Tabitha's IFComp 2023 Review Corner


Featuring adorable art by @sophia!

Alt text

Digital doodle of a grey rat with a pink bow on its head sitting on the grass next to a wooden sign that reads “Tabitha’s Corner”.

This is the first IFComp I’ve borne witness to, so I’m excited to participate and am planning to post short reviews (or at least miscellaneous thoughts) on the games I play here!

Edit: Adding that I’m avoiding playing games that don’t interest me or that I don’t think I’ll like—am unashamedly starting with the ones that appeal to me most. :smile: Aside from the ones I tested, that is, which are:

  • Dr Ludwig and the Devil
  • Gestures Towards Divinity
  • Xanthippe’s Last Night with Socrates
  • Bright Brave Knight Knave
  • Bali B&B
Trail Stash by Andrew Schultz (spoilers)

After testing Andrew’s other entry this year, Bright Brave Knight Knave, I immediately played through a bunch of his other wordplay games because I found BBKK so fun. So I am a (albeit very recent) fan, and was excited to see another new game from him in the comp.

Trail Stash is similar to his other wordplay games, but it’s written in Twine (Sugarcube specifically) rather than Inform—so it’s not up to the player to think of (in this case) spoonerisms, but rather, to figure out which of the spoonerized objects you acquire will be useful in each of the spoonerized locations. Success unlocks new locations, which yield new objects.

Being familiar with Andrew’s other wordplay games was definitely helpful in catching on to this one; the “use object in place” mechanic isn’t too hard to figure out, but it also is never spelled out, and the need to spoonerize the place names and object names to figure out which object goes with which place isn’t either. Of course it’s a matter of personal preference, but I don’t tend to enjoy when the first part of a puzzle is “figure out the conceit of the puzzle;” I’d rather just be told upfront. Of course, with the choice-based format of this game, it’s entirely possible to solve it by simply collecting all the items and then lawnmowering through them in each location; I tried to avoid doing this and actually think each one through, but I found some to be clued better than others, and I did resort to random guesses a few times.

I enjoyed Trail Stash as another entry in Andrew’s world of wordplay, but I do think it has a rather niche audience and isn’t going to feel particularly accessible to newcomers to Andrew’s work. But if the concept at all appeals to you, I definitely recommend checking it (and Bright Brave Knight Knave) out!

Fix Your Mother's Printer by Geoffrey Golden

I love Geoffrey Golden’s IFComp entry from last year, Use Your Psychic Powers at Applebee’s, so of course I had to play this one. The delightful UI, emulating a video call (complete with a Mom sprite), struck me immediately and was a very charming touch. The game also features an accidental call disconnect and a few appearances from the family dog (:heart:), increasing the verisimilitude.

What I soon found was that the verisimilitude in fact goes a little too far. A significant part of the game is a very realistic depiction of remotely troubleshooting for a non-tech-savvy older relative, and while I had expected that premise to be balanced out by a certain level of goofiness, that portion of the game is actually played pretty straight and felt a bit tedious because of it.

Each set of choices throughout the game typically consists of a patient/nice choice, a more neutral choice, and an impatient/rude choice. I went mostly with the nice choices, because why would I want to be cruel to this cute old lady sprite? But that made making choices less fun, because there was usually only one option I even considered. After reaching the end I did start a replay to see some of the other content, with the intention of being consistently mean, but I quickly found that I didn’t enjoy doing that, and honestly I wasn’t motivated enough to go through the whole troubleshooting portion again, so I stopped pretty quickly.

There’s definitely a lot to like in the game: lines like “bush-shaving is a legitimate and beautiful artform!” and place names like “West Furthersburg”, for example, as well as the cute art. The story overall is sweet, too, if you pick the nice dialogue options (and I’m still kind of curious how it goes if you lean mean). I will also note that I have Mom Issues™️, which meant I brought a lot of my own baggage to the game, coloring my emotional reaction.

I’ll end on a minor UI complaint: I liked having the conversation history accessible, but having it always start at the top—so that you need to scroll to the bottom to see the most recent text, and then scroll back up to access the “close” button—was cumbersome. I’m not sure if this is something that could be changed in Ink, though—I’ve toyed with the program a little, but have no idea how to go about customizing it to this level!


Ah, I did the underlying UI coding, so that’s on me; good point.

