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Reviews by Hanon Ondricek

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Unmaking, Unmade, by G.C. "Grim" Baccaris (as Grim Curio)
A short combo, February 6, 2019
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Using both Twine and Bitsy. A neat idea that I'd like to see expanded.

The Amusement Park, by Ryan Dolner
This link does not appear valid., December 9, 2018
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Is this a bogus entry?

Four, by R_Kasahara
This game is dysfunctional..., December 8, 2018
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
And that's part of the fun. Worth 10-15 minutes - I was smiling the entire time.

Monster Fucker One: Vampire, by Kristan X

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Nontoxic Vampire AIF, October 20, 2018
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
"Monster Fucker One: Vampire is the first in a series of text-based interactive fictions in which you attempt to seduce various beings of myth and legend." I only played the demo. For $2 on itch.io you get "seven different encounters, more than a dozen unique endings, and about 23,000 words of text."

This is a decent choice-based adult story about a protagonist who is horny to get bit by a vampire. The game offers a binary choice of gender (anything more nuanced may be outside the scope of what the author is doing here) and gets right to the hookup process without futtering around too much with an atmosphere or description beyond the surface anatomy of potential paramours. This is fine - it's not trying too hard to be much more than vampire fanfic. I appreciate the gender choice and that the game doesn't lock out your partner's gender based on that. As far as I can see here, consent is observed and the protagonist desires to be bitten, so it's a bit of harmless smut.

The writing is fine. There's no conflict except finding which vampire is DTF; some are skittish, some are haughty, one is just right. You choose whether to take the lead or be passive in a quick hotel room encounter and the deed is done. There's nothing special about vampire sex either and no discovery or surprise - they have sex just like everyone else, save the extra penetration one might expect at the end. The comments on itch.io seem to be positive so this might be what some people are looking for. There's no suggestion that as a vampire the protagonist might gain any "superpower" sexual prowess based on what's here, but I might be wrong.

Understudied, by Jonathan Laury

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
The Actor's Nightmare, August 28, 2018
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is a Twine game where you have three hours to learn the lead role in the Scottish play...only it's a wacky heavy-metal musical version with pyrotechnics and a flying harness.

Thus ensues budgeting the time you have to learn as much of the show as you can before the curtain goes up. You can't choose everything, so there are decisions to be made: Should you polish the lines, should you learn the music, do you talk to other actors in the show, should you make sure you eat or is it really important to make sure your costume fits?

Then the show begins. The choices you did and didn't make help or hinder you to fumble through the entire production. This is accomplished with some nice text effects and timing. The game assists you with the stuff you rehearsed and leaves you flailing for what you didn't. You can learn the show by memory a bit on repeated plays, and it's possible to get a standing ovation - or be taken out in an ambulance.

This is a great use of Twine, a lot of fun all around. The author has obviously been through this before, and a lot of the situations ring true. When an understudy is thrown onstage at the last minute, there really is a lot of triage: "Just stand on the side instead of learning the dance, because it's more important we take this time to teach you how not die by getting eaten alive under the turntable during the set change in this blackout..."

Having actually lived through similar theatrical shenanigans, including being part of a concept recording for a Macbeth rock musical, I can tell you Understudied is an absolute blast.

Ultramarine: A Seapunk Adventure, by Seven Submarines
Less talk, more action, sexy mer-peeps..., April 21, 2018
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
...I appreciated ULTRAMARINE, and though I think I made only two or three actual choices, I got a numbered unsatisfactory ending, so it appears I could go through again and try for another ending using the SKIP function (I didn't bother to save) but I think I can infer the other branches of plot I didn't discover. Though this is listed as a "full length" game - mostly due to the expository water-treading - I felt like I was being somehow hastily brought up to speed on a much more expansive story in a bigger world than shown here. I'd love to see at least some of this happen over some still art or kinetic concept drawings to break up the characters just do-si-do-ing their positions while facing the audience and describing the off-stage action.

Confessions of an NPC, by Charles Hans Huang
I feel like I missed Act One..., April 16, 2018
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I appreciate the effort here and the writing and thought behind these characters studies which feel very "now" - but these are the kinds of revelations that are usually justified in turning us on our head after sucking the player into a "fun" fantasy world where we already have formed a worldview and have a basis of uninformed choices to build upon. Here, it feels we've skipped the revelatory turn (No! This fantasy world is our own!!!...!) and the game just handwaves all that.

Best Gopher Ever, by Arthur DiBianca

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
FETCH QUEST!: THE GAME, April 16, 2018
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
But not in a bad way! After I rolled my eyes, I enjoyed the busy-work, almost IF Sudoku vibe of this. The STATUS command is helpful as a quest-log and was it not for an extremely helpful graphical MAP, I might not have seen this through to the end.

Text Quest, by Chris Ingerson, Sleepy Owl Software

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
firefirefiresmokesmokesmokesmoke, November 28, 2017
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
UPDATE - This game is apparently still in development. See comment below. This appears to be an "abandoned" game concept. It was greenlit on Steam in 2015 and hasn't been updated since. The steam page says it's being "retired" which is unfortunate.

This is a 3D adventure made in Unity, but the novel utilization of words and typing in a cleverly old-school presentation will likely interest a lot of people in the IF Community, at least on a conceptual level.

This game cheats a bit with its gimmick. Words make up the entire world, but it also uses surfaces to build the environment, and the surfaces declare what they are "stone" "wall" "torch" with "firefirefire" glimmering out of it. This gives a bit of feel that it is a pre-render with temporary textures, but after exploring a bit, this is surprisingly intuitive and tactile. I had to approach a surface to read what it was made of. It's almost what playing an ASCII roguelike in 3D would be.

The player can sprint, jump and crouch, and (at least in the demo) this wasn't too challenging. So far the game does not seem to want to overwhelm you by requiring twitchy reflexes.

Getting close to an item lets the player interact, and gives a description. Walking near a chest, pressing E or enter to interact, and typing OPEN reveals "stuff". The text tells you there is a scepter, then you can TAKE SCEPTER.

Combat has a "typing of the dead" feel that I really appreciated, and was very clever.

The Rats in the Bulkheads, by Bruno Dias

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The Real Deal, a bitter injection of sweet horror, November 11, 2017
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I bounced off this a couple of times because it does things I don't usually care for - I had to download a thing for my specific system, the text types out - in full words at least instead of letter by letter.

But I finally got time to sit down and relax with this and treat it as an almost cinematic experience, and I was not disappointed.

At first, I thought I was looking at a fancy background movie, but I think the game text plays over a live rendered 3D environment and that's why you download a thing. I could be wrong, but if so I was fooled expertly. I watched the sparks and they never seemed to repeat, bouncing off the floor and drifting in antigravity.

The sound design is oppressive at first and it took me several tries to get along with it. The text and choices are displayed with different metallic banging sounds that pace the work and create a background texture along with the smoky popping of that aforementioned wire. And other sounds.

The story (Spoiler - click to show)combines the loneliness of vast space with existential dread and oppressive hopelessness of inhabiting an environment you aren't built to survive long in. Then there are rats. I'm not really afraid of rats. I've never had a bad experience with them. There are no actual pictures of rats in the game (and, respectfully, no jumpscares).

But you will remember
the rats.

This is a quiet, nonlinear, brooding horror with a diegetic, musique-concrete background score that builds and works its way into your psyche along with the words. And other things.

At first, I was critiquing as a designer and thought, "Why did I need to download a thing to look at one room?" By the end, I was convinced. Meticulously and thoroughly designed with words and multimedia, this is what Bruno Dias excels at. It even earns the Dutch angle.

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.

ChoiceScript Interactive Tutorial, by Lynnea Glasser

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Brilliant Interactive Resource, March 22, 2016
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
As someone just starting with ChoiceScript, I'm alternately giddy with its simplicity and stumped by some bit of trickiness. This Twine walks you through the basics as well as some moderate-skill code examples such as how to handle letting the reader choose genders for themselves and NPCs, easy ways to create a repeating hub with variable text, and the use of the testing routines provided by ChoiceScript.

The Dead House, by Dark Forest Media
Good example of multimedia Twine, March 22, 2016
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is not a long story, nor a complicated one. It is a fairly simple easy puzzle, and almost seems to be an experiment in what Twine can do. I'm giving the game two stars, but the multimedia presentation gets it another for effort. I'd like to see a more involved story presented like this.

The Role of Music in Your Life, by Five Dials

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
I guess this is not for me., March 11, 2016
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
First question: (Spoiler - click to show)What is your favorite genre? Rock, Pop, Hip-Hop, Classical, Alternative, or Other? Where's country? I don't like country, but it's a pretty egregious choice to lump it in "other".

Third question: (Spoiler - click to show)What kind of headphones do you use to listen to music? Brain Candy, Skull Candy, Eye Candy, Beats, Bose, Ear Buds, Buds, Other Buds. I use Logitech Headphones, and some of us over the age of twenty like to listen to music in the open air from speakers. Beats and Bose might be headphones, but they are high end and out of most people's price range. "Ear Buds, Buds, and Other Buds" are the same thing, unless there's some weirdness with ear buds I've not learned. I do use ear-buds, but it's either the apple buds that came with my phone, or any random $12 ones that haven't broken yet.

Very nice presentation though.
---
Okay another shot. Perhaps the initial alienation I experienced was intentional. This is a weird experience and not what I was thinking. It's two strange dialogues with some media. I'm not quire sure it did much other than character study. Lots of fake choices make the experience a bit tone deaf. As an experiment in a new system (caniuseitcaniuseitpleaseisitavailable?) it's a successful prototype in that the text has timings. I'd love to experiment with it.

I am sorry for destroying the world, by Kronosaurus

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Font choice is very important., March 11, 2016
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Difficult handwriting font, illegible blue links on a dark gray background, and a carpet laying in the room without a direct object.

Forgiveness rating is superfluous, since there's one link on every page and the only abuse of the player is optically.

http://grammarist.com/usage/lay-lie/

Please let us read your words! What's wrong with a normal serif font?

Secret Agent Cinder, by Emily Ryan

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A neat reimagining, September 12, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Secret Agent Cinder recasts the classic heroine as a spy infiltrating the ball in a stealth mission. Accompanying are nicely drawn comics that take the place of elaborate descriptions. Some text is provided, but is spare and utilitarian. This game has a lot of neat tricks and does more with the images to supply necessary information than normal illustrated stories do. The map and occasional orientation can be a tad confusing, but otherwise this is a unique and novel Twine with loads of personality that would have been a great IFComp entry.

Glass Jar, by elizawriteshere

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Creepy but not interactive, July 25, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is a short story told in second-person in Twine. There is no interaction since the only link on each page leads to the next page. The writing is good and the subject matter is suitably creepy. Since there is no interaction, perhaps it might have worked a little better in first person, since I really didn't identify with the protagonist.

Could have been better perhaps if(Spoiler - click to show) the protagonist were texting to *you* as the older unknown forum friend and you had choices of what to say back and a bit of decision whether the ending that occurs actually happens or not. Because essentially this is a turnaround of "stranger danger/beware people online" where a character is tricked into helping someone who is frightened and doesn't realize that is bait pulling them into their own trap.

Recommended if you have 20 minutes and would enjoy a weird horror story which is both subtly explicit and still manages to leave quite a bit to the imagination.

When I die, I want you to have all of my stuff., by elizawriteshere

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Sadness of Inventory, July 25, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Interesting idea with good writing. An inventory of things that lets you infer the story around it. It's a bit abrupt, and assumes you will lawnmower the choices in order (which I did at first). Unfortunately, picking the last item first will end the story, which removes any actual sense of interaction with the list or replayability.

Breakfast on a Wagon with Your Partner, by bananafishtoday

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting co-authored scenario, June 14, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
As the title states, you have breakfast on a wagon with your partner in this short scenario, but who your partner is and what actually is going on around the wagon is up to the choices made by clicking through a rotating set of possibilities. It feels a little like an improv scenario in an acting class, or a setup for a longer game (which would be nearly impossible due to some of the widely varying choices that you can inflict on the world). It reminded me a bit of Emily Shorts Holography where each choice sharpens the focus by slicing huge swaths of unchosen material out of a (not really, but seemingly) limitless singularity of potential. A fun story toy, and a good example of the type of experimental co-creative writing that is possible in IF.

Survival Horror, by Joe Aaron Sellers

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
One of the better choice-based interfaces., June 14, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I only perused the demo to check this out (so I am not scoring the game). This is a standard "wake up with amnesia - zombies are attacking your location" scenario, however the writing seems pretty good, and I got a very strong sense of atmosphere...aided by the ambient soundtrack and scare chords when something attacks.

