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Reviews by Danielle

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Corvidia, by Alan DeNiro

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful Presentation, April 11, 2013
by Danielle (The Wild West)
Didn't want to rate this--it felt more like branching poetry to me (so I may not be the ideal audience)--but I enjoyed the choice of text styling and "special effect lighting" done on the text enough that I wanted to comment. Easy on the eyes, with a glow effect that makes it special.

Body Bargain, by Amanda Lange

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A Smart Scare for an Evening in, March 17, 2013
by Danielle (The Wild West)
Last night I picked this game at random from the IFComp2012 folder hanging out on my laptop. And lucky me--I stumbled onto a gem!

BODY BARGAIN, while informed by Lange's musings on (Spoiler - click to show)plastic surgery and body modification, isn't a game weighed down by these topics. Approach this piece like you would, say, an episode of MONSTERS, or a particularly wild TALES FROM THE CRYPT comic, and I think you'll see what I mean.

The game's scenario is set in a sci-fi world, that scenario is tinged with horror (the kind of horror depends on how you play--(Spoiler - click to show)some decisions lead you towards a slasher-style story, other decisions a quieter, more disturbing tale).

Applause to Lange for her great handling of this game's atmosphere. BODY's tone is well-executed in both setting and its star NPC, Dr. Overclock (Could that name get any cooler? No.). Previous IF horror works (like DIVIS MORTIS) sometimes trip themselves up by inserting goofy jokes that detract from apocalyptic settings, but all the off-kilter stuff you find in BODY fits with the world of the story.

I was obedient during my first playthrough, unsure of where the scenario was heading. Upon replaying, I was delighted to find that a variety of decisions and scenarios had been implemented, dramatically changing the outcome of the story. Kudos to the author!

As one-off comics, TALES FROM THE CRYPT never gave you any more info than needed to get the scare across. What's really fun about BODY is how the extras fill in more backstory. Curious about Overclock? There's something there for you!

Regarding the content: (Spoiler - click to show)I don't go in for gore and splatter. (Did I read the author warning? Heck no! I just jumped in and played!) But the nice thing I find about reading horror (versus watching it) is that, in text, my inner director can adjust the gore level as needed. Sowas it squirm-inducing? Yes. But was it overkill? Nope. The author's choice to use clinical language for these bits was pitch perfect, in my opinion.

In short: a short game, smartly done--if you're the right audience for it!


4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A Present from Porpentine, February 14, 2013
by Danielle (The Wild West)
Remarkable how the succinct sentences evoke such vivid images. I also enjoyed the structure of the work, especially with the Twine format...In parts where (Spoiler - click to show)there's only a link-sentence onscreen, and when you click it, it changes to another link-sentence it gives a really exciting sense of motion.

(Spoiler - click to show)Music scared the crap out of me, though!

I have little idea of what happened, but I enjoyed the ride! I think I'm turning into a fan.

(Happy Porpentine's Day to you, too, Porp!)

On Optimism, by Tim Lane

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
The Breakup of a Relationship as Explored by Teen Salvador Dali, June 22, 2012
by Danielle (The Wild West)
This piece is full of overwriting. There is angst and Sturm und Drang all over the place here. It is messy. But! These emotions are also sincere. I don't know the age of the author, but reading it, I kind of took it as a something written by a younger person, perhaps for other younger persons, and I made allowances for it.

Before you jump all over me about Having High Standards in IF and Writing In General, *I think there's a place for this.* I've read enough YA to know that some overwrought pieces really resonate with middle-to-high-schoolers...but then they grow out of it. But at younger ages, the emotions are THAT real and THAT big, and I think by automatically looking down our noses at their sense of scale, we're not showing respect for the experiences of the younger generation.

* * *

Full disclosure: I recently went through a breakup that was difficult for me. Yeah, I'm an adult, but when the PC talked about having endless tears (which he did...er...a rather lot), I found myself nodding in understanding. This probably added a star to my rating.

In fact, ON OPTIMISM touched on some desires I'm still working through for myself. This character wants to know why the breakup happened; he was all in for it, but the girl pulled away for some reason. A similar thing happened to me; I was ready to commit, but the other party pulled away. In my situation, I will probably never find out what happened.
But, unlike me, Zach gets to explore (and even KNOW) what went wrong on her end--even if it is all "just a dream." There's a powerful element of wish fulfillment working here, and I don't think it's a bad thing.

In short, I couldn't dismiss the overall intentions and themes, despite the less-experienced writing.

* * *

Gamewise, the concept of exploring another's heart through rooms (but while we're in the heart, shouldn't they be "chambers"?), and discovering the girl's secrets through surreal imagery captured me. It has a nice dream feel to it--you have to do strange actions for no strong purpose, except intuition. That works in some cases and adds to the dream-feel, but in later points of the game, it turns into "guess the verb"--but the HINT command is implemented, so you can at least see the story end.

My favorite room was (Spoiler - click to show)The Room of Your Loves, even though I had no idea about the floor--it wasn't mentioned in the room description. The main conceit of that room is worth exploring further, I feel.

