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Ratings and Reviews by streever

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2604, by Admiral Jota
streever's Rating:

The Roscovian Palladium, by Ryan Veeder

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Rats! No, the good kind: another delightful trip to Veeder's rat world, February 27, 2017
by streever (America)
You're a talking rat on a secret mission so secret that you aren't sure what it is. Well, the rat know, but you the player do not. First order of business is to enter the human museum looming before you and to figure out what's going on.

The start seems to lack urgency or a clear hook: you're a rat in front of a museum. It's my only criticism of this otherwise excellent piece, full of rich detail and little flourishes. Despite the cold open, the rest of the work is engaging and compelling, and shines brightest in the little moments. Examine a painting and receive a mini-meditation on the differences between rat and human culture. It's world-building, but it's seamlessly interwoven with the character and sounds like an authentic internal monologue.

Typical of Veeder's work, this piece has a strong sense of place and location to match the strong character voice; the layout feels like museums I've been in, and felt real and well-described with only a few rooms.

There is an awful lot of STUFF in this piece, nearly all of it without mechanical utility, but examining it deepens the themes and brings the entire work to life. I loved just poking about the rubbish, not knowing if I'd find anything of utility, and getting a small window into the head of the protagonist. As is also typical of Veeder, this lets him occasionally break the fourth wall, making it clear that even though we may not know much about the secret mission, the protagonist certainly does.

Near the end, a mini-combat game appears, a well hinted and mechanically sound diversion that further enriches the entire experience.

It's a short work, taking about 15 minutes to explore, and the brevity is another strength, working well with the theme and focus of the rat's quest.

I highly recommend this strong, short, piece, which works despite the lack of a strong or clear hook. Lack of an opening hook is fairly common in Interactive Fiction, where readers are expected to find their own route in, and it only really stands out in this piece because it otherwise feels very welcoming to new players, with helpful guidance in a pane on the right-hand side, and a tightly-defined scope. I feel like the best IF for first-time readers has a strong hook and sense of initial urgency, but I'd still encourage you to play this despite that lack.

Nights in Boulder, by Zane Fulton
Engaging piece with an interesting premise, February 22, 2017
by streever (America)
This is an interesting Twine work with an engaging premise, more what-happened than whodunnit. The best aspect is the plotting and pacing: much of the work pulls the reader along and creates a tense, suspenseful experience.

I think the weaker points though are the way the work skips backwards in time: it sometimes works, but other times frustrated me and killed the momentum.

Characterization sometimes felt a little flat. Typos and some over-used language contributed to this, but I felt somewhat disconnected from the character. Despite that, there were several scenes where characterization was strong: at one point in the work I tried to pick the more "noble" or "appropriate" path, and was pleasantly surprised by the protagonist refusing to follow the order. There were a few scenes like this throughout the piece that reinforced the character and I thought these improved the overall work. I didn't have a strong sense of place, but that may be an unfair assessment. I didn't get a sense of Boulder, the setting felt more like a generic urban setting.

Audio, video, and interface all score high and were satisfying.

I didn't find the plot entirely convincing, particularly in the second half, which I thought wasn't as strong as the first half. I think this is a good but uneven work, that could benefit from a little tightening up, but should appeal to fans of Memento-like themes and questions of memory and identity.

The House Abandon, by jonNoCode

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short horror game with impressive sound and visual design, February 16, 2017
by streever (America)
This isn't a pure text adventure: it's a simulation of a text adventure, coded in Unity, with a fairly static visual background that changes alarmingly as the story unfolds.

The entire experience gives off a "Stranger Things" vibe, from the Stephen King-esque typeface to the Tangerine-Dreams inspired ambient electronic music playing in the background.

The parser was frustrating at times: it seemed to struggle to understand very similar commands, but was workable, and thankfully there are no convoluted puzzles or complex verb/noun issues.

The overall experience was short and well-plotted. I think the central conceit is one that could easily grow stale, but the author ended this perfectly, while the idea was still novel, frightening, and evocative.

This is a very cool work that plays with nostalgia and horror in very satisfying ways.

Superluminal Vagrant Twin, by C.E.J. Pacian

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A True Space Captain, February 14, 2017
by streever (America)
"So I've made a reasonably large (broad but shallow is how I'd put it) parser game set in space."

This expectation-lowering premise introduction kicks off one of the best RPG-style works of Interactive Fiction I've ever read. The author uses the term "shallow", but I'd say minimalist; dozens of characters, locations, and alien races are described in terse, pared-back prose. These well-written and plotted scenes are engaging and evocative, pulling the reader into a richly imaginative world.

The UI/UX can sometimes be clunky if only because the reader expects more--more commands, more fiddly-bits, more fussing--but the work on the whole is much stronger for paring back the parser functions to the bare minimum. This would be an incredible introductory work to bring a mainstream gamer into Interactive Fiction.

I love the dialogue, the settings, the environment, and the atmosphere. I love the way the game sets the tone and personality of the protagonist by placing you squarely in such a difficult situation. The missions, quests, and interactions all reinforce this central narrative of a scrappy and plucky pilot about to turn their luck around.

Don't stress too much about perfect completion: the game lets you continue when you finish the main story, to accomplish the side quests and achievements. I highly recommend this genre-crossing experimental work to anyone, with no caveats or warnings. It's really excellent.

Detective City, by Plus Ultra

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Surreal and comic HTML based work about disgraced detective, February 8, 2017
by streever (America)
This hilarious piece is loaded with comedy, both in contextualized situations and laugh-out-loud lines. After tracking down a particular crime to a group of babies, for instance, and relentlessly bullying them into helping my gumshoe earn back her previously good reputation, I was treated to the line, "I can see into your soul, sucky baby. I see into it, and I find it wanting."

