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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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Bloodless on the Orient Express, by Hannes Schueller

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short riff on vampires, September 21, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
Written for ECTOCOMP, Bloodless is a short game which takes inspiration from - what else? - Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. You play a vampire on board a delayed train. Someone's had the life sucked out of them, but it definitely wasn't you. Time to investigate!

Bloodless may not be hugely surprising, but is a solid, short game, with light-hearted, bare-bones narration along with relative straightforward puzzles, of a variety familiar to IF.

Bloodless, being set on a train, has a spatial layout similar to the long, featureless corridors so beloved to this genre, but grouping rooms into carriages chunks them into more memorable sections. Bloodless is a pretty entertaining, bite-sized riff on the vampire genre.

Secret Agent Cinder, by Emily Ryan
A tongue-in-cheek historical fiction/adventure hybrid, September 13, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
[Time to completion: 15-20 minutes]

You are Cinderella, and you must infiltrate the ball to steal the King's secret military plans - and fret not, it's all in aid of the revolution!

The visual novel-style illustrations define the tone of the story and, in parts, deliver information relevant to the story. You, intrepid reader, will need to pay attention to detail, and, like me, you may get imprisoned a few times before figuring out how to escape in one piece.

The directions were my main stumbling block; I had trouble correlating compass directions, map and directional arrows. Otherwise, though, this is a fun one.

Taking about fifteen minutes' playtime for a runthrough, Secret Agent Cinder would make a great lunchtime game - mischievous, well-executed and often surprising.

Krypteia, by Kateri

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A neon-tinged allegory , September 13, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic, choleric
[Time to completion: 15 minutes. This game mentions violence and harassment.]

You leave the village, defying the wills of the "wise men", in search for the heart of the forest. You have nothing, and danger presses in all around.

Krypteia sounds like an allegory, using both the language of adventures and quests, and the familiar language of the "monsters" and the "wise men" will likely be familiar to femme-presenting folk, who are, for instance, so often told not to dress a certain way, lest they invite trouble ("You can't go out dressed like that, the wise men told you. The monsters will tear you apart.").

The theme of metamorphosis suffuses Krypteia. This game diverts based on a single dichotomy: stealth or fierceness. Do you blend in, or do you confront? I found it striking that despite the approach you choose, the PC still loses her identity.

The language used here blends imagery of the wilderness with that of the night-time city, filled with leering men and streetlights. This is also interpreted literally in the ever-moving graphics. Building on that, symbols usually associated with femininity were, here, weapons.

With its purposeful text styling, graphics and sound effects, it is no surprise that Krypteia was nominated for a XYZZY in Best Multimedia, but it is also allegory, social commentary, kinda-fairy tale and a story of personal growth.

You are Standing at a Crossroads, by Astrid Dalmady
The ground shifts under your feet, August 20, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic, phlegmatic
You are standing at a crossroads. Wherever you go, you will end up at a crossroads.

The writing is memorable: evocative language, unsettling imagery. Visit a location twice, and it opens up. Enter. Participate. Maybe, finally, you'll discover where you are. Some locations recall childhood - a playground; a zoo - but all are deserted. There is a semblance of life, but you never get to see it for yourself.

Quiet piano music, links which set the pace and mutable text illustrate a place which changes only when you're not looking, which constantly keeps the ground uneven under your feet.

In the pattern of my father's long, long legs, Crossroads presents itself as an unsettling, low-interactivity twine. As dynamic fiction, one tends to ask, would this work as static fiction?

Perhaps not. Not without a way to set a reader's expectations, and let the reader discover how they might be broken.

Inventory, by Joey Fu

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A lesson in making do with what you have, August 17, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
You start out trapped in a dungeon - not an unfamiliar scenario - with a long list of possessions. Not all of them are tangible.

The basic idea behind this is simple enough: choose the right belonging, and you'll move on. The right object is not always obvious, however, and the error messages are unhelpful (probably due to the word count). The landscapes that this game traverses are often surreal non-sequiturs, leaving me to suspect that the inventory objects might have come before the story.

Inventory uses the aesthetic of old-school parser - monospace font, green words on black background, even a command prompt - but I think making it choice-based streamlined the actual process of using the objects.

(Spoiler - click to show)The heart of this game is escape, and it is elegantly brought out - yes, even in such a brief game as this. Escape is always in service of a goal, marks the start of a journey. But escape, here, demands a price: every time you escape from something new, you must give something up. (In this aspect it is tangentially reminiscent of Cat Manning's Invasion.) For what end? Is it worth it? For me, this made Inventory feel much more substantial than a 300-word game should be.