I'm also impressed with (Spoiler - click to show)the choice to have 2 different-yet-same endings. It adds a different flavor to the story (Spoiler - click to show)(the Eastern ending seems to point to some Christian imagery). A third ending (Spoiler - click to show)(going down at the fork) seems implied, but I wasn't able to find it.

While the use of "I" for the tense is a strong point, I thought it got a little confusing later, when "you" referred to the girl, because IF convention says "you = player." I can't recall if she was given a name, but that could have been useful.

My main beef is that I don't quite know what happened. (Spoiler - click to show)I got the feeling the girl was dead at the beginning...so when she comes to get you in the endings, I had no idea if this was in-dream, a final deathbed hallucination, or some weird magical-thing where what happened in the dreamworld reflected in reality.

It'd be interesting to see what a mature writer could do with these themes, because I think the ideas behind ON OPTIMISM, while muddily executed, are worth exploration.

A Place of Infinite Beauty, by Porpentine

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Overwrought, or not?, June 13, 2012
by Danielle (The Wild West)
I almost thought this was a joke game initially, with the highly dramatic descriptions and (Spoiler - click to show)very violent endings. But after settling in and realizing it wasn't a prank, I decided I liked the poetry of some of the scenes. And the different scenarios have different flavors, which, combined with (Spoiler - click to show)the winning ending led to a solid understanding of the theme.

Later on in the day, when I was watching something, it resurfaced in my mind. Any game that sticks with me after I've played it is worthwhile in my book--especially if it's short like this piece. My advice is: approach it as an interactive poem.

Bee, by Emily Short

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
BEE casts a wonderful spell, June 9, 2012
by Danielle (The Wild West)
My first encounter with BEE was magical.

I have been feeling restless and blue of late; few activities have been able to engage or cheer me for very long. But I nearly always enjoy Short's work, so when I saw she had a new one out, I ran over to read it. I thought I'd get to play a great game. Instead, I encountered a beautiful work that helped me get lost in someone else's life for a while.

It's sort of hard to explain the sense of engagement Short's created here, because it's different than a CYOA and even a well-made IF. While I made choices throughout the piece, it didn't strike me as a game. It sucked me in like a great novella--one I was co-creating (not just reading!) in real-time.

I've since done a number of playthroughs in order to see the different endings (there seem to be many). During these playthroughs, I've been guilty of skimming through in order to get to the "picking choices" part.

But my favorite version was my first run-through, which I did at a slower pace, contemplatively. Something about the prose, the cyclical scenes, and the portrayal of the quieter moments in life really spoke to my heart.

I am thankful for the talent, hard work, and investment Miss Short put into this piece; it transported me away from my discomfort for a while, and I think that is one of the noblest things a writer can do.

baby tree, by Lester Galin

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Tripping on the fine line., May 12, 2012
by Danielle (The Wild West)
The way the event unfolds has a nice sense of surreal dream-logic, and the text--when it's not getting in the way of actual interaction, or going out-of-voice to tell you you can't (Spoiler - click to show)talk to the dog--lets you project that creepy atmosphere...but it collapses at the big reveal, changing the mood from "surreal, unsettling" to "ridiculous, eye-rolling."

It's not that the premise is bad, but it needs more setup or prose-skill or something to take it ((Spoiler - click to show)the twist) from "ridiculous" to horrific. (Just replayed "9:05" and got a reminder of how well (Spoiler - click to show)a good twist can be done.)

There's a fine line in horror sometimes, and it's a shame this one missed it, because I think there's an audience for crumb-sized IF horror.

Divis Mortis, by Lynnea Dally

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Basic Training for the Zombie Apocalypse, April 16, 2011
by Danielle (The Wild West)
In the "About" section of this game, the author writes: "The inspiration for Divis Mortis comes from my own life. I am rather fearful of a zombie attack, to the point where upon entering rooms I think about how to best barricade them, I make sure to stock up on blunt objects and canned food, and I always am running through scenarios in my head."

In this regard, DIVIS MORTIS succeeds quite well. If ONE EYE OPEN contained the horror and surreal aspects of SILENT HILL, then DIVIS MORTIS surely contains all the "survival" feelings. As you search the hospital for escape, you see how your, ah, "predecessors" fared. This environment makes it easy to believe that you are in peril--so when you finally encounter scary things, you're scared of 'em! This is just the thing you want in a survival horror game.

This game is thoroughly grounded in realism. The medical jargon is convincing, and state of the hospital (and the story it tells) rings very true. My hat's off to the author, though, for a scene in one of the elevators--one of my very favorite parts: (Spoiler - click to show)In one elevator, you pick up an emergency phone--AND IT WORKS. Major kudos to her for this part; without it, I think a lot of the realism would have been lost.

However, like ONE EYE OPEN, I feel like DIVIS suffers just a touch from a tone problem: on occasion the player character shows some snark/humor that feels a little too funny for the dire occasion. It doesn't bother me any more or less than it did in ONE EYE OPEN, but in EYE I felt like the game could get away with it a little more, since it overall was a more quirky setting (flesh. eating. washing. machine. That is all.).

