Stian's IFComp 2020 reviews

@Stian My game is no longer in the competion

Sorry to hear that.

Just another Fairy Tale
by Finn Rosenløv

This is a classic style fantasy adventure, seemingly written for young children, but much too hard for me. I picture the boy from Time Bandits as the protagonist, taken from reality and inserted into a fictitious world filled with magic and fraught with danger, but nothing a young boy can’t handle.

The reason I did not get very far in two hours is mainly down to the verbs. Perhaps Adrift has a different set of standard verbs than Inform and Tads; a lot of the ones I’m accustomed to were not recognised, and when I finally gave up and had a look at the walkthrough, the solutions surprised me. I was reminded of the challenges Jason Dyer writes about when playing very old games. In these games, you need to forget any expectation you have about which verbs will work and which will not. In a sense, Inform games have made me very comfortable with a certain way of interacting with parsers, and I’m not really equipped with the lateral mindset for something completely different.

As far as I came, I found the story to be quite okay. It’s very stereotypical, but also cute in a way. The moments in which it shines are whenever it is obvious that you are a little boy, and a rather obedient one at that. A feature I enjoyed – which sometimes was necessary, but only occasionally implemented – was being able to examine elements over a distance. In the end I think I might have enjoyed it more if I had consulted the walkthrough earlier and gotten a bit further, though that would also have been counter to my instincts.

4 Likes

You might be right that there are a few differences between ADRIFT’s default verbs and those of Inform/TADS. However, another explanation can be, that many of the authors come from the British tradition in the 80s/early 90s where the homegrown games often were equipped with a VOCABULARY command. The other ADRIFT game actually has a VOCAB command. It is also recommended to read the playing instructions of that one.

4 Likes

That’s very good to know, thank you!

Return to Castle Coris
by Larry Horsfield

Like Just another Fairy Tale, this game takes on the classic style fantasy genre head on, albeit with a more adult focus. The writing is remarkably solid, which perhaps is not surprising, seeing as Return to Castle Coris is episode eight of a series. Here, the action takes place underground, further and further into the unknown. It actually reminded me a lot of certain games taking place underground that I played in the past, especially Ultima Underwold and Legend of Grimrock. Such were the feelings evoked by the writing. Unfortunately, however, I found this even harder than Just another Fairy Tale; not only are the verbs many and (to me) obscure, but it seems you also have to imagine nouns that are not described, and perform rather random actions that work in specific places while giving no informative response in others. Perhaps it’s a learning curve, going through the episodes chronologically. At least I managed to die spectacularly a few times.

4 Likes

While the Adrift webrunner worked pretty decently this year, I had much less luck with the online Quest interpreter. I have been trying to play The Brutal Murder of Jenny Lee, but after four attempts over roughly a week I’m giving up for now. There is a disclaimer on the web site that the online interpreter can be quite flaky, and these days it has been fairly impossible to play more than 5-10 minutes without serious issues.

From what I did experience of the game, the narrative style was appealing; you are an embodied consciousness sent to various places in the past, trying to piece together what really happened. It seemed enjoyable, and I hope I will be able to play it in the future.

1 Like

With all the parser games done for now, I will proceed with some mini-reviews of choice games. As choice games are not really my choice of games, I may not spend as much time with them as they deserve, and I may not understand them as well as those who do do. I will, however, try to understand them as best I can without – as it seems is sometimes warranted – replaying again and again to discover all threads, endings and hidden themes.

2 Likes

The Call of Innsmouth
by Tripper McCarthy

A truly well written Lovecraft fan fiction, which would fit right into any such anthology I have read. In terms of choices, there does not seem to be many branching narratives that do not end with a quick death; rather, choices are usually either correct or deadly.

4 Likes

#VanLife
by Victoria

A seemingly educational exercise in living off solar energy, your task is to enjoy life as much as possible while at the same time being able to do so sustainably. There is not much of a story here, simply a series of choices surrounding spending or saving electricity. Sometimes you are quizzed on Watt usage, and sometimes you pick an inspirational quote of the day. The best thing about it was reading the detailed player statistics at the end.

I thought that, too, but then I checked it again.

If you ride out to the reef, you get a completely different confrontation than if you stick around in town. It was the same thing with taking the bus to Innsmouth versus driving myself and hiding the car outside of town. And on my first trip I started at the grocery store before getting pursued by the locals, while the second trip had me going to the hotel first.

In my opinion, that aspect was managed pretty well. Each of the independent paths is well-written enough that it seems like it’s just “correct or deadly” on its own.

3 Likes

Aha! That makes sense, yes. Thank you. I made a slight update to the review.

1 Like

What the Bus?
A Transit Nightmare by E. Joyce

It seems that “nightmare” is not meant metaphorically. A playthrough is essentially a typical bad dream that someone who does rely on public transportation in their daily life might have. At least here, the nightmare is quickly over, and mostly free from monsters.

Amazing Quest
by Nick Montfort

This “game” has already been thoroughly dissected on the forum, and there is not much I can add in terms of content information. I did manage to play it early on, before having read the dissection. At that point I just though it was really boring. Now I understand that it’s postmodernist art.

5 Likes

You Will Thank Me as Fast as You Thank a Werewolf
by B.J. Best

Algorithmically generated based on the author’s previous prose, this work does occasionally resemble poetry. While I do consider generating coherent text an interesting technical challenge, I’m rarely able to find meaning in its output, and this was no exception.

Mother Tongue
by Nell Raban

This was rather nice actually, though not, as one could have expected, a good way to learn a new language. Rather, it’s a discussion on cultural identity and the value of the mother tongue among second generation immigrants. It’s simple and does not go particularly deep, but still quite effective.

1 Like

INFINITUBE
by Tom Charles Bair III

The subtle humour here is brilliant, starting with the tagline “where the imagination stretches as far as limitations can reach”. I also appreciated the strangeness of the vastly diverse experiences I was subjected to, but overall found it had too many choices and too much repetition.

2 Likes

Stoned Ape Hypothesis
by James Heaton

Renowned comic book author Alan Moore has written a book called “Voice of the Fire” that similarly to this game depicts evolution from a subjective perspective, starting out with a primitive language that develops through the narrative. The Moore book, however, is based on a more common hypothesis of evolution and a much heavier read. Also, it does not have minigames.

3 Likes

Move On
by Serhii Mozhaiskyi

An extremely short action thriller choice game, Move On demands you figure out its rather neat trick if you want to survive. The little writing there is is good. Apart from that, it doesn’t offer much.

1 Like

You Couldn’t Have Done That
by Ann Hugo

This story, for it is a story much more than a game, utilises choice in a way I have not seen before in IF, allowing the reader to reflect on real life agency in difficult situations. I found this surprising and remarkably well done, but also emotionally challenging.

4 Likes