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Reviews by AKheon

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View this member's reviews by tag: ADRIFT adult choice-based comedy experimental horror IF Comp 1995 IF Comp 1997 IF Comp 2003 IF Comp 2008 IF Comp 2011 IF Comp 2016 IF Comp 2019 Inform Ink mystery parser-based surreal TADS Twine
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Mortal Kombat: Fire and Ice, by James Mullish

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Practice-mode, September 25, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: Inform, parser-based
Mortal Kombat: Fire and Ice is a fan-fic parser-based game by James Mullish, published in 2020. In it, you play as Sub-Zero and have to defend Earthrealm by (Spoiler - click to show)walking one screen to the east and punching two guys.

This seems to be a practice game by the author. It only has two rooms and a bare minimum of interactivity; the help-screen also suggests this may be the author's first work.

Neither the writing or the implementation lend themselves to some fantastic Mortal Kombat-brand adventures; the silliest part is how trying to fight most characters results in the default message "Violence isn't the answer to this one". Like, it's Mortal Kombat. When isn't violence the answer to something in this setting?

Congrats to the author for learning the basics of Inform 7. However, as a stand-alone game, there isn't much to see here.

I Hunger, by David Yates

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A bitter late night snack, September 25, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: horror, choice-based, twine
I Hunger is a choice-based horror game by David Yates, published in 2015. You play as a mysterious God-like being who observes humans from inside a volcano and regularly demands sacrifices... or else!

The gameplay consists of making a choice of what sacrifice you desire each cycle. There are four different types of sacrifices, and your choice (Spoiler - click to show)impacts how the nearby human society will develop. Your role is a bit like natural selection; the humans will adapt in response to your cruel demands. There are also multiple endings, and the way you reach them makes sense in the context of the gameplay. If you (Spoiler - click to show)only demand one single thing over and over again, it usually results in a bad ending. For instance, demanding gold over and over again causes resources to deplete and the remaining humans will simply choose to escape your wrath. Playing smart on the other hand allows humanity to prosper, which lets you prolong the cycle of sacrifices indefinitely.

The writing is in first-person and it has a detached and grandiose style, as you would expect from some ageless being that expects worship. The tone of the game is not scary, per se, but it is fairly dark. The main character is an amoral glutton without real redeeming qualities, but the humans at his whim are also cast in a somewhat bad light as they (Spoiler - click to show)will rob and enslave people from nearby regions to placate your needs without having to sacrifice their own kin. However, it's also true that moderate expansionism can lead to one of the happier ending paths with humanity flourishing in long term. It seems that regular moral judgments become harder when you're dealing with a massive time scale, like in this story.

The level of polish is generally good, but I did notice one typo and one missing message: (Spoiler - click to show)you get a blank screen after you observe humans if demanding knowledge is your first sacrifice.

I Hunger features a thought-provoking concept and a compact, mostly functional execution. It's a very short game, but the multiple endings add a bit of replay value to it. It could be worth spending some 15 minutes with if you wish to step into the shoes of a mildly genocidal God.

Blind Date from Hell, by rook

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Still a better love story than... ah, never mind, September 24, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: twine, choice-based, horror, adult
Blind Date from Hell is a choice-based horror game by rook, published in 2017. The first part of the game is about going on a blind date, the second is about (Spoiler - click to show)getting violently murdered and/or raped in somewhat unlikely fantasy circumstances; the scenarios involve, among other things, black magic, shapeshifting and tentacles.

The game is conceptually pretty one-note. But... should I really be surprised? The game does market itself as an adult IF; even the introduction says it's for "getting-off purposes".

For what it's worth, the writing is proficient and descriptive. The game manages to create a contrast between the romantic start and the later half where the "from Hell" part of the title comes into play. There is also a fairly wide variety of grotesque or sadistic situations you can end up in. Considering all this, I believe Blind Date from Hell is a success in its own terms, at least.

As a casual horror fan possessing a particularly morbid curiosity, I can appreciate the game for its sheer shock value. But shock value alone doesn't necessarily get you very far. It's the same deal as with many extreme metal bands that believe that 230 bpm speed and harrowing screaming is a meaningful end in itself. Even if well-executed, it's mostly a cheap thrill if there's nothing beyond it.

And I may have missed the point already by starting to criticize the depth of an adult IF.

