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Ratings and Reviews by verityvirtue

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View this member's reviews by tag: 2018 choleric ECTOCOMP ECTOCOMP 2016 IFComp 2015 IFComp 2016 IFComp 2017 Introcomp Ludum Dare melancholic melancholy parser phlegmatic Ren'Py sanguine Spring Thing 2015 Spring Thing 2016 sub-Q Tiny Utopias
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Phone in Mouth, by Leon Arnott

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Surreal cyberpunk-esque thought experiment/cautionary tale, September 13, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: choleric
This is a surreal story about… having your phone in your mouth. It’s more cyberpunk than it sounds, promise, and delivers a complete narrative arc in not very many words at all.

Arnott captures the craving for that rush of neurotransmitters that social media is designed to deliver, but transforms it into something a bit more insidious. (Spoiler - click to show)The titular phenomenon (yes) forms a whole subculture by itself, into something meshed into the fabric of society.

Phone in Mouth is less of a fully-formed dystopian story, but almost more like a thought experiment. It ponders what wearable technologies could possibly look like, then what it might look like when it all goes wrong. It is a little on the nose as a cautionary tale, with shades of 1984 - but then again, looking behind the scenes at companies like Amazon seems to suggest that whatever you can imagine, there’s probably a company doing worse.

Bloody Raoul, by Caleb Wilson (as Ian Cowsbell)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Comic violence with an ornate edge, September 12, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: choleric
The game world suggests one accustomed to sudden, almost comic violence, where one’s weapons are identity. The comic aspect, however, takes some of the edge (ahem, mind the pun) off: to aid surgery, for instance, the PC comes with a “pectoral zipper”.

The world described here is festering and disgusting, but with the embellished, ornate language, the terse phrasing, we readers are, at least, one step away from all that.

(Spoiler - click to show)It is striking that there are no completely happy endings here. There is no escape to a less violent future - not without relinquishing your identity as a knife punk. As much as I would love to see more in the same universe, I get the feel that this universe is most intriguing in small snippets.

Bloody Raoul is brutish and short, but not nasty at all. If you liked this, you might like The Unstoppable Vengeance of Doctor Bonesaw, from the same author.

Hexteria Skaxis Qiameth, by Gabriel Floriano
Some ideas about language untethered to story, September 9, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
This is a game about forming words and the nature of language. You can flick through clusters of syllables to form nigh unpronounceable words which later form the names of languages and places.

It calls to mind, for me, Emily Short’s procedurally generated almanac, The Annals of the Parrigues, as well as the style of 500 Apocalypses. The style is slightly formal, as one might find in a Borges short story. Polysyllabic words dot the prose like raisins in a bagel. HSQ includes the phrase “it's [sic] decipherment like a feverish hallucination”; the same applies to reading this game sometimes.

HSQ will probably make more sense if you’re familiar with linguistics concepts. Languages can be formed with different “basic units of thought”, and so on. And all this would be fascinating if there was a chance to use this knowledge practically.

Dear reader, there was not.

HSQ presents some rather interesting and original ideas, but without a narrative arc to bind everything together, remains an idea - an interesting one, but not quite a story.

Missive, by Joey Fu

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A large Twine game with optional word puzzles, September 9, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Missive starts with the familiar my-grubby-apartment setting, but really it's about a murder mystery wrapped in word puzzles - armchair detective work at its finest. An alternative headline for this would naturally be "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

The puzzles are optional, not connected, and of the cryptic crossword type. A phrase in the text might prompt the reader to look for, say, every third letter of each word. These were pretty fun, even if most of the puzzles were completely unintelligible to me.

Good if you like cryptic crosswords and lots of wordplay loosely connected to plot.

Yesterday, You Saved the World, by Astrid Dalmady
A subverted magical girl story with surprising parallels, September 9, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: choleric, sanguine
[Time to completion: 15-20 minutes]

Yesterday explores what happens when the excitement over and the gilt is peeling. You are Lucy Newman, in eighth grade, but yesterday you were a Stellar Warrior. You had to face off The Void alone. And today, you have to wake up and go to school.

Two groups came to mind, reading this, who would probably identify with the PC strongly.

The first: those labelled as “gifted” in childhood. The burden of expectation from family, school, society lies on you, but you get all the wrong support. All the support to develop your abilities - to win all the competitions, ace all the exams - and too little to equip you emotionally and psychologically.

The second: those who do jobs that require them to run towards danger - emergency services, healthcare, mental health services, social work. You are the help that people call for. Sometimes you face things that terrify you, absolute disasters on a scale big or small, and you run out of resources, knowledge and wits. Yet, you can’t abscond from your responsibilities, and when you go back into the “normal world”, you have no words to explain to your friends outside this line

Structurally, Yesterday flashes back and forth between the PC’s life as a schoolgirl and her previous magical girl life. This is further set off by a parallel choice structure. Yesterday also uses the limited choices afforded by the CYOA format to illustrate character development.

