Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp 2014 Review: Various Web Entries

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. All the games in this post are web-based games that didn’t impress me very much, so I only wrote a paragraph or so about each to summarize my impressions of them.

Author: Robot Parking

At first glance, this appears to be a text-based ripoff of the old adventure game Hugo’s House of Horror, complete with screenshots, although the screenshots turn weird part way through. There’s gratuitous gore and bad language, and the gameplay consists only of guessing the right order to click the links to make progress. When I received a severed head as an item and then the picture shifted to a Nethack screenshot with no links to proceed, I quit in disgust. This “game” has no redeeming gameplay and makes no sense.

Score: 2
Scoring: base 4, -1 for ripoff screenshots, -1 for gratuitous horror and lack of apparent sense

The Entropy Cage
Author: Stormrose

Science fiction story about rogue sub-sentient algorithms and the consequences of expanding their power in different ways. It seems to come down to one choice at the end. The network syntax is intriguing, although not hard to follow for anyone computer-literate. The links were intuitive to follow, but early on very few options were available, so it felt repetitive until the story opened up. In some games, you do the same thing repeatedly until you get to the point where you can do more, but usually you can tell whether you’re making progress. In this game, there was no way to tell. It’s mildly entertaining but not very memorable.

Score: 6
Scoring: base 7, -1 for shortness

Sigmund’s Quest
Author: Gregor Holtz

First impression is that the game is too big to fit on the screen. Even the background requires scrolling, and the text is in a tiny area at the bottom that doesn’t show more than one line of text at a time. Full screen doesn’t help. This isn’t going to work. Then I pressed the Diary button and the text area moved up the screen so I can actually read it. That’s better. But then it moves down again every single turn, when the background picture changes, so I have to keep clicking Diary. The background pictures are these huge pixellated affairs: why couldn’t they have been scaled down and placed in their own area of the screen with the text consistently visible in another area? This is really awkward gameplay for what’s supposed to be a game focused on text.

And then it’s over, saying “End of Chapter I”. I’m going to call this unfinished – this isn’t IntroComp, after all. It’s an interesting premise, but not a whole game, for sure.

Score: 3
Scoring: base 4, -1 for awkward layout

Inward Narrow Crooked Lanes
Author: B Minus Seven

The form mentioned in the blurb appears to be complete nonsense. On a first playthrough, I answered as sensibly as possible and hoped for the best. Then the action started, and there seemed to be nothing to hope for. The rooms didn’t make any more sense than the form. The second one was full of code. I would think that may just be a programming mistake in whatever platform the story was written in, but with this kind of piece, it’s hard to tell. In fact, there’s a note at the end that says it’s not an error. Okay then. A second and third playthrough are no more enlightening. My head hurts.

Score: 3
Scoring: base 4, -1 for nonsensical content

Laterna Magica
Author: Jens Byriel

There’s no story, only an exploration of philosophical concepts. Every step is simply a choice between two concepts. Eventually I found I was going in circles, and started seeking out new answers. Finally I came to an ending when I selected “enlightenment”, and it basically said I was asking the wrong questions or wasn’t ready. Probably I wasn’t, as I don’t feel enlightened.

Score: 3
Scoring: base 4, -1 for lack of story

Author: S. Elize Morgan

It’s a science fiction story of a rehabilitation complex gone wrong, more or less. There isn’t really much in the way of choices. The first part mostly doesn’t make any sense, and the second part is very linear and rather bland. The prose does its job, but I noticed a number of typos, so it could have used another round of editing.

Score: 5
Scoring: base 7, -1 for noticeable typos, -1 for shortness

The Secret Vaults of Kas the Betrayer
Author: A.E. Jackson

It seems to be more or less a generic fantasy dungeon crawl, although it has quite a bit of backstory. I did a search on the name and came up with an RPG module, so perhaps it’s some kind of text adaptation of that. I’m not sure Twine is the best medium for that sort of thing, though. While there’s a goal to find a particular artifact, the immediate question is how to navigate through the vaults. I found a poem that gave hints, which worked perfectly for the first trap-puzzle. I was unable to use the hint to make sense of the second trap-puzzle, though, so I quickly became stuck. The “walkthrough” provided was only the same hint-poem with a few more basic comments, so it was no help at all, and certainly not an actual walkthrough.

Score: 4
Scoring: base 4, -1 for no walkthrough, +1 for backstory

Author: Porpentine

This one does what it says on the tin. It’s a thin randomized begging simulator. It gets very repetitive very fast, and there doesn’t seem to be much point, as it’s mostly luck and you’re just trying to survive as long as possible. I didn’t find any ending other than death. Clearly porpentine was trying to say something here, as she does with every piece, but there’s so little content and it’s just not any fun to play, so I can’t give this a high score.

Score: 4
Scoring: base 4, +1 for randomization, -1 for short repetitive, luck-based play


One Response to “IFComp 2014 Review: Various Web Entries”

  1. […] 6 Caroline, by Kristian Kronstrand (Web) – 2 Fifteen Minutes, by Ade McT (Inform) – 8 HHH.exe, by Robot Parking (Web) – 2 The Entropy Cage, by Stormrose (Web) – 6 Eidolon, by A.D. […]

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