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

Hi wolfbiter,

Thank you for playing and reviewing my game!

The handling of the river sequence was less than ideal in the initial version. I should have handled the ferryman in a proper manner (technically speaking he is standing in his boat, so all the player can do is regard him), but the error messages related to the interaction were confusing. In my latest version I now tell the player to march south (when at the north bank) when trying anything but looking at him, I hope it helps to smoothen out gameplay.

As for looting the ferryman, the “king of thieves” looting from the “thief of souls”… Maybe adding more backstory might help here. I do agree that our king does not really need a tax policy (he might as well just go out and loot abandoned cities and the like), but according to the original lore, he definitely was a better king than his predecessor. :smiley:

And of course thank you for all the points mentioned. They will help me to further improve my game. Hmm seizing Alcaz… I smell a joke incoming. Definitely something to add for the post comp release :smiley:

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Thanks for writing the game! Yeah, I am unfamiliar with the source material so my impression of the characters comes only from what we see in-game.

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If you’re on the lookout for it (I was), there are a couple of moments in the game where the protagonist shows off his ability to have quite intelligent conversations. :grinning:

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Haha. Agreed that the player character is pretty smart! (iirc he learns to read runes in like five minutes and is also familiar with the ring/goat thing). I did read him as more focused on the present than long-term issues. My comment was a bit tongue-in-cheek, and probably also a bit influenced by my preference for characters who are good at some things and bad at others things.

2 Likes

Bali B&B by Felicity_Banks

TLDR: Cozy, slice-of-life B&B simulator set in Bali. (This game might win the contest for “title of game best summarizes gameplay.)

Gamemechanical notes: Choice based. Small/moderate amount of character customization, I think a few endings based on player choices (?) but I only played once.

[ + ]

  • I very much enjoyed the simulator elements. Deciding how to deal with a health inspector, deciding how to approach guests’ problems, etc etc. It’s fun to have agency and choose solutions to a problem! This definitely had a cozy feel–you’re never scared that your character will be in serious peril or that you will destroy the business. I feel like there’s a whole digression lurking here about the perils of capitalism and what it says about society that it’s a common fantasy to (for fun!) imagine having a job where you had autonomy and the resources to complete your work . . . but anyhow. Yes, it feels good to fix the B&B guests’ problems!

  • I don’t know much about Bali, so I can’t speak to accuracy, but there were fun specific details about customer service and Bali that made the game feel grounded.

[ Δ ]

  • I had a pretty strong initial resistance to the premise and it took me a while to reconnect emotionally with the story. Just like, my grandparents, who I only see once a year, invite me to visit and then want to leave the country instead while I manage their B&B? Hard no.

  • It was unclear to me how much effect my choices were having later in the game. I had the sense that something was being done with my choices (i.e., if you remodel the garden or not) but I couldn’t tell what specific things it was changing later, and it would have been fun to see that highlighted.

  • Potential-Love-Interest guy was, alas, pretty generic (although he had some very cute dialogue!). I’m curious for more here! What are his quirks/flaws? What’s stopped us from getting together previously? etc.

5 Likes

Ribald Bat Lady Plunder Quest by Joey Acrimonious
Playtime: 1 hour 45 minutes

Like the game, this post contains adult content.

Meta note: the name of the game really sounds like it was designed to anagram, right? I kept half-waiting for a plot-relevant anagram of the title to appear (where’s my TALL BALD QUARTER-PENIS BUDDY?), but if that happened I must have missed it.

TLDR: From old-timey dialogue to completely over the top purple prose, this puzzler is 100% committed to its “fantasy/comedy with succubus-adjacent protagonist”- bit.

Gamemechanical notes: Parser based. You can save and undo. Seems to be one ending you can get by successfully completing the puzzles. Be aware—I was initially really frustrated because exits weren’t mentioned in the text, but they are actually listed in the header of the UI.

[ + ]

  • I very much enjoyed my time with the player character. She’s very distinct and her dedication to an absurd task is pretty funny. There’s an in-game journal item that will help nudge you towards your objective, and that also was a fun view into the character.

