Survival Horror

I wrote (and coded) an interactive fiction app for Apple & Android. I just stumbled across this forum, and I’d appreciate any feedback this community could offer me. (I am currently writing a new text adventure game for mobile, and want to make sure that I’m moving in the right direction…)

Here’s the product webpage for my game:

While this is a commercial game, I can easily give away some free copies. I have some promo codes for any Apple users, and can give out the APK for anybody who uses Android.

You can find it now from the links below:

App Store: … d964241584

Google Play: … ivalHorror

Amazon: … B00TJ0CSDO

YouTube video preview:

Just to jump the gun… I’ll give away 20 free copies for Android, and 20 free copies for Apple:

For Apple users, claim a promo code from CodeHookup here:

For Android users, download the APK directly from Gumroad here:

Mighty generous of you. Thanks.


Wow, thanks for the free game! I look forward to playing it! :smiley:

That was a very well-executed species of the kind of game it wanted to be: a solid member of its genre. An impressive array of optional devastating side-content (potential collectable achievements?) including what appear to be long, well-implemented dead ends, a good dose of unreliable narrator business with dreamlike NPC experiences. I dug the downbeat nature of the “best” (helicopter) ending I was able to find. The brutality of the camp endgame was a bit jarring and seemed somewhat arbitrary, though in light of the developing plot it’s not entirely inappropriate.

The interface could be more responsive, often I found myself impatiently repeat-tapping to make the text advance, more than once flipping right past the payoff text with no way to go back and read it until I replayed.

You appear to have gone to a lot of work to provide a particular look and feel… more than once I found myself wondering why you hadn’t just written it in ChoiceScript and published it as a Zombie Exodus side-story. The grim typography and layout presentation, while genre-appropriate, I think fails to help the game distinguish itself from a vast offerings of similar but inferior work.

I’m sure you put a lot of work into the sound effects, but nine out of ten players will have the gameplay experience I did – muting the thing immediately upon hearing game sounds and leaving it that way. I’m not sure that mobile gaming is the place for audio cues, as games often being played “on the go” – in cafeterias, on busses, in break rooms – are often not in places amenable to game noises. Sometimes it would have been nice to consult the inventory though I appreciate that also gave the player a feeling of constraint… and also emphasized that the puzzles were based on the player’s actions, not their vast array of dry goods…

Is there a fire source for the candle? Is it possible to defeat the forest beast?

Looking forward to your next piece!

You can, if you tap any “you” or “your” word.

Things that worked reasonably well for me:

I was initially skeptical of the tap-any-word-to-proceed interface, but in practice I found it pretty smooth, rarely doing an action that wasn’t what I wanted. In part this was because the actions were either explicitly spelled out in the text or were restricted to movement/examination; so kudos for the consistency there. I appreciated the fact that you put in some formatting to distinguish the interactive text from text that had no further links to explore, as well.

Unlike Unwashed Mass, I left the sound on in headphones, and this worked fine for me. I liked hearing the snippets of radio and other ambient noises. I was also playing at night, per instruction.

Several of the hints of what had been before, especially the sinister bottles of Kwenched, made me curious to find out the backstory of this world.

Things I wasn’t as crazy about:

I’m not a big zombie horror fan in general; I downloaded this anyway to try it out, but the genre feels pretty overplayed to me. The opening of your game felt like it was playing to a lot of standard tropes here, and it wasn’t until later in the scenario that I started to see things (the Kwenched bottle, the children’s cult, etc.) that showed your own creative work. I personally would prefer to have it foregrounded how your game builds new ideas onto the zombie standards.

The fancy lettering got a bit tiring to read over long periods, and typographically was a bit rough-hewn; I would have toned down the font choice a bit and provided somewhat larger margins, but someone with a design background could give better feedback. From a look and feel perspective, I think this aspect of the game does the most to suggest that it’s an amateur/low-production-value piece, which is unfortunate; however, it’s also something that could well be addressed in future work.

Your text spends a certain amount of time telling me how I/my character feel (“You choke back a tear” comes to mind here). Standard IF second person writing advice says not to do this. Of course, all rules are there to be broken some of the time, but in the case of Survival Horror, this went wrong for me in the way that it often goes wrong: I, the player, don’t feel choked up over the corpse of my former friend, so reading about “my” strong reaction kind of distances me from the protagonist just at a moment of intended emotional intensity. The conventional wisdom is that you want to try to evoke those emotions (e.g., by telling me something about my former friend that will give me a reason to empathetically grieve her death) rather than instructing the player to have them.

During the randomized combat, I didn’t have a good sense of what was at stake when I chose between bold or cautious fighting strategies, and I didn’t have any sense of when it might be best to do one or the other. I realize these scenes are probably meant to feel tense and unpredictable, and you don’t want to telegraph to the player that a particular course of action is going to be a safe bet. But I think of the highly tactical (while still randomized) combat in Kerkerkruip, and wonder whether some of those concepts couldn’t be applied here.

Is there a way to figure out if deciding on behalf of the player in such a way is doable or not?


Because I’m working on a 2nd person narrative as well.

