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Reviews by RadioactiveCrow

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Quintessence, by Andrea M. Pawley

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Weird game about life, the universe, and a cosmic cat, October 30, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 30 minutes
This is a fairly short, choice-based work where you play a quantum particle in our universe, which is hidden away from the multiverse by the Forever Cat, forced to endure the collapse and recreation of spacetime over and over again when all you want is to rest.

Yes, this game is weird.

I was right on the edge of giving it two stars, but it was just interesting enough at the end to bump it up to three. Halfway through I was very frustrated as it seemed that the game was primarily about picking your way through the branches of the story to find the end. I suppose being forced to repeat the collapse and rebirth of the universe several times is kind of the point, but it got tedious after awhile. Once I finally figured out how to get to the semi-interesting part of the story, with meaningful choices that didn't trigger the collapse of the universe so often, it got better.

The writing is weird, but pretty solid. There isn't much of a story in the traditional sense, as much as ruminations on meaning, from quantum to multiverse in scale. Honestly, in the end what bumped it up from two to three stars for me was that after I finally achieved an ending (one of five possible endings), I had about 10 minutes left on the exercise bike, and rather than move on to something else immediately I was interested enough to go back and find another ending. Also, it helped that in the end (Spoiler - click to show)dogs were the heroes.

For those who want to find the path to the interesting part of the story, here it is: (Spoiler - click to show)This has happened to me before. - Our gravity ruptures. - Our expansion is steady. - Too far from our gravity, our awareness fractures. - This has happened to me before. - I wonder if being alone has any purpose. - I'm captured by a rogue planet. ...

Electric word Life, by Lance Nathan

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Wonderfully written story about two friends, a Halloween party, and life, October 29, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 30 minutes
This is a fairly short, mostly linear, choice-based work. You play Perry, the quiet, somewhat nerdy, roommate of a party animal. He is throwing a Halloween party tonight at your apartment and you agreed to help, but you don't really want to be there. The night becomes much more bearable when some of your friends show up and you all take refuge on the porch, just talking and hanging out.

The author has what I think is a rare talent as a writer: to be able to convey the essence of a friendship primarily through dialogue. Reading this story made me think of Dante and Randall from "Clerks" or Parzival and Aech from "Ready Player One". I was drawn in to the camaraderie and it gave the story both warmth and impact. In the end I had goosebumps on my skin and tears in my eyes.

The story is primarily linear. You can wander around a bit at the beginning, before the story is pretty much put on rails for the second half. I do recommend reading everything, as there are some flashback scenes triggered amongst the chaos of party that give the second half added depth. Normally the lack of meaningful choices would have me lowering the rating, but this story really got to me in a special way so I had to give it four stars. I think it compares well with "Will Not Let Me Go" by Stephen Granade, even though it doesn't quite rise to that level.

Well worth your time.

Amazing Quest, by Nick Montfort

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Story, game, interactive or fiction? None of the above., October 29, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: Less than 15 minutes
I'm giving this game one-star even though it appears to be working as intended (usually I reserve one-star ratings for games with serious bugs). This "game" isn't a game, there isn't any story and it has only the veneer of interactivity. Literally none of the choices you make have any impact on the output. The outputs don't provide any sort of narrative. Best case this game might be considered some sort of critique of the interactive fiction, but I don't understand it (perhaps the author will enlighten us one day). Worst case it is just trolling. Not even worth the 10 minutes it takes to play.

Doppeljobs, by Lei

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Strange, well-written story with multiple endings, October 29, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: Less than 1 hour
This piece is choice-based and fairly short. You play as a doppelganger, a being from the Reverse Kingdom (I'm interested) living in the human world who has the ability to take on the physical appearance of anyone. You use your skill to complete mundane or uncomfortable tasks for your clients for a fee. But each transformation doesn't quite fade in the way that you advertise, something lingers. And ancient mysteries lurk below your city.

