Stian's IFComp 2020 reviews

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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.


Quest for the Sword of Justice
by Damon L. Wakes

I actually had to consult the other reviews before writing this to see if I had missed out on anything substantial. I turns out I probably had not. In essence, it’s a cutely made RPG parody that you may or may not understand is a parody. I did not get it, but I did find some of the dialogue funny.

Stand Up / Stay Silent
A Fable by Y Ceffyl Gwyn

A thinly veiled expression of activism, Stand Up / Stay Silent is a sci-fi parable for Black Lives Matter. While I certainly agree with the message, I did not find it notably interesting or effective as IF. The parallel of the story and the choices was too obvious to offer any deeper meaning.

(A very late) thank you for the helpful and favorable review! I incorporated the changes right after I read your review, which feels like forever ago. Thanks again for reviewing Desolation!

1 Like

The Pinecone
by Joseph Pentangelo

The Pinecone is a very quick piece of IF with a few branches, all of which are related to goatlore. It does not seem to carry any deeper meaning, but is somewhat imaginative and slightly entertaining.


The Cave
A Journey of Self-Discovery by Neil Aitken

Fumbling rather randomly around in the dark, you will experience a lot of repetition in The Cave, but not much in the way of self-discovery. Your goal is to get out, and underway you get some spells, abilities, and improved stats. I’m not sure how these affect your chances, but they probably somehow do. I’m also not sure how I managed to get out of the cave in the end, but somehow I did.

Tavern Crawler
by Josh Labelle

Quite humorous and really well polished, Tavern Crawler is a choice based role playing story that works remarkably well. The author has managed to craft a work that is equally parts story and game, and where the RPG elements play to the strengths of choice IF and vice versa. The storylines are intricately and reasonably structured, and your early character choices allow for different methods of overcoming your obstacles. Especially good were the variety of choices. There is never really any choice that feels wrong or right in terms of story progression, and everything brings you forward, at least somewhere. To experience a fun story with Tavern Crawler, you can’t go wrong whatever you do.


by Lei

The story in this choice IF is mostly linear, with only minor details determining which of the endings you eventually receive. As such, it’s not terribly exciting in terms of interactivity. On the other hand, it is really well written; the main character and the world described are both quite unique and soundly developed. The abilities and operations of the protagonist are particularly interesting and could actually be an excellent starting point for developing great and fun puzzles. I would certainly love to play a five hour parser game based on Doppeljobs.