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Ratings and Reviews by Ivanr

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Midnight. Swordfight., by Chandler Groover
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The Ascent of the Gothic Tower, by Ryan Veeder

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Curious; well-constructed; unique, July 22, 2017
The Ascent of the Gothic Tower is a strange game. Even though the player character's objective is made incredibly clear - to ascend the tower - the experience of playing it feels almost aimless. In away, Ascent is a distillation of one particular theme that runs through many of Veeder's works: "hidden" or tucked-away content, rooms that are fascinating but fully optional, whole complex subsystems, as complex as the rest of the game put together, that an inattentive player could never know they missed. In fact, The Ascent of the Gothic Tower has so much of this kind of thing that it almost feels like the whole game is optional - a sort of array of strange places and interesting experiences, that don't seem to represent any meaningful journey on the part of the player character; I think this feeling is magnified, not diminished, by the fact the player character is embarking on such a literal and (by authorial fiat) emotionally significant journey.

None of this is to say that The Ascent of the Gothic Tower is not a good time. It certainly is! Veeder's mastery of the craft of interactive fiction is on full display here, with charming and well-implemented subsystems of all sorts, and an occasionally eloquent narrator-PC who has his own sort of off-kilter charm.

Playing The Ascent of the Gothic Tower feels like wandering around in a huge, empty, static palace of stone. You have no reason to be there, and no reason to keep moving forward, other than that it's beautiful, and you want to stay. And the fact that you do want to stay is a testament to Veeder's excellent craftsmanship.

Taco Fiction, by Ryan Veeder

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A flawless romp, July 22, 2017
I've been meaning to write a review of Taco Fiction for a long time, and for no particular reason at all, I figured this was the time to finally do so.

The reason I've wanted to is that Taco Fiction is a really important game to me; I first picked it up several years ago, when I was only into IF very casually (i.e., mostly doing coding exercises in Inform 7 and failing to complete Spider and Web). I had played the basic beginners' canon (Lost Pig, 9:05, De Baron...), and somehow in the midst of that, I came upon this game. Taco Fiction blew me away.

For a long time after playing it, Taco Fiction existed in my head as a prototype of what a perfect text adventure should be. And I think the reason it stuck with me (as opposed to, say, Lost Pig or Spider and Web, fine games though they are) is that it was purely fun. I have a poor head for puzzles, and I can only put with dark stuff for so long. Taco Fiction was fun. I never got stuck, I never got a default command; I was startled by (Spoiler - click to show)the cops in the diner (a masterful moment), and in the final scene my heart was sent racing. The rest of the time I spent smiling.

There are a lot of things to praise about Taco Fiction. The simulacrum of an "open world" is particularly impressive, given that this is essentially a linear game, plot-wise. The world is not huge, but there are characters who you can talk to for quite a bit longer than you would think with an expansive menu-based conversation system, and you can wander around doing essentially pointless things like purchasing and buying ice cream - but not out of adventure-game boredom, or an "amusing things to do" ethos; it's the kind of thing the PC would do, and you're free to do it as well. In between the delightfully weird, page-turning plot, of course. One with surprisingly subtle and insightful political points (in the least sordid sense of that word) to make.

Yes, I'm gushing. The reason I've put off reviewing Taco Fiction for so long is that it's hard to know what to write when something is just good. It's the game that made me excited about IF, that made me want to write my own, it turned me on to the rest of Veeder's excellent work, and it remained for years in my head the model against which all other works of IF would be compared.

Taco Fiction deserves to be canonized with the very best of modern interactive fiction.

Horse Master, by Tom McHenry
Ivanr's Rating:

The Case of LeAnne's Missing Bunny, Wendy, by Ryan Veeder
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The Endling Archive, by Kazuki Mishima
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Cactus Blue Motel, by Astrid Dalmady
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To Hell in a Hamper, by J. J. Guest
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The Tiniest Room, by Erik108
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Narcolepsy, by Adam Cadre
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