Write a negative review of your own game

We did this on the author’s forum, but why should Comp authors have all the fun?

stanleyparable.com/2013/06/a … y-parable/

I just read this negative review of The Stanley Parable, written by the designer himself, and thought it might be an amusing excercise. In this thread, we write scathing reviews of our own games, trying to come up with the best possible arguments for why the game is truly terrible. For bonus points, include a reason why your game is not really interactive and/or not actually a game! Try to be original. Sarcastic recaps of existing negative reviews are no fun. You should excoriate your game for reasons far superior to those of the critics.

I’ll start:

Trapped in Time

[spoiler]This Comp has been full of barely interactive short stories that might as well have been published as static text. Trapped in Time, however, is the first one that literally IS just static text. The game, if you can even call it that, is a plain PDF document divided into numbered sections, like the choose-your-own-adventure novels of yore. I wanted to skip it, but a sense of morbid curiosity compelled me to give it a chance. Surely, this had to be something better than a simple choose-your-own-adventure that the author had been too lazy to implement in Twine? It turned out to be something much worse.

Trapped in Time forces you to skip back and forth between the numbered sections a gazillion times, which I found both inconvenient and highly annoying, as I was sitting in my couch with a bunch of loose pages! The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the story takes place in a time loop, so you are constantly being sent back to the beginning of the story and forced to read the same sections over and over and over again.

The author tries to be clever by including a form of rudimentary state tracking. Each time you discover something new, the story provides you with a number you can add to an existing section, to utilize your new knowledge. While this does add some variety, the overall effect is to make the story even more annoying to read. In addition to finding the right section, you also have to write down a growing list of numbers along with the conditions under which you are allowed to add them to an existing number to get a new number and so on. The whole thing is about as much fun as doing math homework.

Furthermore, I looked in vain for a reason why this could not have been implemented in Twine, or some other hypertext framework allowing for state tracking. As it was, I was too annoyed by the horrible mechanics to pay much attention to the story. Not that doing this would have saved the thing, as the story is just a bunch of SF clichés, filled with two-dimensional stock characters.

When you reach the end, the reason for the format of the story is finally revealed, in a twist so smugly convinced of its own cleverness that it made me throw the pages at the wall in rage. See, as a time traveler, you have always been able to travel through time, so every time you read the wrong section it was actually time travel! Oh, joy! I could almost imagine the author sitting next to me with a smug grin all over his face.

This is one of the worst twists in history, for more reasons than I can count. I’ll just mention two here: Firstly, while I had certainly read the wrong section several times, in my stubborn attempt to struggle through this “game”, I would never dream of considering such mistakes part of the narrative. Reading the wrong section by accident is not fun or interesting in any way.

Secondly, while I’m certainly capable of reading whatever section I like, the whole point of a CYOA is NOT to do that. The twist undermines the very foundation of the medium, removing what little interactivity might have been left in the pile of static pages now spread all over my floor.

After the reveal, you are supposed to track down a bunch of time travel stories hidden among the other sections. This is just as tedious as the rest of the experience, and it would have been better if the game had just linked you directly to those sections, instead of wallowing in its own perceived cleverness.

I don’t feel this story belongs in the Interactive Fiction Competition at all, as there is no genuine interactivity here. It’s just a bunch of static text pages that even tells you at the end that you can freely choose the order in which to read them! I suppose next people will start submitting short stories, and claim that they are totally interactive because you can re-read them once you are done.

In conclusion, Trapped in Time was not only a Waste of Time, but also a waste of 34 perfectly good sheets of paper. Highly uncommended.[/spoiler]

The Surprising Case of Brian Timmons

A miasma of asinine cliches unrivaled in Western letters.

Olivia’s Orphanorium:

[spoiler]Okay, so by this point we’re all clear that steampunk is the refuge of people who have a hard-on for the Victorians, but who lack the honesty to actually confront the actual Victorians, or, for that matter, the basic intellectual diligence to do any research. Olivia’s Orphanorium wallows in this ahistorical crapulence like a pig in shit, gleefully advertising its total lack of any historical basis whatsoever and expecting us to find this charming. It fails, however, at tapping into even this most predictable of markets, since there are no giant steam-powered robots nor any pictures of young women in vintage corsets, and, apart from pretending to be English, these are the only two things that steampunk fans genuinely care about.

Structurally, Orphanorium is a bunch of awkwardly-implemented minigames staggering around in search of a story. Spoiler: they don’t find one. Once you’ve worked out the laborious, unintuitive controls - this is not a game that was meant for the parser, though I can’t say it’d be any better as CYOA - the game becomes a repetitive grind with no real strategy, no clear goal and a yawning gulf where the fun should be. I counted one puzzle, which was just ‘search all the things, while on a timer’. Orphanorium is, therefore, that very rare beast, an IF that has no real narrative value nor any serious attempt at credible gameplay.

