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La Malédiction dont vous êtes le héros, by Nighten
Exercice intéressant et concept fun, mais répétitif, February 5, 2020
Un jeu avec une structure d'arbre binaire à 4 niveaux, qui a donc 16 fins. Je ne suis pas allé au bout, car j'ai actualisé la page sans faire exprès au bout de 11 fins... j'ignore si on obtient quelque chose si on va au bout des 16 fins. Le concept est donc celui d'une exploration de "time cave" ; je trouve l'exercice plutôt intéressant, même si le fait qu'on doive repartir du début (à moins de s'organiser niveau sauvegardes... certes, le jeu le suggère, mais franchement s'organiser pour sauvegarder au bon moment et retrouver la bonne sauvegarde, ça me paraissait compliqué aussi) n'aide pas vraiment à l'exploration (une sorte de mini map où on pourrait cliquer sur les noeuds serait parfaite, mais un peu difficile à faire dans ce moteur... peut-être une fonction de rembobinage après chaque fin, au moins ?). Ce jeu intéressera les auteurs de fictions linéaires qui se demandent comment faire de la fiction non-linéaire. Mais parlons aussi du jeu : la situation est intéressante, j'aime bien l'idée d'incarner une malédiction diffuse qui peut causer des péripéties. L'écriture est plutôt bonne, même si il y a des fautes d'orthographe et des erreurs de personnages parfois ; les personnages sont bien définis et leur point de vue est bien présenté. Certaines fins m'ont bien fait rire, et le ton est plutôt enlevé. Par contre, j'étais un peu déçu sur certaines péripéties : le jeu construit certaines situations sur un registre inquiétant, mais on reste dans le fantastique 'soft' et on ne bascule jamais vraiment dans l'horreur, alors que si même les animaux évitent la forêt, c'est pas juste parce qu'on voit des choses étranges... Enfin, c'est peut-être moi qui projette ce que je veux alors que le jeu est satisfaisant comme ça !

Sétanta - Au Cœur Du Labyrinthe, by Luigi June
Un jeu long et prometteur qui pourrait être plus accessible, February 5, 2020
Un jeu d'exploration de donjon à choix multiples, sans gestion d'inventaire, dans un monde inspiré par le folklore celte ; le jeu semble plutôt long, en tout cas il y a pas mal de péripéties et il est plus long que la plupart des autres jeux du concours. Il est aussi plutôt verbeux, avec plusieurs paragraphes après chaque choix. Pour tout dire, l'auteur semble connaître par coeur le folklore celte, mais en pratique ça fait apparaître une dizaine de noms étranges en une conversation, et ça nous dit qu'une créature n'est pas une sirène mais une mermaid (ce qui laisse très circonspect) ; il est je pense très facile de se sentir repoussé par le jeu au premier abord, car il exige un certain investissement et une certaine bienveillance par rapport au fait qu'il soit résolument dans son monde à lui, bien précis. Les phases d'exploration donnent parfois l'impression d'une succession de "porte à gauche ou porte à droite ?", avec 2 portes indistinguables ; le jeu a la décence de ne pas nous tuer si on choisit le mauvais (un classique des jeux à donjon), mais on se retrouve avec des choses comme "ça ne marche pas alors vous essayez l'autre et ça marche", ce qui fait soupirer le joueur. Certaines séquences vous demandent de faire le bon choix pour ne pas vous retrouver en danger, voire mourir, mais il est difficile de savoir lesquels ; quand on meurt, il faut recommencer en se souvenant des choix qu'on avait faits. Chose intéressante, si on meurt, le jeu vous donne un cadeau de consolation, comme une playlist Spotify ou une fiction écrite par l'auteur, ce qui est chouette. Malgré la présence de checkpoints, je suis mort après une longue séquence car j'ai raté des énigmes, et j'ai ainsi perdu une demi-heure de progrès... Je me suis donc arrêté là. Bref, le jeu a clairement une atmosphère intéressante et fouillée, il est long et les péripéties sont variées, mais le rythme (longueur des passages, fréquence des choix, intérêt des choix, sauvegardes automatiques...) est à retravailler pour donner un jeu plus attrayant et moins exigeant pour le joueur.

Une affaire rondement menée, by Dunin
Une seule énigme, mais elle est bien !, February 5, 2020
Jeu avec une chouette ambiance, bien que classique ; j'apprécie le fait que Hercule Poirot soit imbuvable et que nous incarnions l'inspecteur, pour une fois. On se rend vite compte de ce qui se passe, et je donne à ce jeu le point d'utilisation du thème. Je suis resté bloqué un moment car je cherchais le chien, mais (Spoiler - click to show)il semblerait que ça soit une frustration de la part de l'auteur ; bien joué !. J'ai fini par trouver la solution de l'(unique) énigme en continuant à réfléchir, et une fois l'avoir trouvée, tout était bien plus clair : (Spoiler - click to show)pourquoi les liens ne sont pas mis en évidence, et pourquoi l'auteur a fait référence au chien - pour nous induire en erreur et nous faire oublier qu'il manquait une personne de plus. Un bon divertissement d'une vingtaine de minutes. La présentation est chouette, mais j'aurais vraiment aimé plus de place pour le texte ; il est coincé dans une boîte en bas de l'écran, certains paragraphes sont mal formatés, et il défile rapidement, ce qui n'est pas très lisible.

Si j'avais su..., by Eve Mercé
Jeu fun, même si les conséquences sont peu claires, February 5, 2020
Jeu qui ne se prend pas au sérieux et qui garde un ton agréable et humoristique tout du long. Le jeu a une structure intéressante : il est possible de mourir à n'importe quel moment, mais le jeu vous fait alors incarner la personne suivante dans la lignée pour le trône. Par contre, les conséquences à long terme des choix sont peu claires ; peut-être sont-elles inexistantes, peut-être existe-t-il des variables (popularité ? argent disponible ?) qui détermine quand le jeu vous arrête (si le peuple décide d'arrêter le système monarchique). Du coup, après avoir joué deux fois, je ne sais pas trop où j'ai pêché, si j'étais loin du but, si je me suis amélioré, etc ; c'est frustrant et ça n'invite pas à faire d'autres essais pour obtenir une fin meilleure ou la meilleure fin. Je tiens aussi à saluer le travail qui a été fait sur la présentation et le multimédia ; les images proposées collent bien avec l'univers du jeu, et ça pose une ambiance enjouée. Quelques points sont perfectibles (transparence dans les images, police plus grande, disposition de certains éléments, etc.), j'espère qu'une V2 sortira pour retoucher ces quelques aspects :)

La fée des rêves, by Eve Mercé
Atmosphère fantastique mais trop linéaire et trop rapide, February 5, 2020
Une histoire plutôt courte avec une atmosphère intrigante façon fantastique francophone, et quelques idées très chouettes, même si le jeu est une succession de vignettes indépendantes. L'écriture est plus posée et plus imaginative que l'autre jeu de Eve C, mais j'ai trouvé ce jeu moins intéressant voire un peu plus terne. Les idées pourraient être mieux mises en valeur par le texte, qui va parfois un peu trop vite et est imprécis dans les descriptions ; dommage d'expédier une bonne idée (par exemple la deuxième porte) en quelques paragraphes, alors qu'on pourrait prendre plus son temps et s'émerveiller. Mais surtout, la structure du jeu est dommageable : le jeu propose systématiquement un bon choix et un mauvais choix, et même près de la fin choisir un mauvais choix peut vous tuer et vous forcer à recommencer. (Certains, par contre, donnent juste un avertissement, ce qui est appréciable.) Là encore, c'est une question d'étoffage (?) : laisser au joueur le choix de faire une ou plusieurs choses censées sans que l'histoire n'avance forcément, ou de faire les choses dans le désordre, nécessite certes plus de texte mais permet au joueur de s'immerger plus dans l'histoire ; sinon, on a l'impression d'être dans un wagon à Disneyland. Bref, prometteur mais frustrant ; il faudrait encore du travail sur la structure et la taille du texte pour en faire un jeu satisfaisant.

Karma Manager, by Jérémie Pardou
Un essai louable, mais mal équilibré et pas assez étoffé, February 5, 2020
Un jeu basé sur la réincarnation pour proposer une boucle de gameplay qui correspond à une vie humaine ; on vous propose différents choix et il y a des "skill checks" pour déterminer un succès ou un échec, à partir de 4 statistiques qui dépendent de votre naissance (c'est un parti pris qui fait réfléchir). Le jeu se base ainsi sur des situations piochées aléatoirement, sur des variables, et de la génération procédurale. Malheureusement, ça ne marche pas pour plusieurs raisons. La première est que la quantité de texte et de variations est trop faible par rapport à la boucle de gameplay : on vous demande d'avoir 42 points de karma, en vous réincarnant au moins une douzaine de fois (voire plus), et chaque réincarnation comprend 15 passages ; pourtant, le nombre de passages distincts est de, je pense, entre 20 et 30, ce qui est bien trop faible, et donne un jeu qui se répète beaucoup (du grind, quoi). La deuxième est que le jeu est déséquilibré : on a des statistiques au début, puis 10 "skill checks" qui échouent (on ne sait pas pourquoi, le jeu ne vous donne jamais la barre qu'il aurait fallu atteindre) parsemé de 3 évènements qui changent un peu vos stats ; je n'ai jamais réussi un seul "skill check" quoi que je fasse, et je n'ai jamais obtenu un seul point de karma. Au bout d'un moment, la combinaison de 1/ et 2/ est barbante. De plus, les choix que l'on fait modifient les statistiques mais c'est un jeu à somme nulle (vous gagnez autant que vous perdez, vous pouvez même avoir des statistiques négatives...), donc on a l'impression que le jeu pousse les jetons d'une case à l'autre et que rien ne change (vu que tous les skill checks foirent de toute façon). Ce jeu a besoin de 1/ plus de contenu et de variations, 2/ une révision de l'équilibre, 3/ une intro ou un tutorial ou un mode bébé ou autre, qui prend le joueur par la main, donne quelques conseils sur comment réussir, voire même nous aide à réussir une première fois. Sinon, on a l'impression d'être jeté en pâture dans un système mécanique qui dit "Raté - Raté - Raté - Raté - Mort ; rejouer ?".

Héméra, by Narkhos
Un jeu avec du potentiel mais frustrant, February 5, 2020
Jeu où l'on incarne une sorcière qui fait des potions, en mélangeant diverses herbes que j'imagine être des herbes de sorcières. L'unique énigme du jeu tourne autour des propriétés des herbes de sorcières, et pas grand-chose n'est donné ; on est donc censés se renseigner ailleurs. Malheureusement, Wikipédia n'aide pas toujours ; j'ai donc résolu la deuxième partie de l'énigme par hasard, et je ne l'ai donc pas comprise, ce qui est dommage. Par contre, l'obtention de l'ingrédient supplémentaire est un moment subtil et qui m'a fait sourire, même si je suis tombé dessus un peu par hasard. Niveau écriture, il a quelques fautes d'orthographe, et un mystère que je n'ai pas compris (et qui ne semble pas résolu), ce qui est dommage. Un jeu avec du potentiel (donnez-moi un jeu long et ouvert où on incarne une sorcière et on apprend peu à peu des recettes de potion et les effets des herbes !), mais court et avec une énigme plutôt frustrante

Killing Time at Lightspeed, by Gritfish
Interesting, but ultimately superficial, December 24, 2019
The main conceit of the game, social media accelerated through Einstein relativity, is very clever and interesting. The story that is told, focusing mainly on cybernetics, is pretty good, and is mostly told through news articles, a conceit that I like; mechanically, it feels similar to The Endling Archive, Orwell, Analogue A Hate Story, or my own Life on Mars. However, the writer frequently inserts references of parodies of our world, of clickbait and witty twitter things, in a way that really took me out of it.

My main criticism lies with the social media aspect of the game. When I compare the blurb (see your friends grow old and you have to say goodbye to them) to the game experience, it's really underwhelming. As far as I can tell, there's not much you get to change, no branching paths, and things just deflate at the end in an underwhelming way (or, given content gets scarce, in a way that feels like the author's deadline was approaching). The characters are well-defined, but they don't change very much over the 10-20 year period, and nothing feels sad or wistful about it because you're not spending that much time with them after all (it's literally the concept of the game). More interactions with them would have been nice (like at the beginning, to establish relationships more), but I think the game also lacks a voice for our character, a possibility to express sadness, nostalgia, grief, etc. (Especially at the end.) There's a discrepancy between our experience (20 minutes on facebook) and theirs (decades), but it's a bit hollow and doesn't come accross very clearly, and it doesn't seem to matter to anybody (at least, i didn't feel involved, or with any urgency - especially since the tone stays the same throughout). It's a shame, because it's the central device of the game, and I feel like it didn't quite pull it off. An interesting game nonetheless!

Hollywood Visionary, by Aaron A. Reed

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Great story, perfectly capturing 50s Hollywood, September 2, 2016
"Hollywood Visionary" casts you as a studio head in the 50s, trying to make your first movie to get your studio off the ground. The atmosphere is that of 1950s Hollywood, and is lovingly rendered: everything is period-perfect, and you're surrounded by big names, which really adds to the atmosphere. The NPCs that you encounter are indeed very well written; I have a soft spot for Fish Grundy, but other ones are quite memorable too. (Orson Welles, in particular, is hilarious and a great character.)

Most importantly, the account of the Red Scare and trying to be a studio head in the McCarthy era is just amazing. The character of Creed is great for that purpose : it is well-written enough that you could totally see someone like that existing back in that day, but still manages to say things that from our modern perspective sounds absolutely ridiculous. It's very impressive to manage to portray this aspect that well, while still making it transparent that the whole thing was a travesty of justice and completely, irrationally stupid. I came out of the game reflecting heavily on what is justice, and how politicians sometimes get away with blatant scapegoating that is profoundly unfair; it really resonated with 2016, although I see now in reviews that it also resonates with other events from a few years ago. For that matter, the tense scene near the end is just amazing, as (Spoiler - click to show)the stakes are high (even if you know how ridiculous it is, they could still end you!), and the atmosphere is oppressive; one of the best written scenes I have ever seen and felt in IF.

The meat of the game is trying to get your movie done while managing all sorts of aspects, like money, stress, actors, etc. This was well-done enough, and there are lots of possible choices; it is however mostly linear, and I came out with the impression that some choices always lead to similar conclusions, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I achieved enough variety to get achievements that I wanted to get, but I felt little interest in keeping going; to be honest, the huge number of choices do not actually feel like they're all supported, and sometimes it kind of felt like it was just string substitution. (as in "<your director> loves <your genre>"). Granted, I didn't really explore everything; but I feel like the game wasn't that great at giving me feedback or letting me know that this particular choice was a really good one. Instead, you are given 15 different knobs that you have to monitor, without really knowing how important they are, and it kind of felt (at least for the choices I made, which were mostly careful and not really going to extremes) like it was a zero-sum game, that if I spent more time on something, something else would lose as many points. This may not be true, and maybe you can manage to make a dismal movie or an absolutely great one, but I don't really know how, and I don't even have a good rule of thumb, which doesn't really make me want to try to achieve it. So, it's nice to personalize your movie, basically, but you don't really feel like it has that much weight or importance overall.

