Posted 16 November 2005 to rec.games.int-fiction
With the comp over, I figure I might as well add to the deluge. These aren't so much reviews as general impressions. Also, I've only played a fraction of the games. Oh well, some shoddy feedback is better than none, so here goes.
As a general note, I only played those games that gave a good first impression. I know it's been drilled into us by every half-rate english teacher, but it really is important to hook the player with the very first few lines (up until the first prompt, I'd say). This isn't such an issue in the comp: many people are going to play your game whether the first part grabs them or not, but unless you want your hard work to fade into oblivion, you have to grab the the player right away. Rest assured, if your game is listed here, you succeeded in grabbing my attention (although not in a good way, necessarily). If not, don't worry. You game may be totally awesome (last year I didn't play ATD or Square Circle and they were great), the intro just didn't get to me. Also, be sure to change the library PC description. If I hear "As good-looking as ever" one more time I will die. Even if it's apt, it gives the impression that you don't care about the game. Also, for Inform games, remove strict mode. It screams last-ditch and rushed-out-the-door. Enough rambling, on to the reviews!
Ok, here's the only example of a game grabbing my attention that wasn't in a good way. Due to Panks's notoriety and the insatiable lure that was prompted by "Dare you beat Dragon?", I had to play this. If anything, Panks lives up to his reputation. Sudden death, poor verbs, etc. It was all there. Still, I had a perverse sort of fun playing it. When ATTACKing, HITting, and KILLing the Dragon all don't work, you have to go a different way. But of course! You have to BEAT Dragon. I dared, and I did. Also, I like it how "The ice dragon beathes fire on you!" That cracked me up whether it was intentional or not.
This was the first game I played, and I wasn't disappointed. The intro totally grabbed me (I'm a sucker for the PRESS ANY KEY and italics effects), and it was a great lead to how good the rest of the game was. Unfortunately, I'm writing this a couple weeks after playing, so my memory's a little fuzzy and specifics might be few. Very few things irked me, one of which was the walkthrough. When you include a walkthru with a game, please put it in a form that can be copied and pasted directly (instead of putting Wait (repeat 7x)). It helps when I need to rapidly skip ahead if I forgot to save or switched computers. Especially if the game is composed of discrete scenes. Also, I ran into a problem near the end when I was trying to enter the coffee shop and it assumed I was talking about the car (I think I typed IN or OPEN DOOR or something). Other than that, the game was flawless. I loved it. It was a little chickflick-turned-IF, but I like that sort of thing. The ABOUT text says the author is friends with Chris Klimas. I'd like to say I saw his influence, but I'm rather bad at picking up things like that. However, they definitely were similar in the strength of writing and characterization.
This game was amazing! I was genuinely scared a fair bit of the time, which I find rare in horror IF. The only problem was that it felt a little rushed. This game had all the makings of possibly the scariest IF I've ever played, but a few things bogged it down. There were a handful of bugs, but they didn't really detract much. Except at the end when I tried to attack the enemy and got an Inform programming error. The others were minor. You can take the girl's book and it stays, etc. The part where it felt a little haphazard was more in the descriptions as seen by different characters. There was some changes, but I would've liked more. For example, the dog looks at the cars and sees that they're pretty much all the same except for the shiny red one. Granted, the dog might notice that, but it was said in the exact same words as the guy who owned the car. (BTW, I loved how for the dog SMELL mapped to LOOK). Really, I shouldn't complain this much. I loved the game and really hope for a post comp release with more time spent on descriptions.
Really cute. Not really a game at all, but it gave me 5 minutes of entertainment so it wasn't a wasted effort (especially considering it probably didn't take a whole lot longer to code).
I had mixed feelings about starting this one. The intro was good, but the ABOUT text gave me pause. I like music, but it doesn't do anything to me anywhere near to what it does to the author of this game. Still, I gave it a shot. I liked it a fair bit, but in a strange way. It had a weird effect on me. A little over a month before I played the game, I was dating someone named Val (Valdemar, not Valentine, but still). And I ended it. It wasn't quite what Val and Peter had from the game, but it was still something. So the whole time I played it, I felt like I was on the other side of the whole thing. Plus the fact that Val's (your) gender is actually fairly ambiguous from what I could tell. The description didn't say anything particularly feminine and the name is more of a man's name than a woman's to me. The point of all this is that sometimes a game can have a completely unintended effect on a player. People will inevitably draw from their own experiences and feelings to make a game something that it's not (or wasn't intended to be). Anyway, enough digression. The game was good. I didn't get the music references for the most part, but they still worked. The whole game reminded me of Tough Beans in a way. The kind-of crappy relationship, the resolution, the strong/weak female protagonist. Of the two, I think I liked Tough Beans better, but maybe that's just cause this one hit me a little close to home and made me feel like a jerk/Peter.
I wanted to play this game from the start, but I was a little turned off by the setting. I like sci-fi only interesting sci-fi, and I wasn't sure if this was going to be it. I was wrong. The writing was great, the story intense, and the pacing perfect. The only real problems I had was with the parser. This was the first hugo game I'd ever played, so I wasn't quite sure of what verbs were already incorporated. One, BURN, wasn't. Sure, burn isn't necessarily a common verb, but in this game it made quite a bit of sense to me to be used in some spots. Even if I was wrong, it would have been nice to have gotten a non-standard response. But once that was out of the way, the rest of the game flowed by smoothly. I had to restart a number of times, but the game is short, so that wasn't a problem, and it all made perfect sense why I would have to. Survival horror just isn't survival horror without the ability to make mistakes.
I'm not going to spoil the ending, as it is quite a neat little twist, but I will make a few comments. I kind of wish the ending was the whole game. Or at least what manifests itself in the closing paragraph was the essence of the game itself. As nice as it is to get it described, it'd be nicer to get to live it through the PC.
Looking back, it seems like I'm complaing a lot. Don't let that give you the wrong impression. I loved it. I just wish it had gone a little bit of a different direction as the writer obviously has the skill to take it there.
This article copyright © 2005, Jason Devlin