There is what seems like a battle system, and a unique interface that I like a lot: Every word in the story is a potential hyperlink, so interacting feels more like searching and investigating rather than lawnmowering through pre-set choices. The player can click any permutation of "you" or "your" to see inventory. Text that pops up with a block around it is a non-interactive description and can be clicked to return to the previous passage, but this block text is also sometimes combined with text outside that allows the reader to interact closely with the examined object.

I'd love if this system were an Inform extension or its own touch-based fiction system along the lines of Texture.

Wrong Floor, by Andrew Stone

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Nice to see what Twine2 Harlowe format looks like., May 25, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Twine 2's "Harlowe" format is the default, and it's so much nicer than "Sugarcane" which was the previous default format. Harlowe sports black on white, large, serif text.

This game is not completed yet, but the author made it public on IFDB and requested feedback. Therefore I'm not giving it a star rating.

I thought this would be a zombie story the way it sets up. You are in an elevator and can only choose to go to the first floor. You exit the elevator and there are dead and dying everywhere. Somehow the protagonist turns out to be a doctor. In my sequence I defibrillated a dying patient (glad I knew what I was doing) and she vomited all over me. The staff member helping asks if I want coffee.

There are lots of typos, lots of dropped punctuation, lots of missed capitalization, lots of missed commas inside quotation marks. The writing seems reasonably competent in what can only be considered a first draft. My feedback is "fix the typos, finish the game."

I would highly encourage (with all respect) this author to find a Twine or IF community and solicit beta-testing in the future before submitting work here, as IFDB is usually the place for a finished product. Good places to find help and beta testing would be the intfiction.org forums and the twinery.org forums.

Hana Feels, by Gavin Inglis

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
I had feels too., May 6, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I'm always reluctant to play altgames. For my purposes, an an "altgame" is an interactive experience which has an active purpose to illustrate a alternate point of view or teach the player about a a problem, often using a type of gameplay as metaphor. The point of the this is almost never to entertain, but hopefully promote understanding and illuminate an uncomfortable situation the player might not be completely familiar with. Depression Quest is probably the most famous altgame.

Altgames are hard to write, as it is so completely easy to step over one of the many intricate narrow lines and overdo pathos, or reduce a situation to complete absurdity. Absurdity can work in a game's favor, but is its own delicate balancing act.

Hana Feels sidesteps much standard awkwardness with solid, honest writing, and by not casting the reader as the protagonist. Instead, the reader has several conversations with Hana, reacting as different people in her life. Hana then spells out her own reaction to the encounter in her journal based on the choices made.

I was moved, and I was compelled to replay four times to get the best ending. The thing I learned is (Spoiler - click to show)sometimes the worst thing you can do for a person in turmoil is to actively try to solve their problem for them. Listening without judgement is often the best course of action. I found the friend very hard to roleplay because there isn't a way for her not to get angry and push Hana too hard. (Game-wise, it seems you need to play the previous conversations leading up to this one well enough so Hana has enough positive reinforcement not to take the bad experience so poorly.)

Often a person is too close to another person to act successfully as their pseudo psychiatrist, and accepting that one can not always be a white knight is hard for any friend to swallow.


Very recommended.

Come to Bag, by PaperBlurt
What you get for Trick or Treating at Todd Solondz's house..., May 2, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
PaperBlurt makes very impressively designed Twines. This seems to be a collection of random bits all put together. It's a mixed bag - there are a few short little games reminiscent of Wario Ware, there are several short stories ranging from a lengthy pun to a disturbing tale of kidnapping and escape. There are two apocalyptic logs filled with loneliness. Like the majority of PB's work, these are stories made in Twine, not games - I don't think there's ever an option besides "click to continue" There's a couple of times where the author's preferred "continue" link is an ellipsis and sometimes three dots are hard to find. The story "Ines" is the most triggerworthy and contained the most typos - consistently "chock" for shock and "quite" for quiet and a couple more. This all adds up to a surreal and absurd and sometimes funny but occasionally disturbing jukebox which will entertain you if you're in the mood for PaperBlurt's unique brand of WTF?

Daytime Never Had a Chance, by Snoother

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
One of the best examples of how Twine can work, May 2, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Instead of moving through a story, this is interactive text that morphs and changes, and you experience a full change of setting based on how you poke at the text, and the text changing itself based on timers. It lasts the length of a song and it's over. Some people could be driven crazy by constantly changing text "I didn't get to read that!!" but this definitely lends a feeling of life and movement to static prose that suggests ways of making IF in Twine more dynamic and random and alive. It's delightful how if you examine the rabbits they run away, but then come back. I would love a developed game/story that used this atmospheric technique.

Lorem Ipsum, by Thom Woodley

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
ANY TIME YOU WANT IT: SNACKYTIME, April 30, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Don't use that one. That one's mine. And you're a copy-writer, not a copy-paster.

This is a really neat and original idea with lots of obvious knowledge of the industry. I enjoyed trying to come up with slogans for for a very unhelpful ad agency.

Unfortunately late in the game, the creative director's office just kept leading to a blank screen. Glitch? Or did he go home for the day?

I got the point, but I am sorry I didn't seem to get to the finale. Or maybe that's the point?

I really would have loved to have seen a list of my responses at the end - or even some other people's ideas to see how they evolve. I'd even like to try some different campaigns with different weird parameters.

Toby's Nose, by Chandler Groover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Don't read any spoilers. Solve this absorbing mystery., April 11, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Dogs have superior olfactory abilities, and this game simulates that. Scents have memories attached, and you can explore scent-memories and the entire world of a case and solve it from one room as Sherlock Holmes's dog. This is a great use of a "Castle of the Red Prince" style approach, which the author notes is intentional.

There's no time limit or pressure as Toby reviews scents and memories. The case can be solved by guessing right on the first turn, but definitely don't try that. I accused everyone *but* the right person. Well, I didn't accuse Holmes or Watson. Needless to say, great mystery, great game. Only a few tiny minor disambiguations to be expected (Spoiler - click to show)such as opium pipes and church organ pipes but nothing I found that ruined the game.

Contrition, by Porpentine

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Another for the fans, I guess?, February 22, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Anyway, you got your typical Porpentine urban/medieval/futuristic dirty/slimy/barren wasteland which reveals itself interestingly by adding interaction words to a menu as you explore. If you LISTEN in the first area, that lets you GOSSIP and then SKULK, and you have access to an increasing list of areas where you can LISTEN, GOSSIP, and SKULK and acquire new buttons like KEY and DEVOTION and HORROR. Basically each one of these is potentially a sensory description of the location you are in and an action, but you won't know until you click, and it doesn't matter because there's not much you're going to do wrong by just clicking. Getting new interaction words and then revisiting locations where you didn't have them before is the bulk of exploration. I never felt like I was doing anything intelligently with this, just click every interaction, find a new area, go to that one and click every word, loop back if I have a word I didn't try in an original area. I like this as a prototype for a larger work.

Porpentine excels at visceral imagery and making Twine do what she wants. I don't think she's interested in story cohesion or character development. Perhaps it's a flavor you either get or you don't, and this type of thing over and over is obviously not intended for me. I appreciate and admire the imagination and HTML skills that go into her works, but I don't feel in any way affected at the end as many other people are. Does that make me a monster?

Howwl, by Tipue

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Not bad, Incomplete, January 31, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Howwl is a choice-based game, but the interface is interesting. It sort of looks like a Wordpress site with pictures. Beneath the description are a list of parsery-type things to do, which seemed quite satisfying. Everything you'd probably want to try in this situation is presented. You have an inventory, and choices to use items you have show up automatically without you needing to fiddle with them in the inventory.

The story says it's "loosely apocalyptic" but I'd say it's fully apocalyptic. You start in an abandoned apartment with no memory or idea who you are or why you're there. You do the expected scavenging, and encounter several odd creatures pulled from mythology and art. Helpfully, the story links to information about the creatures or items you find with pictures. If you're not sure what a molotov cocktail is, there's the wikipedia entry.

It's very nicely done. The writing is straightforward and dead-serious without any IF wacky. I got through the game basically lawnmowering choices waiting for something interesting or explanatory as to what kind of apocalypse this was (museum of art paintings suddenly come to life and eat the populace?) but then I hit a message saying "End of beta ###". It was a little disappointing, but an example of a smart balance between parser and choice systems.

The HeadBanger's Quest, by Alexander Gambino

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Has Potential, January 31, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I'm not the target audience for this Twine story with 8bit graphics and music, which also claims to be based on Legend of Zelda. This has the same sort of METAL ROXX!! intentions as Tim Schaefer's BRUTAL LEGEND. The font is 8-bit, and so is the music, which the author says wouldn't play in a browser, but eventually loaded and was also very retro 8 bit grindy. I've heard some amazing and beautiful 8bit arrangements, but this was ostensibly some sort of metal tune with sat in my ear like a jackhammer.

After the intro where there's lots of long scrolling text and un-skippable dramatic pausing, the game turns into a sort of RPG. The PC is on an invisible grid with links for NSEW. For the little I explored, every location is a "Temple of [something]" and you have to type in the answer to a password to enter. I wasn't sure whether these answers were available in-world or if they were some sort of metal trivia. When presented with "Number of the Beast", answering "666" did not work, so that's when I gave up.

That's not to say this wouldn't be an enjoyable diversion for someone into all of the elements that went into it: heavy metal, 8-bit retro, and LoZ. A good amount of skill is on display.

HIGH END CUSTOMIZABLE SAUNA EXPERIENCE, by Porpentine

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
One of my favorites, January 16, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This was a dashed off piece by Porpentine, but it's got a hysterical sense of humor. It's like someone on sugar and cocaine telling an improvised story, both outlandish and perfectly reasoned at the same time.

It's not a game, but it's a neat little dose of Porpentine sense of humor if you're not into her more visceral stuff.

woods leaves stream body blood, by David Demchuk
A chilly little episode. , January 16, 2015
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I don't want to spoil any of this, it's very short, but does have a major trigger in it. It's a clever short jam-idea. I would have liked if it were longer and kept the conceit that the words in the title are the only links you have to click on.
(Spoiler - click to show)
Major animal violence trigger.
Also I don't know if the order you select links could solve the mystery somehow.


IF is Dead. Long Live IF., by Joshua Houk

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
I enjoyed reading this so much...., November 25, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
That I was exceedingly sad to be left out of it.

Coming Out Simulator 2014, by Nicky Case

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
New Genre: "IF My Life", November 20, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is probably the most fun I've had with a choice-based game. Despite the serious themes, the interactions - as if you are text messaging with the author - are brilliant. There are moving sketch comic illustrations. This game gives me the same warm fuzzy "I'm the author's best friend" sincerity that I got with Deirdra Kiai's I'm Really Sorry About That Thing I Said When I Was Tired and/or Hungry. This is like the IF equivalent of "Draw My Life". I want to be this author's best friend now as well.

IGT, by cdf121

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Not Proofread, Needs Work, August 30, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I suspect this game was written by someone either very young and new to writing, or someone whose primary language is not English.

I quit reading this Twine after several clicks due to:

*A huge number of spelling and grammar mistakes right at the beginning that don't encourage me that the writing will get better. For example "Mars" is capitalized when you are speaking of the planet.

*Poor writing above and beyond spelling and grammar. Awkward phrasing, adult language that seems completely inappropriate for the situation, prose changes from second person to first person and back again. Here's an example:

You notice who it was that was yelling for you, and immediately wished you hadn’t. “Hey captain.” She says in her overly excited voice of her with her sound piercing your eardrums. “So I’ve been meaning to talk to you lately you haven’t been coming to your check ups recently, and I know a certain someone who needs one.” The last bit she says with a patronizingly cheerful change of voice.

“No.” You say in the harshest tone of voice you can.

“Awww...,” she says as if she’s five. “But you promised you would at least have one session with me before the trip was over.”

“You’re no fun Mr.Poopypants.” She says as if that’s spouse to make you feel bad rather than making her look foolish.

“Now if you don’t mind I’d rather eat my breakfast in peace.” You say with a gentle happiness in your voice and a sly smile on your face.

“Fine, but you own me two visits on the way back to earth.” She says cheerfully as if she’s won some argument or something, but in all reality she just acted like a kid. But either way who knew that Therapists can be such a child, let alone necessary in space travel. Your stomach growls suddenly


Without picking it apart, there are uncapitalized proper names ("Earth" "Captain") capitalized words that are not proper names ("Therapists"), comma splices, incorrect quotation punctuation, sentence fragments, and things such as the word "spouse" substituting for the word "supposed" which is why I have a hunch this was written by a young author just writing what they heard in their head and neglecting to proofread. Despite that, this petulant exchange between purportedly the captain of a starship and its doctor sounds more like lunchroom "cootie" talk then dialogue between two people over the age of ten.

