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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 Shufflecomp Spring Thing 2015 Spring Thing 2016 sub-Q Tiny Utopias
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Bring Me A Head!, by Chandler Groover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A gem in Groover's signature grotesque, vivid style, March 5, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
You are the executioner in the Duc's palace, and the Duc wants a head. You have to get it. The problem is, the next execution is four days away, so you'll have to... improvise.

The setting is one of the strong points in this work. The Duc's palace stars inhabitants so perfectly adapted to their role, it seems they would shrivel and perish if they were removed from it. The... oozy aesthetic reminded me of Nekra Psaria (https://jayisgames.com/games/nekra-psaria/).

Bring Me a Head is, at heart, a chain of fetch quests. Talk to characters, who will tell you what you need to get them. Chandler's writing is succinct, sketching out a disgusting, baroque setting, off set by wry humour - a double entendre here (Spoiler - click to show)in, say, breaking horses, an unexpected name there.

If you liked it, I recommend a tiny utopia by the same author, Skullscraper.

Li You's Secret Admirer, by Mrs. Pollard

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A generic romance using basic Mandarin Chinese vocabulary, January 25, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
This is a deliberately simple romance story between a Chinese and an American student, intended for learners. The branching in this story branches and bottlenecks very quickly - it's a largely linear story. Is it good for learners? Hard to say.

The good: parallel sentence structures might allow readers to infer the meaning of similar sentences. Sentences are kept short and straightforward.

The bad: I saw the brevity and blandness of the writing as a missed opportunity to expand a reader's vocabulary, as well as showing a reader what lively Chinese prose can look like. For example, in the beginning, the reader can choose what impression one character has of the other. If the reader decides that they have a poor impression of each other, the resulting text simply repeats that, without explaining why.

The... questionable, maybe: I spotted at least one grammatical error. There was another which may be regionally idiomatic, translating "asking for his telephone number" as "asking how much his telephone number is" (the original: "她问王朋的妹妹, 王红, 王朋的电话号码是多少"). It's a minor point, but raises an interesting thought as to the extent to which teaching Chinese (presumably non-native) learners strongly idiomatic expressions would be helpful, if those same idioms would be considered grammatically wrong in other regional variants of the language.

There is scant intercommunication between the Chinese IF community and the English, and even putting in on IFDB is already a form of outreach. The intent of this project certainly fills up a void - few IF projects appear to be created for Chinese learners, one of which includes Wordswing (https://wordswing.com) - but the execution is distinctly lacking. With a stronger story and more natural, vivid prose, this could be a notable work indeed.

A Good Wick, by Little Foolery

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Visually attractive horror game about a doomed town, January 24, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
[Mentions violence and mutilation. Full content warnings are given on the first screen. Time to completion: 30-45 minutes]

Pyre on the Water is a doomed town, and you are one of its lamps. You've burned for three years, and that is no mean feat in a town with no more sun, in a town whose lamps must be relit by travelling knights. But it is in one of these knights who holds the town's destruction.

A Good Wick has strong writing, with the cadence of a folk tale. It makes deliberate, thoughtful use of repetition and chapter headings as transition. Characters are defined largely by their roles in the community - and the horror derived from their deviation from these roles.

This game makes heavy use of multimedia and text effects. The background flickers and writhes. Links glow like a lamp in the dark. It works well on mobile.

Sometimes, the effects that make it so visually distinct make it less than reader-friendly. The atmospheric backgrounds were occasionally distracting, and some of the links were hard to find - although that may well have been the intent. There seemed, sometimes, to be so many transition headings that it broke up the flow of the story.

Nonetheless, A Good Wick is a visually rich, haunting folk tale - without the immediacy of games like 1181, but with a song-like cadence.

Masks, by lioninthetrees

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fairy tale-like story about a greedy magpie, with illustrations, January 10, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
Masks tells a charming, fairy tale-like story of a magpie who encounters various woodland creatures (all with alliterative names - Margaret the mouse, Owen the owl...) who have some problem or another. The story is linear, with branching via binary choices: to help, or not? As befits a fairy tale, of course, the morals are simple - ignore people in need at your own peril, with potentially terrible consequences; as befits a fairy tale, too, the 'right' action is equally simple.

Most of the story text is integrated into the illustrations, while choices are in text-only screens, which struck me a being a bit jarring. It would have been lovely if the layout was more responsive: removing the sidebar, for instance, or allowing resizing.

Nonetheless, Masks is worth clicking through if you're looking for a fairy tale told straight, with pastel-hued illustrations.

Ash, by Lee Grey

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A midlength meditation on a parent's dying, January 8, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic, IFComp 2016
[Time to completion: 20-25 minutes]

Ash is about watching someone die. The PC, here, is getting to grips with their mother's proximity to death; the prevailing mood is deep weariness. The writing is stark, the descriptions minimal. The links mostly appear in conversation, and their brevity suggests that both the PC and their mother have long since exhausted most conventional conversational topics.

