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Reviews by Stian

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View this member's reviews by tag: Spring Thing 2018 Spring Thing 2019
1-7 of 7

Tethered, by Linus Ňkesson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A slightly unique masterpiece, May 18, 2019
Wow! Tethered was good on so many levels. It's short, but exactly as long as it needs to be. I spent roughly an hour with it and was left both impressed and emotionally affected. Every obstacle felt like a necessary part of the story, while the player's progression was usually slightly different than expected, resulting in an experience both familiar and unique.

There are several things for the player to figure out. In most cases, I would probably refer to them as puzzles. Here, it felt like the wrong term; they're so intertwined with the story (a story that is deep and serious but never in a way that feels didactic or overly dramatic) that I hardly noticed them. It's not often (with any medium) that my experience is so immersive.

Although I expect that the author could have made a more or less equally good story in any IF language, the several little things that were unique in Tethered made me think of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity. While it in general would be silly to apply such thoughts to most programming languages (their differences being so well-defined), this is obviously not the case for IF authoring languages. Some things are more difficult in Inform 7 and therefore rarely done, something that fundamentally affects the story. A new language, such as the author's Dialog, represents an opportunity to do new things in old ways and old things in new, something Ňkesson succeeded with rather perfectly.

The Empty Chamber: A Celia Swift Mystery, by Tom Sykes

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Great premise, too short, May 13, 2019
by Stian
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2019
I was seriously disappointed with this game; it was over far to quickly!

Already from the opening introduction I was feeling very hopeful, anticipating some properly stimulating problem solving. Typing the recommended help command only served to intrigue me further:

This is a story set inside one room, which you can regard by typing look (or simply l). There's no need to move around, but there are plenty of things to examine (x), to touch, and even to smell, and various fixtures to open or close. You won't find any items to pick up - this is a crime scene, after all - but Celia always carries her lockpick, just in case she needs to unlock something.

Typing map (m) will show you the room layout, while deduce will trigger the ending sequence - note that you can do this at any time. You may also want to ask land about relevant topics, such as the victim, or Celia herself.

I really enjoy one-room puzzlefests, and this was almost one of the better ones, had it only been longer. The protagonist is cool (and played in third, not second, person!) and while the two side characters are stereotypes, they work really well in this setting. Speaking of the setting, it's lovely too, though limited by the constraints of the game.

After about one hour of fun, intensively looking for clues and connecting dots, I was feeling properly stuck. I decided then to try the deduce command, which triggers the ending, and discovered that I had, well, discovered everything and solved the game. (Spoiler - click to show)I hadn't even found the bullet (I assume it went out the window, but couldn't see where it ended up), let alone understood why Hackett decided to end his life.

I really hope we'll see a longer version of this game, or more parser IF from the author!

Founder's Mercy, by Thomas Insel
Minimalistic sci-fi, May 13, 2019
by Stian
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2019
This is a relatively short and easy game, though not really too easy.

Founderís Mercy is strikingly minimalistic; descriptions are kept to a minimum and the command set is very limited. While this fits the alone-on-a-space-station setting and the nondescript protagonist (is he/she/it even human?) very well, it does leave a lot of question marks with regards to the story. You do get a bit of the back history by (Spoiler - click to show)activating the hologram in the school, but I would have loved to hear more, to understand more. As it is, I was more motivated to solve the puzzles because they were puzzles than in order to advance the story.

The puzzles are all on the easy side, partly due to the limited inventory and command set, but generally not too obvious.

I guess I had hoped for some mind-blowing revelations or mind-boggling mysteries that never came, but still, I had an enjoyable two hours with Founderís Mercy.

Oh, and I really loved the feelies PDF!

Porter Cave Adventure, by Cam Miller
Not really a game, May 13, 2019
by Stian
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2019
This felt less as a game, and more like a pedagogical exercise. The way through it is linear and underway, the player is met with quotes relevant to game theory that shines light on the purpose of what they are doing or just did. As such, there are no real puzzles here, though Iím sure many will appreciate the IF meta-perspectives laid out in this manner.

The mechanics were a bit too unpolished for my taste. Most things listed cannot be examined, and some of the verbs needed to advance were impossible for me to guess. However, in this case, using the walkthrough didnít really spoil anything.

Porter Cave Adventure is a neat way of explaining game concepts, but donít expect an immersive game experience.

Scroll Thief, by Daniel M. Stelzer
A proper puzzlefeast with spells, May 13, 2019
Although Scroll Thief is said to be an unofficial sequel to some famous Infocom games, any unfamiliarity with those should not deter anyone from playing Scroll Thief. At least it did not me, and Iím all the happier for it.

Most of the game deals with understanding and using spells to obtain more spells, and this was at times deviously tricky. The back story sustains the puzzles perfectly and is capturing enough to fuel a puzzled puzzler forward. A particularly impressive point of note is that Scroll Thief contains some really new (for me at least) and interesting way of interacting with NPCís.

When first starting the game and reading about how to do all the magic stuff, I was afraid that it would be a bit overwhelming and/or tedious with all the copying and preparing and scrying and whatnot, but this was actually much easier than my first impressions implied. It turned out these things were automagically simplified for the player.

There were a few things I found confusing, however. Scroll Thief is listed as polite on the cruelty scale, but seeing this actually prevented me from progressing in the beginning; the proper way to move forward gives the same warning as one that (presumably) would prevent the player from winning. Also, several puzzles have multiple solutions, which I generally condone, but here, for me, these ended up as red herrings that took me a lot of time to unsuccessfully figure out.

The second act of the game went much smoother, and having learned how to best utilize the magic at my disposal it was simply pure fun. Then it suddenly ended.

The Angel Curse, by David Welbourn
A fun five minutes, April 29, 2019
There's nothing wrong with this game (as previous ratings may suggest), at least if you don't hate short games. Puzzle-wise, it contains just a few obstacles to overcome, and story-wise it's a quickie with a fun twist. It's a speed IF, and a decent one at that.

Sherlock Indomitable, by mathbrush

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Perfectly straightforward, April 3, 2019
by Stian
Related reviews: Spring Thing 2018
In this game, the author introduced some very specific commands that allows the player to enter the mind of Sherlock Holmes. This, I thought, was rather brilliant, such as combining thoughts to create conjectures, or looking up information in Sherlock's vast attic of factual memories.

Where the game falls short is as a puzzle. The player is always told how to proceed, and there were no proper challenges. Ultimately, the player ends up hitching a ride with Sherlock, rather than playing him.

I'd really love to see the same game mechanism used for further Sherlock games, offering a significantly higher difficulty.

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