Victor's IFComp 2020 reviews

@VictorGijsbers Thank you for your review. This is my first text adventure and yes I know it feels retro, the text adventures I played before making this where zork, hhgg, and couple of others. If you have advice for improving this game, feel free to message me so I can improve it and I use the experience I had making this when I start working on an another IF game.

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Adventures in the Tomb of Ilfane by Willershin Rill

I was ready to give this game a very low rating for being unsolvable and hence a waste of my time, when MathBrush pointed out to me that it is actually one of a trio of games, together with Incident! Aliens on the Teresten! and Terror in the Immortal’s Atelier. As a meta puzzle, this seems rather weak. You can count on people playing at least two of your trio in a much smaller competition, but what are the chances in IF Comp? I suspect that there are many players out there who did not ask MathBrush for help and whose time will, in fact, have been wasted. (And there are already several reviews of this kind.) But I’m not one of them, so let’s move on to a review of the entire trio.

Or maybe ‘trio’ is not the right word? It seems easy to argue that Adventures, Incident! and Terror are in fact one single game, so much so that it would seem fair to treat them as such when the prize money is being distributed. What we get are three tightly interrelated explorations of The Knot, an artefact of untold power that has been used unsuccessfully by peace-loving aliens to protect them from tyranny; that has been used more successfully by tyrants to make themselves immortal and all-powerful; and that is ‘now’ being coveted by the Nazis in their quest for total domination. Playing the three games gives us different glimpses of this overarching story, although things never become fully coherent – or, one suspects, fully consistent. But that is no doubt part of the intended effect.

The game has a clear political theme in the sense that it paints a chilling picture of fascist totalitarianism. What I liked most were the books in Terror, which twist well-known tales into horrifying little pieces that perfectly demonstrate a future that is – in the immortal words of Orwell – a boot stamping on a human face, forever. (There are some indications that the author is thinking about contemporary US politics, but the tales work on a larger level less bound to a specific moment in time.) So I quite enjoyed that, and I actually read all the ending scenes with some trepidation. Having it all end with a slapstick conclusion was unexpected, but frankly quite funny. “I often varned the little Nazi children against him!” Brilliant. (I probably misremember the quote, by the way.)

As puzzle, not much; as mood piece, more effective than I had anticipated and deliciously ambivalent. I think I’m going to score this in the 6-7 range.

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Incident! Aliens on the Teresten! by Tarquin Segundo

No actual review here. Check out the review one post above instead.

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Terror in the Immortal’s Atelier by Gevelle Formicore

No actual review here. Check out the review two posts above this one.

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On the off chance you want to go back to Last House on the Block, I had the same issue with the light in the attic but eventually flailed my way to figuring it out:

You need to OPEN SHUTTERS so that the room is lit by daylight. No, I don’t understand why that’s needed when you’ve got the phone and flashlight on.

Nothing in the last couple of puzzles is much different from the first part of the game, though, so doubt playing to the end would change your take too much.

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INFINITUBE by Tom Charles Bair III

INFINITUBE by Tom Charles Bair III (a pseudonym, I presume) is a complicated narrative artefact written in Twine. It presents itself as a dubious commercial project that promises ‘infinite experiences’ in which you can be whomever you want. What it in fact does, is allow you to experience a series of randomly chosen scenes from the lives of different people – could be a poor mother, could be a weirdo artist in New York, could be millionaire rapper Jay-Z – in which you can make a few choices before they suddenly end. Going through these scenes gives you attributes, which you can then sell to earn tokens that will allow you to continue playing. In the meantime, strange things happen: you get (deliberate) error messages, there is communication from the entrapped creator of INFINITUBE, and a strange semi-Biblical text called Infinitome pops up in your inventory.

