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Reviews by BitterlyIndifferent

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View this member's reviews by tag: IF Comp 2019 IF Comp 2020
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Savor, by Ed Nobody

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Farm horror and rural scares, November 30, 2020
From a narrative perspective, I was unable to enjoy the story that this entry wanted to tell. That might have been a personal failing.

In my defense, a lot of the text describes terrible pain inflicted by a mysterious curse. But as a player, the option to avoid the pain by quitting is there the whole time!

After facing extensive descriptions of suffering and the open contemplation of suicide, it was cleaner and less anguished for me to just end the game.

I appreciate the technical work that went into this entry's presentation. It includes music and monochrome images in the background, but it also takes the rare step of allowing you to use keyboard controls to select choices and advance the story.

Some choices are enclosed in red boxes with a warning to choose carefully, but choices offered outside those warnings can still end your story early ó it was challenging for me to determine which choices would be meaningful.

This entry may be interesting for people who enjoy rural scare stories and works that dwell on the themes of life, death, and renewal that frequently appear in farm horror. I found more than one ending, but mysteries involving slaughter and unnatural harvests remained. The person who unravels them will not be me.

Vain Empires, by Thomas Mack and Xavid

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The opposite of poor impulse control lets bad guys have all the fun., November 30, 2020
This is a spy thriller where the main character describes life-or-death thrills as a minor bureaucratic hassle. The dry, aloof descriptions of people, places, and things provide a lot of entertainment.

As a supernatural entity, you explore a seaside chateau that has been converted to a luxury hotel and casino. Heavy velvet curtains and whirring slot machines are of little interest to those who inhabit the spiritual realm. It's an elegant trick of perspective to gloss over details that might divert players from the main story.

It's difficult to create characters in Inform that feel like real people who can interact with the player and with each other. Vain Empires sidesteps that issue by having a main character that doesn't want to interact with people. His celestial nature makes him distant and unconcerned with the mundane actions of the human realm.

Every human is expected to behave like predictable machinery, and you alter their behavior to get what you want.

Red Radish Robotics, by Gibbo

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The story is more enjoyable than the puzzles, November 30, 2020
Red Radish Robotics does a good job of telling a story. The narrator's childlike perspective explains why you are given some choices that are self-evidently terrible, and although the brief identity crisis is not a shocking plot twist, other developments are effectively foreshadowed with more subtlety.
Red Radish Robotics does a good job of telling a story. The narrator's childlike perspective explains why you are given some choices that are self-evidently terrible, and although the brief identity crisis is not a shocking plot twist, other developments are effectively foreshadowed with more subtlety.

You're asked to escape from the 7th floor of a research facility that has become a giant deathtrap. There are many, many ways to end your escape prematurely, although you are given 10 "respawns" that function like an "undo" button.

In some places, the story gets in the way of the implementation. A few locations and objects needed to be re-visited and re-examined multiple times because the narrator is not properly motivated during early encounters.

Overcoming almost every obstacle is a matter of finding the right links and clicking them in sequence, which meant that I enjoyed uncovering the story more than solving the puzzles in Red Radish Robotics. As you search for a way out of the building, you gradually reveal what happened, why the facility was abandoned, and why you were left behind.

Fight Forever, by Pako

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Looks better on paper, November 30, 2020
As the schematic for an amazing fighting game, this looks great. As an actual game to be enjoyed by players, it needs a lot of work.

The training choices that you make outside the ring determine your fate in the matches. (The fights themselves involve no input from the player.) But I was unable to find anything like a tutorial, or tooltips, or a meaningful discussion of what each choice meant.

The in-game walkthrough makes the following claim:

"As much as this is a fighting game, it's a word game. The further you get into it, the more cumbersome it is to take note of opponents' styles, fighter traits, strategies, and techniques. Take notes."

Right now, the burden of creating an entertaining experience rests entirely on the player.

Seasonal Apocalypse Disorder, by Zan and Xavid

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Time travel antics and druidic magic, November 30, 2020
This adventure's narrative, which may involve cow tipping and casual murder, describes impossible developments in a consistently matter-of-fact tone. I was entertained by its understated absurdity.

The nature themes and seasonal locations were a good fit for the time travel puzzles. The clues are fair, and you donít need to understand druidic rituals or know which magic powers are associated with specific plants; this entry does a good job of providing necessary information.

I appreciated how the challenges were designed in Seasonal Apocalypse Disorder. Your magical abilities are limited at the start, which keeps early puzzles confined to specific areas. As you develop your powers, you are given more opportunities to explore how objects and locations interact with each other. There's also a map at the top of the screen, which helped me keep track of time periods and spot rooms that I would have missed on my own.

I got stuck in a few places, but it was my own damn fault for failing to pay closer attention.

Big Trouble in Little Dino Park, by Seth Paxton, Rachel Aubertin

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Thrills, chills, and the omnipresent threat of violent death., November 30, 2020
I enjoyed exploring the question at the heart of this entry: "What if Jurassic Park gave summer jobs to disaffected teens?" Things quickly change gears from summer job to survival challenge as catastrophe strikes and you must find a way to escape the park's hungry inhabitants.

