Stian's IFComp 2020 reviews

by Ima

The purpose of this short choice IF seems to be simple moral education. Following anything other than the most virtuous path will quickly end the game and encourage you to try again. Although I’m not strictly opposed to this – it was, after all, a groundbreaking element of Ultima IV in its day – it feels here too simplistic, which undermines its educational value. There is also some polish lacking in Equal-librium: for one, the blurb contains several typos, and at some point I even got the error message I can't run the macro 'text-type' because it doesn't exist.

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Ulterior Spirits
by E.J. Holcomb

One of the reasons I love IF is that I can play it on any old computer. Ulterior Spirits, not so much… Everything was so sluggish on my laptop that it was impossible to play. The little graphics I saw looked nice though, and the blurb reads like a far above average episode of Doctor Who.

At Night
by Oscar

This choice IF seems to be unfinished. It has clearly been translated, as there still are words in Spanish throughout the game, and it’s rather riddled with typos. From what I could gather, the battles with demons are the central element here, but those felt like playing Amazing Quest again: it doesn’t really matter what you choose because it’s all random. Perhaps it’s actually not the case here, but I was unable to find any logic in them. Designwise, At Night focusses a lot on using sounds for navigating in the darkness. This is a neat feature, but I’m afraid it didn’t help me much with the demons either.

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The Shadow in the Snow
by Andrew Brown

A minimalist but effectively scary horror choice IF, The Shadow in the Snow features good writing and a moody soundtrack (albeit with slightly cheesy synthesizer sounds). Even after ten playthroughs I still wasn’t able to survive though, despite following what was apparently clued to be the right path.

I’m very sorry about the English translation, I even tried to use a grammar checker, thanks to that some of the players have not noticed it too much.

Another thing that you have reminded me of is having tried to make a game with a story, not a story with some game component …

A basic aspect to advance is to play the mini game of battles with the devils, for this it is necessary to use headphones to determine the origin of the attack.

Regarding the implementation of the battle, it seems well assumed by the players, it has not been clear to me where the confusion comes from, it would be interesting to be able to improve and that nobody has to suffer🤪

The game has an end! He would not be able to make a game without end. It would be too unfair even for a retro gamer like me. :joy::joy::joy:

I’m glad to see that the game is hated and loved, I think depending on age and preferences Narrative over game or game over Narrative.

A big greeting and I really appreciate your time, for future games I would love to have your contributions.

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Thanks for your comments, Óscar!

I think it is very important to get proofreading, preferably by a native speaker, for any type of IF.

The battles were very confusing for me. I could hear that sounds came sometimes from the left and sometimes from the right, but no matter what I chose, I lost.

For a future participation I will try to find a friend who can help me for a correct translation.:smile::+1:


Or ask on this forum: there’s a Beta Testing Requests and Discussion category where (it seems like) most people find plenty of help.


A very interesting contribution, I am still a bit lost :brain::boom:in the IF world. I appreciate it a lot.

The Eidolon’s Escape
by Mark Clarke

A simple and charming choice puzzler, The Eidolon’s Escape took me about 10 minutes to play through. As long as you go for the reasonable choices, escaping is quick and simple, though if you want to experiment and see all branches it might take as much time as the listed one hour. The story itself is the most fun aspect of this game, told from the perspective of an alien spirit who utters compliments such as “…you aesthetically pleasing specimen, you.”

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by CynthiaP

SOUND is a particularly experimental choice IF that I’m not entirely sure whether I finished or not. If it were not for the blurb, I would have thought I encountered a serious bug of sorts, but no, what happened seems intentional. There are a few instances where you have more than one option to choose from; I played it twice to discover that it did not really matter what choice you make – the result is more or less the same. I’m afraid I understood very little of this IF, but perhaps people who are more experimentally inclined than I will get something profound out of it.

Edit: Someone has indeed understood it in a profound way. Here is a link to a much more enlightened review than mine (though note it is full of spoilers):

by Jared W Cooper

This is a cute little love story, featuring some weird sci-fi elements that remain unexplained in the background. It is not really interactive at all, though at one point the choice IF medium is utilised in an elegant way.