Anyway, if your interest was piqued by anything I wrote above, you already know whether you should try out Blind Date from Hell. It's simply a... very specialized affair...

Keepsake, by Savaric

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Mulling over murder, September 22, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2011, surreal, parser-based, Inform
Keepsake is a surreal parser-based game by Savaric, published in 2011. The story begins with the main character having just committed murder. Afterwards, (Spoiler - click to show)the game shows you what happened immediately before the murder through scenes playing in reverse, although this is not explicitly told to the player at any point during the story.

The ambiguity gives the game a sense of mystery at first. The game prompts you to escape the scene of the crime, and you do so, but then (Spoiler - click to show)you start seeing things in double and it feels like you have stumbled upon some strange time paradox. The tone of the game is uncanny, yet it has a sense of creeping fatalism to it too.

The writing is clear and functional, giving the gameplay an appropriate sense of urgency and mystery. I didn't notice anything wrong with the implementation either, although (Spoiler - click to show)having two similar things in many rooms does cause a lot of ambiguity questions.

It's a fairly short game, only 10 - 15 minutes long, but the ending changes a bit depending on what you did during the game and (Spoiler - click to show)you also see the game in a whole new light the second time around so in practice you will probably want to replay it at least once or twice.

But eventually you realize that (Spoiler - click to show)this is really just a very mildly branching and somewhat undeveloped crime story that is told out of order. The only thing your choices affect is whether you are a nice murderer or a slightly less nice murderer; a detail which seems incidental in the bigger picture. In this sense I would say the journey is far more interesting than the destination.

Keepsake could be worth a try if you're looking for something fairly quick yet different. It doesn't have hard puzzles, but it can still be challenging and refreshing in its own way.

Symetry, by Ryan Stevens

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Mirror mirror off-the-wall, September 22, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 1997, horror, parser-based, Inform
Symetry is a short parser-based horror game by Ryan Stevens, or Rybread, published in 1997. It's about a posh aristocrat who has an encounter with a haunted mirror.

With a small game world and a completely linear story, the gameplay basically boils down to figuring out the next command that lets you progress; sometimes it's easy, sometimes hard. The design is usually not very intuitive; for instance, the first item you find is a letter opener, but you don't even use it to open the envelope that you are carrying. The worst part is (Spoiler - click to show)the finale where plot-critical clothing - a night gown - appears on your character out of nowhere in the middle of a frantic timed section. I don't think this section is impossible to figure out without a walkthrough, but it's still quite nonsensical and unfair to the player.

The writing style is both pretentiously ornate and riddled with typos, like a bad imitation of classic gothic horror. The poor writing and the pompous yet crude tone almost makes Symetry seem like some sort of a parody game. Who knows, maybe it is? But to the game's credit, some of the imagery is otherworldly enough that it does have a somewhat memorable or unnerving effect.

The game has some bugs too. On my first playthrough I somehow managed to turn off the lamp so that I ended up in complete darkness with nothing happening afterwards, although I no longer remember what command created this result.

The game comes with a walkthrough as well as some other "bonuses" which seem fairly random.

With a better implementation and writing Symetry could have been a decent horror title. But, as it stands, it's closer to a clunky curiosity. It could still offer some fun for 15 minutes if you're willing to accept a few design shortcomings and other peculiarities.

Toiletworld, by Chet Rocketfrak

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Not enough toilets, September 22, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: parser-based, comedy, IF Comp 2016, Inform
Toiletworld is a parser-based comedy / troll game made by "Chet Rocketfrak" for IFComp 2016. I spontaneously gave this game a try because I thought the title was too silly to pass.

The game begins inside the titular Toiletworld, seemingly a bizarre dimension with a fractal arrangement of toilets. Toilets within toilets down to an atomic level, most likely. Such surreal toilet-shaped wonders!

Unfortunately, it quickly becomes apparent that the game is little more than a throwaway joke at the expense of the player. The room texts are pointless and misleading, many directions are not listed, items have weird debug-names that are arduous to type, there are no puzzles or meaningful interactivity or an overarching goal to the game. Most insultingly of all, I couldn't find a single toilet that was actually implemented. While you can type "in" to go deeper in some rooms, that's just a regular room entrance and not a fully implemented toilet.

