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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 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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Victorian Detective, by Peter Carlson
Mildly entertaining detective romp, January 22, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
Time to completion: 45 mins - 1 hour

One of the top-rated games on textadventures.co.uk, Victorian Detective has you take on the persona of a distinctly Sherlockian police detective to solve a murder.

The structure of the game is, intentionally or not, very similar to the Conan Doyle stories, in that the titular detective makes an impressive but slightly far-fetched inference about some tiny observation, which determines the entire course of the investigation. Victorian Detective rewards detailed reading by carefully firing Chekhov's guns, even if the clues given are sometimes frankly esoteric (Spoiler - click to show)(I don't know, but can you identify the smell of haddock compared to other fish? This isn't Toby's Nose!).

Although this game predates Toby's Nose, the way both games get the reader to come to their own conclusions is quite similar, and indeed constructing a web of clues for the reader to pick apart is no mean feat.

This game is relatively well thought out. Occasional illustrations add a whimsical tone to the story, and in at least one point serves as a plot point. Not the most solid mystery, but mildly entertaining.

Off the Rails, by Katie Benson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Going down a familiar route, January 19, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine, IFComp 2017
You're on the train to meet your family for the weekend, and the thought fills you with dread.

The cover suggests a cutesy story aimed at younger readers; the blurb suggests something deeper, with a hint of unhappy family life.

Vague allusions to emotional baggage (at least in the branches that I played through) and a mundane beginning taps on a common urge in IF, though not necessarily the most attention-grabbing. Infrequent binary choices are sprinkled in the midst of linear text. The sheer amount of linearity actually hides the broad branching, and players might be put off from replaying by the verbosity. Conciseness would have helped this game, but at least one of the branches is weird enough to warrant all this.

Off the Rails has some good ideas, but could be more compellingly presented.

Inevitable, by Matthew Pfeiffer

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Very brief subversion of an escape room adventure, November 3, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
You are a maverick (and frankly dangerous) scientist, and, at long last, you have your crowning glory: the time scryer! Allowing you to see into the future - well, ten minutes - it might finally be your way out of obscurity…

The premise - which you might have guessed from the “escape your fate adventure” description - was intriguing. I’d expected something like (Spoiler - click to show)My Angel or The Art of Fugue, which play around with delayed actions, but Inevitable is so short that that never really comes into play. There simply isn’t space for repeated themes, because there’s no space for repetition.

This game’s style is jocular in the way that, say, Peregrine Wade’s work is. Its brevity means that the humour and style never gets overbearing; on the other hand, the payoff could definitely have been more dramatic.

I’ll admit that I’m not fond of the “mad scientist” genre. Works in this genre rarely seem to acknowledge the incremental nature of empirical scientific research. Also: unappreciated brilliance does not a maverick scientist make — rather, it is the lack of accountability; the refusal to document anything; the insistence on unsafe practices. But that has little to do with this game - so that’s all I will say now.

The Very Old Witch and the Turnip Girl, by Megan Stevens

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The pastel-hued story of a world-weary witch, October 28, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
You play a very old witch who’s not quite at the end of her life… and she feels like something is missing.

Witchcraft, here, runs along the lines of Pratchett’s practical, world-wise witches. Our witch is fully equipped with hexes and curses, but also browses mail catalogues for entertainment. Her attempts at plugging the gap in her life are quite old-style witch, though, including seeking out motherhood. Women finding their fulfilment in motherhood is not a new story. This game subverts it - though I would have been delighted if this had been lampshaded with a bit more of the spunk that the witch PC herself shows.

The Very Old Witch eschews anything more than a veneer of branching narrative, making this mostly a work of dynamic fiction. Nonetheless, it’s not too tedious to click through this linear story - and indeed I think I would have enjoyed this as a short story. There are areas where I would have appreciated a more biting wit - the titular characters don’t quite take things lying down, yet this isn’t always conveyed so well in their dialogue. Overall, The Very Old Witch reads with the simplicity of a children’s story, with some uniquely urban/modern twists.

Rainbow Bridge, by John Demeter

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Cosy, almost seasonal short parser game, October 27, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
It’s Christmas, or thereabouts, and you have to go… but first, you need to charge up your sceptre. Well, at least that’ll give you some precious last minutes with your boyfriend.

Rainbow Bridge is a cosy treasure hunt - cosy both in scope and in-game universe. For something focused on colours, though, I had expected more… colourful descriptions; it seems a little bare at the moment. The game would definitely benefit from a little editing; a few more details would give the impression of a much richer world.