Sonder Snippets
by Sana

Primarily poetic, Sana is a choice IF brimming with links, making for intentionally confusing navigation. The stories seem old, from a different time, a different culture, the metaphors obscure. I did not see much variations in two different playthroughs, but maybe it is enough.

by The TAV Institute

A lot of science fiction literature makes use of concepts that cannot be appropriately described in the vocabulary of the present, and demands an inductive approach; just go along with it, and it will become more or less clear as the story progresses. Accelerate is bordering on linguistic overload in this sense.
Add to that a horde of strange metaphors and you have an “enormous piece of extravagantly confusing art”, to use a quote embedded in the work itself.

While it was occasionally hard to understand the protagonist or the context in a given situation, the story is actually relatively clear: you become indoctrinated into a cult of religious terrorists and attempt to bring forth some kind of revolution. In this, you have no agency. Perhaps you have no choice.

Regarding it as a gesamtkunstwerk, my feelings are varied. Its strongest point is definitely the writing; Accelerate reads like a modern sci-fi classic, only more poetic, though I would have had an easier time accepting it if I had sensed more coherence between the different contexts. As it is, I often felt I found myself in a new situation, not understanding how I got there, which also compromised the connection between the player and the protagonist. The visual presentation was the most lacking element of Accelerate. With a plain interface and simple animations, it brought thoughts of the 1990’s, rather than of the future. The music, on the other hand, was nice and appropriate; most of it I would describe as cyberpunk muzak, although at times it became uncomfortably brutal.


Ghostfinder: Shift
by Han-Joo Kim

By far longer than two hours, at least if you wish to investigate as thoroughly as this urban fantasy detective story warrants, Ghostfinder: Shift is a truly professional piece of IF. Set in a consistently well imagined and thought-out world of shifters and ghostfinders, the story features the player as an occult investigator trying to solve a string of horrific murders.

As with the world building, the writing is on a professional level all the way through, and meticulously detailed. With access to case files and your order’s private database, a choice IF interface allows you to draw connections and approach the identity of the killer. As such, the choice mechanisms here function as a way to solve the puzzle, rather than navigating a branching story.

Every aspect of Ghostfinder: Shift is impressive, but even though the puzzle aspect was well done, its writing is where it truly shines. However, as with every genre work, it does cater to a niche audience. I can easily picture a Ghostfinder series of novels in the adult urban fantasy section at my favourite book store.


An Opera in Three Acts by Peter Eastman

Phantom is an investigation into the myth and the various portrayals of Erik, the Phantom of the Opera. As a choice IF, it reconstructs the story – albeit in a very abridged form – based on which aspects of the different adaptations you would like to see, including an option for further modernisation. Although this rendition is too short to be considered a thorough discussion of the character, it is nicely done, with the music being an extra nice touch. Only slightly bothersome was a strip of white background below the text on most pages, which does not seem intentional and should be changed to black.

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Captain Graybeard’s Plunder
by Julian Mortimer Smith

A short choice IF equally remixing and paying homage to classic literary works on the theme of pirates, Captain Graybeard’s Plunder speaks to the value of literature as escapism, in the best possible sense. There is no particular story here, though there is a certain beauty to the remixing that your choices determines. A nice touch are the various fonts used to represent the different authors the game refers to.

Popstar Idol Survival Game
by CrunchMasterGowon

Literally an idol survival game, giving you options to sabotage and hurt your competitors, this choice IF is based on an uncomfortable premise, though probably one that unfortunately mimics some of the reality of that environment. Also unfortunately, the game seems to be broken, as I was unable to progress beyond a certain point, even after a second play with completely different choices. The layout also leaves something to be desired, with sidebar text overlapping the main text in my browser.

by Becci

Congee is low on interactivity, but it does tell a cute story about homesickness, friendship and family. Interspersed with the text are music and occasionally some nicely drawn pictures. A problem for me, playing it on a poor internet connection, was the size of the images, some up to a megabyte. I’m sure they could be reduced to a tenth of the size without sacrificing much detail.


Thanks for the review of Eidolon’s Escape, Stian. Glad you enjoyed it!

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