Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp 2016 Reviews: Various Web Entries (part 3)

Posted by Reiko on November 27, 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.

The Little Lifeform That Could
Author: Fade Manley

It’s a cute conceit. Sort of like Spore in IF form, but much shorter and simpler. I played three times and didn’t really see any way to lose. One time I focused on scientific accomplishment; another time I focused on trade; and a third time I focused on war. There’s really not much depth to it, though. Each playthrough is pretty short. I didn’t see any list of accomplishments or other suggestions of possible things to do to keep me playing any longer, though. If there are other clever outcomes from appropriately maximizing a stat, I didn’t find them. There is a summary at the end of each section that gives some idea of how you’ve done, but again, any path seems to be viable and the statistics don’t seem to mean much.

Time: 30 minutes
Scoring: base 7, +1 for multiple endings, -1 for shortness, -1 for useless statistics
Score: 6

Snake’s Game
Author: Nahian Nasir

The text is descriptive, but feels strange and needs a lot of editing. The verb tenses keep slipping around. There are its/it’s and punctuation errors. I think the writer is not a native speaker. He also keeps using “think” instead of “thing” although that seems like a deliberately alien usage for the “snake” character.

The first time I played through, I got to the end in about ten minutes after only about two choices, neither of which seemed very significant. Then there was an author’s note at the end saying that the story was carefully written as a tree, that each choice reveals a slightly different protagonist, and that the full story is only revealed by the totality of all the choices. I was rather surprised by this because I felt like I’d barely chosen anything and it seemed like mostly a static story. I tried a different choice at the beginning and found that the story spiraled off in a different direction which offered several other choices. One path even led to a loop back to the beginning of the story.

There’s some truly disgusting body horror in some sections. Yes, there’s a warning in the blurb, and no I still don’t like it. I would still rate a game down for bad design even if the author mentioned it up front (there’s at least one game in this comp that does that) and I don’t have a problem doing the same thing for objectionable content.

Time: 20 minutes
Scoring: base 7, -1 for poor writing, -1 for body horror, -1 for shortness
Score: 4

Riot
Author: Taylor Johnson

Previously I just played Not Another Hero, where the PC is essentially a special-forces police operative trained to take down people with powers, anomalies. Riot focuses on a policeman as well, but it’s a much more personal story, with a plot arc and interesting characters with their own stories. The city could be any city. People have gone crazy and it’s nearly a battle between police forces and armed civilians. In the midst of the chaos, one police cadet has to struggle to follow orders and deal with an unexpected accident.

Time: 20 minutes
Scoring: base 7, +1 for realistic motivations, -1 for shortness
Score: 7

The God Device
Author: Andy Joel

This one is a campy sci-fi story about an alien device and the goons who will do whatever it takes to retrieve it. Tanya must try to stay alive while she’s being hunted for the mysterious thing that fell into her lap. We don’t learn all that much about Tanya as a character, though. Her motivations are partly determined by the choices the player makes, but as she’s mostly concerned with survival, those choices aren’t very deep.

Each playthrough is relatively short. I played three or four times in order to see multiple endings, but even so, it didn’t take me very long to find the winning ending. The notes say there’s a “best” ending with a score of 11, but I didn’t feel compelled to keep looking for that one.

Time: 20 minutes
Scoring: base 7, +1 for multiple endings, -1 for shortness, -1 for shallow character
Score: 6

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