Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp 2015 Review: Various Web Games (part 2)

Posted by Reiko on November 28, 2015

This is a review of games from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here. All of these games were produced in web-based systems.

Capsule II – The 11th Sandman
Author: PaperBlurt

It’s kind of creepy that the backstory on this one is very similar to a story I started writing, with one person overseeing the arrival of a colony ship full of colonists in cryotubes. My focus was more on establishing the colony after arrival, while this one is set on the ship before arrival and follows the strange awakening of another colonist after a malfunction. It’s the second in a trilogy, but it’s a prequel to the first, explaining what happened to the previous caretaker (“sandman”). Since we already know from the first section what his fate was, there isn’t really much choice available.

I also found the situation creepy and not very realistic. Surely there are better ways to take care of a colony ship than by leaving one person awake for years at a time to slowly go insane. I also didn’t like the way the main character treated the other person that showed up after the cryotube malfunction. There were no meaningful options on how to treat him. I also noticed a few spelling errors here and there. Really, there’s no reason these days not to run your text through a spellchecker before publishing.

Time: 30 min
Scoring: base 7, -1 for spelling
Score: 6

The Speaker
Author: Norbez
Format: Twine

This one’s trying to be thought-provoking, but it doesn’t really go deeply enough. The PC has become a typist for an alien blogger recovering from surgery and has to decide whether to type the advice the alien wants to write or type his own opinions instead. If he types his own opinions, the alien doesn’t get upset, but the readership does. So apparently everyone knows how the alien’s going to answer anyway (except the one who asked the question?). There isn’t much point to taking a job like this if you know you disagree with the writer, after all, unless you’re willing to do your job. Of course the alien has an alien perspective.

Time: 20 min
Score: base 7, +1 for multiple endings, -1 for shortness, -1 for pointless choices
Score: 6

Scarlet Sails
Author: Felicity Banks
Format: ChoiceScript

A rollicking pirate tale, this piece offers plenty of mayhem, rum, and acidic mermaids for everyone. Achievements make the game quite replayable, as only a few can be acquired on any given playthrough. I personally am not a big fan of the pirate genre, but this is written well enough that I didn’t mind very much. The only complaint I have is that some of the stats are bit opaque: there’s a “filth” stat, but despite the fact that I generally did scrubbing when the option was offered, that stat never seemed to do anything but increase. I never did figure out how to actually win, either, but I didn’t score the game down for that. I’m not really the target audience, but for those that are, this piece is very polished and worth playing and replaying.

Time: 45 min
Score: base 7, +1 for multiple endings, +1 for achievements
Score: 9

Author: furkle

This piece is really annoying. After barely five minutes, I’m so tired of ALL THE TEXT IN ALL CAPS and the ridiculous premise (all the other spies and even the guns (wtf?) died of “spy-mumps”) and the overblown descriptions (“the landscape unfurls…like a really big tablecloth” inside an armory…what I don’t even) and the juvenile humor (I won’t even repeat an example). I gave it a fair shot, but after two utterly ridiculous deaths from simply picking up the wrong object which also added insult to injury by displaying a lengthy flashback scene before announcing that I was dead, I decided enough was enough.

The one unusual feature this game has is a dynamic node map display, which was clever, but also a mixed bag, as the node colors were unintuitive and sometimes even misleading. It was supposed to display the node a certain way if there was danger at that node, but neither of the deaths I encountered showed that warning.

Time: 20 min
Score: base 4, +1 for node-map, -1 for juvenile humor, -1 for text in all caps, -1 for ridiculous deaths
Score: 2


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