Victor's IFComp 2023 Reviews

Oh, I’m glad that people found it! But I can say at least for me that I never play a game with an eye towards reviewing it and definitely not with an eye on the clock; I just play the game. Afterwards, I use the spur of reviewing to make me think about the game I just played more that I otherwise would.

Trying to think through my thought process a little more…

I think I figured out that if I went to a room at the wrong time and had a puppet, the guard would steal the puppet, but that if I didn’t have a puppet, the guard would kill me. As such, losing a puppet was a way to buy myself a few extra turns wandering around before dying. This was definitely something I was never going to do on my ‘canonical’ run-through of the game: just because I-the-player was bad at figuring out the guard pattern, didn’t mean I was going to sacrifice another person to make things a little easier.

I agree with your testers here ;-). However, it does also mean that even if I had found the way to rescue the puppets, I probably wouldn’t have used it! I had assumed from the discussion earlier that you could lose and then rescue all the puppets, but if that’s not true, that means that undo/restore is still the optimal way to play the game. (Also, I’ll say that unlike Victor, I definitely got the sense early on that the guards weren’t random, but following some pattern. I never actually figured out that pattern, but knowing it was there made the save/restore cycle less annoying for me than it was for Victor.)


I don’t think you die? I think the guards are pretty harmless if you don’t have a puppet, but I could be mistaken?


Ooh, interesting. I never played on after losing a puppet in the game, but I did have the impression from talking to the van driver that I had the option to play on and get the puppet back. (it just seemed, from my naive perspective, like doing so would be more work without corresponding gain). But learning that that would require sacrificing a different one . . . oof yeah I would view that as a bad outcome.


You made me doubt myself, so I went back to check, and the Commissary guard, at least, definitely kills you. You get a nice obit in the newspaper the next day and everything.

As you watch, your body makes an infinitely soft sound, perhaps a rattle in your breath or a knuckle popping; it doesn’t matter. The creature, if this can be called a creature, senses it. Immediately, with purpose and alacrity, it twists and focuses its orifice on you.
You have no way to defend yourself.
The sleeve of musky fur suddenly ejects its inside, striking you like a soft plush spear, and pulls you off your feet and toward the main body, where the orifice is opening to engulf you.
In its interior darkness, you think you see glittering black eyes.


When I entered the green room, I’d just get one sentence and nothing else, like “What’s the blue thing doing here??” And that’s it. No warning why that’d happen.

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Me on seeing I have 39 new reviews to read:

Very well-written and interesting thoughts that gave me new insight into several of the games. I always have to fight with myself to not respond too much and basically review people’s review threads (that way lies madness), so I’ll limit myself to two thoughts:

(1) I find the idea of a beat witch variant where you type “beat witch” all the way through very amusing
(2) regarding surely the MOST DISCUSSED game of the comp:

20 Exchange Place

in response to

OK, reading the thoughts on this game has made me think that I have perhaps a greater knowledge of early 2000s Clive Owen movies than the average person in this forum. The game is (unstatedly?) based on 2006 movie Inside Man in which Clive Owen leads a band of robbers in a bank heist slash hostage situation that I think pretty directly inspired a lot of the game. (This also explains why it’s impossible to totally “win” the game by catching the robbers, in that they get away with it in the movie, and also the title of the game, since 20 Exchange Place is the address of the bank in the movie.)

I’m not at all saying that the game should “get credit” or anything for things that are not actually in the game, but for anyone with a mental itch as to how we are supposed to imagine the robbers did it, there are 128 minutes of hollywood product available explaining how they did it and also ate pizza and kept their loot etc etc and I suspect that’s what the author was imagining happens.

(Although it also strikes me as an interesting choice that the author added in the “bad” endings [which are not in the movie] because it’s strongly indicated in the movie that they would NOT in fact blow up the bank or kill a bunch of hostages. But I may have already thought about this too much.)


Uh, yeah, sure, except like DMcB…

I rarely can tell whether people are being sarcastic or not, even in real life - so either way, please don’t take anything I say the wrong way.

