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Reviews by Rovarsson

Fantasy

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The Dreamhold, by Andrew Plotkin

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Snippets of a mage's life, October 17, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy
I played The Dreamhold in tutorial-mode. The tutorial voice was really well done, providing not only a basic introduction to IF but also guidance to certain puzzles and avenues of possibilities deep into the game proper. It never gets too intrusive.

There is an immense castle/dungeon to explore, with quite a complex layout. I like making my own maps, so this was a fun excercise on its own. You start off in a recognizable, habitable few rooms, and the further you venture from that center, the more varied and fantastic the locations get. There are a few vantage points up above. The wide sunlit vistas from these are a nice contrast to the dark feeling in the rest of the castle.

The puzzles in tutorial-mode are well-clued and solvable without hints, provided that you are well and truly engaged in solving this game. Especially near the end it is neccesary to understand what you have learned during your journey, instead of just having gone through the motions.

The sunlit vistas I mentioned are welcome sources of light and space in this game. I would have welcomed just a sprinkling of comic relief or self-deprecating humor from the PC to break the sad-and-gloom atmosphere a bit more. After some time searching the halls and domes the air in the castle starts weighing on the player's mind.

The implementation goes very deep, for scenery-objects as well as for "wrong" commands. Most things the player tries are recognized and their impossibility or impracticality explained, instead of getting a standard sarcastic snarl.

Fun, big, entertaining. Three stars for now, maybe more when I replay in expert-mode.

Savoir-Faire, by Emily Short

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
(mostly) Logical Magic, October 11, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy, History
I had been putting of playing Savoir Faire because it is a) an old school puzzle hunt which b) depends on magic. Two things I do not particularly enjoy when playing IF.
However, after succesfully completing the puzzly Theatre with very few hints, I decided to take on Emily Short's challenge. It was great!

The reason I dislike most magic is that it feels superficial. A bunch of floaty blabla about "words of power" that somehow control the essence of things doesn't appeal to me.
In Savoir Faire, most of the puzzles depend on the Lavori d'Aracne, a magic system that lets the practitioner LINK objects. That way there is at least a hint of a physical connection between the objects and the practitioner of magic. These links also depend on a material likeness of the objects, so the magic system feels more like the use of an extra property of nature than a violation of it.

At the start of the game, your PC is almost too obnoxious to even be an anti-hero. Coming to the house you grew up in to ask for money to help with gambling debts, finding that your adoptive father and sister are not there while you expected them to be, and then going on to loot the place? Not very nice, to put it mildly. Through the snippets of backstory you find through memory and exploration though, he is somewhat redeemed (somewhat, that is.)

The setting, the mansion of the count who took in the PC, makes quite an impression through the near-perfect prose of Emily Short. Descriptions are terse, only the bare necessities there, with an ever so delicate sprinkling of detail. Examining further however opens up layers of feeling and meaning about the rooms and furniture, so that the player is drawn into this world. Extremely well done!

Because of the use of magic, I tagged this game "fantasy", but it's actually more an alternate history, where the old France is precisely the same as it was, with the addition of this extra set of natural laws, i.e. the Lavori d'Aracne.

Hard puzzles, but all of them logical; many alternative solutions (except one I found so obvious that I was disappointed not to have it work: (Spoiler - click to show)To uncork a bottle you link the cork to your sword and then draw the sword. To my mind it made much more sense within the magic system to put the sponge in the drain, then link the cork to the sponge and pull out the sponge.)
And even when you're stuck you can relax while playing with the mechanical cooking contraption (which is very reminiscent of the contraptions in Metamorphoses)

Great game!

The Chinese Room, by Harry Giles and Joey Jones

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The dream of a brain in a vat full of liquor., October 8, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy
"The Chinese Room" posed a hard problem to my consciousness: three stars or four?

First off: nits to pick.
-Very annoying typos and misspellings ("er" instead of "her"), the consistent use of quotation marks instead of apostrophes (plover"s eggs).
-Many nouns or synonyms not recognized.
-Shoddy implementation of a cool device (the qualiascope)

-A rather big nit: there is an unmentioned path northwest from the beach.

My consciousness decided on four stars however.

-Although the game has no real story, the diverse puzzles are tightly held together by a very cool and engaging framework, the land of philosophical thought experiments.
-The puzzles are very well thought out, and more often than not very funny.
-Extensive background information, a crash course in the history of philosophy that makes an interested mind look up more on Wikipedia, or, in my case, open up my old copy of Bertrand Russel's "The History of Philosophy."
-The varied locations, landscapes and scenes are very nicely described, painting a picture in the player's head with a few well-chosen sentences.
-Playing illegal logic games with Willard Van Orman Quine (the philosopher with the coolest name ever.)
-An actual intuition pump!

