Viv Dunstan's IFComp 2022 musings

Hoping to get through some games, despite my neurological illness being currently bad and probably going to get very bad at the end of the month. So very modest expectations re playing. And I don’t intend to write detailed reviews. But I am likely to have some thoughts, so here’s a thread for them!

Firstly I want to express thanks to all the authors entering this year. Thank you for sharing your works with us! The best thing about IFComp for me is seeing the sheer amount of creativity at play. Every entry I try inspires me and gives me ideas in its own way. It is wonderful to see lots of new names appear, and entries from familiar names from the past.

And thanks to those already playing, judging, posting about and reviewing the games. It is lovely to see such a vibrant and appreciative community. The enthusiasm is palpable :crazy_face:

And 71 entries. Yikes! I’ve gone through the list and have drawn up a starting point for ones I might be able to play. I’ve got a mix of parser and web/choice based. Tending more towards genres that appeal most to me. I also have some red flag issues e.g. I will personally avoid anything with body horror. But I have a good list. Now just to see what I can manage! More hopefully soon …


Esther’s by Brad and Alleson Buchanan

First up a quick choice based piece where you try to help two mice get what they want to eat at a cafe.

This is quite charming! The combination of cute artwork and the short but very effective text accompanying it is a delight. And I was quickly engrossed in the story, mentally acting out some of the moves in my head, and totally invested in the challenge.

The length was well judged. Yes it’s very short, but it works well, perfectly capturing the problem it encompasses. It shouldn’t be shorter or longer. Nor would I rework the writing.

On the downside I had to google at least one food/drink term! But that was fine. The game is very forgiving and friendly.

And bonus thanks to the authors for including some “extras” at the end. Definitely recommend people check that section out.

Thank you very much!


Thank you for the nice review!

1 Like

A Matter of Heist Urgency by FLACRabbit

Fancied a quick parser game next, and this fitted the bill very nicely. You play a horse with superpowers, though in disguise, who has to solve the puzzle of missing crown jewels.

It’s short, sweet, but very, very funny, nicely written, and well implemented. I laughed so much throughout this. I like how the game is organised into a series of scenes, which also lets the player have a natural break from the somewhat frenetic action.

There are hints in game though no walkthrough, but I rattled on through just fine. There are also a number of combat sequences, which were fun to play, and amusingly written.

I just enjoyed that immensely. Short and sweet, and very funny.

Thanks to the author!


Under the Bridge by Samantha Khan

This is a short web-based piece where you play a monster who settles under a bridge, and you have a number of decisions to make about how to react to what happens.

I played this several times, to get different endings, though I won’t have reached them all. I really liked how the piece made me feel, with some very emotive moral decisions. For a so-called monster I felt very much as if I had responsibilities in my choices.

The writing is strong, as is the artwork. I played without sound.

A very nice entry, short but highly effective. Thank you.

Note for the author I found a typo right at the start:


Press: “Stop Audtio” to stop audio at any point.

  • should be Audio not Audtio

Who Shot Gum E. Bear? by Damon L. Wakes

This is a short and mostly enjoyable detective hunt, set in a world of talking candies and sweets, and investigating the murder of Gum E. Bear.

I liked a lot about it, and did solve who did it, though I’m not entirely convinced I found every clue. What tipped me over was finding something in one place then going around examining all the creatures to see who might match it. But the descriptions weren’t always complete enough for me to be sure that I’d ruled everyone out. But it was the right person.

The descriptions are fun, the cartoon esque but also gruesome world nicely drawn. However the game needed quite a bit more polish. I found a lot of under implemented bits, that might have been improved by more testing e.g.

Notes for the author:

examine puddle
You can’t see any such thing.

There’s actually a small smear of red liquid on the broken porcelain.

examine smear
You can’t see any such thing.

examine dryers
These things never get your hands completely dry.

turn on dryer
You can’t see any such thing.

use dryer
That’s not a verb I recognise.

can “examine gum” but “ask X about gum” doesn’t work whereas “ask X about bear” does

Also some kind of hints or walkthrough would have been very much appreciated. I was stuck in one location, lacking the information I needed to move forward.

So yup, some nice stuff, but needed a bit more polish. But I had fun, and laughed uproariously at one bit (response to OPEN STALL). Thank you!


Witchfinders by Tania Dreams

Firstly a disclaimer. I’m a professional academic historian, with a PhD in Scottish history in the period covered by this game. I’m having a lot of problems getting my head around the concept of highly active Scottish witchfinders in this period, especially in Edinburgh. It doesn’t fit well with the historical chronology. So I’ve gone into the game with a huge suspension of disbelief, and am treating it as a fun fantasy. Though rather ahistorical.

However I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed playing a couple of times through what is a short but atmospheric choice-based piece. Right at the start you are told you are the witch, and the game sees you try to help people with their problems. There are a number of locations, and objects, and puzzles. It’s quite minimally implemented, and things are only uncovered in certain situations as you play through. But I found it satisfying, and atmospheric. Also tense as you try not to reveal yourself to those who might be hunting you.