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haha, I was being a tongue in cheek about my choice of which games from Victor’s reviews to respond to.

In seriousness, yeah, 20EP has a healthy number of reviews but definitely not the most-discussed game.


Glad you got to see it! Also take note that every puppet becomes a different monster. My personal favorites are Blintz and Princess Koy!

also, I feel I owe an apology to @VictorGijsbers for my game consuming so much real estate in his review thread! It’s true, though, this is all very valuable information for my next game, so it’s greatly appreciated from everyone.


I believe that the conditions of reception/consumption are usually a significant part of the meaning-making process, even if it doesn’t come up a lot. This is something that interests me!


I was one who played with the undo button, even though I anticipated there might be some mechanism to recover the lost puppets. When I discovered the puppet that could scare off the guards, that was a game changer.

@bitterkarella is one of my favorite IF authors. How nice you were able to get their feedback.


Agreed. It’s like how some early games would let you continue after dying, at the cost of losing some points (and thus irrevocably locking yourself out of the endgame). I’d rather undo and retry than keep playing knowing I can no longer win.


Feel free to do so, though! I enjoy discussing these games

You know, that explains a lot. I’m afraid I don’t know the movie (or the actor), but I can imagine that having more context could explain a lot about this game, and possibly resolve some of the frustration I felt!


…Children of Men?..

To those who haven’t watched it, it is mostly flawless and pretty damn clever.


Honk! by Alex Harby

Honk! continues – or starts, depending on the order in which you play the comp games – the theme of light-hearted, superbly implemented puzzly parser games. This time, we’re in a circus. What’s more, we are a clown. We have custard pies that we can throw, balloons that we can blow up, a miniature car that too many people can get into, and of course a nose that we can honk. The only thing we’re missing is a flower that spouts water – though in one memorable simile, the game, taking the protagonist seriously as the focal character through whom we experience the world, tells us that “like water from a flower, the rabbit shoots out of the hat”.

Our little circus is in trouble. There’s someone, a phantom, who is sabotaging the acts. This makes the audience unruly, of course, but it also threatens the identity of the performers. Who’s the strong woman if she can’t lift someone? Who’s the goose trainer if he can’t get his goose to do what he wants? Defeating the phantom requires you to make the acts work again, and making the acts work again is restoring the ability to express their identity to your fellows in the circus. This is not accidental. Honk! has strong queer themes, and it’s overall message is that we should stop the nasty vindictive people who are trying to take away people’s identities. It doesn’t really explore this in any depth, but it gives the story a good kind of coherence.

The other coherence-generating design decision is that all puzzles involve being a clown. That’s right and proper, of course: we need to embrace our own decidedly non-standard identity in order to help others. Honk our nose, make balloons, throw pies, get into the clown car; it’s all necessary, and it’s fun. I found some of the puzzles more intuitive than others, but in general the difficulty level is not extremely high. (I found the goose puzzle highly intuitive and solved it easily, whereas the rabbit puzzle seems to contradict common sense physics and I had to resort to the walkthrough. By the way, I loved the Grim Fandango allusion.)

The final scene is one of those classic ‘now use everything you have learned’ scenes, which are classic because they just work.

(There might be a slight bug there, because in the very turn in which I defeated the baddie, the circus helper announced that the tire of my car was punctured; but I don’t think they were along for the ride? This seems like a case of a missing ‘if’ statement.)

A very sympathetic game that I highly recommend.


Seconded. Children of Men is fantastic and sadly underseen.


Thanks for this really kind review, Victor! I really appreciate it.

For what it’s worth, the slight bug at the end is supposed to be a joke (in that the helper is being extremely slow on the uptake), but if it looks more like a bug than a joke it probably needs a rewrite. I’ll talk about other things when I get around to the post-mortem.


It’s great when people tell about stuff one never thought of, or perhaps, at best, knew intuitively, as if they were resources intentionally deployed. For example, the trick with the directions. I can’t even define “phenomenology”.

Loved this review Victor!


Don’t worry. Nobody can. :wink:


Doesn’t stop ‘em trying, though.