In any case, I had a very good time with this game, and the superb writing makes it a 5-star game in my opinion.

Ratings War, by Eddy Webb

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Not very original, lacks depth, August 21, 2016
I wanted to like this game: investigative journalism in a futuristic noir cyberpunk world, with a city in shambles and gang violence? I love Deus Ex, Urban Chaos, and all that kind of stuff, so I was excited!

Now, two stars might be a bit harsh, but the game unfortunately disappointed me in a lot of ways. First, the setting was unsufficiently developed to me: there were a couple of neat ideas, like (Spoiler - click to show)privacy laws having been made way stricter than our current day and age (how does that work? Does facebook still exist? Is there a special police for that?), but mostly they were skimmed over quickly ((Spoiler - click to show)global warming is merely name-dropped, no mention why there is such poverty or inequality or what changed in the world). To be perfectly honest, it feels like the game could have been set in 2016 without losing much : replace New Angeles by, like, Detroit, use small bluetooth cameras or Google Glasses, (Spoiler - click to show)talk about the Carmat artificial heart and I'm not sure it would end up very different. This is one of my biggest disappointments from the game, since I was expecting more from the setting.

The game is mostly linear, from what I saw and from the length claimed on the CoG website ; this means the replay value is not great (I got 80% of achievements in 2 playthroughs), but actually, even worse is that a lot of choices end up not being real choices. They might affect the statistics, though I didn't track that too hard, but a lot of times the few options converge to the same text a couple of paragraphs later. This took me out of the game, as I felt the decisions had much less weight this way and ended up not surprising me much. There are a few times where the games has actually very different outcomes; unfortunately I only noticed because the game was contradicting itself ((Spoiler - click to show)Katrina sued me when I actually didn't attack her and stayed on my chair, Tracey downloaded images when I didn't record the conversations with Parker or Sloane), which surprised me from a CoG game. So it kind of feels like a linear plot with no room for different playthroughs or choices, which is not great. Adding onto that, the plot itself isn't too exciting, and you mostly get kidnapped (seriously, 3 or 4 times over 10 chapters is too much) by someone guilty who then reveals their plan "but i'd like to keep that off the record". And last but not least, the writing feels bland and sometimes clumsy, not only because the setting is not very developed, but because the style itself isn't great; there's things spelled out that didn't need to be, and a few rather lazy descriptions: the red wine tastes fruity, the dark beer tastes nutty, the bad guy wears a trench coat, and there's literally a nondescript henchman!

Anyway, this was unfortunately a pretty disappointing experience; I would not really recommand this game.

The Spectre of Castle Coris, by Larry Horsfield

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A worthy sequel, different atmosphere but puzzles are still fair, November 21, 2015
"The Spectre of Castle Coris" is the sequel to "The Axe of Kolt" by Larry Horsfield; this ADRIFT version is also a remastering of the eponymous ZX Spectrum game from the early 90s, with added gameplay and setting and a reworking of the puzzles. As with "The Axe of Kolt", the game is Polite, even if there are less ways to die than in the former, and the puzzles are fair and well-balanced.

The story is of the village of Corwyn, which is terrorized by a ghost who is attacking the villagers, and the link with the Castle Coris, where the Baroness Coris has died, murdered by her husband, or so the villagers tell you. You will need to find a prayer book, for praying is the only thing that makes the ghost vanish; actually, I found the fact that the ghost is attacking you every dozen or so turns was becoming a bit repetitive and tiring, although part of that may be beta-tester burnout (I was a beta-tester for this game) and trying to adjust macros endlessly. The ghost does end up disappearing, though, so it's not too much of a bother.

You need to enter the castle, but be careful that the game won't let you do this if you don't have all the objects you need later in the castle. This is good for the player, since you won't be able to get stuck without knowing it because you didn't collect the right object (which would have been Cruel), but it can mean that you think you have done everything but the game refuses to let you move on; when/if that happens to you, make sure you have checked *all* the locations (it's hard for the game to hint that you need more objects without giving you hints that would break the fourth wall too hard...). This is probably the most finnicky thing about the game.

The part where you're in the castle is my favourite part of the game; all the objects you have are useful and all clicks into place, except a minor annoyance (you need to (Spoiler - click to show)find a wire to pick locks with if you don't want to be stuck). The game has a nice sense of progression there, where finding/rescuing an inhabitant of the castle will open new areas of the castle to exploration ; this leads to a very nice buildup to the rather epic end of the chapter, which is one or two puzzles away from the end of the game.

Once again, this is a classical fantasy game with lots of (fair) puzzles and an interesting setting, different from "The Axe of Kolt" but just as enjoyable. The game is shorter, about 15 hours of play ; combined with the very good implementation, with lots of scenery objects to build the setting and some helpful (though the hints can be subtle) messages, and "The Spectre of Castle Coris" is a very good sequel!

Darkiss! Wrath of the Vampire - Chapter 1: the Awakening, by Marco Vallarino

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Strong implementation, didn't really enjoy the setting as much as others, November 20, 2015
You are a vampire who somehow survived having a stake driven through his heart, and wakes up several years later. There's a bit of amnesia going on, which serves as a justification of having the first game in your lair (to introduce the character) while still having obstacles; I don't really like amnesia, but why not.

The tropes of the vampire are there (rich, immortal, big library; and particularly the thematic of seduction, which is at the base of the vampire myth - but there's a hint of a strong female character too which I find nice), and more, since you also have (Spoiler - click to show)the Necronomicon, demons, magic spells to resurrect the dead, telepathy, talking paintings, a torture chamber, and you live in a mountain (instead of in a castle on top of it, I guess). It's kind of a mixed bag, really; but I guess the point of the game is more to be cast at an evil supernatural character and riff off of it, and about the fun of being evil, as the writing seems to emphasize with glee and sometimes over-the-top/clichéd phrasings. There are a few English mistakes too (not that I can say anything), but in this case it gives the movie a sort of B-movie texture that's actually pretty fun.

I must admit I didn't really like being that guy: he seemed like a particularly sadistic vampire, (Spoiler - click to show)torturing people with glee (with descriptions), and it didn't really make me feel really comfortable - I didn't think this was fun, but others might find it entertaining.

There's about a dozen puzzles, involving recovering your powers and getting out of your lair; the puzzles are fair, but mostly of the "get X use X don't use it again" kind. There are a few non-standard verbs, usually used in one puzzle. The implementation is excellent: I found that almost all the actions have custom responses, and there's even amusing commands to try (there's a NPC that reacts to various topics, including Zork, apparently). The parser is rather helpful and everything was very, very smooth.

The game is fun, with a B-movie-like atmosphere but I didn't like the PC; the game is also very smooth, and all in all very enjoyable.

Random comment: the fact that the vampire would take advantage of his immortality to master the art of painting intricate, beautiful ceilings struck me as a delightfully Italian thing to do.

Random comment #2: this is a game about a vampire where >count is one of the non-standard verbs. I don't think that's intentional, but it made me smile.

Final Exam, by Jack Whitham

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Not a whole lot of fun, but apparently I missed lots of things, November 20, 2015
I didn't find this game very fun, I'm afraid; but I learned later there were a whole lot of secrets, and basically a whole other game, hidden in the game, which I didn't find within the Comp's 2 hours (in fact, I had no idea it even existed). So, take my review with a grain of salt knowing that I might have missed lots of things; on the other hand, I'm sure I'm not the only player that missed all that.

The setting confused me: the idea that (Spoiler - click to show)your face was replaced by a featureless one is creepy and interesting, but the protagonist just shrugs it off. A lot of the rooms are empty, which is guess is meant to provide exposition but it felt like a lot of big empty rooms. And I'm having trouble placing the setting: (Spoiler - click to show)is the 'administration' and their motto/values meant to be commentary or satire? It's hard to know, since it seems close to what most governments do (free speech, laws minimising social unrest). I guess it hints as a role of leader, the Administrator, that you get by... doing a test involving nothing but computers and repairing them? Is this supposed to be commentary on the fact that a state leader doesn't have that much power or just needs to keep the system running? I don't know, maybe I'm overthinking it. (Or maybe I didn't understand what the author meant, what with English not being my native language?)

So I would say it might be a writing issue: the direction to where the setting is going is not very clear, and we don't know what's going on, why, and most importantly why should we care; I was dragging my feet for the most part. (Or, maybe it all makes sense if you find the secrets, I guess). It seemed like the game was (Spoiler - click to show)mixing politics and sci-fi in its setting, so I expected commentary, satire, going a bit further exploring our society or the future and its consequences. But here, it feels like "oh in 5 years a computer will govern us, and you're the janitor". And yeah, the position in which we are as a player is not exciting, so the game isn't exciting: if there's (Spoiler - click to show)a central authority attacked by an enemy with computer viruses, I don't know if I want to plug network cables. And the game seems very, very on-rails for a long while: it's basically "read the orders, do the orders". (But again, maybe that's why I missed the secrets.) It gets more open when you reach (Spoiler - click to show)the caves, but then I didn't really know what to do and kept looking at the walkthrough.

On the other hand I was *really* impressed by the cable that you lay in the cave, and the fact that the game kept track of where you went and laid the cable in all those rooms and in which order. You backtrack and collect the cable, etc -- it seems really hard to implement, and to be honest I'd love to take a look at the source code for that.

Overall it seems like a lot of effort went into making this game (which is why I feel slightly bad that I didn't enjoy it): the game is polished, typo-free, bug-free, with extra responses, and nice hints for players about how to talk to the parser... Props to the genuine effort that was put into it, but I guess I didn't really find it fun.

Nowhere Near Single, by kaleidofish

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Nice, long story, but forced my hand too much for my liking, November 20, 2015
This game takes a while to complete, about an hour and a half, which I think makes it the longest Twine game I've ever played. I must admit I wasn't too invested in the storyline; the game deals with being a female pop star and being in a polyamorous relationship, which aren't topics that I'm too familiar with: the former is pretty broad, saying that you are in a stable of other female pop stars (which felt like inspired by J-Pop or K-Pop) and have to keep working to achieve #1, and the latter takes most of the space, with mostly linear segments about the relationships in the 4-way you're a part of.

Because of the playing time I won't be replaying this, and so I can't really tell how much changes from one playthrough to another; some choices felt like they mattered, but I don't know up to what point. (Spoiler - click to show)(I'm assuming you can end up with either girl as your primary relationship? Does everything break down at the end?) I wished the game had let me know, or was more clear about this; I can't even imagine how big or linear the game is, because I have no idea what choices mattered and what their repercussions were (I feel like other choice games I've played did that better). There were other, cosmetic choices that weren't referenced at all the moment after they were made, which I'm not a fan of; I prefer it when those choices act as personalization/customizing your experience to you.

Again, I don't know if that's specific to my playthrough, but I (Spoiler - click to show)didn't spend a whole lot of time working and I spent more time dealing with the relationships, only for my career to explode, and then later the relationship. I liked the personalities of Nayeli and Taya, two of the love interests, but I felt like there wasn't a lot to choose except having sex with them or not (there's about half a dozen implied sex scenes); other choices that surface in a relationship (routine, fighting, compromising, balancing career and life, etc.) didn't really appear. And it felt at a couple points like the characters were kind of avoiding problems by just being with someone else instead; I have no experience with polyamorous relationships, but that's not what I like to do, and I didn't feel too happy about what was happening. Also, you have no control on the protagonist's personality; she has her own personality, and you have limited choices over whether she'll start fights or get involved in drama, which again doesn't correspond to me so it was hard to empathize. For those reasons I'd say that the game is supposed to be pretty linear, although maybe with a few different "routes". The writing was very good, although I felt like some scenes were a bit too long for their relevance in the story.

The character of Sarai made me uncomfortable. Basically what happens is that (Spoiler - click to show)she picks up this girl (you) at a bar, who is homeless at the time, and invites her to stay at her place in a polyamorous relationship, expecting her to 'bond'/'girlfriend' her other girlfriends, while paying for the whole thing. This kind of arrangement spelled more "cult leader" or "harem" than healthy relationship: the amount of control she has is very big, (Spoiler - click to show)all of this kinda feels like it's for her/her pleasure only, and she "doesn't realize it" and gets mad when, inevitably, two people feel the need to try to have semi-coerced sex, or one of them resorts to whatever she can because she hates feeling like a freeloader. But in the end, at least in my playthrough, (Spoiler - click to show)the whole thing implodes and almost everyone leaves her; I don't know if it's meant as commentary on power dynamics in relationships or just something that happens. But feeling uncomfortable almost from the get-go made the ending unsurprising, and I felt like I was dragged through something I didn't like only for the game to show me that what I thought was justified.

Anyway, it's hard for me to review this game because I don't know how typical my playthrough was, and I don't really know anything about polyamourous relationships. I would have liked choices with more explicit consequences, and maybe more choices with regards to the relationship (I guess because I wasn't satisfied with the way things were going); and I thought the "pop singer" aspect was not bringing much to the game, since it wasn't a big part and everything was fairly generic: I wish it were either more developed and more precise, with more choices about your career, or less developed (treating it as a day job in the background) to make the relationship the focus of the game.

The Sueño, by Marshal Tenner Winter

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Underexploited mechanic, use of walkthrough is advised, November 20, 2015
This game had an interesting atmosphere, with several rather vivid and cool images (Spoiler - click to show)(the house covered in pine needles, the deserted town, the bat in the belfry). Unfortunately I couldn't finish it because I think I did something that locked me out of victory, and I didn't know until later.

One thing about this game is that it seemed to have several arbitrary elements/puzzles; you could say it's dream logic, but it just struck me as kind of unfair (how do I know I need to (Spoiler - click to show)sit on the dentist's chair and not die? how do I know i need something from the guy chasing me? how do I know I need to flush the toilet?). I ended up looking at the walkthrough a few times, which is how I discovered that I was locked out of victory. The >dream verb was very interesting, I thought, but it's only used in like 2 puzzles; it would have been interesting to use it more, and maybe it would have been of use to justify odd solutions to 'dream logic' puzzles.

Another thing that I found odd and actually frustrating with this game is the granularity of the actions: the game is pretty finicky about the things you can do and in which order. You have (Spoiler - click to show)to unwrap the box, then open it, then look into it, then take the key; you have to take off your shoes first, then your pants; you have to set each for the four dials to its individual number (instead of, say, >set dials to 9999). And similarly, there are a few times where the game refuses to do something because you didn't specify with which object you wanted to do this: unlock door "with what?", clean door "with what?". I didn't think I liked parser niceties that much, but apparently I find it frustrating to have to find the right order and/or words for something that's obvious given the puzzle.