The game is pretty straight-forward, allowing simple choices after a few short paragraphs of text. Some choices simply allow you to gather more details about the world or your task at hand, and others allow you to steer the story. Your stated goal over the course of the game is to earn enough money to pay back a debt you owe to the bank. Your decisions affect how happy your clients are after you complete each task and thus how much you are paid. After one playthrough the game will tell you which of four possible endings you achieved. On my trip through the story, nothing particularly crazy happened, but I was focused on the goal of pleasing my clients in order to pay back my debt. I feel that more interesting outcomes are hiding behind some of the paths not taken. So even though the route I took was not particularly interesting, I think I will eventually come back to this game for another play or two to see if I can uncover those mysteries. Additionally, I felt the game was well-written and just off-normal enough to really help you embody the outsider nature of the main character. Worth your time.

Flattened London, by Carter Gwertzman

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Maybe come back to this game later, the IFComp 2020 version seems buggy, October 28, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 2-3 hours
So I think this game had a couple things going against it for me. Primarily, I think the game is still very much not polished. Playing through it there were objects that I feel should have been implemented that weren't, as well as a lot of objects with very similar names so I had trouble getting the game to do what I wanted it to do (like reading this piece of paper instead of that one). Even the walkthrough provided with the IFComp 2020 version I think had an error in it: (Spoiler - click to show)You are supposed to attach a sharp rock (flint) to a device you get to turn it into a lighter, but I never found sharp rock and I can't see the walkthrough telling me where it is either. If any other players out there found it or if I missed it in the walkthrough let me know so I can correct this.

Also, and this might be a bigger deal than I realize, while I've played Fallen London a little I never really got into it the way others did, so it is possible parts of this game are lost on me.

I think this game has a lot of potential, having it play out in two dimensions is a neat idea and that could lead to some clever mechanics, and the atmosphere is interesting. It just needs a little more work.

You Couldn't Have Done That, by Ann Hugo

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Short game about an autistic girl's first day at a new job, October 21, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 15 minutes
Please know that I mean this with the utmost respect, and in the best way possible, when I call this piece an "autism simulator". I say it not at all to diminish the autistic experience, but rather to praise the game. I am not autistic myself, but I have a young son who is autistic, as well as several adult friends who are autistic. From observing their behavior and listening to them talk about what it is like, I think that this game does the best job I've ever seen at helping a non-autistic person experience what it is like to be autistic. The writing is properly terse and excellent at getting the player into the mindset of the main character and what she is dealing with in her first day at a new job; the things she likes about the job and the things that make her uncomfortable. The game features very limited choices that at first didn't seem to have a big impact on the game, a feature that I don't usually like. However, eventually you will make a choice that (Spoiler - click to show)is rejected by the game as something you can't do (hence the title) because of your brain just doesn't work that way. It is in these moments that you really feel the pain and discomfort of the character. When every interaction gets dialed up to 11, normal situations can be uncomfortable and bad situations can be hell.

I'd recommend everyone give this a playthrough to help you better understand some of your fellow humans. Well worth the little time it will take.

Academic Pursuits (As Opposed To Regular Pursuits), by ruqiyah

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
One-room game that works its puzzle(s) into its storytelling, October 20, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 1 hour
This is a short, one-room, parser-based game where you play someone moving into an office at a university. The game is basically one complex spatial puzzle where you have to take items out of your moving boxes and put them in various places around your office until they all fit. Well, actually (Spoiler - click to show)they don't all fit, and so a second layer to the puzzle is to figure out which items are important and which items can be thrown away or sent back to storage. Despite the basic nature of the puzzle, the game uses the objects in it and your actions with them to tell your backstory and reveal why you are at the university in the first place. Part of the story, who you are, is pretty obvious from the get-go. The rest becomes clear as you work through all the puzzle pieces. I thought it was a fun and unique way to tell a story.

My biggest complaints would be that the game was heavy-handed in some things, like (Spoiler - click to show)revealing your true nature, and not clear enough in others, like (Spoiler - click to show)how to know when you were done or even if you were headed in the right direction. Still, well worth the time!