  • The writing was particularly good at creating a sense that the story was happening in a larger world with its own issues (for example, the player character arrives in town to blackmail the mayor only to learn that the mayor is being executed for, you know, crimes, as part of someone else’s plot)

  • Though billed as erotica, the sexual content didn’t strike me as particularly appealing to a prurient interest. I read it more as part of a maximalist / “no taboo respected” approach to humor. But ymmv. For example, two bits I enjoyed:

“I care not what thou art, Zorklang, but I warn thee: finger me not, else I shall scream real loud.” – “Professor,” she quietly hissed, “'tis a popular misconception that bat-folk possess inherent finger-magic. I trained many moons to wield it. Even so, I take thy point, for I loathe when people scream real loud.”

““Thy touch is an healing balm upon the travails of this world, Dribbles. Pray fuck the everloving shit out of me.””

  • There’s also a very funny recurring joke where NPCs tell Zorklang their backstories and she (metaphorically) mashes the “skip cutscene” button

  • You can acquire a fierce predator (it’s a cat)! (I have been diligently attempting to take every potential pet I encounter during the comp but this may be the first time I was permitted to add one to my inventory!)

  • the Act III pep-talk is sincerely moving. A definite high point.

[ Δ ]

  • Some of the puzzles were underclued, which was compounded because the game doesn’t ship with a full walkthrough, only a list of hints. Look, I love puzzle games but that love will curdle if I end up perma-stuck and can’t finish the game. And I think it’s actually quite hard to predict which specific things will trip people up—I didn’t need help at most of the points mentioned in the hints, but I had could-have-been insoluble problems at several other points . . . Adding some hints to the bottom of this post, based on places that I got stuck and had to look at @lpsmith ‘s transcript to get unstuck. (Thanks Lucian!) I’m just providing them here in a slightly more accessible form.

  • I get that the premise is “hey the player character is selfish and kinda evil by societal standards,” and generally was able to enjoy it, but the one incident of mind-controlling-people-into-sex did strike an unfun note with me

  • At times I was really questioning my sanity because in the game’s geography, “east” is not the inverse of “west,” nor “north” of “south.” So, if you are at the Docks and you go west to Market Street, my strong prior expectation is that going east would return you to the Docks. But that’s not always the case in this game! The locations all do connect both ways but, in this example, you might have to go “south” from Market Street to return to the Docks! This made it much harder for me to navigate.

  • I think others have mentioned some under-implemented aspects. There were just some loose threads that made the game feel like it could have been more tightly constructed. The protagonist has wings and lives in a fantasy world, I thought we might FLY at some key moment but that never happens. And we can’t leave home unless we equip ourselves, including with our blade yet I never found an opportunity to attack anyone with the blade—the one time I wanted to solve a problem with violence I had to go find a different weapon.

hints

→ It seems like there’s something else I have to do after drinking blood but I can’t figure out what it is.

“masturbate”

→ I can’t figure out how to get an item to give the professor.

He wants an item that is an anagram.

You can find one via the academy dorm.

To be able to enter any room in the dorm area, you need to “listen” in the hallway.

The item they want is in the desk near the entrance to the academy.

→ I can’t figure out what to do after I wrap up at the temple (near the end of the game).

Go back down into the tunnel, go north, go up (to appear at mayor’s palace).

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Thanks for playing, for the review, and for your thoughtful critiques!

You’re in good company. It seems like the way I set this up turned out to be unintuitive to a whole lot of players. Lesson learned.

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And thank you for writing the game! I enjoyed it.

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Oh, I hadn’t actually considered that providing my transcript might itself be a hint for people. Glad it worked!

I also liked the bits you quoted, and almost quoted them myself–I didn’t, because I felt if I started quoting my favorite bits, I would never stop :wink:

FWIW, the bit where you mind-control-people-into-sex seemed to me to be instead a sort of giving them permission to do what they actually wanted to do themselves. That’s certainly how I read the third person’s reaction to it all.

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Haha, yeah, if I get totally stuck in a game, and there’s no walkthrough, then I go looking to see if anyone posted a transcript. If they finished the game it’s a free walkthrough!

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Thank you so much for spending time and effort reviewing my game. I am choosing not to make any specific comments about reviews until after the comp, but I assure you that I am grateful for any and all comments, which are so useful in improving my game and future games.