The writing is okay, not many typos (a few), but there were quite a few instances where it kind of feels like the writer didn't put enough effort in the descriptions. There were a "non-descript door", a "non-descript shirt", a "non-descript tv", and "shoes that go with everything"; the architecture of a room is "weird but you can't really put your finger on it". At some point you have a "twilight zone" feeling, and another room feels like "brady bunch"; I think this falls in the category "show, don't tell": it'd be much better to attempt to give the player a feeling that reminds you of The Twilight Zone (your vision becomes black and white? or even has grain like an old movie?) than straight-up telling the player. It was kind of distracting because as a non-american I have no idea what those are, so they really don't help setting the mood; and the lack of details (non-descript feels to me like another word for "just picture anything") about other objects don't really help either. Object descriptions are not necessarily the most fun to write, but I think they're very effective at building an atmosphere; for instance I absolutely loved the fact that (Spoiler - click to show)there's pine needles all over the roof and the gutters of the house, which made the forest menacing, and I would have loved more of that!

Anyway, I wished that the atmosphere had been better built-up by the writing, and maybe also that the >dream mechanic had been used in more puzzles, maybe even making it more systematic.

Onaar, by Robert DeFord

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Grindy, familiar RPG that's a bit too classic, November 20, 2015
I must admit I have a soft spot for RPGs with grind and an alchemy system, so that hits the spot. I got about 30% of the way before the 2 hour mark, which didn't even start the main quest but I got to learn how to make potions. One neat thing is that objects that you can gather in the various locations reappear after some number of turns (I think the food reappears after you ate it, but the other ones after a number of turns - you can, and will, collect a large number of ingredients). This probably also makes the game easier to program: you only need one large turnip, and when the player doesn't have it anymore you put it back, etc.

I liked the system that was in place to make things faster - since it's a grindy RPG, you will have to type the same stuff a lot, and so each ingredient has a code made of its initials. So you type 'p' to make a potion, then a number, then initials, and you created a potion; it's a pretty neat alternative to "make X potion with Y and Z" or "make X potion", and very welcome here knowing that you will have to type the same thing lots of time. (An abbreviation for "takeall" would have been nice too, though.) There also seems to be quite a number of potions you can make, judging by the list of ingredients and the fact that they each have 2 effects.

The world in the game is pretty standard fantasy, with inns and quests and people who speak British English; but the world sometimes makes references to the modern-day world (GMOs, Nantes carrots, Yukon potatoes...), which is probably some eccentricity from the author (I mean, I don't expect a twist like "it's actually set in the modern world!"). The story is pretty generic, too, of the "gain levels as an alchemist and be the new adventurer that saves a small town from evil marauders" kind; but I haven't gone too far in the two hours, so I don't really know how to plot unfolds.

The writing is okay, but the way the game reacted to my female protagonist bothered me a bit: basically, all men say "certainly, I love talking to fine young ladies like you", and one woman literally says "I love to talk to attractive young ladies like you", which seems really weird and unrealistic; and of course, the first comment you get when you buy an alchemy robe is "you look so good in it". Another thing that felt weird is that the game is very transparent from a code and statistics perspective: "takeall" literally starts Linux-style messages like "Beginning automated take... Searching for objects to take... Found: carrot", which feels really mechanical/computerized; I'm not saying the Inform way is necessarily better, but I'd have preferred it if the game attempted to weave that into a sentence; same with the description of objects, which says "(weight: 1; value: 6)", and your alchemy teacher who says "look at you, you are level 19!" after scanning you with a rod.

Anyway, the whole game seems to be based around the purely mechanical fun of grinding, selling objects, being able to afford power-ups, to complete quests, and then start again; the thing is, I kinda like that kind of mechanics, and have spent hundreds of hours playing CRPGs doing exactly that. But the game is very transparently built around that, and the writing doesn't try too hard to challenge anything: you have characters that have the personalities of standard RPG NPCs (buying, selling, rumors), a familiar plot in a fantasy world, a female adventurer/PC that must be young and pretty, and an emphasis on stats that, although necessary for the form, feels a bit too blunt. RPG fans might enjoy it, and will push along for the few hours the game demands; it feels like a nicely done, very (too) familiar RPG.

A Figure Met in a Shaded Wood, by Michael Thomét

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Focused on making a point, but doesn't say much about it, November 20, 2015
This game looks good - nice typography and choice of colors, and a few appropriate images. The first playthrough is very short (5 minutes for me), but the game is meant to be played several times.

The setting is that of a vagabond in what appears to be similar to the Middle Ages; the theme obviously involves a fortune teller, and you are presented with a few choices that seem inconsequential - but, as a good player of interactive fiction, you recognize those choices as preferences that might reveal your personality. The setup kind of reminded me of the beginning of Morrowind, or any of the other RPGs (Ultima IV, maybe?) that use the "what would you do in this situation" questions to gauge your personality - very familiar, then, and this is a good choice on the author's part to use this setting.

The first playthrough is nothing special, it ends abruptly after getting your fortune told: of course, you want to start again and try different choices. That's when the game reveals its conceit; but it reveals it in a way that i found quite brutal and unsubtle. Namely, the figure completely breaks the fourth wall (since the vagabond doesnt appear in the text), has quite an antagonistic tone ("What? What did you expect?"), spouts off text that shows that, surprise, it had tracked your choices (one paragraph = one choice, which is not very subtle or fun), and tells you at the last sentence that you could try again. Except, no, I didn't want to try again: I found it too on-the-nose and unsubtle for me to not get it, and to think that there could be a way to change the final outcome. I felt that the twist was revealed too soon (at the 2nd playthrough instead of, say, the 4th), and was too blunt and closed too many things: given what's before (a rhetorical question), the "you could try again" comes off as a "you could waste your time some more", which just made me quit. (Ok, I checked a third time just in case, but I wasn't willing to spend more time on this to see if the 10th iteration was any different.)

I guess the game was trying to make a point about restarting games to achieve better outcomes; that it doesn't work like that sometimes i guess, and that you don't have the agency in the game to change anything except quitting. But i didn't feel like the game tried to have anything more to say, which was disappointing. I played "Save the Date!" a while ago, and found it quite deep and interesting, with nice variations and characters and a few interesting things to say on the same topic; maybe it's hard to come after that, and maybe it's unfair for me to compare both, but, they are about the same thing... I might have liked it more if there was some variability, even maybe having fun with the concept (the hooded figure could become impatient, roll their eyes, joke that the cards will change if they get 10 pheasants, plead for the player to stop, etc..), but it might not have been what the author intended; as it is, though, its message is not very deep nor subtle, which made the experience somewhat unsatisfying in my opinion.

The Speaker, by Norbez

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Very short game but I liked it, November 20, 2015
I liked this game! It's short-story sized, with a few branches that often merge pretty quickly, and an open ending.

The story casts you as the "speaker" for a paralyzed alien who holds an advice column; the thing is, you don't always agree with the advice, and you're in a position to publish whatever you want, hence choices show up. The choices you can think of are presented, and the game handles them gracefully, although some paths quickly merge with other similar ones.

One think that I really liked was what happens if you disobey: it's not that he fires you or sues you, it's that (Spoiler - click to show)his fans on the internet will try to track you down; I felt like this was a very interesting consequence, and it filled me with more dread than a hypothetical "i'll sue you in galactic court": we all know how (Spoiler - click to show)ruthless internet mobs and their pitchforks can get.

One thing that i didn't really understand was why the story was told with aliens instead of humans; was it to avoid presenting as controversial statements that some could get behind (like, if the story was about a paralyzed glenn beck?), or was it to make it a metaphor of something? I must admit that in retrospect i'm wondering what's the use/effect of casting that with aliens and sci-fi; it's not really a big deal, but I just want to know if I missed something. An enjoyable 20-minute game.

Taghairm, by Chandler Groover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Pretty horrible, but a bit too repetitive, November 20, 2015
By now everyone know what Taghairm is about, right? I liked the game, and my experience was a bit different from other people, so I might as well talk about my experience.

First of all I had no idea this kind of thing existed, and it is SO messed up. For some reason I really like (Spoiler - click to show)messed-up, creepy, horrific Middle-Ages beliefs (changelings are another good one), so this was really interesting and neat! The sound atmosphere is really cool too, and adds a lot to the experience.

The game is very repetitive mechanically, and you (Spoiler - click to show)burn cat upon cat upon cat. But I felt like the horror you feel the first time starts to diminish after a few, and then is worn off by the end; I very quickly entered a pattern where I'd click almost rythmically on the links, barely pausing to read. This might be on purpose, and (maybe I'm thinking too much) may be meant as commentary on mechanized evil, and how easy it is to remove yourself emotionally from actions when they become repetitive. But if that was the purpose, I'm not sure it came across very well: basically my reaction was "ugh (Spoiler - click to show)I'm killing cats... why am I killing cats? I guess this will make sense later? Ok, I'll keep going, humor the game to see what it has to say in the end" - and then it was just about following whatever motions the game would make me follow.

By the end it's like I didn't believe the game anymore, I think I felt very removed, in a very conscious way, from the game. The voices near the end and the thunderstorm made some of the creepiness come back for me, but I wish it hadn't gone; I wish the game had been either more concise and more focused, or with more variety.
In particular, another thing that removed me from the game was that I quickly figured out that the game generated cat descriptions at random - if the game can keep generating interchangeable cats, why should I care about them? They're just 0s and 1s. If the description had more, sorry, fluff to them ("the scared cat is looking at you with big eyes", "the half-dead cat is twitching and his eyes meet yours", "the angry cat scratches you which wakes you up a little"), I might have cared a bit more; or if there was an actual direction to them, I'd have tried to see what the next cat showed me about the world or myself or my state; or if the intensity was heightened or the game kept going further. (If that makes sense?)

As is, I felt like the game heightened things by small amounts that had too much space in between them; I wish the moments where things changed had been bigger (big changes, big punches to the gut, new sounds, screen gets smokier, etc) or that the space between them had been shorter. Other than that, it's creepy, well-done, with nice sound effects, and a nice Halloween game - if you want to provoke very loud reactions in a group of friends.

Choice of Robots, by Kevin Gold

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Cool story with lots of content and replayability, September 20, 2015
"Choice of Robots" is among the best-known (and most successful) games in the Choice of Games brand. It's the first CoG game I've played, and this is a very good starting point for whoever wants to check them out: it is a really good game that everyone loved.

You are cast as a grad student in Stanford working on a new robot, and you get to customise your robot and its education, which will orient the robot's stats (Military, Autonomy, Empathy, Grace), as well as yours (Fame, Wealth). Those stats orient the narrative in a rather explicit way: the choices you are presented with are the same (I think), but some of them will result in failure because a stat is too small, or some will not be selectable because a corresponding stat needs to be high enough. In particular, there's a big choice near the end that seems to appear in every playthrough, that determines which of 4 different chapters you will play (and some of them cannot be selected if some stats aren't high enough); structurally, this kind of acts as a funnel towards the endings, reducing the number of possibilities to get a more focused finale, which is nice. In the chapters that come before, there are a lot of events that can happen rather independently, depending on choices you've made and the relationships you formed with people, and it's a lot of fun to try to explore all of them (the number of combinations seem to be huge!); whereas the finale seems to have less important variation and opportunities to change what happens: the game still takes into account, say, your romantic option, but I found it was rather interchangeable (for instance, in my first and third playthrough, I ended up married to a human or to a robot, but their reactions and dialogues were the same, and didn't seem to depend on the personality of the mate very much). Also re:interchangeability, I 'discovered' my partner's secret twice ((Spoiler - click to show)we discovered Elly was Chinese when we got married, and then she told me she had just found out recently when we both got arrested), which made it feel like the game hadn't planned for that and that my partner really was supposed to be interchangeable.

For my first playthrough, I played as truthfully as I could, choosing things that made me happy and corresponded to my personality; I was happy with the options that were presented to me and where I ended up, even though (Spoiler - click to show)I ended up having a second robot that wanted to be romantically involved with me, when I didn't want to, which was hard to navigate (but hey, that's how life is sometimes -- and maybe I shouldn't have chosen what I chose at the 'funnel choice'). I was really heartbroken at the ending, but that was OK: it was really well written and I didn't feel robbed, and it still felt satisfying. It felt like "my story" -- which is great!
However, I thought that the game was fast-forwarding through some interesting parts, including my main relationship, which is a shame. I kept thinking that we were spending so much time talking about robots and work that my partner was going to leave me, but out of the blue the game skipped to a scene where we got engaged and got married. In that sense, what followed the 'funnel' choice (I had the (Spoiler - click to show)Empathy route I think) was more satisfying, as it was dealing with human-human and human-robot relationships in depth; I just didn't like that, before that, I was trying to build a relationship but the game didn't really spend much time talking about it, which felt like I was failing at building the relationship. I have no idea if it's like that in other CoG games, but I heard the style was to present you with big important choices; but I certainly wouldn't mind having more details put into relationships (more scenes, partners aren't interchangeable, etc) instead of fast-forwarding it a bit.

I came back on my third playthrough to this route / style of choices to see what changed and what didn't, when my second playthrough was a much more aggressive character. That second playthrough in particular made me notice something else (that in retrospect was also present my other playthroughs), that sometimes choices failed without really any hint that they might fail. So, you have a list of choices, and you can kinda guess what could happen, but then something else happens and it turns out it wasn't a good choice. I don't know if that's really a bad thing, I guess; certainly there are choices in life that you make that turn out to be bad ones, and you couldn't have prevented it, and it sucks and you have to deal with it. But in a game, it kinda feels to me like it was pulling the rug from under me; I was interested in the consequences of the actions, but turns out that no, the game isn't going to go this way, and by the way you lose Wealth. (Such choices that come to mind: (Spoiler - click to show)letting kids play with your robot, waiting for a clearance to start selling robots to the US Air Force, attacking Juneau.) Just to clarify, I'm OK with actions having negative consequences for the player, I'm just not really thrilled with the prospect of having random events blocking my way; I'd much rather have the game lay out the situation, give me a choice, then explore the consequences, negative or positive, without pulling something from its sleeve at the last second.

The writing is good, and the drama is well-managed, so that each playthrough feels like an exciting or interesting story. I also really liked that the world that is described is in the near future, and is very tangibly linked to our world; a lot of the times, I felt like I recognized the pattern from the present world that was brought up and explored in a section of the game, which made it feel very possible and grounded in reality. It's really not that far-fetched, in terms of SF, and I really liked it (see above: the game organically explores a situation we both know). There are also a few jokes in the game, most of them of the geeky kind (I loved the IF references), although at times they didn't really feel appropriate (there's a Konami Code reference at an otherwise pretty dramatic moment). Your mileage may vary. Also, the prose was mostly very good technically speaking: apart from a missing period once, I didn't really notice anything in 3 playthroughs.