Some bad games become endearing through the effort that was put into them. There's no effort here. The game has a dire lack of amusing things, and a player who is planning on having the slightest bit of fun in Toiletworld really has their work cut out for them... although there is irony in the fact that a game named Toiletworld is completely bereft of toilet humor.

It's all just a cruel subversion of expectations, that's what it is. I suppose it's not saying much, but I really did expect more of Toiletworld. As it stands, this game is not worth dipping one's feet in. (Is this a toilet-related pun? I can no longer tell...)

If you're still planning on giving it a try, here's a small hint for dealing with the items: (Spoiler - click to show)type "take all" in each room instead of dealing with the hassle of the long item names. This also tells you if you can even pick up the items, as some of them are arbitrarily fixed in place to mock the player for even trying. You can also use "take all" to pick up the eight nameless items in the secret room to the north, not that they have a real use anywhere.

Zero Sum Game, by Cody Sandifer

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Lofty adventures undone, September 21, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 1997, comedy, parser-based, TADS
Zero Sum Game is a parser-based comedy game by Cody Sandifer, published in 1997. In it, you play as a newly victorious adventurer who, upon returning home, gets scolded by their mom and who then has to go and once again set wrong what has been made right. It's essentially an adventure game where you have to lose all your points and undo all your heroic conquests in order to return back to your mom's good graces.

The writing style alternates between imitating a lofty high fantasy style and being jeering and sarcastic, and there's a very cynical undercurrent running through the whole game. This is a world where so-called heroes are not necessarily very heroic and all life is expendable. The humor is dark and uneasy, downright sociopathic at times. But - if you don't mind twisted humor, adult themes and doing villainous things in an adventure game, you'll probably find the contrast between the fantastic and crude here at the very least amusing, if not hilarious.

It helps that the implementation is extremely detailed, with certain sections almost sandbox-like in their wealth of interactions. The game is packed full of funny responses to actions; there are even a few animated NPC characters who react to your odd behavior, and sometimes to each other as well.

The game is very difficult, though. There are countless of ways you can make the game unwinnable, and although the game provides a "warning" command to let the player know ahead of time when they've done something irreversibly dumb, the system doesn't seem quite fool-proof, as I found out on my first playthrough. It took three restarts total (with the use of some hints) for me to finally reach the ending.

The puzzles themselves are sometimes devious and clever, possible for a player to figure out if they play around with the mechanics enough, but there are some nearly impossible ones too. One part requiring the use of a non-standard verb while being misdirected by the game and also (Spoiler - click to show)the merciless timed section featuring Benny/Darlene come to mind.

Zero Sum Game is something of a mixed bag, personally. It made me laugh a lot, but it didn't make me feel good in the end. I guess such is the nature of dark comedy. And while the game has a good amount of content - you can easily squeeze around two hours of gameplay out of it - the daunting difficulty with the lack of an internal hint system is another thing that makes the game hard to recommend without reservations. You should probably give it a try if you're into deconstructive and satirical humor, at least.

Conversation With A Picture, by Eva Vikstrom

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
When art speaks to you (literally), September 21, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: experimental, parser-based, ADRIFT
Conversation With A Picture is a somewhat experimental parser-based game made by Eva Vikstrom, published in 2004. The game is about interacting with a painting, although strangely enough using your eyes won't get you very far - instead, you have to talk with it.

You simply ask the painting about various topics. The replies give hints on other things you could try asking about, until finally you learn the name of the painting and the game ends. It only takes about 5 minutes to play through the game once.

The game has a slightly charming air to it due to its unique premise and cordial tone. It has some educational value too, as the painting and its painter are both historical - (Spoiler - click to show)the painting is The Parrot Cage by Jan Steen - and you learn a bit of real history while talking to the painting.

The game works like expected for the most part, although there are a few immersion-breaking typos and the tutorialization is fairly minimal, which can lead to mild confusion at the very start of the game. I also find it slightly odd that (Spoiler - click to show)the player can't activate the winning commands "ask p about bird" -> "ask p about parrot" until they "sit". Seems like an unnecessary restriction to me, but it probably won't hurt a regular playthrough much.

Conversation With A Picture mostly succeeds at what it sets out to do. Its biggest problem is that it's extremely slight, ending right around the time the player gets into the mood of asking questions and, dare I say, learning. ...Maybe the secret to making a fun educational game is to make it so short that the player doesn't even realize it was educational until it's over? Eva Vikstrom could be on to something here.

