Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

Archive for November 25th, 2015

IFComp 2015 Review: To Burn in Memory

Posted by Reiko on November 25, 2015

This is a review of a game from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

To Burn in Memory
Author: Orihaus
Format: Web (offline)

This is slick. It’s a web-based piece, but isn’t available for playing directly online, for some reason. The presentation and interaction feel like they could be from Umdum, but there’s nothing obvious at the beginning that indicates the platform, so it’s possible the author made a custom javascript interface for this piece. The writing is hauntingly picturesque, describing an abandoned and partly ruined city that was once vibrant and still is beautiful. Interspersed with this are various quotes of memories which offer the option to activate them, but nothing ever happens when I try.

I wandered around the tower and the plaza below it for some time, and while I found a few intriguing things, including a single unburned page with a rose diagram, at least one key I never used, and a combination safe, I couldn’t find the orchards mentioned in the intro, and I couldn’t make anything happen. I never found a combination for unlocking the safe. I revisited everywhere I could find at least once, but I probably missed one option somewhere (it’s sometimes hard to tell which option is the way to return to the previous location), and without any help available, I don’t think I’m going to get unstuck any time soon.

Part of the problem is that while the prose is beautiful, it’s also rather opaque and overwritten, so it’s really hard to keep track of the practical details of where you are and what relates to what. I feel like this would have been better as an Art Show entry or something rather than buried in the regular IF Comp.

Time: 30 min
Scoring: base 4, +1 for beautiful prose, +1 for elegant interface, +1 for memories of locations, -1 for lack of hints or walkthrough
Score: 6

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IFComp 2015 Review: Synaesthesia Factory / Brain Guzzlers

Posted by Reiko on November 25, 2015

This is a review of games from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here. Both of these games are Glulx.

Laid Off from the Synaesthesia Factory
Author: Katherine Morayati

This piece is a dreamy, disjointed shadow of a story. As in, I took a side path and abruptly found an ending, with no opportunity to undo and continue where I was. Also, I found a duplicate paragraph pasted into the end of itself in the description of the Synpiece, so it needs a bit more proofreading, I think.

Plus it’s presented in Glulx, but it acts more like a hypertext without much parser processing. I think Umdum might have been a better platform for this kind of work, with its ability to hide choices after they’re made so that the result looks like a seamless story, but also allow multiple descriptions to be expanded, either in-line, or at the end, before going on to the next node.

Time: 20 min
Scoring: base 7, -1 for needing proofreading, -1 for being so disjointed
Score: 5

Brain Guzzlers from Beyond!
Author: Steph Cherrywell

This is definitely B-grade horror/scifi at best. But there isn’t all that much body horror on screen, the prose is reasonably funny, and the puzzles are all very logical. The actual execution of the plot isn’t very logical, though. The final solution to the alien horror is Macguyvered together by a father-daughter team out of pure fruit energy, an AI, a damaged movie screen, and a spork. At one point, you have to climb through a narrow air vent carrying at least one rather bulky item. And somehow people whose brains have been consumed are just fine after the aliens have been defeated.

But it’s a fun romp that includes drawings of most of the conversational characters (including some plants!). Plus there’s a feelie available that describes the exhibits at the fair in sensational fifties newspaper style. I wanted to like this one more than I did, but cheesy horror just isn’t my thing, unfortunately.

Time: 1.5 hours
Scoring: base 7, -1 for cheesy horror, +1 for drawings and feelie
Score: 7

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