The entire work is infused with this sort of silliness, taking place over a variety of declaratively-named locations: ArtistCity is a city of artists, and your home location, DetectiveCity, is a sprawling metropolis of detectives and gumshoe tropes.

The protagonist needs to collect enough Detecto-Points over the next 10 days to keep her job after an embarrassing blunder, hinted at but never explicitly detailed, known as "The Noodletown Incident". Each day is a chapter, initiated by choosing where you'll spend it: you can work a case or take an oddball detour into criminal enterprises, anarchy, or other weird segues.

Each day involves some type of event, ranging from cases (classic logic problems re-styled as mysteries and solved through multiple choices) to embarrassing interactions with your co-workers. After a day, you'll be awarded detecto-points, either stolen, earned for your work, or gifted by a colleague or NPC.

After the ten chapters, the work concludes in a courthouse battle where you can take actions based off of your earlier successes, before you receive a score and the credits appear.

The game mechanics are incredibly satisfying, and the randomization and wide number of paths makes this a very replayable work.

I highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys quirky, silly writing and fun Interactive Fiction.

Chasm Simulator 9000, by hoverpope

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Strange little Twine piece about being a hole in the ground, January 30, 2017
by streever (America)
This is a fun, odd little Twine work where you are a hole in the ground, faced with existential questions but continuing to grow and develop.

It's definitely a one-note piece: existential questions are raised but never answered, and there isn't enough material here to even try to answer those questions. What are you? What does it mean that you can choose to grow deeper, cozier, or deadlier? Why do these concepts interest a hole in the ground?

This silly little piece may have been an experiment, or a test lab for a new twine user, or just a silly idea that grew into a longer piece. It's fun and amusing, and shuts off one or two paths by restricting your final choice to only one of the three.

I enjoyed this, but am not sure that I'd really recommend it; as a silly gag piece, it may be slightly too long. I'd either try to add a little more to the actions, or pare it down and make it even more self-aware/tongue in cheek.

Queers in Love at the End of the World, by Anna Anthropy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Brave experimental piece, January 29, 2017
by streever (America)
This incredibly short (10 second!) piece experiments with time as a constraint, something rarely seen in Interactive Fiction.

A fast and constantly dwindling 10 second countdown speeds you along as you click through the options, expressing your love and living the last few seconds of a romance as the world ends. Wisely, the end of the world--the whys, the hows, etc--isn't examined. The time constraint means it can't be, letting the story of doomed love take center-stage.

I found the experiment at times frustrating, because I was racing through prose; but I think that's a form of success here, as it meant I re-played several times, trying the same and different paths.

A Fire Darkly: Chapter 1, by Louis Rakovich

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Strong debut work in Twine, January 26, 2017
by streever (America)
(I was very politely asked to review this piece by the author, who I do not know, via email. I was very happy to comply.)

Rakovich is clearly a practiced writer, and writes skillfully minimalist descriptive prose about the unearthly dream world the player character is exploring.

I enjoyed the way that traditional parser concepts were transferred to a hypertext work, but am not sure if they were totally successful. Travelling by compass direction in hypertext feels strange--I think it'd be more effective if the movement was clued to what you might expect to find. ("Walk to the river", "Walk towards the clearing", "Walk into deeper forest"). Other aspects, from the hypertext friendly puzzles to the mechanics of "looking away" from things you'd investigated, worked better and added to the atmosphere.

While I enjoyed this piece and am looking forward to the next one, I do think the opening is a rougher spot than the rest of the work. Broadly speaking, it's well-written, but I didn't feel the sense of urgency or agency I hope for in the best IF. I'm told that I'm probably lost, but I don't remember where I was going or how I got here, and given a very binary choice between north and south.

The amnesia open is basically a trope, but it's fine, honestly, as long as I have a sense of urgency and curiosity about who I am, which should start building in that first paragraph. I don't think this piece did that. The choice to go north or south feels meaningless, and in fact, going north just results in the message that it's too dark, so I have to turn around and go south.

I think the opening should probably give me a better sense of the stakes behind my first choice, and make it feel meaningful, or continue the intro and make it a 'click to continue' without the false choice created. Perhaps an explanation that the woods are dark, and the only visible path is left--click to continue--would improve this.

The work becomes far more compelling almost immediately, when a scent leads you to a traumatic memory. I would encourage the author to get to this moment quicker, and to use it as part of the urgency. Why this memory? Why this experience, at this time? Does the memory remind the narrator of anything unfinished/unresolved? Perhaps the disorienting walk through the woods is to figure out something unfinished from that early memory--that would definitely give me a greater sense of investment right off the bat.

Despite the rough opening, this is a strong work, especially after the first memory surfaces, which left me with questions and an interest in completing the future parts.

On categorization: I'm not sure I agree with the label of psychological horror here. That's not criticism of the work, I just wonder if a better label exists?

In any event, I recommend this piece, and appreciated it's clean, minimalist prose and strange, unsettling atmosphere.

Patrick, by michael lutz
Creepy surreal hypertext work, January 17, 2017
by streever (America)
Lutz is one of the best Interactive Fiction writers right now due to his strong voice and sense of pacing. This piece takes the amusing, yet common, idea that everyone has a doppelganger and extends it into a slightly disturbing, slightly creepy, work, that makes me smile when I reach the end.

The pacing is aided by the breaks in text and the minimal interactivity--simply clicking the link to progress--throughout the work. Large, bold type over dissociative photos of people in everyday scenes whose faces have been blurred out adds to the creepy atmosphere, while making the text readable and compelling.

I don't think this piece would work by many other writers. What turns a fairly simple, one-note piece into something greater is the strength of the writing, particularly the voice of the narrator.

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