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The Paper Magician by Soojung Choi

TLDR: A short, sweet fable about a child encountering magic and escaping from a secret lab.

Gamemechanical notes: Choice based. Not very many choices. Seems to be just one ending after a puzzle.

[ + ]

I think the underlying concept of this game (player is dropped into an interesting but highly unusual situation, explores their environment, solves one puzzle, escapes) is smart. It’s getting a lot across in an economical way. I could really see it working as, say, the introductory level to a game along the same lines. We learn the name of the character and the magical companion, we learn how they got them, we learn the character’s powers, we learn the backstory on the lab through environmental storytelling in the rooms we explore, the puzzle is there to increase engagement.

[ Δ ]

  • OK, in service of a candid review I am ADMITTING PUBLICLY that I consulted the walkthrough for this game of one puzzle. I don’t think the puzzle is supposed to be hard, either. If you haven’t yet fallen into the crevasse that claimed me, consider this lesser hint: your answers are CASE SENSITIVE. I think the one easy fix of coding the doors to accept more synonyms would have made the game play a lot better. For example, instead of accepting only precisely:“Subject 0013,” that door could have accepted "subject 13,” “subject 0013,” “Subject 13,” “13,” “thirteen,” etc etc.. Because the puzzle was pretty much the only moment of player engagement in the game, getting frustrated there had an outsized negative effect on my enjoyment.
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Citizen Makane by The Reverend

Like the game, this post contains adult content.
ETA: I didn’t finish the game and this post is based on the parts that I played. Where I provide spoilers, they are only for the parts I saw–if you are reading the spoilers without having played the game, you may also want to consider seeking out spoilers for the full game, of which there are some further down in the thread.

TLDR: You’re the only man on earth, (Ur-th?), and, I take it, the possessor of the only penis. You’d be amazed how many problems you are about to solve with that penis!

Gamemechanical notes: Parser based. You can save and undo. I didn’t reach any ending.

[ + ]

  • I enjoyed the polish and implementation in the game. You can listen to the TV, and it will play some plot-relevant programming!
  • There’s a cute town, and you’re soon presented with a variety of folksy problems that the residents would like you to solve. I enjoyed that the time of day makes a difference (some people / quests are only available at certain time). For a while I was gauging based off of the “it was dark” in the description, but don’t be me–there is actually a clock in the corner of the UI.
  • The concept of making sex into a CCG is pretty funny, and the card names are suitably colorful.

[ Δ ]

While this game had many really interesting and promising elements, unfortunately, there were some elements that threw me so much that I never fully got into it and ended up bailing. General apology to the author for bringing my negativity to what I’m pretty sure was meant to be a joyful game about the power of human connection (based on other reviews?).

gripes about worldbuilding: (spoilers not further marked)
  • I found it hard to suspend my disbelief when the mayor told the player character that their society doesn’t have sex or sexuality. Per a lot of history, human sexuality is actually pretty hard to stamp out and making a single-sex space definitely wouldn’t be enough. This is not the future our lesbian-separatist foremothers fought for!
  • (And it’s not just one dialogue line, also all of the people who meet the player character do indeed seem to react as though they were lacking access to sex or sexuality without him!)
gripes about Shamhat: (spoilers not further marked)
  • OK I was pretty excited about this character based on the name. But then . . . all she wants to do is mind-meld with me? with me? Bro, I know literally nothing. Please find someone more competent and interesting to add to the hive mind. In the Epic of Gilgamesh I’m pretty sure the sex-priestess character is the one doing a lot of the teaching, so I was sad to miss out on that dynamic.

  • My back-up hope was that Shamhat might, say, use our mental connection to provide snarky commentary as I stumble around, but she doesn’t seem to do that, either. When I tried to talk to her she would just repeat the objectives from the doctor. What she seems to want to do is stay in our shared apartment and every time I look she’s VACUUMING MY FLOOR?! (not sure what was intended but I just got an overwhelming “trad wife” image from that last bit)

gripes about the BDE game: (spoilers not further marked)
  • There’s a card called “TONGUE TORNADO” yet, somehow, when I, the player character, play the card, it does not result in me using my tongue on anyone? Instead it makes my sex partner use her tongue on me?