To sum up, "Choice of Robots" feels very satisfying: the story is great, with lots of different possibilities each exploring different thematics; the world that's described is very interesting and grounded in reality, which makes it interesting even if you're not into SF. My only regrets are that the game fast-forwards a bit through the early relationships, and that some choices are unexpectedly bad. I'll definitely keep playing it and try to get as many achievements as I can, and I'll also probably check out other CoG games!

18 Rooms to Home, by Carolyn VanEseltine

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Great concept, beautifully executed, September 19, 2015
"18 Rooms to Home" is made of 18 installments telling a story in reverse chronological order; you start with the very last room, the very last moment of the story, and each new room moves you to the previous beat of the story. This is a very interesting concept, reminiscent of 'Memento' and other experiments with fractured timelines, but the fact that it's IF, or that it's a video game, adds much more: the choices the player makes in the room N carry over to the room N+1! This means that the situation that starts the game when Room, say, 18, may not be the one you get when you play Room 17 and then Room 18; even better, each new installment adds more possibilities for a room or a point of the story that weren't available with the previous one.

As a result, it kind of feels like exploring parallel universes, and it's hard to tell which would be the "main" storyline; the best situation you can get for one installment might not be the best one at the next one, because you start at an earlier point of the storyline and you can make a choice that makes the situation even better... or worse! That's the thing: my first playthrough usually consists in trying to reach the situation in the next room I was in at the previous installment, so then I only have to redo the things I already solved; then I focus more on the new room, and try to figure out what I could do to make the storyline diverge and reach a different point. It really feels like exploring a tree of possibilities; and since there's only one more location every time, you can just focus on this and the handful of objects to try to see what you can do. This is why I would recommend playing the games in the order they are released in, starting with 18 then 17 then..., because it's fun to see all the solutions and possibilities the author put in the game, and you can just chew a little at the time.

As I'm reviewing this, we're at room 15; the obvious question is "will the author manage to keep this up?". It sure looks daunting, because if you want to provide a few meaningful choices at each new room, you have to consider their impact on the other events, and it looks like the number of possibilites explode. However, I'm fairly confident that the author will be able to finish the game: not all choices have to lead you to branches that go to the end (there could be ways to be killed, after all), and not all choices have to lead you to branches that have as many choices as others. Sometimes, some choices you make in a room avoid the problems in the next few rooms and make them completely linear! (and it's awesome that the author also thought to implement those possibilites!) And I don't think that it'd be a waste if the puzzles and content of an installment could be completely side-stepped in the next one; again, a lot of the fun (and I think the most meaningful way to play it, to get the whole experience, and play and ponder about alternate timelines) is to play it in order, and I'll actually be happy if there's a way to avoid problems that appeared in other installments, since I've already solved them. In any case, it's a huge project, and the number of possibilites and different endings is likely to be huge by the end of the game.

All this talk about the major concept of the game, and I haven't talked about the stuff you usually talk about in a review. Well, the story itself is pretty interesting, as it casts you (well, not exactly you since it's written using 3rd person) as a superhero with interesting powers, and you have to fight other powerful people -- it seems that superheroes coexist with humans, but still have to hide their true identities. The details so far are a bit fuzzy, which is part of the fun: who are those people, what happened for the situation to be like that, why did that happen, and oh man, am I going to be able to change this? You get a few details about the world, and the game presents you events that happened in the past by showing their consequences in your scene -- which is awesome, because you can kind of guess what will happen in the next installments, and wonder how you can change it. Anyway, the situation, personalities and characters that are shown make me feel like a TV show (also possibly the short length of playthroughs), not a Marvel movie; this is a good thing, because the game can set its own tone and explore its themes more quietly and interestingly than a *ka-pow* *boom* superhero movie, and can also afford to avoid the gritty-bombing-death-civilians tone of other movies. The superpowers are limited, there's no impending doom and destruction of the whole world; it seems to be a lot more about relationships, and a lot more personal, which makes it deeper and carrying more weight and drama. And, as I said, we don't know all the details about the world just yet, so there could be twists, things we learn about the past that explain or cast a new light on relationships, or even dramatic changes.

I'm *really* excited about "18 Rooms to Home", and wish good luck to the author: I really like this experiment, and I hope she'll manage to complete it!

The Island of Doctor Wooby, by Ryan Veeder

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Short, cute game with smart writing, August 31, 2015
In "The Island of Doctor Wooby", you explore an island inhabited by a dozen felt dinosaurs that are randomly generated. The game is short, about half an hour and two or three puzzles (not really hard, you just have to search around), although it will take longer if you take your time and interact with the dinosaurs; the game even provides you an option to continue playing after you 'won' (solved the main puzzle).

This game is child-ey and very cute. Made for PetJam, it features felt dinosaurs that are randomly generated and carefully coded; they have quite a lot of messages and interact with each other, and you can even guess at some of their personalities. They get hungry, some eat only specific food, and sometimes they have been stuffed too much; you can spend quite a bit of time taking care of them.
I really like the fact that they were dinosaurs and their names were randomly generated; those two things seem to really fit well together. I mean, how do you create names of dinosaurs if not by combining some random words with a -saurus or -lodon suffix? That's how you end up with Edmontonsaurus, E. Saskatchewanensis, and Albertausaurus, right? And dinosaur names are the most complicated animal names (more common animals have simpler names), so when you're a kid, you see those great creatures with complicated names, and it just sounds awesome, and it's so cool you just want to learn all their big names and spout them off at the dinner table. Just like that kid in Ad Verbum, right? My point is, dinosaur names are as cool as the dinosaurs themselves, so having fun, procedurally-generated names is very fitting and a great idea. (And, if you don't like typing their names, which, yes, you have to type without typos and the game doesn't abide by the 8-char resolution of inform dict names, you can give them a different name, which is a cool feature.)
I also really liked the game's approach to the world, which felt very appropriate. The game describes a beach, but the sea is just waves drawn on cardboard, and a waterfall is just a pipe dripping water. The game will readily acknowledge this if you try to examine objects more closely, and it's really nice, because doing so clearly identifies the setting as a child's play: "it's a sea, well of course we know it's not really the sea, but let's *pretend* it's the sea". Same with the food, which is felt too: when you feed a dinosaur, the food doesn't disappear from your inventory, which means it's "pretend eating", just like a child would do when playing at cooking; furthermore, it solves very gracefully the problem of having to feed the dinosaurs but not wanting to have to go pick up more food when you're out or whatever.

The game is light on puzzle and story, but i don't think those are meant to be its focus; it's about the dinosaurs. The range of interactions you can have with them is not very deep, i think, so it's not meant to be a game that will take you long; exploring and solving the few puzzles will add a little bit to your playing time, if you're so inclined.
I have no idea how well the game would work with kids, and would be curious to know; it seems like it could be fun for them, but i could be wrong (not 'the real' dinosaurs, no pictures). In any case, it was fun for me!

Voltage Cafe: Writing a dissertation is no dessert, by anjchang

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Simplistic game with not much to offer, August 23, 2015
"Voltage Café" is about a grad student trying to get some writing done at a café. Oddly, it seems to be a self-contained game, which is not what IntroComp is about... The game itself is pretty short, and somewhat repetitive: you need to type >write, except that sometimes your character is hungry or thirsty and you need to order something and eat it in order to keep going; this is a pretty simplistic mechanism, and not very interesting in IF, since you use 3 verbs and there's no time constraint or skill involved.

The way the game describes the central goal of the game, the thesis, is very odd. First of all nothing is described in any detail: we don't even know what subject is the thesis on, and the few details that are given are contradictory ("an alternate proof", "a new design space" and "Oulipo" - math or art history or literature??). There's also not enough messages cycling through when you >write: if you expect your player to type this 20 times to win the game, you have to have 20 responses, not 5. Finally, my biggest gripe about it is that it really doesn't reflect what writing a thesis is: the game's messages say "you discover new insights in your field", "you outline new designs" and "new ideas come pouring in your brain". This is completely the opposite of what a thesis is: writing a thesis is AFTER all this, after years of research in which you discover new stuff and feel excited (until you discover a flaw or you get stuck) and sketch new things. Writing a thesis is getting all your notes and ideas together, and trying to write them as clearly, cleanly, precisely and concisely as possible, maintaining a coherent flow and structure, explaining why your work is important, reviewing literature, etc.; it's not as exciting, but it needs to be done instead of thinking about more novel ideas and research, which is exactly why people procrastinate on it!!

The game is sparsely implemented, with not a lot in terms of scenery, a protagonist you know nothing of, and an NPC that's not very interactive; and the writing is not very good, with everything being very generic and short descriptions that don't say much. The implementation is not very good either, with messages crashing into each other, lone periods and typos.

I wouldn't recommend this game, and don't want to see more, if there is more. I would advise the author to do their research (heh) so that they know more about the topic they are writing about, which will allow them to be more specific and truer; and attempt to tell a story in the game if the mechanics are meant to be simple. For what it's worth, the introductory sentence "you heard this café is supposed to be particularly good for students who want to finally write their thesis" made me wonder 'why? what is it about this café that makes it that great? is there a magic spell? an old sage that can help any graduate student in any topic? that could be exciting' -- those kind of ideas would put a fresh spin on the well-worn scenario, which is exactly what is needed.

Meld, by David Whyld

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Unpredictable systematic mechanics aren't too fun, August 23, 2015
"Meld" is a parser game in which your character can >meld x with y, which combines two objects to form a third one, or >unmeld x, to create two objects from one.

The setting is a contemporary town with a few locations and characters; apparently melding is a sought-after capability in this world, and nobody objects to people doing it in plain view. However I felt that the story was kind of odd: an absolute stranger decides to test you, makes you (Spoiler - click to show)meld your ID card to get (Spoiler - click to show)the key to a park with a tavern full of gamblers. This lacked stakes for our character: why is she acting like that and not just going back home, why is she humoring the stranger who claims (Spoiler - click to show)to know something about your sister when he could have just Googled that? This is a bit naive, not really the attitude you have when meeting a mysterious stranger... Besides, why (Spoiler - click to show)does she even use her ID and risk losing it for a total stranger? why doesn't she unmeld the key and just go?

Mechanically, the game is based on this melding capability, but it's not really explained how this works. Actually, the game explains that it's totally unpredictable. (At first, I thought that it was (Spoiler - click to show)about plays on words, since ring + ID card = key, keyring, keycard... but it's not an Andrew Schultz game :)) Personally, I understand "unpredictable" as "here's a way to get random objects to solve puzzles that the author dumped in the game" and "you're going to have to try all the combinations to figure out what the author wanted of you", and when the game explained that there was (seemingly) no connection between input and output, I was disappointed and couldn't see how this could be fun; I don't want to guess the author's mind as a puzzle.
If you wanted to use this mechanic, you could make it really random, i.e. the result differs on each playthrough, and like, you say that objects have an "energy level" so that two objects of level 3 can be melded in a random object of level 4, and this becomes about resource management / roguelike-y and could be fun. That's kind of the only way I see to have an uncontrollable mechanism as the basis of your game and to make it fun.

The implementation is mostly good, even if there are a few bugs (Spoiler - click to show)(can't >unlock gate with key, jacob doesn't react to the ring...). If your game is based on a systematic mechanic, though, you have to be ready and expect emergent gameplay and players being smarter than you, and at least provide several possible solutions to the puzzles. I don't really know if "Meld" does that in the introduction (not that I could see I guess), but that's something to be expected for a full version of the game.

In short, "Meld" left me unconvinced, because its central mechanic is not very interesting for the player since it cannot be predicted; it seems like the player would spend their time trying all the possibilities to find what the author intended, which isn't fun. It'd be better if this mechanic had some kind of rules the player could then attempt to exploit freely and to the best of their ability.

Lair of the Gorgonanth, Part 1: "Bring Me the Beard of Nimrod Supertramp", by Andrew Watt

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Colorful world, but could be tighter and taken more seriously, August 23, 2015
"Lair of the Gorgonanth, Part 1" is a Twine in which your character's goal is to kill Nimrod Supertramp to get the bounty on his head. The world is fun and colorful, with ogre with machineguns and a biker gang of bounty-hunting witches, not to be taken too seriously. However, the problem is that the writing is not taking the world seriously, and add a mixed bag of throwaway jokes, crude jokes, silly jokes (Spoiler - click to show)(vanish) and over-the-top actions. A perfect example of this: (Spoiler - click to show)the strength of Nimrod Supertramp lies in his beard, which is interesting symbolically, and then the game adds that his soul is in a boil on his ass, which, I don't even want to get to that scene anymore. This undermines the game, when the story and the situation seemed perfectly good: the goal is clearly identified, you have a nice add-on with the person who was captured by Supertramp and their relationship, which raises stakes and anticipation, you have a bunch of very distinct and fun characters who all want to best/kill each other to get this bounty... The humour here shoudn't be in the writing and the silly jokes, which affect pacing: they should be about the characters clashing, Wacky Races-style (I love Wacky Races), each with their own strategies and personalities that create a funny, explosive mix. The writing shouldn't get in the way by trying to be funny too, otherwise it feels like it's not very sure if the game is fun; the best comedy is played straight.

I also thought that the main character's deal wasn't very good and didn't bring much to the game. I mean, we don't know a lot about the main character, or their institution; their plan is not a very good one (Spoiler - click to show)(wait until the bounty hunters kill the guy, then kill all the bounty hunters? isn't it as hard as killing the guy directly?), and what happens is not very coherent (Spoiler - click to show)(if you're in a world where hecklers are shot on the spot, are bounty hunters really going to knock out someone who betrayed them, or straight up kill them?). Just have the character be another of the bounty hunters, and say them don't trust him fully but they don't have any particular beef; you don't need an extra reason for bounty hunters not to trust each other, and the PC could be (Spoiler - click to show)a government spy without it affecting much (it could just be his thing/personality he uses later on). Because right now, you set up a secret, then it doesn't matter anymore, and so it's kind of pointless.

In any case, I'd like to see more from this game, but only if the author commits to and exploits the funny that's inside the setting and the characters; no need to add silly jokes, and it fact it trips the game up more than it helps. Just play it straight, clear up the situation with the PC, and use your characters and the way their personalities have to clash as they all go for the gold as what drives your game and makes it funny. Wacky Races, man.

Deprivation, by Michael Coorlim

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Not fully-formed, but has potential, August 23, 2015
"Deprivation" is an 'apartment game' in which your character has insomnia and is rather fragile following a sad event.

The game is fairly well implemented, although sparsely; I'd expect from an 'apartment game' that the objects have lots of responses and messages, but they don't really. (Among the problems, (Spoiler - click to show)read book = x bookcase, >think doesn't do anything although I'd expect it to do something in this case, since our protagonist is brooding, you can't open the bottle of mustard, there's empty scenery, "sleep: go to bed then; >go to bed: it's right there", etc.)
Look, maybe I'm biased because I just spent a lot of time on it and its source, but the best 'apartment game' is _Shade_, in that it does everything almost perfectly. Each object has 15 or 20 different responses, moving is super smooth, etc. I'm also mentioning _Shade_ because the readme of Deprivation says it's a "state-based game", when I didn't see any real difference in the setting or in the protagonist as the game progressed (and _Shade_ is an amazing example for that).