Several of these fragments were actually rather interesting and/or enjoyable. To take an example, the Jay-Z scene led to an article that analysed the way that Jay-Z dealt with the supposed moral failures of O. J. Simpson in not embracing his blackness. I’m hardly in a good position to judge the worth of the article – in many of the scenes in INFINITUBE, it probably helps to live in the USA if you really want to understand what’s going on, since intimate familiarity with the culture is presupposed – but it seemed cogent and had depth. I also liked the writing in the Infinitome chapters. Other fragments left me cold, including the weird New York artist one in which accepting a rent-controlled (?) apartment always leads to your doom. And then there was the timed text. Really. Slow. Timed. Text. Happily this only occurs in a few scenes, but where it did it was extremely annoying. At one point I was literally playing a game of patience while waiting for the text to appear. (Let’s all repeat together: “Don’t use timed text! Don’t use timed text!”)

I believe the main theme that INFINITUBE wants to explore is the lie of the American Dream (which suggests that there are infinite possibilities and that you can be anyone… if only you work hard enough), and especially it’s connection with race. During the game, you’ll frequently get the WHITE attribute, which in turn allows you to earn more tokens, thus stacking the deck in your favour. (Two WHITE attributes transform into a EUROCENTRIC attribute, but let me tell you as a European that there is no Eurocentrism to be found in this game. When poetry is quoted, it’s Whitman. Even M. C. Escher, the only European (and indeed Dutch) name I came across, is presented as a rapper.) However, they don’t stack the deck very much in your favour: even with EUROCENTRIC I was unable to pay the second contribution. And when that happens, the game just starts over. This also means that I may have seen only a small part of the piece. Certainly I did not come to a point where things started to make sense or achieve any kind of coherence.

Finally, it must be noted that there are some errors in the game. One of the first pages you can get to, your Profile, has a link that leads to an empty page. When you have Infinitome chapters 1 and 2 in your inventory, you can in fact read all the chapters 1 to 6. Typos are also rather frequent, with terms like “Cesaer’s Palace”, “Strangness” and “appearence” popping up on your screen. Sometimes the game produces text that could be just American slang that I’m unfamiliar with, but could also be simply wrong, such as when it gives me a “flec of insight”.

INFINITUBE is a strange piece. I liked some parts of it, but I cannot judge the whole a success.

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Equal-ibrium by Ima

According to the cover art, the game is called Equal-ibrium. According to the title on the competition page, it is called Equal-librium. According to the blurb, it seems to be called Equal-ibium. Sad to say, this apparently unintended confusion is emblimatic for the game as a whole. It is full of spelling errors, including really egregious ones like “coffee-spliage”, which any basic spelling checker could find. Several times I got an error message that said “I can’t run the macro ‘text-type’.” And one of the paths through the game is simply not completable because you end up with a link you can’t click. Equal-ibrium isn’t even ready for beta testing, let alone for a competition release.

The story of the piece is about a CEO who is apparently trying to make money through some kind of deal that I never fully understood. Someone is going to make this deal public – who this is seems to depend on other choices you make – and this might ruin your reputation. But if you’re nice to a guy who spills coffee on your shirt, you won’t have to commit suicide. Whatever happens, at the end there’s a little moral about having to maintain equilibrium. It’s… I think it’s trying to make a point about how unlimited greed is destructive? But that’s so basic, that it’s hard to believe that this exhausts the game’s point. The unfinished state of the game made me rather uneager to delve more deeply into this.

I must admit that I didn’t get anything out of this.

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Among the next ten games on my Random Shuffle are four games that are billed as “longer than two hours”. It’s going to be hard to keep motivated that way. :neutral_face:

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I started a few of the longer games at the beginning and am just going back to one or another from time to time as my interest returns.

Just means I have to remember not to close any of my tabs…

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Thank you for your precious time. I agree with almost all of your negative notes.
Anyway i posted the official walkthrough of the game.
As i said, i intended to recall the style of the adventures of those years (80th mainly).
The system is the “Modulo Base” by Enrico Colombini ( the first Italian Author of IF) that i modified for my needs.
I hope some day you will want to try it again.
There is a little secret in the apartment waiting to be discovered. :slight_smile:

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Lovely Assistant: Magical Girl by Bitter Karella

I’ve played Bitter Karella’s two previous IF Comp entries, Basilica de Sangre and Poppet. Both involved interesting setting and some nice puzzles, but ultimately made me deeply frustrated as I struggles with the Quest parser. So I was happy to see that Lovely Assistant is written in Inform 7. And while this game is still not completely polished – there are quite some missing synonyms, for instance – I never struggled with its parser. So that’s a big win as far as I’m concerned!