In that context I would do one of three things:

– just let the player’s emotions play out in the player’s head. They know better than I do how they feel.
– ask the player how they feel.
– change the text so that it’s implying a worldview without actually assigning an emotion. For example, for refusing to give to a beggar when you’ve established a habit of stinginess already: “The girl stares after you as you walk away, but who has time to help those who can’t help themselves?”

I have the impression you’re including this text as a way to signal to the player that their choices are cumulatively registering with the game. In that case I might go with the last of these three options.

Also, there are times when it’s legitimate to break these rules, especially when you’ve got a really strongly characterized protagonist. In that case it’s sometimes worth considering shifting to first or third person, but a strongly characterized second person can work.

I liked the whole “every word is a potential link” idea. I had some doubts about it at first, but playing made it feel very natural. It’s like a Twine game where I’m not seeing hyperlinks everywhere.

This is an important deal. The hyperlinks in your average Twine game are very distracting. They command a lot of your attention. In mechanical terms, it’s also saying “THIS is the bit where you actually do something. Everything else is scenery.” It’s like playing an adventure game and scouring for hotspots - I get dissociated from everything else that isn’t a hyperlink (unless the game is very well written, and I’ve played a few games written so well that I was sufficiently engaged not to dissociate like that - but it’s a decided minority).

So, all that stuff in the previous paragraph? That didn’t happen in Survival Horror. If I had to make an assessment of the engine alone, I’d say brilliant - I’d definitely want to play more games like this.

But, I felt disinclined to replay after my first failure. I immediately realised gameplay would consist of churn, churn, churn, at least for the beginning. Every time I restarted I’d have to re-explore every nook and cranny, seeing it all a thousand times. Coupled with the always-present prospect of an immediate death with no UNDO and no previous savegames to restore to (I was never a hardcore player, except when I was a kid playing the old Sega Mega Drive, a.k.a. Genesis, where I had no fkickin’ choice for most of the games. I cheat like hell; I prefer that to being forced to watch/do the same scenes over and over and over again until I can’t stand the game)…

…well, I like the concept. I would like to see it developed. I guess I’m just not the intended audience for this particular piece.

EDIT - Oh, and re sound? Thumbs up. I actually got startled when

I accidently set off the school bell by putting the fuse in. I went, what the fuck?! I didn’t mean to do this! Oh shit, I’m not ready, I’m not ready for this yet! Ok, ok, stay calm, there’s that door in the kitchen, I can try that! Go go GO!

And hey, it’s great that you got that reaction out of me! You’re definitely on to something good. I’ll be looking out for more games from you.

EDIT 2 -

I actually think it’s time to start reviewing that “rule”. It assumes that the player does take “you” to mean the player. It assumes there is a definite connection being made, and that the player is identifying with the PC. In practice, I never identify with the PC, and I don’t see why I should. I’m not fighting zombies for my life, I’m not in a heightened state of adrenalin. If the PC chokes back a tear, fine. I can see why they would. I don’t have to choke back a tear, but I can still sympathize. I feel like I’m a ghostly presence alongside the PC most of the time; I get scared, I get emotional, I get alert, I get angry, I get all of those things, but what’s happening to the PC isn’t happening to me, and I am fine with that. I don’t need to be the recipient of something to sympathise.

HOWEVER: on the whole, avoiding this sort of thing IS indeed best (just, in my mind, for different reasons). It’s a lot more powerful, and a lot more engaging, for the player to feel instead of being told how to feel. It depends on what you want to achieve, it’s just not good to overdo. The above “choke a tear” example? I find that absolutely fine. Hey, if the PC is distraught enough to choke a tear at that point in time, that good characterisation! Since it was not MY friend (me as a player), there is no way I could feel what the PC is feeling, so why not let the PC feel it for themselves?

Whereas in the bit in the spoiler tags above, I actually DID feel something for myself. If you’d attached any emotions to THAT bit it wouldn’t have had the same impact (and of course, in different playthroughs you’d have different expectations - if I were to repeat that action I would now KNOW what to expect).

Hmmm, bit of a purposeless rant here. Let me try and sum up:

As Emily says, attributing emotions to the PC is risky, but IMO for a different reason: you will want to let your players react for themselves, instead of reading about reactions. But, if the PC is having an emotional moment that I can’t possibly relate to (especially early on in the game), by all means go ahead, because I’m not the PC. I don’t have to associate with them in every single thing. There’s a good middle ground between a fully-formed PC and AFGANCAAP, and I embrace the PC having feelings of their own.

It takes some trust to write “The corpse of your best friend lies here,” and realize that less detail will fire more of the reader’s imagination. Some people might not choke back a tear in real life, and that will make the situation more “real” to just describe what’s happening and let the reader choose how to react.

And to previous poster - watch people’s eyes “doing” anything. “His eyes slid down the front of her dress” is a classic Bulwer-Lytton-ism.

Excellent feedback. I’m working on another game, so I’ll keep some of these points in mind, as far as my writing and the design elements. Damn, this was good. I wish I found this forum years ago…

His eyes slid down the front of her dress and into her cocktail glass, where they began to bob and weave amongst the icecubes.

‘Ew, gross!’ she said.


Now I have to add a figurative pair of eyes to PataNoir.

[code]>throw eyes at lisa

Your eyes slide down the front of her dress[/code]