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Reviews by Hanon Ondricek

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The Wizard Sniffer, by Buster Hudson

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Utterly Delightful, October 5, 2017
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I wish I'd written this:

Ser Leonhart poses like a titan holding up the sky. His hair dances in another breeze. "Not even the Impenetrable Keep can stop the heavy fist of justice. All you need is confidence, my timid tenderfoot, and you can accomplish that which your heart most desires."

You're a pig by the way, and your job is to lead quite a large number of people around to complete the quest and save a Princess from an Evil Wizard. Your hint system is fleas behind your ear, but one tells the truth and one always lies... Love it.

This is an incredible game with so many moving parts, good puzzles, and hysterical writing.

A stellar follow up to Oppositely Opal.

Dark as Blood, by Masha Lepire and Eugene Fasano
Don't ignore the "minimize the sidebar" instruction., September 12, 2017
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I got stuck because there was a link that was in text that ran off the side of the screen and I had to minimize the sidebar so it would show up. Perhaps it's my display settings (large TV, low rez, bigger letters?)

Very nicely-styled Sugarcube (I assume due to the save controls, but you won't need to save) Twine with atmospheric sound. Short mood piece.

The Temple of No, by Dominik Johann, William Pugh, Crows Crows Crows

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Never have I laughed so hard at a Twine game., July 27, 2017
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This short game is a sheer delight, beautifully illustrated and implemented with sound effects and music. Snarky and hysterical fun you'd expect from people involved with The Stanley Parable (but in Twine form.)

I even sang along when instructed, and I never indulge in audience participation.

(note: gratuitous swearing)

Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0, by Caroline M. Yoachim

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A parody of CYOA and Healthcare., July 26, 2017
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
WttMCatIRS|HStLPD:0 is essentially a short story masquerading as a CYOA but is meant to be read from beginning to end as nearly every choice leads to the subsequent section, and it becomes patently clear that Z is the death-end. It gets extra stars since I enjoy this kind of snark, but is not really interactive. The author lampshades this more than once.

The humor is pleasantly amusing and an effective parody of classic Choose Your Own Adventure fare chronicling your adventure as a human getting a rash checked out in the medical bay on a space station. The setting is a casual riff on Douglas Adams and the satire gets across that, yes, seeing a doctor is difficult, but none of it bites due to a lack of actual "bureaucracy" since you slide right through the choices and experience much less hold up than an actual patient would.

It's short and doesn't overstay its welcome, reading very much like a clever tutorial-walkthrough that Infocom would write for the reader as an introduction to a longer CYOA. This would also be a good short example for people who want to know how choice-narratives work without actually committing to reading a long one.

A Fire Darkly: Chapter 1, by Louis Rakovich

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A good one of those., January 25, 2017
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I was asked by the author to review this game. I'm going to be explicitly critical because I think Rakovich is an excellent writer who could be an extremely promising IF talent with a little more experience regarding how to skilfully exploit the conventions that interactivity has to offer.

AFD:C1 is a "psychological horror" piece in Twine. The game is beautifully formatted and does a very good job of pacing the amount of text between choices. I never got bored waiting to click, and I didn't skim until text started repeating. I played through in maybe twenty minutes, only getting slightly stuck once. This is very obviously a first game, but not the author's first writing. The prose is short and direct, with some nice imagery. It never verges into awkwardness. A lot of people will enjoy reading it.

Where it falters a bit is in the structure. Twine excels at emotional interactivity where words lead to other words and authors can construct a mindscape of hyperlink-synapses that is not dependent on logically physical mapping as a parser game with rooms and objects and inventory usually is. Twine games can be very successful using these conventions, but the author needs to do more work to pull it off. It's a bit disappointing in Twine to read a block of text followed by a list of bare choices "Go North" "Go East" "Go West", especially when the setting is a dreamscape that one might not expect to conform to a map grid, and when Twine makes it an easy matter to make any words in the prose a hyperlink which might give an indication of where the click might lead.

It also does the thing where the map doesn't just require you to go "west", it requires you to go west three or four times to reach a destination with no descriptive reward for doing so except a sentence-fragment description at each click: "a hollow log" "a mossy rock". Luckily this game isn't tremendous, so the extra map isn't egregious. The author does do a good job with hub-structure where the player might focus in on a tree and get a series of choices, then be able to back away from the tree to choose a new direction. There's an inventory (which unfortunately cannot be displayed if we forget what we picked up) and some slight puzzles of the "if you have the thing then a choice to put it in the other thing will appear in the right place" and sometimes there are multiple options offered. I was stuck for maybe four minutes by doing the most obvious thing and then when presented no path forward, doing the other illogical thing the game offered. This isn't a hard puzzler, but there's a lot of wandering around revisiting nodes to see if new options show up. I didn't know I needed a pitcher of water, but I found a stream and a pitcher and...why not. I encountered no real bugs, and puzzle solutions seem logical once you do what's required, but there's not a lot of actual motivation initially to accomplish what author wants except that...it's a puzzle.

So that's the real problem here. There's nothing wrong with a simple game, and there's nothing wrong with simple find-the-key puzzles and dividing a game into chapters, but I really don't feel I accomplished anything when I hit the chapter break. I wasn't horrified—I moved around putting an eyeball here, a jawbone here, tucking in a millipede... It's meant to be a nightmarish foresty-dreamscape where I don't know who I am and in all the wisps of parental recollections and nicely-written imagery there was one sentence that intrigued me: (Spoiler - click to show)The protagonist recalls one parent becoming angry that s/he was gifted a book about serial killers by the other parent. I've crossed a river with a Charon-like boatman, so I can only guess I'm journeying to Hell for my sins? I really also liked the image of (Spoiler - click to show)blood pooled in the creases of your palm, and a swarm of fireflies eagerly drinking it up.

