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Reviews by verityvirtue

phlegmatic

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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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Murder on the Big Nothing, by Tony Pisculli

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Surreal vignette-driven Western, July 10, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
[Time to completion: 5-10 minutes]
[This game contains descriptions of gun violence.]

You’re on a boxcar, but something’s not quite right… You need to figure out why you’re here.

Murder on the Big Nothing is told through a series of vignettes, each described with enough visual detail to suggest cinematic inspirations. Indeed, there is a bit of the classic Western of it, from the storyline to the setting.

This game feels a little rough around the edges, and it felt like it ended before I had seen all the story has to offer. There was an implied puzzle (i.e. an obstacle stopping you from seeing everything there was to see), but no way I could figure out to solve it. It’s interesting enough though, and calls the reader to draw their own conclusions.

If you enjoyed this, you might like Niney, another surreal game set on a train (well, boxcars, trains… moving boxes on rails, right?).

SCP-3939 [NUMBER RESERVED; AWAITING RESEARCHER], by Croquembouche

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Monster-investigating CYOA given a self-aware twist, July 8, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
[Time to completion: 10-15 minutes]

An SCP - standing either for “Secure, Contain, Protect” or “Secure Containment Procedures“, depending on who you ask - is also a weird phenomenon or creature; an aberration. Known only by a number, SCPs are governed and classified by a generically-named Foundation which is as much bureaucracy and

The majority of the SCP wiki is much as you might expect from an encyclopaedia.

SCP-3939 - the game - follows a familiar choose-your-own-adventure style, making the stakes clear straight away. The wiki’s structure is part of the story, too, since the encyclopaedia entry appears above the game text. The more you find out about the SCP, the longer the article becomes.

What makes this more interesting is the interaction between the story and the game. Not to spoil anything, but the crux of the story hinges on the very self-aware SCP. Good fun, especially if you’re already a fan of the SCP wiki.

REALLY, IF / REALLY, ALWAYS, by Dawn Sueoka
A textual equivalent of the uncanny valley, April 17, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
This game is described as an exercise in human-mediated computer-computer interaction - based on a chat programme meant to simulate a psychotherapist.

It’s… strange. This game has the disjointed feel of a b minus seven work. Common phrases twisted into unfamiliar shapes give the narrative not much more than a direction, but not any material details. This is the uncanny valley of natural language, and Really If, Really Always delights in it.

Of all the works focusing on singularity - this is one of the most polished… and I wonder what all these works say about our vision of artificial intelligence.

AETERNAL, by massivebittrip

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A simple Twine exploration of ennui, April 2, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
As you drift through time-space, you see sights that no mortal would ever imagine... yet, it's not enough. As a god-like being, you can go out to the depths of the universe, travel wherever you like, eat every kind of food, and yet you're bored.

Aeternal's prose is slightly purple (as is the background), and its circuitous structure drives home its point. It’s a good setup and could have been an interesting setting, were there - for lack of a better term - more human interest. Something to make the player curious. Something to make the player care.

This game branches prolifically, with more content that it might seem, but it never really leads to anything concrete, and it feels like the game could go on forever, and ever, unto eternity…

Emma the Trust Fund Baby, by garcia1000

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A linear look at a pampered life, March 8, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
As the title suggests, this game is about Emma, a generically-named child of a rich family. Her sole defining characteristic is that she's a "trust fund baby", a tycoon's daughter. What she would be called in Chinese can be literally translated as "thousand pieces of gold".

For all that, the game feels colourless, populated as it is with stock phrases and characters. Emma herself has barely any background and a scant personality; she might as well be a machine. The writing is relentlessly expository, sometimes going to the extent of explaining common phrases. Even the conflicts and seamy underbelly of Emma's surroundings are neatly summarised.

It doesn't quite read as a satire. It reads more like one of those TV serials - the type that goes on for two hundred episodes, which makes you painfully aware of the actors trying to show you that they're angry, but never quite succeeding.

It doesn't help that this game is almost entirely linear, despite the fact that Emma’s extraordinary privilege gives her an unusual amount of choice of what she could do with her life. Even the choices play on gross stereotypes instead of investing the player in Emma's development. There is little sense of development, growth or humanity… and whether or not that’s part of the point is up to you, dear reader, to decide.

