Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp 2014 Review: Zest / Caroline

Posted by Reiko on November 10, 2014

This is a review of games from the 2014 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

Zest
Author: Fear of Twine
Format: Web

I thought this was a simulator about making lemonade. Nope. This is apparently a drug addict simulator, more or less. I’m not sure what the point is, but it’s definitely not my cup of tea. Even playing it as clean as possible, the situations force the main character to use the “zest” drug sometimes even without player input. Of course, there are endings that encourage the player to use as much zest as possible.

It’s also fully illustrated, which to me sort of defeats the point of being a text game. In theory, you could play it with only the text, but the game itself doesn’t give that option, and there’d be almost nothing left because the text is so sparse. There’s another game in the comp that is fully illustrated, but that one also gives full verbal descriptions of what’s going on: the pictures are just for flavor. Or compare a game like Gateway: each location has an illustration, some of which change according to what’s going on with the puzzles, but the interface has the option of playing in text-only mode. The illustrations might make it easier to visualize a few of the puzzles, but they’re not required.

Score: 6
Scoring: base 7, +1 for multiple endings and achievement tracking, -1 for crude language and subject material, -1 for completely misleading blurb

Caroline
Authors: Kristian Kronstrand
Format: Web

This is a short vignette that looks like a romance at first, then turns into something a bit weirder once Caroline’s motives are revealed. All choices must be typed in as if this were parser-based, but it’s not. Often there’s only one action available, but it has to be typed in anyway. The player’s agency is further diminished by the false choices where one option just redirects to the other one. Twine might have been a better medium for this structure, with hyperlinks. However, the format seems to be an attempt to force complicity by requiring typing rather than blindly clicking on links. I never felt invested enough in the story to make that matter much, though.

The prose is minimal and appears to have had little proofreading, with typos and missing punctuation. One sentence appears at a time generally, lending the text a choppy, disjointed feeling.

Score: 2
Scoring: base 4, -1 for typed binary choices, -1 for shortness and lack of proofreading

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One Response to “IFComp 2014 Review: Zest / Caroline”

  1. […] by Vincent Zeng and Chris Martens (Web) – 6 Transparent, by Hanon Ondricek (Glulx) – 8 Zest, by Fear of Twine (Web) – 6 Caroline, by Kristian Kronstrand (Web) – 2 Fifteen Minutes, […]

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