Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp 2016 Reviews: Various Web Entries (part 1)

Posted by Reiko on November 21, 2016

These are mini reviews of games from the 2016 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here. All of these games were produced in web-based systems.

All I Do Is Dream
Author: Megan Stevens

This is a short vignette about someone who seems very depressed and tired and can’t manage to get anything done, even a bit of cleaning. I’ve had days like this, but this is really extreme. The only ending is negative, and it just wasn’t any fun to read. The last link invites the player to play again, but it doesn’t even work. Which is just as well, as there’s nothing else to do. It reminds me of Seeking Ataraxia from last year. To echo my conclusion about that one: ultimately, while it explores the headspace of someone with depression, it isn’t much of a game.

Time: 10 min
Scoring: base 7, -1 for shortness, -1 for depressing material, -1 for broken replay link, -1 for lack of gameplay
Score: 3

Stone Harbor
Author: Liza Daly

The PC works as a psychic, like his mother did, apparently having a talent for cold-reading people. But when someone is murdered and a detective comes to him, he discovers a real power to read certain objects connected to the crime.

I found the story in this piece to be compelling. I’m generally a fan of murder mysteries, so that helps, but the PC’s character arc is also realistic. The banner pictures that appear whenever the PC triggers a vision add a fair amount to the immersion of the piece as well.

That said, it really wasn’t very interactive. Sometimes I had a minor choice of which feature to focus on, and sometimes I could click multiple features or objects for more information, but there was no plot divergence or really much agency to the story. It would have been nearly the same if written as static fiction.

Time: 1 hr
Scoring: base 7, +1 for good murder mystery, -1 for little interactivity
Score: 7

Thaxted Havershill and the Golden Wombat
Author: Andrew Brown

First impression: amateurish. There’s no cover art, and the blurb even admits it’s not very exciting. The game opens with a disclaimer about random outcomes and an option to turn them off. Then the game itself has all the awkwardness of a first attempt and very little of the promised humor.

Many choices lead directly to death. The random outcomes appear in the form of combat. And, before the final choice, both the villain and the PC awkwardly break the fourth wall to talk to the player, and furthermore, the writer uses this conversation to admit that the piece was written at the last minute. I also saw a number of typos and spelling errors in the text.

It’s just completely shoddy work. About all I can say about this one that’s positive is that it’s finishable.

Time: 20 min
Scoring: base 7, -1 for pointless random combat, -1 for fourth-wall breaking, -1 for admission of low quality, -1 for shortness, -1 for spelling errors
Score: 2

Fallen 落葉 Leaves
Authors: Adam Bredenberg, Danial Mohammed Khan-Yousufzai

I fail to see the point of this, other than combinatorial mad-libs, maybe. It’s not particularly interactive, and it’s not particularly fictional, either. You pick a verb and an adverb, and then based on that, the piece generates a sonnet with some of the words varying based on the choice. And then you can do it again. That’s it. Strangely, there’s a “walkthrough” link from the comp page, but this is all it says:

If you receive especially adverse results,
you may not be resting enough.
Try moving more slowly
and varying your responses
or resting several times consecutively.

What? I don’t even know what it means by “adverse results.” “Rest” is one of the verbs, but I don’t see why I should care about the result at all since probably half the poem is exactly the same every time. The poetry is mostly flowery and impenetrable and I’ve already written more text in this review than in the whole sonnet.

I probably just don’t appreciate poetry enough to appreciate this, but whatever it is, it’s not IF.

Time: 5 minutes
Scoring: base 4, -1 for shortness, -1 for lack of interaction
Score: 2

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