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Reviews by streever

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The Brigand's Story, by Laura Michet
Repetitive, engaging Twine-like exploring a scary campfire story, June 18, 2017
by streever (America)
(UPDATE: The bug seems fixed; I have revised my star rating to 4 stars. Original review remains below.)
This piece explores a campfire story on repeat, with minor changes in each iteration, as the protagonist realizes the story is repeating. After the build-up and background, the protagonist meets a grisly, horrible end; only to have to do it again, and again, and again.

Some of the repeats work better than others; a few feel more tedious, with less of a pay-off for working through them, but the overall writing is punchy, distinctive, and rewarding. So much so that I was engaged and quite unhappy when I hit a state-ending bug.

The writing was so good that I would rate this higher than 3 stars, but I keep encountering a game-ending bug after my 4th iteration.

Most seem to have made it through to the end, so I'd recommend playing this as-is, and I hope that a new version that fixes the bug I encountered will come out.

Killing Time at Lightspeed, by Gritfish

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Incredible and unique use of the format, April 10, 2017
by streever (America)
I'm jealous of Killing Time at Lightspeed. Like many great works, this piece appears deceptively easy to create and design, and it evokes my "I could do that" trigger.

That's a testament to the real brilliance behind the work. Great minds make difficult concepts appear obvious and self-evident, and Gritfish has done that with this minimalist work about relationships, society, and how we adapt to great changes and shifts.

At times, the UI feels a little clunky, but never detracts from the experience; I just wish it was easier to switch between all tabs and refresh.

I haven't played the expanded version, but would like to; I hope it adds more depth and a slower pace to the work. This is my one real complaint about the experience, and it's both a strength and a weakness. On one hand, the surface level interactions is important and realistic; on the other, it leads to leaving some of the most interesting questions unexamined. I like that we're not treated to pages of backstory, but I'd love some exploration of why we're leaving space. Why aren't our friends more upset? Why don't they ever ask us? It wouldn't require much, not even a shift in the focus, but it feels like there should be more communication about what amounts to a massive change in our friendships and relationships.

It makes the piece feel more like speculative fiction than the exploration of human relationships it seems to be reaching for, and I'd love to see some more time and energy put into fleshing out what the protagonist meant to the people they've left behind.

Aquarium, by Hannah Powell-Smith
Romance simulator--with a twist, April 2, 2017
by streever (America)
This fun little Twine piece takes a classic convention of IF--the amnesiac protagonist--and puts a new spin on it, featuring a character with an extensive but mysterious and shadowy past. The protagonist has big secrets to hide, but she's also a normal person on a date, and she's trying to balance the tension of her hidden identity with her genuine interest in her classmate.

This piece wasn't as tense as the follow-up, Thanksgiving, because it isn't as linear; instead, it presents a limited open-world concept (within the confines of the Aquarium), which held through some fairly complex state tracking regardless of how I tried to subvert or break it.

The technical complexity is matched by the writing, which manages to be fresh and creative despite the modular framework; very impressive.

I loved the tenseness of Thanksgiving, but both works are strong and stand on their own as fun and replayable pieces. This piece feels more open and replayable--I have the sense that even more is going on here than I found in a few run-throughs--which is both frustrating and compelling. On balance, it's a rewarding, challenging, and intriguing work.

Thanksgiving, by Hannah Powell-Smith
Tense Twine piece about relationships and truth, April 2, 2017
by streever (America)
This well-designed and elegant Twine piece jumps right to the action, putting you in an increasingly tense Thanksgiving dinner with your college boyfriend. You have a secret--many secrets--and the backlog of lies and dodges accumulates, building the pressure on what is already a tense interaction.

The UI really shines here, too, with color used to differentiate choices and branches in the story. This was smartly done. Some choices have a timer, which increases the challenge dramatically, and really increased the power of the story.

My favorite aspect here is the way that this plays with conflict. A basic maxim of writing is to imagine some characters, find what they're afraid of, and then pile on the fears and the challenges. That's done brilliantly here, and quickly, making this a tightly-written and plotted experience.

Seedship, by John Ayliff

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Very fun space colony simulation, March 29, 2017
by streever (America)
This twine piece uses extensive procedural generation to simulate the experience of an AI selecting a planet for the iced human colonists aboard.

The UI really shines: a sidebar lists important data with healthy values in green, and each planet appears with a list of variables that make it suitable or inhospitable to human colonization.

Some planets have anomalies, and randomized events are encountered between planets. These typically give you a binary choice between a known penalty or reward and an unknown penalty or reward. The planets may have random features that can be useful to investigate up close, with a consumable probe.

The prose isn't always world-class, but this is a strong piece highlighting some great uses of procedural generation. Highly recommended.

The Train, by Ivan Chuang

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Evocative surreal work, March 29, 2017
by streever (America)
This piece explores the familiar theme of predestination and choices, using an empty and repetitive train station as the evocative setting after a confusing date.

There were minor typos and grammatical errors, but nothing that ruins the piece or the experience; the issues are fairly minor.

The biggest issue is the UI/UX; this piece uses a slow fade-in on text, which wouldn't be a huge issue, except that most of the work is buried and only revealed on repeated plays. The slow fade isn't in issue for the first round, but it becomes frustrating when you have to read the same intro for the third time. The minor changes in nouns/etc aren't important or consequential enough to justify the very slow re-load and re-read of material.

I think this is a good debut effort, and would love to see it re-released with text fade used sparingly or not at all.

The Roscovian Palladium, by Ryan Veeder

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Rats! No, the good kind: another delightful trip to Veeder's rat world, February 27, 2017
by streever (America)
You're a talking rat on a secret mission so secret that you aren't sure what it is. Well, the rat know, but you the player do not. First order of business is to enter the human museum looming before you and to figure out what's going on.

The start seems to lack urgency or a clear hook: you're a rat in front of a museum. It's my only criticism of this otherwise excellent piece, full of rich detail and little flourishes. Despite the cold open, the rest of the work is engaging and compelling, and shines brightest in the little moments. Examine a painting and receive a mini-meditation on the differences between rat and human culture. It's world-building, but it's seamlessly interwoven with the character and sounds like an authentic internal monologue.

Typical of Veeder's work, this piece has a strong sense of place and location to match the strong character voice; the layout feels like museums I've been in, and felt real and well-described with only a few rooms.

There is an awful lot of STUFF in this piece, nearly all of it without mechanical utility, but examining it deepens the themes and brings the entire work to life. I loved just poking about the rubbish, not knowing if I'd find anything of utility, and getting a small window into the head of the protagonist. As is also typical of Veeder, this lets him occasionally break the fourth wall, making it clear that even though we may not know much about the secret mission, the protagonist certainly does.

Near the end, a mini-combat game appears, a well hinted and mechanically sound diversion that further enriches the entire experience.

It's a short work, taking about 15 minutes to explore, and the brevity is another strength, working well with the theme and focus of the rat's quest.

I highly recommend this strong, short, piece, which works despite the lack of a strong or clear hook. Lack of an opening hook is fairly common in Interactive Fiction, where readers are expected to find their own route in, and it only really stands out in this piece because it otherwise feels very welcoming to new players, with helpful guidance in a pane on the right-hand side, and a tightly-defined scope. I feel like the best IF for first-time readers has a strong hook and sense of initial urgency, but I'd still encourage you to play this despite that lack.

Nights in Boulder, by Zane Fulton
Engaging piece with an interesting premise, February 22, 2017
by streever (America)
This is an interesting Twine work with an engaging premise, more what-happened than whodunnit. The best aspect is the plotting and pacing: much of the work pulls the reader along and creates a tense, suspenseful experience.

I think the weaker points though are the way the work skips backwards in time: it sometimes works, but other times frustrated me and killed the momentum.

Characterization sometimes felt a little flat. Typos and some over-used language contributed to this, but I felt somewhat disconnected from the character. Despite that, there were several scenes where characterization was strong: at one point in the work I tried to pick the more "noble" or "appropriate" path, and was pleasantly surprised by the protagonist refusing to follow the order. There were a few scenes like this throughout the piece that reinforced the character and I thought these improved the overall work. I didn't have a strong sense of place, but that may be an unfair assessment. I didn't get a sense of Boulder, the setting felt more like a generic urban setting.

Audio, video, and interface all score high and were satisfying.

I didn't find the plot entirely convincing, particularly in the second half, which I thought wasn't as strong as the first half. I think this is a good but uneven work, that could benefit from a little tightening up, but should appeal to fans of Memento-like themes and questions of memory and identity.

The House Abandon, by jonNoCode

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short horror game with impressive sound and visual design, February 16, 2017
by streever (America)
This isn't a pure text adventure: it's a simulation of a text adventure, coded in Unity, with a fairly static visual background that changes alarmingly as the story unfolds.

The entire experience gives off a "Stranger Things" vibe, from the Stephen King-esque typeface to the Tangerine-Dreams inspired ambient electronic music playing in the background.

The parser was frustrating at times: it seemed to struggle to understand very similar commands, but was workable, and thankfully there are no convoluted puzzles or complex verb/noun issues.

The overall experience was short and well-plotted. I think the central conceit is one that could easily grow stale, but the author ended this perfectly, while the idea was still novel, frightening, and evocative.

This is a very cool work that plays with nostalgia and horror in very satisfying ways.

Superluminal Vagrant Twin, by C.E.J. Pacian

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A True Space Captain, February 14, 2017
by streever (America)
"So I've made a reasonably large (broad but shallow is how I'd put it) parser game set in space."

This expectation-lowering premise introduction kicks off one of the best RPG-style works of Interactive Fiction I've ever read. The author uses the term "shallow", but I'd say minimalist; dozens of characters, locations, and alien races are described in terse, pared-back prose. These well-written and plotted scenes are engaging and evocative, pulling the reader into a richly imaginative world.

The UI/UX can sometimes be clunky if only because the reader expects more--more commands, more fiddly-bits, more fussing--but the work on the whole is much stronger for paring back the parser functions to the bare minimum. This would be an incredible introductory work to bring a mainstream gamer into Interactive Fiction.

I love the dialogue, the settings, the environment, and the atmosphere. I love the way the game sets the tone and personality of the protagonist by placing you squarely in such a difficult situation. The missions, quests, and interactions all reinforce this central narrative of a scrappy and plucky pilot about to turn their luck around.

Don't stress too much about perfect completion: the game lets you continue when you finish the main story, to accomplish the side quests and achievements. I highly recommend this genre-crossing experimental work to anyone, with no caveats or warnings. It's really excellent.

Detective City, by Plus Ultra

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Surreal and comic HTML based work about disgraced detective, February 8, 2017
by streever (America)
This hilarious piece is loaded with comedy, both in contextualized situations and laugh-out-loud lines. After tracking down a particular crime to a group of babies, for instance, and relentlessly bullying them into helping my gumshoe earn back her previously good reputation, I was treated to the line, "I can see into your soul, sucky baby. I see into it, and I find it wanting."

The entire work is infused with this sort of silliness, taking place over a variety of declaratively-named locations: ArtistCity is a city of artists, and your home location, DetectiveCity, is a sprawling metropolis of detectives and gumshoe tropes.

The protagonist needs to collect enough Detecto-Points over the next 10 days to keep her job after an embarrassing blunder, hinted at but never explicitly detailed, known as "The Noodletown Incident". Each day is a chapter, initiated by choosing where you'll spend it: you can work a case or take an oddball detour into criminal enterprises, anarchy, or other weird segues.

Each day involves some type of event, ranging from cases (classic logic problems re-styled as mysteries and solved through multiple choices) to embarrassing interactions with your co-workers. After a day, you'll be awarded detecto-points, either stolen, earned for your work, or gifted by a colleague or NPC.

After the ten chapters, the work concludes in a courthouse battle where you can take actions based off of your earlier successes, before you receive a score and the credits appear.

The game mechanics are incredibly satisfying, and the randomization and wide number of paths makes this a very replayable work.

I highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys quirky, silly writing and fun Interactive Fiction.

Chasm Simulator 9000, by hoverpope

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Strange little Twine piece about being a hole in the ground, January 30, 2017
by streever (America)
This is a fun, odd little Twine work where you are a hole in the ground, faced with existential questions but continuing to grow and develop.

It's definitely a one-note piece: existential questions are raised but never answered, and there isn't enough material here to even try to answer those questions. What are you? What does it mean that you can choose to grow deeper, cozier, or deadlier? Why do these concepts interest a hole in the ground?

This silly little piece may have been an experiment, or a test lab for a new twine user, or just a silly idea that grew into a longer piece. It's fun and amusing, and shuts off one or two paths by restricting your final choice to only one of the three.

I enjoyed this, but am not sure that I'd really recommend it; as a silly gag piece, it may be slightly too long. I'd either try to add a little more to the actions, or pare it down and make it even more self-aware/tongue in cheek.

Queers in Love at the End of the World, by Anna Anthropy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Brave experimental piece, January 29, 2017
by streever (America)
This incredibly short (10 second!) piece experiments with time as a constraint, something rarely seen in Interactive Fiction.

A fast and constantly dwindling 10 second countdown speeds you along as you click through the options, expressing your love and living the last few seconds of a romance as the world ends. Wisely, the end of the world--the whys, the hows, etc--isn't examined. The time constraint means it can't be, letting the story of doomed love take center-stage.

I found the experiment at times frustrating, because I was racing through prose; but I think that's a form of success here, as it meant I re-played several times, trying the same and different paths.

A Fire Darkly: Chapter 1, by Louis Rakovich

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Strong debut work in Twine, January 26, 2017
by streever (America)
(I was very politely asked to review this piece by the author, who I do not know, via email. I was very happy to comply.)

Rakovich is clearly a practiced writer, and writes skillfully minimalist descriptive prose about the unearthly dream world the player character is exploring.

I enjoyed the way that traditional parser concepts were transferred to a hypertext work, but am not sure if they were totally successful. Travelling by compass direction in hypertext feels strange--I think it'd be more effective if the movement was clued to what you might expect to find. ("Walk to the river", "Walk towards the clearing", "Walk into deeper forest"). Other aspects, from the hypertext friendly puzzles to the mechanics of "looking away" from things you'd investigated, worked better and added to the atmosphere.

While I enjoyed this piece and am looking forward to the next one, I do think the opening is a rougher spot than the rest of the work. Broadly speaking, it's well-written, but I didn't feel the sense of urgency or agency I hope for in the best IF. I'm told that I'm probably lost, but I don't remember where I was going or how I got here, and given a very binary choice between north and south.

The amnesia open is basically a trope, but it's fine, honestly, as long as I have a sense of urgency and curiosity about who I am, which should start building in that first paragraph. I don't think this piece did that. The choice to go north or south feels meaningless, and in fact, going north just results in the message that it's too dark, so I have to turn around and go south.

I think the opening should probably give me a better sense of the stakes behind my first choice, and make it feel meaningful, or continue the intro and make it a 'click to continue' without the false choice created. Perhaps an explanation that the woods are dark, and the only visible path is left--click to continue--would improve this.

The work becomes far more compelling almost immediately, when a scent leads you to a traumatic memory. I would encourage the author to get to this moment quicker, and to use it as part of the urgency. Why this memory? Why this experience, at this time? Does the memory remind the narrator of anything unfinished/unresolved? Perhaps the disorienting walk through the woods is to figure out something unfinished from that early memory--that would definitely give me a greater sense of investment right off the bat.

Despite the rough opening, this is a strong work, especially after the first memory surfaces, which left me with questions and an interest in completing the future parts.

On categorization: I'm not sure I agree with the label of psychological horror here. That's not criticism of the work, I just wonder if a better label exists?

In any event, I recommend this piece, and appreciated it's clean, minimalist prose and strange, unsettling atmosphere.

Patrick, by michael lutz
Creepy surreal hypertext work, January 17, 2017
by streever (America)
Lutz is one of the best Interactive Fiction writers right now due to his strong voice and sense of pacing. This piece takes the amusing, yet common, idea that everyone has a doppelganger and extends it into a slightly disturbing, slightly creepy, work, that makes me smile when I reach the end.

The pacing is aided by the breaks in text and the minimal interactivity--simply clicking the link to progress--throughout the work. Large, bold type over dissociative photos of people in everyday scenes whose faces have been blurred out adds to the creepy atmosphere, while making the text readable and compelling.

I don't think this piece would work by many other writers. What turns a fairly simple, one-note piece into something greater is the strength of the writing, particularly the voice of the narrator.

Babel, by Ian Finley

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Horror story with a sense of urgency and gripping writing, January 17, 2017
by streever (America)
Babel was ahead of its time in 1997, but this work still stands out a decade later.

The prose is crisp and the characters feel authentic and real. The storyline is riddled with tropes and genre conventions--it begins with amnesia--feels compelling and real. Puzzle design aids the writing; puzzles feel believable and natural in the world the author has created.

Most importantly for horror, the horror feels real, too; I had a sense of danger to the protagonist, and a desire to lead him as safely out as I could. The storyline unfolds in a satisfying way, with twists that are never obvious but are predictable for a careful or imaginative reader.

This is a fairly long work that makes extensive use of backstory, but I played it in one setting, unable to stop reading along. With its fair puzzle design, well-written characters, and compelling story, it's a good example of modern IF design, and a highly accessible classic work for people new to Interactive Fiction.

Even Cowgirls Bleed, by Christine Love
Impressive linear Twine work exploring rejection, self-harm, & expectations, January 17, 2017
by streever (America)
This work tells the story of expectation and romantic disappointment, as an over-eager and insecure young woman tries to reinvent herself and connect with a woman she finds admirable and impressive.

Nearly every interaction along the way is violent. The protagonist seeks to be a cowgirl and has practiced with a gun, and uses it to advance her story. What at first seems to impress soon disgusts, however, and the violence is turned inward as the rejection becomes complete.

It's a perfect metaphor for the self-loathing and shame that can follow rejection, and the writing and voice feel authentic and real.

Visually the piece is as lovely as the content is depressing. A pixel-aesthetic of burnt orange, reds, and yellows signifies the western theme, and as the majority of actions involve 'shooting' the link text with a gun sight mouse cursor, they are accompanied by a bang noise.

This is a complete short work which left me wanting more from the author and the story. The ending can be read, most literally, as a violent and story-ending moment, or as a metaphor for self-loathing. I'd like to see more exploration of the violence, which I think is lost in the abrupt and sudden twist at the end. I wonder if this would be a better piece if we could make more choices about the violence we dole out, and if the game would sad less or more about this if we had more complicity in it? As it is, the violence is usually required to continue, which robs some of the emotional impact--our only meaningful choice is if we read or not.

