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Reviews by Rovarsson

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Divis Mortis, by Lynnea Dally

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Do Zombies go to heaven when they, uhm...?, January 2, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
A zombie game in a closed building where you wake up all alone with no memory of how you got there; all while the living dead could break through the door any minute. Yeah, I know...
Play this one though. It's very polished and well implemented. There's lots to explore, and examine. And you learn a lot about barricades: how to erect them properly if the creatures mustn't get through, how to get through them if you yourself must. Also: chemistry, yaay!

The game has a twist at the end, but you must be blind and deaf not to have felt it coming. Still nice though.

I particularly liked the epilogue. It gives Divis Mortis some gravitas, albeit after the fact. (Well, it is an epilogue...)

The Lost Labyrinth of Lazaitch, by Larry Horsfield

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Strawmen, trolls and unicorns. Oh My!, December 25, 2019
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
"The Lost Labyrinth of Lazaitch" is a type of game I miss in newer IF. It's an oldschool fantasy text adventure. Period.

No deep metaphors for our pressing modern times, no personal symbolism about overcoming your deepest fear, no soul-searching tale about spiritual enlightenment.

You are Alaric, a Hero. Somewhere to the East is a Magic Book of great importance. Obstacles and enemies are between you and said book. Overcome them and get the Book. Period.

Aaah, good times!

Be sure to bring your brain, because we all know Heroes need all the help they can get in that department, especially with puzzles like in LLL. Not too hard, but enough to get you scratching your head.
This way, they are both funny and engaging, not frustrating. Just remember the 3 IF commandments: Read, Explore, Examine.

Also bring your imagination, because on your way you will see beautiful and horrifying sights. May you be the first to live and tell the world about the troll-bowl or the Red Tower.

Full disclosure: I playtested this game.

Metamorphoses, by Emily Short

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A dreamlike search for..., December 14, 2019
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
First off, some tech-stuff: This game is, hands-down, the most deeply implemented piece of Interactive Fiction I have ever played or heard of. Along with that, it also provides an amazing freedom of experimentation. This is no sandbox, this is Dune.

The puzzles are,partly because of the aforementioned freedom, not hard. They are sensible and great fun. Choose your own logical approach and try it. Many different solutions will work, and those that don't will not work for a reason. Very rewarding.

The story is very much for the player to fill in. Lady Short gives you the backbone elements of a story of personal growth and inner realization, up to you to interpret it. The many different endings also give you many possible interpretations.

The writing is crisp and clear, giving Metamorphoses that dreamlike quality. The descriptions are detailed enough to be practical, without excess decoration. Exactly because of the sparse descriptions, the imagination has ample room to dream up it's own version of your surroundings.

Maybe the biggest puzzle here is the quest for completeness.A reverse read-the-author's-mind problem. When playing (and replaying) ask yourself, "What has Emily Short NOT thought of?"

Very, very good game.

Aotearoa, by Matt Wigdahl

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
I befriended a Dinosaur. His name is Hopper., December 12, 2019
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Aotearoa has an extremely cool premise: An excursion to a Maori island where Dinos still live. Two things that are smack-dab in the middle of my interest zone.

Unfortunately, my piping hot enthusiasm soon went to lukewarm appreciation. Yes, it's fun to name your dino-friends. The puzzles are good. The game has a great children's adventure story on an unknown island. The confrontation with the poachers is exciting.
A good game, a nice diversion for an hour or so, but not so memorable.

That being said, a ten-year-old me would have given this game a raving review, replayed it to give the dinos all different names, pulled out the books to look up Maori culture (which the now-me should do too!), and would have had dreams about this adventure for at least a week.

Given the target audience, I think ten-year-old me's opinion has more weight, so I'll push my rating up a star.

Play it with a kid, if one of those is available.

Risorgimento Represso, by Michael J. Coyne

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Urbanly Fun Fantastic Romp, December 10, 2019
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
(Well, it actually plays out as much around the city as in it, but I have my reasons...)

First things first: It has a cannon! -Hmm?.. Yes, I'll wait...

Now, Risorgimento Represso is a very good puzzler. Because the main puzzles center around the same theme, completing the first (silly) task before you is one big trial run to prepare you for what's to come. It gets you comfortable with the feel and humorous tone of the game. It also teaches you what details to look for and trains you in the specific puzzle-solving mindset you need for the game.

All the puzzles are well thought-out and in-game logical; on top of that, you might pop an eyeball or two laughing while solving them.

