Okily dokily, time to start posting some thoughts I wrote down about a few Petite Mort entries from ECTOCOMP 2022. I’m hoping I can get through them all (playing in a random order) and will have time to take on some Grand Guignol entries as well, but those reviews if I get to them will be in a separate post. Hopefully I’ll have a bunch of time to get through Petite Mort stuff this weekend but who knows? Time is a mystery and circumstances are ever the moles randomly popping their heads from holes, now here and now there and sometimes impossible to hammer down.
[edit to disclose that while I’ve responded to some reviews of my own game in other threads, I have so far intentionally scrolled past other reviews in order to avoid spoilers and develop my own reactions to these things although I will undoubtedly be checking out all manner of other reviews afterward]
ZOMBIE YELP REVIEWER
mmmm… short and humorous, short enough I don’t really want to quote anything because you can play this over the course of a couple minutes and see for yourself. Your mileage will probably vary by your tolerance of the diction, but it is definitely Grunk-like and if IFDB is to be believed people love Grunk. I think the primary joke here is less in the voice that carries it though and more in the broad idea that someone’s brain would have the habit of reviewing their culinary experience so burned into it that they would even do it when zombified. It did make me laugh. There are some chuckles to be had at the individual descriptions as well, but I would also note that this sentence itself is too dry to be as effective as it wants to be.
This one is cooked to a congratulatory “Well done.”
Condensed, plays a lot with Inform default responses. It gave me a chuckle. Also features a WIN command, which I’ve always enjoyed. I suspect there’s more to it since I have been able to get three endings and I’m sure there’s more riffing on default responses going on, but the WIN ending did tell me I’d seen everything, so I’m going to take its word on that for now and maybe come back later. Some of it (most?) is enjoyably surreal, especially (for me) the Nothing item.
My favorite ending so far was the one where remembering a cursed, forgotten language dooms everyone.
As far as I could tell this is kinda like a one-word Mad Lib, except on my first playthrough the first three words I wanted to offer the game were rejected (toad, frog, bum), with some contextually nonsensical “did you mean?” suggestions (goad, grog, aum) [then again, I guess you could say someone is a goad if they always try to get you to do things], so that didn’t start the thing off on the right foot. I went with “hippie,” but I’m not sure the ensuing text reflected that at all. The ending is as far as I could tell invariably the old miser falling asleep peacefully thinking he’s absolved himself. I didn’t see that there was more to it than that.
This didn’t really come off as spooky to me, but it was written under time constraint and the idea of absolving a rich miser does horrify me a little, so I suppose that all counts as two thumbs up, pass go and collect $200 ECTOCOMP material. I would probably need to know more about the system used to create it or what it’s doing under the hood to really say much more about it. Like if it’s gonna be a Mad Lib, and not affect the outcome, why not just let the player type any word? Then again maybe it does affect the outcome in an instance I just didn’t see.
NIGHTMARES WITHIN NIGHTMARES
Neat concept! Overall this is a condensed shot of creepy fun that lets the reader experience all it has to offer (as far as I could tell anyway) without having to reboot. I kept getting the sense there was maybe a way out (one dream seems to suggest cutting something out of me, there’s an opportunity to get a knife in another), but while it would be cool to have a solution, it’s also all the more nightmarish I would think to keep the player trapped. To paraphrase Thomas Ligotti, in nightmares salvation from the hell of the mind is only retroactively invented by dreamers with a redemptive agenda.
ONE MORE PAGE
Slow fade in not cool, always left me feeling impatient but also like I was potentially missing something. Not sure I believe the dialog, but I would have to take a lot longer than I am typing now to put my finger on exactly why. Super impressive to’ve been coded for Petit Mort, all told.
ZALGOTEXT (this is neither positive nor negative, only ZALGO [actually, I should say a little more about it and that would probably be that the vertically longer strings of ZALGOTEXT spilling into other responses was a good use of the form for its intended effect]).
Disappointed the last option just ends the game, no written end or epilogue or anything as far as I could tell. It definitely seemed ripe for some final stab.
Overall though, minus any quibbles this is a slick execution of a creepy, supernatural horror story about forbidden knowledge, obsessiveness/compulsion (thus the title), and doubles/duplicity, all classic horror themes. It gets the brain going; wondering, fearing, doubting…
UNTITLED GHOST GAME
Ho ho ho, time to take this ol’ house and “get it nice and SPOOKEH!” I’m down for this already. Having to spook the living daylights out of a new inhabitant is great horror fodder, but potentially even better horror comedy fodder (see stuff like, I dunno, Beetlejuice or “Haunting” on the Sega Genesis).
Pretty impressive amount of options, effects, and just stuff going on in this game for a Petite Mort entry. The game also has a good sense of humor [the ending where you haunt nothing is funny and cute, as is the idea that hiding the remote is “wait, too mean”].
I only managed to get two endings so far, but the SPOOKINESS meter seems to suggest this is an optimization puzzle with potentially a full range or spectrum of endings, so I will probably come back to this one later and see what else I can do.