Limerick Quest, by Pace Smith

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Amazing commitment to the limerick, fun puzzles, October 16, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 1-2 hours
First off, kudos to Nomad for writing his review as a limerick. I wrote a quick tweet in limerick form about this game during IFComp 2020 and that drained all the poetry I had in me for quite some time.

So this game is written entirely in limericks, and I mean entirely. The options menu, the credits screen, your inventory, all of it. And while that is cool by itself, the game would still fall a little flat if writing the limericks took all of the author's efforts and the story/gameplay itself was shallow. But that is not the case in this game. The story isn't particularly deep, but it is about the level of story you would expect in a short, parser/puzzle game of this length. However, the puzzles themselves are very interesting and easily on par with parser games of similar scope. And what really makes this game great is that, once again, the limericks aren't just a gimmick but are actively worked into the puzzles in very clever ways. Think of this game as the limerick equivalent of Counterfeit Monkey. Saying too much more would spoil it and I want you to discover the treasures this game has to offer on your own.

How The Elephant's Child Who Walked By Himself Got His Wings, by Peter Eastman

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Well-written homage to Kipling's "Just So Stories", limited interactivity, October 16, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 30 minutes
This is a choice-based work (more on the choices later) that takes the form of a paternal figure (I imagine the grandfather-grandson scenes from "A Princess Bride") telling several anthropomorphized-animal origin stories to a child, in the mold of off Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories". Comparatively long sections of text are broken up with the chance to offer the child's response to what he or she has just heard. Sometimes this takes the form of a binary choice, sometimes it is just a piece of hypertext, the choice made for you, to get to the next page. The prose is quite excellent (while the poetry at the end is appropriately bad) and the stories are well-paced and engaging.

If this were the Short Story Database I would rate this four or five stars. But as the I in IF stands for interactive I have to rate it only three. I feel the very few choices offered in this piece mostly serve as a story selector or only end up altering a few paragraphs worth of prose, and so the interactive portion feels a little thin. However, in praise of the work I can offer the following: 1) I will very likely read this to my kids soon as a series of bedtime stories, and 2) it has inspired me to order a copy of Kipling's stories for the same purpose.

Well worth your time as a reader.

The Eleusinian Miseries, by Mike Russo

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
One of the funniest parser games I've played, October 15, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 2-3 hours
"The Eleusinian Miseries" is a puzzle-filled parser-based game set during the annual Eleusinian Mysteries, the initiation rites into the cult of Demeter and Persephone. Most of that last sentence I had to google to make sure I was getting it right, I know very little about Ancient Greek cultural history, and if you are like me then don't let that deter you. Just think of it all as taking place during your final initiation into a fraternity that is very dedicated to authenticity. You play one of the current pledges with only a few tasks left to complete before you can be fully accepted into the group.

The game is a series of puzzles incorporated into a small map played out over several acts. If you aren't familiar with Greek terminology then keep a dictionary handy to look up some words. The game does a pretty good job of kind of cluing you in on what some objects are in modern English, but I still had to look up several and knowing the function of many of the objects is key to solving some of the puzzles. For the most part the puzzles are fun and fair. With a limited number of locations and objects you can usually brute force your way to a lot of the solutions. Most of them just needed a bit of common sense applied, and the parser seemed pretty forgiving with phrasing. That said, there were a few puzzles that I had to look at the walkthrough to get past. After seeing some of the solutions I'm glad I didn't wait longer as I don't think I would have ever figured it out. On a couple of the puzzles though, the way I solved it is not the way listed in the walkthrough, so I think many of the puzzles have multiple solutions.

While many of the puzzles were very enjoyable, it is really the humor that makes this game great. Don't forgot to stop and read the prose in between completing tasks as there are more than just funny lines, but hilarious whole scenes. It is unusual to me to see humor mixed into a parser game this well and at this level. My compliments to the author.


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