The setting is different here, and it could go several interesting ways: exploring the relationship, fighting the blues, paranomal/surreal, etc., so I'd like to see more; but for now, it seems like the game is missing direction. As a player, I have absolutely no idea what I'm supposed to do: I poked around a little bit, but I don't know if I'm supposed to make the PC feel better, or worse (I tried acting as self-destructive as I could, just to see if that was the way the game was trying to make me go), or whatever I want, or am I supposed to watch out for surreal elements, or did I miss something... The game doesn't really say anything, and I also found that the descriptions weren't really setting a particular mood; they're kind of neutral, when the PC's inner state should be more reflected (I was surprised when (Spoiler - click to show)the game denied me cake out of self-loathing - I hadn't realized it was that bad). Also, there's a few instances of "tell, don't show": for instance (Spoiler - click to show)the movie on the TV is described as "you've seen it before, you identify as the protagonist and it makes you feel better": how? why? what is the movie, what is it about? tell me about the movie so I can imagine it and thus imagine how the protagonist feels like: show, don't tell). And same things for (Spoiler - click to show)the texts and the emails.

So, I'd like to see more, but not really thanks to what the game showed, since there really isn't much there in terms of story or hints of events to come; the setting could lead to an interesting game, but also to a boring one unfortunately, so it's a bit tricky. There are problems in this introduction that need to be addressed for it to really work and not be just a "my apartment sucks, my life sucks" game; we need stronger characterization or direction in the game, and more stuff happening, and a stronger-than-average implementation. Really, _Shade_ is a good example that gets it right, and there are lots of ideas to steal and principles to follow in there.

Beyond Division, by Joseph Geipel
SF with an interesting framing and non-standard PCs, August 23, 2015
"Beyond Division" tells the story of an Earth under an alien invasion, and how a discovery in Siberia holds promise to fend off the aliens. The point of view changes and alternates between a wolf and a human, which I thought was interesting; especially the part where (Spoiler - click to show)we alternate and see both sides of the same conversation, which is interesting and I hope to see more of. The parts about the wolf feature non-standard library messages, and a stronger emphasis on some verbs, which is a very nice feature and contributes to setting the mood. The game takes an interesting keyword-based approach to conversations, which I found pretty effective. The writing is mostly good, although there are a few times where I didn't understand what the author meant by the turn of phrase (Spoiler - click to show)('the scars are the same' to say they haven't healed, 'the span of the tree is more horizontal than others' to say the tree had fallen). The implementation is overall good, and if the game keeps being made of short vignettes, it will probably be easy to keep the implementation level sufficient.

What I found the most interesting in this game was how it was framed: the story is, apparently, told by someone else, who also (Spoiler - click to show)provides footnotes throughout the story. The thing is, the game doesn't really explain how is this framing useful and connected to the story, which managed to leave me both scared and excited about what's to come. I mean, what does the game have to do with Latin? Who is talking? To who? Is it another character talking to my character who is then imagining him/herself as other characters in the story? (Spoiler - click to show)Is the author talking to the player directly? (cf the reference to the title in footnote 5) Is the author in 9th grade? I don't really what to expect from the story: am I supposed to play it straight, or is this the extended setup for a terrible pun in Latin that will be the last sentence of the work, like one of those Asimov short stories? Is it (Spoiler - click to show)going to be a 9th grade type of story, should I expect robots punching each other and Mountain Dew? Or a parody/deconstruction of those?

This is the game that piqued my interest the most among the Introcomp games this year, but I really don't know what to expect. However, it sets up several interesting ideas and threads, and if that all comes together and the author can pull it off, it could be very interesting and daring; let's hope this is the case!

Walker's Rift, by verityvirtue

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting setting, but needs to guide the player a bit more, August 23, 2015
In "Walker's Rift", you are the director of a new station, in a futuristic city inspired by Singapore with a monster problem. The world depicted is interesting, with monster hunters who have to go explore sewage systems to eradicate them, as well as the depiction of a high class which doesn't know a thing about what regular folks endure down there; it may feel like a classic device, especially in SF, but I like if the contrast safety/monsters and the need for monster hunters to go crawl in the sewage is explored further.

The game gives you several options to personalize your character, including how they should be referred to, what kind of job they have, how they got there and how they feel about it. However, I didn't feel like it mattered very much from what I saw, and there is one instance where the game contradicts itself (Spoiler - click to show)(asking you what you think about coffee when earlier in the game they say you are at your third cup of coffee); I don't think it leads to radically different playthroughs, but I could be wrong. I didn't really like that (Spoiler - click to show)the game litterally listed 3 reasons why you might not like coffee when selecting this option, as if you need to make up your own: I prefer it when the author is specific, and uses the info I provide to write a specific character, justifying my choices, instead of 'just picture it in your head'.

The writing is okay, although some sentences didn't really work for me ((Spoiler - click to show)'the girl lingers outside like a bad smell'...). Some parts, again, would be improved by more precise writing; there's mention of "gossip on the internet", but didn't really say what, and other parts were maybe too long or had choices that weren't really interesting. The biggest gameplay part was (Spoiler - click to show)investigating the disease, but this doesn't really work mechanically: you are presented with, like, 6 options, with no real idea on what you should do first (and it's "timed", you can't do them all), and if you don't do things in the right order you frustratingly go down a completely useless branch (and sometimes the branches repeat text, which is even more frustrating). There was no real guidelines anywhere, nobody to ask about either, and even when you do something that's not optimal, the game doesn't really tell you "oh, maybe you should have done ..." or something; so I thought that was frustrating, since I interpreted it as "lawnmowering to find the author's sequence of events" rather than a problem of method (which it might have been, but since the game didn't help me figure it out...). Which is a shame, really - that sounded interesting, like a futuristic (Spoiler - click to show)House, MD episode, and there aren't enough games like that, especially sci-fi ones; but it's gotta be logical or have some kind of rules or method so that the player feels they understand what's going on a bit.

I would like to see more of that game, especially given the setting, but the gameplay elements were unsatisfying for now, and maybe I would have liked to see more in this introduction to know what to expect (is it going to be all investigation, or will there be action sequences? also, more details about the world).

Halothane, by Ravi Rajkumar

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Polished but fails to entertain, August 23, 2015
"Halothane" isn't about the story, according to its own author; it's more of a collection of scenes, tied together very loosely by a premice that's kind of interesting. You have to know this before playing, or you'll get frustrated; i kept looking for clues or connections, even just thematic connections, to know how those scenes were going to tie together in the end, but they don't, and it was a letdown for me. Setting up very different scenes and have the player scratch their heads for connections is awesome if you are able to resolve it and have some unexpected yet coherent thing that ties it up together; it feels like a magic trick and blows the reader's mind! (See the structure of Photopia, more generally of an Harold.) There were a few connections (hospital, red liquids, etc) which made me hope for everything tying together somehow, but then nothing happened and it felt like the author made me waste my energy/attention/investment in the game.

The game is very linear, and you have to complete a scene in order to move to the next; at the beginning you can unlock 'bonus scenes', i think based on if you searched around lots in the previous scene. Each scene has a few puzzles, and they are straightforward if you remember standard adventurer verbs; I felt the game was rather easy, and got 90% of the points in my playthrough. But as the game progressed, and as i realized that things were not going to tie together, I lost investment and kinda just went through the motions. I think what kept me playing too was the level of polish: the game is bug-free, you can't get stuck, and there's a very nice hint system, which makes it very smooth and kept me going. Had the game been more buggy or guess-the-verb-y, I would have quit long before; but I didn't like that the game would sometimes get snarky or condescending (or a terse "That's just scenery.") for no reason other than that's not the solution that was expected right here.

Another aspect that didn't work for me was 'the comedy'. I mean, the game's walkthrough says it's supposed to be a fun game, that started as parody, and it has an AMUSING section and lots of references to other IF works... But it didn't make me laugh, like, not once; part of it may be that i haven't played any of the game so the references were lost on me. (Interestingly too, the author's notes say he wanted to explore the idea of a linear game with puzzles and push Photopia further; the game didn't strike me as innovative at all and i wasn't surprised by anything, which could mean the game is dated and players have changed since 99.) But also, I didn't find the situations to be funny, or the writing; but it's just that i hadn't really noticed, rather than the game tried and failed, which would have been worse.

So I don't know what happened, and maybe this review comes from taking this game seriously, coming at it from the wrong angle and expecting the wrong things out of it. I would say, though: don't expect a one-laugh-a-minute game, though, but the premise might be mildly amusing to you, even if it's not going anywhere in the end; the puzzles are easy, you won't get stuck, and you get to see interesting scenes.

Pirates des Charaïbes - Chat pitre 1, by o0o0 (Ensemble Vide et Epistolaire)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Introduction très prometteuse et drôle !, August 4, 2015
"Pirates des Charaïbes" est un jeu qui se déroule sur l'île du Dugong, où vous suivez les aventures de Gash et Flocon, deux amoureux pirates. L'ambiance de pirate est réussie (bal du Gouverneur, rhum, etc.), et le ton résolument parodique ; le jeu ne se prend pas au sérieux, et l'humour part dans tous les sens, avec plein de références pop culture (anachroniques) qui partent elles aussi dans tous les sens (heavy metal, Moby Dick, Pokémon, Man Ray...). J'aurais pu dire que ça rappelle Monkey Island, mais c'est bien plus foutraque, et parfois plus osé.

Le jeu arrive quand même à poser une ambiance intéressante entre les blagues ; j'ai beaucoup aimé le rhum-gros-piment, par exemple, qui est rigolo mais crédible, et j'espère qu'il y aura des duels de rhum-gros-piment dans le jeu final. Les situations dans lesquelles le jeu nous plonge sont chouettes, plutôt variées et fertiles. Les personnages secondaires sont relativement bien posés, même si on n'évite pas les clichés plutôt limites (4 personnages obèses, 3 méchants et 1 ridicule, sur 6 NPCs dans la première scène ; le stéréotype asiatique façon péril jaune dans la deuxième partie, et pourquoi pas celui du (Spoiler - click to show)pirate informatique). C'est sans doute ça le plus gros écueil que le jeu doit éviter : arriver à maintenir un rythme soutenu et enlevé sans forcément essayer de faire rire à tout prix et à n'importe quel prix tout le temps ; sinon, ça risque d'être épuisant pour le joueur, et sans doute aussi pour les auteurs. Les personnages sont intéressants, l'idée d'un couple de pirate (et de jouer à Roméo et Juliette chez les pirates) est très chouette, et le monde peut être assez développé pour donner une histoire et des aventures palpitantes sans se prendre au sérieux - c'est ça qui porte le jeu sur la durée, je pense.

L'interface est assez intéressante, et il me semble inédite : vous contrôlez à tour de rôle, pendant 5 tours, chacun des personnages, et les auteurs recommandent de jouer à ce jeu à deux (l'un sur les genoux de l'autre de préférence). Au final, c'est assez intéressant et ça se joue bien, et ça pourrait sans doute donner une variété de situations et de mécanismes qui jouent avec cette contrainte !

Techniquement, j'ai trouvé le jeu quasi-irréprochable, et même mieux : le jeu ose faire des trucs différents et qui marchent super bien, et j'ai été agréablement surpris et impressionné par la qualité du jeu ! C'est correctement débogué, la barre de statut customisée donne des informations intéressantes (et elle est en bas, et ça passe bien !!), il y a des phases de combat qui sont bien faites ; et surtout, les objets importants sont colorés en bleu (et les sorties en vert), et taper le nom d'un objet (sans verbe) correspond à l'examiner (comme dans Blue Lacuna, il me semble). Je crois que c'est un peu inédit pour un jeu en français, et nul doute que ça aide les joueurs novices. Et il y a des 'haut faits' (achievements), plutôt drôles de surcroît, à la fin du jeu ! Tout ceci fait que le jeu est très travaillé niveau interface et est un plaisir à jouer.

En résumé, "Pirates des Charaïbes" est un jeu drôle et très bien fait, qui prend moins d'une heure à jouer et qui est relativement facile. L'atmosphère du jeu est prenante et promet de belles aventures avec un couple de personnages intéressant, l'aspect technique est impressionnant, et les blagues sont drôles, même si un jeu plus long avec une histoire plus développée devrait sans doute réduire la densité de blagues et se recentrer un peu plus sur le monde et l'aventure. J'espère de tout coeur qu'une suite à cette introduction verra le jour !!

The Play, by Dietrich Squinkifer (Squinky)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A rich game about the difficulty of group dynamics, June 21, 2015
'The Play' is set during a dress rehearsal of a play, the last one before the first performance; as the director, it is your responsibility to manage everyone and make sure that last rehearsal goes... somewhat well. This in itself is a very interesting setting and situation, where you have a linear path that is more or less followed with each playthrough, but with lots of variations, as resolving some situations might create different problems, and the emotional state of each character (tracked helpfully on the top right corner of the screen) changes.

The fact that you need to manage the emotions of four different characters, and that some decisions may make some happy but others will feel worse, create somewhat of an optimization problem, with multiple strategies possible: I kept going back and playing around different things, like "ok, this time let's try to keep that guy somewhat happy" or "i'm going to try to make this person so enraged they quit", when my first playthrough was less game-y and more "i'll stick to what i think is right". The game itself is very rich, and the state in which the characters are is genuinely important: depending on their mood, they might interject with new lines, or not say anything (and thus some choices are never offered), etc. This gives the impression of a lot of content to explore; furthermore, since everything is justified so nicely, it always feels coherent and polished, which is extremely enjoyable. I also loved that the final bit is a review of your play, with lots of variations and summing up and reflecting very well the choices you made and how everyone feels.

The game deals somewhat prominently with themes of female empowerment and sexual harassment, but not too heavy-handedly, as it is always focused on the present actions (the play, the relationship between actors). The pressure of having to finish the play further complicates the matter, as dealing with such issues also implies making some people happy and some unhappy, which is a practical consideration you will want to take into account as well; it makes the judgement calls having real consequences, which is more interesting than just applying absolute considerations or your own values. But I also liked that there were other situations influencing the state of things: tensions between director and actor, between old actors and young actors, between good and less experienced actors, etc. The only thing I felt was missing was in the character of the stage manager, who doesn't really get emotionally involved (at least, she didn't in my playthroughs), when there could have been more drama from the opposition with the actors (and the director) here too.

One of the things I didn't really like was that you could make choices as the director, but you didn't have control over the tone or content of your own line; as a result, I felt that sometimes Ainsley's lines were a bit too sharp or passive-aggressive given what I was expecting to achieve with this line, e.g. trying to move forward but ending up making a mean comment. But then again, if my own experience in theatre taught me anything, it's that the director is always tempted to lose their cool and fire back with a sharp tongue when actors are not being 100% cooperative (or even when they are); after all, the director is stressed too, and sometimes an artistic ego that clashes with the actor's. I don't know if the game would have been improved or needlessly complexified by the addition of a state of mind for the director as well (maybe it would lock you more in choices or in downward spirals, thus making it more frustrating for the player), but that could be interesting.

