Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp Review: Various Web Entries (Part 2)

Posted by Reiko on November 1, 2013

This is a review of games from the 2013 Interactive Fiction Competition. (Posted in 2014 and backdated.) Scoring criteria can be found here.

Their angelical understanding
Author: porpentine

Fascinating, multilayered, and creepy. Another thoughtful poetic story from porpentine. This piece makes great use of twine to simulate something that’s close to a freeform IF, with a few sections having persistent link-based locational navigation and near-puzzles. Several sentences have slowly blinking phrases that change their contents when clicked, to allow the choice of one of several options, and the result is usually kept and echoed shortly afterward. A few times the screen flashed brightly: I don’t have any problem, but perhaps this piece should have an epilepsy warning at the beginning. Occasionally ambient music or sounds also contribute to the atmosphere of the piece.

Unfortunately, I got stuck at the “Your nemesis” part and couldn’t move past that. It didn’t look like an ending, but the nemesis link didn’t go anywhere and the page just kept refreshing. I have to start with a lower base score since I wasn’t able to finish it.

Score: 7
Scoring: base 4, +1 for excellent use of medium including sounds, +1 for complex text manipulation, +1 for poetic story

Bell Park, Youth Detective
Author: Brendan Patrick Hennessey

This was a cute little story that put a little twist on the usual sort of murder mystery with underage detective. The writing is solid enough, giving a good sense of an overconfident twelve-year-old that thinks she’s smart. It seems like she’s supposed to be smart, but she really doesn’t do anything that’s all that clever. Most of the story is just asking the main suspects mostly the same questions.

Getting to the accusation phase was kind of abrupt because you don’t actually have enough evidence to solidly accuse someone, but you still have to pick someone to accuse. That gets really awkward for an underage detective flying by the seat of her pants, but fortunately the story then takes a twist and the truth becomes clear (if not particularly believable).

Score: 5
Scoring: base 4, +1 for realistically overconfident twelve-year-old PC

Sam and Leo Go to the Bodega
Author: Richard Goodness

Maybe this would make more sense if this were a continuation of a larger story. It’s really just a vignette in the life of these two drug addicts who don’t seem to do much else besides eat and shoot up drugs. So they go to this little convenience store where you choose which things they buy in four categories, getting a tiny non-interactive memory as a result of each choice. But nothing really happens. As it says right at the beginning, this is an uneventful trip – they go, you choose what they buy, then for some reason you choose the cashier’s response to each item, and then they go home. That’s it.

Score: 3
Scoring: base 4, -1 for mundanity and shortness

Autumn’s Daughter
Author: Devolution Games

This story is very short: it’s possible to reach an ending in just a couple of choices. Yet those choices make a huge difference in the outcome for the main character, a privileged Pakistani girl who is forced into an arranged marriage with an older man…unless she takes matters into her own hands. The writing is vivid, inviting replay to see how different choices affect the outcome. And the peek into another culture is refreshing and informative.

I would have liked to see more from the story, though, and a better use of the Undum platform, which is more powerful than a straight CYOA shows. No statistics are tracked; the only extra is a phrase on the sidebar describing her status, which usually only changes once an ending is reached.

Score: 5
Scoring: base 4, -1 for shortness, +1 for exotic culture, +1 for many different endings resulting from the different choices


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