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Ratings and Reviews by Victor Gijsbers

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View this member's reviews by tag: bleak brute-force Combat Comedy connect CYOA dungeon crawl fantasy horror IF Comp 2007 infocom innovative joke linguistic logic one-room parody phonebooth Political politics puzzle random death rogue-like short snack SpeedIF time travel unfair win on the first attempt
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Flygskam Simulator, by Katie Benson
A nice little tale to relax with, June 19, 2020
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)
I hadn’t come across the term ‘flygskam’ before, but apparently it is Swedish for flight shame. This is going to be a short story about taking the bus from London to Hamburg. Sounds nice enough, although the casualness of the blurb’s final sentence is perhaps a bit overdone: “Just, you know, don’t forget your passport, okay?” Do you even need a passport to enter or leave the UK? Wait, yes… they never joined the Schengen zone, just like they never adopted the Euro. Brexit is not a sudden eruption; it has been in the making for decades. But that’s neither here not there. Flygskam Simulator is!

This is the pretty laid-back story of someone who travels from London to Hamburg by bus. The decisions are very realistic: stand in line by the door or remain seated? Try to sleep or read a book? Talk to the person next to you or play a game on your phone? The trip can take an unexpected turn, for instance when you get to know a guy who leaves the bus in Rotterdam and you decide to hook up with him. (Rotterdam! Of all places!) But it is also possible to just travel to Hamburg. The trip seems to be based on personal experience; at least little details, such as the difference between English and Dutch bus waiting zones, are correct.

It’s a nice little tale to relax with. But there doesn’t seem to be much to it, not much of a point beside sharing an impression of travelling by bus. Perhaps the branching narrative is meant to evoke the sense of possibility that belongs to a journey? On the other hand, the game focusses precisely on the mundane and expected. So I end up not being precisely certain what the author intended, and not truly able to recommend people to either check it out or leave it alone. It’s, you know, okay?

Eye Contact, by Thomas McMullan

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Look at me, June 19, 2020
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)
Eye Contact is a short, experimental choice-based game that allows you to play through a single conversation. Most of the talking is done by your conversation partner, who is worked up about something her brother said to her. It turns out that he had the audacity to criticise the filo pastry for her samosas. You can be sympathetic, non-committal, or overtly critical about her (over)reaction. Depending on your choices, some backstory may be revealed – there has been a death in the family – and you may end up helping your friend move along, or not. All this takes a few minutes at most, so it’s easy to replay a few times, and the writing is snappy and to the point. An enjoyable light snack; better executed than the samosas were.

There’s one more crucial ingredient to the game: the eyes. A large picture of your friend’s eyes is always at the top of the screen, looking at you (or away from you) with different expressions as the conversation moves in different ways. The game labels itself as ‘experimental’, and this is clearly the experiment: to see what impact these eyes have on our experience. Will they increase the emotional impact? Will they create a sense of intimacy? Certainly, they were very present. I was sitting behind my computer late at night, in my pyjamas, slumping in my chair… and I felt the urge to straighten up and make sure that my dressing gown was closed; then felt the urge to resist that urge, because I’m not going to be manipulated by a picture of two eyes; and then gave in to the urge anyway. So, yes, I think it did enhance to some extent the feeling of realness. I’m not sure what we gain from the experiment, since a longer game with the same lay-out would get old very quickly, I think. But I can imagine a game in which this only happens occasionally; a re-make of Spider and Web, for instance, in which the interrogator stares at you. That could work.

IFComp 2019 contained quite a number of very short games built around a single idea. Eye Contact didn’t quite have the impact on me that The Surprise and Out had, but it’s nevertheless a worthy addition to this category.

For the Cats, by Lei

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
More interesting than the title suggests, June 19, 2020
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)
I believe this game is made in ink, and it looks good… but it looks utterly different depending on whether I play it in Chrome on my Android phone, or in Firefox on my Windows computer. In my phone, the type is a very curly handwriting, beautiful, although it does not match well with the blocky sans serif type of the choices. On my computer, the main font looks more like Comic Sans. I wonder how this is possible?

The game itself is not at all what I was expecting based on the blurb. The basic premise is indeed that you want to save a bunch of cats. But we are thrown into a world of unexpected aesthetics – everything is grey, the unit of exchange is coals – and unexpected possibilities – there are sell-your-soul type corporate agents at work, and you can enlist a sort of semi-scientific environmental resistance to rescue all the cats. This means that it’s a lot more interesting that I had originally expected, and I found myself reaching most of the endings as I was investigating the different paths opened up to the different characters. For the Cats is not a moralistic exhortation to take care of your pets, as I had feared. Rather, it is an almost poetic short story about humanity in the midst of bleakness.

Well done, would play again.

Are you Too Chicken to Make a Deal?, by Mitchell Taylor

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Win Stiffy's phone number, March 16, 2020
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)
I decided to gamble and have the IFDB generate a list of ten random games for me. Appropriately, the first of those was this little Speed-IF that asks you to gamble -- sort of. You can choose to cross the road or not, and if you don't, new prizes become available that might be either better or worse than the original. Given the slightness of the piece, you won't care either way.

Most notable, I would say, for being a game in which you can win the phone number of Stiffy Makane. Alas, said number cannot then be called.

16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds, by Abigail Corfman
Victor Gijsbers's Rating:

Queers in Love at the End of the World, by Anna Anthropy
Victor Gijsbers's Rating:

Sugarlawn, by Mike Spivey
Victor Gijsbers's Rating:

Sisyphus, by Theo Koutz
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ALICE BLUE, by Chris Selmys
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Skybreak!, by William Dooling
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