The Finders Commission: Episode One by Deborah Sherwood

I picked this one to play next because (according to the review spreadsheet as of time of writing) it has no reviews yet. I have to admit, I was a little underwhelmed at first; the worldbuilding felt a bit bizarre and random for what’s essentially a museum heist game. But once I got into the puzzley portion I was hooked. It’s easy to locate the item you need to liberate from this museum; less easy to acquire and escape with it.

The gameplay reminded me of the Lady Thalia games—explore, find useful items/info, heist, escape. The game does a good job at creating tension, with an officer following you around to keep an eye on you, appearing and disappearing as you traverse the rooms, and at creating a sense of time passing, with the security office going from occupied at first visit to unoccupied at later ones (but beware lingering there too long…). The achievements at the end make it clear that there are multiple methods for escaping detection, and that it’s possible (although I’m guessing fairly unlikely) to succeed at the job but incriminate yourself in the process. All of this added a great amount of complexity and made for a fun game! (Another note: you’ll find an in-game map, which is nice—I had thought about drawing a map at first, but then I was glad I didn’t bother.)

I do have some nitpicks; I found the (brief) dialogue section very clunkily written, and didn’t at all buy the supposed romantic chemistry between the PC and their conversation partner. And then there was a decent amount of content that was completely unnecessary to the game, and I don’t think the bits of character it added were always worth it. Examples:

  • At the beginning of the game you choose a character to play from a list, which includes each person’s name and briefly described traits. I have no idea if your choice here impacts play or not; I wasn’t sufficiently motivated to fully play through a second time to find out, but as far as I could tell from a partial second playthrough, it didn’t matter.
  • When you start your mission you’re presented with a list of locations, including your destination; I went straight for that one, but partway through my explorations of the museum it occurred to me that maybe the others held items/information I’d need to complete the heist, which seemed fun. Turns out, though, that clicking them just yields descriptions of what they are, rather than actually taking you there.
  • The possibility of going back to your room after you’ve started the mission in order to get your phone cord, allowing you to charge your phone, is my final example; you don’t need a charged phone at any point, it’s just another achievement you can get. Also, once I picked up the cord, my phone battery jumped to 99%, and despite saying I wanted to charge it when I got the opportunity, I didn’t get the achievement.

I teach older people how to use technology as part of my day job and I can tell you that this game felt like a high-speed car chase compared to most of my sessions!


Haha very fair, I guess this proves that I could not do your job!


To be fully honest, I’m not sure I can either :smiley:


Quick thoughts on a few short games today:

The Whale's Keeper


  • Unique setting
  • Surreal, spooky atmosphere
  • Friendship with Jonah


  • Writing clunky at times
  • “Play online” interface also felt clunky (and the chat app setup was a big vibe mismatch with the story for me)
  • Emphasis on level of sanity (of both the PC and Jonah) made me uncomfy
  • Amnesia plotline/backstory reveal (felt a bit cliche)

All Hands


  • Level of interactivity & amount of choices
  • Haunting seaside mood
  • Music as a throughline
  • Multiple possible endings
  • The way it explored grief—not novel but still moving


  • Writing could use a final polish pass
  • Some confusion re: ship descriptions (a ladder on the exterior is dusty?)

The Sculptor


  • The sad, plaintive mood
  • Evocative portrait of a desperate man


  • Writing was a bit rough at times

Although I obviously can’t speak for All Hands’ writer, I think the ladder bit was a hint at the nature of the ship. Spooky moment. Things outdoors can definitely be dusty! That was my interpretation anyway.


Thank you for playing and rating.


I thought the ship had recently been sailing, though? But maybe I misread/misunderstood something!

1 Like

To Sea in a Sieve

No proper review of this one, but I wanted to share my transcript, which will reveal how much I struggled. I had to guess-the-verb my way through the game, and at one point asked someone who’d already played for help because I was completely stumped (and the in-game hints didn’t have anything for that particular situation). I made some progress on my own but also turned to the in-game hints quite a bit. In retrospect, I could see how the things I got stuck on were clued—I think I just haven’t played enough puzzley parser IF and wasn’t expecting to have to be as clever as the game required. :sweat_smile: So I definitely think this is a case of “it’s not the game, it’s me!” Hopefully my transcript can still prove useful to the author (there were a few small implementation errors that I’m sure would be easy to fix). The writing was excellent, and I enjoyed the helpful octopus and the talking plant!