  • You can “lose” at the minigame by ejaculating too soon (i.e., while your partner wants to continue with sex). Sheds a silent tear for all the beauty the world has lost (oral sex and also fingering, apparently).

  • I tried the minigame a few times and kept getting told I was doing so bad I was getting zero xp. So I checked the walkthrough for tips: apparently to get xp you are supposed to play the “come” card, which makes the player character come. If you wait too long to play it, the game will alert you to your error, and give you a fail message . . . where you “fail” because the player character came too soon. I’m still puzzled why one of those is better.

I am very much aware, particularly after reading reviews of others who had a different experience, that I am Missing Something. I heard the whooshing sound going over my head while I played! Based on the intro (where you are “trapped” in a repetitive game where you are compelled to repeatedly have un-fun sex) I was curious to see where the game was going, and it’s too bad it never connected for me.

Overall I was mostly reminded of the internet line that, when unsuccessful, satire can easily be mistaken for what it’s trying to criticize. Which I think may have happened to me here!

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This would be incredibly frustrating to me as a player, too (I don’t plan to play this one). Thanks for your review!

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Citizen Makane – some comments

Everything below should be considered a spoiler, though I won’t be giving away the end sequence.

  • So, I take it that the mayor is presenting some kind of official ideology, which has nothing to do with the facts on the ground. At one point in the game you’re supposed to give sex ed to a class full of students – naive students whom you should not corrupt, it is stressed to you – and of course it turns out that all of them already know everything. So you don’t have to suspend disbelief. Disbelieving the mayor is exactly right!
  • I believe that the people you meet are interested in testing out your tool. By which I mean the BDE machine. As the story progresses, you’ll find out that this society is definitely already into having sex, including wild all-female orgies.
  • I agree that Shamhat is underused in most of the game. However, the fact that she’s vacuuming was pretty hilarious to me. She has been programmed based on information from the past, and it just makes perfect sense that based on bad porno this is exactly what this society believes women are supposed to do when they’re not having sex. As Shamhat upgrades, she’ll start engaging in other behaviours, and at a certain point… well, things change. By the end of the game, she’s definitely not vacuuming.
  • Tongue Tornado is a bit confusing, that’s right, but the clue is in whether a card is ‘submissive’ or ‘dominant’. These names are also confusing! I think when describing sex acts, getting a blowjob is not usually classified as submission. What the game means with these terms is this: ‘dominant’ is something you do, ‘submissive’ is something your partner does. Now the paradox is that you are always the one playing the cards, even when the card describes what your partner is doing. I think it helps to think of Citizen Makane as a game that is structured around the twisted logic of porn (without itself being porn). This is one example. If you are a man who watches/reads/plays porn about submissive men, or if you are a woman who watches/reads/plays porn about submissive women, it’s you who makes the decision to engage with that material. You’re always in charge, even when the fantasy is that you’re not. There’s no agency on the other side. It’s purely narcissistic. And the BDE sex mini game in Citizen Makane is created with that absolutely 100% in mind.
  • Because this is what the game is about; the narcissism of porn, and of a certain image of sexuality that pervades, well, perhaps not our culture in general, but certainly a lot of the overtly sexual material that’s being produced.
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. . . fascinating, thanks for taking the time to share.

I had seen some general reviews by people who made it further, but nothing that detailed on the specific issues that were troubling me. I am glad to hear that there were “twists” coming later in the game!

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Thank you for the review!

I don’t want to say too much during the comp, but I very much enjoy the discussions and different takes.

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Thanks for writing!

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Beat Witch by Robert Patten

TLDR: Take on the role of a loner with magic powers, seeking redemption in a world that hates and fears you, in this cinematic joyride.

Gamemechanical notes: OK technically it’s a parser but. It doesn’t really feel like a parser. You can undo.

[ + ]

  • This has a very cinematic feel and it worked best once I relaxed and stopped trying to do things. Mild spoiler: really, let it happen! This game is a series of fairly long, cool cutscenes with brief interludes in between where you will be called upon to do anything.

  • I enjoyed the concept and the overall plot. Give me a player character with magic powers that have alienated her from society / given her some tragic backstory / put her on a quest to atone any day! I was definitely engaged.

