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

Death on the Stormrider by Daniel L. Stelzer

TLDR: Sneak around a fun secondary-world airship and solve puzzles to find evidence to clear your brother’s name.

Gamemechanical notes: Parser based. Puzzle focused. Multiple endings based on player choices.

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  • The tablet was a nice addition to the game. I enjoyed the sketches and it was helpful in keeping track of what my character thought and needed to do.

  • I liked how there were different options for how you could end the game—often in puzzle-based games there’s just one.

  • The fact that a lot of the puzzles were about avoiding people gave it an interesting flavor, kind of like a stealth video game. I was impressed by the mechanics for announcing nearby footsteps (and different footsteps for each NPC!) and how workable they made it. A lot of work clearly went into planning and tracking the NPC routes and making sure the puzzles were all workable even as the player character summons them, etc.

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  • The map helped but I still had some issues keeping track of the exits. Which I probably noticed more than I would have in some games since getting the direction wrong could result in stumbling into someone and messing up a puzzle . . .

  • I struggled to emotionally connect to the player character / invest in the plot. Unfortunately this was paired with finding some of the early puzzles hard enough that I opened the walkthrough, which generally makes it hard for me to stay invested. I’m not totally sure why I had a hard time connecting with the player character; I think it may have been a bit not having much development of the relationship with the brother; a bit that the player character is so timid (running away if someone talks loudly), and a bit the very infantalizing way the other characters relate to the player character, e.g., taking the same item away 10x in a row (cough, not that this would happen to a cunning master of puzzles like me, cough). I absolutely get that the intent, which was successful!, was to show the alienation / distance from the crew because of the language barrier, but I also think it may have made it harder for me to connect.