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Ratings and 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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Seven Bullets, by Cloud Buchholz
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ISIS, by Liz England
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brevity quest, by Chris Longhurst

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Time cave RPG with sparse prose, May 17, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
This is an RPG in the barest sense of the word. You choose a class. You encounter characters and go places, each narrated within the space of one line. The brevity of each passage belies a very broadly branching decision tree. In fact, given how widely stories could diverge, I found the narration of your choices in the end to be a nice touch. brevity quest makes liberal use of familiar tropes and creatures, making the reader's imagination take up most of the storytelling slack.

Several games share the text-sparse, location-based mould. A few which come to mind: The Tiniest Room, vale of singing metals or even burning temples.

What makes these worth having a look at are how they simplify foreign terrains, diplomatic moves and combat into the sparse language they use. I found pleasant small surprises, at times, when the game (brevity quest, but the others as well) showed me that it wasn't just branching blindly - it remembered the decisions that I made. Of course, this is technically very easy to do, but satisfying nonetheless.

Four Sittings in a Sinking House, by Bruno Dias

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A barroom back fable about a haunted house, May 17, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
[Time to completion: 15-20 minutes; this game doesn't work in Google Chrome]

Right. Yeah. The whole island was sinking, really. I say island because that's the official term, but if we're being honest it was more like a pretentious sandbar.


On a house on this sinking island, you perform sittings to uncover memories and, by so doing, figure out what went on in the house. Four candles flicker in the background of your choices, each one going out as you perform a sitting.

In this self-described "barroom back fable", the narrator is cynical, jaded. I got the sense that they, like the titular house, has put their glory days behind them, though having never played into cheap dreams peddled by cons,

You can perform tasks in roughly any order, but you have to uncover all available bits of memory to really figure out what's at the heart of this house. Not to give away the plot, but what's happening in the sinking house reflects the island itself: a place that free market forces took over, yet was chewed up and discarded when it lost its value.

Bruno's writing belies a keen eye for detail. The house's fallen state shows through its faded, garish fittings; the hypocrisy of the promises that were sold along with the house, in its sterility. Four Sittings is a satisfying, polished tale of urban magic, with the same sort of seriousness as, say, American Gods.

Flash in the Pan: ADHD Simulator, by Thom Simonson

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A procrastination simulation , May 17, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
This game captures the experience of continually getting distracted: there are countless detours that one might take en route to completing a necessary task.

Flash in the Pan uses its medium well: hovering over nouns gives a tangential thought, and this mechanism is used for a tiny easter egg at the end.

It reads a bit as a "normal workday simulator", though some of the choices at which one could detour - stopping to help at a road traffic accident, for example - are not exactly routine. This game is very clear, though, about how it impacts the PC's everyday life, which is perhaps the most important point.

Games in this vein are not exactly uncommon, and while there's a spark of mischievousness in some of the side remarks, little translates to the rest of the writing. This game also lacked a sense of urgency - I got a feeling overall that even if the PC was late, it wasn't really going to matter, so why should I conscientiously avoid distraction? The opportunity cost of distractions, here, was low enough that choosing tempting distraction over boring duty was a trivial one.

A more colourful take on procrastination and the lengths to which one can go to avoid responsibilities is the now-classic Violet.

The Skeleton Key of Ambady, by Caelyn Sandel (as Adalai Trammels)

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A folk tale-esque game of uncommon depth, May 17, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
[Time to completion: 15-20 minutes; full content warnings given at the start of the game]

You are Adalai Trammels, Skeleton Key, and that means that you can unlock any safe, open any door... even intangible ones. It's a surprisingly nomadic job, and you carry naught but your key and the money you earn in exchange for your gift.

There is a surprising depth and breadth as to what you can do here. Sandel deftly creates a web of conflicts in the town that has no easy conclusion, no single villain. Every decision - including the decision to action or inaction - has consequences on the townsfolk: just because you can open any lock, doesn't mean you have to open all of them.

The Skeleton Key finds strength in its structure, borrowing the cadence of a folk tale or fairy tale. Like many fairy tales, the onus is on the hero to pass moral judgement on the villain, and the power of the interactive format is that we, the player, get to decide who we condemn and who we save.

This is a particularly strong example of Sandel's work, featuring distinctive settings and nuanced, sensitive characters; further examples of her work may be found here http://inurashii.xyz/games/.

Readers interested in the folk tale style but with a taste for horror may also enjoy A Good Wick, in which you play a lamp in a town shrouded in eternal night.

Space Princess Coronation, by Marie Vibbert
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KING OF BEES IN FANTASY LAND, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy
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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.


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