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Reviews by verityvirtue

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View this member's reviews by tag: 2018 choleric ECTOCOMP ECTOCOMP 2016 IFComp 2015 IFComp 2016 IFComp 2017 Introcomp Ludum Dare melancholic melancholic phlegmatic melancholy parser phlegmatic Ren'Py sanguine Spring Thing 2015 Spring Thing 2016 sub-Q Tiny Utopias
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Nightfall, by Eric Eve

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Slightly generic espionage work in an unnamed town against an unnamed enemy, June 30, 2019
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
Premise: You're one of the last people in the town. Everyone else has fled on the government's orders, on threat of an unknown Enemy (yes, capital E).

Nightfall is technically proficient, featuring several good examples of parser conveniences. The player can use the "GO TO" command to navigate the substantial map, and there is an impressive amount of content to explore.

I found the sheer number of memories available slightly overwhelming, even if most of them appear almost… trivial. Memories sparked by visiting certain places for the first time are indexed for future reference, though not all of the memories turn out to be important for progressing in the story.

The swelling inventory is disambiguated, but in a way that shows off the underlying skeleton of the parser format. Items of the same kind are colour-coded, like one might find in a point-and-click game (does anyone even remember those any more?!), whose artificiality becomes more obvious the more time one spends with non-parser or more modern, naturalistic games.

I found it hard to suspend disbelief starting from the premise. The town in Nightfall has the air of an unimportant town caught in the thrall of international politics, a little like Salisbury was to UK politics in 2018. The game remains infuriatingly vague about specifics, though, and do not offer too much information payoff for following a lead. If anything, the character motivations struck me as being a bit threadbare. The player character appears to be motivated mostly by an obsession with the unnamed female character, whose motivations we never understand - we cannot even infer it from the PC's memories of her - until the ending.

Nightfall is a large and mostly well-constructed game. The espionage setting will be familiar to denizens of the parser format, and despite everything I could still enjoy the game. Recommended.

(This review was based on the IFComp version on IFDB.)

Bogeyman, by Elizabeth Smyth

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A horrifying story told with fairytale elements, November 6, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic phlegmatic
(Warning: This review might contain spoilers. Click to show the full review.)[Abduction, violence against children, abuse]

Although the titular character is framed as the bogeymen of children’s stories, to another eye - an adult eye, probably - he is a more quotidian, though no less terrifying variety of criminal. Fairytale elements meld easily with real-life methods of cruelty and control: the strange food and drink; the deserted cabin in the middle of the woods; turning frightened people on each other.

Bogyeman is largely linear, but where there are choices, they are difficult - emotional dilemmas most of them, choices between self-gain and protecting your fellow captives.

In other aspects, it’s simply a good game. Its slick design reminds me of A Good Wick, though much more readable. The layout of choices, especially where they concern exploring a space, are laid out to reflect that space. This has been one of the things that I found difficult when building a map of the story world during choice-based games. The directions I can explore are almost always laid out in lines of text, which I must translate in my head to how they would look on a diagram.

Bogeyman is certainly not an easy-going read, but grim and focused and well worth playing.


Phone in Mouth, by Leon Arnott

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Surreal cyberpunk-esque thought experiment/cautionary tale, September 13, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: choleric
This is a surreal story about… having your phone in your mouth. It’s more cyberpunk than it sounds, promise, and delivers a complete narrative arc in not very many words at all.

Arnott captures the craving for that rush of neurotransmitters that social media is designed to deliver, but transforms it into something a bit more insidious. (Spoiler - click to show)The titular phenomenon (yes) forms a whole subculture by itself, into something meshed into the fabric of society.

Phone in Mouth is less of a fully-formed dystopian story, but almost more like a thought experiment. It ponders what wearable technologies could possibly look like, then what it might look like when it all goes wrong. It is a little on the nose as a cautionary tale, with shades of 1984 - but then again, looking behind the scenes at companies like Amazon seems to suggest that whatever you can imagine, there’s probably a company doing worse.

Bloody Raoul, by Caleb Wilson (as Ian Cowsbell)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Comic violence with an ornate edge, September 12, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: choleric
The game world suggests one accustomed to sudden, almost comic violence, where one’s weapons are identity. The comic aspect, however, takes some of the edge (ahem, mind the pun) off: to aid surgery, for instance, the PC comes with a “pectoral zipper”.

The world described here is festering and disgusting, but with the embellished, ornate language, the terse phrasing, we readers are, at least, one step away from all that.

(Spoiler - click to show)It is striking that there are no completely happy endings here. There is no escape to a less violent future - not without relinquishing your identity as a knife punk. As much as I would love to see more in the same universe, I get the feel that this universe is most intriguing in small snippets.

Bloody Raoul is brutish and short, but not nasty at all. If you liked this, you might like The Unstoppable Vengeance of Doctor Bonesaw, from the same author.

Hexteria Skaxis Qiameth, by Gabriel Floriano
Some ideas about language untethered to story, September 9, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: phlegmatic
This is a game about forming words and the nature of language. You can flick through clusters of syllables to form nigh unpronounceable words which later form the names of languages and places.