Institutional healthcare looms large in this story. Healthcare professionals appear mostly as faceless, nameless, taciturn individuals, delivering bad news bluntly and awkwardly, referred to in aggregate, making the hospital seem not even like a prison, but a mechanised facility. Ash emphasises how no one knows what is going on, how no one cares enough to look up from the charts and see how patients are doing, how bureaucracy strangles good medicine. The result is claustrophobia, a sense of being trapped.

Ash illuminates an aspect of illness not often touched on in games, and despite everything, despite everything, remains hopeful.

vale of singing metals, by foresthexes

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Tiny maze in a harsh landscape, January 1, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
Time to completion: 10-20 minutes

Written for Porpentine's Twiny Jam, vale of singing metals presents a dream-like maze in a strange landscape. Landmarks like boiling streams and oil lakes give the impression of a volcanic landscape, life creeping in fields of grass and flowers. And, yes, it is that now-rare thing in IF, a maze. Yet, it feels less of a hassle than an exploration through an empty space.

vale of singing metals is a lovely little piece, scenic in the way that Kitty Horrorshow's work is, and an interesting take on how mazes can be implemented in very little space.

The Periwink, by Jedediah Berry

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A delightful, sinister exploration , January 1, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
[Time to completion: 15-20 minutes]

You are a groundskeeper on the last day on the job. The majordomo demands it be so.

The Periwink brings the player through surreal, toothy, quietly alive landscapes, somewhat like a pastel-hued Porpentine work. The monuments in The Periwink are not neutral or even benign, but if you treat them right, they will return the favour.

As groundskeeper, the viewpoint character knows much more about the perils of each monument than the majordomo, which forms a foil to his casual arrogance. But the groundskeeper also knows a lot more than the player - hence, while the player may have control over the PC's actions, the first-time player cannot guess at the motive or implications of those actions.

The horror here is understated; the writing, a pleasure to read. For someone who loves rambling around alien landscapes, this was a delectable treat.

Bus Station, Unbound, by Jenn Ashworth & Richard Hirst

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A highly branching interactive novel exploring a liminal space, January 1, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholy
You're going home for Christmas, for the first time in years, if only to make up for all the damaged relationships you've had over the years. But the snow is coming down hard, and your next coach is likely to be delayed.

The authors describe this substantial, large work as primarily an interactive novel, but it works as a vaguely open-world exploration as well. There are lots of optional 'side quests' and characters with whom you can interact; exploration opens up different endings and storylines.

But this is built on an emotional heart, reflected in the parallels between the PC and the building. The location's brokenness reflects the PC's own. The shoddiness of the building itself, the glitchy machinery, the inertia of the buses, even the irritable, argumentative NPCs: aspects of these are reflected, in some way or other, in the PC's own relationships with their family and in their own life decisions. Perhaps even the liminal nature of the bus station - a space characterised by transition and impermanence - reflects how the PC stands on the cusp of something new.

The theme of symbolically rich buildings, buildings as containers for ideas, is not a new one. This idea, for instance, is taken more literally in Bruno Dias's Four Sittings in a Sinking House. In both, the titular building reflects brokenness elsewhere: it is the PC themselves in Bus Station, Unbound, while it is the owners' material worship in Four Sittings.

Something else I enjoyed in reading this were the contrasts and almost-contradictions in the bus station's 'characterisation'. It is described in ways that sit uneasily with each other. It is at once a "monstrous waste of money", but also a structure of "pale concrete petals", "heartlike" in its action. The storylines invite comparison between Preston Bus Station's mundanity and terror, human warmth and mechanical coldness.

There's a lot to explore here in Bus Station, Unbound.

Cat Simulator 2016, by helado de brownie

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
You are a cat. Find a place to nap., December 28, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
[Time to completion: 5-10 minutes]

Fun fact: in the past two years, there have been at least one game with 'cat simulator' in its title. What's not to like? It's certainly fun to speculate on cats' motivation for their inscrutable behaviour, and since domestic cats live in such proximity to humans, it does make one wonder what they think of us, as a species.

In this cat sim, the titular cat is a lazy domestic cat looking for a spot to nap. It's broadly branching, largely relaxing and self-aware: 'good' and 'bad' endings are indicated as such (although is there really a bad ending, if you're still a cat at the end of it?); there is even a list of AMUSING things to do, as in some parser games. A short, pleasant diversion.

Spellbound, by Adam Perry

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Changing reality with spelling, December 27, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine, Introcomp
In this wordplay-based game reminiscent of Counterfeit Monkey, you have been tasked with retrieving the 23 letters of the alphabet not currently known to man. In this world, spelling takes on a much more concrete role. 

It's a good premise, supported by enough puzzles to showcase the author's ingenuity and reflect the depth of imagination. Importantly for a potentially sandboxy game, Spellbound handles error messages pretty well, though in some cases the solutions to the puzzles were not as informative as it should have been. The game, though, feels complete: there's a path to the ending, and the proposed expansions involve making the game comprehensive. 

It's an impressive effort, and while some of the locations feel like a bunch of narratively-relevant objects just rained down on them, I imagine it would be good if you liked Emily Short's Counterfeit Monkey or Dubbin and Parrish's Earl Grey, and are a Scrabble fan. This is one game that I would love to see finished.


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