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Reviews by dgtziea

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View this member's reviews by tag: IF Comp 2016
1-5 of 5

Venience World, by Daniel Spitz

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Past and Presence, April 12, 2018
Venience World is a metaphorical story about remembrance and physical/mental spaces. It's a Spring Thing Back Garden entry, and the intro to a potentially larger game.

The immediate standout thing is its novel browser-based interface. It's all typed; there's a command prompt even. But beneath that prompt, you'll see the available command(s) at any given point, one word at a time. eg. you'll see "try" underneath the prompt, and after typing try and pressing space it'll say to, and you'll type that, then understand, and you'll type that, and then your command will become bolded and you can press enter to try to understand. If you type anything else it won't allow you to press enter. Sometimes, you'll see more than one command you can type.

There's a mix of more conventional parser IF commands (take envelope, go north) but the interface also allows for internal conversations, thoughts, longer sentences, and other flourishes. One of your most important commands is "begin interpretation".

It looks very nice and clean. There's good color coding and use of bolding and italics and such to convey a lot of what's going on.

It did feel a bit drawn out at points in the first half (either it could've been quicker paced or there could've been a few more options), though it opens up a bit near the end.

But the typing, even completely guided, made me focus on the words more, without getting into the implementation/guesswork messiness of a full parser. Sometimes that was detrimental: when the commands got a bit mundane, or when the actions felt muted ("consider the sense of panic"?). But overall it is a very neat effect, and holds promise.

The Tower and the Toucan, by E. Lily Yu

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short, well written adventure. Would've liked bit more of a story arc, February 28, 2018
This is a short Twine story; you're a waitress at a pub, and you're going to deliver food to the local recluse in his moss-covered tower -- The "Thinker of Thoughts" they call him -- as you do every afternoon. No one answers the door, but you (can) enter anyways, and then you start snooping around...

The strongest aspects of this are the writing, which is solid, restrained, and punctuated with some nice imagery, and the setting, which is imaginative, especially as this drifts into more fantastical territory. This strikes an excellent balance between these elements.

The story though doesn't really have too much... story to it. It's structurally more like one of those old-school CYOA books, insofar as it feels more like a series of events strung together, more than something with a set beginning/middle/end for our character. There are choices, and they "matter", but they felt pretty arbitrary (Pick up this thing, or don't?). There are a lot of basically dead ends, unsatisfying, and there might be a pinpoint path through all this that would've led to a more substantial wrap up, but if there is I don't really know how I would've reached it. I would've just preferred this be more linear instead, I think.

I was looking at a science fiction book anthropology when I saw this author's name, and I thought it looked familiar, which is how I came back across this. This shows well enough that I'm still interested in reading what the author does in a short story format with a bit more structure in place, and where the strengths of this should lend themselves well. (The book was "The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 11" also starring Yoon Ha Lee)

Eight characters, a number, and a happy ending, by K.G. Orphanides

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
On a spaceship. On a mission you don't remember. On your own., December 9, 2016
by dgtziea
Related reviews: IF Comp 2016
Parser game, written in browser-based Quest (I've played only one Quest game before, but it's a good interface). More about exploration than puzzle-solving. The title might make you expect something sitcom-y, but that couldn't be more wrong; it's very much a sombre piece-together-the-backstory type of game. You wake up, memories lost, on a spaceship, and you go around and interact with things: computers, radios, things in drawers, and slowly, you REMEMBER. And you make a decision.

The writing conveys the clinical atmosphere of the ship well; I could imagine what it'd look like in a movie. The pace is slow, and unsettling. There is no danger, but there's a sense of eerie not-all-rightness. It's only you, picking through things; uncovering.

The morality at play here isn't exactly presented as a dilemma; it's pretty stacked towards a right and wrong decision. I might have liked a bit more nuance to the proceedings (The "EA" group seemed a bit too straightforward)? But the game isn't really about the decision you make, so much as the why.

I liked the pacing, and the way objects are carefully laid out to be discovered. It's just spread out and gated enough that it feels like you're exploring, even though it's a very contained space. There's also just enough on the ship to play around with that it felt rewarding interacting with all the on-board systems, while also establishing the technological surroundings (I do wonder if there's a better way than dumping a bunch of manuals in the starting room). Everything felt deliberate, so it made me want to be more deliberative.

Ariadne in Aeaea, by Victor Ojuel

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Light-hearted parser game in a Greek setting with well-written characters, December 9, 2016
by dgtziea
Related reviews: IF Comp 2016
Semi-historical (Greek) parser game, not too long; light-hearted, well written. You're a young member of the royal family (the unruly one they might say) hoping to be ordained as priestess to the Goddess despite sniping from your aunt and sister, as you move about your small theocratic island kingdom. It is wordier than some of the other entries I've played so far, but it does a great job earning those words with personality and veneer.

The dialogue is excellent; you quickly get a handle on each of the characters, their relationships, and their motivations. You're also given a good sense of your own character early on (this is not a faceless/nameless adventurer you're controlling here). This all helps in making the game feel purposeful.

Puzzles are pretty straightforward: Talk to this person, find this item here, show it to this other person, etc. But they're not the focus here, and they're still enjoyable.

Maybe some of the descriptions are a bit hand-holdy in terms of guiding the player; I think having other characters tell you what they need or having your own character express goals is great, but having descriptions say pretty much what to do next seems like hand-of-the-creator reaching down and pointing something out. I think some of them were one step more explicit than they needed to be. But some players, I'm sure, will appreciate that.

The writing is the star here. The world, the setting, the characters: all are very well sketched out, and just exploring this small world was really enjoyable.

Letters, by Madison Evans

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Epistolary twine with interesting teenage protagonists, December 9, 2016
by dgtziea
Related reviews: IF Comp 2016
Twine. You are looking through different letters send to you by your friend Cadence, and click keywords to bring up more letters. Sometimes there's a bit of your own inner commentary as well.

Cadence and you are characters with personality: Precocious, a bit melodramatic, but then that's kind of what you get with teenage protagonists like these; you need that sort of perspective to drive things. The letters span a bunch of times, different topics, different moods, and Cadence pours herself (or versions of herself) into them.

Each letter has a couple keywords you can explore, and those keywords take you to another letter or moment about that. The starting letter's keywords all lead to branches that address a different topic or event.

The writing... the writing is quite good, good enough that it makes me want to settle in, and treat it like a novel. That's the mode my mind switches to. But those have professional editors and countless revisions, and I hit these minor typos, or places where the sentences are too short, or some other small thing... They're all minor, but they feel just slightly disruptive, and it's not fair to compare it with an actual novel, probably -- Twine's a great tool, but the lack of spell checker means people should consider running their text through Word or something.

The writing's generally better in the letters than in the third person stuff, which sometimes didn't flow as well, or which were phrased slightly abnormally; as an affectation in written letters, they work well, but in third person, a bit distracting.

This has a structure, and the letters are revealing, in different ways, and build, in different orders. The branches eventually hit an end, and you have to start over, and I think that reasonably gets across the idea of you poring over these letters and re-reading them for clues, haphazard and disorganised. You can set a system for how to go through the letters and you can go down the line, or you can just click whatever draws your attention first. This works either way.

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