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Reviews by verityvirtue

phlegmatic

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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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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.

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.

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

2 of 2 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.

What to Do When You're Alone, by Glass Rat Media
It knows what you're thinking, December 11, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic, ECTOCOMP, ECTOCOMP 2016
[May mention suicide, abusive relationships, self-loathing. Time to completion: 5 minutes]

What to Do describes a Google with sinister intentions - one which sees through the user's seemingly innocuous searches to the doubt and fears behind it. Perhaps it is the intimacy of a search engine that fuels this idea, and the fact that we might address the search engine as we would a friend, and indeed, in the starting screen, the engine introduced itself by saying, "Don't worry about keywords; just talk to us like we're a friend.". It's the ultimate natural language processor, isn't it? These games ask, "What if your ultimate reference, your personal librarian, was thinking, remembering, learning?"

While it may be superficially and mechanically similar to Josh Giesbrecht's Awake, the intent of this game's search engine is unambiguous. Awake's search engine is wide-eyed with wonder. This is actively malicious - this was written for ECTOCOMP, after all.

The text effects are normally much maligned, but are used especially thoughtfully here, making What to Do work well as an interactive vignette of a sinister encounter.

Kinsale Horror, by Arek Arktos

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short, conventionally creepy game about a deserted seaside town, September 11, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
[Time to completion: 10 minutes]

You are a lone hitchhiker stranded in Kinsale, the gourmet capital of Ireland. The longer you stay, the weirder things get.

This brand of horror blends elements which wouldn't be amiss in Welcome to Night Vale or Stephen King. There's much which is familiar here: Your standard hollow bells soundtrack. Sinister, suspicious villagers. People behaving weirdly.

The prose is clipped, terse. The author uses small elements - a shop sign, a smell - to build up atmosphere. The setting is grounded by specific details: shop names, landmarks. The ending was... witty, to say the least. It's a relatively short one, so well worth a try if you like Stephen King-style or Lovecraft-style deserted towns with strange happenings.

Three Dragons, by Tim Samoff

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
RPG-style game with slick text effects, September 6, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic, sanguine
Three Dragons was designed as a micro-RPG, and is a technically polished Twine with slick text effects. This game has several of the hallmarks of a usual RPG: there's an inventory system, combat, and a completely characterless PC.

Two things of note: stats are presented qualitatively, not quantitatively, meaning you see "You are in good health" or "The dragon is stable" instead of numerical values for health, or any other stat. This, for me, kept it from being a numbers game - it signalled that trying to keep track of health lost and damage dealt was not the point. What you have are tactics: do you feint, or swipe with your weapon, or retreat?

Second, combat is in realtime. This lends a sense of urgency to the fight: if you delay, your options dwindle. In IF and text-based combat games, this is a rare thing indeed.

So far, I haven't found any way to get anything resembling a 'successful' ending, though it's not actually clear why. Three Dragons feels like an introduction more than anything, but it introduces some interesting system which I wouldn't mind seeing in future works.

Singular, by Gritfish
Compact, well-conceptualised RPG, July 31, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
This entry in Twiny Jam uses the 300 word limit and a endlessly looping structure (similar to It is Not So Much a Story) to create a landscape. It's remarkably evocative, and in terms of content, it's similar in spirit to vale of singing metals.

Singular is well-conceptualised and, like The Tiniest Room, makes full use of the 300 word limit. For its size, there is progress, of a sort. There is a world to explore in little chunks. Take a little more time than you might and you might discover something unexpected.

Redactor, by Austin Auclair, Katie Atkinson, Laura Buda, Teddy Rodger, Catherine Shook, Brent Stansell
Time-based puzzle set in Orwell's 1984, June 25, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
Time to completion: 15-20 minutes

Redactor is based on George Orwell's 1984, where you are a worker in the Ministry of Truth who is charged with changing written history to suit the party's needs. The task itself is simple; you simply click on what needs to be changed. The trouble is, it's all time-based, and you'll need a quick eye to find all the keywords - and it's not always easy.

The key mechanic is ingenious and well suited to Twine. Timing adds tension, interaction with NPCs adds tension; the subtlety of the job adds tension (when it goes from redacting all mentions of a certain name to changing bad news to good, it can get fiddly).

Ideal for those who enjoyed (or at least fascinated) by the world of 1984 and would like to explore it from an insider's perspective.

Heretic Pride, by laika
An intimate view of the apocalypse, May 24, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
Time to completion: 20-30 minutes

This game reminded me strongly of porpentine's Ruinness, with its multiple protagonists and deliberate strangeness. Like porpentine's worlds, institutions are mostly faceless, cruel, unsentimental; mystic symbolism is commonplace; place details are but sketched out.

Here, you attempt to stop the end of days. There's no narrative conflict more often thrown around: after all, what bigger stakes could there be besides the end of the world?

Heretic Pride's view of the apocalypse is intimate, gentle. There is less of dramatic world-saving, more conversation. Who do you miss, one character asks. How was your childhood. Heretic Pride is a phlegmatic/melancholic read, with a focus on building a spare, gentle mood.


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