Three-Card Trick, by Chandler Groover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Absolute love this original, creepy work from Groover, January 17, 2017
by streever (America)
The opening feels like a farce, with an appropriate level of slapstick and humor-filled writing, before the early twist that brings this into a darker, more macabre mood.

Groover experiments with navigation frequently, and in this work, the area of play is established as a two-tiered festival ground organized in circles. On either tier, the player heads 'in' to the center, where most of the action occurs, or 'out', to the transit spot between the two tiers.

Mechanics are simple and satisfying, divided into two sets of actions. First the player must explore; second, they must perform the magic trick. Puzzles are fairly constructed and should be easy to solve, aided by well-written prose.

This is a compact, atmospheric piece which I highly recommend. It may be my favorite of Groover's work, which I hold to a high standard as it is some of the best new work appearing.

Staying Put, by verityvirtue

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting premise diminished by awkward prose and errors, January 17, 2017
by streever (America)
This puzzle-free work has an interesting premise but seems to be broken with unimplemented and under-implemented actions. Most of the game consists of examining memories in your inventory: you have a phone which I couldn't seem to use, and memories (including one of a Peter) that I was unable to interact with.

I'm not sure if I missed my window: I didn't examine the Peter memory as soon as it appeared (announced with bold text in another memory), and that may explain why I couldn't access it later, but this seems like a bad design choice or a bug, as the piece even asserts that there are no puzzles or timed activities.

This piece takes place in a closed-off attic, where you hide from the public and reprisals by your former employer, the owner of a firm that seems to have been doing something questionably legal with medication. You stay put in your room, but can access a hallway and washroom, and work through linked memories. Eventually the piece ends, but I'm not sure why or what triggers the ending.

The prose can be clunky at times, and also features errors: one paragraph ends with a comma, and I am not sure if it's just a typo for a period, or if there should be more text that got cut off, but the awkwardness of the paragraph makes me think it's the latter.

I think this could become a strong piece with some editing and revising, but do not recommend it until then.

Victorian Detective, by Peter Carlson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Fun mystery with original and effective game mechanics, January 12, 2017
by streever (America)
This linear mystery story uses an inventive puzzle design for a link-based game, taking the form of a multiple choice quiz after most sections. Puzzle design is tough but fair, and provides a great example of modern interactive fiction design: as hard as some of the puzzles may be to solve, the game never ends when you can't get the right answer.

The writing is competent but oddly disjointed from it's inspiration, the work of Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sherlock references didn't quite the mark, partially because the voice and prose didn't feel appropriately Doyle-esque, but also because the protagonist is clearly not Sherlock Holmes but owes him a debt. The protagonist is more of a blank slate. I think the piece may have been better if the protagonist was either Sherlock or a recognizable character in their own right, but I think this would be a challenge for a short work of interactive fiction. I hope that the character expands and develops over the next pieces and comes into its own.

The mystery itself was satisfying and well-plotted, a clear homage to classic Doyle mysteries with a seemingly minor case revealing a much larger one.

While failing a puzzle never ends the game, it does deduct from your final score, a combination of deduction points and action points. The former is the best aspect of this work: thorough investigation will make it fairly easy to get the highest score possible in deduction, but I was unsure of the action phases, which were used less and felt less thought-out. I'm not sure that the best choice from the perspective of the author in each of these sequences was well broadcast, and these were largely a matter of guesswork for me, but I may have missed clues and hints.

I am looking forward to future works by this author, and really enjoyed the creative way they incorporated puzzles into a hypertext piece.

Stone Harbor, by Liza Daly

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Perfect use of the form in this compelling mystery, January 11, 2017
by streever (America)
I was ready to be disappointed. My expectations were so high that I wasn't sure they could be upheld. I hadn't seen much buzz about this piece, which was surprising; the author, Liza Daly, has an impressive background in ebooks and an incredible collaboration with Emily Short.

I was so impressed by this work that I'm writing my review after finishing the opening. The design is minimalist but extremely thorough: the typography is beautifully readable, and this work has clearly been laid out by someone who has thought about how people read online.

The prose is as clear and clean as the design, and immediately creates a sense of place. New Jersey comes through. The tent comes through.

Game mechanics are shockingly effective. The opening is linear, but choices feel meaningful. The protagonist is a charlatan who performs psychomancy readings for gullible tourists, and it feels meaningful when you ask your latest mark--or customer--for his hat.

Despite the attractive design, clean prose, and sense of place, I wasn't excited about the work for the first few minutes. This is my fault! I don't love reading online, and something of this length, I'd normally skip over. The design is so thoughtful though, and the writing so good, that I kept going--and then was completely and utterly hooked at the opening twist. I won't spoil it, but near the end of the opening, the story shifts from what feels like a slice of life tale to an engaging, compelling mystery story. This moment completely hooked me, and the following story keeps the pacing and tension building as it weaves an even more complex tale.

Some might complain that there isn't much 'game' here: you have a clearly defined character you inhabit, the story is largely linear. Whatever limitations may exist in that area, the story and the mechanics that do exist more than compensate, creating a strong, well-told tale.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Welcome to your ad-supported freemium driving experience! Would you rate us?, January 10, 2017
by streever (America)
This seems to be a satire at first, but make no mistake, it's a chilling dystopian tale of our likely future. Just think about pumping gas at a 'nice' gas station: a giant screen greets you and plays TV ads while you pump gas. No mute button; no channel switch. Get to the theatre 'on time' for your next movie. Instead of previews (a type of ad) actual commercials are played, with the previews coming later--after the listed start time.

I'd been thinking about making my own smartcar game, but it was a one-note concept; this takes the idea and extends it, featuring obstacles from ads to a pushy navigational system to problems with charging and filling the battery. It ends with an emotional blow that reveals a deep familiarity with the essential heartlessness of modern, commercialized, technology and design.

The writing throughout is sparse and fun. A well executed twine piece.

Panic Mansion, by beatlesfan317@yahoo.com
Collection of unrelated trivia questions and seemingly random 'battles', January 10, 2017
by streever (America)
I'm not sure what to make of this.

It's a Twine-piece with almost no plot at all; the protagonist is described as a 'slacker' who flunked high school, but then we're told he just failed Physical Education. Doesn't really sound like a slacker in my opinion, but there you have it. A teacher offers to let the student graduate if he can 'solve' the puzzles in a panic home, which is revealed to be a mansion.

What's a panic home, you ask? I thought it would just be a locked down house, like a panic room, a sealed away room to retreat to, but it appears to be a house full of daughters who attack you after you answer random trivia questions. Top names in the US in 1900--longest national coastline after Canada--the title of a soap opera that ended in 1989 after 13 years of broadcasting--if you can see a common thread here, you've solved a deeper mystery than I could!

The lack of a plot or any other motivation makes this effectively a collection of random trivia questions, mostly all answered easily with a google search. The seemingly randomized battle sequences (click "attack" or "defend"--the right sequence will win) break what little flow is to be found in the trivia questions.

I'm not sure who this piece was intended for, or what the goal was; I didn't particularly enjoy it.

Just Talk to Them, by Raymond Vermeulen

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fun and original Twine work, December 31, 2016
by streever (America)
A typical night out--banter and overpriced beer--takes a turn for the better when you meet the gaze of a cute stranger and decide to introduce yourself.

The writing is fun and humorous, but at times could have used a little editing; the adjectives trip up some of the otherwise well-written passages in the opening.

This debut work breaks from typical slice-of-life work by asking the reader to compete in small mini-games with each significant action. A game of chance, a trivia question, and a reflex text are all used to test the reader. While not directly relevant--no one has ever had to answer a question about ancient Chinese history in order to stand up from their table--these games create a sense of tension and pressure which fits in with the theme and overall mood of the piece.

I am very impressed with this as a debut piece, and hope to see much more from the author.

Not All Things Make It Across, by Bruno Dias
Atmospheric piece building out the Diasverse, December 31, 2016
by streever (America)
This is a companion piece set in the same world as earlier works by Dias, bringing back the intriguing protagonist of Four Sittings In A Sinking House. If you haven't read his earlier works, this brief piece may be unsatisfying. There is little backstory or characterization, merely a list of items referring to the previous works, and the choice to keep or abandon each item.

This is a nice treat for fans, and a good reason for newcomers to read his back work.

1181, by Grim and notgojira

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Compelling work of cosmic horror with Judeo-Christian overtones, December 29, 2016
by streever (America)
This beautiful Twine piece puts you in the perspective of a volunteer at a SETI-like institution. Quickly, things go awry, and strange behavior and a dark secret emerge.

The type is well-designed, and the overall effort feels polished, with a nice use of imagery and visuals. I may be spoiled, but I think some audio component would have elevated the overall effect and increased the atmosphere.

The one quibble I have with the plot and theme is that I don't feel like we have a real chance to connect with the character, which reduces the impact of the overall story. We open with the acknowledgement that we are volunteers at this institute, but we don't understand the work we're doing or the importance of it. Why are we here? Is it for college? Do we really work a day job and come in here at night to do free work for something we don't understand and can't explain? I think the piece would benefit from having a better sense of who we are, why we're here, and how this encounter with a different identity affects us.

Overall, I'd give this piece high marks for atmosphere and tension, particularly in the second act, when physical danger is introduced.

I THINK I'LL STOP OFF ON THE WAY, by piratescarfy
Nightmare-like short horror piece, December 28, 2016
by streever (America)
This work of surreal horror that read like a nightmare: while I appreciated the creepiness, I never felt any sense that the protagonist was in real danger. It felt more like I was playing through his recollection of a fever dream.

The writing was strong overall, but held back by excessive wordiness and presentation. Small yellow type on black is not easy to read, especially with such dense sentences. I'd recommend increasing the line height and narrowing the column the text appears in along with some light editing.

Some scenes were especially good; the restaurant was the most unsettling, followed by picking up the blade. I didn't expect the game to raise existential questions at the very end; I suspected something more violent.

I'm not sure what the deeper themes were here--they eluded me, in the same way that the meaning of a convoluted dream does, leaving me only with a sense of what was happening. In that way, I thought this was reminiscent of Murakami, with a focus on the style and sense of the situation.

Stealing the Stolen, by Rachel, Sabrina and Ms. Dooms

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short little CYOA-style by young authors, December 27, 2016
by streever (America)
The tables are turned on a notorious thief in this cute little CYOA piece by two young authors. This piece began as an exercise in grammar, and sentences are indeed rich with adjectives and adverbs.

The piece could use more: more rooms, more stolen items, more choices, more editing, but it is a fun, cute little romp, with some humorous asides revealing a sense of whimsy and fun at the heart of this work. An especially charming moment occurs in the first failure option, when we follow the sound of barking to the guard dog, something the authors describe as a natural impulse of anyone who likes dogs.

Although a parser work, this piece felt like the classic CYOA: vocabulary is limited and options are usually obvious in this fun, short work. I hope the authors are encouraged by their final work and return to the format in the future.

TL-MEGA-777-13, by DWaM

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Disturbing sci-fi story with echoes of Huxley, December 25, 2016
by streever (America)
This was a disturbing work which raises questions of complicity and empathy. What do we owe an amoral man? If someone has done the unthinkable to hundreds of people, what level of emotional response do we feel when he has the tables turned?

I don't know that this work provides a satisfying exploration of the deeper questions it asks. It's a short sci-fi work where we start off as the orderly who helps an egotistical doctor attempt to perfect mind control. We aren't given much ambiguity: we know what we're doing, we know the price that our unwilling test subjects pay, and we know that we're doing something evil that must be hidden.

Told over roughly three acts, this piece seems to ultimately ask if the end justifies the means, but cleverly without ever really showing us the ends. In the end, we have a chance to respond with how we feel about the question, but it doesn't feel like an answer to a grand question but a personal one.

This thought-provoking piece might have benefitted from more: a longer build-up, a longer denouement. I think a longer third act, with the question being posed later after a series of experiences, might have made it more enriching.

All in all a worthy effort which raises questions and leaves the reader wanting more.

The Legend of Blackbrook Village, by OurJud

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Very broken, December 23, 2016
by streever (America)
I was able to progress by downloading the file and playing it offline, but, ran into another game-breaking bug later in the game when directions gave me the same error as in the car. I do think this work has a lot of promise and an interesting premise, but I've removed my star rating for now until I can actually play through it.


This game has an interesting premise and seems to create an appropriate tone, but completely falls apart in the first 2 minutes.

Leaving your house to start the story results in a bizarre situation: you have a car in the driveway, but no seemingly no ability to go anywhere. "Go to kitchen", compass directions, "get in car", "Drive car", all produce error messages. "Open door" seems to work--the story informs you that you're in the car, the engine is running, and Uncle Jacob's house is 30-minutes to the east--but that's it. You can keep typing "open door" or "x car", but nothing really happens.

It's a shame, because the author seems to have put a lot of work into this. I don't know if the version is bad, or if it's a placeholder for a forthcoming work, but I look forward to re-playing it when it's fixed.

As an aside, it could use a little copy editing; I'm not ruthless about typos but found several.

Aftermath, by OurJud

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Immersive little survival game, December 23, 2016
by streever (America)
This work is a blend of survival game and classic Choose Your Own Adventure; there are multiple bad endings, and it's easy to get them. Thankfully the built in save/load feature makes it fairly easy to save often.

One of the more interesting experiments in this piece is the use of a timer to hide color changes to the links. The sense of urgency or pressure this applies keeps the reader moving forward briskly, possibly to a bad end, which feels apt for the genre.

This is a dark work: the option exists to try to kill nearly everyone you meet, although I didn't take it whenever narratively possible. The piece works as a kind of homage to the setting and scenery of McCarthy's The Road, but without the underlying theme of fathers and sons.

Music and sound effects are used well to create an immersive atmosphere. This was a good effort and struck a nice balance in emulating the survival game genre.

What Fuwa Bansaku Found, by Chandler Groover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful elegiac work, December 21, 2016
by streever (America)
This short, haunting piece requires the reader to advance (a) or retreat (r), with a variety of other actions suggested after you look at or examine the scenery. It's very linear, but like much great character-driven interactive fiction, the linearity feels natural as you discover your character and what their limitations and compulsions are.

Interspersed throughout the work are fragments of poetry from Basho, Kikaku, and other 17th-century poets. The end result is a haunting, elegiac work, telling a stylized version of the semi-historical story of Fuwa Bansaku, a 16th-century samurai.

Near the end, the work features a ukiyo-e print by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, a 19th-century japanese woodblock printer; this famous image from his series, 100 Ghost Stories of China and Japan, seems to be the inspiration for this short and dramatic ekphrastic piece.

This is a beautiful use of the format and a moving, haunting piece, which should inspire the reader to learn more about Yoshitoshi, the poets, and of course, Fuwa Bansaku. Very lovely.

Blow Out the Candles, by Luke Skytrekker

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Cute little "one move" game in Twine, December 20, 2016
by streever (America)
This is a humorous little Twine game with essentially one move--blowing out the candles--but a dozen or more clicks as you think about who you are, where you are, what you're doing, and who the other people in the room with you are.

It's fairly short and amusing, with essentially two endings--a good and a bad one--both of which can be reached in about 5 minutes.

It was interesting to see a once experimental parser technique applied to a twine-like. I enjoyed it overall, but felt that tighter editing could be applied to the pacing and sense of momentum, something the author does well by show increasingly impatient guests waiting for you to blow out the candles.

Secret Agent Cinder, by Emily Ryan
Fun short spy story, December 17, 2016
by streever (America)
Quality writing and beautiful illustrations make this choice-based work a delight. Cinderella is reimagined as a secret agent, infiltrating the palace to steal military plans for the resistance.

The opening involves a short sequence where you choose your mission gear; play with obvious bad choices to see humorous responses from your handler, code named "Godmother".

This work is short but sets up a few fun replays, with a story-specific scoring system ranking you on stealth, revolutionary zeal, and a violence bonus. While I've found I can score higher or lower stealth stars, I don't know if I can actually change the outcome of the game, which seems designed to provide a humorous setup to the rest of the Cinderella story. A very fun little adventure.

The Ghosts of Christmas ______, by Laika Fawkes

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Postmodernist take on Scrooge, December 17, 2016
by streever (America)
This beautifully-designed Twine work is a far from faithful retelling of A Christmas Carol, letting you summon an arbitrary number of ghosts of [your choice] to torment, berate, and possibly even square off in the squared circle for a wrestling match with old Elvenoozer Sprodge [Avenizer Flooge|Iboneezo Sprogue].

A mad-lib approach combined with randomized names for people and places contribute to the non-sequitur humor of this piece.

There are multiple endings, but they seem to be determined more by your final actions than the path you take to the ending, so feel free to experiment and have fun.

The First Day, by Brett Chalupa

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Dark apocalyptic Twine piece, December 16, 2016
by streever (America)
This short Twine piece tells the story of a young woman headed to her familial home after an outbreak of plague in California.

The piece is dark, with numerous 'bad' endings, similar in nature to a CYOA book; thankfully, Twine's default undo lets the reader move backward and continue past the bad endings.

I liked some of the small details throughout, which contributed to a sense of place and space, but the pacing was a weaker point, especially in the opening, when the backstory is told through a long series of choice-less clicks. I think parts of this read too much like a traditional narrative, and it could be edited tighter to leave a sense of mystery and questions. Do we need to know the details of the plague? I'd rather get more into my character--her motivations, her goals, who she is.

The actions didn't make me connect with the character, and I'm not sure if that's because this is such a short piece, or if it's because of the 3rd-party approach, where the character is never "I" but instead "she"; the consistent use of a third-party pronoun may have contributed to my sense that I was really just flipping the pages in an electronic book, not inhabiting a character and making choices.

I think this piece would benefit from some tightening and editing; the opening scene is well-done, and the writing does have a raw, natural rhythm to it. I think a little editing by the author (especially reducing the consistent use of 'she' throughout) would improve the overall writing and strengthen the natural rhythm the writer has.

Reference and Representation: An Approach to First-Order Semantics, by Ryan Veeder

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Perfect short single-puzzle game, December 16, 2016
by streever (America)
This clever little piece offers a take on the development of language and tools, casting the reader as a cave-dwelling early man, with a simple task: get some medicinal bark to help your mate with her headache.

The writing is consistently funny and witty. Historicity is wisely sacrificed in service to the narrative--a dinosaur is featured in the final act--and it makes for an entertaining piece.

On a deeper level, the piece examines art, map-making, language, and human relationships, all in a short, relatively constrained piece hinging on one single puzzle.

It took me several replays to figure out what to do; every location is important, and with the possible exception of one reference I didn't get (the direction of the creek), relevant to that single puzzle.

