Monday, October 31, 2016

Take (review)

"Take" is an interactive fiction by Amelia Pinnolla, written for the 2016 interactive fiction competition.

There isn't very much I can say about this game without spoiling it so I'll cut break.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Night House (review)

"Night House" is an interactive game (perhaps Quest?) written by Bitter Karella for the 2016 interactive fiction competition. The protagonist is an eight year old child who wakes in the middle of the night to discover that her family is missing, but the house has been occupied by all varieties of haunts and monsters. The best feature of this game is the spooky atmosphere, achieved through the writing and to a lesser extent the sound effects.

No serious spoilers in this review, but just to be safe, this break-space:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Adriadne in Aeaea (review)

"Adriadne in Aeaea" is parser game written by Victor Ojuel for the 2016 interactive fiction competition. I had just finished playing Aether Apeiron, another game inspired by Greek mythology, but this is certainly the better of the two.

Adriadne is an aspiring priestess who before now has made, ahem, some bad personal choices. In order to become a priestess, and not settle for the position of her younger sister's hair dresser, Adriadne must solve a mystery to discover the origin of several sacred artifacts. Part mystery, part historical fiction, part comedy, the dialogue is smartly written and the game solidly coded. Nearly everything I tried elicited a unique and appropriate response.

The puzzles are easy, mostly there just for pacing. I never thought to type "hint" or look for a walk through. The locations descriptions are succinct, as is often the case in parser games. I hadn't noticed this game before now, so it was fun to stumble into something this well done that I might not have chosen based on the blurb alone.

Aether Apeiron: The Zephyra Chronicles (review)

"Aether Apeiron: The Zephyra Chronicles _ Book I: The Departure --- Part I: Prelude to Our Final Days on Kyzikos" is Twine game written for the 2016 interactive fiction competition.

The "five finger rule" is a guideline which elementary educators teach to beginning readers in the US (and perhaps elsewhere, as far as I know). The child is asked to turn to a random page, and count the number of unfamiliar words. If there is not a single unfamiliar word, the reading selection might be too easy. If there are five or more, the reading selection is too difficult. I must confess, I reached the fourth unfamiliar word before the end of this over-long title, and found five more in the blurb. The blurb alone is one long stream of made-up words and sci-fi mumbo jumbo. Unless I'm struggling to learn a foreign language, or I'm choosing to play a linguistic puzzler ("Gostak" Carl Muckenhoupt, 2001) I want my hand held while I wade into this alternate universe of unpronounceable place names.


Many of the place names and people seem to be inspired by ancient Greek mythology. I don't understand the connection between Earth's Greece and the distant planet described in this epic. The story advances by selecting highlighted words in the text, but many of the branches loop back to earlier nodes and finding the new ones requires the player to navigate a tedious virtual menu maze. I'm not the right audience for this.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"This is my Memory of first Heartbreak which I can't piece back together" (review) (and one sentence review of Toiletworld)

"This is my Memory of first Heartbreak which I can't piece back together." (hereafter referred to as "Heartbreak") is an interactive graphic memoir written by Jenny Goldstick, with development assistance from Stephen Betts & Owen Roberts for the 2016 interactive fiction competition.

"Heartbreak" uses clickable graphics to tell an interactive story about, well, exactly what the title says. The graphics are well rendered, stylized minimalism. A series of animated scenes recall moments from this ill-fated relationship. When dialogue ends, the player chooses from among several graphic objects within the current scene to bring up another related memory.

Most of the scenes describe moments of conflict...episodes when the narrator should have been asking herself "why am I with this jerk?" The guy is consistently characterized as a douche-bag, and after playing several times I wished there were some scenes where I could better understand why they got together. But of course that is the nature of memory after a breakup. Sometimes we can not remember what we ever saw in the other person.

This particular tale of melancholy may not appeal to all audiences, but the team that put it together is super talented and as an artistic expression, this game is amazing. Frankly, I'm surprised there haven't been more interactive graphic novellas in this competition. The clickable graphic style of interaction is familiar, with potential to reach a wider audience than straight prose.

Finally, I mentioned "Toiletworld" in the title of this post. "Toiletworld" is a troll entry, which wasn't worth my time to write a separate review.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

To the Wolves (review)

"To the Wolves" is a Twine game written by Els White for the 2016 interactive fiction competition. There have been several Twine games this season about an inexperienced youth tasked with some hero's quest. I'm thinking of "Riot", "The God Device" and this one. Of the three, I thought this was the best.

"To the wolves" is about a child from a primitive society who is cast out of her village and left for dead in the wilderness. The tone of the story reminded me of an M Night Shyamalan film, filled with supernatural elements, dark mystery and violent ritualism. The length is appropriate for a competition entry. It offers multiple choice points, some of which seem high consequence, and some of which appear to be remembered until late in the game, affecting the end-game options. The most significant branch points are near the end. But for the most part the story follows along one main sequence with only brief alternate text reacting to player choices.

To reward replay there is an option to save up to two games, an "achievements" link that tells you what branch paths you've discovered so far, and an "endings" link that tells you which of three endings you've discovered. I was able to discover two of three endings. I did find one bug on my second play through, a branch point that ends in a dead-end with the author's note to themselves to append another entry. It's a long game, and not every player will encounter that bug.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Eight characters, a number, and a happy ending (review)

"Eight Characters, a Number, and a Happy Ending" is an interactive story written by K.G.Orphanides for the 2016 interactive fiction competition. The game was written with the Quest authoring system.

I noticed that the title contains an Oxford comma, something which made me smile. Oxford comma is a subject which has inspired some great cartoons, a dopey controversy, and a pretty good song.

A year ago, during the 2015 competition, I began to notice IF authors using a wider variety of authoring tools. The trend had been going on before I noticed it, of course. This came at the same time as a trend toward making parser fiction more accessible to a wider audience. And finally, a trend toward games which toggled between open choice input and menu driven input. I began to wonder if there wasn't some platform available which would allow players to choose how to engage with the story. Players who didn't want to type could interact with onscreen buttons or menu-mazes. Players who felt typing was simpler or more immersive could interact that way. "Quest" might be just that system.

Mild spoilers follow: