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Reviews by dgtziea

IF Comp 2016

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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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