Winter Storm Draco, by Ryan Veeder

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A Surreal Trip to Veederland, December 16, 2016
by streever (America)
I loved this surreal little trip to Veederland. Winter Storm Draco has stuck; your job was to walk to the convenience store and pick up hot dogs, buns, and cheap wine for your roommates.

As a hearty New Englander, walking through a storm resonated with me, but of course, we can't buy wine at our convenience stores. That's a complaint about Connecticut, not about this wonderful work, which shares the same excellent sense of place that Veeder incorporates into his work.

Even though the game starts by getting you lost in a strip of woods between the highway and your neighborhood, it felt believable and real; I could easily draw a map of the area from memory alone.

One of the highlights of this work are the in-game clues. A slight bending of the 4th wall and a charming writing style lets Veeder directly suggest unusual actions and moves to the player, and it improves the overall work.

This piece has a mix of puzzles: a combat mini-game, a riddle, and a 'combine the items' puzzle. The variety makes it challenging, but all the puzzles are fair, logical, and obvious post-solution.

The ending is especially strong, and felt like a real-world experience, an important bit of grounding in an otherwise surreal piece.

Letters, by Madison Evans
Moving and intimate portrait of a friend, December 9, 2016
by streever (America)
This twine piece tells the story of Cadence, a young woman who the opening implies has died, through the letters and memories she shared with the narrator. The writing is good, making use of a strong voice and sense of rhythm.

The opening takes the form of a last letter, a farewell, to the narrator, a classmate who became her closest friend. The story flows well, with regular reveals of information, and an interesting mechanic of "starting over" at the end of every story node to learn more.

I didn't think this would work as well as it did; the first time I saw "Start Over" it was after two clicks, and I wondered if the piece would be tedious and repetitive, but it isn't at all. The mechanic works perfectly to let you learn more and explore the story in greater depth.

Overall, this was an affecting, moving work.

Noirbilis, by Geostatonary

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Unpolished little gem, December 7, 2016
by streever (America)
Although I enjoyed this quite a bit, this piece either ends ambiguously or is unfinished and has no ending, and it's almost pure linear; despite several play-throughs, I always ended up at the same place, mostly the same way.

But I enjoyed it. The writing had a nice rhythm to it and it was incredibly confident. This is clearly a work based on some other property, with which I am unfamiliar, and there were dozens of concepts I didn't understand, but without info-dumps and pages of backstory, I was able to figure out who I was and what was happening.

It's a noir-ish story that seems to take place in a supernatural reality. The little flourishes--you can act "mysteriously" for example--are a real treat. How did I get myself untied from the knots? Well, it's a mystery. I particularly appreciated the way the piece admitted it was cheating, but felt in-world and character.

The confidence mixed with the quality of writing made me especially sad that the ending was so unclear: if it does end, I'd recommend having some "Thanks for playing" page, just to make it clear, but I think the finale is very anti-climatic and doesn't read like an ending.

I would happily give this more stars for the confidence, narrative voice, and well-written paragraphs, but it needs to tie up the ending into something that feels like a proper ending, even if it's a "To be continued" page. I'd also recommend polishing the UI/look; this would benefit greatly from a little attention to the color scheme & maybe even illustrations if possible.

In Good Company, by A.M.

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting, fair, and fairly-short puzzle-fest, December 5, 2016
by streever (America)
This is an interesting little puzzle-fest that may be narratively thin for readers who don't subscribe The Mysterious Package Company. The "MPC" is a real-life delivery service that mails intriguing packages with facsimile artifacts to their customers, and this game appears to be a tie-in to their service, with optional content for subscribers.

Being locked out of the optional content didn't detract from the overall experience, but I did feel like I was getting only part of the story, due to the many narrative references to stock mysteries and tropes, such as a jackalope skull in the starting room. Many of these references ended up feeling like window dressing instead of depth, and it'd be interesting to see what would happen if the piece was gently disconnected from the underlying MPC structure or if it better explored that structure: why am I really in this room? What's my relationship to a figure known as the Curator? Why does the MPC do this work?

I'm being tough on the lack of scene-setting and urgency not because this is a bad piece; in truth, it's a very good piece with fair, fun, consistent puzzle design, much better than most puzzle-centric pieces. If you really enjoy puzzle-centric work, you'll like this quite a bit; if you really want more narrative depth in a work,you might feel a little nonplussed.

There is a huge level of delight in solving the many puzzles scattered about, and the design isn't difficult due to the fairness and consistency of the puzzles, leading to a number of 'happy' moments when just the right thing works in just the right way.

80 DAYS, by inkle, Meg Jayanth

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Still good after the 5th--and 15th--playthrough, November 30, 2016
by streever (America)
This steampunk retelling of the classic Around the World in 80 Days is one of my favorite pieces of interactive fiction of all time, so much so that I almost feel it's unfair to other interactive fiction.

It's a commercial work, and worth twice what I paid for it. The polish shows: gorgeous visuals, an easy interface, and a beautiful soundtrack accompany the elegant prose.

Characters are fascinating and engaging: I wish I could abandon the main storyline to just travel with some of the many memorable people I meet, but alas, as a simple valet, I must follow my master on his quest!

I can't recommend this one highly enough. It's a brilliant mix of historical fiction with contemporary values and quality writing, and the entire package together is well-worth the price of admission.

This City Knows You, by Lido

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Strong writing and characterization in this linear narrative work, November 29, 2016
by streever (America)
This City Knows You seems to be a strong debut twine-like work, posted as Tumblr entries. The linear narrative allows some choices, but more in tone and flavor than in plot-direction: you are a fairly passive presence, travelling alongside a group of dynamic, active women.

The blocky illustrations are beautiful and bring to mind Kentucky Route 0 or Sword and Sworcery. The aesthetic makes me think of the 80s, although this futuristic piece takes place in a presumably post-apocalyptic city, empty of people.

This piece raises many questions--who precisely are these people? What happened to the city? Why are we here?--and the author bravely leaves them largely unanswered. This contributes to the compelling quality of the plot and story, very engaging despite a slow start. The opening suffers from a lack of urgency and struggles with pacing issues, due to the heavy amount of new information presented. I think it'd be interesting to see the opening tightened up a little bit, and the details of the characters broken up somehow. =

After the slow start, however, pacing is excellent and compelling; I really enjoyed my time with this, and I'm hoping to see more by the author. I've given three stars because this is an exceptionally strong character-focused piece with a fresh voice, but the early pacing issues and unconventional format may be challenging. I recommend sticking with it even if it doesn't immediately grab you; it really grows and becomes something astonishing by the end.

Light into Darkness, by Christina Nordlander

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Very dark short work, November 27, 2016
by streever (America)
This minimalist parser work is competent, smart, and well-designed. Content is very dark, dealing with themes of family violence and possibly the occult, although I have questions about what happened and the reliability of the narrator. I replayed it multiple times, wondering if there was more: an alternate ending I missed, additional context, something else to provide a sense of closure. This isn't a negative, although I would have liked something more, although I can't actually name what I want.

The plot and pacing are well-done in this fairly minimalist work, and the implementation of rooms and objects is well-done although sparse. All in all, a chilling, dark piece which engaged and fascinated me, leaving me to muse over the themes and speculate about influences, inspiration, and more. I'd love to see a post-mortem on this, and I feel very optimistic about Nordlander's future works.

The competition this was entered into is quick and places considerable time pressure on entrants, so I was pleasantly surprised to find such a technically competent and complete entry. I would love to see this work fleshed out into something with more endings and complexity.

Color the Truth, by mathbrush

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Great investigation mechanic based on dialogue and robust conversation, November 23, 2016
by streever (America)
I enjoyed this murder mystery work, a fairly short game focused on collecting statements and identifying the places where they didn't line up.

The writing was skilled and the mechanics were enjoyable, but I didn't ultimately feel as connected to this piece. While the overall polish is high, the mechanics are excellent, and the writing is evocative and tight, but for whatever reason, I failed to have a sense of deeper connection with the piece.

I finished the piece two days ago and have been mulling over my disconnect since. The characters feel real and believable, but the flow of the story and the pacing seems to break down; I had a sense what had happened fairly early in the story, but didn't feel a sense of satisfaction when I had solved the puzzle. I think it might benefit from some more steps, or some other modifications to the pacing; maybe keeping a sense of mystery even at the climax? I'm not sure what the answer is, precisely, but I'd still recommend this piece "as-is" to anyone who enjoys detective work and investigations in interactive fiction.

Roberta Williams Eats a Sandwich, by Bitter Karella

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fun, short little work referencing the convoluted Sierra classics, November 23, 2016
by streever (America)
This short Twine piece satirizes and mocks the conventions of early Sierra adventures, making the simple task of "making a sandwich" a twisting and convoluted mess of converting to orthodox Judaism, befriending former President Jimmy Carter, and committing arson.

The death states (there are many) evoke the incredibly cruel and unexpected failure states of early text games, with unpredictable and seemingly disconnected events resulting from simple verbs like "read".

I enjoyed it, but I feel like it could be deeper. You can probably investigate the entire piece in under 10 minutes. I think a longer game with more material could come out of this, and it would benefit from more storyline spread out over the material.

Detectiveland, by Robin Johnson

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Atmosphere: check. Subversion: check. Parser puzzles in Twine-like: uh.., November 22, 2016
by streever (America)
Detectiveland is a well-written call-back to the interactive fiction of yesteryear: the terse room descriptions and unguided exploration of a classic Scott Adams work mixed with the contemporary themes and concepts present in modern interactive fiction.

Music, sound effects, and visuals all work together to provide a compelling and tight experience. The writing voice is strong and firmly in line with the hard-boiled potboilers of detective fiction, while avoiding the blatant sexism and nihilism that pervaded noir.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments throughout the piece, and some of my favorite endings are the "bad" ones, which aren't differentiated outside of your experience. They all end the same, but the last moments, as chosen by the player, are relevant and and meaning.

The puzzles were a nice touch, and show a way for twine-like pieces to recreate classic "do what with what" puzzle design. Some of them were a bit obtuse at first, but the game aspect is very forgiving, and it's easy to attempt again. The game aspects deviate from classic IF in not being cruel; the game state can't be made unplayable.

This was a satisfying detective romp, and it's obvious why it won the 2016 IFComp. Very recommended.

Four Sittings in a Sinking House, by Bruno Dias

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Tight little piece with strong voice and sense of place, November 16, 2016
by streever (America)
I loved this short horror work by Dias, set on a scrubby little island where rich New Englanders bought cottages and displaced the sheep herders and fishers who once eked out a living.

The voice of the main protagonist/narrator is strong and realistic; I could imagine this man talking to me in a dark bar. Little details complete his character--he doesn't just chain smoke, he makes a snide comment about vaping, too.

The house is navigated by clicking text links--room to room--and I quickly made a mental map in my head which looked an awful lot like the small Cape Cods and saltboxes of the coastal towns from my home state.

The ending is perfect: as far as I can tell, you have two choices, and it is worth playing a second time to experience both of them. There are other small choices throughout, but most of them function more as "which to do first", although a few conversational options are binary.

Highly recommended. I would love some appropriate audio in the background too, although I recognize that I'm getting greedy as the overall quality of Twine-like games improves. I imagine the quiet clink of glasses and low murmurs, the jukebox of a dive bar...

My only complaint is the candle UI, as it was; you use candles to communicate with the dead, and the game cleverly displays your candles at the bottom of the interface. I may have been wrong, but I had the sense that my candles were limited, and could be used up prematurely; it would be nice to have some way to know that this isn't the case, as it would remove a bit of, I think, unintended tension from the experience.

Known Unknowns, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Another strong entry from Hennessy, November 15, 2016
by streever (America)
Hennessy writes with a strong voice and distinct characters, representing a broad spectrum of sexuality and identity, interwoven with contemporary themes and a strong vein of magical realism.

If you played Birdland, you're familiar with Hennessy's oeuvre: unrequited or unrealized young love, the surreal and supernatural, and a free mixing of reality and fantasy.

Anime conventions, hyperbole, self-awareness, and irony run throughout the dialogues and settings, and a memorable scene includes the use of emoji instead of words.

This piece could stand on its own, although the ending would be unsatisfying as the finale. Thankfully it's part one of a planned four part series. I'm interested to see where it goes, and am looking forward to the next installment.

SCREW YOU, BEAR DAD!, by Xalavier Nelson Jr.

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Powerful material, solid writing, held back by pacing and UI decisions, November 14, 2016
by streever (America)
Emotionally powerful writing that lightens the mood with the humorous concept of putting you in the story as an anthropomorphised bear who communicates via gestures.

The story is linear, but the choices feel meaningful and deliver a sense of agency. My only negative feeling towards the work is that the UI forces pauses between sections of text, and prevents you from advancing, which slowed down my sense of pacing and urgency. I suspect the plot plays a part too, as it is predicated on moving back and forth through time in a way that usually works, but sometimes feels like it could use a little more attention.

16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds, by Abigail Corfman
Fun light puzzle game, November 7, 2016
by streever (America)
While a few of the implementations were a little foggy, this is an incredibly satisfying and enjoyable piece with fun writing, laugh-out-loud scenes, and a great deal of variety.

I enjoyed finding ways to kill the vampire--and occasionally get killed--and while a few of the solutions were a little obtuse, it always became clear what I should have done without any real head scratching.

Overall a rewarding and enjoyable piece which holds up through several playthroughs.

Cactus Blue Motel, by Astrid Dalmady

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
I was there, November 7, 2016
by streever (America)
This piece transported me to my own confused teenage years. Trying to sort out my future, scared of adulthood, pushed by forces beyond my control, I desperately could have used two close friends, a road trip, and a magical motel.

Strengths include fantastic writing throughout, a sense of place, strong characters, and a powerful voice from a talented writer.

Weaknesses: Where is my soundtrack? What is the url for the motel website? How can I visit here? Why isn't there more? Will you write more? Can I subscribe to your email list?

OK, so maybe those aren't actually 'weaknesses' in the commonly accepted meaning of the word, but come on, let me visit the Cactus Blue! :)

Pogoman GO!, by Jack Welch and Ben Collins-Sussman

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Clever take on Pokemon, October 25, 2016
by streever (America)
Sharp, well-written, and packed with humorous moments. I didn't finish this game due to time constraints, but enjoyed it very much; I will pick it up again when I get the chance.

I found the actual mechanics of capturing pokemon--and seeing my medals, trophies, and XP go up--as engaging as trying to follow the narrative and plot.

An Evening at the Ransom Woodingdean Museum House, by Ryan Veeder

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Delightful little story, October 24, 2016
by streever (America)
This piece begins with a sense of leisure and time: the day is ending for you, a docent who provides tours of a historical home for the rare visitor. The sense of place and setting are excellent--this could easily be modeled after any of a dozen small historical museums from New England.

Tension builds quickly (especially with the recommended background audio), and continues to a satisfyingly creepy and unsettling finish. The pacing and plotting are both well done.

The one area I wish Veeder had spent more time on was in fleshing out the protagonist and giving us a greater sense of who we are, and what the stakes mean to us, although I suppose some of this is done in the implications. I do wish there was a little more characterization, typically a stronger point in his work.

Before the Storm Hits, by JY Yang
Beautiful short work exploring human relationships tested to the limits, September 30, 2016
by streever (America)
This is a short Twine piece which uses the experimental format of a checklist of tasks which must be performed before you miss your chance to go off-world and avoid the apocalypse.

It's moving and surprising, and lends itself to multiple replays. The writing is engaging and human, and the voice authentic. The UI and design function well and make it easy to read on a computer screen.

Highly recommended.

Labour's Letters Lost, by Christopher Huang

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Fairly straightforward 'on rails' mystery Interactive Fiction, September 30, 2016
by streever (America)
A tight little mystery game, but I'm not sure how I feel about it: I enjoyed the story and the red herrings, but the limited scope combined with the notebook feature made it feel a little constrained. I would not have been able to solve it without the 'write' feature, but that felt a bit like a hint/cheat system, as it gave me the answer.

In a way, these games feel a little bit like a distillation of IF mystery: search all the objects, talk to all the people, and the case is solved. Part of me thinks this would make a better Twine game, as Talk/Ask isn't particularly well implemented, and seems mostly a linear experience. "Talk to" character will accomplish most of what you need.

This is a fine game for a newcomer to IF, but the mystery doesn't unravel in a way that makes me feel particularly clever; the writing is good, but the actual experience of solving and finishing the game feels a bit loose.

Relentless Drag, by B Minus Seven
Experimental poetry generator using fantastic sources, August 31, 2016
by streever (America)
There doesn't seem to be a game here, rather, just page after page of poetry generation. By design or by chance, some of the passages become memorable or significant: I felt awkward dragging Montaigne through Stein, particularly with the text above referencing a man dragging his own father and the German word 'mann'.

I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys fridge poetry and philosophy, perhaps a small group, but we can hope a dedicated one.

Brain Guzzlers from Beyond!, by Steph Cherrywell

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fun, lighthearted (and subversive!) sci-fi piece, June 13, 2016
by streever (America)
This story is a puzzle-light spoof of 1950's (and modern!) stereotypes and tropes.

None of the puzzles are particularly difficult, and primarily consist of 'find the right object' type quests, with simple but fun secondary mechanics. There are any number of red herring objects (based on one play: it's possible they have more utility or alternate puzzle solutions) that add a sense of depth and contribute to the comedic themes.

The dialogue is fun and peppered with classic 'old-timey' declarations--when you are offered the chance, try saying the 'worst' swear your character can imagine.

The writing is concise, terse, and flows nicely: this is a piece that has clearly been edited & written for readability, and the effort is greatly appreciated.

Rape, Pillage, Makane!, by Chandler Groover
Challenging, potentially hard to experience work, May 19, 2016
by streever (America)
This is a complicated piece; I'm not sure how I feel about it, and I'm not sure that I can give it a star rating. It's a challenging piece on a number of levels, and I think it really should be played by someone aware of the challenges, and with the author's notes, which I found moving.

In a sense, it's a parody, but in a more important sense, it's a social commentary on games and power fantasies that go unchallenged & are too easily fulfilled.

Groover strips away chance here, and much of the narrative abstraction that lets a player feel comfortable with their choices in most games, in a way that hopefully makes a statement about the deeper issues that are implicitly raised in this work.

Akabane Nights, by Dobromir Harrison
Enjoyable atmospheric exploration, March 10, 2016
by streever (America)
Akabane Nights is a fairly small, short experience that convincingly creates a sense of greater depth and openness.

The story is told from the perspective of a vampire who wakes up and seeks sustenance from human prey; major decisions which involve conflict and causing harm to others are mixed with mundane day-to-day decisions about showering and basic hygiene.

