Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp 2015 Review: Birdland

Posted by Reiko on November 30, 2015

This is a review of a game from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

Birdland
Author: Brendan Patrick Hennessey
Format: Web – Twine

I played the “kinda sorta prequel”, Bell Park, Youth Detective, in the comp two years ago, and while I liked that one, I thought at the time that it was a bit shallow (but I never went back and played a post-comp release so I don’t know how much it may have been improved later, too). Anyway, this one is longer and much better. The dialogue really nails the quirky things bored teen girls might say at an anti-technology summer camp. And the initial sense of something weird going on gradually escalates over the six days of camp until the REALLY DEFINITELY WRONG thing happens. I really liked the structure of the work, with three activities each day, and then a dream each night, until the last day, when all six of the activities we’d been seeing came into play.

I personally had two issues, which might not bother other people, but hey, this is my opinion. Minor spoilers here, since I want to talk about relationships and then mechanics.

Relationships first. I don’t really want to say too much about the thing between Bridget and Bell, but really, did it have to turn out that way? In retrospect, the only foreshadowing I saw was the whole awkward thing where Bridget doesn’t like any of the boys at the camp but doesn’t want to say anything and ends up lying about it, which backfires in her face. Sure, this later can be understood to mean that she doesn’t like boys at all, but why can’t she just not be interested in any of those particular boys? Some girls just aren’t interested at that age, or maybe the boys are all jerks.

Anyway, until the campfire scene near the end, I didn’t see any particular indication that the relationship was heading that direction rather than a regular female best friend relationship. (Side note: was there an indication of Bell’s orientation in her story? I don’t remember it very clearly. Was Cassidy even in it? Still, Birdland should stand on its own and not be dependent on context from the previous game.) I also had to wonder at the end what Bell even saw in Bridget. Bell’s a confident youth detective with dozens of cases solved already, and Bridget honestly seems pretty inept at everything, at least at camp. She succeeded at the end, but mostly by luck and exploiting the weird behavior of the instructors, and not by actual skill at anything.

Actually, it just occurred to me that Birdland was subtle enough about their relationship that I’d have been happier if the ending had been as ambiguous as the first two-thirds of the game, so that people who prefer to see gay relationships everywhere can see it that way if they like, and people who might not automatically make that assumption aren’t jarred into a different interpretation at the end. Or, be less subtle from the beginning. If it had been clearer from the beginning about Bridget, then I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. Or if the story had been about Bridget discovering how she felt, that’s another thing. But the story wasn’t really about that, and the relationship seemed to take an abrupt turn near the end. That’s what bothered me, that it seemed like Bell was kissing Bridget out of nowhere and Bridget was fine with it. It’s kind of a fundamental thing to know about a PC, I think, if it’s going to affect the story.

Second, mechanics. Like I said, Bridget seemed pretty inept at all the camp activities. It seemed like the statistics were able to give an edge sometimes, but rarely, and I often didn’t have the right statistic boosted. After the first couple of dreams, I tried a bit harder to aim for certain statistics that I thought might be helpful, but in the end, I couldn’t tell if anything made any difference. I had no idea what kinds of activities in the dreams would boost which statistics, and I didn’t know which statistics would be helpful. Before the Olympics, I ended up with three statistics at max and three at min, but I don’t know if it’s balanced such that it will always turn out that way.

After I finished the first time, I noticed that any chapter can be viewed independently, so that means that while there is state tracking that determines whether certain specific options are available at the time, the results of using those options doesn’t affect the flow of the story. I jumped in and replayed the Olympics section, and observed that no matter what I did, all options were only cosmetic; the result was the same no matter what. So knowing that, I feel like this was a really well-written story, but the interactivity could be better. There were a lot of choices, but none were really meaningful. There wasn’t even a choice about how to respond to Bell.

Time: 1 hour
Scoring: base 7, +1 for realistic dialogue, +1 for six-fold structure, -1 for lack of meaningful choices, -1 for jarring relationship shift
Score: 7

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IFComp 2015 Review: Koustrea’s Contentment

Posted by Reiko on November 30, 2015

This is a review of a game from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

Koustrea’s Contentment
Author: Jeremy Pflasterer
Format: TADS

This is a dreamy Myst-like tale of a strange house and its stranger occupants. Draydee sits eternally waiting for a door to open. Zeolt listens to music. Quaichloy endlessly watches football. Towsimoom meditates. Lubandhu…well, nobody’s really sure what he’s doing. And Syorcia is missing.