I'm interested to see more of this, but I'd wish for a better "hook" in the first chapter that motivates the puzzling and perhaps some solid characterization instead of the worn-out "you have amnesia and your character will be revealed in bits" beginning since I don't have any idea what all this imagery logically connects to.

The end of the game links me to an author website promising chapter two and displaying some nice icons for some of the objects in the game. I know Twine doesn't easily make clear all of the multimedia capabilities it has without a lot of research and tweaking, but I would have loved a sidebar with these icons to remind me what I was carrying as an inventory!

Open Sorcery, by Abigail Corfman

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Stupendous use of Twine, very engaging!, December 21, 2016
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I'm late to the party on this one, as I've heard spectacular reviews, and first encountered Corfman's clever ...Ways to Kill a Vampire in IFComp.

This narrative is even better, weaving cyberpunk, horror, some incredibly moving scenes expressed very simply, and a quest arc that involves gathering powers that can be used in the finale.

It has a bit of a Choice of Games feel, where you gather stats to funnel into the correct ending, but this felt a bit more immediate and engaging with just enough formatting and multimedia glitz that does not come off as excessive or superfluous.

The finale is timed and that gives a sense of terrified urgency, but I didn't feel like the time limit was imposed to make me click faster. (Spoiler - click to show)My playthrough ended unsuccessfully, but I think that was more a matter of I hadn't learned enough during the buildup, and became more of "what else can I try?" instead of "I don't have enough time to do this." Cleverly, the game foreshadows this with a smaller timed sequence earlier on. Seeing as I lost, the game gave me the satisfying option of hurling myself at the boss in a redemptive (although sadly unsuccessful) kamikaze effort.

The timed finale feels very earned and satisfying, even on a fail, and I am actually planning to try this again soon. The game remembers your progress via a browser cookie and doesn't make you start completely over which is a huge plus.

Great game. Should be attempted by everyone who wonders how to create a Twine that actually has legitimate gaming elements.

Cryonix, by OurJud

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Well styled, frustrating implementiation, December 10, 2016
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I didn't solve this game, even though I thought I knew how. This is (I'm presuming) done in Quest and is nicely styled with sound effects. The game removes all of the normal Quest trappings such as the map and inventory so it feels original. Unfortunately at that point it breaks down.

This is a simple one-room escape with a neat solution I had figured out, but I could not get it to work to complete the game. First, there's the usual Quest problem where verb synonyms are not implemented and the response seems to tell you the action failed-which is not the case. Getting "can't do that" as a response for "press button" when the parser wants "push button" is severe misinformation. A drawer and a cupboard with an entry panel prove frustrating, a useless red button exists for no reason, and an important clue on the counter is not mentioned unless you examine the counter. A piece of paper on the counter should be more obvious at first glance than the counter would be. Two panels require USE PANEL and then waits for your entry, but that is very obliquely clued. There are also two locations. If you go east, you're by the door, which doesn't seem like it should remove the rest of the room out of scope. There are five minutes of real time for the player to figure all this out.

On the page linked from here is another version of the game that is done in what looks like Twine. I solved it in about ten clicks. This is a simple game that shows the perils of bad implementation - I knew what to do, but the time ticked down as I struggled to make the game understand me. I gave it the extra star because I thought the styling and sound effects showed some of the flexibility of Quest, but otherwise we've got what appears to be an experiment by an author with potential if they learn from the problems here.

A THING CALLED DRACULA, by Matt Halton

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting story generator, August 25, 2016
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Your goal is to kill Dracula, and the game will randomly generate potentially endless methods, roles, and reasons why. The bulk of the tale is spent following leads to track Dracula; a nice use of revealing links in Twine2. While the details of the story may seem a bit like a notebook that has been tumbled in a clothes dryer too long, that's actually the point in this toybox type of narrative which is changing details like a mad-libs slot machine but still remembering your generated role from the beginning. The necessarily self-contained nature of the events might read somewhat like Fallen London storylets because of this, but individual bits of prose are juicy and nicely-written.

I can appreciate this type of magickry which I've also attempted on occasion to disguise dead-ends and repetition in parser IF. Worth a replay or two, especially if you're into classic vampire lore.

The barbarians are coming!, by Daniel Kosacki
Funny. Meta., May 24, 2016
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I can't resist a game where you argue with the narrator.

A bit Princess Bride, a bit With Those We Love Alive, a dash of Stanley Parable, and the rest an over-enthusiastic tale of utter slapdash nonsense. I smiled the entire way through.

The Depths Of Sarcasm, by Sam Wilson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The greatest game I've ever played. Seriously., April 16, 2016
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
DoS (every epic needs an acronym) distills the infinite epic sweep of a full-size adventure down into an hors d'oeuvre you can gulp quickly and get on with your life without any of that bothersome textual detail. Roleplaying options include: Explore, open chests when you find them, fight monsters when they show up, and visit the marketplace, where you can buy a fantastically varied array of loot, ranging from wood to tin. That's all you need.

Normally I'd write this game off as an experiment in building a fighting system in Twine, but DoS actually plays so fast it achieves the same addictiveness of a slot machine or a clicker game.

I'm being serious when I say I would probably play this regularly to pass the time if it were extended just a little more to include some more variation: more loot, more outlandishly escalating monster types and more dryly mundane room and treasure descriptions as the player levels up. Throw in three or four random surprise encounter types to keep things interesting, and this is a winner. No, really. I'm serious.


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