Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp 2014 Review: Missive / Icepunk

Posted by Reiko on November 11, 2014

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

Missive
Author: Joey Fu
Format: Web

This story really encourages the main character to drink right from the beginning. But if you ignore that, there’s an interesting mystery surrounding a set of letters found with an old typewriter. The letters often contain strange turns of phrase or even coded sequences which form puzzles to solve.

On the first playthrough, it’s easy to overlook some of these, but the mystery can’t be fully solved without getting them all right. Fortunately, there are only three choices for each answer, so it’s fairly easy to brute-force, which is good because at least one of the puzzles is so obscure that I couldn’t even tell what kind of puzzle it was supposed to be, let alone solve it. Ironically, the one kind of puzzle I was good at actually solving (the cryptogram) was one I’d just guessed correctly on the first time through.

There are also side-plots which can be followed, including the matter of the main character’s ex, a man who indicates some interest in retrieving the typewriter and letters, an interesting librarian, and of course, there’s always time to drink. Not all of these can be followed in a single playthrough, and each of the wrong answers to the puzzles also provides a different, but plot-appropriate response, so there’s quite a bit of replayability available. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t seem to matter much whether you solve the mystery or not. The endings are all very terse and nothing much happens as a result.

Score: 7
Scoring: base 7, +1 for puzzles and replayability, -1 for trivial endings

Icepunk
Author: pageboy
Format: Web

There’s been some sort of apocalyptic disaster, and now you have to go around the frozen area and collect data to reboot the main computer, or something like that. It sounds like a good premise, and I really wanted to like this one. But in practice it’s very repetitive, because there’s a text-based hyperlinked map, but you can only travel across one region at a time. This is made worse by the fact that on my computer, each click took at least five seconds to load. Slowest Twine game ever, it seems. And you have to return to the habitat after just a few downloads to upload the collected data into the main computer. So it became a trudge of clicking a region, waiting, clicking another region, waiting, and so on until I made it to a region I hadn’t been to before, then checking a few regions, then trudging back. Entering the habitat, going to the computer, dumping the data, and exiting again took at least seven clicks, each of which forced me to wait several seconds.

Unfortunately, I made it to 84% complete and then ran into a problem when trying to enter a region that left me with a blank working screen. I could still view my current set of data, but I couldn’t make any more progress. I’m curious what happens when you get to 100%, but I’m not sure I’m curious enough to start the process over unless I can get it to run faster. It’s a shame that the execution was so flawed, and the gameplay was so shallow. There’s the seed of something interesting here.

Score: 5
Scoring: base 4, +1 for procedurally generated scenarios, +1 for map navigation, -1 for slow response time

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One Response to “IFComp 2014 Review: Missive / Icepunk”

  1. […] – 2 The Entropy Cage, by Stormrose (Web) – 6 Eidolon, by A.D. Jansen (Web) – 8 Missive, by Joey Fu (Web) – 7 Inward Narrow Crooked Lanes, by B Minus Seven (Web) – 3 […]

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