I had two problems with this game, one of which would have been less of an issue outside of the time constraints of the competition. The house isn’t really that big, but there’s a lot of back and forth talking to people and uncovering clues and looking for objects and such. I found it to be both a bit tedious and a bit aggravating when I was just trying to figure out what something did and what connected to what. Plus there are a lot of hidden objects and interactions. When I got stuck and turned to the hints, I eventually found that there were items hidden all over the house, including in the starting area, buried in descriptions of things I never thought to examine because they looked like scenery, or buried behind actions I never thought to take because they weren’t cued by the descriptions.

Motivation was also an issue. At the very beginning, I got the impression that my goal should be to get the door open so that Draydee could stop waiting. The door’s relevant (although I’m still not sure what effect triggering it actually had) but it never opens. I remember entering the house and thinking the transition from a beautiful stone hall to a sports bar was rather jarring. That’s just the nature of the house; it’s rather a patchwork. But even after I explored the house, I still had no idea what I was actually supposed to be doing. I talked to all the people, asking them about each other and some of the things in the area, but wasn’t enlightened. I turned to the hints and started accomplishing a few things but without knowing why other than “because I can”.

I think the intention was that I was supposed to talk to the people more and get information from them on where some of the items were, but they were sometimes unresponsive about topics that seemed relevant, so I had a lot of trouble finding which topics would elicit information from which people. I’ll use Quaichloy as an example: he’s only interested in his football, so he’ll talk about the other people in the house or about his teams, but almost nothing else. For instance, he has nothing to say about the door, which seemed very odd at the beginning when I thought opening it was my goal. In that same area, the bar will provide beer and cigarettes if you order them, but that’s completely not obvious because there’s no bartender; it just looks like an ordinary empty bar. But if you ask Quaichloy about the bar, he’ll tell you it’s automated and you can order what you want. In other words, there’s no way to figure out how to use the bar just by examining it; the information is buried in the NPC’s knowledge. Maybe some people would randomly try “order beer” just to see whether the game will complain, “There’s no bartender here to take your order!” and then be pleasantly surprised to find it inexplicably works, but I’m not one of them. Anyway the beer is mostly irrelevant, but the cigarettes aren’t.

Eventually I started following the walkthrough because the hints weren’t giving me anything to work with. I’m sure I missed some backstory somewhere; this is a very subtle game, too subtle for me. For many actions, I never saw any way to know what I needed to do before I did it. For instance, (minor spoiler here), the walkthrough talks about “activating the beacon”. What beacon? How was I supposed to know there’s a beacon? How was I supposed to know that activating the door did something with the beacon? The walkthrough says at least once, “skipping the clues that lead to this…” Since the walkthrough did include some early commentary on gathering clues and talking to the NPCs, I would have liked more direction on understanding what was going on later in the game, too.

There’s also a lot of waiting and examining needed in a few places, so much so that there’s an extended “wait more” (zz) command to run a bunch of turns in a row. There’s no time limit or anything, but it’s an indication of the subtlety of the piece. One particular object must be examined literally thirty times to get all the needed information from it. That’s…kind of excessive. It seems like there could have been a better way to handle that. Either make each of the pieces individually examinable with more of a description, or only require one or two extra examine commands to get the PC to look at it in enough detail. All you really need is enough of a sense of what the pieces show so that you can recognize them in another context. That doesn’t really require memorizing all thirty of them.

TADS is used to good effect with sounds and sometimes objects detectable from an adjacent room. Actually, since most parser games don’t do this, I got a bit confused early on in the bar when I was trying to interact with Quaichloy but he was in the adjacent TV area. I didn’t find any bugs, though, and I never had any guess the verb problems. The only issue I had at one point was having trouble getting down off something I was standing on without going to another room. The response to “down” in the cellar was “you can’t go that way” even though it worked when standing on something elsewhere in the house.

So overall, this game is very well-written, with quirky NPCs, interesting puzzles, and a lot of amusing responses to optional actions. It’s just not at its best in the comp where I’m trying to play it in two hours after having played twenty-some other games. It needs to be read through very carefully and thoroughly, and it’s too dependent on finding the right conversation topics with the NPCs in order to get critical information. Maybe Spring Thing would have been a better place for it to be released? I hope it will get the attention it deserves and not get buried in the sea of shorter, more straightforward pieces in the comp.

