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

Tricks of light in the forest by Pseudavid

TLDR: A peaceful, atmospheric puzzler in which we explore an unusual forest and get a glimpse into a fascinating alternate world.

Gamemechanical notes: Choice based. No undo. Includes both puzzle and story elements. Seems to be one main path with puzzles to solve on the way but I didn’t replay.

[ + ]

  • Excellent use of environmental storytelling. While the game skips any infodumping and drops us straight in, we end up learning throughout the game that we’re somewhere in a post-climate-crisis future, plastic is now rare, etc etc.

  • Smart combination of the player character/plot and the mechanics of playing the game. The player character is young, naive, curious, and collecting materials for school so their behavior feels like a natural fit with the IF player urge to go everywhere, examine everything, and pick up everything that it is physically possible to pick up.

  • This is a fun game to just soak in the atmosphere, which varies between sun-dappled and warm and slightly mysterious and misty. There’s also a cute map that appears periodically.

[ Δ ]

  • I mostly got through the puzzles pretty well but there were a few weird friction points. For example, I tried to pick up the trash the first time I saw it just to be tidy but I think the responses were assuming I would do that to try to get the mirror, so I ended up pretty confused about where the mirror was when I wanted it later. [spoiler]
  • I wasn’t totally safisfied by the ending. I chose to go home the first time it was offered, but then the description text suggests the player feels they’re still missing something. I was curious if that lack would be answered if I kept walking, but not curious enough to replay the entire game.

Honk! by Alex Harby
Playtime: 1 hour, 15 minutes

TLDR: Time to pull on your clown shoes; the show must go on in the big top and only one person can save the day . . . the hero we need and deserve, Lola the circus clown!

Gamemechanical notes: Parser based. You can undo. There are hints and a walkthrough.

[ +]

  • Playing as Lola is just a delight. Everything you would want to explore in the circus is implemented. Yes you can drive your clown car to the various locations. Yes you can pie anyone in the face. Based on the “inventory” text you appear to be constantly juggling everything you are carrying. When the “Monster Manor” ride is mentioned, yes, you can go on the ride!

  • There is something deeply satisfying about the structure for this game. The player character has to fix 3 different problems for 3 different friends. Sounds simple! No one is ever really in peril, yet I was extremely motivated to support my friends, and moved by their trust in my ability to help them.

  • The NPCs are very funny and well-written (particularly the completely tactless goose-trainer).

  • The performance mechanic worked very smoothly. The goose puzzle was an absolute banger.

[ Δ ]

  • I did get stuck on a few of the puzzles, although there is a walkthrough so it wasn’t too frustrating. Mostly it was stuff that was close, although I am not sure, for example, that the basket balloon is intuitively the only way you could lift a rabbit up . . .

  • About the ending: I loved everything up until the ending, and I thought the ending was solid but somehow not as engaging. Could there have been more interaction with the rest of the circus cast, maybe? Not sure I totally got what the MP was supposed to represent, and I didn’t really feel much tension about whether the audience would support the circus (they are people who are AT the circus, and also I just helped them see 3 amazing performances!).

One potential bug

I talked to Lola (myself) and it started a debugging conversation.


Thanks very much for your kind review of Honk! Kicking myself about that bug, not sure why that never occurred to me to test in two years of development. Time to work on that bugfix release I keep putting off.


LUNIUM by Ben Jackson

TLDR: Visually rich and detailed implementation of an escape room with a detecting sub-plot.

Gamemechanical notes: Choice based. Puzzle focused. Has robust in-game hints.

[ + ]

  • the art was SO DETAILED (which also made it effective for the puzzles)

  • Really impressive job re-creating the escape room experience in IF format. I would not have guessed that you could convey some of these experiences, like the feeling of seamlessly looking back at the painting to find the signature, looking at the pile of photos that have fallen to the floor and being able to make deductions from the way the pile is arranged and where specific photos and labels have fallen, in virtual format.

  • The built-in hints were well implemented. The best part was that it would first tell you if you had the requisite information to solve the puzzle you were looking at or not. Several times this was enough to let me solve it myself (or go focus my efforts somewhere else). Great idea.

  • [about the ending] Yes, as the ultimate answer became clear it was fun to see the many, many clues threaded throughout the game.

