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Reviews by verityvirtue

melancholic

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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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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.

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.

Inheritance, by rosencrantz

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Portals as just another room, August 31, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
Yulia’s inherited a ring from her beloved grandmother - one which opens up portals to other worlds.

Inheritance draws on what is now surely a familiar concept of portals to other worlds. These other worlds, however, are never anything more than sketched out, and encounters with NPCs feel like a fever dream… or perhaps just a little transparently like an NPC encounter. They have exactly one message to impart, not that Yulia can actually interact with them, and then she’s off.

Yulia can only agree or disagree with NPCs, and/or move somewhere else. In this game, she is forever running away from something. Yet, without a clear story direction, exploration becomes a thing to do to find an ending instead of being intrinsically motivated. Being able to see portals merely expands the story map, instead of being a tool for achieving some goal.

Inheritance is prettily styled, though one might wonder if this formatting could have been put to more intentional use. One of the many other games which plays with the idea of portals is Invisible Parties by Sam Kabo Ashwell, which brings out the idea of worlds being tangled and messy, with consequences which matter to the PC, a bit more than Inheritance does.

Honeysuckle, by Cat Manning

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A mid length Texture game about escaping an abusive relationship , July 10, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
[Mentions abusive relationships. Time to completion: 15-20 minutes]

Being the wife of an august wizard brings its own dangers.

The PC is wife to the wizard who is now her husband. They were, if not colleagues, then teacher and student, yet he dismisses her own “unruly” research, allowing her to continue only because “it seems to please her”. This echoes sexist assumptions of skill common to numerous other fields - from game development to medicine - which often casts women as the amateurs, forever the apprentice to their male counterparts. And, most notably, she plays into this as well, describing herself as an amateur.

The use of the verb ‘consider’ turns an invasion of privacy into something more like observing, but it quickly becomes clear that the PC’s husband is not who he says he is, that the PC is not /safe/, that prying is the only way to survival. Unusually for Texture games, Honeysuckle is strongly location-based.

What I most enjoyed - if one may call it ‘enjoyed’ - was the subversion of the traditional player as the chosen one, the powerful one, the one with the gifts. In Honeysuckle, the PC is, initially, utterly disempowered. She is the apprentice, the junior one, the amateur. She is the humble one - the /humbled/ one - who does not speak up because she knows few will listen.

Honeysuckle stands up as a modern retelling of Blackbeard: a predatory husband; the PC just one in a line of victims. The difference, of course, being the outcome. In the same way, this game has similar themes to Sara Dee’s Tough Beans. Both have female PCs who are babied by their male partners, and both find their salvation in his destruction. But where Tough Beans is unambiguous in its outcome, Honeysuckle is a little more ominous: each of its ending branches is wracked with uncertainty.

Honeysuckle is a game about alchemy and escaping domestic peril, and it is straightforward in that front. Several aspects of the story, however, are far from fantasy for a significant part of the population. Although its ending is ambiguous, Honeysuckle envisions the possibility - with both means and opportunity intact - of escape.

The Imposter, by Enrique Henestroza Anguiano
A short vignette of a man, bereft, wandering in Paris. , April 17, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
The Imposter uses Windrift’s mutable text to create a rhythm, and the prose flows with an easy rhythm. The distortion of the everyday added to the feeling of disorientation pervasive throughout this piece. The Imposter is dynamic fiction, and of a kind particularly well-suited to Windrift - a pleasure to read.

If you enjoyed this, you might like Patrick, by michael lutz.

Confessions of an NPC, by Charles Hans Huang

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The people behind fantasy adventures, April 8, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
This game is split into several vignettes of the player-character talking with several characters. These are often the peripheral roles in your classical fantasy adventure story: the people that make the story possible, but who rarely get any other role in the story. Characters like the mother of a villain, speculating what made him become that way; or a commoner, who’s put his heroic days behind him.

Some might find this game preachy. It’s monologue-heavy and quite topical - some of the topics it mentions have been at the forefront of the public mind in recent months, and appropriate content warnings are provided at the start of each vignette. Given that the player must read through at least five of the initial six vignettes to progress, though, it seems a little contradictory though.