*General lack of meaningful choice. Most of the clicks I make are a choice of one to get the next story bit. The couple of times I had a choice of two things, it's your typical "get out of bed/don't get out of bed" sort of false choice that doesn't affect the story one bit.

I would have continued with this if the writing was competent, or if the plot started off with a bang. I encourage the author to continue writing and also reading; doing both are only real way to get better at writing. I also suggest to always get someone you know to proofread a work before releasing it to the entire world.

I'm Really Sorry About That Thing I Said When I Was Tired and/or Hungry, by Dietrich Squinkifer (Squinky)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Quality Time With Deirdra Kiai!, August 9, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This autobiography of Deirdra "Squinky" Kiai (tubaist, graphical adventure creator) is delightful and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I felt like Kiai's best friend having a conversation with someone I've known my whole life. There is generous interaction written with an open and honest modesty and assured voice that never made me feel uncomfortable like a poorly considered personal Twine can occasionally do. Kiai allows the reader to proceed without delving deeper into every twisty anecdote, so I look forward to a second read. Even if you don't hit every node, it's an enjoyable conversation.

This is a spectacular example of an experience not possible in non-interactive fiction. Extra difficulty points for an assured rare tick in the IF autobiography genre that doesn't see much action.

Zombie Wizard of the Apocalypse, Episode 3, by Andrew Watt
ZOMbie WIZard...DWEEEDLEDEEDWEEEDLEDEEDWEEDLEDEE~<80s guitar solo>, August 8, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
These get better as they continue. The author has finally stopped the one-move random death traps and delivered a new chapter that actually manages to attempt a slight story and character arc. The writing continues the zany, stupid, cartoon humor from before that follows the somewhat Monkey Island form of "Normal Response, Wacky Response, Audacious Response" but I find them funny, and at last I've gotten through an episode without having to smash my keyboard as I angrily start over. The jokes work ever so much better when you only see them once!

No summary because it's too short and simple for that. You're a zombie wizard, hijinks ensue.

You Were Made For Loneliness, by Tsukareta

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Marvelous Writing Difficult Read, August 3, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This story delivers a mad sort of intensity casting the reader as a past-its-prime robot which is purchased at a yard sale and pressed into service by a seemingly-horrible woman who gripes that she has to issue specific commands to you. You're about two decades obsolete, but old robots make good spare robots. You're not one of the newer ones that can carry out implicit actions.

And it also seems the robot's hard drive has been recycled several times. Snippets of other people's lives can be reviewed, nearly always at high-pitch emotional moments. These become almost too extensive to read in one sitting. The angst here is pitch-dark and unflinching in the places it goes. This is not a bad thing.

What worked against this piece is the text styling. If you know enough html to make the background dark gray, you know enough to change the teeny default 8pt Arial font to something else and make it bigger.

I love the interesting games the author plays with agency. I was overwhelmed by some of the lengthy, almost short story-length interludes. Many of these I did read are internet-age adult situations (not the fun kind by any means) that ache under the weight of lived experience. Some are seemingly related to the frame story, some seem out of left field. I was most interested in the owner of the robot. You're not the best one available, and people enjoy interacting with you with about as much care as they do with ATM machines and dial in voice-recognition menus.

Worth it if you like your fiction brewed emo-black and bitter. If the output were more comfortable to physically read I'd definitely want to delve into more of the tangental stories.

Progression, by Alex Kriss
Interesting Concept, Despite Reviewer's Lack Of..., July 24, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Progression is a dungeon delve into the underworld that seems to borrow a bit from Andrew Plotkin's Bigger Than You Think in that it seems that the player is meant to fail multiple times in order unlock new options to move further in the game. There's even an XP display that does not reset during multiple play throughs.

The "die to proceed" mechanic can be interminably frustrating in most games. Many Twine games are filled with these unhinted arbitrary choice clicks leading to an unpredictable game-over as a way to add the illusion of choice without the work of actually writing extensive choices that are meaningful. I remember a particularly egregious Ecto-Comp entry where the character has a choice of "Proceed down the sidewalk" or "Cross the street". Since no specific goal or direction had been given, it was infuriating to choose "Cross the street" only to summarily be told "You have been hit by a car, try being more careful next time," when there was absolutely no clues that the player could have made use of to know that was a death-end. Bigger Than You Think used dying abruptly as a gimmick - you died but were able to drop a rope into a chasm where it remained for the next incarnation of your player to use it and proceed further so "bad" choices could lead to new interactions.

That *seems* what's supposed to happen here with the XP count. Progression's text is evocative but sparse, and there are passages with several links that the player cannot choose since the preceding paragraph dims out when one is chosen. A few repetitions, therefore are not unwelcome. The problem here is some choices provide only a few words in response or a slight text variation, and then new links not seen before appear later on with very little to clue the player why. (Spoiler - click to show)Three scenes in I had to choose an answer to the Sphinx's riddle from about four provided. Each time I was wrong and had to replay the previous scenes. I steamrollered through them, restarting each time. At one point I was given a *fifth* choice, ostensibly based on what I had done before. Since I didn't try that one immediately, and didn't remember what slightly different sequence of clicks led to that choice appearing, I wasn't able to proceed.

I was hoping that the XP meter was the games way of keeping track of this and would offer greater and greater explanation of what's going on and more choices in each scene, but this didn't come into play in the sequence of the game I worked through - even though I got the XP count pretty high. Is it just a matter of grinding XP to make the game winnable?

The succinct writing style is good since the text must be read multiple times, but even then I was eventually just clicking hard and fast to get back where I was. Early on, the player is plunged into darkness with just two words "torch" and something that's not the torch. You're not told what the torch will do, but having the screen fade then from black up to deep blood red was a nice bit of styling. Despite being short, Progression quickly becomes tedious. There's no save/reload mechanism that might make this less frustrating because that would defeat the game of setting all the right flags so progress can be made.

This is unfortunate, as I genuinely liked the scenario. It seems like a step toward creating a larger puzzle in a choice-based adventure besides "Choose A, B, or C", but I grew quickly tired of it after about nine times through. Better feedback when the correct choices are made would go much toward improving this. Also some more extensive variations of the opening sequences so the player feels like they actually are "progressing". A way to review the choices that were made previously with a hint or nudge in the right direction after the death screen might help. Maybe this all happens later in the game past where I gave up after trying every response to the Sphinx.

There is no "about" or "hints" option, and no setup other than "You descend..." which could come off as pretentious, but works into the mysterious impenetrable-ness I think the author wants to evoke. If this game wasn't tested, it should have been. Perhaps if the player made enough correct choices, they could be returned just to before the incorrect one to save some tedium. I liked the game, I just didn't like repeating the opening ten times and not knowing how I could improve by taking different links. Appropriate and clear feedback is a must in a game like this. If you like experimenting and trying to find every nook and cranny that a Twine game provides, this will keep you busy a while.

(Spoiler - click to show)
‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌Your descent is over.

This place is changing you.

You have died 6 time(s).
You have killed your brother 1 time(s).
You have eaten 2 sandwich(es).
You have incorrectly answered the Sphinx's riddle 4 time(s).
You have earned 175 experience points in total.
---
This is not true. These results are from one extra play I did to check things while writing the review. I may have restarted without a death several times, but I earned a lot more XP than that in my initial playthroughs. Apparently there's a cookie to remember some bits of your play but not others.


Saturn's Child, by Jerry Ford

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Does this game have a working link?, July 17, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I'm unable to download this from the link...is it on the ifArchive?

Wom-Industrial Revolution, by TK, Megan, Sky
At first, I thought this was serious., July 17, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I thought this was yet another Twine simulation of the affronts experienced at the hands of men that are quite popular currently. Then I hit prose like this:

The massive industrial building pumps smog into the air at a breakneck pace. You can physically feel the disapproving, accusatory frowns of 21st Century environmentalists looming over you and your future workplace. You hear the sobs of orphans and puppies coming from throughout the area.

The prose is actually quite funny, and I enjoyed it a lot more once I realized it was a parody.

There are actually footnotes, and references, and art included to illustrate this poor pregnant protagonist with rotting teeth and a lagabout husband.

This would have gotten a 3-star, but the game crashed in the middle when I tried to get a job in the factory.

“Are you here to inquire about a job?”

“Yes.”


This opens a new browser window with a neocities site missing content. I'm just hoping this wasn't meta-humor showing the futility of factory work, but both the "Yes" and "No" options lead nowhere.

What's in a Name?, by Gaming Pixie
Honest and Revealing, July 12, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Gaming Pixie presents here a short Twine piece which I can possibly describe as "bisexuality simulator". Everyone's got a sexual identity, but there is an uncanny valley that many civilians don't comprehend that represents omnisexuality or bisexuality. It seems that heterosexuals and homosexuals can both agree that their identity is hard and fast and isn't going to change. Where does a person fit who is not so similarly signed in ink to prefer traits and derive pleasure from the beauty of only gender or the other? Within welcoming communities, those who "decide not to decide" are sometimes looked upon as untrustworthy, and possibly something to be shunned, despite the lessons learned from fundamental sexism one meta-level up.

Anyway. This game rings true, and is a quick and informative read with several interesting choices.

My outcome: Yay, I'm a lesbian.

Shadow of a Soul, by Gaming Pixie

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Full of Plastic Skeletons, July 9, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Remember those carnival dark rides with all the lurid artwork on the sheet metal facade that looked like it was done by an artist who did both tattoos and album covers? They promise chills and thrills within, but once inside the bumpy cart and crashing through the doors, the flapping tent doesn't keep out the daylight, and you're supposed to quiver in fear at some random blasts of air, a buzzer in the dark, an air horn, and an occasional brief illumination of a halloween mask by a bare bulb? The outside suggestion of what goes on inside proves to be the most interesting part.

Shadow of a Soul purports to be a sexually and violently explicit tale of the afterlife. It is written in Twine, however the text is not styled, using the ugly and way-too-small default white on black format. The game does contain some images and some well-chosen music.

So you've made a deal with dark creatures for a long and happy life. It's not immortality, but it's more than a hundred years, which seems reasonable for this kind of story. You're allowed to choose or not choose your gender, and also specify what gender attracts you the most. This is nicely done and the text varies to adapt to this.

So instead of just going to hell, you are pressed into service by a dark minion to "release" seven souls as a pre-quest before going to your final reward. Your performance here will determine your ultimate fate; whether you are kept as a pet by this minion, or turned over to the minion's "sibling" who is purportedly not as nice.

This is a great setup, and suggests a dark and gritty scenario rife with geysers of blood and lava, horrifying creature fights, and some down and dirty sexual scenarios as well as some soul-searching and some insight into the human nature of mercy and punishment, pain and pleasure...all the the trappings of an imaginative take on Dante's Inferno.

What happens next is barely a skeleton of that idea. You fight seven identical creatures. Even the art for each one is the same. A few are differentiated only by the words "this one looks stronger". You get the choice to stab them with your knife or feed them your blood, and every time this happens, it is described exactly the same. There seems to be a slight bit of randomness in how many times you stab or how much blood each creature requires, but this is arbitrary and involves no strategy. When you give blood, you can give "a little" "more" or "a lot". Twice you can perform sexual favors to replenish your blood, and these encounters are described with only the slightest bit more detail that wouldn't even come close to making a soccer mom who's read Fifty Shades tingle even a bit.

It's a horribly missed opportunity to show off some amazing creature art, and some disturbing sexual and violent prose. The story as told doesn't go far enough for all its suggestion of afterlife prurience. And the "battle" game part isn't fun or strategic or varied enough to make up for the uninspired descriptions. Once you stab a demon, you can't retreat and offer it blood. It's about as pulse-pounding as a solo game of Battleship.

I did think the music worked well and seemed to follow what was happening, providing a smudge of the atmosphere I wanted in the prose, if it wasn't in the monster art. The scream when a demon dies by the knife is a bit humorous though.

(Spoiler - click to show)I believe there may be different endings besides the two extremes that I played to (all blood, all stabbing). When you reach one, you pretty much are given the fate that was promised, without irony, nor an endgame twist, which was disappointing.

I so wish this worked better, because it's a solid skeleton for a game, but it's a plastic skeleton illuminated by a red bulb accompanied by buzzers and air horns instead of being a ghoulish and decadent dive into depravity promised by the painted facade.

It's really a shame this author didn't polish this another week and submit it for the Adult Interactive Fiction Competition.