There are some touches which made this game a little more interesting - the choice of names, for instance - though the premise struck me as a little… cheesy. Still, a pleasant, well-meaning game.

The Wand, by Arthur DiBianca
Pared-down puzzling, October 27, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
DiBianca's Inside the Facility won Miss Congeniality in last year's comp, featuring a huge in-game map, a pared-down parser and puzzles which involved not much more than the simplest object manipulation.

The parser in The Wand is similar, with well-circumscribed limits to what verbs might be used. This time, though, we have a much smaller map and a configurable wand to play with, which gives the player different abilities, paring down the parser further.

Puzzle clues are given abstractly, like Flash escape room games of yore. Object manipulation is more complex, since the player can do more with each object. Puzzle-solving in The Wand doesn’t quite have the same snappiness as In the Facility, but there’s some nice framing of the central game premise here.

The Wand is overall a polished game, with a streamlined puzzle system. If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy Sub Rosa by Joey Jones and Melvin Rangasamy.

Bloodless on the Orient Express, by Hannes Schueller

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A short riff on vampires, September 21, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
Written for ECTOCOMP, Bloodless is a short game which takes inspiration from - what else? - Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. You play a vampire on board a delayed train. Someone's had the life sucked out of them, but it definitely wasn't you. Time to investigate!

Bloodless may not be hugely surprising, but is a solid, short game, with light-hearted, bare-bones narration along with relative straightforward puzzles, of a variety familiar to IF.

Bloodless, being set on a train, has a spatial layout similar to the long, featureless corridors so beloved to this genre, but grouping rooms into carriages chunks them into more memorable sections. Bloodless is a pretty entertaining, bite-sized riff on the vampire genre.

Secret Agent Cinder, by Emily Ryan
A tongue-in-cheek historical fiction/adventure hybrid, September 13, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
[Time to completion: 15-20 minutes]

You are Cinderella, and you must infiltrate the ball to steal the King's secret military plans - and fret not, it's all in aid of the revolution!

The visual novel-style illustrations define the tone of the story and, in parts, deliver information relevant to the story. You, intrepid reader, will need to pay attention to detail, and, like me, you may get imprisoned a few times before figuring out how to escape in one piece.

The directions were my main stumbling block; I had trouble correlating compass directions, map and directional arrows. Otherwise, though, this is a fun one.

Taking about fifteen minutes' playtime for a runthrough, Secret Agent Cinder would make a great lunchtime game - mischievous, well-executed and often surprising.

KING OF BEES IN FANTASY LAND, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
KING OF TROPES IN PASTICHE LAND, July 23, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
[Time to completion: 15-20 minutes]

You are a space knight. Earth has been laid to waste, and you are one of many setting out to discover new inhabitable planets. This planet on which your space pod has crashed seems ideal - if it weren't for the evil bees!!

This is a pastiche-y work by Hennessy similar to You Will Select a Decision by the same author, both featuring consciously imitated writing styles/speech patterns and a delight in subverting and lampshading tropes.

Conscious effort has been made with the styling. 8 bit fonts shout retro; typos and awkward sentence structures suggest a non-native English writer - a similar tactic used in You Will Select a Decision. (Spoiler - click to show)The plot twist is reflected in a major change in style - which is reflected even in details like the number of choices.

A bite-size game - ideal for a lunch break, maybe - in a cheerfully weird sci-fi setting.

The Unstoppable Vengeance of Doctor Bonesaw, by Caleb Wilson (as Lewis Blanco)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A artfully crafted toy box with some hidden depths, July 23, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
In what is essentially a one-move game, you play the unfortunately-named Doctor Bonesaw, who has finally uncovered the names and locations of the four people who have ruined his life. Finally, vengeance is his! (or even !!)

The writing leans toward the absurd, but never gets a chance to be over-the-top. In the spirit of The Northnorth Passage, there is really only one thing you can do; the parser's illusion of choice is just that - an illusion. (Spoiler - click to show)Mostly. Even the illusion of space is an illusion. It would have been fun if more objects in the starting location were implemented. If you think simply and act simply, it feels just too short to make the final move, however inevitable, feel satisfying.

There are, however, hidden depths to this compact game.(Spoiler - click to show)It's pretty well-hinted textually, so if might be worth going back to it a few times to see if you can, in fact, stop the inevitable.


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