Some descriptions made it difficult to tell where I was in the park, or where I wanted to go, but other passages updated to show how my previous choices had changed the situation. In some places, like the Dinosaur Nursery, it seemed like I was repeating passages that were only supposed to display once.

This entry could have used more polish, but it's entertaining in its current state. The authors explain that Big Trouble in Little Dino Park was created in 30 days, which explains why it includes a substantial number of typos.

Parts of this experience felt like living in one of those horror movies where the main character is alerted to obvious danger. I appreciated having the option to just go somewhere else, although calculated risks were necessary in a few places.

Accelerate, by The TAV Institute

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Puts a lot of work into creating a specific atmosphere., November 30, 2020
Some people might interpret the prose as atmospheric, and others might dismiss it as trying too hard. It sets a consistent mood, and it's quickly apparent whether this experience will appeal to you.

For me, the interesting question was whether the interactivity in Accelerate supports its story. Early chapters, which put the audience in the role of an addict trying to score drugs from a religiously affiliated medical clinic, set up a conflict that made it difficult to engage with the narrative.

Open-minded curiosity will help readers explore this story, but that makes it difficult to act like an addict on the prowl.

Assuming the role of a cynical addict will encourage the audience to remain distant from the religious propaganda, and that could mean rejecting the entire entry by quitting early.

As interactive fiction, it was difficult for me to identify my place in the story. It seemed like I was expected to assimilate with a movement as controlling and destructive as the authority it seeks to overthrow.

Doppeljobs, by Lei

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Focused, consistent, and entertaining, November 30, 2020
Dopplejobs was a delight. Itís told from the perspective of a doppelganger who endures situations that clients would rather avoid. Humans and doppelgangers donít have much experience with each other, so itís a journey of discovery for everyone involved.

The fantasy world of Doppeljobs is inhabited by stone goats and serviced by sandpipes, which encouraged me to match the story's tone of excited curiosity. Choices are smoothly integrated with the narrative: you're thrown into unfamiliar circumstances and asked to decide what your client would do.

Are there things you don't know? Has important information been left out? The City of Sand is part of a magical foreign world, so you're never sure what will happen.

Things are complicated by the fact that some of your choices might mean that your clients make lasting impressions on you. (The narrator chirps, "Surely, this will affect neither your business nor your life in any way whatsoever!")

The tone of this story fits the perspective of a naÔve magical creature trying to survive as an entrepreneur in the City of Sand ó it's exactly the kind of blank-slate optimism that you would expect from an entity that knows nothing about humanity.

The Copyright of Silence, by Ola Hansson

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An example of the accretive player character, November 30, 2020
This work is laid out like a board game, taking place in a four-room apartment where you interact with the composer John Cage, his dog, and his parrot. Text tracks the four of you moving from room to room, and different actions become available depending on who is where.

I appreciate the effort involved in implementing these characters. Their behavior is governed by logical rules that can be deduced through observation ó you are expected to understand and apply those rules to engineer a specific result.

The blurb for this entry hints that it's like Elsinore or Varicella, where you are expected to fail many times and learn from your mistakes. However, those games immediately establish that a catastrophe is imminent and encourage the player to start working towards victory from the beginning.

If Copyright of Silence explained what it wanted during my first visit with Cage, I was too dumb to notice. There's a stopwatch in the kitchen that suggested a course of action, but the how and why only became clear after my visit ended and I endured the triumph of Cage and the failure of my own character.

The success of this entry relies on an accretive player character who can play through the scenario quickly and have fun learning new things each time. That's where I stumbled.

I might have spent too much time thinking through each of my character's moves, or I might have missed substantial parts of the environment and the characters' interactions, but I felt burned out and frustrated from failure long before I had accumulated enough knowledge to reach the best possible ending.

The CursŤd Pickle of Shireton, by Hanon Ondricek

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A sprawling assortment of wonders, November 30, 2020
This entry is not parser-based, but its choices are intricate. You will enter text in some places, select options in other places, and open windows to click links that create additional options in menus that you might not even be aware of.

It is immense.

CursŤd Pickle of Shireton is a choice-based facsimile of an MMORPG where you can explore, take quests, build stats, and grind for experience. There is an entire adventure outside of the titular pickle's storyline, packed with outright comedy, subtle in-jokes, and external references that are serious and silly.

It's enormous, and it's amazing, but my experience felt unfocused. This entry's greatest strength and biggest weakness is that it's a sprawling assortment of wonders. Without a clear motivation, it took me a long time to find the pickle ó and at that point, I wasn't even sure it was a threat.

Age of Aeons, the fantasy RPG where this story takes place, is big enough and weird enough that I wonder what would happen if the pickle was left unchecked. Why not embrace the way of the brine? Would the wizards' guild steer me wrong?


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