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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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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.

Masks, by lioninthetrees

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fairy tale-like story about a greedy magpie, with illustrations, January 10, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
Masks tells a charming, fairy tale-like story of a magpie who encounters various woodland creatures (all with alliterative names - Margaret the mouse, Owen the owl...) who have some problem or another. The story is linear, with branching via binary choices: to help, or not? As befits a fairy tale, of course, the morals are simple - ignore people in need at your own peril, with potentially terrible consequences; as befits a fairy tale, too, the 'right' action is equally simple.

Most of the story text is integrated into the illustrations, while choices are in text-only screens, which struck me a being a bit jarring. It would have been lovely if the layout was more responsive: removing the sidebar, for instance, or allowing resizing.

Nonetheless, Masks is worth clicking through if you're looking for a fairy tale told straight, with pastel-hued illustrations.

Cat Simulator 2016, by helado de brownie

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
You are a cat. Find a place to nap., December 28, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
[Time to completion: 5-10 minutes]

Fun fact: in the past two years, there have been at least one game with 'cat simulator' in its title. What's not to like? It's certainly fun to speculate on cats' motivation for their inscrutable behaviour, and since domestic cats live in such proximity to humans, it does make one wonder what they think of us, as a species.

In this cat sim, the titular cat is a lazy domestic cat looking for a spot to nap. It's broadly branching, largely relaxing and self-aware: 'good' and 'bad' endings are indicated as such (although is there really a bad ending, if you're still a cat at the end of it?); there is even a list of AMUSING things to do, as in some parser games. A short, pleasant diversion.

Spellbound, by Adam Perry

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Changing reality with spelling, December 27, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine, Introcomp
In this wordplay-based game reminiscent of Counterfeit Monkey, you have been tasked with retrieving the 23 letters of the alphabet not currently known to man. In this world, spelling takes on a much more concrete role. 

It's a good premise, supported by enough puzzles to showcase the author's ingenuity and reflect the depth of imagination. Importantly for a potentially sandboxy game, Spellbound handles error messages pretty well, though in some cases the solutions to the puzzles were not as informative as it should have been. The game, though, feels complete: there's a path to the ending, and the proposed expansions involve making the game comprehensive. 

It's an impressive effort, and while some of the locations feel like a bunch of narratively-relevant objects just rained down on them, I imagine it would be good if you liked Emily Short's Counterfeit Monkey or Dubbin and Parrish's Earl Grey, and are a Scrabble fan. This is one game that I would love to see finished.

Molly and the Butter Thieves, by Alice Grove (as Cosmic Hamster)
A tasty parser tidbit in fairyland, November 10, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
Someone - or something - has been stealing your butter and you, dairy farmer extraordinaire, are going to find out who.

Molly and the Butter Thieves is a well-designed, lovely game drawing on fairy mythology: there's the insubstantial but beautiful fairy castle; there's the thieving, mischievous, capricious fairies themselves.

There are some noteworthy design decisions - the first being the FOLLOW command, which allows you to follow NPCs, and a nifty trick which (Spoiler - click to show)allows you to wander around only in places the NPC leads you. This creates the feeling of messiness, of space, without having to implement every single bit of it.

Similar to The Warbler's Nest, content-wise, Molly and the Butter Thieves has relatively small game locations (i.e. number of rooms) and the actions the player needs to do to progress are clearly stated. Where The Warbler's Nest turns dark, though, Molly and the Butter Thieves keeps light, by keeping the stakes relatively low - it's more about protecting what's yours rather than rooting out an unwanted visitor in your home. Despite its brevity, there are still sufficient interactions with NPCs and environmental details to make it feel like a small slice of a vibrant world.

Breakfast on a Wagon with Your Partner, by bananafishtoday
Short, dialogue-focused Twine about hope in the apocalypse, September 26, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine, melancholic
This is a short, cosy Twine set on the back of a wagon, in which the PC and their partner discuss their future. It's been a while since the apocalypse happened, but you're alive, and the town up ahead is a new opportunity...

The setting borrows elements from Westerns, though it is not unique to them: travellers on the road, never knowing what lies ahead, being separated from human company for prolonged periods at a time.

There is something comforting about discussing what seems so trivial, so individual despite the world crumbling all around you. There is something comforting in planning for the future at the end of the world, and even more so in the NPC, Sam, who responds to even the most cynical of conversational options with good grace. Emphasising that is a gentle soundtrack, partly guitar, partly sounds of nature.

Design-wise, this game features the thoughtful use of colour schemes - with different colours for each speaker - and cycling links to present conversational options.

A peaceful, intimate diversion, not unlike laika's Heretic Pride.

Cryptophasia, by Alan DeNiro (as L. Starr Voronoi)
Selling Viennese pastries in space, September 21, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
[Time to completion: 20-30 minutes]

This cyberpunk-styled Twine is based on the Shufflecomp release. I could not access version 1.5.

You are a space baker in a galaxy where everyone's voice is surgically removed at birth. For entertainment and relaxation, people watch ASMR videos; in fact, people have implants to enhance the effect of such videos.

This game is broadly branching, with a few major decision-making points leading to different and distinct endings. The author has really thought about the setting, here, and merges the incongruous (Viennese pastries, ASMR) with the typically dystopian (a great plague, a disfigured people) to create something wonderful.

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.

Seeds and Solutions, by Caelyn Sandel
Interpreting clues and gathering plants, September 4, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
[Time to completion: 10-15 minutes]

In this small, exploration-based Twine, you are apprentice to root-mother Manya, and in exchange for story, you must help fetch herbs. The challenge here is in interpreting the indirect clues to match the description of the plants you find.

This game is relatively simple, and certainly has few frills. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this; I've found precious little IF about botany and plants (apart from Starry Seeksorrow; recommendations would be welcome), even though the act of collecting plants suits itself well to the traditional treasure hunt mechanic.

Uncle Zebulon's Will, by Magnus Olsson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Solid puzzle game with humorous bits, September 2, 2016
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
[Time to completion: 45-60 mins]

Your Uncle Zebulon has died, and while you're sure you were his favourite nephew, he bequeathed you just one item - it can be any item from his house, but you can only take one out. Your relatives have been all over the house, though, so will there be anything left?

This game is one of the games I've played this year with longer parser puzzles. One of the reasons I have stayed so far from these is because I am very bad at visualising and manipulating machines in IF - I do better when I can actually move things with my hands, which is a bit of a feat in IF. The puzzles here, however, are well-hinted. As befits an old wizard's house, Uncle Zebulon's Will makes use of some simple mechanics which work once, but are consistently implemented.

The writing is enjoyable, and I know some have called it terse or economical. This was typical of the time, but it felt natural to me; also, as others have mentioned, the one NPC that you get to talk to feels convincingly bored, with in-character 'error' messages when the player breaks the game's rules (most notably being the one object restriction when exiting the house).

A very solid game with good implementation and enjoyable writing. Would safely withstand the so-called test of time.


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