[ Δ ]

  • Like most escape room concepts, you can’t really think too hard about why some of the puzzles would exist. Yes, there is an in-game explanation, but also . . . what? OK, deeper spoiler: Like, if plan A was the sedative, then why make the puzzles? And it seemed like memory loss was an unexpected side effect, but without that, the puzzles would be completely pointless . . .

  • [about the ending]I wouldn’t have minded a bit more deducting. I solved the mystery mostly by process of elimination,because we hadn’t learned enough about any of my suspects for it to be them.


Hand Me Down by Brett Witty

TLDR: A delectable three-game sandwich, with a dreamlike, elaborate Alice in Wonderland-inspired parser-based puzzler as the meat held securely between a Twine intro and Twine conclusion, which frame the puzzler as a gift from father to daughter.

Gamemechanical notes: The parser game has built-in hints and undo implemented, and seems to have one main ending reachable by solving the puzzles. My single play didn’t give me a good sense of whether there are other branches to the Twine game or not, actually. There’s also a walkthrough for the whole game.

[ + ]

  • The use of the Twine intro and conclusion games was effective in giving me another layer of emotional connection to the parser game. You spend the most time in the parser game, which is full of fun puzzles, but it adds an extra relish to have that additional overlay of knowing that, in-game, the parser was painstakingly coded by the player character’s father in a misguided (my opinion) attempt to connect with his daughter

  • The puzzles in the parser were quite good and fun. The setting, an expansive house and grounds, is also a rich, detailed environment with a lot of objects in every space to examine, and playing feels more like a leisurely exploration than a rush to get to a particular result. Barely a spoiler: a lot of the puzzles have multiple solutions, so you can choose your level of difficulty based on how much of a completionist you want to be. (Smash cut to me wearing a monster mask, a tiara, a captain’s hat, a pair of khakis, a sea jacket, a tutu, and carrying a magnifying glass.)

  • The snail scene was very funny!

  • I really enjoyed the little notes you find around that break the wall of the parser game and refer to people/places that we know from the Twine segments. It was a fun way to get more info.

[ Δ ]

  • This is minor but there are MANY writings in this game and every time I wanted to look at one I had to disambiguate like “do you mean the orange printed note, the weathered vellum note, the scratchy napkin note . . .” There must be a better way

  • I realize it may not be technologically feasible, but yes, it would have been cool if the concluding game had known how my parser game went.

  • OK given the realistic feeling of the Twine segments I did not expect to SOLVE the player character’s relationship issues. After all, we are rarely able to solve our relationships in real life. But I would have liked the ability to engage with them a bit more significantly, in different ways, given the amount of gametime we’re spending focused on them. Which is not to say “let’s observe these relationships” is not a valid artistic approach, I just don’t prefer it. For example, there were a lot of topics that I wanted to get at with the dad that I didn’t find in-game. Does he recognize at all that he retreats into game worlds as a way of avoiding connection with others? Or does he acknowledge at all that when he prioritizes programming the game over spending time with his daughter on her terms, it’s not an act of generosity to her? And what about the player character’s boyfriend? I would normally expect he would be giving emotional support to the player character, if anyone, but he’s very focused on the dad, how does the player character feel about that?.


Thanks so much for the in-depth review. In a way you got the canonical costume :grinning:

I had prototyped the sections connecting, but there were significant technical and usability issues that I couldn’t resolve to my satisfaction. Maybe a task for Post-Comp.

Thanks for your insights and all the reviews you have given to the Comp.


I picked the “keep walking” option, but I still got the same message about something being missing. I might replay to see if I can figure out what it is!


Oh interesting . . . thanks for letting me know that “keep walking” is the same . . .

I would be curious to hear if you find something else!


Thanks for the review! Really glad you enjoyed the escape room aspect and the art! It was definitely my intention to bring some of that ‘physicality’ to the online experience.

I think it’s always tricky making a puzzle focussed escape room type game that also makes complete sense when you really analyse it. But in my mind at least: this is essentially a battle of wills between yourself and your ‘other’ side - ie. the rational vs. irrational (ie. the code to the notebook) - he knows, in his other state he is all rage, but without logical thought. Even with temporary memory loss, the rational side will figure out how to escape. The irrational side will be locked in until they can puzzle it out - at which point they’ll be safe again. There’s also an implication that this isn’t the first time this has happened and the haphazard locks and puzzles are his evolving attempt to keep his other self under control. It’s a bit like Bruce Banner vs the Hulk ;).