The Fuzzy Little Adventure, by PaperBlurt

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Adventure, My Ass, July 9, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
The Fuzzy Little Adventure is another story by PaperBlurt which attempts to capitalize on the shocking humor of cognitive dissonance. Framed like a children's book, the gushy narration talks of happy rainbows and sharing, but the three furry animal characters in the story are only interested in making a drug deal, shouting at each other in threat-laden, profanity-stuffed invective that wavers between creatively original and boringly overblown.

If this sounds groundbreaking to you, stop reading this review right now and play this story. You may get a few laughs out of some imaginatively overblown methods of anatomical torture and punishment, (these are all discussed but never actually happen, so it's essentially that Saturday Night Live skit with the catchphrase "I hate when that happens!")

There's no real interaction, save for a couple of choices at the end, and you spend most of the story clicking on an ellipsis that I couldn't find when I originally tried reading this on my phone. The reader does not participate in the story but makes a couple of choices that slightly alter the finale.

The concept of portraying an adult Quentin Tarantino-ish plot using the trappings of a children's story has been done before and better by several programs on Adult Swim, such as Robot Chicken which never subjects the viewer to any concept longer than a minute, and South Park which has practically run every permutation of dissonant humor while almost never losing focus on telling a story. Even Family Guy knows that shocking humor shouldn't preclude things like plot and characterization (thin though they may be.) The initial humor of fluffy animals making a drug deal is amusing at first, but beyond that, the story has no original ideas and doesn't develop in any surprising ways. I expected the narrator to turn on the characters, but this story isn't ambitious enough to attempt a second humor trope.

PaperBlurt's previous Dad vs. Unicorn saved the joke for the end, and did not overstay its maudlin welcome. The Sadness of Rocky Barbato had some plot aspiration and the germ of an original idea. Despite some mild amusement at the audacity of this concept, this unhappy badger is sad to report that this fuzzy little adventure contains no adventure at all.

Zombie Wizard of the Apocalypse, Episode 2, by Andrew Watt

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
"Though I may be a doddering woodsman, the irony is not lost on me.", June 17, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
The last episode of ZWotA [TWEEdledeedeedleeDEEDLEdee] cast you as a dead wizard on a bus trying to find the correct random path through a series of death-ends. This episode makes great strides to playability - there's still a tree of random deaths, but they are extensively written and imaginative, then take you right back to make another choice. This makes me much less grumpy about the game.

Once again, some surprisingly witty and puerile humor exchange fluids like promdates. Here you get to choose where you went to school by flipping through ever-more-ridiculous choices. Some of the dialogue gave me Guybrush Threepwood vibes, which isn't a bad thing, along with a bit of Thornton's Mentula Macanus.

I will definitely play more of this if it continues, and can manage to remain specifically funny without devolving into a rehash of gross-out humor that's been done before. So far, at the short chapter lengths, it is just enough of a bite of ridiculous lunacy that doesn't overstay its welcome.

Cuttings, by nahuel denegri

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
I'm a homeless man...no I'm the sun..., June 7, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is an ambitious multimedia prose piece (only interactive in that you click the highlighted word to continue) in Quest by an author not writing in the native language. In a way, some of the strange English constructions work in its favor, describing some of the detail in the images a very oblique and fascinating light. I commend the author who does a good job with some very evocative turns of phrase and shifts in perspective.

On the other hand, there are passages that are over-written and I might have appreciated one clear image or metaphor rather than a long paragraph explaining that this person is my father and this person is someone named Emma and ... There are a lot of different people involved in this, and something tragic has happened. Someone fell out a window and I think I'm supposed to feel very maudlin and affected by this, but I've got so many random people suffering I don't know which one to identify with.

There is also music, which is very Soundblaster Midi sounding, which synchronizes with the passages. Some is helpful and appropriate when plaintive in the background, but there was one cue that was so 60's Suspense Organ Sting that made me grin and think of Doctor Who, which wasn't what the author was going for, I think!

I appreciate the effort, and hope the author continues to write.

Zombie Wizard of the Apocalypse, Episode 1, by Andrew Watt

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Even Zombie Wizards Have Their Flaws, June 7, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
You are the Zombie Wizard of the Apocalypse! (which should be accompanied by tweedleedeedly electric guitar riffs by a fifteen year-old) in this very short chapter of what is likely to be an epic tale of Wizardry and...zombie...ness.

Essentially this wants to be a raucous and bawdy deconstruction of the day to night "life" of a young lich (which at least in my definition is a zombie wizard). The writing is actually good and shows a spark of keen wit, but I kept having to back up and rewind every time the story would end by taking a choice that makes no more arbitrary sense than any other: a diarrhea spell should stop *any* approaching human guard in his tracks.

I'd suggest in further chapters that the number of "game over" dead ends be completely reduced or eliminated. (Spoiler - click to show)I'm a zombie lich king. If I want to walk through radioactive water and discover my remaining flesh is melting off, I should be able to deal with that. Instead of "game over" you offer a number of solutions and rejoin the main branch of the story. Right off the bat I'm given the option to "shave my beard". Apparently this is the connective tissue holding my body together because I died when I didn't stop. Your life meter would seem to be the pain state of a boil on your ass. No really.

So this is a brief introduction to a world that the author wishes to continue in a longer work. I like the idea of the every day life of a zombie wizard, but I'd like it *fleshed* out...as it were.

How Martina Was Won, by Bronques

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Twine as Photo Album, May 31, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is less a game and more a paper-thin photo-narrative of a photographer at a hot South Beach party taking candids. Each click you make gives you a real-life picture of some very attractive people. I've never seen this done, and I assume the photographer has the rights to use everyone's image. The photos are of party-happenings and very sexy ladies in swimsuits (and a few cute guys). While you might not want to play this at work, it doesn't go racier than most pool party photos with a few that are zoomed in on a (clothed) cleavage or butt. At the end the entire set of photos is displayed (along with a "to be continued") as far as the story goes.

The thin shred of a story is that you're looking to meet up with Martina, who's famous but very hard to pin down because she's so busy and everyone wants to talk with her or get her to do something. I'm not sure this even matters. Other than one or two seeming branches (do you want to catch the DJ who just started mixing, or follow the girl in the bikini?) you're essentially always just clicking the link for the next photo. While it's by no means innovative drama, it was a clever way to give some context to a photo set that might otherwise just be a slideshow with a next button.

Whitefield Academy of Witchcraft, by Steph Cherrywell

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Sorcerer+Potter+Nancy Drew, May 11, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
NOTE: I have not completed the game yet due to hardware limitations (Mac, online only) but I wanted to call attention to it.

This is one of the best examples of a non choice-based Quest game I've seen in a while. Even though the story obviously pulls inspiration from several sources (Infocom spell-fests, J.K.Rowling) the writing is clever and at the level where it feels like one of Infocom's old-school fictions, perhaps aimed at the WISHBRINGER crowd. The female protagonist returns to her not-Hogwarts magic school a day late to find everyone missing, frozen, or worse. The game touts five re-usable spells and from the section I played seemed tightly coded...

Except I *ached* for this story to be in Glulx or Tads with a more robust parser. I'm on a Mac, and therefore cannot play Quest games offline, so each turn takes from half a second to about five seconds to register, and while that doesn't sound like much, it's like walking through sticky mud. Also, many of the standard modern conveniences such as word synonyms (READ BOOK? Nope. READ SPELLBOOK) and some pronoun handling (TAKE BOOK. EXAMINE IT sometimes failed to catch what I was talking about) are noticeably absent from the interface. Fortunately Quest provides an inventory list and a list of exact items in scope so that's not a huge deal, but it felt clunky to type TAKE CAKE. (whoops) TAKE CUPCAKE frequently. I did enjoy some Quest features, such as a colorful automatic map and a compass rose showing viable directions at all times.

The author is quite on the ball (loved the trashy romance novel excerpt) and has included some original art as well. I'm almost certain she would be conscientious about synonyms and the like if Quest made it easy. I'm not vastly experienced with Quest, but I know creating a parser-style game on the order of one this fully-implemented is quite a huge task involving advanced scripting concepts despite the language's "easy" trappings which is why many of the games that come out using it (unlike this one) are relatively simple or CYOA.

I hope to continue this, which means I'm going to have to register for the Quest site (I'm sure I have before, just don't remember it) in order to save my progress. Definitely worth a look if you are on PC and can download the off-line Quest runner, or have a lot more patience than I do.

A room, by oranebeast

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A room. A Moebius Strip., May 10, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is a clever one-room escape done in Twine. The room, it seems, is a hypercube/klein bottle of some sort and figuring out the physics involved with a button, a lever, falling, and meeting yourself present up a mystery. I didn't solve it after about twelve minutes and gave up. I'm curious if there might not be an ending, which would be valid for this walkthrough hypercube simulator.

I deduct a star for using the default display CSS because the text is so hard to read at minuscule size. But it is a neat little puzzle box and worth playing with for a bit. I'd love this sort of conceit expanded into a fuller experience.

The Sadness of Rocky Barbato, by PaperBlurt
I was so ready to go with this., May 2, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I first read a PaperBlurt Twine story during the 2013 IFComp - his "Dad vs Unicorn" was a surprisingly slippery read. I was held on the wavering line of "This has some serious feeling in it, is this serious? He can't be serious. Oh my gosh this is serious. No it's not!"

I have several of my own stories that deal with the porn industry, so reading the blurb for this one I was totally invested. I was ready to see what the imagined golden years must be like for Ron Jeremy.

The text is immaculately styled, colorful, and the illustrations and typography make this a high class presentation.

Then I had the same experience as I did with Dad v. Unicorn, but this time I'm not sure it was so successful. I was expecting a slightly naughty tale with either feelgood or melancholy elements. I liked that(Spoiler - click to show) Rocky B. has had the life that every guy dreams of, but he feels like he's missing something. I was expecting a strange romance or a pornography comeback with all the humiliating and potential comedy that could entail. PaperBlurt has a great sense of humor, and I love the cell phone conversations with god and satan. Especially when Satan's response to "I want a kid" is an immediate hang up. I thought it would be a one-off joke, resulting in farcical embarrassment as Rocky came to his senses, or a comedic payoff that would be a pileup series of misguided failures which is what the game would be about. But that's the rest of the plot. You kidnapping a kid.

The game forces you to do it. You go to a store and have several chances to steal several different children. (Neither this nor DvU afford agency other than you can click on things in different order). I was still laughing along thinking this was one of those whacky episodes that would pay off. I skipped every kid and was rewarded with a whole entire sequence you will miss, which maybe has the one slight "puzzle" in the game. Escaping this forces you to take the next kid you see. And you drive to Tiujana with your charge sobbing in the trunk through a long and unskippable sequence.

All right, this is going to be some type of serious adventure. At the border you can choose to take the kid with you or drop him off with the border patrol. I'm thinking "of course I'm not going to abandon this kid in Mexico..." but if you choose to keep the kid, the story *makes* you do the "right" thing and leave them. The end. ? Abruptly. No resolution. So Rocky needed to...emigrate to find happiness?


So I know this game was written for competition. and I like the author's subversive sense of humor (The unicorn in DvU was reminiscent of and shocking as the Spanish Inquisition) but this felt sort of like a treatment for a longer independent film that just hit high points with none of the actual meat of the story. (Spoiler - click to show)Sure, justify the trip to Mexico because getting to the border with a kidnapped kid in your trunk is an amazing impossible puzzle setup that gets thrown away.

Something is missing. I think the game needs a conversation with the kid. The kid needs to teach Rocky something profound without realizing it. (Spoiler - click to show)Then he appreciates it so much, he takes the kid back. All said, I felt like I got an outline of a story with promise of substance that was left out.

I don't mean to be completely negative. PaperBlurt is writing surprising and very well executed scenarios that almost all feel worthy of an independent film plot. I hope to see his talent grow and develop!

♥Magical Makeover♥, by S. Woodson

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Not the leech pit again!, April 19, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is Twine's default theme, but with a pink background where the text is tiny and still hard to read. (Spoiler - click to show)That is why the one sadly missing star. :( I *just* started futzing with Twine, and I am terrible at javascript and HTML, but even I found some default CSS templates and advice on the Twine forums to make my text bigger and take up the entire page. (Ms. Woodson: at least increase the font size and I will add the fifth star. Contact me if you need help or direction to resources!)

Okay, there's the bad stuff. MAGICAL MAKEOVER is delightfully written, wry, shot through with delicious prose and a knowledge of both vanity and the lack of confidence. Then the story takes off and actually goes in interesting places. A definite try if you're a fan of neo-fairy tales with a sense of humor. The title does not lie, the goings-on on display might be at first glance "girlish" but not just for ladies -- the author knows that and invites any reader in with unexpected cleverness and wonderful imagery.

