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Ratings and Reviews by BitterlyIndifferent

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View this member's reviews by tag: IF Comp 2019
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Advent Door, by Andrew Plotkin

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A brief, fun puzzle, March 29, 2020
This game is a small, well-executed puzzle that includes enough atmosphere and hints at backstory to keep things entertaining.

The presentation is excellent ó the player must use an unconventional mechanic to navigate through locations in the game, but the parser clearly indicates when the puzzle's rules are blocking the player from attempting something. When the player does attempt a move that's allowed, the parser is very generous about understanding actions without getting too fussy about procedures.

(Spoiler - click to show)The process of opening doors, closing doors, taking doors, and placing doors was much more streamlined than I expected. I ended up typing out a lot of extra commands before I realized that some of the actions didn't need to be explicitly spelled out.

February, by Mike Doty

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Existing on two planes: entertaining and frustrating, March 11, 2020
It's a simple mechanic and effectively implemented: a sequence of binary yes/no choices.

The writing between choices is funny and short, and you quickly encounter a large variety of situations. I survived none of them.

The other entertaining surprise was the amount of work put into developing the different story branches. It supports multiple, quick playthroughs.

Gardening for Beginners, by Juhana Leinonen
BitterlyIndifferent's Rating:

The Ascent of the Gothic Tower, by Ryan Veeder
BitterlyIndifferent's Rating:

robotsexpartymurder, by Hanon Ondricek

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
This isn't what it looks like!, December 2, 2019
The best part of robotsexpartymurder is the way it accommodates people who don't want to have sex parties with robots. You can play through the game as someone who is definitively not interested in sex parties, and it offers increasingly absurd options for denying their reality.

Does it bother you if people think you're someone who enjoys robot sex parties? What about the robots themselves ó are you trying to maintain their respect? Is it a problem if your personal assistant software thinks that you're down with the lifestyle? Would you even be playing a game like this if it wasn't an IFcomp entry?

(Spoiler - click to show)For example, I was in a bind after Em reminded me that spending time with these robots was a potential violation of Cardinal's terms and conditions. I had no choice ó I was forced to start a party and then call Em in to witness it.

This game worked on mutiple levels. Players who get hung up on the existence of the sex robots might miss the game's commentary on relationships and control as they play out between corporations and people, between law enforcement and private citizens, and between people and their possessions.

It accepts and encourages broad range of viewpoints, allowing you to pursue multiple courses of action while subtly reminding you that other people might view those actions from different perspectives. (Do you want to wear a bathrobe everywhere, like some delusional freak who pretends he's enjoying the decadence of ancient Rome, or do you just do it because you enjoy looking like an extra from Logan's Run?)

I made it to the end of the game, but I would not call it a happy ending. I'll have to probe a little deeper. You know, purely for research purposes.

The Shadow Witch, by Healy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Is evil a choice, or a state of being?, December 2, 2019
I enjoyed this game. Its greatest strength is also its biggest barrier to entry: it was created with RPG maker. Ultimately, Iím glad I went through the process of downloading and installing it ó I have played a staggeringly large number of shitty RPG maker games, and Shadow Witch was a refreshing change of pace.

This is a story about a character who is conditioned to do evil, and it works well. The RPG maker interface is used effectively to present the world from the protagonistís perspective, which adds a surprising level of nuance. Is the shadow witch really as jaded and malevolent as she seems, or is her snide, dismissive commentary part of an act that conceals her real emotions?

Itís a small game that can be experienced quickly, which was nice because I could try multiple playthroughs to see how the game responded to my decisions. I found two different endings, although one of them changes a bit depending on how thoroughly youíve explored the various opportunities for making mischief.

Hard Puzzle 4: The Ballad of Bob and Cheryl, by Ade McT
BitterlyIndifferent's Rating:

The Island, by Ann Hugo

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A good start, December 2, 2019
I think this game is called Valand? Now that Iíve checked again, the cover art calls it ďThe Island,Ē and I thought of it as ďThe IslandĒ the whole time I played, so Iím very confused. It had a bit of the island from ABCís Lost, and the host with questionable intentions recalled Thief of Always for me. It takes place in a world with witches, mermaids, tigers, and island inhabitants who all have their own motivations.