Thanks for the writing the game! I enjoyed it. And thanks for the extra lore!

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.

[ + ]

  • 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.

[ Δ ]

  • 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.


Thanks for the review! The exits will definitely be becoming clearer post-comp.

1 Like

Paintball Wizard by Doug Egan
Playtime: 1 hour, 47 minutes

TLDR: Heartfelt game about building emotional intimacy within a fraternity. Partially via puzzles. (Also, they’re all wizards, Harry.)

Gamemechanical notes: Choice based. No undo. You can save, and it autosaves frequently. (It’s pretty kind though, saving not super necessary.) I would recommend playing the tutorial, the interface is unique.

[ + ]

  • Slightly contrary to my expectations, this is lovely story about TRUST and EMOTIONAL VULNERABILITY among friends. Which I am very much here for. I was worried it was going to be stereotypically fratty given the premise but actually it’s not that vibe at all. The main plot arc is the player character, Romeo, building connections with his fraternity brothers, learning more about their pasts, and becoming more willing to open up to them in turn. This stuff is like catnip for me!

  • I had a lot of fun with the spellcasting mechanic and just casting spells at everything to learn what they do. Definitely captured one of the best aspects of “wizard school”-adjacent concepts.

  • Loved the structure with a different minigame for each fraternity brother where you explore their backstory. Also the minigames themselves were a lot of fun.

  • The writing was consistently funny:

“SPLACKing myself would be dangerous. What if I traveled back in time and learned something about myself that I didn’t already know? A person could go insane that way.”

" I’ve no reason to open the tape deck unless I wanted to change the eight track casette, but the chapter only owns one casette. "

[ Δ ]

  • I appreciate @kastel and @joshgrams flagging the consent issue in their reviews. It didn’t jump out at me after my playthrough (I think because the response from the other characters is SO chill that I was sort of mentally retconning “well what if the fraternity talked about this spell earlier or something”). But after thinking about it, I think it would be better if the characters talked about it on-screen before the spell was used. And I think that would work fine, maybe even better, with the themes in the game–the fraternity brothers could offer using the spell as a way of helping Romeo with his spellcasting,which would fit with them being very supportive and trusting of him

  • Despite the fact that I was really into it, I almost ditched this game at about the 80% mark. I got stuck at the necromancy puzzle, banged my head for a while, thought “OK, let’s just open the walkthrough”–but unfortunately, the walkthrough is formatted as hints, not the actual commands you have to give, and I STILL couldn’t finish the puzzle. At that point I was pretty frustrated. Reader, in several nearby universes I bailed. But, in this universe, I took a break, decided to try it once more, and did manage to finish it. Additional hints below in case anyone else has the same problem. (Credit where credit is due, I thought the solution to the time travel puzzle was really well clued through progressive in-text hints if you messed it up.)

spoilery hints for that one puzzle

Fair warning—I may actually be wrong that this is necessary and I may have been doing something ELSE wrong the first few times I tried it, but, to my best guess:

As stated in the walkthrough, you need to make a “bridge” for each element in the cazuela. What I think my problem was–you must use the “clear items out of the center” button in between items! As in: CLEAR CENTER, move tetrahedron (b/c metal) to center, close lid, press FER (b/c metal), open lid, CLEAR CENTER, then move the next object to the center. If you do it right for all 5 polyhedra, then clear the center, then put the brain in the center, when you next close the lid it will take you to a different screen with the option to put the face on top of the cazuela.

  • OK, I also had a few ruminations about the overall plot arc that got a bit out of hand
discussion of the overall plot, including spoilers through the end

So, during most of the game we learn that wizards are an oppressed minority group, and we get glimpses of some of the other fraternity brothers’ lives, including some v. sad wizard-oppression-related backstories.

We also see that Romeo is reticent about his past and reluctant to confide in his brothers. Towards the end of the game, they’ve grown closer, and Romeo reveals that he was “faking” being a wizard. (i.e., he learned stage magic and used mirrors, etc.). Romeo feels ashamed to admit this to the rest of the fraternity. (Although the fraternity was explicitly stated to be open to both wizard and non-wizard members.)