The Old Church, by Eva Vikstrom

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Harmless haunting, September 21, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: horror, parser-based, ADRIFT
The Old Church is a fairly short parser-based game by Eva Vikstrom, published in 2004. I gave it a try because I wanted to try out some obscure horror-themed adventure, and so far the game had no ratings on IFDB.

The main character is a tourist visiting an unspecified European church from 13th century. After some exploration it turns out that the church is haunted, although strangely no one seems to mind.

The setting is one of the best things about The Old Church. The layout and description of the church makes it seem like a fairly believable location; sadly the game world suffers from a lack of implementation. There isn't much to interact with, which hampers the exploration part of the game.

The writing is clear but stilted, with a few typos and wrong word choices. The overall tone of the game is not scary at all - it almost feels like an educational piece with all its low-key explanations of how various rooms of a church work as you move around the place. Any remaining tension is finally deflated when you discover that (Spoiler - click to show)the "villain" of the game is essentially a non-malevolent church mouse.

It's fairly easy to navigate in the game world since the exits are listed whenever you need them. However, in other respects the game isn't always user friendly. The conversation system is implemented rather spottily, making it hard to know at times if not being able to talk to a character about some topic is because they have nothing to say about it or if your command was wrong. The worst example is how (Spoiler - click to show)in one part of the game you have to talk about "Axel Gyllenpil" to progress. The game only accepts the full name, giving default error responses for both "Axel" or "Gyllenpil". Fortunately the game comes with a walkthrough for cases like this, but still... And regarding the ending, (Spoiler - click to show)according to the walkthrough there are two endings, and I imagine the alternative ending has something to do with cheese and the church mouse, but I couldn't find the correct command to do anything with the cheese.

The overall design is linear and somewhat contrived. The player has the option to explore the area freely, but the events that progress the story can only happen in a certain order. So in practice, you need to wander around aimlessly until you hit the first few story beats by accident. The most egregious part is (Spoiler - click to show)the sword magically appearing in the crypt only after learning about it, and the cheese conveniently falling out of your lunch box right after you pick up the sword.

One last unpleasantness with The Old Church are some sound effects which hit suddenly and loud when examining certain things around the game world. Yes, this game has jump scares, although I'm not sure if they were even intended to be jump scares or just normal sound effects for the purposes of immersion. In any case, I recommend lowering the volume before you start.

The Old Church is one of the first games made by the author, and unfortunately it shows. It's not always smooth to play and the payoff isn't always there, but you could give it a try if you're hankering for something very obscure and only very mildly terrifying.

Ecdysis, by Peter Nepstad

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Short but potent, September 18, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: horror, parser-based, TADS
Ecdysis is a parser-based Lovecraftian horror game by Peter Nepstad, published in 2007. You're a man who wakes up at night to a pounding headache and weird visions. You get up and eat some pain medication, descend down the steps, feel strangely sweaty... and from there things only get more and more strange.

The game is very short - under 10 minutes long - so there isn't much else that can be said about it without spoilers. But in general, I think that the writing is descriptive and memorable, and the game definitely has a certain "shock" factor to it that makes it worth trying despite its brevity.

While the game world is rather linear and small, the implementation can get bizarrely detailed at times. The author gave the main character individual body parts like hands, feet, head, eyes and yes, even sweat, that have their own descriptions (Spoiler - click to show)that change as the adventure progresses because of... you know. There are also some non-standard verbs like "think" and an optional side quest where you put a blanket on one of the children. So, if you're the sort of player who likes searching for secrets and details in the game world, Ecdysis has some interesting things to find.

It should be noted that the game has a lot of glitches too, although to be fair, they don't hinder a regular playthrough at all. I guess you could think of them as just another "bonus feature" for the observant player. For instance, (Spoiler - click to show)you can make your own body parts fall off using the buggy "cover" verb. Try the command "cover me with eyes", for instance. A glitch like this suits the body horror aesthetic of the game surprisingly well, though.

Ecdysis is short and sweet. Well, maybe it's more sour and horrific than sweet, and its short length keeps it from being absolutely essential playing in my opinion, but it's an interesting title to try out if you have a bit of time and like parser-based horror.


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