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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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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.

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).

Best Gopher Ever, by Arthur DiBianca

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Do a good deed for fun and (a small) profit!, April 8, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine, 2018
This is a pared-down parser game with an exceedingly straightforward premise - help the animals in the town for a small profit! The setting is pastel-colour simple, with friendly NPCs; the puzzles, relatively straightforward retrieval tasks.

This game has several player-friendly features which fans may be familiar with from DiBianca’s previous work: an ASCII map and a running summary of your progress.

Overall, an enjoyable, light game - possibly one you could play with a friend. If anything, possibly even a little frothy. If you liked this, you might like Foo Foo. Same talking-animal setting, but playing on noir tropes, and with crime at its heart.

The Mayor and the Machine, by J. Marie

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A meta, self-aware not-quite parody, April 2, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
[Time to completion: 15-20 mins]

You are the mayor of the hilariously named Buttsville and, as you deal with the various problems (like the city breaking down around you), there’s a mysterious tool, left to you by your predecessor. A button that allows direct contact to… the Authority. How much will you rely on that omniscient, omnipotent force?

For such a jokey setup, most of the game is quite earnest in following through all the awful things that can happen to a city.

One playthrough is relatively short, but with frequent branching and checkpoints, it’s quite replayable.

Foo Foo, by Buster Hudson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Sharp-witted noir under a fluffy covering, March 30, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
If you like Jasper Fforde’s Jack Sprat series, a novel series giving a noir spin to nursery rhymes, you’ll probably enjoy this. All the field mice have been leaving town; someone’s been bopping heads - and it’s up to you, Fairy Detective, to find out why.

Hudson’s writing is extremely readable, and while the characters may be talking fluffy animals, there is sharpness underneath. The forces working in the town are the familiar push and pull of racism and the search for better opportunities, anthropomorphism or not.

Foo Foo is directed enough that I could figure most things out with just a little guidance and some in-game hints. Overall a well-written murder mystery, with an intriguing setting that I enjoyed.

Accuse, by David A. Wheeler

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A tiny logic puzzle in Inform, March 25, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
A short, minimal puzzle parser game, with a similar concept to Clue, in which you have to figure out the location of a murderer, the weapon used and the murderer. As a slight complication, you can’t use the same element (location, weapon or murderer) in consecutive accusations.

There are some self-referencing Easter egg-style props, and characters that sound like they could be condiments on a fried egg, but the game is basically that. If you’re used to this kind of game, one playthrough could take about 5 minutes. A little rough around the edges, but it’s a bit like one of those little plastic toys you can fidget with.

Victorian Detective, by Peter Carlson
Mildly entertaining detective romp, January 22, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
Time to completion: 45 mins - 1 hour

One of the top-rated games on textadventures.co.uk, Victorian Detective has you take on the persona of a distinctly Sherlockian police detective to solve a murder.

The structure of the game is, intentionally or not, very similar to the Conan Doyle stories, in that the titular detective makes an impressive but slightly far-fetched inference about some tiny observation, which determines the entire course of the investigation. Victorian Detective rewards detailed reading by carefully firing Chekhov's guns, even if the clues given are sometimes frankly esoteric (Spoiler - click to show)(I don't know, but can you identify the smell of haddock compared to other fish? This isn't Toby's Nose!).

Although this game predates Toby's Nose, the way both games get the reader to come to their own conclusions is quite similar, and indeed constructing a web of clues for the reader to pick apart is no mean feat.

This game is relatively well thought out. Occasional illustrations add a whimsical tone to the story, and in at least one point serves as a plot point. Not the most solid mystery, but mildly entertaining.

Off the Rails, by Katie Benson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Going down a familiar route, January 19, 2018
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine, IFComp 2017
You're on the train to meet your family for the weekend, and the thought fills you with dread.

The cover suggests a cutesy story aimed at younger readers; the blurb suggests something deeper, with a hint of unhappy family life.

Vague allusions to emotional baggage (at least in the branches that I played through) and a mundane beginning taps on a common urge in IF, though not necessarily the most attention-grabbing. Infrequent binary choices are sprinkled in the midst of linear text. The sheer amount of linearity actually hides the broad branching, and players might be put off from replaying by the verbosity. Conciseness would have helped this game, but at least one of the branches is weird enough to warrant all this.

Off the Rails has some good ideas, but could be more compellingly presented.

Inevitable, by Matthew Pfeiffer

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Very brief subversion of an escape room adventure, November 3, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
You are a maverick (and frankly dangerous) scientist, and, at long last, you have your crowning glory: the time scryer! Allowing you to see into the future - well, ten minutes - it might finally be your way out of obscurity…

The premise - which you might have guessed from the “escape your fate adventure” description - was intriguing. I’d expected something like (Spoiler - click to show)My Angel or The Art of Fugue, which play around with delayed actions, but Inevitable is so short that that never really comes into play. There simply isn’t space for repeated themes, because there’s no space for repetition.

This game’s style is jocular in the way that, say, Peregrine Wade’s work is. Its brevity means that the humour and style never gets overbearing; on the other hand, the payoff could definitely have been more dramatic.

I’ll admit that I’m not fond of the “mad scientist” genre. Works in this genre rarely seem to acknowledge the incremental nature of empirical scientific research. Also: unappreciated brilliance does not a maverick scientist make — rather, it is the lack of accountability; the refusal to document anything; the insistence on unsafe practices. But that has little to do with this game - so that’s all I will say now.

The Very Old Witch and the Turnip Girl, by Megan Stevens

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The pastel-hued story of a world-weary witch, October 28, 2017
by verityvirtue (London)
Related reviews: sanguine
You play a very old witch who’s not quite at the end of her life… and she feels like something is missing.

Witchcraft, here, runs along the lines of Pratchett’s practical, world-wise witches. Our witch is fully equipped with hexes and curses, but also browses mail catalogues for entertainment. Her attempts at plugging the gap in her life are quite old-style witch, though, including seeking out motherhood. Women finding their fulfilment in motherhood is not a new story. This game subverts it - though I would have been delighted if this had been lampshaded with a bit more of the spunk that the witch PC herself shows.

The Very Old Witch eschews anything more than a veneer of branching narrative, making this mostly a work of dynamic fiction. Nonetheless, it’s not too tedious to click through this linear story - and indeed I think I would have enjoyed this as a short story. There are areas where I would have appreciated a more biting wit - the titular characters don’t quite take things lying down, yet this isn’t always conveyed so well in their dialogue. Overall, The Very Old Witch reads with the simplicity of a children’s story, with some uniquely urban/modern twists.


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