For the most part, this *feels* like a linear story, but (Spoiler - click to show)I got an ending marked with something like a 3a, so I assume there are different ways through the plot. Most of the interaction that is not just "click to continue" seems to be how you approach the makeover at the beginning, perhaps in choices and order you choose them, and what apparel you get dressed in, so I assume it's setting some variables of some type that affect what happens later.

Recommended.

(do not) forget, by lectronice

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Astonishing use of Twine, April 19, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
(do not) forget is practically a graphical adventure created using twine and its choice-based systems, including (I believe) SugarCube for a save system. Beyond this it's like no other twine you've seen with full screen graphics, and downtempo sort of trip-hop music. Although the world is not really manipulable and consists of sprites moving around backgrounds which illustrate the simple story, it lends a huge dose of originality and weight to a game that would probably suffer without them and fall into the pile with every other short, zany twine story.

The writing is both witty and on occasion, crudely perverse. I've heard the graphics described as "Minecraft" and the simple cubic backgrounds and characters do resemble that game, but this also seems to be a parody of both FEZ and the ANIMAL CROSSING types of games which are filled with crocodiles named Crunchy and more is going on than you suspect. You're a bunny rabbit on a vision quest. Every animal, even in short appearances, has personality and a line you will probably remember, and the entire game plays in the self-aware jokey arena. It's not for everyone, especially if you don't like meta-snark, but I found it very worthwhile to see another thing that Twine is capable of, and I got a kick out of the animals arguing over their scientifically described behaviors.

I encountered one glitch where (Spoiler - click to show)I got stuck on one of the staticky "color of the sky" screens, and I hadn't used the save system. I don't know if it would have worked if I had since I played directly online, however, using my browser to go back and then forward again seemed to kick the HTML back in gear and the game proceeded. If it had not, I would have interpreted it as a strangely abrupt ending. The actual ending is slightly like that too. I thought "Am I done?" and had to wait a bit, and then I was. It fits the story pretty well though.

Zero Bars, by Hulk Handsome

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Has one really neat trick., March 29, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
The text gives you two viewpoints almost simultaneously, and seems to respond mostly with the one you react to. Like Schroedinger's cat, you're in two states until you resolve by observation and reaction.

It's a neat concept which has been toyed with in stories such as My Name is Tara Sue. On my play-throughs, I was only able to get the non dreadful ending. I don't know if there's a way to change that.

I was afraid it would be overwritten as the first paragraphs are a little overwhelmingly complicated in construction. It either gets better or serves the game, as I didn't notice after the first couple screens.

(Spoiler - click to show)It may just be comparing and contrasting roaming packs of college kids out partying with packs of college kids rioting and being beaten down by the police in areas such as the Ukraine. That may have been the point possibly - that we as Americans might consider violence in other countries but really it isn't forefront in our minds, considered and forgotten as we seek "another bar." I could be way off.

My Town, by Anastasia Salter

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Good Concept!, March 26, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This game purports to simulate a PC with Alzheimer's disease in a city that caters to Alzheimer's patients. I thought this was a cool concept. I played through pretty quickly. The text is nicely styled to avoid the annoying tiny print white on black. It appears there are multiple paths, and the Twine does that "switch word when you click" thing. Due to the concept, though, I wasn't so much in control as I would have liked or needed to be given the status of the PCs health. Worth a play.

1 AM, by Soundboy

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Nicely-written, not very long., March 26, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This game was written for a Ludum Dare where the theme was 10 seconds. The author does an interesting thing in letting you play one second out of a relationship in consecutive different time periods, which is a pretty cool idea. 1 AM on your first move might zip you to 1 AM a year later for your next. It's like a more built-out version of Aisle where you get a follow-up to your one move.

While this is a really cool concept in theory, this game only glances the surface of making good use of the idea. I played a couple of times, and even with such a small work I felt railroaded. This could be a prototype for a longer game. I almost wish this were in a parser language like Inform so the decision of what to do could be more open. Since the concept would limit you to ten moves, I'd like to see the resolutions actually seem to make some difference like some of the wildly divergent denouement seen in Aisle. Or even Pick Up the Phone Booth and Aisle if it had a similar sense of random chaos.

Craverly Heights, by Ryan Veeder

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A Veeder Episode, March 21, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is a sparsely-implemented but well-written piece in Playfic. It feels like an example game, but contains Veeder's usual wit and noodles around with the PCs identity and inventory in a way that could be interestingly fleshed out in a longer piece. Any more description would spoil. Worth a look if you have ten minutes.

Alice Falling, by Matthias Conrady

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
I would read this at full length., March 13, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I'm a Wonderland nerd, so I enjoyed this immensely. I would love to see the entire text done with some creative styling similar to what this falling sequence does.

Target: Cynthia - Chapter 1, by Cynthia Dawn
Looking forward to Chapter 2, March 6, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is an on-rails Twine story with a couple of choices and a chance of dying. Normally a linear story where you do little but click for the next part of the story is a bore, but the writing is sure and imaginative, hinting at a mind-bogglingly interesting meta concept. Hey, a waterside is linear, and that doesn't make it any less entertaining. I hope the author continues this!

Quit Your Job Simulator 2014, by Caelyn Sandel (as Colin Sandel)

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
I don't think I got the correct ending., March 3, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This game is your basic FML office game with some horror thrown in. I played once. (Spoiler - click to show)Wandered around a bit, then died. Did the coffee poison me?

Very well written. I liked where this might have been going, but I think I'm happy with the (Spoiler - click to show)"Failed to quit my Job" resolution to my quest!

Digital Witnesses, by rosencrantz

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A short story of future escape, February 24, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This was done as a challenge to create a story with 23 passages in Twine. The writing is clear, evocative, and sure.

Other than the brief length, the limitations seem to pose no problem for the author, although I did find myself looping to the same passages several times. This doesn't hurt, because there are extra links to investigate each time.

23 screens doesn't seem like much, but the author intelligently structures this so it doesn't feel like a small story. Very well done.

My Desk, by Matthias Conrady
A really neat voyeuristic exploration., February 6, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
It's not so voyeuristic, actually, as the author has invited you to snoop around his real desk and narrates what each item is. It's a good example of how Twine might be used to create an actual graphic point and click sort of adventure game.

Outbreak Day 1 : The Silent Outbreak , by Andre Berthiaume

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
I obtained an ending in six screens., February 5, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
It took barely five minutes. You may wish to wait for more of this to be released before trying it, especially since the game wants you to maintain a browser cookie to remember your progress.

Save the Date, by Chris Cornell

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
You will arrive at your Final Destination on Groundhog Day, January 3, 2014
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This game is brilliant, and you should play it before reading a review. No really. Play blind. Then come back. It's in Ren'Py? I think? That's the dating simulation engine where the anime characters slide in shrewdly from the sides...but this game doesn't do this - it's not annoying at all. Install this and play it. There's enjoyable music and graphics and it all works perfectly.

(Spoiler - click to show)I'm not sure I got everything out of this game, but I am a HUGE fan of meta and I love intricate recursion. So when I figured out this game was going to let me actually use save and reload to affect the story, I was hooked. It's got a lot to say about the contract between an author and a reader, and a gleeful sense of absurd humor. I almost think this even does a better trick than THE STANLEY PARABLE because there is no narrator and the author colludes with you wholeheartedly. It's almost got a bit of INCEPTION in its world-controlling aspirations.

Brilliant.

Cobblestone, by Paper Asssassin
Man, the Stanley Parable was a great game., December 31, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
In the Stanley Parable, you play a man named Stanley who discovers all of his coworkers have mysteriously vanished. A helpful narrator guides you along and you win. That's no fun though, and the point of the game is to disobey the narrator and change the story in bizarre, surreal, and interestingly-meta ways as he not-so-enthusiastically rewrites the tale to fit your actions. It's an amazing game that everyone should play.

Cobblestone is a text version of this implemented on a minuscule scale. It's got the rude narrator and the ever-expanding clown-car of possible choices. I didn't have a lot of patience for this because I have actually *played* The Stanley Parable, so a text version without the graphics, the audio, the music, the wry British narrator, and all of the other trappings ends up becoming just an argument simulator with you holding out while the parser/author try to convince you continuously take the proffered "best" choice.

This could work as a parser game, most likely, but as a choice-based narrative, it loses a lot, becoming "Push this button. Don't push this button. NO I said push that button!" It doesn't work when all you have are two choices. In the graphic adventure (and I would surmise in a parser game) there are fewer binary choices and more freedom to disobey other than clicking wrong.

A Cold Grave, by Mike Michalik

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Impressive, December 28, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
A very nicely styled Twine story. Low agency, but paced very nicely. The story is oblique but understandable, there's a little bit of gore as you are a psychic who enters the minds of the dead to get clues about their demise.

The writing is restrained, but a little bit on the nose at the beginning. The writing gets better as the story goes along and the author settles in.

I would definitely read more of this if it were a full-length novella or a slightly expanded and more interactive experience as a full-blown game. There are lots of hooks in this set up to give the reader more choice and more chances to explore and examine and interact. The author does a lot of good things with word-changing paragraphs.

Barren., by Word-Smith
Mmm, pulpy., December 27, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This game starts off with you in the middle of a desert being led nearly naked in shackles as part of a caravan overseen by a four-breasted Slaver riding a lizard. Oh my god. How did this author read my mind?

This purports to be a class writing project. The prose is at times lurid and descriptive in a good way, in others the author snarks at the reader for making the wrong decision. It's well done, but I'd like a little more breathing room between dying points in the story. I don't know if I'm supposed to be able to survive, but my options are Run, Fight, and Reason. I can't bide my time and see where we're headed, nor, can I try to talk to a companion to see if I can start up a proper revolt. The only viable option is to run, and these each lead to binary die-or-not situations which are interesting. A potential temptress lures me in and turns into a slime creature.

I almost feel I'm reading a stealth parody of both AIF and pulp science-fiction romance. Nudity is pointed out and exploited, and the whole thing has a thrown-together 80's barbarian movie vibe that I like. I'd like more decision points and a slightly more nuanced range of responses.

I don't have trouble with my narrator being snarky and *clever*. I think the author is very influenced by THE STANLEY PARABLE, and has the potential to write to that level, but I'd enjoy more relish of the situation instead of the ones that go "Oh you're think you're so smart for turning left..." Death messages should not last an entire page.

If I go north into the sandstorm I get lost with a one word description, and there is no "retry" button. The quick restart did manage to get me to play through all the permutations I could find, I felt that it should have been available in the sandstorm death as well.

Play Nice, by alicethornburgh

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Great concept, December 27, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
You are an ambassador attending a dinner with an alien race who value etiquette above all, and you are offered a pointed list of no-nos and names and rankings and suggestions like "don't discuss the traffic situation with this person". This leads to some instant death scenarios, ("Oh gosh, this food looks great!" !!STAB!!) but I very much appreciate what a good idea this is. It feels like a logic puzzle and has some interesting art.

Equine - Intro to Repro Sim, by whesung

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
I was a little put off at first..., December 26, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
An Equine Reproduction Adventure doesn't sound like an enjoyable subject for a text game, but I was surprised to find this is a medically instructional sort of interactive quiz that would help a veterinarian review procedure to diagnose a champion horse that's not breeding properly.

The interaction here is actually quite clever, hooking responses to directions, using the standard map of rooms and locations to make decisions. For example, the room description explains to go east to do a visual exam, or west to decide the problem is not with the mare. Five stars for thinking outside the box to make IF a viable medium for an educational simulation.

To Hell in a Hamper, by J. J. Guest
Hoarders, High above the Ground, December 18, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is a brilliant piece of IF, and I'd call it a classic. It's a one room comedic farce told in dry Victorian sensibilities where you must coerce your hot-air balloon passenger, Mr. Booby, to relinquish a ridiculous number of heavy items he is concealing in his inventory to gain enough altitude so you don't crash and burn in the steadily approaching volcano. Delightful.

The Cradle of Eve, by Kitty Horrorshow

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Standard SF, but very well done, December 15, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
You are part of a crew of four investigating a 32 year old derelict space ship. To say that standard space exploration horror tropes ensue is sort of accurate, but not in a bad way. It's a bit Event Horizon, but this is not a story about bloody alien/demonic rampage, although violence does occur.

Instead, it's a personal narrative that plays with agency. It's more of a game than the last few Twine stories I've reviewed, giving you choices at the story level instead of the "turn right at this hallway" level, which works very well. The story can play out at least three different ways, although with the same general outcome, but each one is surprisingly different and provides a smidgin more information about what's going on.

Lots of imagery is very well-written. I especially liked the description of the sense of infinite emptiness crossing from one ship to the other, and a description of weightlessness evokes spectacular imagery in the mind.

