Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

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IFComp 2014 Review: Various Inform Entries (Part 2)

Posted by Reiko on November 13, 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 Inform games.

And yet it moves
Author: Orion

This could be the start of a serious quest, but unfortunately it’s marred by some serious problems. Galileo wants you to smuggle his book away, but his house doesn’t even make sense. The garden is east of the front door, and the kitchen is east of the garden but west of the front door. The text is rough too, with plenty of capitalized words in odd places, or the first words of sentences not capitalized.

The early puzzles are reasonable, but then I arrived at Florence and managed to do things out of order. I found the bank without even trying, got the money out, bound the book, and bought supplies, and there’s no sign of the coach. I checked the hints, and there’s supposed to be a whole sequence where you talk to the bookbinder, who sends you to the wine merchant, who sends you to the barber, who has some items from the bank that tells you where it is. I found those items after the fact too, and actually wondered first if I was going to get in trouble for barging into the barber’s attic and swiping the stuff there. (But no, you hardly ever get in trouble for taking things in IF, right?) All that’s completely unnecessary if you explore a bit farther past the bookbinder though, and if you do, then it seems to break the game.

Score: 2
Scoring: base 4, -1 for capitalization and other formatting issues, -1 for broken map and quest sequences

Author: Simon Deimel

It’s an interesting experiment. Flawed, perhaps, but interesting. In the wake of a tragedy, it’s like the PC’s mind has temporarily snapped, and you have to gradually remember where you are and what happened, mostly by thinking about things. You literally can’t see what’s around you at first, and you have to work at seeing things clearly and thinking about them to remember what happened and why you’re there. And then you have to make a choice.

It’s flawed mostly because of the way you sometimes have to think about things multiple times, often after thinking about something else first, before you get the critical next piece of understanding that reveals more about the situation. So it’s sometimes hard to determine what you’re missing. Even on a second playthrough, everything remains out of scope until you go through the process of recognizing it step by step. When it comes time to make a decision, meta commands like save and undo are disabled, which is intended to make the decision feel more final. In practice, it’s more of an annoyance because it means either remembering to make a save halfway through, or going through the whole discovery from the beginning, if you want to try for a different outcome. And it isn’t much easier the second time around to reveal everything.

On the other hand, I’d say this is much more successful than Tower (by the same author) as a surreal, experimental piece. The terse nature of his prose works for him in this piece, and it really seems like it’s trying to say something about the nature of vision and insanity.

Score: 7
Scoring: base 7, +1 for thoughtful experiment, -1 for difficult thinking process

Jesse Stavro’s Doorway
Author: Marshall Tenner Winter

At the beginning, there’s a journal with an infodump of information about time-traveling doorways. Then the action is all about looking through a ramshackle house looking for information about where your friend Jesse went. It’s quite the juxtaposition of fantastical and mundane, really. Unfortunately, the implementation is rather thin, and there’s not much to lead to the next thing. The other people in the house, if they talk at all, only respond to one or two things that give the next bit of information, and usually it results in a whole scripted conversation which is very awkward if you trigger it again later. They don’t respond to any other relevant keywords, either.

The whole game is like this. I did finish it, but only by consulting the walkthrough, as there were several occasions where I wouldn’t have found the exact right thing to ask about or do in order to continue. NPC interactions continued to be scripted and strange. Names appeared and disappeared at random times. One guy Riley comes with you for much of the game, but halfway through, his name disappeared and he became “tripping guy” again. Items from previous chapters stay with you even if they’re pointless later. Most of the game is just about getting back to the right year, and there really isn’t much of an ending. It’s all very awkward and railroaded.

Score: 3
Scoring: base 7, -1 for awkwardly scripted conversations, -1 for railroaded plot, -1 for thin implementation, -1 for lack of ending


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