Black Marker, by Michael Kielstra

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Running familiar ground, January 8, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic, IFComp 2017
Black Marker is a game about censorship in an authoritarian regime. In this case, though, the redaction masks a mystery, and you can choose the types of information to censor.

This game is not the first of its kind. Other notable examples include Blackbar and Redactor. In Blackbar, you have to guess the redactor word - you play an anti-censor, where you must create meaning from what was eradicated by government censors. Redactor is probably closest in implementation, but with the added pressure of a time limit. Black Marker, however, grounds the material in its own universe, with a coherent storyline across pieces of material.

Select one piece of information, and all the phrases in the passage relating to that piece of information will be censored for you. The game penalises both censoring too much or too little, and so requires a little more thought than just clicking phrases at random. Where the game could have been stronger, though, is the emotional heart - the player character is little more than a faceless actor, and having some in-universe intrinsic motivation to do one’s job - or not do one’s job - would have heightened the tension in Black Marker.

Behind the Door, by eejitlikeme
A benign haunted house puzzler, October 28, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
You’ve been receiving a series of weird postcards. In a bid to find the person behind them, you find yourself at a very strange house indeed.

It’s the archetypal start of a haunted house story. What follows, however, could well be set anywhere else.

The cover art had me primed for Alice in Wonderland-style whimsy. I think that was the intention of the author, with the non sequitur rooms, but this game gives me the overriding impression of being… benign. The prose is quite plain and functional. The puzzles work, without being too contrived, and are reasonably logical.

The Quest interface at least provides more than one way (well, most of the time) to perform basic parser-like actions, such as moving or manipulating objects, though this was inconsistent across rooms.

This generally reminds me of Transparent, which also involves a haunted house, albeit a much more malevolent one.

Redstone, by Fred
A functional murder mystery , October 19, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
From the blurb: “A VIP's been murdered at the reservation casino. As the deputy on call, it's up to you to find the killer. You have until morning before the FBI turns up the heat.”

This murder mystery takes the form of a parser-choice hybrid, with an interface reminiscent of Robin Johnson’s Detectiveland. Settings are individually illustrated, and the system is more or less robust, with a separate conversation mode. It may not look the slickest of interfaces - it recalls, vaguely, flash web games with a touch of homebrew about it.

The stakes are not always made clear: there are hints about this being troublesome because it’s on reservation land, and about FBI involvement, but these hints never added any tension to gameplay.

I would have liked a little more flair, a little more panache in the descriptions, but overall this is a mystery which does what’s expected of it.

Swigian, by Mathbrush (as Rainbus North)

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A minimal escape, October 18, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
Swigian is a text-sparse parser game. You are an outdoorsy person of no distinct description (“You look like me” is… suggestive) and… well, let’s start by building a fire.

The player’s only stated motivation is escaping an unnamed group: “them”. I would usually prefer more explanation, but here, in this style, that is enough. You are running from them. That is all I need to know.

Objects are barely described – “That is what it is” – encouraging the player to take the writer at face value. Object manipulation for puzzles is simplified, though most of the usual parser commands have been preserved.

Solving puzzles opens up new areas of the map. While the in-game map actually covers a large area, you only ever spend a short time in each area; often, there is exactly one thing you need to do there. The writing is evocative, but firmly rooted in reality – no metaphor for this, unlike, say, baby tree, another text-sparse parser game.

Overall, a solid game which I enjoyed playing, set firmly in parser’s traditional penchant for object-oriented puzzles.

The Richard Mines, by Evan Wright
An exploration devoid of excitement, October 18, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
The blurb tells us that this is ostensibly about one or more abandoned German mines in Czechoslovakia, circa 1949. If I had been playing without that knowledge, I would never have known that.

Despite it being about discovery and exploration, the narration is devoid of excitement. The PC betrays no emotion or indeed reaction to anything. Because of that, it was hard for me to find in-game motivation to keep exploring. Most of the context comes from the blurb, in fact.

While this game could do with a little proofreading and beta-testing for functionality expected of most parser games (the game doesn't end properly, for instance), this game was not submitted without thought: relatively straightforward puzzles whose presentations suggest their solutions, and an object-based hint system. A decent entry, though using the exploration to frame a story would have given it more depth.


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