I had some trouble retaining the right perspective while reading through the story. The text makes some observations that frame the narrative from the perspective of a ten-year-old, but at other times, it draws conclusions that seem a more advanced.

This story has given itself an ambitious task. If youíre going to show an illusion that unravels, you need to effectively sell that illusion before poking holes in it. Thatís twice as much work! I appreciated that the author kept things moving, but it meant that I never got invested in either the magical illusion or its unraveling.

Interactively, this game could have used more time in development. The intent was certainly there, allowing you to investigate different aspects of the environment and make different decisions. (Spoiler - click to show)If you choose the option to spend the day with Emily, you learn how to use magic. If you spend the day with Corbin, you donít learn magic. If itís time to build the raft and you spent your time with Corbin, youíre suddenly using your magical abilities to create an escape route like itís no big deal. That was jarring. I found three different endings.

I liked this story, but it could have benefitted from more work.

Rip Retold, by Hipolito
Solid story that would have been great with a more interactive presentation, December 2, 2019
I enjoyed the fiction of Rip Retold. It was crafted with care and intent, preferring to fill out the story with subtle details instead of massive text dumps. I immediately got a sense of the relationship between Chester (the protagonist) and his brother. The story skips ahead through time, as youíd expect with the tale of Rip van Winkle, but thereís no heavy exposition between scenes.

Most of the passages have you clicking words or phrases to proceed to the next sequence, although sometimes you can follow links for more detail before returning to the flow of the story. A few options end the story early, but there are always options to go back and choose again, along with Twineís prominent ďgo backĒ button on the side of every screen.

The difficult part of telling this story through time-lapse is that the writingís subtlety can work against it. It's tough to understand everything happening the first time you read it.

(Spoiler - click to show)For example, Chesterís decision to take/leave the brooch. The story notes that you could make some money from selling it, but I didnít appreciate all the motivations at work until I flipped back and forth through the decision a few times. Getting enough money to save your brotherís leg leaves you stuck in a dead-end job in town for the rest of your life, while leaving it means that your brother loses his leg and you dedicate yourself to following in your fatherís footsteps and become a doctor because of it. It's a good setup, but I blundered through it.

The other problem with encouraging readers to pay close attention means that sometimes they assign importance to the wrong details. (Spoiler - click to show)When I read about Rip van Winkleís slick hair and pencil-thin mustache, I thought that he was OBVIOUSLY some kind of conman grifter, but now I think they were just details to emphasize how his hair got wild and overgrown during his twenty-year nap.

Looking at areas for improvement, Iím wondering whether bringing in the story of Rip van Winkle is necessary. This entry skips through the life of a boy growing into adulthood, and some of the choices alter his future and the community that he lives in. Thatís a fine premise for a story on its own.

On the other hand, Van Winkle went to sleep before the revolutionary war, as a subject of the king, and woke up after independence in a democracy. Thatís a big change! Including him in this story makes Chesterís transition feel much less dramatic.

Slugocalypse, by Charlotte Blatchford
Giant Slug Attack, December 2, 2019
I enjoyed the fiction of Slugocalypse very much. Itís like an upbeat Day of the Triffids or a less gory Living Dead installment. Itís the end of the world, with slugs. It introduces you to an environment, introduces conflict into that environment, and then keeps things moving until the conflict is resolved.

I enjoyed this gameís presentation and interactivity, as well. It uses images and music, and I was quite happy to see a Twine game that hadnít gone with the default white-text-on-black color scheme.

There are a few options for exploration in the game (and maybe this is a branch-and-bottleneck structure?) that allow you to carefully examine your environment for clues about the disaster or just run like hell and try to survive. In my playthroughs, there seemed to be far fewer jump scares than youíd experience in something like a Resident Evil game, and I appreciated that.

I didnít need anywhere near an hour to get through it, although I only found two of the three endings


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