There’s one chunk of spoken Scots text that is interesting in how it’s been rendered in words! But is a fair go at the sound of the words. And kudos to the author for including some changing broadsides to view outside your home. Edinburgh streets at this time were festooned with cheap print like this, often poems, folklore, ballads etc. So this is totally bang on.

There are some typos, but given that English isn’t the author’s first language I found things read well. Thank you for a fun time!

Typo notes for the author: (just some I noted down)

Chamber’s Street - should be Chambers Street. It was named after a Mr Chambers.

Ask the butcher about cattles from the farmers - it should be “cattle” for the plural


I was actually hoping you’d play this one and share your thoughts on it, as the community’s resident expert on Scottish history!

It sounds like Chambers Street is historical, so I was wondering, do you know whether the Esplanade in the game is as well? I visited Edinburgh many many years ago, when I was about ten I think, but seem to dimly recall someplace that might fit the bill though couldn’t tell you where it was or what it was called, and the maybe-memory’s been bothering me.


There’s definitely an esplanade in Edinburgh, but as to how it is described in the game, I couldn’t say.


Oh hey, that’s exactly the place I was remembering – I thought it had something to do with the castle! And it’s the place in the game, too, since it also has that monument to the victims of witch-burnings that’s mentioned in the blurb. Thanks for digging that up!


Yup that’s the one! I really liked the sense of place evoked by a relatively small number of locations in the game.


Glimmer by Katie Benson

This is a short Twine piece about someone experiencing a cycle of depression, overcome by the current situation as so many of us are. And then what happens after.

I liked the writing, and it did evoke feelings. I have generalised anxiety disorder myself. And it’s hardly any wonder many people, myself included, are finding the current situation difficult, for so many reasons. I’ve tried to minimise my doomscrolling for example, but it’s ever so hard.

However the piece was just not interactive for me. The few apparent choices there were would loop round to the same result in the end. The bulk of the clicks were just to move the story on, or to expand a description more. This left me feeling not as engaged as I should. On the one hand I think a certain inevitability in getting sucked into a cycle of doom made sense, but I don’t think what happened in the game after should have been so inevitable.

For example if I was reluctant to accept help, as the main character is offered, it would have been nice to see a fuller interactive episode bringing you round, rather than that happening anyway, whatever you say.

So yes, powerful writing, a piece with something important to say. And definitely one that I could relate to. But it needed more interaction for me, which was a shame. But thank you to the author for sharing a piece evoking such powerful emotions.


No One Else Is Doing This by Lauren O’Donoghue

Another slice of real life, this time with a short Twine piece where you are someone knocking on doors, looking to encourage community action to tackle local problems. On a cold night, with many doors to knock on, and targets to reach.

I really enjoyed this. Each house tried felt different from the rest, and conversations witth inhabitants were interesting and thought provoking. I also liked how the game let me choose how to approach the conversations, so there was very much a sense of interactivity throughout. Sometimes I felt I was getting the hang of things, other times very much not so.

It was also a good piece for making you think about the variety of situations people find themselves in and the problems that they can face. I also wondered if it was hinting at thoughts on the rights or wrongs of collecting money towards that end, not least re the way the game depicts some things, especially the ending.

Thanks to the author. I spotted one typo so here are the details.

Of all the houses you’ve seen on this street, this one might be the most immacuate. Fresh paintwork, spotless patio, a heavy brass knocker on the front door. Through the gauzy curtains you can see bookshelves in the living room, a tastefully decorated Christmas tree.

  • should be immaculate

The Last Christmas Present by JG Heithcock

This is a charming parser game that took me a very short time to play - about half an hour. You are a young child set a treasure hunt, with very strong Harry Potter theming.

I enjoyed the world created, but I found the game needed more polish. Too often scenery objects would be unimplemented. Or a plural word might only work instead of a singular, or vice versa. Or in one location the room description would change as you typed look repeatedly, which was a major issue for solving one puzzle.

The game has some nice internal documentation but I didn’t find the in-game hints enough. Given a multi menu help system had been built I’d have preferred to see this used for more hints there. I also found handling the core object of the game a bit frustrating, with the need to constantly fold and unfold to resee sections.

However it was charming. Just needed quite a bit more polishing to make it shine.


Graveyard Strolls by Adina Brodkin

This is a choice-based piece where you explore a graveyard at night, and end up encountering, and possibly helping, a series of ghosts.

I played this a couple of times, and also replayed some sections to get past areas where I’d got stuck. Thanks to the author for allowing replays from earlier fixed points in the game.

The writing was generally strong and encouraged me to keep playing. It was also quite spooky at times, so I was feeling some tension there. Definitely seasonally appropriate!

There’s a segue near the end that surprised me, but it was neatly written.

The way the fonts got smaller at times wasn’t great on accessibility grounds.

But it was a nice piece.


Tower of Plargh by caranmegil

This is a very minimally implemented parser game where you are stuck in a bizarre tower.