The contrast of the serious and the inconsequential creates a deeper experience, and makes the otherwise alien perspective more relatable and human.

The author has included atmospheric gifs of dark, moving city scenes and other small graphical flourishes which break up the otherwise dense text nicely, but the type could use additional formatting; it's small and at times straining to read.

The sense of place is strong; I felt as if I was actually exploring an unfamiliar city and learning about it.

The choices are strong, and well-telegraphed; this is not a piece that relies on sneaky choices or tricks. In all, it's highly recommended.

The Duel in the Snow, by Utkonos
Strong piece which delivers after an engaging and original opening scene, March 10, 2016
by streever (America)
This piece opens with a strong and novel take on a standard interactive fiction trope, introducing the character to the world and the situation in a natural, engaging way.

This piece plays with dreams, memories, and experiences in a way that is highly rewarding. Although I have not managed to attain the 'good' or 'best' ending, which I suspect exists, I found the entire story to be satisfying and would recommend it.

The experience is fairly short, and it really makes the most of a constrained world and a linear plot; I had fun failing in my attempts to break away from the foreshadowed ending.

Mere Anarchy, by Bruno Dias
Strong work of fiction with some limitations in game design, December 27, 2015
by streever (America)
Mere Anarchy is a fairly short work of solid prose writing and descriptions.

Dias leads the reader through a hidden world of magic, where class divisions and privilege allow murder with impunity, and the upper class, elite, wizards practice a might makes right ethos.

The basic plot points seem fairly fixed; most choices seem to resolve more around how you see your actions. Are you seeking revenge or justice? Do you have an optimistic view or a nihilistic view? Much of the story is told through hints and style, creating a sense of curiosity and wonder.

Thematically, the story is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere or China Mieville's Kraken; the class conflicts and hidden world concepts in particular work well in this format and with this type of spare storytelling.

There are a few game elements; a meter tracks your inventory and status, which includes descriptions like "Cautious", "Healthy", and "Steady". I didn't find much utility in these stats, but I suppose they add something to the overall feel and flavor; this is ultimately the only area of criticism in this otherwise excellent work. I'm not sure why it's an interactive story and not a short story; the style and prose would provide for an engaging short story that would likely find a larger audience outside of the world of interactive fiction. This criticism could apply to many works of interactive fiction; it stuck out here because the game elements felt grafted on. I do think it's a strong work of interactive fiction, and the interactive elements work and feel solid; it's the UI elements that felt a little off.

This piece is still strongly recommended; well-written, compelling, and engaging, I suspect this story could appeal to anyone.

The World Turned Upside Down, by Bruno Dias

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Well-written short piece with a sense of more, December 27, 2015
by streever (America)
The World Turned Upside Down is well-written and rather short; it seems to build on the worlds depicted in Cape & Mere Anarchy, but I didn't feel the connection.

The world-building is as spare as it is in Mere Anarchy, and it's effective at creating the sense of something deeper; however, this work seems to struggle to create a sense of character, which surprised me after the success of Anarchy & Cape in creating a very believable protagonist and side characters. The side characters are interesting and I want to know more about them, or see what they think about the main interaction between the protagonist and the visitor, but we don't get to, and I can't help but feel that we're missing an important chance to learn more about the story and the experience.

You are immediately informed that you can finish the game with only 3 commands; wait, interject, and examine. Examine gives slightly more context, and interjecting vs waiting changes the ending, but I couldn't really understand the motives or outcomes here. I played through Cape & Mere Anarchy thinking I was missing some crucial context, but I didn't find it. I may have missed something important, but I was left with the sense of an unfinished vignette that takes place somewhat related to the other two stories; I could see this story as a unifying episode establishing a link between the other two, or as simply a side story in the same world.

Ultimately, the story-telling is good, the writing is solid, and I recommend this short game; I'm looking forward to whatever comes next & hope that we can learn more about the characters and situations in this world.

Cape, by Bruno Dias

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Strong themes and excellent use of medium, December 27, 2015
by streever (America)
Cape is an engrossing take on the superhero genre, avoiding or subverting many of the worst tropes, while remaining faithful to the more noble themes from the genre.

Bruno Dias explores themes of class conflict, gentrification, and the corruption of authority in this impressively long choice-based game. Interactive elements feel meaningful and clearly telegraph your agency as you tell the origin story of a superhero.

There is no sense that you're closing off parts of the story, and the writing is fairly clear around choices, so you may or may not feel a need to play this one twice. I felt completely satisfied with my choices; the excellent writing made all of my decisions well-informed ones, and the sense that the story didn't change (just my character) left me feeling satisfied that I'd learned all there was to learn.

Plot-wise, the climax was less satisfying than expected; the writing is solid throughout (both in characterizations and plot development), but the ending feels somewhat quick and unsatisfying. This may be a very subjective bit of criticism; others may enjoy this as a self-contained setup for future stories (which seems to be the intent), but I couldn't help but feel like the pacing loosened up at the end.

To be frank, this is a quibble, and shouldn't detract from the rest of the experience. Cape is friendly and welcoming for newcomers and veterans alike, and is an excellent way to spend your time. I highly recommend it.

Bullets talk faster, by Oreolek
Hard to recommend this short, light-weight html work, December 26, 2015
by streever (America)
This is a short little game where the player repeatedly shoots robots until the end; it's repetitive in the same way that a classic FPS game is, but missing any real sense of interactivity or agency.

This isn't completely new ground; a number of other IF games have explored the repetitive nature of FPS games, and they've done so in more interesting or subversive ways. 'Flowers to womans, guns to mans' for example plays with gender roles and uses poor English to imply that stereotypical gender roles and limited ideas of game design come from an uninformed or uneducated perspective.

I wouldn't recommend Bullets talk faster to someone who enjoyed 'Flowers to womans', though, because it has a number of issues. The writing is somewhat stunted and halting; this may be because I played the English language translation from the Russian original. It's possible that the Russian prose is far more developed, fluid, and natural, but the English translation feels artificial. I also struggled to find original ideas or novelty; despite several playthroughs with variations in my choices, this game seems to have a completely linear structure with no variations.

Ultimately, I have to leave this review as unfavorable, but I encourage the author to keep trying & to keep exploring their narrative voice.

Birdland, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
MAGICAL, October 5, 2015
by streever (America)
I am a human reviewer. The function of a human reviewer is to review humans.

A normal human activity at this juncture would be to provide a review of the human, Birdland, but Birdland is not a human. Birdland is a sublime and transcendental experience created by the human Brendan Patrick Hennessy.

Birdland tells the story of a young human woman at a summer camp, where she is experiencing human emotions of melancholy, isolation, and loneliness, and she dreams that she is in a strange world of birds who ask her puzzling questions about common-place experiences each night.

These dreams affect her daily moods, which in turn close off or open up different actions she can take.

A large cameo/guest-appearance by Bell Park, Youth Detective, is a delightful reference to Hennessy's last game, but absolutely not required reading.

I can't say enough good things about Birdland; the formatting, style, design, and narrative are all excellent.

A Figure Met in a Shaded Wood, by Michael Thomťt

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Stylish little Twine piece, October 3, 2015
by streever (America)
I initially found the language a little challenging; this game takes place with a separation of player and character that confused me slightly. I think it ultimately works, but it wasn't easy at first to identify my actions with the character.

I really liked the atmosphere, style, typography, and design of this piece; I enjoyed following through it. I enjoyed making decisions as I played. Perhaps it's a bit of a (very minor) spoiler, but I'm not sure how I felt about the lack of consequence to my choices. Is it a meta-commentary on Interactive Fiction? Part of the decision-making process for many players is about establishing their identity and playing with hypothetical scenarios that let you project a possibly idealized self-identity. I didn't bury the apple core because I would do that in real life; I also didn't do it to 'win' the game or 'follow the good path'. I did it because I like to think that I would do it, and I liked that the game let me express that level of conscientiousness and thoughtfulness.

I don't know how I feel about the ending, and I don't know if I enjoyed the experience when I got to the end; the game features a lot of repetition, and nothing I did made any change to the outcome. I think I'm OK with that, but it did detract from my enjoyment of the game. I think it was brave of the author to play with the expectations of players, which makes me think it's worth trying, even if it fails ultimately; it's hard to deliberately end a game in a way that may be dissatisfying to the player, and I think that was the decision made here. That, combined with the styling, atmosphere, and sense of mystery, make this a worthy play.

5 Minutes to Burn Something!, by Alex Butterfield

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Cute little competent puzzler, October 3, 2015
by streever (America)
This is a nice little puzzle game, with a great hint system and several endings; I found the finale exceptionally frustrating, however, as even after using the otherwise excellent built-in hint system, I simply didn't know what to do.

The 5 minute timer is a great gimmick that adds to the sense of urgency. Some of the puzzles are examples of 'game logic'; that fiddly, highly specialized language of IF puzzles. Luckily the hint system is quite good.

That didn't help me with the finale, however; I have no idea what verb to use, and even the verbs used in the hints don't get the job done. If you don't guess right, you end up fighting the clock as you try to guess the proper verb, even with the right items & the right idea.

It's short on character (we mostly know about our character through her anger at her ex boyfriend, who sounds like a real jerk), but that's pretty par for the course on a tiny puzzle game like this.

Wildflowers, by Carolyn VanEseltine

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Moving interactive story about a tough situation, September 12, 2014
by streever (America)
This is a well-polished story that lets you experience being in a really tough situation.

If you've ever had a friend who had a problem you couldn't fix, you've probably experienced something similar to this, and the story--an autobiographical one--is definitely something that will tug your heart strings.

It's short and reads fast; the flow and rhythm of the words moves quickly. It feels strange to say I enjoyed this; it's an intimate view into a very private exchange, and a very sad one at that, but the actual mechanics of the story and interaction and use of medium were perfect for this type of story.

Instead of making me type "N" "Talk to x", the story is a linear one with limited player agency, meaning I could largely press 'space' to advance and 1 or 2 to choose a response. The limitations on player agency and ending outcomes functions as a meta-commentary on life, listening, and relationships.

Playing the game multiple times reveals how little you can change, and makes you question approaching it as a game at all; which made me simultaneously question how we communicate with one another. While we may have our own goals in mind for each conversation, we run the risk of ignoring the agency, feelings, and goals of the people we interact with.

This game raises the question of who we're really helping when we try to help our friends, and it does it so skillfully that I couldn't help but replay my own difficult conversations, running through them and trying to imagine different outcomes.

Time, by Lars "HerrvonSpeck" Engelmann

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Meditation on time, September 12, 2014
by streever (America)
This is a game of questions without answers; like the Socratic method or a rorschach test, you'll be asking & answering the questions yourself without any real arbitration or feedback.

Eventually, Time does something I found novel and interesting; this was the big reveal, the a-ha moment, and if it had stopped shortly after this I'd rate this 3 or even 4 stars. The problem I had was after being forced to stare at a screen with nothing happening, for an amount of time I had picked, and then being asked to be honest about my patience and my feelings, the game took a weird digression into questions about feelings, reality, and even ghosts.

I thought this second branch detracted from and took away from the real success of the game in making me challenge my own assumptions about myself and my ability to wait/be patient.

I don't know that I recommend this game; I'm not sure that it's entertaining, at least not for a broad audience, but I do think it deserves recognition for it's ability to challenge and subvert the players sense of self.

Homecoming, by Carolyn VanEseltine

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful short piece, September 12, 2014
by streever (America)
Homecoming is one of those short, smart little works of Interactive Fiction that doesn't feel complicated, but is incredibly novel and entertaining.

The novelty in this case rests almost entirely in the writing; VanEseltine creates a memorable and relatable character out of a near-minimalist work of Interactive Fiction. The game can be played to a satisfying end with a few directions typed into the parser, or you can meander and wander a bit. Either way, you'll discover a surprisingly deep game behind the simple mechanics.

The level of skill and craft on display here is subtle; the expertise and practice that went into it makes the final display feel effortless and easy.

There are a number of possible endings, and variations within those endings; this is a game you're going to want to play multiple times.

The Ascent of the Gothic Tower, by Ryan Veeder

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short melancholic piece, September 11, 2014
by streever (America)
This short work by Veeder is well-written and interesting.

An unnamed protagonist is mildly obsessed with a distant tower; at points, I thought of Kafka's The Castle, with its themes of alienation and futility. While this touches on similar themes, it's a very different story.

It's melancholy, lonely, and occasionally mixes pronouns; if it wasn't for the protagonists lack of relationships and connections, I'd think that the occasional odd message referencing the wrong person was an error. In the context of the narrative, however, it feels intentional; the protagonist, you, doesn't really connect with these people or achieve any closeness to them.

As the classic unexplored 'you' of interactive fiction, you have one goal; ascending the old gothic tower.

The journey is well-described, and the narrative voice is as strong and original as any other work by Veeder.

I've only played once; I feel like I missed sections or areas, and am going to play again, but I suspect my ending will be the same. This isn't a game that holds your hand or forces you to explore every paragraph of text; it's a brief and rewarding exploration, that lets you pass up points of interest and explore at your own pace.

I highly enjoyed it and enthusiastically recommend it.

The Bibliophile, by Marshal Tenner Winter

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Ambitious game with a lot of promise hampered by implementation and some bugs, September 10, 2014
by streever (America)
Bibliophile is a long, ambitious game, full of characters, locations, and lots of walking. The premise is a familiar one for readers of interactive fiction; a Lovecraftian horror is being summoned to Earth, and you are the only one who can stop it. The game genuinely shines in a few places, but could use some extra polish and love in many others.

You will need to manually walk through many locations that donít feel necessary and which serve purely as window dressing. Error messages suggest that certain locations will later be relevant, but they remain unavailable for the entire game. As the game progressed and I realized just how linear it was, I felt frustrated by the arbitrary local flavor, which made me walk extensively around the map. A game this linear would really benefit from using a simple go-to mechanism.

In such a large setting, Iíd typically expect to spend time exploring and uncovering various nooks and crannies, but that was missing here.

Compass directions to your destination were good and helpful; however, they also contributed to the overall sense of linear gameplay without player agency. At times, this felt like a series of RPG fetch quests. Clear directions lead me to my goals, which really just required showing up, and didnít require much creativity.

The tone of the writing is humorous and used to good effect to establish incidental characters. However, it felt too glib at times, and lacked characterization. One of the principal characters, an elderly librarian, tells me to go into a basement and find something because ĎIím too old to go all down there and rummage. But youíre into that shit,[...]í

Young, hip, and slightly snarky; it felt more like the omniscient narrator than a member of the world around me, and when I get down to the basement, the description text tells me no one has been down here in sometime but the librarian.

Proper names are sometimes are only mentioned once in introductory text, and you have to scroll back to read them again; the opening of the game has you visited by special agents who are checking to see if you have a specific book, but they only refer to it by a pronoun after their initial greeting. If you donít remember the actual name, you canít look up the book in your electronic catalog. If you canít scroll up to re-read it, youíll need to start a second run of the game & get the name.

Experiences like this made the game feel a bit on-rails, which clashed with the realistic locations and open areas that I was enjoying exploring. In general, the descriptive writing was strong, and made objects feel real; there were nice touches, like the dinosaur sticker adorning my laptop. These little bits gave my character a concrete identity outside of the parser response to actions, and gave me a quick sense of who I am and what Iím about.

I donít mean to bash this game. In the end, I enjoyed it, and thought it was impressively ambitious. Iíve played a few other games by Tenner, and think that this shows progression from earlier attempts, but coming slightly short of the initial promise and suggestion of a larger, more open game experience.

I recommend this game for anyone who enjoys this type of theme, and just be aware that the game is a bit crueler than the rating may suggest; I suspect it is a bug, but there are a few places and areas that make the game impossible to finish with no acknowledgement by the game.

If youíre worried about falling into this, read the following very minor spoiler.
(Spoiler - click to show)Pick up the letter opener in the Librarianís townhouse when you see it.

I've omitted my rating. While the current experience is a 2 star in my book (enjoyable thematic game with some serious bugs/poor implementations), it's not a bad game, and I don't want to hurt the average rating. I suspect people who enjoy mysterious Lovecraftian games will appreciate this game regardless of the quibbles I've listed above.

If the game is updated, I'll play it again, & revise my star rating.

A Tale of the Cave, by Snoother

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A short, poetic, Twine piece, September 4, 2014
by streever (America)
This is a fun little piece, with an attractive design and layout, meant to be played multiple times before you can reach 'the good' ending.

It's not difficult; actions are well-clued, and although you'll die several times learning the parameters of the Cave, the deaths are funny and enjoyable.

I really liked the attention to layout and design; this is an easy-to-read Twine.

I had a lot of fun reading this and highly recommend it; the poetry is awful in an endearing way, and packs this short adventure with whimsy and joy.

The Terror Aboard the Speedwell, by Javy Gwaltney

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Deep twine piece with many endings and narrative branches, September 2, 2014
by streever (America)
While on a routine mission, a small crew discovers an unknown alien presence, and accidentally brings it on board the Speedwell. The premise of this long, branching CYOA is a much-loved staple of the sci-fi horror genre, reminiscent of Ridley Scott's Aliens. Despite the use of a standard convention of sci-fi, this piece is both original and creative.

The game starts with a choice between two protagonists, both women, with their own personalities, backgrounds, and identities. All of the characters feel unique and interesting, transcending their archetypes and having complex relationships with the protagonist and the rest of the crew.

The quality of the writing shows throughout the story, in descriptions, dialogue, and pacing. This is a well-written piece.

This work is fairly long, and could take between 20 minutes and an hour on your first play-through. You'll want to play it again; some choices close off other parts of the narrative, and you won't have a complete picture of many of the characters if you don't repeat your game and try different options.

There are many endings possible, and though I've only experienced a few of them, I suspect that there is no clear-cut 'happy ending'; while there isn't a 'perfect score ride into the sunset ending', there are certainly different happy epilogues where your protagonist salvages her future and has a satisfying life post-tragedy. Perhaps more enjoyable is the chance to learn more about the crewmates and the protagonist, instead of worrying about optimal choices and keeping a spread-sheet of outcomes.

Some parts of the plot are pre-determined, but they set the overall tone of the story, and the work would suffer if they could be avoided. Despite these pre-determined outcomes, my decisions felt natural, organic, and true to the character I was playing; at no time did I feel like I was a passive observer, no matter how little control my protagonist had over the events around her.

Presentationally the game shines as well; using an evocative typeface, a great cover illustration, and a well-designed layout, it's a joy to read and interact with.

All in all, this is a highly recommended Twine story which should provide a lot of replay value.

