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Reviews by Kake

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All Things Devours, by half sick of shadows

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A very enjoyable puzzle game, December 18, 2007
by Kake (London, England)
Related reviews: half sick of shadows, ****
This was great fun! I don't normally enjoy puzzle-oriented games, but even though this one is pretty much pure puzzle, I liked it a lot. I've not previously enjoyed games with very tight timing (for example A Change in the Weather), but All Things Devours gives plenty of feedback when your plan goes wrong, so the level of unnecessary frustration is very low.

One criticism: I would have preferred it if the hints had been included in the game, rather than placed on a website the URL given in the game doesn't work (the correct one is http://www.amirrorclear.net/flowers/game/devours/) and so I ended up hunting around on rec.games.interactive-fiction instead, slightly spoilering myself in the process. I would have given this game five stars if it had included an integrated hints system. (NB: I did inform the author of this problem, and he's going to see if he can get the URL given in the game working again.)

Damnatio Memoriae, by Emily Short

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Short but enjoyable, November 25, 2007
by Kake (London, England)
Related reviews: ****, Emily Short
This is a very short game, solvable in a handful of moves, which takes place in roughly the same universe as Savoir-Faire (which is rather longer and more involved).

There are several ways to solve most of the puzzles, and a number of possible endings. Some endings are acceptable (you survive) and some unacceptable (you don't), but some "acceptable" endings are better than others. It's worth noting that the end message doesn't differentiate between the different acceptable endings; so if you felt dissatisfied with the way things turned out, it's worth having another go even if the game tells you you've won. (Replay is quite rewarding in general.)

I thought that the optimal way of dealing with the book seemed a little unfair and slightly implausible, but in general I thought the puzzles were quite fair.

I did like the way that even though the game is timed, things like looking and examining didn't take up time; a nice way of making the player hurry up without penalising exploration.

Deadline Enchanter, by Alan DeNiro

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Quite, quite nonstandard; won't appeal to everyone, but I liked it, November 21, 2007
by Kake (London, England)
Related reviews: Alan DeNiro, ****
I didn't think I was going to like this game when I started playing it, but now I'm extremely glad I gave it a go. I played it over again as soon as I'd finished it the first time, and enjoyed it as much if not more on the second go-round.

A number of reviewers have mentioned the sketchiness of the implementation, and some have suggested this may have been a purposeful choice, or at least one explainable within the world by the narrator having been in an understandable hurry. Now, given the backstory of the game, I have absolutely no problem with most nouns and actions being unimplemented; the problem I had was that when I got a reply from Inform, rather than from my narrator, it was jarring. Something as simple as a comment in the narrator's voice, rather than letting it fall through to the default parser response, would have alleviated this - just something that kept me immersed in the world.

Also, I didn't find the implementation sketchy so much as inconsistent. In some places, examining things brought the reward of another section of the story; in others, it was just pointless and frustrating. I think if the responses stayed in the narrator's voice throughout, it would make players more likely to examine things, rather than just mechanically work through the in-game-provided walkthrough.

And clearly this author can write! One excellent example, after you see the narrator do something that a human would never, ever do: "It hurts, but it also feels like someone is stroking your hair." (Actually, that doesn't look so great in isolation. It's better in context, but I don't want to give spoilers.) Also - "slickening"? Best portmanteau ever.

I thought the ending was disappointing. The random, nonstandard prompts were interesting, but the actual ending (well, endings - two are possible, but both have the same flaw) was generic to the point of meaninglessness. (And yes, I did notice the cues that explained who both the people in the final scene were.)

I want to make it clear that I did like Deadline Enchanter, and I do think it's worth playing; I wouldn't go on about the flaws at such great length if I didn't like it. There were typos, but I actually didn't care, for once. I just really want to have been able to give it five stars, but the inconsistent implementation and the disappointing ending meant I couldn't.

Lord Bellwater's Secret, by Sam Gordon

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Very polished and user-friendly... until the last scene!, November 21, 2007
by Kake (London, England)
Related reviews: Sam Gordon, ****
This single-room game is a good old-fashioned mystery story, in which you, as a groom in the service of a Victorian gentleman, hunt through your employer's study to discover the truth behind the death of your sweetheart.

