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Ratings and Reviews by Andrew Watt

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Rape, Pillage, Makane!, by Chandler Groover
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The Griffin and the Minor Canon, by Frank Stockton, Chandler Groover
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Feu de Joie: Session 3 (Storeys), by Alan DeNiro
Way down in the (rabbit) hole, July 27, 2015
by Andrew Watt (Los Angeles, California)
If you're not already on board with Feu De Joie, this installment is unlikely to change your mind, but if you are (welcome to the club, have a cup of bitter tea), I think you'll be satisfied. The Tester has been brought low and is glumly fulfilling a stifling contract when he receives a sign of hope, and readers receive a call to action. The Dunsany excerpt this time around is a surprisingly moving story of war-torn France, that of a man who has lost his home, and it nicely mirrors the Tester's own story without making too obvious a comparison.

I recommend getting involved on the Twitter side of things, where readers have been invited to participate in some apparently consequential interactions. @QUARTER_MOON_MASTER and @BUCOLIC_ehf are enjoyably chatty, too. Also, remember your password(s), but if you get frustrated, try contacting Alan. He's helped some readers get up to speed.

If you can, start reading now! The Tester's Archive will probably be available in perpetuity, but there are more ephemeral aspects of this story that you don't want to miss.

Texas Instruments Theater, by Socks Meanie (as Winston Ian Parrish)
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Harlowe vs Sharpe, by Sage Michael

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Extended in-joke with good intentions, May 17, 2015
by Andrew Watt (Los Angeles, California)
If you don't frequent the Twine forums, there's not much for you here. The story is just a collection of noir tropes, although the writing is occasionally witty. The game references some of Twine's most beloved advice-givers, including Sharpe, GreyElf, and MadExile (for whom a cocktail is named). Twine creator Chris Klimas also appears as, um, a stripper. And there's a cruel joke about SugarCane at which I confess to having laughed out loud.

I'd rather not rate this, but I do tip my hat to the author for honoring some of Twine's unsung heroes (Sharpe was one of the first people to play and comment on my first game!). These people have volunteered hours and hours of their time providing support for Twine users and are rarely credited for it.

Was there a Leon Arnott reference? I didn't see one. Consider adding a mysterious villain named Mister L., or, for a more action-packed experience, ending the story with a glorious train wreck.

<<insert "In conclusion:">> Those were Twine jokes.<<gains>> So is this.<<endinsert>>

Feu de Joie (Session 2): Good War, by Alan DeNiro
Resplendent with petrichor from the bog, May 16, 2015
by Andrew Watt (Los Angeles, California)
Literate, unnerving, and well-crafted, Feu de Joie has a good thing going. This episode dials up the creepiness, aided by sound effects in a key moment, and drops more hints about the bigger picture. The series’ visuals continue to impress me. While many writers try to bury Twine’s most familiar story format with code, Alan DeNiro keeps the bones and puts new flesh on them, resulting in a funky, distinctive look.

There’s a major fork in this episode worth noting. One path follows a Dunsany war tale and the other reintroduces the mysterious voice from episode one (denoted by changes to background and type). (Spoiler - click to show)The voice belongs to a guardian angel of sorts, who hints at vague danger and provides a password that might keep you (the Tester? See below) safe. I enjoyed both, but the second branch seems more critical to the overarching narrative than the first.

My gripe is that I'm not sure how I relate to the Tester. So far, the series has primarily been a reading experience (as opposed to playing), but at one point in this episode I definitely felt like a player character. I’m intrigued but confused: did I make a choice on behalf of the Tester, or did he choose his own answer to the same question before I came along?

Closing thoughts: I like this series. You should play it. Also, are the folks at BUCOLIC ehf. really just "four friends in Iceland?" I think not, but that detail amuses me.

CONSPIRACY CORNER: Dunsany’s short story “Carcassonne” has been referenced in both episodes. It concerns a foolish ruler who enlists his entire kingdom to search for a legendary city (they don’t find it). On a related note, the Tester is referred to as “Mr.Aguirre.” You may recall a real-life Aguirre who, like the king in "Carcassonne," had a bad time searching for a legendary city…

TUNDRA, by PaperBlurt
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Feu de Joie (Session 1): cathedral, by Alan DeNiro
Inventive and unsettling, May 10, 2015
by Andrew Watt (Los Angeles, California)
The reader experience of Feu de Joie is that of browsing an online archive, and the first passages are appropriately dry. The tester’s helpful notes become more confused and uncomfortable as the material gets weirder. To generate that weirdness, DeNiro inventively exploits Twine’s roots in web design. The artless presentation of the client’s work makes them seem incompetent (and non-threatening), so when text blurs, fades, and becomes unaccountably janky, it’s surprisingly disturbing.

I enjoyed the contrast between Dunsany's cultivated prose and the tester’s more conversational notes (the novel House of Leaves comes to mind). It’s amusing at first, but becomes unsettling when the text seems to return the tester's gaze. The tester’s a smart guy, but I worried for him, as I would for a horror movie character (“Don’t open that door!”), and I fear that something terrible is in store for him.

Do read the tester’s first letter to Martha before beginning Session 1. It establishes who he is and what’s at stake for him. This first episode is brief but involving, and teases at unsettling developments to come. An intriguing story, and imaginatively designed.

Disclaimer: I recently pledged to support Feu de Joie on Patreon.

You Were Here, by Joshua Houk

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Moving and amusing, February 11, 2015
by Andrew Watt (Los Angeles, California)
I really enjoyed both You Were Here and If is Dead. Long Live IF. The loud criticisms of these pieces aren't exactly wrong, but they seem to willfully overlook what makes Houk's work special. In both cases, he uses the medium to celebrate the medium, and the results are funnier and more moving (if less in-depth) than, say, a comprehensive blog post. Yes, it was frustrating to read a great line in You Were Here and have no idea how to find the corresponding game, but my experience overall was one of admiration for all of the great stories that were told last year. I hope that Houk makes more pieces like these. He clearly loves IF, and I enjoyed seeing the medium from his perspective.

Chipotle Simulator, by SahibdeepNann

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
So much food, December 18, 2014
by Andrew Watt (Los Angeles, California)
Those burritos are huge! I didn't even get close to finishing this one. In fact, (Spoiler - click to show)I don't think you can. No matter how much I ate, there was always more waiting for me (a cursed blessing if ever there was). It was nice of the author to include guac in the vanilla game, rather than sell it as a $1.80 DLC.

Ghost Highland Way, by Harry Giles

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Read it out loud, December 7, 2014
by Andrew Watt (Los Angeles, California)
Don't let the challenge of interpreting Scots turn you away from Ghost Highland Way. It's beautifully evocative, and its randomization and short length easily justify multiple playthroughs. I used the dictionary on my first go-round, but only a little. The language and its cadences are as essential to this gamepoem as the content (if not more), and by your second playthrough (especially if you sound the words out), you'll start to get it. (Sort of like my favorite foreign films, and how I barely read the subtitles when I revisit them.) The structure, line spacing, and simple presentation effectively serve the wistful tone and thoughtful pace. Well worth your time.

Capsule, by PaperBlurt
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