Predictions of a Strip Mall Psychic, by Jake Elliott
Telling the future in Texture, August 14, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
This game was one of the first few games written in the current incarnation of Texture, presumably meant to showcase Texture's strengths and capabilities. At the moment, these are very similar to that of a limited parser. Like a limited parser, Texture lends itself to focusing on a small collection of verbs while giving the reader some ability to interact with the environment (compared to, say, purely choice-based games), and it is used here to simulate making and redirecting conversation, to surprising effect.

There is an elegant twist in this, and it's pleasingly circular, topping off the whole game like the proverbial cherry on the ice cream. Predictions is brief and very largely linear, but hides a positively delightful surprise.

KING OF BEES IN FANTASY LAND, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
KING OF TROPES IN PASTICHE LAND, July 23, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
[Time to completion: 15-20 minutes]

You are a space knight. Earth has been laid to waste, and you are one of many setting out to discover new inhabitable planets. This planet on which your space pod has crashed seems ideal - if it weren't for the evil bees!!

This is a pastiche-y work by Hennessy similar to You Will Select a Decision by the same author, both featuring consciously imitated writing styles/speech patterns and a delight in subverting and lampshading tropes.

Conscious effort has been made with the styling. 8 bit fonts shout retro; typos and awkward sentence structures suggest a non-native English writer - a similar tactic used in You Will Select a Decision. (Spoiler - click to show)The plot twist is reflected in a major change in style - which is reflected even in details like the number of choices.

A bite-size game - ideal for a lunch break, maybe - in a cheerfully weird sci-fi setting.

The Unstoppable Vengeance of Doctor Bonesaw, by Caleb Wilson (as Lewis Blanco)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A artfully crafted toy box with some hidden depths, July 23, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
In what is essentially a one-move game, you play the unfortunately-named Doctor Bonesaw, who has finally uncovered the names and locations of the four people who have ruined his life. Finally, vengeance is his! (or even !!)

The writing leans toward the absurd, but never gets a chance to be over-the-top. In the spirit of The Northnorth Passage, there is really only one thing you can do; the parser's illusion of choice is just that - an illusion. (Spoiler - click to show)Mostly. Even the illusion of space is an illusion. It would have been fun if more objects in the starting location were implemented. If you think simply and act simply, it feels just too short to make the final move, however inevitable, feel satisfying.

There are, however, hidden depths to this compact game.(Spoiler - click to show)It's pretty well-hinted textually, so if might be worth going back to it a few times to see if you can, in fact, stop the inevitable.

Elixir, by Zoyander Street
Go through hell to assume your true form., July 23, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
You have gone an ocean of souls and crossed the underworld all for this: the Metaphysician. Only the Metaphysician can help you ascend to your true form.

The subject matter - identity - gives the story an added sharpness. The story Elixir tells is beyond just parlaying with demons and dealing with paperwork. The PC can only fulfil their true form with the approval of a Metaphysician - a third party who knows nothing about the PC - and this comes only if the PC's behaviour must jibe with the Metaphysician's seemingly arbitrary criteria. Why? The Metaphysician is the only distributor of the titular elixir. What real-life parallels this has is left as an exercise for the reader.

One notable aspect of this game is the use of Infernal, a conlang (constructed language) with its own grammar. Its Latin-like construction and its heavy Gothic font set the tone for the setting. This Hell is gothic, ornate, yet detached, its horrors hidden more in paperwork than in demons. Goat-headed, hornèd beasts hold no more terror than unnecessarily complicated bureaucracy.

The use of the conlang creates an asymmetry in the reader's and the PC's knowledge. When choosing how the PC responds to NPCs, the reader can only guess at the meaning of each of the choices. You can't choose the 'right' answer; you can't plan ahead; all this makes the Metaphysician's unsaid, inscrutable criteria for dispensing the elixir frustratingly unreachable.

Definitely an underrated game about creating identity and throwing off the shackles of the system. It's short, maybe insubstantial in scope and length, but glances off some very real present-day issues.

The Little Lifeform That Could, by Fade Manley

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An affectionate take on the evolution/building sim genre, July 20, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
You start as a single-celled organism, wriggling in primordial ooze, but by making decisions on your approach to other cells and what to eat, you slowly build up an organism, then a population, then a civilisation. A game with a similar premise is Epitaph, although that approaches the evolution of civilisations from an outsider's perspective, while this is very much an insider's view.

Systems-wise, it might be the most similar to Evolve; both use quality-gated choices. It's a good fit for the platform. While Evolve aims to be educational and brings the reader through the actual nuts and bolts of evolution and other concepts, The Little Lifeform takes a much looser view of the science, with a whimsical touch. Hats feature greatly.

A polished, simple game - could make a longish lunch break game.


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