Amongst many other things - a vivid protagonist, thoughtful design, a subversion on the magical girl narrative - Yesterday is a really good example of how a choice-based narrative can play with choices to reinforce the story.

Relic, by Caelyn Sandel
A strange little artifact indeed, September 9, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
[Briefly mentions a nearly abusive relationship. Time to completion: 15-20 mins]

Relic is a largely linear piece of interactive fiction about a salvage collector who chances upon an incredibly valuable figurine - but there appears to be something wrong with it…

Relic is set in a universe that melds cyberpunk technology - think handsets and novel plastics - and earthy magic, but the technology and even the magic merely forms the backdrop. The world building details are more of a focus and filter for social issues and tensions that also exist in our current world. What matters, then, is the people, and the story.

Sandel’s conception of the lore and traditions around the salvage community will doubtless be familiar to anyone who has even dabbled in such interests as stamp collecting and comic books - those interests commonly relegated to “hobby” status, but which attract lots of gatekeeping. In particular, those who purport to maintain quality within the community disproportionately exclude minorities.

Relic may look plain at first glance, but this would be to overlook a cracking good story.

How To Be A Blackbird, by Holly Gramazio
Finding beauty in the small things, September 1, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
[Time to completion: 10-20 mins]

The blackbird is one of the most common birds, certainly in the UK, but surprisingly beautiful in the right light. Its feathers are black speckled with white, or so glossy black they shine blue; they are small but complete, and perfectly formed.

Holly Gramazio’s How to be a Blackbird captures the same sense of finding beauty in the smallest of things, using playful text effects, a stream of consciousness style of writing, even the background noises that make up this game’s soundtrack.

This game is a pleasure to play: it is a world not without worries, but with no bad endings, starring a character incredibly comfortable in their own body (with the glossiest feathers and the prettiest song).

Winter Storm Draco, by Ryan Veeder

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A grimly playful exploration of a winter landscape, September 1, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
Winter Storm Draco is a moody traipse through an over-snowed path, but with some strange sights on the way.

Winter Storm Draco is a game that is well-suited to its format. It plays on one of the strengths of the parser format, by allowing the author to wrench control from the player at key moments - first in navigation, when even the compass directions so ubiquitous in parser games mean nothing; later, in the end-scene.

I relied on the walkthrough in several parts but mostly there were textual clues enough to let a reader canny with parser game conventions to proceed without too much difficulty.

It has the signature self-referential, dry wit that came through so markedly in Nautilisia, though Winter Storm Draco is a little more introspective, a little grimmer. Overall, enjoyable and atmospheric.

Doki Doki Literature Club, by Team Salvato

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Subverting visual novel conventions with a dark story, September 1, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: choleric
[Content warning: depicted violence, suicide.]

In Doki Doki Literature Club (DDLC), you’re invited to join your neighbour’s tiny after school club, the literature club. Even though your only exposure to literature is reading manga, the club members themselves are each compelling in their own way.

Much has been written about this game, by people who are much more familiar with visual novels than I am, so I won’t feign familiarity with the conventions of the visual novel genre. But judging from this game alone, it seems that visual novels, like parser games, are good at signalling inevitability. Unlike parser games, they can do this with long stretches of dialogue-heavy storytelling without any choices. DDLC uses this to its advantage, using its episodic format to set patterns and break them.

This game is deliberately vague in its advertising about its content warnings, since those are spoilers in themselves. These are big heavy subjects that the game mentions, though, and it’s mostly used as plot point rather than being discussed.

Some gripes, then. Some of the story elements didn’t feel gelled together. In particular the poetry-writing felt like a flimsy justification for the premise. Additionally, the way this story handles mental illness is pretty superficial - more plot point than anything else. This attitude is endemic in horror fiction in general. We can do better.

DDLC is probably more worth playing for seeing how the visual novel format can be subverted than for its actual storyline, and for its questioning of the divide between player-character and player. It displays some clever tricks, but tends to use violence and mental illness as a shock tactic. Lynnea Glasser’s Creatures Such as We also explores such metatextual issues, but far more thoughtfully.

All Hail the Spider God, by Nelson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
You and all the Yous you've left behind, August 31, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
[Time to completion: 15-25 mins]

You play an arachnoid deity, who flails against your environment. Despite your greatness and your manifest ability to manipulate the forces of nature, you have no name; you are incomplete.

You play a high priest, whose devotion slowly becomes undermined by their discontent. Or puns. It’s hard to tell.

This is a game that probably would only work in text. Nelson’s feather-light touch balances comedy and seriousness. Only in his games would you be able to pull off a pun battle in the middle of a Serious Religious Ceremony.

All Hail switches between perspectives, softening the boundaries between the identities of the two PCs. Because who is the Spider God?

And… who are you?


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