A joy to play.

Bronze, by Emily Short
Points for best NPC: The Castle, April 30, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy
In this retelling of the classic, wellknown fairy-tale, you play Beauty. However, you (the player) are not Beauty. Through memories triggered by various rooms, objects, pieces of furniture, it's clear that she has lived a life of her own, in this castle with its Lord, and outside it in her village.

She does not find Beast after coming home from a visit to her family, so she has to search the entire Castle.

And this is where the game shines. This Castle is so detailed, so well implemented and so vividly described, I felt like I was looking over Beauty's shoulder every step of her search. Your discovery of the different wings and rooms of this Castle is paced to perfection. The various puzzles hold you long enough to get accustomed to a certain part of the setting, until you find the solution and another part opens up. This has the effect that in the end, I felt like I had experienced much more space than is actually in the map.

For other of the many qualities of this game, I direct you to other reviews. The Castle was what I wanted to highlight most.

Die Feuerfaust, by Larry Horsfield

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Rags to Riches... a second time., April 20, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy, Adventure, Alaric Blackmoon
Die Feuerfaust is the third installment in the Alaric Blackmoon-series by Larry Horsfield. Having played and tested the previous two, I knew pretty much what I was in for, and looking forward to it.

I was not disappointed. Unapologetic (have I used this word in an Alaric-review before? I just might have...) oldschool adventuring, big and varied settings, some use of magic, some killing of foes, and at least one very elaborate, well thought out puzzle (Have you ever tried any horseriding? Wait til you try riding a wild Zampf).

Also: some lack in depth of implementation and interactivity in the large and sprawling settings, as is to be expected in the oldschool tradition.

A classic storyline drives the game forward: Whereas Alaric was a run-down mercenary going on a quest that lead him to glory in Axe of Kolt, in this game Alaric is stranded after a shipwreck and has lost all his belongings. He must work his way through various obstacles and tasks toward his final goal, recovering the famed Fist of Fire.
Nothing new, but tried and trusted adventure fare.

Many NPCs, most still smelling of the cardboard they were cut out of, some more fleshed out. All do what they're supposed to do in a text-adventure such as this: drive the action forward with clues and gifts.

Many, many puzzles, most quite straightforward and not too big. And as mentioned, a great Zampftaming sequence to sink your Hero-teeth into.

All in all, the best of the three I have played so far. The evolution begun in Spectre of Castle Coris continues: tighter gameplay, clearer subgoals so less wandering about, more engaging story.

Not must, but certainly should-play.

A new version of the game will be appearing soon.




The Spectre of Castle Coris, by Larry Horsfield

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Classic Fantasy meets Ghost Mystery, March 25, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy, Alaric Blackmoon, Adventure
The second Alaric Blackmoon game. It's a large oldschool quest to save a village from a spectre that's killing and abducting people.
Right from the start it got my attention because of the mystery aspect. Who or what is this Spectre? Finding this out is essential to vanquishing it in the end.

I like my fantasy oldschool, straightforward and unapologetic. Here the mystery adds to the fun. Good puzzles, a great sense of space once you enter the castle grounds. Linear, but I don't mind that in this sort of game. Some great, vividly written scenes.

The author made a design choice that may be offputting to some: until you enter the castle, you must send the ghost away with a prayer every 20 turns or so. To me, this added to the presence of the Spectre, to others, this will get dull.

This game's good for a week, maybe two of ghosthunting and castlesearching fun. Well worth playing.

The Axe of Kolt, by Larry Horsfield

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
It's only oldschool fantasy but I like it., February 28, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Alaric Blackmoon, Fantasy, Adventure
This is cliché fantasy galore and it's great!
Step one: set expectations to sorcerers, dwarves, a magic axe and all that.
Step two: don your Hero-attire and rush in!
Step three: be stopped in your tracks by this or that puzzle that is cleverer than you thought, wander through a forest searching for poultry, witness a demonic sacrifice...

It's good fun and the Hero of the day should count his blessings that you're the one guiding him because there's a few hard and complex puzzles. (Heroes aren't all that bright in the noggin, you know).
It's also fantastically long. This is one to sink your teeth into. Clear an hour a day in your schedule for a month to play this. You might get to the end by then.

AoK does show its age: some non-interactive forest-locations all alike, lots of death, some learn by trial-and-death, timed sequences. I didn't mind any of that because: fun!

In the end, it's a great straightforward fantasy romp that had me tied to the screen for some weeks.

A Should-Play!

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)
Related reviews: Alaric Blackmoon, Fantasy, Adventure
"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)
Related reviews: Fantasy, Puzzler
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.

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)
Related reviews: Puzzler, Fantasy
(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 ànd 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.


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