I'm not usually all that good at puzzles, but I found most of these easy yet satisfying, right up to the very end where I found myself utterly baffled not by what I should try next, which it turns out I had right, but by how on earth I could persuade the parser to let me try it. Given the number of other reviews that have mentioned this problem, I have no doubt the author will fix this up in the next release, so I've not taken any stars off for it. I would, however, advise waiting for the next version if you don't want your immersion in the story to be interrupted by a bout of frustration right at the most exciting part.

The rest of the game was very polished. I couldn't find a single unimplemented noun; some descriptions were shared between nouns, for example the bookshelves and the books, but this is perfectly sensible and absolutely fine. (I know some people don't care about this kind of thing, but I feel a little bit more writing effort put into the parts of the scenery that people are likely to look at really makes a difference to whether a game feels solid or fragile, and I don't trust fragile games to have fair puzzles/solutions.)

Similarly, I liked the fact that it was possible to discover details of events prior to the start of the game that, while irrelevant if your goal is only to get to the ending, added colour and interest to the whole story.

My main disappointment was that what I would have seen as the optimal ending seems not to be implemented.

A Day for Fresh Sushi, by Emily Short

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
It's all about the NPC, November 14, 2007
by Kake (London, England)
Related reviews: Emily Short, ****, Speed IF
Excellently sarcastic NPC, and quite a reasonable backstory for such a short game. It's hard to believe this was actually speed IF.

Being Andrew Plotkin, by J. Robinson Wheeler

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An in-joke, but suitable for a wide audience, November 10, 2007
by Kake (London, England)
Related reviews: J. Robinson Wheeler, ****
Being Andrew Plotkin probably makes a good deal more sense if you've watched Being John Malkovich; so if you haven't seen it, you may well enjoy the game a lot less than I did. I'd definitely recommend watching the film first, if possible, since a fair bit of the amusement I got from the game came from remembering similar scenes in the film. I don't think playing the game first will make you enjoy the film any less, though; and I don't think it counts as a spoiler to note that it's certainly not a direct transplant from screen to, er, screen and the ending is quite different.

Gourmet, by Aaron A. Reed and Chad Barb

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
The most fun I've ever had with a mop, November 10, 2007
by Kake (London, England)
Related reviews: Aaron Reed, ****
Great, fun little game. The premise is that you're a chef in a newly-opened restaurant, but you're facing a few problems tonight; all your staff have called in sick, supply problems and technical issues are conspiring against you, and a hugely influential food critic is coming to dinner.

I really enjoyed playing this, especially once I realised that (despite the well-managed sense of urgency) I wasn't going to be forced to start over just for taking a while to figure out any of the puzzles. I also liked the fact that a fair few of the "silly" things I tried when I was stuck gave me amusing responses.

I couldn't find a way to put the game in an unwinnable position, and the bugs noted in the competition release seem to have been fixed in the latest one (apart from a couple of output bugs that don't affect gameplay at all). Very few typos, if any.

At the Bottom of the Garden, by Adam Biltcliffe

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Small, but quite fun, November 10, 2007
by Kake (London, England)
Related reviews: Adam Biltcliffe, ****
Short and fairly uncomplicated game, with a nice feeling of "oh noes" as the problem keeps escalating. It's worth persisting even if you feel that everything's got completely out of hand.

Aisle, by Sam Barlow

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
More than just a gimmick, November 9, 2007
by Kake (London, England)
Related reviews: Sam Barlow, ****
Aisle is rather unusual in that the game ends after a single command; the command you choose to type determines any or all of the story, the backstory, the other characters, and your own personality and motivation. I rather enjoyed it. It's certainly worth a go, since at minimum it demands only a few seconds of your time.

Bronze, by Emily Short

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting take on a well-known fairytale, November 9, 2007
by Kake (London, England)
Related reviews: Emily Short, ****
Bronze is a very user-friendly and fairly entertaining take on Beauty and the Beast. I was never once frustrated by syntax or by tedious tasks, and I really enjoyed the way that the backstory was revealed as my wanderings through the castle triggered memories and reflections of the time my character had spent there before the events of the game.

You may find that you need to draw a map, though the layout's not incredibly complicated. (You can't really get lost, thanks to the very useful "go to" syntax, which will take you back to any room you've already visited, but I found that the map helped me keep track of where I had and hadn't explored.)

The only thing I didn't like was that with at least one of the multiple endings, I felt that I'd been "cut off" from continuing, simply because of the order that I solved the final puzzles in.


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