Time: 2 hours+
Scoring: base 7, +1 for puzzles, +1 for interesting NPCs, +1 for amusing optional actions, -1 for lack of motivation, -1 for information buried in conversation topics
Score: 8

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IFComp 2015 Review: Gotomomi

Posted by Reiko on November 29, 2015

This is a review of a game from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

Gotomomi
Author: Arno von Borries
Format: Glulx

First impression: this author needs some more proofreading. In the opening paragraph, I saw “opportunely” (not really a proper word) and “shinjuku” (not capitalized). I’m pleased to see a game set in Japan, though. Even if it seems to be a fictional train station, it’s representative of Japanese stations. The Japanese words are all used correctly (and there are many of them, from greetings, to inventory items, to places). There are also greetings in Chinese (“nihao” is straightforward) and I think Vietnamese, which I’m not familiar with at all. It’s a surprisingly diverse area, actually. There’s even a Russian guy in one place, which makes me wonder how the 16-year-old Ayako identifies him as such. I assume he’s speaking Japanese since it isn’t mentioned, but I have no idea if there’s a distinguishable Russian accent.

The goal seems to be to make enough money to buy an open ticket on the shinkansen, which can be accomplished a number of ways. By the end, the reason almost doesn’t matter, but there’s a bit of exposition at the beginning about the PC running away from her family and her father’s hired goons. The process of acquiring the money mainly involves taking multiple short-term jobs in the area, some not so legal, and solving puzzles to complete those jobs.

Several items must also be bought and sold from merchants or even street people, most of whom will haggle to some extent. I apparently wasn’t very good at the haggling, though, because by the end, after I’d done all the jobs and sold back all the extra items, I was still 5000 yen short of the goal. Fortunately for me, there’s a serious bug that allowed me to receive my delivery service payment from Kei a second time, so I was able to see the ending. I would suggest a post-release that fixes this bug but also adds one more job opportunity so players can close the gap. Or maybe there was another job available and I just didn’t find it: I’d already done the fish-packing job, which wasn’t mentioned in the walkthrough, so there could have been something else.

The author made it a point to bold the exits, which helped a lot when retraversing the area, but that also made it a lot easier to overlook hidden exits. There were at least two places I missed early on because I didn’t know that there were enterable areas that weren’t in bold. It seemed that generally only cardinal directions were bolded. I did turn to the walkthrough less than halfway through because I couldn’t find anything else to do, since I hadn’t found the shops or the boat rental. One other oddity I noticed; at one point I had to go to “floor 104” of the mall, which seems rather inexplicably high. Japanese commercial buildings have on average several more floors than those in many other countries, but that’s rather excessive.

I got the impression that multiple endings were available, but I have no idea how I would go about achieving any other ending besides buying the train ticket, so I can’t bump the score up for that on this one. With a bit more polish, this piece could easily be one of the best this year.

Time: 1 hr 15 min
Scoring: base 7, +1 for optional jobs, +1 for haggling, -1 for delivery payment bug
Score: 8

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IFComp 2015 Review: Recorded

Posted by Reiko on November 29, 2015

This is a review of a game from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

Recorded
Author: Nick Junius
Format: Glulx

The entirety of this little piece seems to be wandering around a mysterious complex reading mysterious messages, and ending up still trapped at the end. It’s quite short, but given that you have to actually read all the messages before anything changes, it’s easy to end up wandering around wondering what to do next (if you happened to miss a message, which I did initially). It would be far better if each individual room had an action to take and a visible change when the room is activated, so it’s clear which rooms still need action before anything will happen.

The prose tries to be evocative but ends up terribly vague instead. Plus there are a number of typos, it’s/its issues, awkward wording, etc, and a few minor bugs, such as the way there’s no confirmation message whenever you pick up the first item. To its credit, the locked door automatically opens when you try to go through it after having the right item. There’s just not much to this one; I would have liked to know more about why someone has to be the Recorder at all.

Another oddity is that the walkthrough is neither a plain list of commands needed to finish the game, nor an explanation of the actions needed, but a full transcript of a completed playthrough. You could just read that and not even play the game, and you wouldn’t miss anything.