Originally I thought there was no denouement, until I tried one of the separate paths at the main fork. It is here that the story changes. I initially believed this was a false choice and would have the story end the same way, but although what happens is the same, there are three slightly different how paths here.

I liked The Cradle of Eve a lot. It has a very sure sense of its world, and changes the endgame of the story completely depending on your choice, although there's no way to change the outcome that I actually found. On first play I thought I had the whole story, and only playing the other two branches did I get the information that I actually wanted -(Spoiler - click to show)regarding what the entity in the seed actually wants to happen- but I still wish it was made clear whether -(Spoiler - click to show)is the seed using you opportunistically, or does it care about you? Apparently it's probed your memories and use them to its advantage, so I'm curious if the seed is actually malevolent or just doing what it needs to do to get planted.

Definitely play through if you get a chance.

What to Expect When You're Expecting Hive Spiders, by Julian Hyde

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The punch line is in the title., December 15, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Beyond the title, which earned a laugh from me, the game doesn't go very much farther than to detail the "stages" of hive spider infestation, and "what to expect" exactly as it says on the tin. It's nicely written, but doesn't go very much farther than that. Less a game than a slightly interactive guide that never tries for a better joke than the title.

I guess Twine is the system of choice for expressing angst, as the last few I've opened up have provided a list of "triggers"...in this case "spiders, body-horror". That's a decent way to self-regulate, I suppose.

I hate when Twine stories keep the default sugarcane theme with no modifications, and wish that authors would scale their text up if they are never going to provide a page of text that fills down past the top quarter of the screen.

The Circular Ruins, by Robert Yang
Good sense of identity, December 15, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
A neat and interesting Twine story that casts you in an unusual role. There's an interesting story to be told. I was promised seven, but got one...where are the other six?

I wish I could ask all Twine authors to increase the font size when their story only takes up the upper sliver of page in the Sugarcane theme.

Moons and Waves, by Merritt Kopas
Deeply personal, December 15, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This Twine narrative by Merritt Kopas is a stellar example of how the interactive medium can communicate things that a standard book or poem or treatise cannot. It's kind of a standard thing Twine has become - a place where people with poetry or just imagery can write it out and sort of get things off their chest.

This one is extremely well done. There are pauses built in, and some ambiguity about whether you are supposed to click something or not at times, but this serves to make the incident that Merritt Kopas relays feel like a very personal telling, with all the hesitation and occasional tangents that might be interjected into having words with a friend who will listen.

There are also times when the script spawned another window full of what appears to be twee/twinecode. I am unsure if this was supposed to happen this way, but seeing the Twine broken out and reading some of the English sentences within the code I think supplement the personal feeling in that I was reading behind the fourth wall and seeing what Merritt actually wrote behind the flash of html. I hope I was supposed to be seeing the code and it wasn't just a glitch.

This is not a game so much as a short experience where you can connect with the author and perhaps empathize or sympathize with raw feeling and experience put forth. I can't say I really enjoy this type of presentation in itself and hope to read lots more of them...but the piece is definitely worth a read if you enjoy raw image-filled prose poetry that can exist in an artist's head.

Her Pound of Flesh, by Liz England

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Shivery Body Horror, December 14, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This story is very directly written and horrifies with emotion and monstrous implications. It feels like some of the moody J-horror short films without splattering blood, but rather the rumbling, queasy burn of ideas in your brain where you don't know if the monster is internal or external to your point of view.

Very nice use of Twine. I'm starting to think one of my requisites for any Twine story is going to be that the author *must* style the text outside of the default - at minimum, MAKE THE TEXT BIGGER. If your story only takes up the top quarter of the screen, you have problems.

This is about the right length for a choice-based scenario, and nicely paced between text and choices. The writing is not indulgent, but gives enough details to get the goosebumps across.

Citizens on the Mountaintop: The Story of the Civil War Amendments, by Ted Casaubon
Wicked Satire, December 9, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is a great use of the Quest engine for CYOA masquerading as a correctional class to teach you about corporate personhood. I almost don't think I was smart enough to play the game, but it's a very tongue-in-cheek and surprisingly-well researched fractured history lesson.

And there's a scene where you play Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as he tumbles down a slide into the National Archive.

Show Me Your Back, by keres

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A Twine poem about misunderstood emotions., December 9, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
No plot, but some raw emotions on display. Thank you for making the text big!

The Axolotl Project, by Samantha Vick

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Great Story, November 23, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
The Axolotl Project is a choice-based narrative written in Twine. You are a lowly intern researcher working as an animal handler on the moon where research into new drugs is being conducted. Per usual in these types of stories, a sinister plot reveals itself, and you must untangle the threads and save yourself and humanity.

This game got hold of my attention and absorbed me. The prose is well-written and never indulgent. There's a surprising amount of agency, and I never got stuck so the narrative never lost momentum. I'm not sure if I was funneled, but after the exploratory first act, I was always given a well-timed nudge on what to do next. I never felt as though I was being forced to the conclusion, but once the diegetic hints start coming (they're all explained in the denouement) you appreciate them.

My only slight gripe is the story was in the default Twine font and format (I think it's called Jonah? The dark one that clears the screen after each choice). I always appreciate when authors make the font a little bit larger and more readable. There was only once or twice when the text filled more than the upper fourth of the screen, so that would be my only suggestion: style the HTML a bit more nicely.

I went from skimming some of the descriptions at the beginning to actually fully invested and interested in the story that Samantha Vick was telling, as well as her characters. So many of the Twine offerings have very abstracted plot lines or provide just so much metaphorical poetry (which Twine does very well), or are so poorly written that you may as well not bother. So if you've never read a good fully-fleshed out and plotted narrative in a CYOA-type wrapper, then The Axolotl Project is here as one of the best and most recent examples of how Twine can be used to tell an actual linear, non-abstract story.

Fuck That Guy, by Benji Bright

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Pure porn. In a good way., November 14, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is a very well-written set of erotic gay interludes that branch off from you being in a club and making choices to pursue several different men or male couples. It's well-paced, and definitely worth a look if you're into what it has to offer. The stories are kinky and idealized without guilt so they each make for a quick hot read. The choices are well-laid out, and essentially involve you selecting whom you pair off with. There's not a ton of agency, but the writing is very good and would suffer if you were making lots of incremental choices.

Swan Hill, by Laura Michet

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful, melancholy, and evocative., November 14, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is a very simple Twine story with a smidgin of interaction. Usually this type of thing gets boring, but I found this excellently written, and an interesting story about two brothers. One uses magic, and magic causes pain. The more powerful the magic, the more chance it can kill the wielder.

The story isn't about this specifically, but it shadows the relationship and the obliquely subtle plot. This feels like a tiny fragment of a much larger world, and I enjoyed the little glimpse of it that this story gives. I hope this writer has more to show us because the story is achingly lovely and melancholic.

The Cuban Missle Crisis- John F. Kennedy, by b.lee

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Solving the Cuban Missile Crisis in One Click, November 2, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This sounds as if it's going to be a lofty and important game. The description on the website is a good column-foot long (see above), and reads as if it were lifted directly from a world history textbook. Sounds like the author did a lot of research. I'm not into historical games, but this sounded like too crazy of a concept not to at least see what it is. There's no way I'll have time to play this kind of deep historical "what if" scenario.

I needn't have worried. I'm presented with the situation of possible nukes in Cuba, and a menu of about five choices. "Nuke Russia" is one of them. I choose "Blockade Cuba". Game ends, and I'm berated for picking the most boring option. "Do Nothing" ends the game also, the nukes are never launched. The other aggressive options aren't much deeper than two clicks, and are pretty much "You get nuked back" with various US regions flattened and different countries emerging victorious…"Break out the tea and crumpets" is displayed when England remains as the only superpower. Is this meant as a joke game?

One of the pictures has a sideways page number on the edge, so I get the feeling this might have been a class assignment where someone lifted pictures and text from a book. None of the outcomes (or any of the original text in the game for that matter) goes into anything like thoughtful speculation or extensive detail about what might have really happened if history played out differently. It's just "CLICK Russia nukes you". This doesn't seem at all like it was meant as parody, unless you take an additional meta-step back and look at it as a humorous example of a highschooler's last minute "what do I submit for this history assignment due tomorrow that I have not done any work on yet??" type of thing.

Door Simulator, by Giggling_Kiste

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Possibly an experimental joke game., October 4, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
A several-move CYOA made with Quest. This will take less than five minutes. There are a couple of choices that you, as a door, have to make about who to let pass through and who to disallow. This could be expanded into something really cool (perhaps sort of a reductionist "Papers, Please") if the author chose to do so.

(Spoiler - click to show)Shows promise...for example after letting a child through, and blocking two suspicious men, Michael Jackson comes to the door. My thought was "I'm not letting him through, he's dead!" and I was correct. This is the type of absurdist humor that could be expanded upon. Right now it's if you guess wrong, you die somehow. I'd like to see ways that you could fail and perhaps learn the rules...or maybe in the same fashion of "Papers, Please" you get sets of ever more complicated conflicting and contrasting rules. With some thought and expansion, this would be the kind of cute joke game people might really enjoy along the lines of "The Idiot Test" apps for phones.

Conversations With My Mother, by Merritt Kopas

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An interesting anecdote., September 7, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This Twine episode lets you manipulate words in a short speech by the author's mother...it sounds a bit like an answering machine message. After you do so, the game generates links to tweets made by the author in which she expresses responses to the words chosen. Kind of an interesting idea. I don't know if this is based on real life, or completely fabricated, but it's a nifty little interaction which reminds the reader how words might be interpreted.

I wish there were more to it. It's almost the same exact mechanic as FIRST DRAFT OF THE REVOLUTION. Conversations... has you changing the words that are said to the PC/author, but this is almost a template for what could be an amazing conversation engine - if you could control the syntax and intention of different parts of the sentence completely by twiddling with them and getting varied reactions from the interlocutor based on *how* you phrased what you said, it could be quite interesting.

[mutant]heat, by Porpentine

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Porpentine skates the bleeding edge of Twine, September 4, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Porpentine is one of the most prolific authors in Twine, having won acclaim and awards for Howling Dogs and turning out viscerally surreal avant-garde performance art tone poems on a regular basis. These aren't so much games or stories as they are fever-dreams of imagery and text experimentation filled with gore and alien sexuality that can make the reader feel they are intruding on the secret thoughts and imagery that most people keep locked deep in their heads.

I can't say I really engage with most of these stories. (The exception being CYBERQUEEN, which was fan-fiction of a universe I really like) They are filled with demented imagery and ideas presented in broken phrases that slash across the screen, utilizing HTML and Twine in ways that nobody else does. But there's imagination on display in spades, and even if you have no idea what's going on, and you are revulsed by the imagery, it's difficult not to appreciate these short...ejaculatory rushes of raw feeling and artistic typography.

And the tricks that Porpentine does! Words slide around and move, and on occasion pause coyly, making you wait for them, performing their meanings almost in almost children's book literal fashion. At one point you must click on one of two words that alternate positions rapidly, taunting you (suggesting how a unique combat or spell system could be accomplished in a more mainstream story done in Twine). At one point the same text is displayed, rapidly changing back and forth like lightning flashes between futuristic and rough organic fonts that suggest the same thoughts are being shared by two different personas(Spoiler - click to show) who have just battled, torn each other apart, and copulated with the metal and intestinal wounds to their mutual satisfaction.

It's heady, imaginative stuff, even if it's not your thing. Porpentine will probably go down as a pioneer of ways to break interactive fiction out of the prison of rigid, prosaic paragraphs of standard text and hyperlinks, and inspire new ways to create emotion and poetry through the timing and manipulation of the words themselves. I myself have avoided Twine since the default output is boringly plain. But this type of game inspires the imagination of what might be possible if someone sat down to do a more cohesive narrative with all the tricks and methods Porpentine plays with effortlessly.

The Realistic Nascar eXperience, by Nathaniel Tayerle

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
You turn left. Then you turn left. , August 29, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I guess the joke is that the Nascar track is an oval, and the race consists of nothing but left turns.

Not at all realistic, nor funny in the least, other than the idea that (Spoiler - click to show)You go straight and turn left a couple of alternating times to win the game.

It took me longer to obtain this file than it did to play it. It's hosted on one of those sites that makes you wait several seconds to download if you don't sign up and pay for a premium account. There are multiple download buttons, and the obvious one I pushed downloaded a setup program for a browser I did not want. Why not host this game on the IF Archive for free like every other game?

