Last year I played and voted on every game in the comp and reviewed at least most of them; this year I don’t think that’s going to happen, and I contemplated skipping out on reviews entirely, but apparently I have Opinions and I can’t help myself. So here goes the first batch:
How to Win at Rock Paper Scissors
A fun if sort of lightweight game, but I am the kind of person who has a hard time being mean to pixels, so the fact that the central conceit was finding ways to sacrifice all of your friends and a number of other innocent bystanders to the gods to win a Rock Paper Scissors tournament made it kind of less fun for me. But that’s just me, really; it’s a solid game, and really well done for a first effort.
Eight characters, a number, and a happy ending
This was a competently-put-together game (aside from some weirdness with plural items) that nevertheless left me cold for reasons I’m having trouble putting my finger on. I may just be burnt out on space and moral dilemmas, though I guess the thrust of the game is less “make this difficult moral choice” and more “get enough information to realize that your mission is really inexcusably terrible and then figure out how to not do it.” On a side note, though, I was glad that the amnesia element was not as prominent as the blurb led me to believe it would be.
Steam and Sacrilege
[spoiler]Steam and Sacrilege has a good concept which is somewhat let down by clumsy implementation. I had guess-the-verb issues (“open latch”? “undo latch”? Oh, “unlatch latch”…), and exits were often not clearly indicated or entirely unlisted (I had no idea the PC’s shop even had a back room until I checked the walkthrough–it’s not mentioned in the description for the main room at all). There were also times when the game didn’t really provide enough direction about where to go and what to do, which made things tricky since the hotel is so sprawling. It’s obvious a ton of work went into this, with all the different endings and alternate solutions, but the experience of playing it was more frustrating than anything else.
Also, I note in the walkthrough files that there’s a “cheat code,” as it were, to skip both the intro and the daily-life stuff at the beginning and start right in the middle of the action. I feel like just starting there rather than giving the option to skip to there might have improved the game. I was expecting the prologue to have some kind of relevance to the rest of the story, but unless I missed something, it seems like it was just there to give a sense of how the hotel looked/operated in its prime, which is something I wouldn’t mind sacrificing for a more streamlined game.[/spoiler]
I am myself a Theatre People (though, like this game’s creator, strictly on an amateur basis), so this adventure in tech stuff going wrong at the last minute definitely felt a bit familiar, and I could sympathize with the plight of the underappreciated stagehand. (I’ve heard it said of theatre tech that when you do it right, no one notices you’re doing anything at all.) The game is a little lightweight–I got through it twice in about twenty minutes–but it’s well done; the puzzle solutions are well clued even before you break into the game’s built-in hint system, and it all moves along at a good clip. I was sufficiently motivated to find a solution to the optional bonus puzzle (which leads to a slightly different ending) to play it through a second time. The author says in his introduction that he spent years playing IF before writing any, and it shows; it’s a promising first game and I look forward to seeing what the author does in the future.
You are standing in a cave…
I have to admit, I didn’t get very far with this. It had a lot of the same “inexperienced parser game creator” issues as Steam and Sacrilege, but unlike Steam and Sacrilege, it had no walkthrough or hints, so when I got tired of verb-guessing and unclear objectives, I just gave up. I thought it had a fun narrative voice and if polished up could be an enjoyable puzzlefest, but I’m just not a patient enough person to deal with this stuff.