To sum up, 'The Play' is a very good 15-minute game, with lots to see and to play with; the setting feels fresh, yet coherent and realistic, and attempting to fulfill all the goals is fun, while giving food for thought about the complexity of relationships and group dynamics (and putting on plays!).

Second Date, by @HarrisonChute
Enjoyable pulpy thriller with a nice number of branches, June 10, 2015
"Second Date" is a thriller with some scenes of gore, in which you go on a date with Jessica, who's hiding a secret, which of course you'll discover in due time. It kind of feels like one of those TV shows like CSI or Dexter, with scenes of gore (although more graphic than those, though not quite reaching Saw levels) and an investigation of hidden secrets.

The writing is mostly good: it is conveyed in quick, sharp passages which keep the energy and tension up, and make the characters, which are a bit stereotypical, nonetheless feel alive. I also liked the way the internal dialogue of the protagonist was written like a real dialogue between people. Unfortunately, I found that the game tried to maintain the high energy all the time, instead of modulating it, which made it feel sometimes like it was trying too hard. On a similar note, I felt like the characters were sometimes starting "big, important tirades" for no reason; it didn't really work to build character, if that's the effect that was intended, and it was pretty transparent and thus didn't work. (One particular tirade, on campus, left me very confused: I still don't know if that was character-building of a minor character, or the author trying to insert his personal beliefs in the game.)

I was pleaseantly surprised at the amount of branches and endings; some of them are rather big and deep, and clearly the author put quite a bit of work into them; I replayed the game three times to explore more and found different endings. Conveniently, the game offers the possibility at the end to rewind to a few crucial points, which was very welcome. Total play time was a bit more than half an hour, and I feel you can fully explore it in an hour, maybe more.

Overall, Second Date is an enjoyable horror-thriller game with good replayability and a nice atmosphere, although the writing could be more controlled and the characters feel a bit like stereotypes.

The Axe of Kolt, by Larry Horsfield

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Long and enjoyable old-school game, May 17, 2015
The "Axe of Kolt" is a legendary axe that you must recover and give to King Kelson, who has been captured by the evil Xixons ; a standard fantasy setting, played straight and nicely. This ADRIFT version is a remastering of the original ZX Spectrum game which came out in the early 90s; it is not exactly the same game, with some puzzles having been reworked or streamlined, and I think also adapted to modern sensitivities i.e. nicer to the player (which is good!). The game is Polite (or maybe a bit Tough), and you can die quite a few times (though never unfairly), but nothing that can't be solved by undoing a couple of times; the deaths themselves are rather 'pulpy' and I find them enjoyable.

The story itself is nothing special, but the setting is detailed and expansive; there are lots of characters, events, and locations, none of which feel forced or out of place. The world has diverse locations (each of the four acts has its own identity, so to speak), and everything is very thouroughly implemented (disclaimer: I was a beta tester for this game), which makes the whole thing alive. The puzzles themselves are fairly well balanced, though not too easy; most of them are well-clued, although there is inevitably a couple of 'read-the-author's-mind' moments, and there are no 'guess-the-verb' problems and other frustrations like that thanks to the great implementation. It's a long game: each of the four acts will probably take half a dozen hours, and there are a lot of puzzles; the game is also pretty linear, which means you might get stuck sometimes.

Overall, "The Axe of Kolt" is a long, classical text adventure with a nice setting, very good implementation and fair puzzles; it's an old school game that avoids a lot of the old-school pitfalls, and thus suited to modern sensitivities.

Even Cowgirls Bleed, by Christine Love

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Nice story but didn't like the end, March 30, 2015
This game puts you in the boots of a young cowgirl (who's a bit overexcited) as she travels to a nearby city. The game has a colorful retro aesthetic, complete with 8-bit gun sound. It maintains a very nice focus on shooting: the way you interact with the links conveys excitement (especially the first time it happens, I found), and waiting is done with fiddling with your gun: a very cool example of linking mechanics and theme together.

Unfortunately, I really disliked the end; I felt it was overly dramatic and tragic. The event that triggers it is very interesting, both emotionally and symbolically, and opens up a lot of possibilities; unfortunately, what happens is, I found, the least interesting option, for the player and the relationship. It is probably a conscious choice from the author, serving to illustrate a choice or a point of view; but as a player (and probably as a person with a completely different personality, I guess?), I found myself disappointed, and I didn't feel emotionally invested or connected to the character in any way.

Entre Terre et Ciel, by Nathanaël Marion

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Pas assez d'indices, mais bonne ambiance, March 24, 2015
"Entre Terre et Ciel" est la deuxième partie de la trilogie initiée par "Le Temple Nâga" ; notre protagoniste doit combattre le démon qui inquiète ce monde, à l'aide d'une orbe qui lui confère le pouvoir de passer entre la terre et le ciel. Tout le jeu est basé sur l'interface entre la terre et le ciel : ce que vous faites dans un monde affecte l'autre, et vous devrez naviguer entre les deux pour résoudre ce problème. Les puzzles sont relativement nombreux, et de difficulté moyenne (le plus difficile, je pense, m'a fait penser à Braid, ce qui m'a aidé pour me représenter la solution) ; il faut compter sans doute deux heures pour en venir à bout. Le monde décrit est intéressant, dans un style fantasy antique, et les puzzles sont en bout de compte très variés.

Le plus gros reproche que je fais à ce jeu, et qui malheureusement a rendu mon expérience relativement frustrante, est que les puzzles s'enchaînent sans grande cohérence et sans beaucoup d'indices de la part du monde ou du personnage : on sait qu'il faut faire quelque chose avec les quatre temples, mais on ne sait pas trop quoi ; tout s'enchaîne dans un ordre bien précis (i.e. c'est pas comme si on avait 4 quêtes à résoudre en parallèle), et je me suis retrouvé plusieurs fois à faire une action juste parce que c'était la seule chose que je devais faire, en me disant "ça débloquera quelque chose" mais sans savoir pourquoi. Du coup, on perd un peu de cohérence et d'intérêt niveau "interface entre les deux mondes", ça ressemble plutôt à "je suis bloqué dans ce monde, il doit y avoir quelque chose à faire dans l'autre et ça me débloquera". Dommage ! Il y a de plus quelques fautes d'orthographe à déplorer, et le fait que la carte principale ne soit pas carrée m'a semblé comme étant un choix douteux (j'ai aussi eu la flemme de dessiner une carte) : on sait où on veut aller, et on a juste l'impression que l'auteur a mis un obstacle on ne sait trop pourquoi.

En résumé, si vous cherchez un jeu long et rempli d'énigmes variées, n'hésitez pas à l'essayer ; par contre, le monde décrit manque de cohésion à mon goût pour mériter une note plus élevée.

Catapole, by Adrien Saurat

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Amusante dystopie, March 23, 2015
"Catapole est un jeu qui se déroule sous terre, où tout le monde s'active pour fournir de l'énergie à un monde utopique en surface. On a ici quelques thèmes intéressants (opposition surface/terre, travail ouvrier et culture ouvrière, environnement) qui sont imbriqués de façon originale ; tout est expliqué de façon expansive (d'aucuns diraient verbeuse) dans les premières scènes du jeu. Cependant c'est plutôt bien emmené et ça ne semble pas lourd ; en fait, malgré ce que les thématiques pourraient laisser penser, le jeu est très léger et jovial ! Ceci grâce à l'écriture du jeu, pleine d'humour et d'entrain ; le personnage principal est relativement attachant, il y a quelques autres npcs bien écrits, et le jeu est truffé de commentaires et descriptions amusants ; il y a également plusieurs "easter eggs", inutiles mais drôles et qui contribuent à l'immersion. Le fait que le jeu est aussi bien implanté et complet aide également : peu de frustration, et les réponses même négatives contribuent à poser une atmosphère. Les puzzles sont bien posés, il y en a une demi-douzaine ; pour certains puzzles, la mort guette, mais les solutions sont relativement logiques et on ne reste pas bloqué. Le seul reproche que je pourrais faire est que la fin est un poil abrupte ; le nombre de péripéties est certainement suffisant, mais la résolution est rapide et plutôt expéditive. Un très bon jeu, un des meilleurs en français !

Brume, by Rémi Verschelde (Akien)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Un jeu court et plaisant, March 22, 2015
Brume est un jeu façon "escape-the-room", où vous êtes enfermé dans une chambre au deuxième étage d'un bâtiment qui semble être en feu. Il y a une paire d'énigmes, qui sont plutôt simples et bien indiquées ; mais la plus grande force du jeu est son implémentation, qui est très complète : tout a été implanté avec grand soin, même les actions les moins évidentes. Au final, le jeu est plaisant et pas frustrant du tout.

L'écriture est plutôt intéressante : certains passages sont très bien écrits, et les descriptions posent bien l'atmosphère ; de plus c'est un concept rafraîchissant pour une escape-the-room. Mais j'ai trouvé que certains passages avaient beaucoup trop de fioritures - surtout l'introduction, qui est longue, remplie d'adjectifs compliqués, et finalement n'apporte pas grand-chose au récit. Enfin, j'ai trouvé dommage que le jeu ne nous apporte pas plus de précisions sur la raison pour laquelle on est enfermés, et la fin ne répond à aucune question.

Bref, Brume est court (30 minutes), très bien implanté et plutôt bien écrit ; dommage qu'il ne soit pas un peu plus développé.

Escape Room : La pièce vide, by FibreTigre

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Très bon concept pour un jeu court, November 5, 2014
Vous vous trouvez dans une pièce, avec une photographie pour seul indice ; le but : trouver le mot à taper sur le digicode pour pouvoir sortir de la pièce. Le concept du jeu est assez novateur : on ne peut que regarder un détail de la photographie et penser à quelque chose, en suivant le fil des pensées. Il faut faire attention à bien tout explorer et ne pas oublier un indice pour trouver la solution finale.

Ce concept est assez intéressant, dans le sens où il permet de poser une scène petit à petit, en s'attachant à des détails pour dépeindre une situation ; de plus, le mécanisme d'explorer la mémoire du protagoniste est intrigant et intéressant, et justifie bien l'exposition (le dilemme permanent du personnage qui est censé en savoir bien plus que le joueur, mais qui doit communiquer ces informations au joueur d'une certaine façon...). Il me semble que c'est le premier jeu à utiliser ce mécanisme, et c'est plutôt bien fait : les réponses sont courtes, ce qui est absolument requis (on localise les indices plus facilement, on n'est pas découragé par des gros murs de texte, ça conserve l'énergie), et l'écriture est plutôt bonne : la situation est originale, bien posée et intriguante, même si on regrette la présence du stéréotype de la "femme folle avec qui le héros a couché qui veut se venger". Par contre, le jeu aurait bénéficié d'un bêta-test, même sommaire, pour rajouter des synonymes ou des sujets qui paraissent logiques, et éviter quelques bugs embêtants (la porte blindée n'a pas l'attribut openable, et la piscine dépeinte sur la photo est 'trop difficile à transporter'...) ; c'est malheureusement un reproche récurrent que l'on pourrait faire à cet auteur.

Plus récemment, le jeu "Trac" par Eric Forgeot utilise un mécanisme relativement similaire, pour une situation (une cantatrice paralysée par le trac) très différente mais toute aussi intéressante. Enfin pour les anglophones, le jeu "Enigma" par Simon Deimel (IFComp14) utilise également ce principe, amené un peu différemment : le temps s'est arrêté en un moment crucial, et votre cerveau confus essaie de comprendre la situation, qui se révèle peu à peu ; c'est beaucoup mieux réalisé techniquement (aucun bug, tous les sujets de pensée sont implantés, le texte change en fonction de la progression du joueur), mais malheureusement souffre d'une écriture imprécise et générique qui enlève au jeu sa portée émotionnelle. Il est intéressant donc de voir que plusieurs auteurs se sont essayés à ce mécanisme (peut-on même parler d'un genre?), avec des possibilités très différentes et plus ou moins de succès ; ce jeu-ci est un bon exemple de quelque chose de court et intéressant qui exploite bien le mécanisme, et est donc recommandé.

Harold Night (2003), by Will Hines

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Fun and full of inside knowledge and lingo, October 23, 2014
This game is about improv, from a perspective that is of the insider; hence, I don't know if people who don't know a thing about improv (and more specifically Chicago-style improv) will find that game fun, or even understand what it's about.

The game is basically a treasure hunt where you're supposed to find items and bring them to the improv teachers you meet (they're each interested in a specific object) to get improv knowledge - you have kind of a "double inventory" thing going on, one with items and one with improv lessons (represented by verbs that are well-known to improvisers - heighten, justify, etc.). To get the perfect score, you have to learn all the lessons, then use them (in the correct order, I think? not sure) on stage during a sketch with your teammates. The number of locations is decent, about 40 rooms, and they all communicate pretty well, but I got lost for a while. Expect around 30 to 45 minutes of gameplay per session.

The implementation is solid, with nice touches for beginners, and lots of daemons who do lots of things and make the whole place feel alive. However the descriptions could have been more detailed; I feel like the map is an accurate depiction of the real-life UCB theatre, and it must really mean something when you know the place, but it's kind of sparsely described. Actually, that's kind of how I felt about the whole game: there were a lot of references that must be really neat and funny when you actually know the people involved at the UCB, but if you're not on the joke, you're not getting really anything out of it. For me, I knew most of the improv lingo and general references (SCTV, Del Close, etc.) that were made, but still felt an outsider to the world depicted in the game (am I supposed to know that this guy smokes pot and that guy likes action figures?). Which actually wasn't a bad experience at all, since the world that is depicted is done so rather lovingly: fun stuff happens, there's a lot of AMUSING stuff implemented, and even if stuff goes over your head, you still kinda get the passion and the fun that transpires from it. I simply feel that I, and most IFers, am not the target audience at all, and that this is about UCB people and for UCB people -- still a pleasurable experience, though!

REVES ONIRIQUES - LIVRE I Aux frontières du sommeil, by Frédéric Robin & Frédérique Villé
Un monde intéressant et plutôt vaste !, October 11, 2014
Vous vous retrouvez sur une plage, dans une contrée inconnue... à mesure que vous avancez, vous trouvez des indices et des énigmes à résoudre pour construire la machine qui vous ramènera chez vous. Les énigmes sont nombreuses (plusieurs dizaines !), et le monde est ouvert et non-linéaire, ce qui fait qu'on ne se sent jamais vraiment bloqué ; ces énigmes sont très variées, et la plupart du temps elles sont très logiques et relativement faciles. Le système de jeu est bien pensé, un mélange entre parser et hypertexte, agrémenté de quelques croquis qui créent une ambiance intéressante, et une carte du monde, dont vous aurez besoin pour explorer les recoins de ce monde curieux et intéressant. Le seul point faible du jeu, c'est peut-être sa prose - malheureusement les fautes d'orthographe et autres incohérences sont monnaie relativement courante... Cela étant, c'est un jeu riche et agréable à jouer, qui vous occupera pour une poignée d'heures - en attendant le tome 2 !