Exactly 14 syllables... er, gulps!, by Valentine Kopteltsev
The prize for most intricately implemented table goes to..., August 26, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is a Russian speed-IF written TADS for the Vzhzh-Vzhzh! contest, the game explains to me. "Vzhzh" is the sound of moving fast, it also says. The rules require a wet and dry pair of twins, talking inanimate objects, and fourteen syllables in the title.

The title doesn't have fourteen syllables, but perhaps it just may be a translation issue. The other two requirements are met. And...hurray! It's not written in TWINE!

It's not a particularly long game, but the goal is to drink beer. The obstacle to this is comical and it's very well-implemented for a Speed IF. I did notice on a restart that the game won't let you do some things until certain points. For example I couldn't call the books by their nicknames, nor could I interact with the extremely complicated table until it became completely necessary to.

Good effort, I completed the game in about 20 minutes, and I am usually horrible with one-puzzle games.

[Note: At the time of this writing, the download link does not work. I had to obtain it from the IF Archive directly at http://www.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/tads/e14s.gam ]

Slavoj Žižek Makes A Twine Game, by Cameron Kunzelman

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Huh., August 24, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Perhaps I am too stupid to understand this game. Am I really that old that I can't appreciate a deep character study? I didn't comprehend large parts of Mentula Macanus either, and supposedly that was loaded with witty cultural references. Maybe it's because I've never heard of Slajvi..Slaovo...Who the heck is this guy? <clicketyclickety>

Wiki...pedia...copy...paste...

Slavoj Žižek (Slovene: [ˈslavoj ˈʒiʒɛk] ( listen); born 21 March 1949) is a Slovene philosopher and cultural critic. He is a senior researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities and a professor of philosophy and psychoanalysis at the European Graduate School.[1] He writes widely on a diverse range of topics, including political theory, film theory, cultural studies, theology and psychoanalysis.

Hanon sits, face propped in hand, wondering if we've finally run out of compelling topics for interactive fiction. Ah, he thinks. Perhaps it's a very meta in-joke.

Hanon moves to the kitchen to refresh his coffee under the watchful iron gaze of Gilligan, the imperious pomeranian. The dog is not happy about his irregular feeding schedule.

Hanon sits back down, coffee steaming, prepared to forcibly absorb the concept or possibly oblique humor this game contains. Just because he has a penchant for AIF doesn't mean he can't be entertained by a Slovenian professor's antics.

(Spoiler - click to show)I did chuckle when Slavij...Zlavis...when he wondered "what the fuck a Porpentine" is. And when he didn't grok variables. I can understand variables. I shouldn't feel so inferior to this piece and it's subject. I'm smart too!!

I liked the background color. And the action photos were a great addition!

Huh. (Spoiler - click to show)Okay, I'm obviously not the audience for this. Why did I review? Catchy title.

Persecution: A Pakistani Perspective, by Ali Sajid Imami, Shumaila Hashmi

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Potentially informative, but could go further., August 24, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is a beautifully programmed game in Undum that allows you to choose one of four already-dead people who are persecuted minorities in Pakistan and re-live their final days. It's a great idea with lots of potential to educate and inform. I myself know that horrible things happen in the world, but knew nothing of the specifics regarding the details of why and how these specific minorities are targeted.

After playing the game I'm afraid I know not much more than when I started. The scenarios are very short. Essentially you get the story of your happy, smart person who is comfortable and happy with their lot in life. Something happy happens. Something bad happens. Then you are killed or commit suicide. I don't mean to make light of this situation at all - I wanted to know more. It feels as though the stories tell you a bit, then skip forward months to an isolated incident that doesn't give an uninformed Western person like me any more specific detail about *why* this is happening. Essentially you are persecuted for your religious beliefs--as the story says "being born in the wrong country to the wrong family"--but the target audience (assuming me) does not know the difference betweeen these persecuted sects. I would have liked to have some parallel information about all these people: how do they worship, what do they believe, why do the opponents not like this...that would perhaps shed some light about how religious beliefs ultimately shouldn't threaten other believers.

I'm not sure how this would be accomplished, except making the scenarios longer and giving you more actual choices of how to react. The extent of your interaction boils down to "answer the text/don't answer the text" "complain about what this person did/remain silent". And the choices make little difference, since from the outset the story informs you that you are already doomed. Perhaps if these weren't four separate stories - maybe the narrative could jump back and forth between these people at moments of parallel, showing the common threads in all of us, such as during prayer or interaction with their families to prove that they are all the same. I almost thought even allowing the player to jump into the mentality of the *persecutor* and seeing what they believe and how they worship and interact with their families might shed some more light on what these people believe--how they are the same, and how they are different--and possibly illuminate the inherent evil of religious and racial persecution.

I wish these authors success and more opportunities to teach those of us who do not always have the opportunity how to understand.

Dogleash, by Rusteen Honardoost

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Not Bad!, August 24, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is a quick little adventure with some funny writing by the same author as Astro Turf Space Golf which I appreciated for it's writing but didn't appreciate for the fact that it forced you into a bad ending.

Lines like these I love: (Spoiler - click to show)"You couldn't possibly run faster to the garage. Well, maybe you could if Snicker wasn't so fucking fat."

This story is also quite bluntly brutal. I accidentally used my neighbor as a human shield.

I only took one play-through, and seemed to get a good ending. (Spoiler - click to show)I got into the car and ran over both of the intruders, Snicker described as "Chewbacca to my Han Solo." I look forward to this author creating a longer and more involved work.

Astro Turf Space Golf, by Rusteen Honardoost

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Promises good times, but forces you down the bad path., August 18, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This game starts off promisingly. You're at a kickin' party pulled right out of every teen movie with an improbable theme (space mixed with golf). The author obviously has great ideas from his wry descriptions of some of the costumes. The game links to music (which didn't work for me) and a YouTube video (helpfully, in case I've not heard of Futurama and couldn't picture the costumes) and sets up what might be a sort of rollicking teen movie adventure where I see the girl of my dreams across the room who is participating in the same cosplay that the PC is. I'm supposed to stay out of trouble? Let me at it!

After all this promise, the player is then filtered quickly down a particularly unpleasant path with seemingly no recourse to back out of it or make any kind of responsible choice. The outcome *might* be amusing if the game continued and lived up to the promise that I can "stay out of trouble", but as it stands, it doesn't seem like the author actually intended this. I rewound several times and tried to choose a different path to no avail. You have no choice but to get to the incident and the game ends. I'm not sure if this was intended to prove a point? (Spoiler - click to show)Date rape can circumstantially happen by accident and not actually be the perpetrator's fault? The setup is interesting if only the author had delivered on the promise of giving me a chance to stay out of trouble, or had continued this game after the event to build up a farcical sequence of attempted recoveries similar to comedy movies that begin like this.

(Spoiler - click to show)So did I miss something? You go to the party. You get chances to act like a wallflower, but you're funneled into getting hammered with this girl who seems to be into you. You make out outside the party; she orders you to have sex with her. You get an option for "hey I don't want to take advantage" but a hand down your pants is all it takes to just remove that option. Your next two choices are "Fuck her from behind over the car hood" or "Lift her on the car hood so you can fuck her face to face." The policeman down the road spots you, she's passed out, the cop thinks you're a creep and you're hauled off to jail. THE END.

So I hope this isn't drawn from anyone's real life experience. Either this game is trying to prove a point (in which case I wish some of the responsible options worked so I could learn "a valuable lesson" about making choices while at a space-themed teen party, or this game isn't finished and there's lots more adventure to come(Spoiler - click to show) where you somehow escape the police officer when he stops to grab a donut with you in back the police car and you have to go to great farcical ends to locate the girl of your dreams so she can either prove your innocence and you can live happily ever after, or claim she *really* wasn't that into you and trigger a bittersweet sort of ending.

Two stars for potentially funny writing. The sex scene is bluntly described but not prurient.

Ziege's Mansion, by Mario Cavalcanti
Very nice CYOA!, August 6, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This appears to be a web version of what I'm guessing is an actual CYOA book. The presentation is very slick with appropriate images, and clean buttons and borders. The text is offered in Portuguese and English, although it took me a few minutes to guess that a white flag with a red cross is England because I'm a dumb American...(Could I really have gotten through nearly forty years without ever learning the flag of England? Perhaps it's because English people don't shove it in people's faces and have it burned in effigy in other countries and emblazon it across their giant car hoods like we do. My apologies, England: Your flag is understated and stylish, just like your culture...but I digress.) This story was not done with any known development system (it's labelled as "custom")...but I'd love to see a template for Twine that produced something of this quality.

It's one of those where you die with little warning by entering the wrong room, and there's no "rewind" option, so I did not finish in the limited time I took with it. I am impressed though, at the very well-put together package.

Nibatrus(TM), by vanaskalaproducts
Clickityclickityclickityclickity, August 6, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I played the two available chapters in about three minutes or less. This is a CYOA built in Quest. It has some nice non-standard formatting as far as text colors and pictures. However, the game consists of about sixty short single lines of back and forth dialogue (preceded by a character icon), and your interaction is to click after each one. Each time, the screen is cleared and replaced with the next line of dialogue. On two or three occasions I had a choice of two things: once I could ask about "a circle?" of some kind...magical fooferaw that I really didn't pay attention to since I had gotten the hang of this by about click thirty-four. In another, it seemed like one of those obviously CYOA choices where it looks like you have a choice but you're saying the same thing with slightly different attitudes and you know it will lead to the same result.

This almost seemed like a simulation of one of those Nintendo RPGs where the dialogue is dribbled out to you, and you have to annoyingly wait for the text to all type out while going "biddabuddabiddabuddabiddabudda..." until you realize that pushing the button will complete the phrase, then you must frustratedly click twice, once to complete the phrase and then again to continue since you can read faster than the stupid biddabudda thing types.

I'm often frustrated by lack of choice in CYOA versus a parser adventure, but this hacked a tree down to just a woody stump. Luckily it's not long, because reading a linear story through a one-line-high slit that has to be inched down the page would get very old very fast. Come on, I can handle several paragraphs at a time! Give me some narrative flow and writing and not just lines of dialogue I must click through laboriously! Hopefully chapter 3 will introduce some more legitimate interaction.

SPACE ADVENTURE CHAPTER I: THE DASTERDLY JAGLINS, by GAGE HOLSTON
First Impression, August 6, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I was just poking through this a bit. I've not been enamored with Quest games, but I was watching a TV program at the same time and Quest with its all-clickable interface was a conducive multitask. I got distracted and suddenly BOOM the game ended! There's a real time timer! Well then!

I'm going to give this another play. The bit of prose I encountered at the beginning was amusing. The opening seems beat-for-beat SPACE QUEST, but there's a companion! This intrigued me enough to want to play again when I have time to concentrate on it, and I'll try to come up with a rating.

Only nitpicks - Quite a few spelling errors for the few minutes I played (rogue "ailens", "refreash"). The game kind of drops you in cold with no intro - although that may be Quest as it told me my surroundings before displaying the first passage of text.

The Cavity of Time, by Sam Kabo Ashwell

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Undum is so gorgeous., August 3, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I wish I knew how to program in Undum, because the default format is so beautiful to read, and is richly textured like a fine parchment map in a leather library of some sea-captain's abandoned manor.

Sam Kabo Ashwell adds to the legacy of Stiffy Makane in the CYOA format that he (I can only assume from his exhaustive analysis of classic works) is very fond of. I played this some time ago and I must have taken a short branch, because I didn't get to any of the major story parts I recognized from Stiffy Makane. The other day I tried again, reveling in Undum's beauty and Mr. Ashwell's unique and intriguing illustrations, and I found the longer path, which got me to my favorite part.

(Spoiler - click to show)When you get inside Pamela's abode, the FUCKHERFUCKHERFUCKHERFUCKHER! suggestion is repeated and spills outside the bounding box on the page. That made me giggle.

It's categorized as AIF, but the high-minded parodic style verges more on tidy suggestiveness rather than explicit perversion, which is well-done. This is the SM story told the way it needs to be if it's appearing on unfurling aged parchment in a library with brass fixtures and a butler that serves brandy.

Enjoyed.

(Spoiler - click to show)Why don't more people write in Undum? My excuse is the documentation is a bit thin and assumes you are completely conversant in html and CSS. If this thing had a Twine front-end, I'd be all up in that like Stiffy Makane with a doughnut.

Female Experience Simulator, by Alyson Macdonald

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
I understand what this game is trying to do., August 3, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I understand what this game is trying to get across, and I genuinely sympathize with anyone who is exploited or harassed.

My only wish is that the game went another step and offered some actual sensible advice on how to maturely deal with sexual harassment instead of automatically assuming that the only option someone has is to retreat to their home and despair in solitude. Perhaps it's a limitation of Twine which can only offer the reader options that the author includes.

