d love feedback on the bugs and rough edges you found. I started way too late and was in a rush to finish it, so I didn’t get to clean stuff up, and develop the story more.

Glad you enjoyed it despite the rough edges.

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I’m afraid I didn’t take many notes during the playthrough. I’ll be happy to play it again later, but for now all I can offer is my transcript (linked in the review).

I’ve updated the game. Fixed 117 things! :flushed: Mostly typos and most of those were its vs it's. But also a few verb clarifications, and improvements.

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