Ekphrasis, by FibreTigre

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Très ambitieux et charmant, mais trop de bugs, October 7, 2014
J'ai récemment rejoué à Ekphrasis, pour enfin le terminer, et écrire la première review en français (!) de ce jeu. Ce fut une expérience intéressante mais très frustrante.

Vous êtes dans la peau de Gilbert Fontenelle, un professeur d'histoire de l'art à la Sorbonne qui se retrouve embarqué dans une enquête sur un tableau de Boticelli, qui l'emmènera aux quatre coins de l'Europe et dans des aventures rocambolesques. Ce personnage principal, grognon et bourru, est néanmoins attachant ; les personnages qui l'accompagnent, bien que n'aidant jamais le joueur, sont aussi bien écrits et crédibles. Même si il y a des méchants et des courses-poursuites, le jeu trouve toujours la place pour placer une petite remarque ou blague qui rend l'aventure cocasse sans en faire trop. Le jeu est long, et il vous faudra sans doute une dizaine d'heures pour le finir.

La plus grande qualité de ce jeu, à mon avis, est son atmosphère. Les images qui accompagnent les aventures de Gilbert sont du plus bel effet, toutes bien choisies et donnant un charme et une immersion indéniables au jeu ; les lieux sont de plus bien choisis, tous intéressants à leur propre façon, mais aussi très variés et donnant des expériences de jeu très différentes au joueur, car le jeu combine plusieurs mécanismes de jeu d'une façon très intéressante ((Spoiler - click to show)un rêve, un labyrinthe, une partie de cartes, une course-poursuite...), et certaines séquences du jeu sont particulièrement mémorables. Le jeu est très linéaire, mais ça n'est pas vraiment un problème grâce à ces atmosphères différentes et bien décrites -- exactement ce qu'il faut pour un jeu "à la Indiana Jones".

Malheureusement, le plus gros point faible du jeu est sans conteste son implémentation, et cela justifie pour moi cette note sévère. Le plus gros problème de ce jeu est qu'il manque énormément de choses, sans doute à cause de sa taille. Il manque des synonymes évidents ("clé" pour "clef", ou (Spoiler - click to show)"saint" et "saint george", ce qui fait qu'on ne peut taper que "george"), il manque énormémént d'objets mentionnés dans les descriptions (la plupart du temps, les seuls objets implantés sont ceux qui font immédiatement avancer l'histoire), il manque des formulations alternatives cohérentes ((Spoiler - click to show)"demander un spécial au barman" ne marche pas mais "demander spécial au barman" marche)... Ceci fait que le jeu est, je pense, impossible à finir sans walkthrough -- et encore, le walkthrough fourni sur le site officiel est truffé d'erreurs ! Ceci fait qu'on se retrouve soit dans une situation où on sait ce qu'il faudrait faire mais on ne trouve pas la bonne formulation, soit on n'a aucune idée de ce qu'il faut faire et on tourne en rond (il y a très peu d'indices, et même pour certaines énigmes j'ai eu l'impression que c'était impossible de trouver si on n'était pas l'auteur).

Et puis, il y a les bugs. Premièrement, il y a un grand nombre d'erreurs dans l'orthographe ou la typographie, ce qui donne vraiment l'impression que le jeu n'a pas été relu ; c'est très dommage qu'un jeu aussi ambitieux et intéressant se vautre sur quelque chose d'aussi basique que les accents sur les mots, les retours à la ligne intempestifs, et l'orthographe. Ensuite, il y a quelques "[Programming error:" (ce qui n'est jamais bon), des bugs bizarres ("parler à" ne marche pas, mais "parler a" marche), mais surtout, des gros bugs avec des conséquences pas bonnes pour le jeu : un bug fait qu'on peut sauter une énigme ((Spoiler - click to show)on peut aller au nord devant le portail à Monte Negro, comme si le portail était ouvert), et un gros bug sur la dernière énigme qui la rend impossible à résoudre (pour être plus précis, si on fait tout bien, ça ne marche pas, parce que l'auteur s'est trompé dans le code et (Spoiler - click to show)a inversé un "m" et un "mm", et le walkthrough n'aide pas ; on ne s'en rend compte que quand on regarde le code source). Ce qui laisse un très mauvais goût en bouche, et je me demande combien de personnes ont réellement fini le jeu.

Au final, Ekphrasis est un jeu très intéressant : son ambition et sa taille sont à saluer, et devraient donner des idées aux auteurs contemporains (où sont les jeux longs en français ?) ; les graphismes et l'ambiance du jeu, ainsi que l'humour présent tout au long du jeu, en font un jeu attrayant et qui devrait plaire aux joueurs. Cependant, il y a trop de bugs, trop de choses non implantées, pas assez d'objets, trop de fautes d'orthographe, et trop de "devine la formulation" ou "pense comme l'auteur" pour que le joueur ne soit pas constamment frustré et pour que le plaisir ne soit pas gâché. Ce jeu devrait servir d'exemple pour auteurs de fictions interactives, un exemple de projet ambitieux montrant tout ce qu'il est possible de faire et donnant envie de jouer ou créer plus de jeux dans le même genre, mais aussi un exemple de pourquoi polir et retravailler son jeu est primordial si vous voulez que le joueur trouve l'expérience de jeu plaisante.

(Note: j'ai uploadé un walkthrough corrigé sur cette page, pour que les joueurs futurs ne se retrouvent pas bloqués.)

Save the Date, by Chris Cornell

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Both funny and deep, but a bit hard, September 22, 2014
This is a great game and I highly recommend it. Graphics are good, the music is catchy, and the premise is very interesting. It's one of those games where you have to restart frequently, but the experience is pretty streamlined so that you keep hitting the "restart" button to discover more. It is also a pretty funny game; the writing is very good, and your date is a very nice character, believable and, interestingly enough, not a damsel in distress.

The game's concept takes it in a place where it's able to make a commentary on CYOA/dating sim games, games in general, and stories, and it does that really well, raising some valid points (although some I kinda disagreed with). This is also done in an accessible manner, which is a plus, and I liked that the author grasped the full implications of his mechanics.

The first time where you discover what is going on is a real "a-ha" moment, and so I won't spoil it. Unfortunately, getting to the end of it requires a bit of lawnmowering (and the branching structure is not trivial either), and there were some times when I felt I had done enough, but it was not enough for the game (because that wasn't exactly the right branch). I ultimately resorted to a walkthrough to get to the end quicker, and I finished the game in about two hours and a half.

Anyway, give it a try, you won't be disappointed!

ALL I WANT IS FOR ALL OF MY FRIENDS TO BECOME INSANELY POWERFUL, by Porpentine

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Wild ride, April 20, 2014
I really love Porpentine's writing: it's always very sharp, blunt, and very evocative, both in the ideas/situations and in the way those are told. A very intriguing, fascinating repetition sets up a great twist, a big change that carries you powerfully. In the end, still don't really know what happened (I'm guessing a lot of it are metaphors, or used to convey an emotion or state of mind rather than facts - and with Porpentine's words, it works), but really enjoyed the experience.

The Paper Bag Princess, by Adri

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short and sweet, October 19, 2013
A really short game, based on a sweet children book. Implementation is good, and the writing is neat (I guess it's made to sound like the book). However it is very short and seem to follow very closely the book - if like me you don't know the book, you have no chance of figuring out how to pass some obstacles. I guess that game might be liked by kids who know or don't know the book.

Threediopolis, by Andrew Schultz

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Neat concept, but gets somewhat tedious towards the end, October 19, 2013
This game is about wordplay, and it's mostly about figuring this particular puzzle out in a systematic manner (almost no objects to interact with, which in this case is fine).
You are given a list of tasks to accomplish, and each of them implies figuring out a specific command related to the constraint at play here. You can figure out about half of them fairly easily, then you realize that you missed a few more; you then get somewhat stuck, but luckily you can use the room numbers to try to get more information about the rest of the commands (very wise from the author to have included those, the game would be simply too hard without them). And then, there's the last lousy ones, including obscure ones (also, it's not very clear that you can combine two words, so you can get stuck on the longer words for a while if you don't realize that).

Apart from those commands, there's a few more that generate a (usually funny) response from the game - which is an interesting design choice (it could have been than any valid command would give you a point, but it's not; although I feel some of those "extra" commands could have been on the task list, which could have bumped the tedious ones off the list and made the game less frustrating). But yay for Big Lebowski references.

The writing was actually somewhat underwhelming, I found. Responses to valid commands rarely go for longer than one line, which doesn't really make it that rewarding. (I know writing 45 different responses is soul-crushing, but here I feel it's a necessary evil!!) The end message (for completing the task list) is incredibly underwhelming too. ((Spoiler - click to show)We spend hours running around, putting things in a quantum shoebox to prepare a mysterious party, please tell us how the party went, if the boss was pleased, how we managed to fill the room with the box's contents, anything!). I did notice a few typos, and a non-critical bug, but nothing more.

To sum up, it's almost all about that wordplay puzzle, which is fun and challenging, making the experience enjoyable but a little rough.

their angelical understanding, by Porpentine

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Powerful stuff, October 19, 2013
First Porpentine game for me, so I was kinda eager to see why people were talking about her games. And it went great!
The game isn't too long, about half an hour. There's a lot of surreal elements in it, which I thought were brilliant: it made the whole experience very powerful and vivid. The prose feels raw and emotional, which I understand seems to be Porpentine's writing style; it works great here, because the game focuses on trauma and its consequences, and it really makes you feel what the character feels. Sometimes there's weird details thrown in, and they never fail to make the text more evocative. Sound and animations are sometimes used to complement the atmosphere, and I thought it worked well when they were used.
Also, gameplay is very cleverly used to convey emotions (that bit where (Spoiler - click to show)you just can't stop crushing the angel was absolutely brilliant). Finally, I found the final sequence very smart and powerful ((Spoiler - click to show)the game where you must be the last one bleeding, so to speak - it felt like a weird cross between Marienbad and Chuck Palahniuk).
There were also a few flaws in the game; for instance, it feels kind of disjointed, and I'm not sure I understood how everything fit together in the end ((Spoiler - click to show)the basement in the first location with the bottles containing your faces is interesting imagery, but I still don't really see the connection to what I felt was the main theme of the game). Also, Porpentine's distinctive style, of raw, no-bullshit sentences and emotions, means that sometimes it feels a bit sore or like it's missing its target and fails to evoke anything to you, or evokes the wrong thing - I guess it's a risk to take. (One of the things that really didn't work for me is (Spoiler - click to show)the use of the term "your nemesis" in the final sequence: in my head, this particular word feels overly dramatic, and I associate it with James Bond villains - I get that the intent was to stress that this character was absolute evil to you, but at that point I was so into the story that I didn't need a reminder that he was evil: a simple "him" or "the bastard" would have been more effective than "nemesis", which I felt made the prose go a bit over-the-top).
But anyway, this game worked very well for me for most of the things it attempted to do, and is really a very good and powerful game.

On to Howling Dogs!

Further, by Will Hines

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting mechanic, but doesn't really work as a game, October 19, 2013
The main mechanic of Further is an interesting idea (you go through color-coded rooms, that correspond to various memories, triggered by certain objects). The various settings seem completely disconnected from each other, in a kinda surrealistic way sometimes, which creates something interesting considering who the PC is.
However, this game seems to be interested in telling a story, various moments and memories that are loosely connected to each other. The way it accomplishes this is rather ham-fisted: you can't do anything unless you follow the "internal compass" of the game and go exactly where it wants you to go. Thus I spent the majority of the game following directions the game gave me, and that isn't a very good feeling in a game. Furthermore, there seems to be absolutely no objet implemented except the ones that trigger memories (even when the locations describe objects, they're not implemented), so you really feel like stuck on rails.
The game is really short, very very linear, and has a few typos; it's not a bad idea, but it's way too linear to be really enjoyable.

9Lives, by Bill Balistreri, Hal Hinderliter, Sean Klabough, Luke Michalski, Morgan Sokol

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Lots of flaws..., October 12, 2013
This game feels like a first game that hasn't been beta-tested by anyone else than the authors. There's a lot of guess-the-verbs situations ((Spoiler - click to show)one being that >swim doesn't do anything, you instead have to >swim to boat ; as a consequence, that guess-the-verb problem made me unable to get something else than the "good ending" - I had to go out of my way and look at the walkthrough to get the bad ending!); lots of objects in the descriptions aren't implemented; some objects appear in the description even when you have removed them (classic beginner flaw, I'm afraid...); a few bugs ((Spoiler - click to show) In the medieval setting: >give flag to statue : "i'm only interested in money", the pirate says (?!)), a few typos (lone periods at the beginning of lines, missing extra line breaks between descriptions and prompts).

The "game" part of it isn't that great either; it's really short, the story pretty much unfolds by itself, and you just have to perform a few obvious actions from time to time; all those actions are basically a binary choice ("do you do what is good or this other stuff that is clearly bad?"), and it's "be good several times to win". Oh and the last scene seems really incoherent ((Spoiler - click to show)So the Illuminati give you lots of money but also tell you how to screw them over??)

Anyway, this game didn't work for me on a lot of levels: too short, too many bugs, too linear.

Death off the Cuff, by Simon Christiansen

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting, but ultimately frustrating, September 30, 2013
Death off the Cuff has a very original and interesting concept: you are a Poirot-style detective, and all the suspects are in the room, waiting for the final reveal; you must observe and evoke relevants topics to move the case forward and ultimately discover who did it.

The mechanics of the game are quite simple, since it's about focusing on the case and the suspects and find out what is not quite right with the facts. However I found several problems with this in the game. First of all, there are a few topics that weren't implemented, and others that quickly run dry, so when you're stuck you end up trying a lot of different things that get rejected by the parser. Second of all there were a lot of reveals, and maybe a bit too many: every character has several things to hide, but they may not all be relevant to the case, in which case they feel a bit futile. Lastly, some clues were very subtle and involved looking around to detect a very small change in the situation, which was a bit frustrating for me because I didn't always think of it and instead tried to talk about different topics that seemed logical but didn't work. (But I guess you can't expect the case to solve itself either, eh?)

On the other hand, the game's writing is very good, since I found it managed to stay in the style of Agatha Christie but with a touch more humor, which made it a refreshing and genuinely funny exercice in style. All the responses to action furthermore fit very well the setting, in that they all seem like parts of the exposition that the detective is attempting to create, and seam together very well. The responses to the observations you make to stall are almost guaranteed to make you chuckle.

