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Reviews by verityvirtue

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View this member's reviews by tag: choleric ECTOCOMP ECTOCOMP 2016 IFComp 2015 IFComp 2016 Introcomp Ludum Dare melancholic melancholy parser phlegmatic Ren'Py sanguine Spring Thing 2015 Spring Thing 2016 sub-Q Tiny Utopias
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The Elevator Game, by Owlor
An enjoyable take on the urban legend, November 7, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: choleric
Trapper is a private detective of the equine variety, and he’s been called in to assist the police in investigating the mysterious death of the mare Serene Lotus, who was seen to be behaving oddly before her death…

Like Owlor’s other games, this game borrows the anthropomorphised pony aesthetic of My Little Pony, but really it’s a neat noir/horror mix based on the urban legend of the Elevator Game, and evidently by the stories surrounding Elisa Lam’s death.

If you’re familiar with the urban legend, then it will perhaps be the implementation rather than the reveal of the core mystery that draws you in. If you aren’t: look past the benign-looking illustrations to the weird and horrifying amongst the mundane. Owlor’s line illustrations are used to great effect here (note, though, that the illustrations are not described in the text), and the screenplay-like format gives the sense of distance, of watching in from a CCTV ourselves.

The Elevator Game is a satisfyingly creepy implementation of an urban legend/creepy story that has made its rounds in certain corners of popular media.

Something, by Linus Lekander
Vague exploration of a state of mind, November 6, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
This game is something like All I Do is Dream by Megan Stevens from last year’s IFComp. The insomniac PC must decide whether to get out of bed, because of a lingering urge to wash themselves - despite having already done so. This game is a bit vague, but it’s an attempt to describe a particular state of mind. It ended, though, before it could get into the meat of the matter.

That said, short, one-topic games like this make up the IF ecosystem, even if most of the IFComp games tend to be more ambitious. I am grateful they exist. I am glad the tools exist to allow people to create games without any expectations of form or substance.

Something is much smaller in scope than the typical IFComp game, and a little forthrightness could have turned it into a sharp, glittering small thing.

last&final, by 1beetle
Fatigue opens the eyes, November 6, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
The student rushing a big project has been the subject of many a game. Perhaps it’s an extension of the My Grubby Apartment trope. Perhaps it reflects a certain IF-making demographic. It’s not always well-done, but last&final is a creditable contribution to this ‘genre’.

This genre often gives, at most, a vague nod to the actual content of the project, focusing rather on the peripherals, often procrastination. But here, describing the incremental steps required to create a facsimile of real life adds to the creepiness. When machines have a precision far beyond human perception, how do you know you’re imitating real life details? Where does the border between mimicry and wishful thinking stop? Might you spend all your life fiddling with tiny details, only to notice that you were creating something totally alien?

last&final uses deliberate choice placement to create a rhythm in the prose. Combined with the disorientation of being alone in a big building with its own rhythms and seeing a part of its life you never otherwise see, and personal experiences of fatigue-sharpened senses, last&final presented a creepily plausible horror story.

Corrupter of Dreams, by Robert Patten
Manipulating dreams for good or evil, November 6, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
You are a parasite. You manipulate dreams — no, you corrupt them. In this brief game, you have just one target, one dream. But although you bring corruption and fungal decay, your target’s circumstances make the decision to corrupt a bit more complex, both because the consequences of corruption are not initially clear, and you can stop the corruption at any time.

Corrupter of Dreams is succinct, but manages to establish the PC’s motivation and the key dilemma early on. Without this dilemma, this would have already been an interesting game; I enjoy one-verb or limited parser games because of its limitations and the subversion of parser conventions of offering as many synonyms to make it as player-friendly as possible. But introducing a reason not to go down the obvious route made the route that much stronger.

This is a short, simple concept executed well within its contraints.

Inevitable, by Matthew Pfeiffer

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Very brief subversion of an escape room adventure, November 3, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
You are a maverick (and frankly dangerous) scientist, and, at long last, you have your crowning glory: the time scryer! Allowing you to see into the future - well, ten minutes - it might finally be your way out of obscurity…

The premise - which you might have guessed from the “escape your fate adventure” description - was intriguing. I’d expected something like (Spoiler - click to show)My Angel or The Art of Fugue, which play around with delayed actions, but Inevitable is so short that that never really comes into play. There simply isn’t space for repeated themes, because there’s no space for repetition.

This game’s style is jocular in the way that, say, Peregrine Wade’s work is. Its brevity means that the humour and style never gets overbearing; on the other hand, the payoff could definitely have been more dramatic.