Time: 20 min (5 min just wandering around rereading messages)
Score: base 7, -1 for shortness, -1 for grammar issues, -1 for bugs
Score: 4

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IFComp 2015 Review: Various Web Games (part 2)

Posted by Reiko on November 28, 2015

This is a review of games from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here. All of these games were produced in web-based systems.

Capsule II – The 11th Sandman
Author: PaperBlurt

It’s kind of creepy that the backstory on this one is very similar to a story I started writing, with one person overseeing the arrival of a colony ship full of colonists in cryotubes. My focus was more on establishing the colony after arrival, while this one is set on the ship before arrival and follows the strange awakening of another colonist after a malfunction. It’s the second in a trilogy, but it’s a prequel to the first, explaining what happened to the previous caretaker (“sandman”). Since we already know from the first section what his fate was, there isn’t really much choice available.

I also found the situation creepy and not very realistic. Surely there are better ways to take care of a colony ship than by leaving one person awake for years at a time to slowly go insane. I also didn’t like the way the main character treated the other person that showed up after the cryotube malfunction. There were no meaningful options on how to treat him. I also noticed a few spelling errors here and there. Really, there’s no reason these days not to run your text through a spellchecker before publishing.

Time: 30 min
Scoring: base 7, -1 for spelling
Score: 6

The Speaker
Author: Norbez
Format: Twine

This one’s trying to be thought-provoking, but it doesn’t really go deeply enough. The PC has become a typist for an alien blogger recovering from surgery and has to decide whether to type the advice the alien wants to write or type his own opinions instead. If he types his own opinions, the alien doesn’t get upset, but the readership does. So apparently everyone knows how the alien’s going to answer anyway (except the one who asked the question?). There isn’t much point to taking a job like this if you know you disagree with the writer, after all, unless you’re willing to do your job. Of course the alien has an alien perspective.

Time: 20 min
Score: base 7, +1 for multiple endings, -1 for shortness, -1 for pointless choices
Score: 6

Scarlet Sails
Author: Felicity Banks
Format: ChoiceScript

A rollicking pirate tale, this piece offers plenty of mayhem, rum, and acidic mermaids for everyone. Achievements make the game quite replayable, as only a few can be acquired on any given playthrough. I personally am not a big fan of the pirate genre, but this is written well enough that I didn’t mind very much. The only complaint I have is that some of the stats are bit opaque: there’s a “filth” stat, but despite the fact that I generally did scrubbing when the option was offered, that stat never seemed to do anything but increase. I never did figure out how to actually win, either, but I didn’t score the game down for that. I’m not really the target audience, but for those that are, this piece is very polished and worth playing and replaying.

Time: 45 min
Score: base 7, +1 for multiple endings, +1 for achievements
Score: 9

SPY INTRIGUE
Author: furkle

This piece is really annoying. After barely five minutes, I’m so tired of ALL THE TEXT IN ALL CAPS and the ridiculous premise (all the other spies and even the guns (wtf?) died of “spy-mumps”) and the overblown descriptions (“the landscape unfurls…like a really big tablecloth” inside an armory…what I don’t even) and the juvenile humor (I won’t even repeat an example). I gave it a fair shot, but after two utterly ridiculous deaths from simply picking up the wrong object which also added insult to injury by displaying a lengthy flashback scene before announcing that I was dead, I decided enough was enough.

The one unusual feature this game has is a dynamic node map display, which was clever, but also a mixed bag, as the node colors were unintuitive and sometimes even misleading. It was supposed to display the node a certain way if there was danger at that node, but neither of the deaths I encountered showed that warning.

Time: 20 min
Score: base 4, +1 for node-map, -1 for juvenile humor, -1 for text in all caps, -1 for ridiculous deaths
Score: 2

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IFComp 2015 Review: Arcane Intern

Posted by Reiko on November 27, 2015

This is a review of a game from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

Arcane Intern (Unpaid)
Author: Astrid Dalmady
Format: Web – Twine

YAOJ. Yet Another Office Job. At least this one has magic to make it more interesting, but the whole point of it is the juxtaposition between horribly boring office work vs the exciting work of learning magic. Get coffee. Check. (From an otherworldly cafe run by a dragon, but still.) Retrieve items from a warehouse. Check. (An otherworldy warehouse full of strange objects…) Make copies. Check. (And suffer strange effects from the sigils interacting with the copier.) For all that they involve magic, these tasks are nearly as mundane as they normally would be. The most interesting bit is spending an evening after work trying out charms, but this is summarized quickly.