As a footnote, I'll mention that this is one of the few commercial modern interactive fiction projects I've seen, and it's built in Twine no less. I was impressed by this attempt at selling a game written in Twine, and happily paid above the minimum price listed. I think this is an exciting experiment, and hope it proceeds well.

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:
I was able to rate this by the 5th click, August 11, 2014
by streever (America)
I could tell it was fantastic, and it kept getting better.

This is essentially an autobiography, with a fun element of interactivity in that you can control some of the details; ages, names, and relationships of (relatively) minor details can be changed by the reader until you've progressed out of a scene, which fixes them for future copy.

Essentially, this is a story of a self-described gender-queer person growing up between different cultures and customs. It is well-written, engaging, and provides a fresh perspective to interact from. The interactivity largely influences the emotional aspect of a scene, in ways that may or may not be significant; I kept feeling like I was having a really solid personal conversation with a close friend, where everything I said was something they'd already thought of, and we were just clarifying our discussion and our deep friendship.

Kiai has a real talent as an autobiographer in making their story personal and relatable. Although it is vastly different from my own experiences, I found myself seeing comparisons to my own life, and feel grateful to have read this story.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the formatting, which was done quite well. I narrowed my browser window to make it a bit easier to read it in a flow, but the type-size, typeface selection, and color scheme all worked together well to make the experience flow nicely.

You Were Made For Loneliness, by Tsukareta

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
You Were Made to Click Hypertext Links, August 3, 2014
by streever (America)
I had to let this one sit for a bit.

It's well-done. The writing is good, poignant, and authentic. It's a Twine game, and with that, comes the feeling of restriction/lack of options and interactivity that often comes with Twine; in this case, the feeling of restriction serves the plot and overall experience, in a way that isn't completely clear until you've reached the end.

You are a robot; you work for a bitter, unkind woman who comes across as a rich once-upon-a-time debutante turned petty tyrant.

Your choices are extremely limited; each page typically has several prompts to explore memories, followed by a misleading list of choices. Mousing over the choices crosses them out, leaving only one choice--submissive compliance to your owners latest command.

At first, it felt like a gimmick, or a novelty, but the truth is that the unclickable links are significant and build on one another as the story progresses, leading to a fitting & unexpected ending. Portions of the game that initially confused me took on deeper meaning and poignancy.

My standard criticism of many Twine games holds true here. The text formatting and layout doesn't make it easier to read. Text is presented in dark on a dark background at a fairly small size. It's hard to read, and does at times detract from the overall experience. This doesn't in any way change my enthusiastic enjoyment or recommendation; it's fairly typical of Twine games, and is more of a criticism of the medium than any individual work.

In this story, I didn't have a good sense of progression, which made it hard when I was reading some of the longer memories. I wasn't sure what any of it was building up to, or when I'd get there. Make no mistake; the journey was enjoyable on its own, and the destination definitely made up for any rocky moments, but I think the writing could be tweaked slightly to give the sense of progression, so the reader has a sense of how far they've progressed and how far they have to go. It's a basic 'mechanic' of books that we appreciate without noticing; simply by virtue of their physical size, we have a sense of how far we've gone and how quickly.

The game design in particular is impressive, but I can't talk about it without spoiling it. I'd recommend playing the game before reading this next bit.

(Spoiler - click to show)OK; something that at first alienated me from the game was the memories. I wasn't sure who the memories belonged to, and kept looking for ways that the memories were inter-connected. They weren't (well, some of them weren't); some of the memories were from different people, but I kept thinking there was a thread through them. Largely, I thought this because of the use of color for the memories. I thought it was a hint as to whose memories were being experienced. I think it wasn't as clear as it could have been.

Regardless, though, I appreciated the lack of clear delineation among the memories, as the game revealed that you're holding the memories of many people. The jumble and confusion made sense in the new context, and made me appreciate the earlier experience.

At the end, they finally open up the choices, which works exceedingly well. It's quite clear that any of the decisions you make now are permanent; that they will advance the story and close off one line of inquiry. I really appreciated that, and thought it made the overall experience stronger. Too often, games want to leave every door, path, and side-street open to the player; it's a brave decision to let the player definitively decide "I'll read this, but not that." I appreciated it, and it worked into the context of the overall piece nicely; in the last moments of the story, you realize how significant all of your earlier non-choices were. In each case, you were reading the submerged and, out of necessity, personality of your character.

In that regard, I saw the earlier choices as all being valid; each one accurately expresses how your character feels. I even used the browser back button to go back and re-read them; it provides a fresh insight into the experience and story.

In my re-read, I was surprised at just how many themes the game touches on or addresses, all without ever resorting to a polemic or feeling pointed. From social justice issues to existential questions, You Were Made For Loneliness is a surprisingly deep game.

Lastly, I appreciated the meta-commentary on the reader in this work. Much like the robot, you're constrained and forced to submit your own opinions and expressions in order to proceed. This was particularly well-done. It's a staple of good interactive fiction, but is easy to do poorly. I was impressed at how well it was handled.

This is a strong story, with solid writing, authentic dialogue, and some genuinely creepy/tense moments where I was worried for my character. In addition, it cleverly uses the limitations and strengths of Twine to build a strong thematic work that resonates well after finishing. While I have a few minor quibbles, I strongly recommend this game 'as is' and appreciate the subtle ways it handles a number of complex themes and ideas.

Weekend at Ruby's, by Liam Butler and Jackson Palmer

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Expansive, very well-implemented game taking place a party, April 28, 2014
by streever (America)
I've spent a lot of time on this game and barely scratched the surface, so my review may be a bit premature; after 2 hours of play, I've gone through 2 or 3 objectives out of (I assume) a great many, and I'm finding the game play and mimesis engrossing and believable.

The writing occasionally falters; there are more than a few cliches and overly used turns of phrase, but the experience on the whole has been fun and incredibly deep.

This game is a Spring Thing entrant for 2014; while I haven't played all of the entries for this year yet, I suspect this will be among the deepest games in the entry list.

This is a game that invites lengthy and slow exploration. There are dozens of layers, and I believe, deeper and more sophisticated problems than the initial setup of losing the phone number of your love interest.

I don't know how the game will end; I don't know if it is capable of delivering on the exceptional early promise it has shown. I expect it will; the intuitive and player-friendly 'ui' (including objectives list and excellent feedback when you're on the right track) make this one of the most easily navigated parser games I've played in a while.

I was a little put off by the initial barrage of text, but am happy I stuck with it through that; the sheer complexity and depth of this game is reminiscent of classic infocom titles, but without the convoluted verb guesses and noun mismatches that ruin many classic games. This game has a believable and well-implemented world, and I'm happy to spend hours exploring it in a leisurely fashion.

Through Time, by MC Book

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Highly replayable 'dating/romance' CYOA, April 22, 2014
by streever (America)
Through Time is a dating/romance/slice of life CYOA with a number of endings and potential romantic paths.

It includes some 'puzzles' of the date sim genre (which activity do you do first on your date? how do you respond when a person you are interested in asks about your feelings?) and the puzzles are clued well, so you can get a satisfactory result an make choices that feel in-character with the role as you see it.

The writing could use some polish, but after a first play-through, you'll be doing more skimming than in-depth reading; the writing isn't bad. It just would be stronger with some editing and paring down of some sections and a few over-wrought passages.

Overall, this is a strong entry from (I believe) a first-time IF author, and I'd love to see more of their work. I'd recommend this game to new players as well; it provides minor but non-frustrating challenges.

Surface, by Geoff Moore
Great atmosphere, solid writing, incredible use of twine, April 18, 2014
by streever (America)
The story-telling, mapping, and overall design is very good. The writing is very strong, and the use of Twine is beautiful; the maps in the background add a lot to the experience.

I really enjoyed the creative way-finding; it wasn't your standard (N, S, W, E) coordinates, but I didn't find it distracting or confusing. Other noticeable improvements on the standard Twine experience included the hand-drawn maps and elegant inventory system. This game recreates some of the feeling of a parser game, while stripping away the learning curve and 'guess the verb/noun' confusion that can occur in a parser.

The writing was strong, and the hinted at domestic problems were an engrossing mystery, as was the identity of the character you play. The narrative has a strong punch, and includes the use of red herrings that give you further insight into the character and the story. I recommend playing this game like an exploration on your first go, and 'in character' on the second--as you imagine your character to be, based on the first play through.

(My original review of this game referred to a puzzling early maze-like puzzle; it has since been reworked and improved dramatically.)

The Example of the Chicken Sexer, by Simon Christiansen

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Clever, short little game, January 6, 2014
by streever (America)
This is a clever, short little game, with plans to expand beyond the introductory version it is currently in and into a full game.

The premise and concept are both strong, and I'm hopeful that the writer does create a full-length game from this introduction--I'd play it! The basic puzzle is well-clued from a player perspective, and makes sense in the context of the game.

Almost Goodbye, by Aaron A Reed

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful game shackled to a mostly successful experiment, January 2, 2014
by streever (America)
This is a game with some beautiful writing and a deep, profound story.

It is largely linear but not lacking in agency; the outcome is predestined, your decisions will shape how you feel in reflection and about the story you've engaged with.

This is effectively a CYOA with a largely linear although deep plot, strong player interaction, and a non-judgmental narrative voice.

I enjoyed the story immensely and the writing was very good, although at times the author's experiment with procedural generated content could detract from the experience. It is possible--for instance--for the game to tell you that a character is silent when they are actually speaking or to tell you that you feel deep pain in a moment that seems unlikely to produce such a feeling.

I don't want to be negative; I really loved this game, and would have happily rated it at 4 stars, but I do think that the content generation experiment holds back the narrative proper. I expect with that removed, we'd be able to gain a little more depth in the piece, and it would free the author up to focus on the rest of the experience. I think the procedural-generation probably added a lot of value/interest to the creator, but I don't see that it adds much value for a player. It has the most minor impact on re-plays, which will be different anyway--no one is going to play this game the same way twice in a row on purpose, so it leaves me feeling like the experiment was technically a success (that is to say, in mechanical terms it succeeds well), but a failure in a narrative sense. I don't see what it adds to my experience as a reader, and I think that largely the story/game is already successful.

The final narrative punch, as you approach the denouement, is successful and strong. Some reviewers criticized it for being too divergent from their intentions, and I see their point; for people who assume a lot more emotional agency in the narrative, it would break immersion slightly. I was completely wrapped up in learning more about me the character at this point, so it didn't have a negative impact. Rather, I just felt a positive sense that I'd learned something important about the character, and it influenced my second play-through.

Ultimately, this is a strong game with a well-crafted plot and authentic dialogue. I enjoyed it and played it several times to conclusion to explore different journeys.

Don't Read the Comments, by Ashton Raze
An amusing linear story riffing on familiar internet tropes, December 19, 2013
by streever (America)
This is an amusing comedic work which riffs on familiar ground.

The humor is dry and understated--not laugh out loud funny, but amusing & wry.

There is only ever one choice--one real choice at least--and regardless of when you make it (or fail to make it) the story works. I can't say too much about the actual comedy or the nature of the joke, because it would spoil the experience of playing this game.

I would urge the author to format the text differently; it is hard to read, and could really use basic typographic improvements. Line height increase, size increase, and a better, more easily-read typeface would make this a much stronger piece. In general I think Twine authors should put a little more work into the presentation of their text; it is easy and generates a huge improvement with only a few minutes of even basic, default formatting.

My Name Is, by Spanglypants McFuckyou
Upsetting, well-crafted short twine game of exploration, December 17, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a well-crafted Twine game, dealing with abuse and otherism, by putting the player in the mindset of a cyborg/robot creature who seems reviled simply by virtue of existence.

The game handles the disorientation and confusion of being someone discriminated against well. The cyborg/robot character hasn't had visual sensors connected, so they can only navigate by touch and a form of echolocation. Yes, it is disorienting as a player, but it is done well. The game is not hard to navigate, but the locations do present a sense of confusion and difficulty, in a very authentic way. I felt like I was trying to get around an unfamiliar house without my glasses--serious kudos on that.

The writing is good. The formatting is an improvement on many Twine games; copy doesn't run too long for the most part, and the use of green, extra line breaks, and shorter sentences help reading. This game could still use some additional formatting tweaks (shorter lines, for instance, larger type) but the author is doing several things well from the start.

This game begins with the beginning; the birth of your character. I found myself curious about who I was, why I was created, and what the world around me was really like. The game answers none of these questions. I suspect the author didn't intend this as world-building, but as a statement on abuse and discrimination. It is very successful as such.

I couldn't help but wish this was a longer, parser-based game. I think it would help the theme and strengthen the story to have objectives and more exploration; I imagine the character learning of a way to get their visuals turned on, and succeeding, in able to explore more of the world.

Under the Bed, by Dan Doyle III

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Good game with one bit of confusion/poor implementation, December 16, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a well-written and fun short game, centered around an optimization puzzle with many possible outcomes.

It is well worth replaying several times, but there is one bit of poor implementation at the end--almost a bug--that could seriously derail your enjoyment and experience.

In general, the game provides such good feedback that the few wonky bits really stuck out--I had to resort to a walk-through to make sure I was on the right track, because the feedback wasn't very clear.

The main problem is one very tightly timed puzzle at the end. If you're a thorough player who tries to take all steps, you will not realize where you're messing up; the game has bundled some actions into one command, and failing to realize this will make you think that you need to do something radically different, despite a plethora of responses that show you as on the correct track.

It is a fun game and well-worth replaying, but I had to resort to a walk through because of bad luck.

I've prepared some hints for people who are getting frustrated, but have already gotten a few endings and tried many different things. These aren't good hints if you've just started the game; these are hints for people who have seen at least one if not two or three endings.

Best ending spoiler hints, from least helpful to most helpful, are below.

(Spoiler - click to show)
Your goal

(Spoiler - click to show)
You need to keep the monster in the room so you can defeat it.

But he doesn't even show up!

(Spoiler - click to show)
You can't do anything to scare him until he is in the room--the monster isn't going to walk into an obvious trap!

But he keeps escaping under the bed

(Spoiler - click to show)
Donald doesn't lie; the sheet belongs under the bed.

Sure I did that but he kills me.

(Spoiler - click to show)
You need to be on the bed when the monster arrives.

OK, so the monster comes in, he can't escape via the bed, my little brother is safe, but he still runs away!

(Spoiler - click to show)
Do you have any items that could make the closet less accessible?

No, I don't.

(Spoiler - click to show)
You're right, there is no inventory item that does that. You'll have to block the closet somehow.

How the heck can I do that?

(Spoiler - click to show)
Maybe you could push something heavy in front of it

I dunno what that would be. Come on, just TELL ME ALREADY.

(Spoiler - click to show)
THE CRIB!!!!!!!!!!!

Whoa boy! OK, 1. Monster is in the room. 2. Monster can't escape. 3. KILL IT!

(Spoiler - click to show)
Uhm I can't on account he is a monster and he eats me

Are you using your bare arms???

(Spoiler - click to show)
You need a weapon.

I don't have one.

(Spoiler - click to show)
Yes you do. Just not on you.

I'm too frustrated to think about this! TELL ME WHAT WEAPON.

(Spoiler - click to show)
THE SWORD! Danny is holding it.

Well how the heck can I get that?!?

(Spoiler - click to show)
Do you think Danny cares that he has the sword? He seems half asleep, he must just want to hold ANY thing.

I hate kids. I don't want to figure this out, tell me.

(Spoiler - click to show)
Give Danny something else first--I suggest Donald--and he'll let go of the sword.

OK! I got a weapon! but the monster is still sooooo tough :(

(Spoiler - click to show)
Monsters have ONE WEAKNESS

No they don't they are invulnerable.

(Spoiler - click to show)
Well except we know they are weak against light.

But I don't have a weapon that is like that!

(Spoiler - click to show)
Did you try upgrading your weapon? Maybe you could make your weapon take on a light quality.

No, I don't know how I'd do that.

(Spoiler - click to show)
Don't you have something that makes things GLOW in the blacklight?

Ugh... what?

(Spoiler - click to show)
The laundry detergent makes things glow in black light

AH RIGHT... but! how do I get to it?

(Spoiler - click to show)
it won't dump out. You can't empty that box.


(Spoiler - click to show)
you have to put the sword IN the laundry detergent!

YES! ROCKING! I can hurt the monster! and then he kills me :(

(Spoiler - click to show)
OK, you've done everything right! The issue is a weird timing issue. Monsters don't die from one hit, and you don't want to give them any quarter BE RUTHLESS.

Right, I tried being ruthless, and I never surrendered. BUT IT DIDN'T MATTER. Just tell me the final steps to complete the game. I've come so far!

(Spoiler - click to show)
Yes, you hit the timing issue :( You probably tried to "get off bed" or something first, right? The monster has to be hit 3 times, and you only have 3 turns in which to get it right. Basically, you have to spring your trap the moment he appears, and then just wail away on the subsequent turns.

Best Laid Plans, by David Whyld
Great intro to a story--, December 16, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a very short piece for the intro comp. It is not a game, but an introduction, and as such, the story & plot are not fully revealed.

This piece balances the familiar tropes of IF--you begin locked in a cell, in a lab full of hostile agent--against the unfamiliar and novel--you have a device which absorbs scenery and repositions it. It has a lot of promise, and even as a short, stand-alone piece it is worth playing and contains much to praise.

The premise is familiar, and the subversion of it through the main game mechanic is really very engaging. For a 10 minute game, it gives the impression of a much larger world, with an almost endless capacity for interaction. This feels like a huge game, and I felt incredibly disappointed when I had reached the end so quickly.

An unusual protagonist with fantastic powers is explained without creating a wall of exposition or back story, nor employing heavy-handed sci-fi tropes--very well-done. In general, the writing is very good. It is engaging and creates a sense of place and character quickly and briefly.

I really hope that this intro is developed into a full-length game. I'd love to see the capabilities of the device fleshed out, and this is my only real criticism. I was frustrated that I couldn't dictate where an absorbed object should be released in a room--although, I expect I'd be fine with that in a full game, it would be nice to be able to move objects to different walls, even if it doesn't change the game world much.

Staring at a Single Face Forever, by Spanglypants McFuckyou
Short game with many questions, December 16, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a short, somewhat linear, game that is well-written with an attractive, readable presentation.

Despite the merits (quality writing, strong typographical presentation) this game didn't really move me.

This piece failed to move me because it doesn't create a particularly strong bond between the player and the character, who is suffering from emotional distress that may or may not be grounded in physical reality. I don't know enough about the protagonist to feel invested. I feel badly for this person, but I'm not sure why, or what that means. Characterizations and settings are weak in general. I don't know who anyone is nor do I have any idea where I am meant to be.