It calls to mind, for me, Emily Short’s procedurally generated almanac, The Annals of the Parrigues, as well as the style of 500 Apocalypses. The style is slightly formal, as one might find in a Borges short story. Polysyllabic words dot the prose like raisins in a bagel. HSQ includes the phrase “it's [sic] decipherment like a feverish hallucination”; the same applies to reading this game sometimes.

HSQ will probably make more sense if you’re familiar with linguistics concepts. Languages can be formed with different “basic units of thought”, and so on. And all this would be fascinating if there was a chance to use this knowledge practically.

Dear reader, there was not.

HSQ presents some rather interesting and original ideas, but without a narrative arc to bind everything together, remains an idea - an interesting one, but not quite a story.

Missive, by Joey Fu

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A large Twine game with optional word puzzles, September 9, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Missive starts with the familiar my-grubby-apartment setting, but really it's about a murder mystery wrapped in word puzzles - armchair detective work at its finest. An alternative headline for this would naturally be "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

The puzzles are optional, not connected, and of the cryptic crossword type. A phrase in the text might prompt the reader to look for, say, every third letter of each word. These were pretty fun, even if most of the puzzles were completely unintelligible to me.

Good if you like cryptic crosswords and lots of wordplay loosely connected to plot.

Yesterday, You Saved the World, by Astrid Dalmady
A subverted magical girl story with surprising parallels, September 9, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: choleric, sanguine
[Time to completion: 15-20 minutes]

Yesterday explores what happens when the excitement over and the gilt is peeling. You are Lucy Newman, in eighth grade, but yesterday you were a Stellar Warrior. You had to face off The Void alone. And today, you have to wake up and go to school.

Two groups came to mind, reading this, who would probably identify with the PC strongly.

The first: those labelled as “gifted” in childhood. The burden of expectation from family, school, society lies on you, but you get all the wrong support. All the support to develop your abilities - to win all the competitions, ace all the exams - and too little to equip you emotionally and psychologically.

The second: those who do jobs that require them to run towards danger - emergency services, healthcare, mental health services, social work. You are the help that people call for. Sometimes you face things that terrify you, absolute disasters on a scale big or small, and you run out of resources, knowledge and wits. Yet, you can’t abscond from your responsibilities, and when you go back into the “normal world”, you have no words to explain to your friends outside this line

Structurally, Yesterday flashes back and forth between the PC’s life as a schoolgirl and her previous magical girl life. This is further set off by a parallel choice structure. Yesterday also uses the limited choices afforded by the CYOA format to illustrate character development.

Amongst many other things - a vivid protagonist, thoughtful design, a subversion on the magical girl narrative - Yesterday is a really good example of how a choice-based narrative can play with choices to reinforce the story.

Relic, by Caelyn Sandel
A strange little artifact indeed, September 9, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
[Briefly mentions a nearly abusive relationship. Time to completion: 15-20 mins]

Relic is a largely linear piece of interactive fiction about a salvage collector who chances upon an incredibly valuable figurine - but there appears to be something wrong with it…

Relic is set in a universe that melds cyberpunk technology - think handsets and novel plastics - and earthy magic, but the technology and even the magic merely forms the backdrop. The world building details are more of a focus and filter for social issues and tensions that also exist in our current world. What matters, then, is the people, and the story.

Sandel’s conception of the lore and traditions around the salvage community will doubtless be familiar to anyone who has even dabbled in such interests as stamp collecting and comic books - those interests commonly relegated to “hobby” status, but which attract lots of gatekeeping. In particular, those who purport to maintain quality within the community disproportionately exclude minorities.

Relic may look plain at first glance, but this would be to overlook a cracking good story.

How To Be A Blackbird, by Holly Gramazio
Finding beauty in the small things, September 1, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
[Time to completion: 10-20 mins]

The blackbird is one of the most common birds, certainly in the UK, but surprisingly beautiful in the right light. Its feathers are black speckled with white, or so glossy black they shine blue; they are small but complete, and perfectly formed.

Holly Gramazio’s How to be a Blackbird captures the same sense of finding beauty in the smallest of things, using playful text effects, a stream of consciousness style of writing, even the background noises that make up this game’s soundtrack.

This game is a pleasure to play: it is a world not without worries, but with no bad endings, starring a character incredibly comfortable in their own body (with the glossiest feathers and the prettiest song).

Winter Storm Draco, by Ryan Veeder

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A grimly playful exploration of a winter landscape, September 1, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: melancholic
Winter Storm Draco is a moody traipse through an over-snowed path, but with some strange sights on the way.

Winter Storm Draco is a game that is well-suited to its format. It plays on one of the strengths of the parser format, by allowing the author to wrench control from the player at key moments - first in navigation, when even the compass directions so ubiquitous in parser games mean nothing; later, in the end-scene.

I relied on the walkthrough in several parts but mostly there were textual clues enough to let a reader canny with parser game conventions to proceed without too much difficulty.

It has the signature self-referential, dry wit that came through so markedly in Nautilisia, though Winter Storm Draco is a little more introspective, a little grimmer. Overall, enjoyable and atmospheric.


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