(Spoiler - click to show)Your Workplace

At the office one of your male co-workers keeps finding excuses to come over and stand near your desk. You realise it's because he's trying to see down your top.

>STAND UP

You get out of your chair. Your annoying co-worker Dexter is here.
>DEXTER, HELLO

"Good Afternoon, Dexter," you say, now at conversational height with him, breaking his direct view down your cleavage.

"Oh, hi," he replies, looking around at the attention this is attracting from the other cubicles. "No need to stand up on my account."

>ASK DEXTER ABOUT WHAT HE WANTS

"Did you need something? I noticed you hovering, and I'm certain you're not just standing over my desk to ogle me, because that would be quite embarrassing for the both of us."

Dexter glances around, tugging at his collar. "Oh, no," he says. "I was going to ask about the TPS report..."

>TELL DEXTER ABOUT GROIN PUNCHING

"Oh, good," you reply. "You might want to be careful sneaking up on me like that, though. Last guy who startled me got socked right in the goodies. Didn't mean to. Pure reflex, on accident. Can't control it..." you say, flailing your arms out in several jerky random directions.

"Oh right." he says, stepping back. "Hey, do you want to get coffee over lunch?"

>DEXTER, NO

"No, I have lunch all planned out. But thanks for the offer!"

>GIVE TPS REPORTS TO DEXTER
(first taking some TPS reports)
You hand a half-inch thick stack of TPS reports to Dexter. "Let me know if you need any more."

Dexter goes west.

The Coffeeshop

It's busy in the coffee shop today. While you're standing at the counter a man tries to squeeze past behind you. He puts his hands on either side of your waist and brushes the full length of his body up against you.

>DROP COFFEE

You release the hold on your latte, and the pasteboard cup explodes on the floor, splashing still-pretty-hot liquid on the creep's shiny shoes and the hem of his trousers.

"Whoopsie," you say cheerfully. "Oh, sorry about that, you startled me! Might want to be careful rubbing your junk on against a stranger while she's holding hot liquids!"

"It was an accident," he says, staring at his shoes. "You ruined my Italian-"

>TELL HIM ABOUT COFFEE

"And you wasted a four-dollar cup of coffee! I think we'll call it even."

>ORDER COFFEE

"Can I have another one please?" You turn back to the guy, handing him a stack of napkins. "Good thing this one didn't go higher, they do serve their coffee hot!"


Castle of the Red Prince, by C.E.J. Pacian

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Wonderful - Must Play if you write IF, July 28, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Castle of the Red Prince is a short puzzle-box game. Your goal is to kill the Red Prince. He knows you have studied the arcane arts, but he's not particularly worried about your ability. Your ability is that you don't have to trudge N, S, E, W, U, DOWN. The player simply imagines where they want to go (by examining a location you can see or know about) and -zap= there you are. The entire game world is in scope for you to discover and peel away.

It's a very simple, not particularly complicated plot, but this game mechanic places your focus on examining everything. The prose is simple, direct, and well-written without florid verbosity. This gives CASTLE OF THE RED PRINCE's player and PC a refreshingly objective perspective on the actual goings-on. Who cares about directions when you needn't even bother with walls? You can go right to the Red Prince and stab him in the face. It won't work...but that's the game.

I find myself sometimes with very little patience for some IF. This one was direct enough to grab and hold me to completion. I did cheat by sleeping a lot, which essentially hands you as many next steps as you need to get you back on the right path. It took me about a half an hour, but it can be played longer (perhaps like a crossword puzzle for very experienced if-readers) if you avoid sleeping and figure it all out yourself.

I encountered only one place where I struggled with the parser and implementation: (Spoiler - click to show)In my dream I knew I had to place dynamite in the cave at the castle's weak foundation point. I was skimming the list of steps provided in the dreams perfunctorily, and I spent a while trying to PUT DYNAMITE ON FOUNDATION. The foundation is a container, not a supporter. True, the hint steps spelled this out, but I thought "on" was reasonable for placing dynamite on what I pictured as a timber beam.

Yes, it's short and yes, it has all kinds of potential in a larger game. I could see this approach being taken to tell an epic with the breadth of ZORK or STAR WARS or A GAME OF THRONES within the manageable size of a Infocom-ish length work.

CYBERQUEEN, by Porpentine

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
As a SystemShock/Shodan fan, I loved this., July 13, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This story reads like a prologue to the original System Shock from the point of view of one of the doomed colonists aboard Citadel station. If you've played SS, you remember the absolute unreal amount of gore and viscera and fragments of bodies that litter the hallways, all examples of the experimentation that the mad AI Shodan wrought upon the crew as she created her army of cyborg warriors that were your enemies in the game. This gives you a first person perspective of what that was like. Very gory, very visceral, very adult and would almost qualify as good enough to be one of the original computer logs in that game.

Horse Master, by Tom McHenry

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Well-written, Weird, and Barbaric, July 13, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This story succeeds as an example of otherworld dystopian Science Fiction. Horses are not horses, but weird creatures with a carapace and tentacles. The protagonist is obsessive to the point of self-ruin to win what comes off as a parody of animal-judging competitions. You groom your horse as you like, enter the competition, and win (or lose I suppose - I did not play a second time). A neat read, but I'm not sure I care to play again and do things wrong to lose...as I'm not sure I could make the story turn out better.

CRY$TAL WARRIOR KE$HA, by Porpentine

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Neat little diversion., July 13, 2013
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I actually turned on the music as the game said to, and the game lasted exactly as long as the song. At the beginning the lyrics onscreen went right along with the audio. This was a neat little sort of textual music-video experience of a game, though ultimately forgettable unless you are a huge Ke$ha fan.

I actually like the idea of using Twine and screen effects as a parallel experience/multimedia to a song. There might even be somewhat of a gameplay element/rhythm game in keeping up with the lyrics. Interesting idea.

Murphy's Law, by Scott Hammack

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A babel fish puzzle, October 6, 2012
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
I played Murphy's Law for the IFComp, so a couple of the minor problems I had may be worked out in subsequent versions.

This game reminded me of some old school Infocom in a good way. The descriptions are relatively terse, but the author did a great job implementing pretty much everything described,(Spoiler - click to show)(except for the robbers in each corner of the bank) and little details abound. The writing is full of very subtle humor; your goal is to pay your last mortgage payment so you will own your house free and clear. In the process of doing so, things go wrong, and the whole affair becomes more complicated. It reminded me quite of bit of BUREAUCRACY, the infuriating puzzler by Douglas Adams, but isn't nearly as complicated as one would first think given the concept. I was never unsure of what to do except during one major bug:

(Spoiler - click to show)
>get in car
You get into your station wagon.

>close car
You close your station wagon.

>start car
You'll need to get inside first.

>get inside car
I only understood you as far as wanting to get inside.

>enter car
But you're already in your station wagon.

>start car
You'll need to get inside first.

>put keys in ignition
You put your keys into the ignition.

>start car
You'll need to get inside first.

>enter car
But you're already in your station wagon.

>get out
You can't get out of the closed your station wagon.

>start car
You'll need to get inside first.

>open car
You open your station wagon.

>start car
You turn the key, but the car only makes some pathetic whining noises before falling silent.


This type of game setup is a classic babel fish puzzle - All you have to do is press the button to get a babel fish, but it falls through an unseen grate. Blocking the grate causes cleaning robots to steal the fish...and so on. A simple task turns into a picaresque affair.

That said, I didn't think the game went far enough with it's machinations. There is one timed puzzle (boo!) at the beginning where you can die. The finale seems to set up an uber-puzzle that is thrown away by going nowhere. (Spoiler - click to show)You stand in a relatively short line at the bank and when you get to the window, masked men enter and stage a robbery, setting up would could be an intricate DOG DAY AFTERNOON type scenario, with four guards each in one corner of the bank, prompting me to think I would need to work out a four-way manipulation puzzle, or that each one would need me to do something for them to give up on the lead robber - IE the situation is rife with possibility and I could see how your mounting frustration through the game could wind up in a comic catharsis as you attempt to thwart the bank robbers...(Spoiler - click to show) but all you need to do is wait and the robbers are paid, they leave, and the bank continues normal operation. Even if this resolved as it does, I would have loved to have seen the bank teller report "All our money and paperwork is gone, so I can't do anything with your payment..." sending you off on another branch of the adventure, perhaps to a wacky post office. As written seems just a tad short and anticlimactic. However, I thought the denouement was great and just right, I just wasn't *frustrated* enough by the game for it to pay off like it seems it should.(Spoiler - click to show) The protagonist is pretty unfazed by this, and I believe the "frustration" is supposed to build up in the player. If there had been a little more backstory about how you've grown to *hate* this house and through the process something better had opened up, say a way to escape to the robbers' hideout in the Cayman islands with your wife and live happily ever after...or something.

That said, it's a great short game that shows promise and has lots of room for expansion into a moderately longer game.

The Intercept, by Jon Ingold and inkle

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Great quick diversion on a tablet or phone, September 30, 2012
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This CYOA is very nicely written with Inklewriter, which I tried out and gave high praise to. Inkle works well for moderate-sized conversation-based stories, and that's what this mostly is. A piece has gone missing from a code-breaking/encrypting machine and you might be responsible.

The bulk of the game is an interrogation, giving answers to questions that are posed to you. You often will get yes/no agree/disagree, often with a choice of lie/truth. The only downside to this is on your first playthrough you're the dumbest person in the room. Several crucial plot points are known to the protagonist and antagonist but the reader only learns what's actually happened after several random stabs at answering the questions. This is not an amnesia game, and the story does not shift based on your answers. It feels like a really good conversation section from a Mass Effect game if it were set in WW2. If this were an endgame to a slightly larger scenario it might not feel quite so trial-and-error.

I never did get the best ending, which might be a testament to the potential of inkle and CYOA, or it may mean that I tired out after giving the same sequence of yes-no-no-lie-yes-agree-yes-no to get to the part of the story that actually branches out and will not let you double back.

It's worth a try - I played this on a lunch break on my android device, and the text is very nicely formatted and readable with large finger-sized buttons for your choices.

Delicious Breakfast, by Molly G.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Very funny, August 13, 2012
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is a nice short game that is written in a very hyper! manic! STYLE! It almost reminded me of a Japanese commercial or a muppet short.

It's about delicious breakfast, and gives you a lot of things to make DELICIOUS BREAKFAST! So you eat delicious breakfast, and many people think delicious breakfast is difficult but they are over thinking DELICIOUS BREAKFAST.

(Spoiler - click to show)Once I got the idea that the game was kidding about everything it laid out and I didn't have to prepare anything, and the entire game is solved by eating, I almost was disappointed that (Spoiler - click to show)the game didn't go to it's logical conclusion and have you eat every single thing within reach including the silverware and the curtains and then yourself as if you were an oruborous.

Definitely worth a quick play. It made me laugh with its manic intensity at the end.

Interview with a Rock Star, by Molly G.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Nicely written, shallowly implemented, August 13, 2012
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Molly knows how to write, but I swear to goodness, I know nothing more about Rocky Stampede than I did at the beginning of the game. Things like the fortune cookie he mentioned and his shoelace that he keeps tying are unimplemented. His deafness, his band, his song, new stuff, his career...he couldn't hear a word of what I asked. Perhaps that's the point.

This is a great effort at a first game, but I'd love if the conversations were a little deeper.

Myriad, by Porpentine

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An HTML fever-dream, August 13, 2012
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
This is CYOA where you click on keywords. Usually there are two or three choices per page, and there are lots of branches, and lots of endings that happen unexpectedly. There's not a whole lot of through line to the plot as it meanders on a trippy, poetic tangent. I played about four times, and was surprised that what I thought would be the length of the story branched out somewhere totally new and continued. You won't be engaging any sort of problem solving or rational progression muscle. What happens next is usually random and is based little on the wisdom of your choices, but this is definitely worth a read or two if you like some fervently written prose in a psychedelic fantasy-horror vein.

baby tree, by Lester Galin

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
baby tree, May 11, 2012
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
boxed quotation.
sparse text.
"noun verbs".
tiny game.
review longer.
poor dog.
horror what?
author nightmare?
half star.

Tutorial, by Nereare
Not a bad little tutorial, December 23, 2011
by Hanon Ondricek (United States)
Just as it says, this is a short tutorial game about being lost at sea that would be a good example game for new players. The player is guided the entire way through.

The only niggle is the last action in the game (Spoiler - click to show)PICK UP THE GLOBAL CELLPHONE is not spelled out, and synonyms PHONE, CELL, CELLPHONE do not seem to work. Perhaps the point is to get new players adjusted to guess-the-noun puzzlery?


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