One of the strengths of this type of game should be in the "reveal". In this case, I think the game suffers from an ambivalence towards the reveal. It isn't sure what it is revealing or what matters--the different settings it pushes through seem to distract from the real focus, which is the characters identity. The game makes us question the reality of our experience, and distracts from the more meaningful focus of our identity. The character is presented as unreliable and out of touch, which makes us question the input and information in a way that is not sympathetic but distant.

I think this game would benefit from paring down the different world experiences, and focusing on the character and interactions with the worlds the character is in. The central theme/mystery here is our identity, and by jumping into so many different settings, so quickly, the game instead makes us question the nature of the game, not the nature of the protagonist, which is part of why I had a hard time connecting to the character.

This piece reminded me of works of fiction like Correspondence by Sue Thomas. I loved--adored--Correspondence, and felt an incredible resonance with the book and the character. The longer format of a short novel perhaps helps build the bond and sense of investment between reader and protagonist in that case, but I'd suggest the author look at the way the character is presented in Correspondence and consider ways to build up the protagonist in his game.

The Bog-Nymphs of Neptune, by Kitty Horrorshow

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Classic sci-fi CYOA romp, December 16, 2013
by streever (America)
This is your pretty typical sci-fi CYOA; early 1900s adventure and exploration, complete with a savior hero. The game is linear--there is really one way to progress, although you do have a choice of endings.

Narratively, we have a pastiche of early sci-fi adventure stories and some very familiar tropes. There weren't any surprises in the story; my initial assumptions were confirmed in every event. I re-played sections to see if the game changed plot details (or presentation) based on your choices, but it doesn't.

Now, the meat of this is the writing, and your experience really hangs on that. In general, this game suffers from the poor typography of most twine games. I really think everyone writing a twine game needs to stop what they are doing immediately and play Bee by Emily Short, My Father's Long, Long Legs by Michael Lutz, and Howling Dogs or other works by Porpentine.

The writing in Bog-Nymphs is not bad, but it is hard to read. It is large chunks of text with little formatting, and it suffers greatly for this. Call-outs & flourishes would be well-appreciated here. Because the story matter is so familiar as to almost write itself, and the copy hard to follow, I found myself skimming it and reading it in chunks.

I'd recommend a larger type size, some call-outs, and just visually approaching the text & breaking it up into better chunks, along with some source editing; some particularly well-worn phrases could be retired.

In summation, this was a short, enjoyable game, faithful to the subject matter, which could benefit from a skim edit & some serious time on the formatting.

My Name is Jack Mills, by Juhana Leinonen

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Simple pastiche of pulp detective tropes, December 7, 2013
by streever (America)
Not a bad game--but rather simple and really holds your hand. If it is a mystery, it should have some more exploration and challenge. It is more of a comedy.

In terms of comedic writing, I felt let-down by this effort. It was too much a pastiche to be really enjoyable as a comedy--no subversion of tropes, just indulgence--and the mystery portion was completely straight-forward, offering no intuitive or logical challenge.

I vastly preferred the authors 2008 work "Gardening for Beginners", which was funny, tight, and hilarious. I sympathized for and related to the character and his struggle in Gardening for Beginners in a way that I could not engage Jack Mills.

Elegy of the Deadscape, Chapter I, by Rafael Arenhart

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Nostalgic derivative fantasy CYOA, December 7, 2013
by streever (America)
This short CYOA had a few grammatical problems and typos, and a very derivative fantasy plot element--think Gunslinger meets Tolkien.

The actual game is more fun than the sum of it's parts. While there were any number of elements to criticize, I enjoyed this game. Perhaps it was nostalgia for the classic CYOA games I grew up with (full of insta-death and familiar plot elements), but I found myself invested in seeing this story through, and played the entire game, including many undos.

This is a very linear game, much like classic CYOAs, and you won't feel stuck at any point. If something doesn't work, you simply hit the back button and try one of the other options. The fun here is not in getting it right, but in figuring out how the path is crafted.

I suspect this game won't be for everyone. If you played the gamebooks of the 70s and 80s, you might enjoy what feels like a walk down memory lane. Plot-wise this is a post-apocalyptic tale of magic and fantasy gone amok (elves, mages, kings, and orcs are referenced) with a player character who seems like a pastiche of the strong, quiet man.

As an homage/pastiche of classic CYOAs, it works for anyone with a little free time and nostalgia. The weakness of this as a work of IF however lies in the generic world-building. The amount of detail and description about a relatively familiar post-apocalyptic fantasy world could be seriously pared down and suggested more than spelled out.

What I'd be interested in is knowing more about who I am and how I fit into this world. I didn't get a sense for my identity, or what my long-term goals are. Obviously survival is paramount, but what keeps me going? A moral code? A sense of responsibility? Self-interest? I couldn't glean much of my interests and objectives.

This was a fun game, with some good writing for a genre piece. I'd be interested in seeing if the author edits or modifies this. I think it is a first effort, and for that it gets some applause; it is very hard to release your first IF piece to the world (I certainly won't!), and I hope the author continues working with text.

Gardening for Beginners, by Juhana Leinonen
Fun small comedy, December 7, 2013
by streever (America)
The writing is comedic and amusing, and there is some clever work going on behind the scenes in the shifting room descriptions.

I enjoyed the (frustrating!) mechanics. Some commands are not well implemented (water garden, water crows, etc), and I think the game would benefit from letting the player go off the rails a little bit, but overall this was a fun and engaging short piece.

Captain Verdeterre's Plunder, by Ryan Veeder

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Very clever "open-ended' game, December 7, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a very clever and easily re-playable game.

Too much description would spoil the pleasures in it--be prepared to play several times, interacting, examining, and testing different things.

Narratively it is a very funny game. Descriptions are well-written, red herrings are nicely done, and the sense of exploration is high.

I'm looking forward to seeing "highest attainable score"--the nature of the game is such that it isn't obvious how high of a score you can get without extensive replays.

Three Steps to the Left, by Lucian P. Smith
A clever, short comedic piece, December 6, 2013
by streever (America)
There isn't a lot going on here, but the basic premise is amusing and humorous.

The writing is consistently funny and clear, and responses to bad input are done well.

I'd like to see this fleshed out and made into a larger piece. As it was, it was a fun, short diversion.

Depression Quest, by Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey, Isaac Schankler

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Very moving, meaningful, December 5, 2013
by streever (America)
With the recent outpouring of CYOA style games focused on depression, apathy, and other behavioral issues, I have to say, I was a bit hesitant about this one.

I shouldn't have been; this game nails it.

It reminds me of Emily Short's Bee in the way it presents indicators of how your character is doing. The writing isn't as good as Bee, but works; there is no 'bad' writing in this game.

This game presents a nuanced and accurate picture of depression, while using really solid plotting to move the story along through inter-connected vignettes. This game would be good for anyone to play--depression probably affects you or someone you know--and especially a good game for anyone seeking to make a game about depression.

The authors don't force the emotional qualities. They present them to you as matters of fact, which feels natural and lends to the progression.

I have on bit of constructive advice, however, to these developers and all others who build a twine/hypertext game. Text formatting matters.

I did gloss over some sentences/paragraphs here, because they spread across my screen, forming 20 word lines. I really think that if you're going to make a hypertext game, you should review classics like Bee and see the attention paid to the text. Make the type 14 pt or so, and restrict the width of the container so you aren't ever looking at a long row of soldiers.

I really enjoyed this game. I think text formatting would make it infinitely easier to read & enjoy.

The Surprising Case of Brian Timmons, by Marshal Tenner Winter

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Good introduction to mystery IFs, December 4, 2013
by streever (America)
This would be a good mystery IF for a new player.

It was easy to solve without hints, and I felt a sense of satisfaction at having completed the game.

The writing was at times over-done--more pastiche than parody--and the game suffers from a few pointless stereotypes. Despite those flaws, this was a fun mystery, and one that won't take you more than 20 minutes or so if you have any experience with the conventions.

The game has some truly humorous moments, and some funny writing, mixed in with the sense of dread and horror. I did feel genuinely immersed in the experience when threatening and creepy events were taking place, and cracked a wry smile when reading my horoscope later in the game.

I enjoyed this and am looking forward to more from the writer.

The Thing About Dungeons, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy
Funny story subverting RPG tropes, December 4, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a fun, short CYOA story that offers a humorous pastiche of RPG tropes.

Hennessy is a good writer, employing colloquialisms in a way that sells the parody/satire of this piece.

This isn't a challenging or difficult piece, but rather a fun, light-hearted narrative which is easy to enjoy.

Interview with a Rock Star, by Molly G.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A Short Conversation , December 3, 2013
by streever (America)
The writing is solid, but there isn't a lot here to do or experience.

The game is simple. You can ask Rocky Stampede a few questions, and then he gets on his bus, and the game ends.

It was an interesting quick little game. I liked his responses and the depth of them, but I do wish there was more to do here or experience.

Wisp, by Lea
Rough, possibly unfinished maze game, December 3, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a minimalist, rough maze game. It may not be completely finished.

I did manage to win, but I'm not sure what other options were available; this game could use a better sense of pacing.

Despite the minimalism, it does have a sense of atmosphere, which left me wanting a little more.

Mystery House Possessed, by Emily Short

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting experiment, December 3, 2013
by streever (America)
This is an interesting take on mystery games and NPC interaction.

The randomization makes for occasionally frustrating playthroughs, but creates an interesting experience when it works. Having played it many times, though, I'm not quite sure what my real objective is, and I'm not sure if I'll figure it out without a eureka moment.

It leaves the impression of a rogue-like game, where player knowledge of game elements is important and useful, even though the game is completely randomized on each play-through.

I think the game could use some exposition as to the players purpose. I'm just not sure that it is possible to really explore and come to understand the game without some added continuity--while there are some small puzzles to solve, I'm not sure that they bring me any closer to a less violent solution, and I have a hard time ascertaining what would be an "ideal" solution. That sense of frustration is part of the randomization mechanic, so I'm not sure if it could be removed without removing part of the charm and fun of the game.

A Slight Problem With Zombies, by David Whyld
Simple, short CYOA zombie game, December 3, 2013
by streever (America)
This was a quick and short CYOA around familiar zombie tropes and ideas.

The writing was sound, funny, and engaging, so it worked well, but wasn't a particularly deep experience--no new ground is broken here. If you aren't a fan of zombie fiction, I'd take a pass, but otherwise it is a worthwhile play.

The Voodoo You Do, by Marshal Tenner Winter

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Dark, interesting angle and narrative, December 3, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a short and successful game with an interesting twist and narrative.

I don't think the presentation of Voodoo is particularly faithful, but it works as a spooky Halloween ghost story.

I enjoyed the (relatively easy) puzzles and the story. I am surprised at the low score for the game in the Comp; I think it was a strong effort.

The Horrible Pyramid, by Ryan Veeder

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Well-written and fun game, December 3, 2013
by streever (America)
It is hard to review these short games; they tend to take 10-15 minutes to play through, and are usually worth trying.

This game in particular is definitely worth playing. It is a fun and well-written game which focuses on a standard egyptian pyramid trope. Unlike most of Veeder's work this game doesn't have any really subversive elements--it is a straight-forward and simple game which works well.

I don't think it stands up to the narrative quality of some of Veeder's other works, but is still a fun and engaging game.

Faithful Companion, by Matt Weiner

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting interaction mechanics, December 3, 2013
by streever (America)
This short, fast game has interesting interaction mechanics, and provides a fun short play-through.

Headless, Hapless, by Geoff Moore

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
humorous although at times frustrating short game, December 3, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a short game with an amusing ending. It is incredibly short--a one-gimmick essentially--created in three hours for EcoComp 2013.

Despite this, there were no glaring flaws or technical errors, and the game worked well. It was an amusing although short experience, and at times frustrating.

Wrenlaw, by Ryan Veeder

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Sweet little game, December 2, 2013
by streever (America)
I enjoyed this short game.

Wandering around a small recreational park, the character remembers things, as he searches for a geocached blue box.

Short, sweet, and rewarding, the prose here was really lovely, and I had a strong sense of the park. There are some other elements tucked away here as well--all in all, a very pleasant 30 minutes or so of exploration.

End Boss, by Nick Keirle
Excellent puzzle-less morality narrative, December 1, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a game that showcases morality and ethical decisions upfront.

It asks you what you believe, and despite the relationship of the player/character, it gives you enough information to infer what your decisions say about your beliefs.

The writing is crisp and clear. I enjoyed this work, and think that many Twine authors should read it to see a good example of how choices and decisions give a player agency in interpreting and shaping a linear narrative.

The Statue Got Me High, by Ryan Veeder

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Enjoyable with no prior knowledge, December 1, 2013
by streever (America)
I am clueless concerning both They Might Be Giants and the opera this is apparently an adaptation of; despite my glaring faults, flaws, and ignorance, I enjoyed this game.

The writing is good. The story is interesting and absurd, in the way that Veeder typically writes, but with a sense of a deeper and more meaningful theme.

The actual mechanics are relatively simple. Although I had a paper and pen out, making notes, it turns out I didn't need any of them at all.

I played several of the Apollo games, and found this to be my favorite of the ones I played. A strong effort around a good story with a minimum of puzzles, this was a successful narrative.

Vespers, by Jason Devlin

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Heed the Disclaimer, December 1, 2013
by streever (America)
This game presents a muddled and incorrect theological perspective, that isn't particularly illuminating or enlightening. This leads to the only flaws in an otherwise well-written and engaging experience.

The shoddy theology makes it hard to recognize your choices as such, but the game makes great use of your choices, so it is frustrating that the developers limited understanding of Christian theology provides some inconsistent and illogical implementation. I recommend saving and using restore/undo as needed.

The actual mechanics of this game are fairly brilliant, and the writing is excellent. There are a few minor bugs (characters aware of events that haven't happened yet), but you can avoid them--and improve the overall experience--by restricting yourself to using "talk to character" instead of the more open-ended "ask".

Some of the puzzles are quite clever, and almost all of them involve multiple outcomes. Keep this in mind as you play; you are not restricted to the most obvious solutions. In this, the game does get closer to a proper Christian theology, although it still misunderstands the significance of this decision.

I enjoyed this game quite a bit and think it is well-done. Yes, there is some unsettling imagery, but I would rate it as "less disturbing than CSI".

Alone In Cinder, by Russell Quick
Simple short horror game, December 1, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a simple horror game, playable in under 15 minutes.

It seems extremely merciful; I completed it and won on my first go-through. I tried a second time, deliberately choosing what seemed like the few bad choices available, and found the game was quite good at hinting me toward the satisfying outcome.

The writing is good, although I could use a little more story. I'm not sure why things are happening, and the island has a number of nooks and crannies which could provide exposition for those seeking it. The game gives small tidbits which should be expanded upon, delivering more background and more plot.

There are a number of areas implemented which don't provide anything, and I'm not sure how they advance the game or the story. It would be interesting to have these side paths provide insight and context--perhaps a page of a diary entry here or there--in the same way that Miasmata and Bioshock did.

I think this small twine narrative would be good for a newcomer, to give them a basic sense of what the medium does without being difficult or frustrating.

Cut the Red Wire! No, the Blue Wire!, by David Whyld
A fun little game, December 1, 2013
by streever (America)
This game doesn't offer much in encouragement, creating a lot of frustration, but it is fun and well-written, and the (singular) puzzle is solvable.

Try anything you can think of for a potentially funny response, but expect a tough time actually solving this one; you'll have to think outside the box.

Pytho's Mask, by Emily Short

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Great short game, November 30, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a great short game set in a different world.

You are a capable fighter and swordswoman who belongs to a secret order pledged to protect the King. A mysterious man has invited you to a ball celebrating the once a year passage of a comet that brings great upheaval and change to the Kingdom.

Intrigue abounds, and there are no real puzzles. The conversation is a hybrid topical system, with a few conversations being unlocked by giving/showing items.

This is an excellent romantic fantasy. The romance aspect is downplayed in favor of the intrigue and mystery.

As usual, a few bits of prose here and there create a more fully realized world. There is some over-done descriptive phrasing, but mercifully little. It is slightly more verbose than some of Short's work, but still wonderfully written.

One Way Out, by Ninja Cookie
Very short experience of death, November 30, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a short experience of death, repeated endlessly.

Puzzle-less and lacking exposition or plot, the game places you in a room, where you will die repeatedly. The main theme is how your character dies--each object you examine is a different death.

I think the story could use more connections and meaning layered into the deaths--and a bit of editing. I caught several typos. Currently each death seems to be at random, with no real connection to other events. There isn't a strong human element, nor is there an emotional connection to make with the character.

This game reminded me of Machine of Death, which I highly recommend. Machine of Death added a real human element to the narrative; the choices you made had real meaning, although you knew your ultimate fate, the narrative played with concepts of predestination and meaning in the face of death.

Workday Choices, by PaperBlurt
short narrative about the mundane nature of modern white-collar life, November 29, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a CYOA take on the white-collar grind--think Office Space without the absurdist humor--which examines the tedium and pointlessness of modern office work.

There are many typographic errors and a few grammatical errors as well. This is a work that needed some proofreading and copy-editing, and could benefit from a quick clean-up on some of the most well-worn phrasing.

Visually the game is attractive, and the cyclical nature of it was interesting and communicated the tone effectively.

It reminded me of "My Name Is Tara Sue", a strong text game about white-collar misery which was recently released. If you enjoyed Workday Choices, I highly recommend My Name is Tara Sue.

Our Boys in Uniform, by Megan Stevens

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Not my type of game, November 29, 2013
by streever (America)
I don't love twine games, except when they are exceptionally well-done.

In this case, the game has a second strike for me--it presents heavy-handed political opinions as facts.

While I largely agree with the author, and I imagine we'd have very agreeable discussions on politics, the US, and imperialism, I couldn't help but be turned off by the heavy-handed approach of requiring me to agree with the POV as presented in the story in order to continue. It felt artificial, and I didn't enjoy my experience.

I don't think this is a terrible game, and I can see it perhaps having a real impact on someone who doesn't think these things already, but as a committed liberal, it was a little too on-the-nose for me.

Dad vs. Unicorn, by PaperBlurt

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Exploration of Masculine Gender Identity, November 28, 2013
by streever (America)
This short narrative is not badly done; it is a successful exploration of culturally normative masculine gender identity.

This is essentially a twine or hypertext game, concerning a linear story line told from three different perspectives. The third perspective (that of the unicorn) is an "unlockable"--once you've played through as either of the two starting characters (father or son) you can play as the unicorn. Unfortunately, the Unicorn and the Father both present the same macho/bully/entitled male gender identity, so there wasn't as much variation here as there seemed.