On the implementation side, there was a few typos (missing " for instance), the hints were linear (when you can find the reveals in any order, meaning you can find a few of them and get stuck and the hints will hint at the things you've already discovered, which isn't very good), and, unfortunately, a pretty big bug that meant I had to restart and follow the walkthrough to see the end of the game (Spoiler - click to show)(I think I had looked at the constable a bit too much before getting all the other reveals done, and right after I focused on Jonathan's wounds, there was a picture of someone with a gun, and I barely had time to see that the constable had turned into a German murderer without explanation without dying. I imagine that's the trouble with having several reveals you can find in any order, is that if you didn't think of a particular order it produces a bug.) However, the rest of it was well implemented and well made.

To sum up, I wish I could have liked the game more, for its very nice writing and concept, but there was a few issues that made playing it frustrating.

Mercy, by Chris Klimas

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Nice story, but somehow it didn't really click for me, September 10, 2013
As mentioned in reviews, this game is more an "interactive story"; it is plot-heavy and doesn't have any puzzles. The setting is pretty original, and although I would have liked to know more about this outbreak, the fact that the plot develops around something way different is not a big deal. This plot is indeed interesting, and it's a nice story to tell; the pacing is well-done, as well as the gradual reveal. I don't mind being more or less guided into a story if that story is good, and in that case it was well-done (however, I felt like I had no control over the story by the choices I make, contrary to other reviewers - sure, paths fork at some point, but then merge again one scene later).

The main problem I had with this game is that I think I didn't really understand it the first time. Most notably, I think I got too distracted by what was happening in the computer to see that the character was actually having a realization that was changing his course of action (and to be fair, this big realization is expedited in about 4 sentences). I just thought (Spoiler - click to show)the PC had been having an affair with Leslie - or does he? I'm confused.. I also didn't connect the characters together, so I didn't really understand what happened until it was laid out explicitly in front of me. I did find all the endings, or at least I think I did, but they didn't really click emotionally for me; the writing was a bit trite and the implications of the actions weren't presented or were too subtle to have any emotional impact on me; I did feel the ending was a bit abrupt. So all in all I don't know if the game's really to blame : maybe it was attempting to be evocative and subtle and I just didn't understand what it meant because English isn't my native language!

Little Blue Men, by Michael S. Gentry

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Nice atmosphere and writing, but way too underclued, September 10, 2013
This game is indeed very peculiar; the main character is refreshingly pretty much the opposite of a "regular" PC (strong personality and language, very much unlike what a player is used to or would want to play as), and the whole game has its own tone, vocabulary, etc. that forms, I found, a somewhat believable worldview (which makes the PC a very well-written character). And even apart from the PC's personality, the author's writing is great: his descriptions are particularly worthy of note, since they manage to convey a lot of information in a few short sentences.

The main gripe I had with the game was that it was severely underclued. I had figured out a few things, but not all of them, so I was stuck for a while and then resorted to hints, which made me go a bit further, and then I was stuck again. At this point I had to look at a walkthrough for ideas, I found something, I did it, and then I got stuck because of an object I didn't have. So I just restarted and followed the walkthrough ; and looking at the actions you have to do to reach the "optimal" ending, I would have never managed to figure it out - some of them are literally read-the-author's-mind. So yeah, underclued + cruel = a very frustrating experience. This is a shame, by the way: the story is neat, and with a bit more hinting or more descriptions or less of that cruelty, this would have made a very enjoyable game for its whole length, instead of getting increasingly frustrating towards the end, which just leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Theatre, by Brendon Wyber

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
Well-crafted horror game, May 13, 2013
The plot of the game is not exactly original - you have to enter an old theatre because you forgot something inside, and end up being trapped inside -, but the setting is really great : the horror is shown with little subtles touches, sounds, apparitions, and increases as the game progresses. The theatre is vast, with a lot of areas to discover or unlock, and as the game goes on those areas are more and more dark, empty and dangerous. The descriptions are well-written and coherent, which makes you really enter the game.
There's also some puzzles : they are fair and not really difficult, but not really easy either. I really liked the bits of paper you find in some places, which tell you another side of the story, and finally give some answers near the end (and are quite fun to collect). The implementation is very good and polished (I must say I didn't find any bug), and the parser provides quite a lot of responses. There isn't a lot of NPCs, but it's not important here because of the genre.
The game is quite long (more than two hours, at least), but I found the ending quite unsatisfactory : the author builded a nice and peculiar atmosphere in this theatre, but ends with a too classical (at least for me) theme (I won't say I don't like the theme, but the author could have carried on with an atmosphere of his own rather than going on with (Spoiler - click to show)a seen-before Lovecraftian style). Apart from that, it's a solid game, with a very good setting.

Punk Points, by Jim Munroe

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Punk atmosphere, but punk implementation!, July 7, 2010
This is a short game about a boy in a strict Catholic high school and its "adventures" as a punk rebel wannabe. The writing is quite good, conveying a nice atmosphere in the dialogues and the cutscenes, and making the PC and its friends quite believable. The puzzles are OK, quite simple and somewhat entertaining, but sometimes suffer from guess-the-verb problems (but since English isn't my native language, I may be wrong). My main reproach is the implementation: there are some bugs and typos (as well as some whitespaces missing here and there), not many interactive objects, and the characters are also sparserly implemented, with only a couple of one-line answers; it's light, fast and sometimes not very-well executed -- as a punk gig could be. In a nutshell I liked the theme, the game was quite good, but a bit empty and lacked a better implementation.

Walker & Silhouette, by C.E.J. Pacian

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Great characters, but I'm not sure about one-word commands, December 13, 2009
I really liked this game, and for a lot of reasons : the setting (early 20th century with some interesting differences) is original, and its description and references were very efficient in drawing me into this world ((Spoiler - click to show)hysteria diagnosis or expeditions to the north pole are such references I found very much immersive). The duo of detectives works really well : the characters are charismatic, quite antagonistic and their exchanges are often humorous (with a totally British sense of humor, which I like very much!). There's even (Spoiler - click to show)a bit of romance between those two, very subtlely and nicely displayed by the author. The story in itself is not extraordinary, but I found it okay nevertheless, and to my mind it quite fitted the tone of the game. I admit I would have preferred a longer story, because I ended up wanting to spend more time with those characters! (but maybe a sequel is secretly planned ;)

But I cannot talk about this game without mentioning the unusual parsing system: it consists in one-word commands, such as "door" or "corpse". I understand that it's been a parsing system that's quite new and interests people since Blue Lacuna; the attempt to make a whole game not only using this system, but revolving around it, is quite bold! However, I must admit that I need more than what this game shows to be totally convinced by this system. It may be easier for some readers to click on words to interact with them, but it seems to me that it's reducing interactivity and a sense of freedom. Actually, in this game, you can also interact with words that aren't underlined, a fact I liked when I discovered it because I felt that freedom wasn't so much reduced after all. But on the other side, you can make the character perform actions you'd never thought of, and thus you can win the game relying on a "lawnmowering strategy" and without understanding the story: I find this fact not very satisfactory (at least in a normal game you have to figure out the verb, and so you have to deduce first what you have to do). (Actually, it's a little bit the same reproach as the one with the ">TALK TO X" conversation system, because in a way both systems are similar) For instance in this game, (Spoiler - click to show)you have to deduce from the clues in the deceased's room the way he was killed: I had no idea, and just typed "explain" several times because the word was underlined, and the character ended up saying "it was a giant octopus on wheels", altough I was very far from deducing such a thing! (but let's face it, it's hard to create a puzzle in which you have to make the player guess that it was a giant octopus on wheels). To avoid such a "lawnmowering effect", maybe that puzzles that require a series of actions in a precise (and logical) order can be a part of the solution, because it's more difficult than finding the only action that would make the story go further, and I think it encourages the player to figure out what he has to do and how first. (just an idea)
To sum up about this system, I'm not convinced that it's bringing something more or something different to the game; actually it makes it easier, substracting the need to understand what you're doing and why to solve a puzzle or to advance in the story. But I'm not formally opposed to it, and I hope other games in the future will go further enough in the use of this system to show me new and interesting things that the system can bring: but to me "Walker & Silhouette" fails to bring those elements (it's easily forgivable though, because the system is quite new and unexplored).

In conclusion, while I'm not very fond of the parsing system, I found the game very enjoyable. And I'm starting to think more and more that, judging by the quality of every of his games, C.E.J. Pacian will soon become a major author.

The Endling Archive, by Kazuki Mishima

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Well-done, but..., June 14, 2009
I must admit I'm very puzzled. When you enter the Endling Archive, you uncover folders, notes that you can read, thus unlocking other notes. I really liked this mechanism.
At first I thought it was an introspective, autobiographical game, but I figured out a few minutes later where the author was going ; and then, nothing. I reached a state where obviously you can't unlock notes no more ; and I said "That's all ?".
Two possibilities : either it's a puzzle (I don't think so, I tried everything on my keyboard, and the author declares himself "tired of hard puzzles"), either that's the end of the game, and I'm really, really disappointed. The story is good, the writing is great, emotional, melancholic at times ; the system is orginal, and even if it's not exactly interactive, it's a good fiction. But the author had to continue ! I mean, with such a beginning, such a way to tell the story, the author could have made the game a long and very powerful story !
I give it three stars for the writing and the game's mechanism ; should the author had carried on this game would probably have had one or two more.

Jacks or Better to Murder, Aces to Win, by J. D. Berry

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Way too short !, June 14, 2009
The story told in the game is quite interesting and original ; unfortunately, the game is way too short. You have two or three puzzles to solve, and that's all. The descriptions are also wrong sometimes - typically, they describe an object you have taken ten turns ago -, and there's a lot of cutscenes (I mean, compared to the length of the game). Too bad, because the story could have led to a much more developed game.

Being Andrew Plotkin, by J. Robinson Wheeler

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Good and funny game, June 9, 2009
The concept of the game is quite funny : it transposes the movie Being John Malkovitch into the interactive fiction world. I saw the movie before, and when I played it I could see all the references to this (odd) movie ; however, because of an imperfect knowledge of IF classics, I missed some other references to other interactive fiction games (the author provides a list of those references at the end of the game). The game is quite funny in itself too ; the story is linear (not a drawback for me though), and you can sometimes have the impression that you are watching a movie ; the implementation is good (though (Spoiler - click to show)you can take the copier in the early scenes because you can take it afterwards...). Not exactly a classic, but certainly a great game.

Filaments, by FibreTigre

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Très bon jeu, mais trop de bugs !, January 14, 2009
C'est un des très rares jeux français de cette longueur, et techniquement la première fiction interactive originale française dans l'histoire récente !
Le jeu est très bon, de surcroît, avec une bonne ambiance dépeinte par l'auteur, et des personnages crédibles et plutôt attachants. Les énigmes sont toutes cohérentes avec le monde, et en général il suffit de bien réfléchir pour en trouver la solution - rien de trop dur, ce qui ne gâche rien. Le monde décrit est tantôt familier et tantôt intriguant, et assez riche, avec une tension qui monte plutôt graduellement dans l'histoire, du suspense et des secrets qui se découvrent au fur et à mesure...
C'est malheureusement au niveau de l'implémentation que le jeu perd sa cinquième étoile, qui en aurait fait un "must-have" absolu francophone. En effet, les bugs sont plutôt nombreux : pas mal de rtrue qui manquent, un personnage mort avec qui on peut toutefois toujours parler, beaucoup d'objets manquants, des directions parfois mal indiquées (est au lieu de ouest devant le Sacré-Coeur, ou devant Beaubourg, par exemple)... (Spoiler - click to show)Et une petite protestation devant une énigme où l'on est censé attendre 34 tours - on nous dit d'attendre, certes, mais 34 tours, c'est long, et on en vient à soupçonner un bug !! Puis le jeu aurait pu aussi gagner en interactivité, en intégrant quelques actions et réponses supplémentaires. Quelques petites fautes d'orthographe, mais sur un jeu aussi long c'est pardonnable.
J'ai fini approximativement 70% du jeu, mais suis arrivé à un moment où je me suis retrouvé bloqué, me faisant perdre ma sauvegarde... C'est dommage, j'aurais bien aimé voir la fin !! Un très bon jeu, qui gagnerait grandement à être débuggué proprement.

Le Cercle des Gros Geeks disparus, by Adrien Saurat

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Drôle, difficile, court, et bon !, January 7, 2009
Dans ce jeu, vous êtes un geek, et devez finir de construire une machine dont vous ne connaissez même pas l'utilité... Le jeu est plutôt court, et est très bien écrit : les références à l'univers geek sont omniprésentes et le ton drôle (voire très drôle !) sans être lourd. L'appartement a beaucoup de recoins à fouiller, et on trouve beaucoup d'objets dans des endroits incongrus... Plusieurs fins sont aussi possibles. Seuls bémols : il faut plusieurs essais et plusieurs morts pour trouver la solution de l'énigme principale (mais je conviens que donner des indices aurait raccourci le jeu et sa relative difficulté), et les salles ne sont pas assez bien décrites - on rate certains objets, et on est parfois obligé de deviner leur présence... Mais à part ça, un bon jeu qui vaut pleinement la demi-heure que vous y passerez.

Echappée Belle Dans Les Contrées du Rêve, by FibreTigre

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Un monde étrange au ton lovecraftien..., January 6, 2009
Jeu court mais très bien écrit ; l'ambiance y est très particulière, étrange et déstructurée, ainsi qu'inquiétante, notamment grâce aux nombreuses références à l'univers de Lovecraft qui parsèment le jeu et au ton très "lovecraftien" qu'emploie ici l'auteur. Quelques puzzles, rien de bien méchant mais pas non plus trop facile. Le seul point qui cloche est l'implémentation et le polissage, car il y a plusieurs bugs (mineurs), quelques fautes d'orthographe et les descriptions sont parfois lapidaires : on apprécie toujours de pouvoir regarder chaque élément du décor si l'on bloque sur une énigme... A part ces quelques imperfections, c'est un bon jeu.

Qui a tué Dana ?, by Vegeta
Très, très mauvais jeu..., January 4, 2009
Des fautes d'orthographe partout, des clichés à la pelle, une histoire inintéressante, on dirait que l'auteur a voulu copier les séries américaines tout en rajoutant des éléments de son cru. Les personnages sont inexistants, les rares blagues de mauvais goût, l'implémentation est ratée et truffée de bugs, le jeu est parfois illogique, l'interactivité inexistante. Ce qui ne pardonne pas du tout la faute de goût de l'auteur quant au fond. Ne perdez pas votre temps : hop, poubelle.

Violet, by Jeremy Freese

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
No wonder he's the winner !, January 4, 2009
Very rich and well-polished (no bugs and one specific answer for each action), this game is also funny ! I liked the way the story is told through the eyes of Violet ; moreover telling the player at any time what he has to get rid of (noise, Internet, etc ! - anything can be a disturbance !) is a great thing. The only thing I didn't like is (Spoiler - click to show)that you sometimes have to destroy objects made by your beloved one to advance ! ;)


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