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Ratings and Reviews by Marco Innocenti

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1958: Dancing With Fear, by Victor Ojuel

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Too tight to be true, October 30, 2017
by Marco Innocenti (Florence, Italy)
I liked the setting and the tone of this game a lot. It's nice how the main character is build throughout the story and how you can still discover something about her in the very final scene. Unfortunately, the version I've been playing (original IFComp, first-day release) suffers from a series of drawbacks that spoiled some of the fun.

First of all, the mechanics. Having every single sequence as a puzzle which you have to solve to advance reminded me too much of those old-time games in the style of Robin of Sherwood by Brian Howarth. A little more space to maneuver wouldn't have harmed.

Second: large part of the game is solved by mechanically TALKing TO someone pretty obvious. The parser is reduced enough so that a handful of verbs are needed in total. Maybe, given how the story is nice and appealing, a choice-based text would have been more suited for the occasion. (ETA: this may sound arbitrary and a little bit too far, and it probably is: it was indeed more of a provocation than a real suggestion. We know how branching is/should be one of the main points in choice-based mechanics, and this was obviously not the intent of the author.)

Last: there's a lot of polish to undergo to make this title perfect. Objects that don't disappear in descriptions, others that stick in your inventory after jumps of years; typos (to whom I don't care much, but still there they are...); the lack of interaction with some of the descriptions and a couple of sudden deaths that can be solved only after one died, via UNDO.

This said: there's 6 different endings (which I wasn't able to find), and a lot of story to read and live. If this was given some more time to test it would have been 4 stars at least.

(ETA: I ended up giving 4 stars to this game anyway, as i understood, in comparison with other projects, that I was being too critical. The story is really cool and the games embraces you a lot, in a trip that I would do again, now that some weeks have passed.)

Word of the Day, by Richard Otter

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Suberb backstory, out of focus result., October 30, 2017
by Marco Innocenti (Florence, Italy)
I actually woke up this morning, after playing WotD all night yesterday, finally grasping what was going on.

This is a well structured, almost puzzle-less sci-fi, with a brilliant PC and an incredibly detailed backstory, which could have aimed, imho, at a much higher outcome.

The most intriguing things revolve around racial (and racist) themes, told through the eyes of a special creature whose sole businesses in the universe seem to be procreation and money. And money because of procreation.
There are aspects of the subplot which are genius: the mating techniques of different races; how an Outworder sees us (provided the Inner Worlders are us); how racism can dwell in close environments; segregation.

Unfortunately, the story is presented through an endless array of posts and notes, and via the comments (on dead bodies) by a cold PC, who’s prime feature seems to be the lack of any empathy with anyone except her distant relatives and lovers. All of this sums up to a distinct vibe and a cool backstory that, in the end, fails in finding a route to the final outcome.
The atmosphere is strong (I was actually scared by the continuous opening and closing of doors, hinting at another survivor— the ship is full of dead bodies after an initial “incident”) although there is not much to do except reading tons of backstory. And this is first flaw of an otherwise impressive game.

Style apart (the text needs some more intense editing, due to the generative process it has to sustain), the fact that the main action you continuously do is reading notes or long flashbacks hinders the gameplay a bit. This sums up to the fact that navigation is hard due to a very symmetrical and squareish map (a map is provided and I would say it is fundamental for your survival).

But the main aspect — the thing that, eventually, lowered my experience most — is that, of all the important backstory told, the one which is central to the final twist (and there IS a final twist!) is overlooked enough that I simply forgot to notice. Saying more means spoiler, so I have nothing to add, if not that a much more “central” approach to something inside the ship would have done a better job in causing the final wow-effect.

Finally, the endgame, too, looks muddled and I failed to actually get what was happening in the ship until I woke up this morning with the proverbial epiphany.

To recap: I wish the main story was more “main” and the sub-plots (about race, gender, and the overall backstory) ended up being sub-plots and not the big finger in front of the moon. I wish I could understand more about the plot, something my “4-Good” ending didn’t convey (who was the one opening and closing the doors? I understood this after an 8-hours sleep, never having seen him during play!). I wish I could read less and do more, as a piece of Interactive Fiction should allow.

This said, I enjoyed this game a lot, and it frankly had me holding tight to the chair here and there, for some nice, perpetual sense of danger. A calm post-comp reset of the game is all it’s needed to put these few things straight.

Will Not Let Me Go, by Stephen Granade

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A masterpiece in Interactive Storytelling, October 24, 2017
by Marco Innocenti (Florence, Italy)
I guess it is always hard for an established author to enter a competition (the IFComp, especially, for several reasons). What will people expect from him/her? What SHOULD we?

It's things like this that... how do they say on Facebook? They "restore my faith in humanity".