Twisting the office job trope by adding magic isn’t a bad concept, but it really requires better execution, and the prose here is just not up to the job. Also, particularly in the warehouse, there was a fair bit of back and forth before I discovered which specific place I had to be to find the right option to move forward. There are multiple places where you have to click through other nodes first and then return to an earlier place before a new option will appear, which is rather awkward.

There’s potential here for an interesting story, or maybe commentary on treatment of interns, but it never quite comes together. According to the endnotes, there are multiple endings, but I didn’t bother replaying to try to find them. I would have liked to keep the knowledge of the magic instead of being forced to give it up, but I didn’t see a way to do that (although given the multiple endings, I’m sure there was a way somewhere).

Time: 30 min
Score: base 7, +1 for multiple endings, -1 for awkward interactions, -1 for office job trope
Score: 6

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IFComp 2015 Review: Kane County

Posted by Reiko on November 26, 2015

This is a review of a game from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

Kane County
Author: Michael Sterling, Tia Orisney
Format: Web

After two minutes, it’s clear that this one needs some more proofreading. “You tap on the break”… “you doesn’t have to”… etc. I was actually worried that this one was going to be a CYOA bloodbath of horror like some of the past entries from Tia Orisney, but this looks like a survival story, with some stat tracking of water and stamina, plus a class specialization.

Actually, the text past the intro isn’t too bad (shouldn’t the intro be the most well-checked, though?), and the survival aspects are intense enough that I didn’t pay that much attention to the grammar later on. The balance of resources is finely tuned, enough that I played three times, dying the first two times, and only survived by reading all the guides about where there were items and what to prioritize when camping. It’s very realistic about the dangers of strange water and the scarcity of available food.

I didn’t replay again after winning, but apparently there’s a whole alternate branch that leads to a second, harder endgame scenario that requires different resources. The river branch requires boat parts, but the farmhouse branch would require avoiding the boat parts in favor of other items in order to win. It’s an interesting strategy, but I think it’s not very realistic because it practically requires prior knowledge in order to win. While the game places items in sensible locations, it’s not at all easy to predict what item will be where the first time through. This may well be an example of accretive style gameplay, where the player must learn, through multiple playthroughs, enough information to guide the PC through to a successful conclusion of the scenario.

Time: 45 min
Score: base 7, +1 for resource balance, +1 for intense survival situations, -1 for grammar/spelling
Score: 8

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IFComp 2015 Review: Life On Mars?

Posted by Reiko on November 26, 2015

This is a review of a game from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

Life On Mars?
Author: Hugo Labrande
Format: Z-code

Wow, the first word that popped into my head when I thought about describing this piece was “realistic.” The psychological and political ramifications of the catastrophic crash of the first manned mission to Mars are explored in great and realistic detail through the email archives of Charlotte, the sole survivor of that crash. What really struck me partway through is the way that the bland formality of the official messages (“I can only begin to imagine the hardships you may have gone through…”) started to elicit that totally realistic “blah blah blah corporatespeak” reaction. Of course nobody can imagine what it was actually like to survive the crash! They weren’t there!

And Charlotte is legitimately pissed off at the patronizing messages. “Oh, we’re so sorry about this, how about we give you a raise and a nice retirement package?” (If you ever return to Earth to spend it, of course.) Oh, it’s so tough to live in such conditions, so have a medal for your courage. (What do they expect her to do, kill herself instead of dealing with it?) The food supplies went up in flames? Well, you’ll just have to live off the minimal garden that’s already there for five months until we can send you some more. (Practical, but how about a cookbook?) Are you traumatized? Here’s a psychologist who’s mostly going to insult your intelligence while she tries to help you.

All this is brilliantly executed by showing the text of the selected email appearing at reading speed, with Charlotte’s thoughts in response to the contents appearing in parallel. It’s not clear early on just how traumatized she really is, but later, based on her refusal to do any analysis or even sleep in the crew quarters, she’s clearly very traumatized. I actually thought she was a little less sympathetic at that point, but maybe I just can’t empathize with that level of trauma.

