Wolfbiter reviews IFComp 2023 (latest: finished with reviews, wrap-up thoughts)

The Witch by Charles Moore
Playtime: 1 hour, 43 minutes (did not finish)

TLDR: You begin the game. You don’t know it yet, but you’re in a map with 49* locations. “help” you type. “There’s no help for you,” the game replies.
(*actually more than 49, that’s just how many I had seen when I stopped)

Gamemechanical notes: Parser based. You can save and undo and you will need both. If you type “score” the game will score you, but more importantly, it will tell you if it’s still possible to win. Score frequently, score often, friends.

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  • I came in with some moderate meta-game knowledge and with it, I had a good time! Sometimes one just wants to explore an area, make a map, collect all collectible items, and see what puzzles one can solve with them. It probably took 1 hour, 20 minutes of casually tooling around before I finished my naive ideas for what to do with each item and started to feel stuck. If you, like me, find that kind of exploration satisfying for your hunter-gatherer brain, you will probably also like it.

  • I did the chairlift puzzle and the mine puzzle on my own and they were both fun!

  • Riding the chairlift was also pretty fun. wheeeeeeee

  • I liked how under-implemented it was. I’m here to solve puzzles and chew bubble gum, and I’m fresh out of bubble gum. So yeah, thank you for respecting my time. Me: “get gems” Game:“They’re just for decoration.” Whabam.

[ Δ ]

  • I mentioned I came in with some meta-knowledge. Although I’ve generally been avoiding reviews until I’m done with my playthrough of a game, I had picked up that (1) it’s possible to make the game unwinnable without noticing and (2) “score” will tell you if you can still win. These two facts are pretty important and should be stated up front! My experience would have been very different if I’d invested a few hours before realizing how to use “score.” Barely a hint for those who haven’t played: There are some environmental deaths, but not really any total jump-scare type deaths. The ways you can make the game unwinnable are not that subtle, it’s mostly by destroying / misusing / wasting plot-relevant items. So if you did something that consumed an item, that would be a good time to check if the game is still winnable. And I think there’s also a 600 turn time limit, per @mathbrush, although I didn’t make it that far in any of my discrete attempts.

  • Some of the puzzles were underclued / a bit unfair. Specifically, (yes, this list is based in RATIONAL OBJECTIVE criteria and not just whatever I couldn’t figure out, why do you ask?) there should be some indication to give the teddy bear to the Widow, the beaver should be more prominent (well, also should exist, see below), the command “climb up” should work at the tree instead of just “up,” you shouldn’t have to climb into the peach tree to see that it has a peach. Oh, related to that, does anyone know if is there a topographical explanation for the tree-climbing puzzle? When I saw the walkthrough for that part I was like, hmm, if it’s doing more than button mashing I don’t get it, so I went to the tree and mashed up and down and successfully got through it that way, but I saw people referring to that as a “maze,” which makes me think there is some internally-consistent way of conceiving of its shape. Although the 2D maze is breaking my brain a bit?

  • Really my biggest issue is that once I’d exhausted free explore time and wanted the walkthrough, I found I couldn’t finish the game because the beaver didn’t seem to exist anywhere. This is probably a bug, although honestly it also feels sort of deserved in my unworthy heart because I [spoiler for a different game] killed that beaver in To Sea in a Sieve. I applaud that there was a walkthrough, but it is also important that it be possible to finish the game ¯_(ツ)_/¯