So, on the one hand, this made me think, hmm, ok, we’re going to explore a sort of trans allegory (coming out, feeling like you don’t belong in a group that other people view you as part of, fearing others will criticize you for “taking on their identity for clout” etc etc.). On the other hand, I’m just very confused because on the in-game level we see Romeo do magic. In fact we just spent 90 minutes doing magic via Romeo, which sure seems like it would constitute being a wizard? But maybe I’m missing something in the worldbuilding around wizard-hood. (And, if the events of the game were a huge breakthrough for Romeo in which he finally achieves a cherished dream of doing magic for real I would also have expected to see that land emotionally in the moment, instead of sort of being mentioned by him in conversation much later?) And anyhow, other than this one conversation nothing is done with that revelation.

So, overall, this works at about the same kind level that say, witches/wizards in Harry Potter or mutants in the X-Men movies are working as an allegory but I didn’t feel like it was adding that much to the work. And I would have loved to see it more explored!


Thanks for writing the game! I had fun with it!

1 Like

Thank you for playing, and for your thoughtful review.


Thanks for writing the game! It was a great time!

1 Like

All Hands by Natasha Ramotaur

TLDR: Atmospheric, evocative story about an uncanny encounter on the high seas.

Gamemechanical notes: Choice based (texture). Multiple endings based on player choices. No save or undo.

[ + ]

  • I liked the environmental storytelling aspect, for example, we learn from the player character’s reminisces about how the sea is a malevolent magical force

  • I also enjoyed the focus on music as a game element, particularly how you can “take” music and later have it in your inventory

  • It was fun to creep around the ship, investigate, and collect clues

[ Δ ]

  • the Texture interface sometimes led to some odd pairings, like I think once I had to “reflect” on a doll to examine it but I had to “take” to read a diary. But it’s easy enough to work out in context

  • I’m not a big fan of games where there is exactly one impactful choice in the game, and it’s on the last screen, and if you want to see the other endings you have to replay the entire game again.


One King to Loot them All by Onno Brouwer
Playtime: 1 hour

TLDR: Embrace your inner barbarian in this campy, hyper-masculine power fantasy.

Gamemechanical notes: Parser based. There are puzzles but really this game is not about them, this game is an ADVENTURE STORY. Uses custom verbs, I recommend pasting the list somewhere for reference (although you could also just x things and take things?). Undo and save are implemented.

[ + ]

  • Reader, I had a blast. There are SWORDS and there is SORCERY. Creatures will be SMITED (smitten?), enemies DEFEATED. Actually, could have used a smidge more LOOTING, upon reflection

  • The custom verbs set the tone well, and I enjoy the “when all you have is a hammer” aspect of gameplay.

  • [about the big twist] OK, I loved the “undo” plotline, particularly that you go back and save Lydia. If we’re gonna power fantasy, let’s REALLY power fantasy! We are erasing the central tragedy of our character concept! Tragic backstories are for inferior, weak heroes!

  • A lot of the plot very cleverly herds you along to teach you what to do. For example, we see how the altar works with the goat so we are unafraid to put Lydia there later.

[ Δ ]

  • When this game was working it was really cooking. Unfortunately there were a few spots where implementation issues threw me out of it. For example the whole goat and ring jam . . . on the first go-round I spent a LONG time trying to give the ring or goat to somebody and getting weird errors before I realized I was just supposed to get on the boat, later, when I was there again with Lydia I forgot Alcaz had said the boat only fit one person and had no idea why the hints kept telling me to seize something (also, I mean this game is not about thinking, but if it’s a weight issue carrying her is not gonna help). And the worst thing is it’s very clear that this isn’t supposed to be hard so you’re also just thinking “god why can’t I do this.”

  • Oh, also, where’s my option to SEIZE Alcaz at the river? My masculinity can handle it.

  • OK, I am willing to accept quite a bit re: the player character’s character concept. But I do draw the line somewhere. Like, why are peeps referring to me as a paragon of justice? I have no qualms about forcibly looting back my payment to the ferryman even though he completed his side of the bargain. Or, when the [semi-temporarily-evil!]sorcerer is mad because the player character taxed the populace–(ok, that did remind me of George R.R. Martin famously asking what Aragorn’s tax policy was, which, fun reference if that was intentional)–but I’ve met the player character, and I refuse to believe that he has a tax policy.


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:


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.