On the plus it made me laugh a lot with the sheer absurdity of things, as I interacted to the limited extent with objects around, changing the environment as a result. I got stuck after the monkey appeared. Nothing I did then worked.

However the implementation was way too minimal. So often objects and verbs would be unimplemented, making it a frustrating parser experience. That was in addition to it being very hard with no clueing.

But it did make me laugh a lot, and there is the core of a fun game. It just needed quite a considerable amount of polishing. But that would reward the players and their responses immensely. So something to work on. Thanks for the laughs!


HOURS by aidanvoidout

This is a short Twine game where you are a dying warrior in a country ruled by a Shogun (Japan?) and offered the chance to assassinate the corrupt ruler.

I had a huge problem personally with the opening premise. Why would someone even knowing they were dying agree to do that task, even if they leave no family to suffer from any fall outs? The player had just - I think - been fighting for the Shogun. And at that stage it’s not clear to the player how corrupt they are. So that part of things didn’t convince me, right at the start.

Frustratingly the game did railroad me towards that end. There are often limited choice options, essentially a click to move onto the next piece of text. And those pieces of text are often lengthy infodumps. Though I’m not sure to what end.

There are a lot of typos throughout that proofreaders could have picked up. Even with choice pieces make sure that your work is adequately proofread by others before release. Also there were some confusing sections of dialogue, where two people were speaking, but the speakers weren’t clearly indicated. Which after many many lines can become confusing for the reader.

In the end I kept reaching an ending where I had tried to kill the Shogun, but failed, and was encouraged to go back and try again. But nothing I tried had a different effect. I also ran into a markup coding bug in the slave auction, which I think may have stopped me discovering/uncovering something useful. See below re this.

There’s the kernel of an interesting story here, but it needed more developing, stronger motivations for the main character up front (which do admittedly become clearer later), more choice, and more proofreading. But I was intrigued by the worldbuilding, and would have been happy to spend more time in the world.

Screenshot of the markup bug


Inside by Ira Vlasenko

This is a fairly short - though possibly longer than the estimated half hour - Ink piece, where you are trying to help a witch survive a trial by ordeal. Which seems to be an adventure of the mind, where you are thrown into a strange world, and have to get through, and alive.

From the start I was confused about who was who. It reminded me of Fairest where there was the player character ostensibly controlling a different primary character. But here I was confused who I was, and who the witch was. I think I was maybe inside her head, and guiding her decisions. But the writing was somewhat unclear about this. In addition this was another case of a game with confusing dialogue between two people, without clarity about who was saying what. And indeed in this case who was who.

However once I pushed those concerns aside I found it an engrossing world to play through. You find yourself (or the other self you are controlling) in multiple locations within this mind world, and can interact with people and objects. I also felt a good sense of danger throughout, and the writing pulled me in.

I played through to the end and got a good ending. The game does seem quite kind in that there wasn’t any apparent limit re how long I took. So if I was in a particularly rich location I could examine and interact with everything at length. However at the same time the sense of danger was omnipresent, which is good.

So yup, some confusing writing issues that could have been smoothed. But I enjoyed exploring the fantastic world created.


A Walk Around the Neighborhood by Leo Weinreb

This is a very enjoyable and extremely well implemented short parser game, where you try to get out of your house for a walk. But you need to find lots of things first …

There is a lot of searching and examining in this game. But the writing is strong, it’s fun, and the balance between the hunt and the rewards is just right.

There’s a built in hints system which is excellent, as you call up to your partner for help. I also appreciated that the names used could fit any gender, which was very inclusive. The in-game hints adapt as you play and there’s also a separate walkthrough.

So much made me laugh. The DIY channel and what it shows especially! I also liked the frequent in joke pointers to classic games. Indeed the very opening is very reminiscent of one particular Infocom game.

There are multiple endings, varying from not so good to better. I got the second best ending, but had fun trying others. The game also lets you UNDO your last move, so you can try other options.

That was delightful. Thank you to the author, and to the playtesters who did a grand job.

I noticed just one typo:

put battery in remote
The panel doesn’t seem to open no matter how much you try to pry it with your fingers. You notice a small hole at the bottom where some sort of tool might fit, but none of the tools in your posession seem to work.

  • should be “possession"

Use Your Psychic Powers at Applebee’s by Geoffrey Golden

This is a short choice-based piece where you are a brand ambassador for a beer company, and tasked with using your psychic powers to get people to buy the beer.

The action is set primarily in one location with a limited number of customers you can choose from to read their minds and try to inluence them. Each one is different in the responses, and there are also some interactions between them. The order in which you try the different customers can also be critical.

I found some of the ethics of the game troubling, trying to encourage people to drink beer who may already have a problem with alcohol, or indeed be under age. That may also be why I didn’t get a great rating at the end. But I enjoyed my play.

So an interesting piece, and it was interesting to get a glimpse into the individual customer minds. Even if I have some qualms about the ethics of the core idea.