Lovely Assistant casts us in the role of the assistant to a famous magician-cum-superhero, who is spirited away by one of the supervillains, the Skeptical Rationalist. It is up to you to use all the tools of the magician’s trade to solve a series of puzzles and find your boss.

This is a very light-hearted little game, in which the whole setting is over-the-top and the villain’s actions are even over-the-topper. (Using a laser to write a message on the moon! Use operand conditioning to make the doves fly in a pattern! Obviously, the joke is that the Skeptical Rationalist is a magician himself, except that he insist on explaining all of his tricks.) The use of magical gadgets was sometimes rather mundane – as when you use the saw to, well, saw – but one or two of the puzzle solutions are inspired, with my favourite being the scene where you pull unlimited rabbits out of a top hat.

Good fun.

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Sage Sanctum Scramble by Arthur DiBianca

Sage Sanctum Scramble is a series of language, letter and wordplay puzzles connected by only the loosest of narratives. Where earlier Arthur DiBianca games like The Temple of Shorgil were essentially attempts to delve incredibly deeply into a single puzzle mechanic, Sage Sanctum Scramble is more a collection of every puzzle mechanic that DiBianca could think of that was even vaguely related to language. Sometimes, you have to come up with words that fit a particular semantic and syntactic category: flowers that are 5 letters long. Sometimes, you have to study how words are transformed using more or less complicated alphabet cyphers. Sometimes, you have to engage in wordplay.

It’s all implemented very well, and the puzzles are fun. To be sure, some are a little hard for a non-native speaker like myself (I sure spent a lot of time with anagram solvers, synonyms websites and general google searches), but that is hardly DiBianca’s fault, and I enjoyed the opportunity to improve my skills. (Did you know that there are actually two plural fruit that can be formed from SALMON by substituting one letter and then rearranging them? I was proud of my MANGOS, but alas, I needed MELONS.)

Being a loose collection of vaguely related puzzles does mean that it’s all a little inconsequential, of course. Good fun, but not something that will stick with me as much as the authors previous games.

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About that puzzle:

(Did you know that there are actually two plural fruit that can be formed from SALMON by substituting one letter and then rearranging them? I was proud of my MANGOS, but alas, I needed MELONS.)

Not DAMSON (if singular is acceptable) or LEMONS?

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I think it says that it’s a “thumpable” fruit, or something like that, but this didn’t make much sense to me.

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Ha, that’s interesting. A lot of people in the US use the phrase ‘thumping’ to described the process for deciding if a watermelon is ripe or not, since it sounds more like melons than ‘hitting’ or ‘thwacking’. If you search ‘thump melons’ there’s a lot of advice articles about, so I guess it’s a cultural thing.

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Wow. Perfect example of a puzzle that turns out to be easy or hard depending on your cultural background!

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Hi VictorGijsbers - thank you very much for your review of The Eidolon’s Escape. I’m really pleased and proud to hear that you had a good time with it and I’ve very much enjoyed reading this and your other reviews.

Cheers!

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@VictorGijsbers My game is no longer in the competition

hi victor! i know you wrote this review over a month ago, but i just wanted to thank you for it. yours is possibly my favorite review of quintessence! this is my first year in the competition (or on the forum) and i’ve really enjoyed participating. i’ve also enjoyed seeing the real-time reviews. yours builds up so much tension and then makes me smile with the (i’m paraphrasing) “stunning artistic vision, but does it deliver – uh, no.” i’m just happy to be here! : ) your thoughtful review was filled with loads of kindness, which is what you offer in all your reviews, and i am impressed by it! thank you again!

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I’m glad you liked it! When I wrote it, I was thinking that although the review wasn’t entirely positive, maybe it would make the author feel understood – and that, in my own experience, is the most gratifying thing a review can do. :slight_smile:

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