A point of interest - each vignette ends with a binary value judgment, and you must explain yourself. It could either be gimmicky or thought-provoking, depending on how you view it.

Confessions is very linear, with a mixed bag of a setting - there are hexes and monarchies, mechas and chatrooms. Although there are several points which could put off a player looking for polished games, Confessions does still take a slightly unusual approach to fantasy adventure.

Map, by Ade McT

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Space as metaphor, April 1, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
[Time to completion: >1 hour]

[Content warnings for mentions of abortion, child death]

In Map, you play a fed-up housewife in a subtly mutating house. Space, here, is used to reveal memories. As the reader learns more about the PC, the more the house expands to accommodate that, and each new room offers a chance at atonement. Just as space moves non-linearly, time creeps strangely. If you know Pratchett’s metaphor of the Trousers of Time, or think of decision-making as creating forks in a timeline - it’s very much like that. Just as the PC can enter new rooms in the house,

The themes in this game reminded me of Sara Dee’s Tough Beans, or, a more recent example, Cat Manning’s Honeysuckle. All of these feature female protagonists who have been dutiful and responsible doing what was expected of them until they were all but forgotten, until some catalytic event drives them to change.

In Map, the protagonist is much less involved, on the micro level. The rooms you discover let the player relive key decision-making moments in the PC’s life, but once you enter a moment, you can simply wait for it to get to the only choice you have: a binary yes/no choice. Without this, though, the game might have swollen to an unmanageable size, so the limited agency is more strategy than anything else, and on a conceptual level, this does work - how many times have you wondered what would have happened if you’d made a different decision?

The scope of this game is narrow and deep, delving into the emotions underpinning life-changing moments and distilling these moments into a fork in a very personal timeline. Some bits went way over my head (the rubber plant, for instance), but overall it was an ambitious, thoughtful piece.

The World Turned Upside Down, by Bruno Dias
A cosy, gritty New Year's vignette, March 23, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
[Time to completion: 10-15 mins]

A New Year's Eve offering from Bruno Dias, set in the same world as Cape and Mere Anarchy.

When I played this for the first time, I had barely played the games referenced here, so why did it appeal so much to me? It's something about being a refuge from chaos, a safe place where those who put things right can rest - for now. The characters are weary, but at peace.

Its size and scope are kept deliberately small: the verb set is pared down to three verbs; the setting, to one room. But that one room suggests an entire world - one the player gets to know through its people rather than its locations. For a New Year’s Eve story, The World Turned Upside Down doesn’t point so much to hope for the year ahead, as it does to the fixing of past wrongs.

Disclaimer: I identify, to a frightening extent, with one of the characters.

Heretic Dreams, by Hannah Powell-Smith
Survival and betrayal in a frozen wasteland, March 23, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
You are a pathfinder, responsible for the survival of this ragtag group by determining where they should go next. But this ability, this gift - it threatens to tear you apart as well, because you aren’t quite what people think you are.

In Heretic Dreams, you must challenge your changing nature, and decide whether humanity is a source of strength or a necessary obstacle. Heretic Dreams is not quite survival story, not quite horror, although there are elements of both. It feels like distant footsteps on freshly fallen snow; like dark clouds congealing on the horizon promising thunder.

Do you lure trouble away with yourself or stick together? Is it possible to get out of this unscathed? It’s hard to tell. Nonetheless, the narrator’s position within their community and their proximity to the leader gives your choices a sense of impact.

A well-written, grim story about leading your community to the promise of a better land.

Fabricationist DeWit Remakes the World, by Jedediah Berry

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Hope after the apocalypse, March 22, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
You are a Fabricationist, and you are the last of your kind. And now, you have awoken from your centuries-long slumber… and you have a visitor.

This game looks and sounds beautiful. Its soundscape is vaguely industrial, all hollow metal booms and gratings and the squeal of an untuned radio; the backgrounds are swimming watercolours.

This post-apocalyptic salvation story has an emotional heft that transcends the usual stakes implied by a post-apocalyptic story (the loss of life as we know it), thanks to the interactions - the give and take, really - between the narrator and an unexpected companion. Alone, who would have mourned the Fabricationist’s passing, or celebrate his achievement?

This remains one of my favourite games, for its message of hope in the midst of apocalypse is sorely needed these days.


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