Storywise, Risorgimento makes fantastic use of the Wizard's Apprentice-trope. The whole concept gets the player and the PC on a shared learning curve, facing the same obstacles, and scratching their heads at the same times. I found this really heightened my involvement with my character and with the story.

There's a great build-up of tension, from playful exploration and experimentation to seriously hard thinking about how to save your Master. That's a good learning curve ŕnd a good immersion curve for you!

So, go shoot that cannon, those of you who haven't done so already; and don't smell the paint thinner, it's bad for you.

Glowgrass, by Nate Cull

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Nice immersive sci-fi bit., December 8, 2019
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
One of the first IFs I ever played. I then thought it was fantastic. Upon replay, with many more games to compare it to, it can still hold its own.

Spatially, it's a small game. A house, a garage and a garden (where the eponymous Glowgrass grows. Beautiful image.) The feel of the game is larger though, thanks to a sort of VR-device you find in the house. The heart of the story, the backstory of the people who once lived in the house is to be found there.

Not much puzzlewise, nothing that a curious mind can't handle without hints. (and one small how-do-I-phrase-this-so-the-game-understands puzzle).

Good moving story, well recommended.

Babel, by Ian Finley

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Classic Second Era., December 8, 2019
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Babel. What a game. During my first tentative journeys into IF-land, I stumbled across this deep, dark psychological horrorstory. I recently replayed it and it's still as haunting as it was then.

Do not riff on Babel for using the amnesia-trope. I have seldom seen it used so effectively as a source of suspense in IF. No lazy author here, but a tried and true storytelling technique that takes the reader down into the deep with it. Think Dr. Jeckyl.

Early modern IF that it is, Babel sometimes relies heavily on non-interactive scenes to make sure the player sees the whole story. I don't mind this one bit, I am as much a reader as a player, but I know this bothers some people.

The story is great, albeit not very original in this genre. Well told, well paced. The surroundings are fantastic, I thought. Varied enough to avoid feeling buried in a tunnel, without losing the thrill of the dungeon-feel.

The puzzles are not so hard, as long as you are patient enough to stick to The Adventurers Code: Read! Explore! Examine!

All in all, a true classic of the modern age.

Earth and Sky, by Paul O'Brian

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Don your supersuit and try it out!, December 7, 2019
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
This is a very short but enjoyable game.

The first part is mostly an introduction to the characters. You talk to your brother via a choice-menu, which gives the author the chance to put a lot of the brother-sister dynamics into the conversations. Downside is the almost mechanical ticking off of options.

In this part you can also experiment to your hearts content with the powersuit you found. Very much fun!

The second part switches quite abruptly to a big boss-fight. Use the skills you've learned to subdue the monster.

That's it. Short, easy, fun. That's all you need sometimes.

City of Secrets, by Emily Short

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Large, engrossing,... and somewhat lacking., December 6, 2019
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Emily Short is one of my favourite IF-writers, and when I found this big story-game with her name under the title, I pounced on it!

And it is good. Apart from being an immersive adventure and a detailed exploration of a fine city, deeper themes also shine through.

Truth above obscurity, even if truth also means complete transparency?

Creativity above strict order, even if creativity also means chaos?

The writing is top-notch, the NPC interactions feel real, the city and it's history hold the interest, but in the end, the game misses something.

Is it because the game is so good that I raised the bar impossibly high?

Finding an outdoor café where there were no interactive NPCs and where nothing story-moving happened disappointed me.
Finding out that a little nook in the gameworld, about which I dreamed up many possibilities, didn't play a role in the story didn't feel like a red herring, it felt like a let-down.
Finding out that certain information I found about my character didn't matter to the game was a pity.

But those are nitpicks, and very personal nitpicks at that.

This game is very very good. Just not as amazing as I really really wanted it to be. And that's on me.

So play it.

Sub Rosa, by Joey Jones, Melvin Rangasamy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Sshh. It's a secret., December 6, 2019
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
First location: Leathery Cliff. I was hooked.

The concept of the game is intriguing: Political espionage to undermine the position of someone of high societal standing.

You break in to a marvelously described and well-implemented mansion to find evidence that the owner of said house has unacceptable secrets. Some of these secrets are hidden in plain sight, others take quite a bit of examining, searching, and doing rather improbable things.

The puzzles range from "Just X and search and you'll find something" to using inconspicuous objects to unusual ends.

Getting out of the house without compromising your own trustworthiness is as important as getting in in the first place. (And both are hard.)

Very good and rewarding game. Very replayable too, if you left some loose ends the first time (or didn't understand where the loose ends came from.)


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