Will not let me go is an EMOTIONAL piece, of the kind that didn't resonate with me this much since Photopia --- we all know what I'm talking about.

I don't want to enter into details and dissect this, well, masterpiece, as I don't think I have the right to. I just want to say that this is a Twine game that EXACTLY does what a Twine should do every time: tell a story no regular text-book could.

The way the words change to address a memory problem; the way the game (which is fairly long, all considered) aids us in understanding how long it will be still; the AWESOME, INTERIORIZED, MOVING story it tells. And all of this in such a fantastic, unique and PROFOUND way. This is the craft of a Writer, with the capitalized W.

What to say. Einstein once said that intuition is the best skill of any scientist. I may add that knowing how to f*****g tell a story is probably the second best.

Stephen is a scientist. After this... thing he did, I may very well say he's the Einstein of Interactive Fiction.

A Walk In The Park, by Extra Mayonnaise
Out of my league, probably., October 8, 2017
by Marco Innocenti (Florence, Italy)
I didn't understand this game. The prose was superb (some would say a lil' bit too much wandering on the poetic shore), the setting intriguing... but what was this about?

I mean: the goal is obvious but how does (Spoiler - click to show)selling narcos to a bird and offering the same to an old lady fits said goal? Most of the times I was strolling thru the park (uhm, yeah), doing strange things to NPCs or items for the sake of what?

Ah: and the provided walkthrough is broken. So I couldn't actually finish the game, properly. I suppose that's where all the things are explained. Although almost everything the walkthrough told me to do was unclued. It fits the protagonist, maybe... but certainly not me.

Measureless to Man, by Ivan R.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Broken and short, October 8, 2017
by Marco Innocenti (Florence, Italy)
I expected a far bigger game, given the premise.

What I have mistaken for a prologue is indeed half the game. That half is specially well crafted and intriguing... then the game simply breaks. It starts behaving strangely (poor testing of the second half?) and becoming the more and more aimless. And when I started to think "what's happening here?", the game is over.

Left a bitter taste. This could have been a nice piece, if only it didn't wander away so soon.

Grue., by Charles Mangin
Marco Innocenti's Rating:

Antiquest, by Anton Lastochkin
Marco Innocenti's Rating:

Absence of Law, by mathbrush

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
How to constraint a parser and give 3 games for the price of 1, October 8, 2017
by Marco Innocenti (Florence, Italy)
Absence of Law (which title needs to be discussed, too), is a technically perfect game, where the player needs to use a custom command line to achieve extreme results. Most of the action is given through a set of three-letters custom-commands and by looking at nested things. The interface (in the online-playable version) is customized too, and offers music as a background, a thing that I've been missing since the days of Castle of Terror (in the Eighties!).

AoL is fun to play, hard and soft here and there, and also very nice to read. It's a story that needs to be told, while keeping all the puzzles that make IF such a fantastic trip, when done properly.

There are a few drawbacks, but those are minor and strictly personal, so they won't remove a single star from the overall rating.

The language puzzle, and partly the cloning puzzle, had me fear I had to drop the game. While the latter is just a matter of trial-and-error, the former proved too hard for me. Probably, the experience was ruined not by the puzzles themselves but by the lack of time for the IFComp scope and by the availability of a walkthrough, which I reverted to too easily.

The music was precious, but sometimes a bit off. I expected it to be ghastly and in Minor, while it too often sounded like merry jingles. This links to another problem (which I admit is only in my mind): much of the content is about dystopian concepts. Although the game is referred to as "comedy", I think the fun fest at the end broke the 4th wall to me. I would have preferred a grimmer closing.

Swigian, by Mathbrush (as Rainbus North)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Not a "text adventure"., October 7, 2017
by Marco Innocenti (Florence, Italy)
This game is about being inside a simple, animal-like, childish mind. And so, it all revolves around this premise. The minimalism is not plainly esthetic. Guessing who you are may be simple. Guessing at what it's happening still puzzles me, instead. Very nice at setting... the setting; very low in putting up some fight (the game is ridiculously easy).

As a side note: this game would really love having some old-style, pixelated graphics as room descriptions. I would do those for free. :-)

A Beauty Cold and Austere, by Mike Spivey

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
YMMV, October 7, 2017
by Marco Innocenti (Florence, Italy)
ABCaA is an incredibly polished game, with complex mechanics that perfectly work and some good writing. It's major "flaw" is that it requires too much knowledge from outside of the game. The 4 stars are an average between these two contexts: 1) you are not into mathematics and want a game whose puzzles can be solved "from the inside": 3/5 because the game is very, very strong in many aspects but you will eventually never finish it; 2) you like maths and are good at them: 5/5, because the game is a romp which is frankly perfect.


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