Unfortunately, after a lot of backstory, there isn’t much action available, and hardly any ending. She’s clearly jumping at shadows (and why doesn’t she have any sort of decent flashlight at least, given that parts of the base seem to be dark?), but there’s also evidence that something strange is going on. But she’s so traumatized that she can’t investigate properly and the game ends without explaining what’s actually going on. That’s awfully disappointing after the great start. I normally only score a game downward for shortness if it takes me a half hour or less to finish (approximately; it’s not a hard rule), but while I spent at least that just reading all the emails, the actions to complete the game probably only require 10-15 minutes, so that’s a negative factor, as is the lack of a resolution to the mystery. This could have scored a 9, given more to do and a better ending.

Time: 45 min (30 reading emails)
Score: base 7, +1 for detailed email backstory, +1 for real-time email unspooling, -1 for lack of resolution, -1 for shortness
Score: 7

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IFComp 2015 Review: To Burn in Memory

Posted by Reiko on November 25, 2015

This is a review of a game from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

To Burn in Memory
Author: Orihaus
Format: Web (offline)

This is slick. It’s a web-based piece, but isn’t available for playing directly online, for some reason. The presentation and interaction feel like they could be from Umdum, but there’s nothing obvious at the beginning that indicates the platform, so it’s possible the author made a custom javascript interface for this piece. The writing is hauntingly picturesque, describing an abandoned and partly ruined city that was once vibrant and still is beautiful. Interspersed with this are various quotes of memories which offer the option to activate them, but nothing ever happens when I try.

I wandered around the tower and the plaza below it for some time, and while I found a few intriguing things, including a single unburned page with a rose diagram, at least one key I never used, and a combination safe, I couldn’t find the orchards mentioned in the intro, and I couldn’t make anything happen. I never found a combination for unlocking the safe. I revisited everywhere I could find at least once, but I probably missed one option somewhere (it’s sometimes hard to tell which option is the way to return to the previous location), and without any help available, I don’t think I’m going to get unstuck any time soon.

Part of the problem is that while the prose is beautiful, it’s also rather opaque and overwritten, so it’s really hard to keep track of the practical details of where you are and what relates to what. I feel like this would have been better as an Art Show entry or something rather than buried in the regular IF Comp.

Time: 30 min
Scoring: base 4, +1 for beautiful prose, +1 for elegant interface, +1 for memories of locations, -1 for lack of hints or walkthrough
Score: 6

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IFComp 2015 Review: Synaesthesia Factory / Brain Guzzlers

Posted by Reiko on November 25, 2015

This is a review of games from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here. Both of these games are Glulx.

Laid Off from the Synaesthesia Factory
Author: Katherine Morayati

This piece is a dreamy, disjointed shadow of a story. As in, I took a side path and abruptly found an ending, with no opportunity to undo and continue where I was. Also, I found a duplicate paragraph pasted into the end of itself in the description of the Synpiece, so it needs a bit more proofreading, I think.

Plus it’s presented in Glulx, but it acts more like a hypertext without much parser processing. I think Umdum might have been a better platform for this kind of work, with its ability to hide choices after they’re made so that the result looks like a seamless story, but also allow multiple descriptions to be expanded, either in-line, or at the end, before going on to the next node.

Time: 20 min
Scoring: base 7, -1 for needing proofreading, -1 for being so disjointed
Score: 5

Brain Guzzlers from Beyond!
Author: Steph Cherrywell

This is definitely B-grade horror/scifi at best. But there isn’t all that much body horror on screen, the prose is reasonably funny, and the puzzles are all very logical. The actual execution of the plot isn’t very logical, though. The final solution to the alien horror is Macguyvered together by a father-daughter team out of pure fruit energy, an AI, a damaged movie screen, and a spork. At one point, you have to climb through a narrow air vent carrying at least one rather bulky item. And somehow people whose brains have been consumed are just fine after the aliens have been defeated.

But it’s a fun romp that includes drawings of most of the conversational characters (including some plants!). Plus there’s a feelie available that describes the exhibits at the fair in sensational fifties newspaper style. I wanted to like this one more than I did, but cheesy horror just isn’t my thing, unfortunately.

Time: 1.5 hours
Scoring: base 7, -1 for cheesy horror, +1 for drawings and feelie
Score: 7

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