  • I enjoyed the atmospheric settings in the abandoned city, the creepy office building, etc.

  • Some moments of genuine power–the visceralness of the flesh bridge scene, or the moment the villain!witch makes Ted eat the earplugs

[ + / Δ ]

  • OK I have BROKEN the SELF-IMPOSED constraints of my review FORMAT to say this, but I am VIOLENTLY AMBIVALENT about the part where the player character apparently dies on impact. On the one hand, I can see the expected resolution being transcendent if it works as intended. On the other hand, though, I was just never going to type undo there without the walkthrough (since I had nothing else in mind to try) and every time I’m driven to the walkthrough it hurts my experience with the game. But I can absolutely see what was intended there . . .

[ Δ ]

  • a lot of the plot doesn’t really bear too much contemplation. (Why would the player character go inside the first responder base at the beginning, rather than running off, by draining them if necessary? Why do all beat witches not just permanently wear earplugs + noise-reducing earmuffs?

  • the treatment of the villain!witch was a bit Disney movie. By which I mean this dilemma is teed up about whether the player character is going to try to kill her, we engage with it a bit, and then in the climactic scene she–without any real intention by the player character—conveniently falls off a building and dies, thus avoiding us ever needing to engage with that dilemma again

  • It’s tough that the funnest way to experience the game required fighting my existing genre instincts. I suspect I’m not alone in being trained by parsers to feel bad if I can’t find something plot-relevant to do with my “turn,” and to feel especially bad if the game is telling me events are progressing while I’m flailing. So until I caught on, the game felt like failing to do things while low-grade frustrated.

8 Likes

Eat the Eldritch by Olaf Nowacki
Playtime: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Meta note: wow, this was the point in the competition where I realized I had finally internalized port and starboard . . . thanks everyone, I guess? (let’s take a trip to the FAWKsull, I’m ready!)

TLDR: Humorous, zippy puzzler about an unperturbable captain suffering from a distinct lack of fish and an extremely shady ship’s cook.

Gamemechanical notes: Parser based. You can undo. Even better, dying respawns you to a place before you died.

[ + ]

  • I am a simple woman and I enjoy being awarded achievements

  • I enjoyed the writing, which I found even more impressive when I learned it was translated from German. (“dividing the world into orange surfaces and meaningful shadows,” that’s a nice phrase)

  • I got a big kick out of seeing the player character’s (specific and well-described) personality interact with plot events. Dude is SO OBLIVIOUS. Dude has all of the facts he needs to conclude that his cook is a cthulu cultist and instead he’s over here being like “I respect his unique cultural practices” and “I hope his fishstick-like fingers don’t fall off in the pan while he is cooking.”

  • The fish processing plant was a nice chekhov’s gun. Once we see it we know SOMETHING is gonna get made into fish sticks and hoo boy does it.

  • Hallelujah, my king, someone has implemented “go to [location]” <3 <3 <3 Why shouldn’t I travel near-instantaneously from the kitchen to the bridge? after all, why shouldn’t I (bilbo voice)

  • I admire that this game knows how much scope it should have and just stops there. There’s plenty there! It was satisfying! It was just the right length!

[ Δ ]

  • I died a lot trying to get the package of food out of the freezer. Does it spawn procedurally? It seems like sometimes it was appearing on the turn immediately before I died, giving me no chance to make my escape?

  • There is a hints page of sorts, but it’s not a full walkthrough, which became annoying on the several occasions where I knew exactly what I wanted to do but was playing “guess the verb/noun.” (Spoiler: here’s the command I was stuck on, which you will need to escape the freezer: “pull rope.”) Also opening the safe . . . that puzzle was unreasonably difficult :confused:

  • So, either there wasn’t a reveal moment where we learn that the player character had no higher ambitions than to make fishsticks out of cthulu, or if there was, I missed it. To be clear, I think that’s a totally fair objective for the player character to have, and very funny, but I wish the game had provided a space to enjoy that revelation. As it was, I destroyed the tentacle mostly as a matter of self-defense, thinking I would need to fix the ship/flee afterward so I was just puzzled when the player character was ready to call it a day.

9 Likes