It makes itself out as a daring, edgy satire. Yeah. Pretty fuckin’ brave, taking on political issues from the Victorian era - I suppose we’re meant to think you’re dreadfully right-on for criticising how wicked King John is, too. Worse, holding this up as a flimsy justification, it proceeds to employ a staggering variety of poisonous language - sexism, homophobia and racism is just the start of it - to describe its randomly-generated orphans. You are then required to sadistically punish and humiliate these children in between exploiting them for their labour - and we’re supposed to think that this is somehow OK, because it’s comedy. (As if comedy had never been used as a weapon against the oppressed.)[/spoiler]

Final Girl

[spoiler]First of all, who the hell is this person? Han-non Ond-rei-check? Hamand Ostriches? What possible backwater third-world Eastern European country did he immigrate from? Do they have games there? Perhaps in some random tiny country somewhere south of Russia they might find this sort of thing he’s come up with mildly amusing. I don’t know. Is this author a he?

Second of all, this game is wrapped up in some sort of online-only, proprietary system called StoryNexus that nobody on earth would use. Well, nobody on earth unless you’re walled in some Stalinist country where fun is forbidden and the tiny snatches of internet connection that trickle over the border are collected to huddle cold, starving families around an iMac to play a game where you click on buttons in order to win–the privilege to click on more buttons.

Okay. I enjoy interactive fiction as much as the next person. I would like to interact with my fiction. And that means typing in terse sentences, which by golly was good enough back in the 1980s, and is still good enough now. This StoryNexus “game” can’t be downloaded and archived like every other game on the planet so I can play it on a plane ride where I’ve refused the $8 per minute in-flight Wi-Fi connection. No. This thing wants me to be connected to the internet to play. The entire time I’m playing. So that’s part of the reason this review is last.

The second reason this review is dead last after every remaining online-only Twine game I could put ahead of it is you must create an account to play this “game”. Oh sure, it will let you log in pretty much instantly if you give it your Facebook or Twitter information, but anyone who has those knows that their information is safe and secure on both of those web-pages, and I refuse to provide any sort of personal information to someone living in an unpronounceable third-world country where the ground probably doesn’t ever thaw out completely in the height of summer.

So I made an account, using an old netzero address I don’t use anymore. The game then compels you to enter your name, so I typed in REFUSE TO PROVIDE. That one of course wouldn’t register, so I entered AS;DLKFJAS;LDFKJ. Probably a common moniker where Shanon Ostracize comes from. So after two hours, (which I should have just deducted from my play-time and called it a day) I was finally inside the magical, online-only world of FINAL GIRL.

Okay, here’s where it really gets bad. So the central conceit of this “game” is that you’re a girl. I didn’t get a chance to choose my gender, but whatever. And ostensibly you are the “final” girl. This didn’t make any sense. I’m expecting some kind of apocalyptic “last girl on earth” story sort of like Children of Men, but then I’m being provided little snippets of stories about the size of index cards. Each of them has a generic little picture on it. I’m supposedly the "final girl’ but there’s another girl in this story. I don’t get it. Shouldn’t the title be Next to Last Girl or Penultimate Girl if I’m not the actual final girl?

Anyway, it was at this point I was obnoxiously assailed by the “musical score” provided to accompany my experience playing this ill-monikered game. I say “musical score” to save space, because the honks and wheezes and screeches emanating from my speakers were neither musical nor “scored” in any coherent way. The credits list a musician named Kevin McLeod as providing “additional music”, and from a quick check on his site he is an actual talented musician. So it sounds like Mr(s). Londribag relegates the actual musician to providing “additional music” and then pretty much throws together any old Apple Loops and public domain sound effects he feels like and calls them a “musical score”.

So on to the gameplay, what little of it I did actually experience–and here’s where it really gets bad. Apparently this author was so busy composing his “musical score” that he ran out of ideas when it came to coming up with an actual original plot! The story, as far as I can tell, is the lamest horror setup you can possibly imagine. We’re talking Friday the 13th part ONE levels of generic here, it’s that much of a ripoff. See, there’s a camp around a lake, and a killer going around and (natch) killing everybody in this movie. Onanismakek is just liberally stealing snippets of horror movies and stringing them together instead of writing an actual story. This is supposed to be Interactive Fiction not an interactive recap/ripoff of a movie plot. If I want to see a movie, I’ll trudge down the street to the local Blockbuster and pay a dollar for some family classics in the bargain bin. Which I then own free and clear, and don’t have to be connected to the internet to experience!

And here’s where it really gets bad–once you get into the thick of the game, this StoryNexus starts throwing all sorts of insignificant facts and figures at you. I have a stat for breathing, and a stat for how scared I am, and about sixty billion characters all with these little generic icons next to them and there’s three pages worth of statistics! I can’t just do what I normally do and type >INV or >X ME to see how I’m doing and have the game tell me how I’m doing! No, I’m supposed somehow to review this constantly shifting phantasmagorical excel spreadsheet of numbers and people and facts like I’m a stockbroker and then based on calculations figure out what’s going on in this plot. I know what this plot is! The killer kills everybody but one person who kills him! I don’t need to play this game!!!

The last straw was when this StoryNexus for no apparent reason cuts away from the game and decides we’re now going to instead play cards. I’m dealt three cards and told to pick one. What? Is the game showing me a magic trick? What the hell? I don’t want to pick a card, StoryNexus. This was when I finally closed the browser in frustration and switched over to an actual good card game that I own free and clear on my own computer hard drive. Perhaps you’ve heard of Solitaire in whatever country you’re from, Hancon Ostensibile?[/spoiler]