DIVIS has such a cohesive feeling of isolation and caution, the one-liners felt out of place--perhaps the author didn't think her setting would be enough to hold the player's interest? If the PC had been played completely straight I think we might have gotten an extra taste of horror. I even wish it ended on a more serious or personal note than it did.

My other issues with DIVIS can hopefully be seen as compliments. First, I wish it were longer! Second, I wish there were a few more puzzles, or maybe more zombie-interaction puzzles (distracting a zombie, or really sneaking by some, perhaps?). It sounds like the author isn't a programmer by trade, so I can completely understand why the puzzles aren't too complex. The environment makes up for these shortcomings, though.

With its short-to-midsized length and reasonable puzzles, this game might have been relegated to the "Play in one evening" category--though an exceptional one due to the thought put into the setting. However! The ending really adds to the replay value.

In short: Horror buff? Zombie fan? Scenery hound? PLAY IT!

Mite, by Sara Dee

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Charming Garden Adventure!, March 4, 2011
by Danielle (The Wild West)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2010
Having finished playing "Mite" I can't help but think of Gail Carson Levine's book "Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg." Some might think of "Fairy Dust" as just another Tinkerbell promotion. However, if you look in side, you'll see these gorgeous watercolor illustrations, which perfectly perfectly depict a magical fairyworld, where flowers are tall as trees and goblins lurk.

"Mite" is a short game that lets you have an adventure IN that beautiful miniature world!

As a game, it solidly built--with a few puzzles, but nothing too taxing. It's really the world you encounter that is its strong point. It's not huge or luxe or lush but it knows what it wants to be, and portrays it well.

Due to its length, fantastic world, and non-complicated puzzles, I think this would play very well to the fairy or elf-crazed child.

My favorite bits: the chipmunk guard (a girl!), and the ending. While simple, the ending feels true to the world anc character and leaves things open for a sequel, which I would be interested in seeing--especially if we get to see more of the chipmunk warrior!

Leadlight, by Wade Clarke

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Who knew white text on a blue screen could be so nerve-wracking? , November 16, 2010
by Danielle (The Wild West)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2010, horror
LEADLIGHT is the most gory, horiffic, survival-horror, text-based entertainment you'll have on an Apple II in 2010 during the Halloween season!

YES you will be annoyed that you have to type "ex mirror" instead of "x mirror" in order to look at things.

MAYBE you will, like me, wish the plot made a little more sense (I only missed a handfull of secrets, but I still have questions: (Spoiler - click to show)So why is Great-Great-Grandmother out to kill me? Did she cause the massacre, or am I responsible? The girls seem to blame me, but obviously the Founder thinks I'm a horrible person who needs to be destroyed. But the Founder's doing the black magic...right? I'm so confused.).

But if atmosphere is your thing, you're gonna love LEADLIGHT because it is chock full of it.


You wake up in your all-girl Australian boarding school, and everything is wrong. Terrible, uneasy things await you in nearly every scene. But this isn't a slideshow of an empty, spooky school. Oh no. LEADLIGHT is crawling with your former classmates, all gone mad...(Spoiler - click to show)and most trying kill you.

Here, LEADLIGHT introduces an RPG flavor into the mix; you obtain items and clothing which affect your abilities in the game. These elements helped immerse me inside the world; when you don't know what you're going to face when you go into a room, you're a little more cautious about entering it.

But despite all your caution, you are going to die in this game. There are gruesome death traps everywhere, and not all of them are spelled out for you. In a world where we praise games for being "forgiving" some might shout, "That's not fair! There was no warning you were going to kill me!"
However, in this setting, the sudden deaths adds to the sense of peril you feel. (It helps that after you die, there is an option to Undo to the moment before you hit the trap.)

And for all our boasting about modern IF parsers and their ability to understand complex commands, Mr. Clarke makes the 2-word parser your ally, helping simplify puzzles that might have become unwieldy if given more options.

There were a couple places I got stuck on (and were not referenced to in the hint guide--in particular, (Spoiler - click to show)I feel bad that I had to kill a traumatized girl to get her ribbon; if there was an alternative solution, I didn't see it). But these spots were later in the game. With judicious use of the three save spots, I never found myself locked into a situation I couldn't escape.


LEADLIGHT walks a fine line. On the one hand, there's not a lot of deep characterization or background going on. It's gory in the way I imagine slasher films are. And the "survival" aspect has you dealing out mindless death at the pace you might associate with an FPS.

On the other hand, there are a smattering of interesting choices you can make within the game, such as (Spoiler - click to show)killing the Dancer, which seem to demand a second play if only to see how those choices change the outcome.

It's the perfect Halloween treat--perfect for a night when you want some creepy thrills. I encourage any fan of ANCHORHEAD or THEATRE to try this one.

(PS -- If you download the full package that comes with the IFComp 2010 collection, you'll be treated to a handsomely-illustrated manual and spiffy hint sheet that took me back to the days of Sierra Online adventure games.)

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