The actual writing is fairly good, although the story could have benefited from better characterization. The father's final, binary, choice seems superfluous/gamest and not in keeping with the plot. I had no sense from reading his narrative that he'd be even possibly be willing to make the more noble of the two choices. In that moment, it was clear that I was the player and not the character, which was out of keeping with the experience so far. This game is very linear; you do not get to change the perspective or behavior of the character you are playing as.

Ultimately this game says something meaningful about gender identity, particularly as it applies to American masculine identity, but the message is hindered by the actual mechanics and style. The tone seems to suggest you can make meaningful decisions (and you do have one choice, at the end, depending on your character), but the choices do not seem particularly illuminating or realistic.

I think of the 3 narratives the son is the strongest. It features the feelings, emotions, and thoughts in a way that felt real. I found the character to be irritating and not particularly sympathetic, but still well-written. To be clear, I think the author succeeded at portraying an unlikable character in a sympathetic way, which is a success.

The story for the father was much harder to appreciate. The father is a parody of American fatherhood, and didn't feel real or even vaguely sympathetic. I suppose the final choice in his narrative could feel real, depending on how you viewed him or how realistic you believe the stereotype of American fatherhood is, but it felt empty and meaningless. Choice for the sake of choice.

The unicorn worked better as a portrayal of bullying male macho masculinity; there is no attempt at humanizing or making the unicorn sympathetic, so I didn't feel any disconnect with his actions and the narrative.

I think this is a good story, and the graphics are fun. I would suggest improving the father character, but on the whole, I thought this was a successful game.

The Wedding, by Neil James Brown
Short to mid-length game with fun twists, complex puzzles, November 27, 2013
by streever (America)
I enjoyed this game, but found myself in unwinnable situations that weren't clued well, which was a bit frustrating. This game has several ways to make what appears to be unrecoverable mistakes, and doesn't give you a heads up, so you'll want to save the game often.

The writing is good, and the denouement was satisfyingly complex and difficult.

The puzzles are satisfying and require multiple steps, leading to very creative implementation.

A Roiling Original, by Andrew Schultz
Great sequel to Shuffling Around, November 26, 2013
by streever (America)
The protagonist has run afoul of his new citizens after taking the throne in Shuffling Around. There are (very minor) tweaks to the gameplay, but this is still largely an anagrammers delight as you transform words into other words.

The story is still quite thin, which may disappoint more character-driven players, but the mechanics and prose are fun and engaging.

My main complaint about the first game--the ambiguity between the extra hint & the regular hint, and the inability to swap them mid-game--is reconciled in this version. You have a device which can switch at will between cheat/no-cheat mode.

In general, I found this game harder and less forgiving than the first; I didn't ever have to view help files for the first game, but sometimes had to consult them to complete Roiling Original.

I'd highly recommend this game to fans of the original and of anagrams. Have fun!

De Baron, by Victor Gijsbers

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Disturbing story, November 26, 2013
by streever (America)
This is an engaging and deep take on an incredibly divisive situation.

I don't think the game goes far enough in the warning; I think it should employ a trigger warning. I know people struggling with the exact situation depicted in this story, and I know some of them would feel an enormous set-back post-reading. If you think you may be in that camp, please read the following spoiler for the trigger warning. (Spoiler - click to show)This game revolves around a father who has sexually abused his daughter. Themes include sexual abuse, guilt, fault for sexual abuse, and a question of culpability.

Ultimately, where this story is successful is in the way it presents a bleak moral situation without moralizing or judgement. The player is completely free to arrive at the emotional resolution they are seeking. I appreciated that the game never sought to dictate how I should feel, but rather asked me at every step. This is an excellent mechanic for other games dealing with morality that want to go beyond the subtle.

I appreciated the nested easter eggs which gave greater context and clarity to the situation and revealed in small ways that something is wrong in the narrative.

Dangerous Curves, by Irene Callaci

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Interactive Fiction's answer to "Chinatown", November 23, 2013
by streever (America)
The puzzle mechanics can be frustrating; the solutions make sense but could use subtle hinting. As it was, I had to refer to hints often for certain segments, and wasn't quite sure what my deadline was. Play this game, enjoy it, and don't feel bad when you check a hints file occasionally. The strength of the story and the solutions you do figure out will be rewarding enough.

For a game that impressively recreates the passage of time and days (you can even attend an evening mass one night at the Catholic church!), it didn't give me a real sense of timing. I wasn't sure how much time I had before the trial, or how to manage my time.

I had to get my complaints off my chest first, so I could tell you how I really feel, with any sense of frustration mollified. This game is incredible. The writing, the characters, and the world come to life as you read.

It was engrossing, and I appreciated the hard difficulty--it kept me hooked to the game for much longer than if the puzzles were more obvious. Yes, it could have benefited from some subtle cluing in parts, but on the whole this is a really strong game with an impressive implementation.

The plot is deep and layered. It was difficult to know where to go at times, but this wasn't a real concern, as it lead to further exploration, conversations, and experimentation in the world.

I don't know if Irene Callaci is a pseudonym, but was hoping to find much, much more by her. It is a shame that the author isn't more prolific, as she has managed to create such a compelling and real simulation of a city, rich in detail and story. I would love to see collaboration between her and some of the more technical programmers for future mysteries.

Moquette, by Alex Warren

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
At times frustrating, November 21, 2013
by streever (America)
I wasn't sure what I was doing or why. Ostensibly, I'm on my way to work, but my limited understanding of where I need to go and what train routes get me where left me feeling mostly frustrated.

Perhaps this game would work better with a map as a companion piece--perhaps not, because there doesn't seem to be any reason to go to any specific place. Essentially you wander the subway in a fashion similar to the classic Zork maze--there are areas and people to look at, but none of them advance you or get you anywhere.

I can't tell you why I switched lines, or why I swapped trains--as my protagonist said sometimes, "Or I could change to the Charing Cross branch. I could do that. There is nothing stopping me."

I found reading my protagonists stream-of-consciousness to be infectious. His sense of ennui and boredom made me wonder what I was doing and why I was bothering. I suspect this was the intention--but I found it frustrating. I prefer it when the emotions aren't told to me, but rather things I experience through good writing and plotting.

Finally, a twist occurs, but it is quite late in the narrative, and I had a hard time understanding what it was trying to tell me. It seems to be a meta-commentary, but I'm not sure on what--the nature of games, or a psychological statement? Ultimately, I was left wondering why my protagonist didn't just go into work, or get on a different train and go home to sleep off his hangover.

Mrs. Wobbles and the Tangerine House, by Mark Marino
Cute CYOA for young readers, November 21, 2013
by streever (America)
The blurb really nailed this one; this is a cute CYOA that might be a fun read for young people.

I think the text is a little long for young people, and I think it could use some editing and paring down to make it more readable, especially for the target audience of children reading on the web.

Autumn's Daughter, by Devolution Games
Protagonist has limited agency, November 21, 2013
by streever (America)
The game has a strong message, but was ultimately a bit frustrating--the narrative needs some tweaking and improvements to really convey the story and immerse us in the character.

I suspect that English may not be the authors first language, based on some of the typos and grammar issues I found, so I'd encourage the author to reach out to the IF community and get some help polishing the storyline.

An interesting game, from an interesting perspective, which is held back primarily by issues with the writing.

It is short, puzzle-less, and largely linear--while you have choices, they don't feel particularly fulfilling, largely because you're playing from the perspective of a character with very little agency and freedom in her life. A frustrating but worthwhile experience.

Tex Bonaventure and the Temple of the Water of Life, by Truthcraze
Fun and somewhat corny adventure romp, November 21, 2013
by streever (America)
This was a fun game, but some of the puzzles could use some re-working or better cluing to help avoid frustration. One of the earliest puzzles had a very complex solution, which required the player to infer something in another room which was invisible--it was very frustrating! The red herrings in this section were doubly frustrating considering how secret the puzzle solution was.

I'm looking forward to seeing this game in a second version--it has some promise, but isn't particularly kind to a player. Something as simple as post-mortem hints would really improve the experience from a player's perspective I suspect.

Shuffling Around, by Andrew Schultz (as Ned Yompus)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
This game is built out of word puzzles, with a loose narrative style, November 20, 2013
by streever (America)
Short on character and story, this game is almost entirely a collection of word puzzles, specifically of the anagramming sort. If you like word puzzles, you'll like this.

The in-game help system is first-rate and should allow any wordsmith to complete the game without a walkthrough.

The writing is good, at times slightly over-verbose, but never unnecessary.

I was slightly confused by the intro: it took me a little more time to puzzle out the difference between the gadget and the slider, and why I'd take one and not the other. I think it could use a little more exposition earlier on. It may be a minor spoiler, but I think the game would be improved if the player knew early on that (Spoiler - click to show)the gadget is easy mode--the slider is hard mode. You can probably complete the game with either, or neither, if you're adept at anagrams, but it'd be nice to be able to swap between them mid-game, so you could start with the slider & switch to the gadget when under extreme duress.

If you can't wait for the Sunday Puzzle by Will Shortz on NPR each week, this is a game for you. If you're more interested in character/narrative driven story experiences, you'll probably be less enthusiastic about this game.

I love the word-puzzle aspect, and am glad that I discovered Schultz work via InfoComp2013 and 3diopolis.

My Name is Tara Sue, by Maki Yamazaki

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Clever bit of writing and good use of the medium, November 20, 2013
by streever (America)
This is an interesting game with clever narrative clues--expect to play it more than once to find the good ending.

I do think this game could benefit from an undo system. Ultimately, some of the options and choices feel arbitrary, and it'd be nice to be able to rewind if you choose one not realizing the real implications of it.

The writing is good, and the attention to design is appreciated: many web-text games feel a bit overwhelming, but the author has condensed and laid-out the type in a way that invites reading and experimenting.

The theme here is simple, and immediately relatable to most people interested in computer games--you play as a woman torn between the tedium of her white collar job and a sense of adventure.

I enjoyed this game--where the play mechanic felt weaker, the writing certainly kept me going.

Mazredugin, by Jim Q. Pfygx-Vobk

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
One world to maybe make a little bit better for someone?, November 19, 2013
by streever (America)
I liked this game. It isn't the best of the 2013 entries, but it mostly worked well, and the author has made a fun, modest game.

"One world to...not quite even save." is the tagline, and it is appropriate--this is a story more of a person coming of age and learning that life isn't about bullies & being alone.

The essential statement here seems to be that life isn't just the things you experienced in high school, and that thoughts of grandeur are unlikely. Life is about taking small steps, applying what you know, and building relationships with other people in the world around you, without pre-judging them.

A modest game with a modest premise, it felt slightly unfinished in the IF Comp, and hopefully the author will continue work on it.

PataNoir, by Simon Christiansen

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Clever gameplay, solid writing, and engaging story, November 19, 2013
by streever (America)
Despite some (very minor) hiccoughs, this is a strong game.

I didn't play the previous releases, but started with the open beta of release 5. A solid effort, the gameplay is fun and novel, although at times I did try each object until I got to the right one. The experimenting didn't detract from the overall experience, however, and I never felt stuck.

Some of the sequences were stronger and flowed together better. Some of the simile-based puzzles early on felt a little shoehorned or simple, but they improve substantially as the game goes on. In particular, everything after (Spoiler - click to show)your first confrontation with Camino was strong, challenging, but fair.

The help system is clever and useful, although it may over-simplify some parts of the game, so I'd suggest not resorting to it as quickly as the tutorial might suggest. A few puzzles that I could have solved on my own were rendered easy by the use of it, and it felt a little bit like cheating.

The denouement had a surprising last twist--although it felt very straight-forward, there was a well-done plot twist your player could create. It doesn't substantially alter the game, but it is a hidden choice that really engaged my mind and made me consider the morality of my character, the story, and the other participants. It also made me wonder what I'd do in real life--all in all, a very well done example of choice in a narrative.

I highly recommend this game on the strength of it's writing, gameplay, and novelty.

Reels, by Tyler Zahnke

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Broken, November 18, 2013
by streever (America)
The javascript behind this game is broken, but even if it were working, I'd be disappointed.

The game mechanic is essentially a few trivia puzzles that you either know or have to google the answer to. Because the javascript is broken, you don't get to see the hint system when you get one close but wrong.

If you wanted to play through it, you could use the browser console to get each page from the broken javascript code, but I wouldn't recommend it: the puzzles really are just trivia or mathematical conversions. In general, there is nothing in the story or the game that helps you solve the puzzles, they entirely rest on out-of-game knowledge.

I'm not sure what the basic premise is a nod to--cultural elites guarding the treasures of our society perhaps--but it didn't engage me enough to actually attempt converting different numerical systems.

9Lives, by Bill Balistreri, Hal Hinderliter, Sean Klabough, Luke Michalski, Morgan Sokol

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Not my cup of tea, November 18, 2013
by streever (America)
I have to say, I really didn't enjoy this story. The "choices" were simply too obvious--do the right thing morally to progress.

The writing felt clunky, and the games premise felt a bit too on the nose.

The basic mechanical concept was interesting, and I could see that mechanic being useful/interesting elsewhere, but in a simple morality tale of self-sacrifice, it felt a little pushy.

I don't disagree with the premise or the actions you undertake, but they seemed so self-evident to me as to be meaningless.

Further, by Will Hines

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
I think this game would benefit from a different format, November 18, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a parser game, but it doesn't really need the parser--the concept behind it feels a bit shoehorned into the format.

The writing is typically good, although a few typos and over-written descriptions do appear.

I think this would really fit a twine/web format, with a changing color background corresponding to the different memory states, and other visual touches.

This is a very linear story with only one possible way to progress through--because of the use of a parser, you end up re-typing the same commands over and over, giving it the feel of a puzzle, but you are really just walking through color-coded rooms until you find a memory, which you simply carry with you.

I believe this would have done better in the competition as a twine game. The sense of exploration would be improved by a clickable structure, and the story could have been more in focus.

Vulse, by Rob Parker

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Left me a little cold, November 18, 2013
by streever (America)
I found this game frustrating. It seemed to suggest a lot of depth hidden beneath the layers of my protagonists self-hate and self-disgust, but I didn't ever experience a pay-off.

The game gives clear indications--either in mis-labelling days or contradicting itself, or openly telling you--that you can't trust the narrator.

In a way, the game felt a little like a murder ballad--a body is floating down the river in a small town, and at times I think my character has committed the crime. At times, I think he killed a woman--at other times, a man--and then I wondered if it was my body in the river.

Although all three seemed vaguely possible, none seemed particularly plausible. There is a disjointed mention of hanging another person at another point, but no clear connection between the hanging and the body floating.

There are multiple endings, but I couldn't see a real relationship between what I was doing and what led to those, so it felt random.

The writing didn't always make sense to me. I had a hard time parsing the meaning in several sentences, and found myself trying to entertain the perspective of the character. Instead of telling me what happened, or what my character experienced, the game told me how my character felt. Without more context to make this meaningful, however, I felt a little pushed. I suspect if I lived in a despised small town I might have a little more perspective to appreciate the view point, but as it was, I felt like the feelings and emotions were being pushed on me instead of shared.

Bell Park, Youth Detective, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Low on choice, but well-written and fun., November 18, 2013
by streever (America)
The writing is good: I'm not typically one to sit through a game with large amounts of text, but the presentation and writing on this game were both very well done.

The story centers on a 12 year old detective investigating a murder, and makes clear nods to how ridiculous the premise is.

The writing is funny and engaging.

This CYOA is low on choice--like many classic CYOAs, it seems to have one outcome. The lack of choice didn't hamper this entry, however--it was still engaging and enjoyable.

I appreciated the formatting of the page--in general, I think the better CYOAs lay out the page in a way that makes it easier to read than the default layouts.

Robin & Orchid, by Ryan Veeder and Emily Boegheim

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Exploration with a great help system, November 18, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a game of exploration, with a great help system, hidden inside an NPC.

I loved the depth of this game, and enjoyed just reading through the notebook that my character has from her friend.

I was wishing for a little more out of the camera system, but I'll leave it at that--and I'll acknowledge that I may have found it too fussy if the game delivered what I expected from the camera system. Once you've solved the case, it is quite obvious what was happening. Still, with the wide array of choices, I think the ending could use some (very minor) tweaking to show a relationship between the photos you took and the outcome.

A for instance; I took photos of the sleeping chaperone, which I thought was pretty funny. It would have added something to it if my character got a detention or some other mild punishment as a result, despite solving the case, in the epilogue.

The puzzles are really well done, and if you are stuck, you can pay attention to other characters to get a clue. This game unfolds nicely and includes great red herrings.

The writing is top-notch. I'd highly recommend anything with Veeder or Boegheim as writers.

Solarium, by Anya Johanna DeNiro

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Solid text, November 18, 2013
by streever (America)
This is well-written and engrossing. A clickable twine text game, Solarium has an interesting alchemical system which is quickly grasped through exploration of the narrative. As you progress through different memories, you obtain new story paths, and part of the fun is in speculating which will lead you to which.

There was only one moment where I worried that the game may have a dead end, early on, when I had gone through what I thought were all my options in remembering the story through alchemical reagents. I quickly realized that I simply was missing one of the options, and hadn't realized it was clickable.

Well-written, engrossing, and with an interesting ambience, this game is a mystical take on the idea of a nuclear apocalypse. The action mostly takes place in one room, as your character relieves past experiences that contribute to your understanding of what led to the apocalypse, and the limited role you played. The denouement is satisfying, and leaves you with a real choice, shaped by your perception of the text you'd just read, instead of by your collection of macguffins and plot points.

Dig My Grave, by Ryan Veeder

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Very short They Might Be Giants tribute, November 17, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a very short game, created as a tribute to the first track of TMBG's Apollo 18 cd, "Dig My Grave".

It is short, linear, and rather limited, but a fun quick play. The writing is clever and gives a sense of place (Veeder is a very good writer), but the actual game and the mechanics of it are not on par with his other games. If you've never played a game by Veeder, skip this one, and try Taco Fiction or Robin and Orchid first. Veeder makes games with surprisingly deep gameplay, mixed with fun, quirky, well-written text, and this game doesn't show you what he is actually capable of.

my father's long, long legs, by michael lutz

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Creepy, evocative, and very well-written, November 11, 2013
by streever (America)
Despite being an essentially linear game with one ending, this twine suggests the experiences of agency and exploration beautifully and with meaning.

The narrative is strong, and very creepy, and the technical capabilities of Twine are well-used here to give a sense of exploration and terror. Through text, sound, and limited sight, fear slowly creeps up on the player, and you may find yourself more in the perspective of the narrator than in a graphical video game.

