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Reviews by Rovarsson

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1-9 of 9


Fragile Shells, by Stephen Granade

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Space Station Escape, October 19, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: SF, Escape
This, ladies and gentlemen, is good work!

"Fragile Shells" is an excellently made text escape game. It consists of a series of interconnected puzzles, all of them solvable by using logic, common sense and a ready knowledge of basic physics.

Maybe too easy for some, but I found that the layering of one puzzle onto another, linking their solutions together into one clear chain from the givens to the conclusion was very satisfying indeed.

Just about every command I tried had a meaningful response, a very friendly game indeed.

Add to this an exciting backstory remembered in bits and pieces by the protagonist to frame it, and you get a short and delightful IF-gem.

Hibernated 1 - This place is death, by Stefan Vogt

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
"It is what it is.", October 19, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: SF
"Hibernated 1" is a pretty straightforward sci-fi game with cool electronic engineering puzzles and an abandoned alien ship to spend a few cool hours as a space heroine.

That is, it could be, were it not that the game overdoes its retro-gameplay feel by quite a lot of notches for my tastes.

Although the basic descriptions are good, sometimes even great, implementation of scenery is almost non-existent, making it hard to get a feel for the spaceship you're investigating. Even more frustrating, implementation for needed objects is also very minimalist, leading to exchanges such as this:

> X SLAB
It is what it is. A closer examination does not reveal any new insights.

Is the glass slab lying on the floor or standing upright? Is it the size of my head or taller than me? Is it clear and transparent or milky and opaque? These "new insights" might give an inkling as to how to use this thing.

Oh, talking about that verb: due to the two-word parser, you need to USE objects. In the right place, and , very importantly, at the right time. If you do not, the response is unforgiving.

>USE PARTS
That is not an option.

Even though you really do need to use those parts in that location, only there is something else that has to be done elsewhere in the ship first. So, no helpful responses to tell you you're on the right track.

Well, since you're carrying around IO, a semi-sentient robotic tamagotchi to assist you, you'd think that helpful feedback would be provided by simply:

>TALK IO

but unfortunately, 99% of the time you get:

That is not an option.

Because of all this, it is clear at every moment that you are not a female spacecaptain uncovering the secret of a lost alien spacecraft. You are you, sitting at your computer taking a stab at the right sequence of commands to type to make something happen to the gamestate.

That being said, once you've come to that agreement with the game and with yourself, "Hibernated 1" is a fine "logic-in-the-dark" puzzle. Just don't expect too much back from it, like feedback and stuff...

Brain Guzzlers from Beyond!, by Steph Cherrywell

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Good Golly Miss Molly!, September 27, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: SF, Comedy
A good story-driven game with easy puzzles and a menu-based conversation system, so nothing gets in the way of defeating the Brainguzzlers and saving your 1950s American Smalltown.

I really liked the game for the first half hour of play. After that the caricature of 1950s scifi horror, and of 1950s American society began to wear me down. I began half expecting The Jetsons coming down in a UFO of their own to drop off the Fonz who would then save the day.
I also doubt that "Jeepers!" would last long as the swearword of choice during an alien attack.

Technically, the game is very well put together. The scripted conversations are perfect for an uptempo story like this. Intro, middle and endgame are well paced. I would have liked some more implementation of scenery, but that would have slowed the game down, so it's understandable. What did bug me, and slowed the game down is the lack of synonyms available. A fast-paced story-game like this would have benefited from a wide choice of different names for your items so you didn't have to stop to remember how something was called in the description. I hated that in a scifi setting such as this, "blaster" was not recognized.

Probably best played in one go, straight through to the (slimy) ending.

City of Secrets, by Emily Short

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Large, engrossing,... and somewhat lacking., September 21, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: SF, Adventure
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 its 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.

The Orion Agenda, by Ryan Weisenberger

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Prime Directive, anyone?, September 18, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: SF
The overarching theme of "The Orion Agenda" is an exploration of the implications of the Star Trek prime directive (not interfering with the natural evolution of technologically lesser developed cultures). Aah, many an hour have I spent waxing philosophically about this question after a Trek-marathon with friends...

The game is nicely structured: a light and funny bureaucratic puzzle to begin with, a somewhat harder midgame (that makes excellent use of the flashback), and a slight twist in the finale, where you also need to use the insights from the midgame.

NPCs mostly do what they have to, no more, except Rebecca, your partner, whom you can order around a bit. (REBECCA, JUMP)

I know it's not for everyone, but I like me some text dumps. Here, you get a SciCorps manual with your equipment and some screenfulls at the end of the game to summarize the moral dilemma.

A good game worth mulling over a bit after you're done.

Glowgrass, by Nate Cull

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Nice immersive sci-fi bit., December 8, 2019
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: SF
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

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Classic Second Era., December 8, 2019
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: SF, Horror
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)
Related reviews: SF
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.

Worlds Apart, by Suzanne Britton

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
My First Love., November 28, 2019
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: SF, Fantasy
Some thirteen years ago, I came across this strange gameplaying/storytelling -medium. They called it Interactive Fiction. I thought it sounded interesting, but it turned out to be confusing, frustrating. I did not feel welcome in this world.

Then I came across "Worlds Apart". Thank you, Lady Britton, for "Worlds Apart".

For days on end I lost myself in this game, this story. Outer and inner worlds entwine. Exploration demands diving into ocean and mind alike.

Since that experience, I've played a lot of good, even great IF, but...

"Worlds Apart" will always be my first love.


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