Let’s go, ese! This competition is straight fire, and I’m looking to play some games that slap!
All Hands by Natasha Ramoutar
All Hands is a mysterious story about a character who has always been drawn to the sea. On this night, they have a very unusual encounter…
I enjoyed the setup for this story, but after playing through several endings, I felt like there was a lot left unsaid. I would welcome an expanded version of the game with more details about the nature of the mysterious vessel and its crew.
I liked the mechanics that made it easy to navigate the setting, but I also wished there was more to explore. As far as replayability, it seems like the only choices that lead to any variety come at the end of the game.
I would recommend giving this one a try!
Xanthippe’s Last Night with Socrates by Victor Gijsbers
Many fans of the ‘Comp will remember Gijsbers’ 2019 entry, “Turandot,” which placed 2nd and was very well received. For 2023, we have a story that is comprised entirely of a dialog between Socrates and his second wife on the night before his execution. The player takes on the role of Xanthippe and must choose all of her speaking parts.
This game was not for me. I really didn’t connect with the direction their conversation took. There was a lot of humor, but it wasn’t a style that I prefer. Much of the discussion is also very philosophical, and it can go through many different tangents. These sections were also not to my taste; rather than adding to a coherent narrative, I thought some of the branches the conversation took were aimless. I do feel that this was a great concept that explores two very interesting historical figures, so I am sure that there will be many players who enjoy it more than I did.
DICK MCBUTTS GETS KICKED IN THE NUTS by Hubert Janus
PREDICTION: This story will be the highest placing entry out of all the 15-minutes-or-less games in the comp’s history.
I say this because most games that are this brief don’t really carry the impact to score up amongst the top entries of the year. Dick McButts, however, has much more packed into it than other games of this length.
I also think it will overcome the perception that it’s just a “joke” game, or that the humor is all one-note. My recommendation: if you happen to reach a “bad” ending, use that back arrow and keep trying. There is more to it than you might assume.
One of my favorites of 2023 so far. I want to replay this game until I’ve seen every possibility.
I played the game in-browser; I’m not sure if that makes a difference, but I’ve read reviews that mention some mechanics I didn’t experience. It sounds like there may be some randomized elements that don’t pop up on every playthrough.
20 Exchange Place by Sol FC
20 Exchange Place immediately throws you into the middle of the action and doesn’t let up until the situation is fully played out. It is a tight, economical story that builds the tension so well, I couldn’t wait to see what result my choices had. I immediately replayed through this one several times, and I appreciated the fact that enough changed with each playthrough that I didn’t feel like I was just getting the exact same story. I look forward to going back to this one to see as many endings as possible.
Lonehouse by Ayu Sekarlangit Mokoginta
Here is a shorter entry in the 2023 with sparse descriptions and very economical gameplay. The character must deal with the aftermath of a family tragedy, and we are given a brief look into the backstory of the relationship between siblings. I think that how emotional the reader finds this story to be will depend on their own experiences. The two sisters in this story seem to have been estranged, and the point seems to be that they really didn’t know each other very well any more. This is emphasized by how little is revealed about the deceased sister’s character; she is gone now, and there are no more opportunities to be involved in her life. What little she has left behind is unsatisfyingly inconclusive, and the surviving sister must deal with the fact that she has lost any chance to deepen that connection ever again.
A Thing of Wretchedness by AKheon
Something is in your home that will not go away. How much longer can you live like this?
I enjoyed the central puzzle of this game; however, I was very unsatisfied that none of my efforts paid off. I tried several things several different ways, but the only endings I got were bad. Not conclusively bad, but bad in the sense that I knew something else was possible, but I couldn’t seem to get to it. When I consulted the walkthrough, I saw that I was on the right track–several of the things I had tried were the ways to reach different endings, but I had either not done them exactly right or had not persisited long enough. On top of that, the author tells us that whether or not these solutions will pay off can be “luck dependent.”
Spoiler: I especially thought the requirement of mailing the letter three times was frustrating. I realize it’s an interactive ficiton game, and repeating actions is a common mechanic, but I would never have logically put it together to mail a letter again after I’d already mailed it.
One thing I will say about this interactive story is that it gave me a look into a perspective very different from my own. The main character of this entry was very well-defined, so much so that I was acutely aware of how wide the divergence was between our experiences. She is a very proper English woman who recently moved to a better area of the country. This is presented as the main motivation for her to respond to the events of the story the way she does. Initially, she seems to behave very genuinely by reacting with anger and frustration to an upsetting incident. As the story goes on, however, she becomes more of an opportunist. Most of the choices I made over two playthroughs didn’t seem to change much, but I think there is at least one decision that can affect the ending. I will also point out that I wasn’t quite sure what we were supposed to have thought the villain was guilty of until it is stated explicitly very near the end. I don’t know if that was intentional or not, but from the way some other details are handled, I will assume the author trusted the reader to understand enough until the time was right.