I’ll admit that I’m not fond of the “mad scientist” genre. Works in this genre rarely seem to acknowledge the incremental nature of empirical scientific research. Also: unappreciated brilliance does not a maverick scientist make — rather, it is the lack of accountability; the refusal to document anything; the insistence on unsafe practices. But that has little to do with this game - so that’s all I will say now.

Behind the Door, by eejitlikeme
A benign haunted house puzzler, October 28, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
You’ve been receiving a series of weird postcards. In a bid to find the person behind them, you find yourself at a very strange house indeed.

It’s the archetypal start of a haunted house story. What follows, however, could well be set anywhere else.

The cover art had me primed for Alice in Wonderland-style whimsy. I think that was the intention of the author, with the non sequitur rooms, but this game gives me the overriding impression of being… benign. The prose is quite plain and functional. The puzzles work, without being too contrived, and are reasonably logical.

The Quest interface at least provides more than one way (well, most of the time) to perform basic parser-like actions, such as moving or manipulating objects, though this was inconsistent across rooms.

This generally reminds me of Transparent, which also involves a haunted house, albeit a much more malevolent one.

The Very Old Witch and the Turnip Girl, by Megan Stevens

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The pastel-hued story of a world-weary witch, October 28, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
You play a very old witch who’s not quite at the end of her life… and she feels like something is missing.

Witchcraft, here, runs along the lines of Pratchett’s practical, world-wise witches. Our witch is fully equipped with hexes and curses, but also browses mail catalogues for entertainment. Her attempts at plugging the gap in her life are quite old-style witch, though, including seeking out motherhood. Women finding their fulfilment in motherhood is not a new story. This game subverts it - though I would have been delighted if this had been lampshaded with a bit more of the spunk that the witch PC herself shows.

The Very Old Witch eschews anything more than a veneer of branching narrative, making this mostly a work of dynamic fiction. Nonetheless, it’s not too tedious to click through this linear story - and indeed I think I would have enjoyed this as a short story. There are areas where I would have appreciated a more biting wit - the titular characters don’t quite take things lying down, yet this isn’t always conveyed so well in their dialogue. Overall, The Very Old Witch reads with the simplicity of a children’s story, with some uniquely urban/modern twists.

Rainbow Bridge, by John Demeter

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Cosy, almost seasonal short parser game, October 27, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
It’s Christmas, or thereabouts, and you have to go… but first, you need to charge up your sceptre. Well, at least that’ll give you some precious last minutes with your boyfriend.

Rainbow Bridge is a cosy treasure hunt - cosy both in scope and in-game universe. For something focused on colours, though, I had expected more… colourful descriptions; it seems a little bare at the moment. The game would definitely benefit from a little editing; a few more details would give the impression of a much richer world.

There are some touches which made this game a little more interesting - the choice of names, for instance - though the premise struck me as a little… cheesy. Still, a pleasant, well-meaning game.

The Wand, by Arthur DiBianca
Pared-down puzzling, October 27, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
DiBianca's Inside the Facility won Miss Congeniality in last year's comp, featuring a huge in-game map, a pared-down parser and puzzles which involved not much more than the simplest object manipulation.

The parser in The Wand is similar, with well-circumscribed limits to what verbs might be used. This time, though, we have a much smaller map and a configurable wand to play with, which gives the player different abilities, paring down the parser further.

Puzzle clues are given abstractly, like Flash escape room games of yore. Object manipulation is more complex, since the player can do more with each object. Puzzle-solving in The Wand doesn’t quite have the same snappiness as In the Facility, but there’s some nice framing of the central game premise here.

The Wand is overall a polished game, with a streamlined puzzle system. If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy Sub Rosa by Joey Jones and Melvin Rangasamy.

Redstone, by Fred
A functional murder mystery , October 19, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
From the blurb: “A VIP's been murdered at the reservation casino. As the deputy on call, it's up to you to find the killer. You have until morning before the FBI turns up the heat.”

This murder mystery takes the form of a parser-choice hybrid, with an interface reminiscent of Robin Johnson’s Detectiveland. Settings are individually illustrated, and the system is more or less robust, with a separate conversation mode. It may not look the slickest of interfaces - it recalls, vaguely, flash web games with a touch of homebrew about it.

The stakes are not always made clear: there are hints about this being troublesome because it’s on reservation land, and about FBI involvement, but these hints never added any tension to gameplay.

I would have liked a little more flair, a little more panache in the descriptions, but overall this is a mystery which does what’s expected of it.


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