The side stories and anecdotes shared throughout are well-done and plotted well. Although the story has only one ending, the possibilities suggested by that ending are complex, provoking speculation as to deeper meaning and intent.

Chemistry and Physics, by Caelyn Sandel (as Colin Sandel) and Carolyn VanEseltine
Creepy, well-done, November 4, 2013
by streever (America)
I'm slightly biased against twine style games, but this is done well, and feels more like a traditional parser-based IF in the interaction and mechanics of the central puzzle.

I think there should be a trigger warning: it is about a violently abusive man, but this is a good game with excellent writing.

Very fair, and very consistent. There were no short-comings or technical flaws I found.

Droll Toll Troll, by N.C. Hunter Hayden
Cute, quick, fluffy game in the form of a poem, October 31, 2013
by streever (America)
The poetry and writing is fun--this is a short, light-hearted game.

I thought this must have an obvious inspiration, but was unable to find one. The opening says it is in the the style of "Ambiguous Adventures", by which I think the author is referring to a children's classic or game series that I never heard of, and not the classic literary work by Cheikh Hamidou Kane.

This is a short, possibly unloseable game, with cute poems, descriptions, and an excess of adjectives. While it isn't going to win the Man Booker, I enjoyed the poems, which seemed heavily influenced by Seuss and other classic kids books.

Threediopolis, by Andrew Schultz

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Wow, I just got this., October 30, 2013
by streever (America)
I originally reviewed this shortly after playing it during the IF Competition, which was a mistake. The stress/strain of having limited time to play brought out a (bizarre) inability to even figure out the basic mechanism at play.

I've since re-played it: it is very, very clever, but far from impossible.

Don't spoil this one: most of the joy is in figuring out the mechanic and exploring it.

On top of the excellent puzzle mechanic, the writing is good, fun, and crisp.

Taco Fiction, by Ryan Veeder

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Forgiving, fun, and well-written, October 29, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a fun, short game, with a rewarding outcome & well-implemented mechanics. Ryan Veeder seems to enjoy creating games with slightly different scoring systems (misleadingly exact scoring systems!), which provide some real enjoyment and amusement, even when you suspect the switch is coming.

I would not have played this game based off of the blurb at all. I only played it because I've enjoyed other games of his and saw comments by Emily Short regarding it being much better than the blurb would suggest.

The House at the End of Rosewood Street, by Michael Thomťt

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Good narrative, interesting although repetitive game experiences, October 28, 2013
by streever (America)
I enjoyed this game--in particular the daily tasks of my character, reading the paper, my brief interactions with neighbors, etc... the writing was good, the characters seemed (mostly) well-written, and the actual game had me hooked.

The ending was a bit of a let-down: I found two endings, but wasn't entirely sure what was going on, and was left uncertain about my characters future.

All in all, I enjoyed this game, and am hopeful of reading other (spoiled) reviews with different impressions of the ending.

The game ending and full plot spoiler below--

(Spoiler - click to show)
Were you satisfied with either ending?
I don't really understand what happened.

A vampire moved onto my street, and forced me to kidnap and murder a young woman at the opening? The vampire seems to be sexually attracted to my character, but I don't understand why, or what he wants from me.

The neighbors were interesting, although limited, they mostly felt real and different from each other.

In the "good"? ending, I gain my soul back from using Elisabeth's mirror--I think--and my character wakes up in the hospital bed post coma. But, I apparently murdered a woman and then failed in suicide, so I'm not sure how good this is.

In the bad ending, I think I wake up as a newly created vampire, and slave to the new neighbor--so, definitely not good.

Any other thoughts? Did I misread those?

The Cardew House, by Andrew Brown

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Poor technical implementation mixed with some plotting issues, October 28, 2013
by streever (America)
The implementation left a lot to be desired--there were some interesting & well-done bits, but the actual mechanics were too clunky to proceed without extensive hints.

It was very hard to navigate in this short game.

The writing wasn't great: it wasn't bad, and Brown avoids the worse sin of over-flowing purple prose, but combined with the technical problems I'd avoid this game.

I do hope that he fixes some of the implementation issues and releases an updated version. It isn't a bad game, but it could use a little refinement.

My most frustrating two puzzles below
(Spoiler - click to show)
OK, so you have to open a secret door behind a painting--but you have to slash the painting to get in there, I don't think there was any clue at all to the location of the door.

Now, to get a razor to slash the painting, you have to do something specific to the bath taps--the bath taps which don't really trigger any results on things like "Look at bath" "X bath", which mostly gives you stock error messages, suggesting to me that the bath wasn't implemented even as scenery.

The second issue is an insta-death scenario resulting from not ripping a cupboard off a wall. Ripping the cupboard off doesn't get you something behind the wall--it gets you a piece of the cupboard--which is odd. Who would think to go looking for that? There is no in-game clue that suggested to me that it was important to tear a cupboard off the wall.

In general, I think the implementation needs to be tightened, and some of the actual plot elements need a little more QA.

Ollie Ollie Oxen Free, by Carolyn VanEseltine

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Stick with it, October 28, 2013
by streever (America)
This game has some rough spots and wonky implementation, and I hope the writer smoothes them out post-contest.

Even if she doesn't, I urge you to stick with it, because it is a really powerful piece of fiction and a great game to boot.

There were some odd mishaps that really frustrated me at times--making me feel like I couldn't solve this game--but when I checked the hints/walkthroughs I'd see I'd been doing it right, but just didn't get quite the right verb/noun.

With a little editing and polish, I think this will be an incredibly accessible game that deals with some powerful themes and features excellent writing.

I'm really looking forward to more work from this developer/writer. I enjoyed Beet the Devil, and this game is significantly stronger in content, tone, and mechanics.

Sam and Leo Go To The Bodega, by Richard Goodness

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
I never saw Harold and Kumar..., October 28, 2013
by streever (America)
I suspect this is a take-off/parody of Harold & Kumar, and I don't know if I'd have enjoyed it as much if I'd seen Harold & Kumar.

I enjoyed it. It was amusing, well-written, and randomized enough that I felt like my choices were making real differences in outcomes. While it isn't a particularly interactive game, it FEELS like one, and presents some choices which don't seem to have any bearing on the outcomes, but still feel engaging and real.

This is another well-done CYOA from the 2013 Inform competition.

Machine of Death, by Hulk Handsome

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
I actually really enjoyed this, October 28, 2013
by streever (America)
I say "actually" because I was skeptical at first. The premise (a CYOA of the Machine of Death webcomic concept) just seemed too derivative at first.

Actually playing it however was a novel experience. The author has managed to present the CYOA as an engaging, witty, and surprising work of fiction. The outcomes of my choices frequently surprised me in pleasant, consistent, novel ways.

The surprises and twists made perfect sense in the structure of the story.

Well-written, comedic, and a strong effort.

Blood on the Heather, by Tia Orisney
Campy, October 28, 2013
by streever (America)
This isn't a bad piece of fiction--it is called an homage to b-vampire films, and it shows!

The author has written a campy and frivolous vampire story. It isn't bad, but I think it could use with some editing: while the subject matter is b-film quality, I think the writing should be a little more finely-tuned. Of course, ludicrous things happen--and are supposed to--but the actual writing could have used some editing at times and maybe a few surprises that broke the genre would have made this a stronger effort.

I much preferred the same author's noir mystery piece based on an Agatha Christie novel.

Impostor Syndrome, by Dietrich Squinkifer (Squinky)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Not particularly "game"-ish, October 28, 2013
by streever (America)
I enjoyed this--the writing is good, the points it makes are done well--but I was a bit leery about it when I first read the brief. I thought this might be an attack on minorities entering the tech world from the brief, and was glad it was not.

It does not feel particularly game-like--there aren't recognizable challenges nor are there puzzles--but it is well-written and engaging. Perhaps one of my favorite of the non-choice/non-puzzle entries in ifcomp 2013.

Endgame, by Samuel T. Denton

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A good short game, October 22, 2013
by streever (America)
This was a good, short, "one puzzle" game.

The only real frustration was an incredibly hard to guess game of guess the verb--there was no real clue or suggestion that what I was doing had any bearing on anything, and if I hadn't read that the game was beatable, I would have assumed it was a broken implementation.

I won't give any spoiler here: the game is beatable (and fun!) and worth playing. Just be prepared for a moment of frustration...

The writing is clever and enjoyable, and the puzzle is fun--I recommend playing this game.

The Abyss, by dacharya64

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting mood piece--, October 22, 2013
by streever (America)
I'm not a huge fan of CYOA, so take my negative feelings with a grain of salt. My 2 stars doesn't reflect negatively on the technical implementation, and I think most of the writing was adequate, but the actual game elements were lacking.

I felt like there was a lot of text to wade through--it was mostly well-written, but just a lot, and I didn't feel like I had a good idea of what was going to influence what. Many times my actions produced the opposite outcome, and I didn't really see why, or how I could choose differently in the next situation.

My main problem with (many) CYOA games is I feel like the choice is meaningless, because I don't get enough data or feedback to make my choices intelligently. I felt that way with this game as well.

It has a good atmosphere, but the insistence on making the person playing the game the actual character (through the use of non-specific nouns and identifiers) hurt the immersion for me. The opening has several (potentially) strong scenes with "your parent"--not dad, father, mother, mom, etc, but "your parent", which killed any emotional impact it may have had for me.

I think it is better to be brave and risk not representing everyone by choosing a parent and making it a little more specific, when going for narrative immersion in emotional topics. I wasn't particularly interested in pursuing romance with the non-specific figure I met at a cafe.

I think if you like heavy text games and want to explore themes of alienation and loneliness this may be a good game for you, as it does do that. While I finished it (getting a bad ending), I wasn't interested in trying again to get another ending. The 2 stars reflects my subjective feeling about the style of the game--it is very well done for what it is.

The Lighthouse, by Eric Hickman and Nathan Chung
Not really a game--a basic exercise in IF, October 22, 2013
by streever (America)
I wouldn't call this a game: besides poor implementation, it features no challenges at all. You have 3 doors, and can only open one. If you can figure out what direction that door is, you can walk in it and obtain a key, which opens the other door, etc.

The game is finishable in 12 completely obvious moves, and the writing could use an editor. (The initial sequence with the man is the prime example of editing needs.)

I would encourage the authors to revisit this concept and flesh it out--the basic premise could make for an interesting game, but it would need some sort of tension and better technical implementation.

The Chronicler, by John Evans
Interesting premise, but unfinished and quite rough, October 22, 2013
by streever (America)
The game that exists isn't bad: there is an interesting premise with the buttons/switch/time travel concept, but unfortunately it seems to lack any resolution or ending.

The rooms that do exist are not implemented very well--they are sparse and lacking in interactivity.

A frustrating experience as it currently stands. I don't know that there is much value in playing this with so many issues. There may be an ending, but owing to frustration from failed attempts at interacting, I moved on.

And so the world did end, by Giggling_Kiste
Short, simple, October 22, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a short & simple CYOA web-text game.

It is dark--very dark--but I wouldn't call it a "mystery"--there didn't seem to be any clues/puzzles to unravel. Mostly you are reading the authors thoughts.

I think this would have been better as a parser based-game, with even mild hunting about for things (think "Gone Home")--in general, more elements that shared the narrator's emotional states/thoughts about life pre-event would have made this game stronger. The game feels more like a context-less story you tell someone about an emotional dream you had: the point is the emotional impact the dream had on you, but the listener may not understand the impact without the context.

The author is bi-lingual and occasionally the English suffers; the story seems to be more of an atmospheric piece sharing the emotions and thoughts of someone struggling with depression/loneliness. I would encourage the author to add more memories to the game--what was the world like pre-event for the character? Who were their family members? Even a photograph of her parents with a description would improve this.

Barrow Escape, by MistrBlue
Very short, CYOA-style game, October 22, 2013
by streever (America)
Barrow Escape is a map-less CYOA game with binary choices in most situations. It feels a little rough and could benefit from variety and choice.

It is faithful to the source material--I was able to solve and get through it on my first go just by remembering how the original scene worked--so I haven't thoroughly tested, but I suspect there are not additional (good) endings.

Make It Good, by Jon Ingold
One of my favorites., October 17, 2013
by streever (America)
This incredibly clever noir-style detective game casts you in a familiar trope--a down-on-his-luck alcoholic investigator who has one last chance to keep his job.

The game is very detailed and clever, technically quite an achievement: NPCs can observe you and note your (openly carried) inventory.

You'll find the clues easily enough, but probably have no idea what to do with them. I recommend not spoiling this one, even if you feel stuck. Come back later and look at the game with fresh eyes, try crazy things, and really observe the characters. Save often & be prepared to restore old games.

This is a great game with a novel ending, and an original plot. It borrows heavily from tropes and concepts you'll be familiar with from other noir fiction, but still presents an entirely original and creative story.

Counterfeit Monkey, by Emily Short

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Truly amazing, October 17, 2013
by streever (America)
This may be my favorite IF game currently, the only game able to even stand up to try and compete with it being Make it Good.

The entire game is full of linguistic puzzles, and like most of Short's work, creates a brilliant sense of place without extraneous descriptive text. The setting is fantastic and unreal--something most writers would communicate through byzantine tomes you can read through ad nauseum--but Short makes it compelling and real with the perfect amount of detail.

I haven't finished it, but I've put 2 hours into it, and haven't felt lost or confused. Puzzles that could be game-breaking have multiple solutions, and discovering those extra solutions--while not seemingly necessary and not contributing to my score yet--make me feel like the king of puzzles, twirling about in front of my throne and doffing my crown to my adoring peasentry.

Speaking of being "The King of Puzzles", I demand that my knights Make it Good and Counterfeit Monkey present themselves on my tourney field tomorrow to battle. I want to see blood, you knaves!

Ahem, sorry, got carried away there. Nothing more to see here, moving on!

The setting, the technical implementation, the plot, the writing, and the actual puzzles--the way they are solved and the mechanisms involved--are fascinating and novel. This is one of the best works of IF available.

Fail-Safe, by Jon Ingold

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
I love this fast, clever game, October 16, 2013
by streever (America)
I loved this game. It is quick and clever. At first it is confusing, but slow down: read the text carefully and think about the situation you are in. This game makes very clever use of some classic IF conceits, including the notion that you the player may not be the character.

It is very easy to die and you will do so often, but you should be able to beat this game without any hints.

The only thing that was perhaps wonky boiled down to me misunderstanding how one command should work: I've put it in spoilers for anyone who thinks they are at the end who is getting frustrated. I was jumping to weird thoughts as I tried to figure this one out, and it boiled down to me just typing something incorrectly. I am not spoiling the story or any puzzle solution, just explaining the one bit of game interface that I missed.

(Spoiler - click to show)If you have to share information of some sort with someone, JUST TYPE IT OUT--don't preface it, don't include verbs, etc. Just literally type the exact info you want to share. If someone wanted your phone number, you'd just tell them the exact number. Treat this game that way.

I really think this is a terrific game, and well worth your time--even if you are skeptical, give it a try, and don't get frustrated if you have to guess the occasional syntax--while it isn't as robust as most games being made now, the parser will work great with a few tries.

City of Secrets, by Emily Short

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Strong on conversation, atmosphere, plot, and world-building, October 16, 2013
by streever (America)
I really enjoyed City of Secrets, my first Emily Short game, and spent several hours on it over a two week period.

It is very easy-going in the puzzles: this is more a game of conversation and exploration.

The world-building is impressive. I never felt like I was reading a wall of text, but I understand the world I was in and was not confused. The world she created here is rich and deep, and at times, written with sparse, minimalist prose. I mean to say that Short doesn't waste our time with over-wrought descriptions and backstory. Important information is communicated simply but eloquently.

I enjoyed this and would recommend it to anyone who is new to IF. You won't die at random, and it seems nearly impossible to get stuck. The writing and pacing are a treat.

I had some "guess the verb/guess the action moments" at the very end, but it wasn't hard to figure out what I was supposed to do--re-reading the text and thinking carefully, I saw that the appropriate verbs were at least hinted at. I wouldn't ascribe any of my late game confusion to the author or the piece.

If you are seeking something fiendishly difficult, I'd recommend moving on, but keep this in your queue: when you need a break from mind-benders, you can enjoy the writing and atmosphere of this game.

Dragon Warrior Text Adventure, by Nintendo Power and Anna Anthropy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A faithful adaptation..., October 15, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a great adaptation, and very accurate.

However, it isn't properly much of a game: while the in-game text at the end talks about the "strategy" involved, the reality is you mostly randomly click things until the game makes you do the right thing. There is no contextual hint or clue about the world around you until you accidentally stumble on a town that tells you to go East. (Of course, the game also forbids you click any other direction!)

There really isn't much choice inherent in this game, except terrible choice that results in death or randomly clicking more directional indicators. I remember this game, and I enjoyed the nostalgia effect of finding this adaptation.

It is very short, so you should try it if you are curious, but I wouldn't really recommend it to people who didn't already remember Dragon Warrior and enjoy it. (I can still remember the geography of the game!)

The Act of Misdirection, by Callico Harrison

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Real Gem, October 13, 2013
by streever (America)
This is a strong game with excellent narration and very clever plotting.

Don't be put off trying it by the critical reviews. Bad IF rarely receives actual reviews, and I suspect most authors criticize parts of this piece because it is very, very good.

I am unaware of anything else Harrison has written, which is a shame. I do hope that this author creates more interactive fiction at some point.

The good:
> An original story with an interesting twist.
> Many well-written characters and dialogue.
> An alternate ending which you are incredibly unlikely to get on a first play-through.
> Freedom and choice in the first half, although, with many constraints.

The less-good:
> Linear story (This isn't a contradiction--the story is linear, even railroading you into actions and choices, but you have a surprising degree of freedom in how you make those actions, which allows for a very fun early game on your second play)
> An alternate ending which you receive no clues or suggestions to achieve. I suspect most if not all players would not realize that an alternate was possible if not for the author informing them.
> Several minor typos.
> The occasional "purple prose" example.
> Some strange action/verb choices.
> No follow-up work from Harrison, which is a shame.

All in all, I enjoyed this game immensely. Very fun and very well-written.

Beet the Devil, by Carolyn VanEseltine

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Beet the Devil, October 13, 2013
by streever (America)
I enjoyed this game: at times the verbs/descriptions didn't give me everything I needed to solve a puzzle, but the hint system worked well. There is still some mild wonkiness when you--perhaps--are over-thinking a simple puzzle involving heat, for instance, and the solution doesn't work.

Despite those small inconveniences, the game is quite good, and works very well. I really appreciated that many of the puzzles were suggested by earlier events in the game--clever cluing on some of them.

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