To Sea in a Sieve_TO script.txt (160.9 KB)


Death on the Stormrider

No proper review of this one either—I haven’t managed to finish, as it’s another puzzley parser that I’m struggling with. I like the idea and am very impressed by the NPC movement, but even with the hints my brain is just not clicking with the puzzles, so I’m stopping for now. Transcript attached!

Death on the Stormrider_script.txt (218.0 KB)

Dysfluent by Allyson Gray

With all the talk here about timed text, I knew the premise of this game going in, and was curious how I would feel about the timed text mechanism. My verdict: it wasn’t an issue for me, and I could definitely see why the author used it. I did find it slightly too slow at times, but it didn’t impact my enjoyment of the game—especially since I was able to turn it off on subsequent playthroughs. I do wonder if it might be just as effective (and maybe less bothersome to those who didn’t like it) to only have timed text for the PC’s speech?

Anyway, on to the rest of the game! I felt for the protagonist a lot; the game seemed to really capture what it’s like to go through life with a stutter, and how difficult it can make everyday interactions. The flashbacks to childhood were quite sad, witnessing this struggling child be ignored and othered (the My Cousin Vinny one especially :sob:). I enjoyed the gameplay, and how it was never a matter of picking the “right” option—rather, it’s left up to the player to decide if they’d prefer to stumble over ordering their favorite food, or smoothly order a food they hate. The color coding of the choices was a good way to indicate how fluently each option would come out.

At the end, no matter what options you choose (as far as I can tell, anyway), you never get offered the job you interviewed for. The game isn’t about beating the stutter; you’re simply experiencing what it’s like to have it, and coping with it however you think is best. I played through four times, interested in seeing the differences between a covert, overt, and middle-of-the-road approach, and enjoyed each playthrough (and getting all but two of the achievements! My fourth playthrough was specifically an attempt to get the last two, “magic word” and “other magic word”, but I was unsuccessful).

Regarding the job interview plotline, I would have liked some more background on the PC’s adulthood experiences, in addition to the childhood ones. Given that they’re currently job-searching, I wondered if the stutter played a role in them leaving their previous job. And if, as the game seems to imply, the PC didn’t get the job because of the stutter, I wondered what that meant for future job prospects—are they going to have to give up on their career goals? (Not to mention the ramifications for their ability to support themself…). I think more of an exploration of the PC’s dreams, and to what extent the stutter has impacted those dreams, would add a bit more depth.

One small bug: On my first playthrough, the text said I wasn’t comfortable enough to disclose my stutter to the interviewer, but after the interview I still got the “Maybe disclosing your stutter was a mistake” line (on all my subsequent playthroughs the two matched up, though.) And one small suggestion: It might be nice to have a pre-filled option for the name and food pop-ups (or save the player’s first entry), as, lazy person that I am, I got tired of retyping those every playthrough.


Thank you so much for the review, and I’m very happy to hear that you enjoyed the game!

You have a lot of very insightful feedback and suggestions that I’ll definitely keep in mind for an eventual post-comp release. :smile:

Some of them are features I never even considered (I especially love the option to remember your previous name, that’s brilliant), while others echo elements that I had toyed with in the design process but felt unsure about pursuing further. Now I feel like I have new motivation to revisit and improve them!

Thanks a lot for pointing out that bug as well – the values for that variable check were indeed totally wrong!

(And I did wonder if I made the magic word achievements a little too hard to get… I’m sorry about that :sweat_smile:)


I suddenly had an inkling, and it got me the “OTHER Magic Word” achievement. :smiley:


Ooh, would you mind letting me know what you did? :eyes:


If you’d like some hints:

The magic word only has one solution, and is a reference to another game.

The OTHER magic word has a few possible triggers, and they’re all more commonplace/mundane.

Both can only be obtained in one specific text entry field.
It’s the same one, so unfortunately you can’t get both achievements in the same playthrough

(More clues/solutions can also be found in the walkthrough file!)


Ahh, I have an idea now—thanks! (I also forgot that there’s a walkthrough!) And I’m really glad my review was helpful. Thank you for making and sharing this game!

1 Like