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Ratings and Reviews by RadioactiveCrow

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You Couldn't Have Done That, by Ann Hugo

4 of 4 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

4 of 4 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.

The Moon wed Saturn, by Pseudavid

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Experimental narrative structure that I hope to see more of in the future, October 14, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes
This is fairly short, choice-based game that takes place over the course of about a week... all at the same time! The core mechanic of this game is that frequently a choice you make will cause the story to jump from Monday to Wednesday to Saturday and back. Think of it more as remembering the week rather than living it. At some of the pivotal moments in remembering events on Monday or Wednesday, you jump to seeing how the consequences of those choices played out on Wednesday or Saturday, respectively. Then occasionally, you will fall back down the time ladder to an earlier day, usually to remember a scene that informs why the main character is feeling the way she does now. I know my last couple sentences make it sound like Primer, but it is much easier to follow than that, and the weaving in and out of the various days helps you appreciate the developments of the story in a unique way.

However, because of the weaving timeline, and the fact that the story jumps right into it without a lot of context, understanding what is going on, especially early, is one of the weaker points of this game. That said, I think I was fully up to speed by the end and it helped me to appreciate the earlier parts better. Plus, I think the point of this game is more the experimentation than telling a clean story, and I love this concept. Hope to see more narratives like this in the future.

Stoned Ape Hypothesis, by James Heaton

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Simple, short choice-based game with a few puzzles, October 14, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 15 minutes
There isn't a lot to this game. You play as some version of a primitive human, who finds some mushrooms, eats them and has a giant leap forward in consciousness, enough to eventually (Spoiler - click to show)join a human town. Even though this is a choice-based game the story line is very minimal and the game is mostly about solving some simple puzzles. That's really it, give it a whirl, it won't take long.

Two things I really liked about it:
1) How the prose got more verbose/detailed the more mushrooms were consumed. I thought it was a nice illustration of the increasing intelligence of the player character.
2) How the author was able to program a Tic-Tac-Toe and Mancala AI in Ink for the game.

Choice of Broadsides, by Adam Strong-Morse, Heather Albano, and Dan Fabulich

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Fun introduction to Choice Of Games, October 13, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 1 hour
This is the first Choice of Games game that I played and I really enjoyed it. You play a member of the navy of a fictional country, roughly equivalent to 19th century Great Britain. It isn't particularly deep or long, but it was fun to guide the main character through not just a single battle or campaign, but really his whole career. You make a high-level choice for how to proceed with the next step in a battle or your career, and then watch the result play out in front of you, with your choices having lasting consequences throughout the game. While I usually go for more characterization and detail, this game is a nice change of pace. An excellent introduction to the Choice Of Games model/style as well.

Fallen London, by Failbetter Games

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Very interesting concept that just doesn't really deliver, October 13, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 10+ hours
I really wanted to like this game. The idea of playing a large, long and ever-changing text adventure via the web, along with some ability to interact with the other players, is a great one. However, the execution just hasn't grabbed me. I know there are a lot of players that love this game, and I've heard great things about the more traditional video game sequels from this studio (Sunless Sea and Sunless Skies), but I just can't get in to it. The stories just feel shallow, that there isn't a lot to them, nothing to really sink your teeth into, nothing to keep you coming back to see what happens next.

Plus, there is the limited actions mechanic. This is a free-to-play game, but it is the primary source of income for the studio. So one way that they've monetized the game is to limit you to 20 actions before you have to stop and let your action bank recharge, or you can pay a small monthly fee to get unlimited actions. The fee is very reasonable and if I was into this game more I would have no problem paying it to support the studio. Also, you can really accomplish quite a bit without paying. The 20 actions will let you play for about 20 minutes or so, then you can leave the game for a few hours to go about your normal routine or play other games and when you come back to it you will have recharged to 15-20 actions. Really it isn't the limited actions in and of themselves that I don't like, but that it seems like so many of your actions are spent grinding for a myriad of different resources to advance your character. It has a very MMORPG feel to it. And that would be right up my alley if the stories and payoffs for the grinding were better, but I just haven't found that to be the case yet.

The game is very well done though, the interface is clean and easy to use. The atmosphere of the game, from the graphics to the word choice, is incredible as well. This game has a lot of potential, but seeing as how it is already ten years old I don't know if it will ever get there.

80 DAYS, by inkle, Meg Jayanth

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
One of my favorite video games (of any type) of all time, October 13, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 2-3 hours
This is a truly amazing game. I didn't think it was possible to create a game so gripping out of these simple mechanics. At the same time it is truly amazing the amount of free will you have in this game, and all the amazing discoveries you can make with it. (I just said "amazing" a lot didn't I? Well, there's a reason for that!)

The basic mechanics of the game are a little bit of resource management underneath a choice-based text adventure. The game includes some very fun and simple graphics to aid in the visualization of the story, without getting in the way of your imagination too much. Also, there is some nice music to accompany you on your journey.

The story is taken from "Around the World in Eighty Days" by Jules Verne, but set in a steampunk/futuristic past. You play the role of Passepartout, the valet to the main character of the novel, Phileas Fogg. However, unlike how I think the novel goes (apologies for never having read it), you as the valet are making all the decisions on this journey, Fogg is just along for the ride and is frequently more trouble than the baggage. Rather than having to fit yourself into the role of Passepartout, think of it instead as you being given a starting set of stats/personality, but after that you are free to mold the character in any number of interesting ways.

The mechanics are simple, you are given a small bit of the story, usually small enough to fit on the screen of a smart phone without needing to scroll, then you get to make a choice. The choices are presented as what the next line of the story or dialogue will be. When you pick one the game smoothly places in line with the previous writing as if it had been there all along and then shows you the result of your choice. It is through these cumulative choices (plus making sure your luggage is full of useful or valuable items and managing your funds) that you plot your journey and move around the map. At every turn there are interesting characters to meet and subplots to discover, some of which will follow you around the globe. The writing is superb and keeps you enthralled longer than I would have thought possible in a game that gives you so much agency. It seems there would have to be some boring branches to the story, but there really aren't and even the few places where I wasn't as in to the story didn't seem to last long before something else intriguing came along. Among the things that you can discover are (Spoiler - click to show)Captain Nemo and the Nautilus, a rocket to take you to the moon, a murder mystery that you can solve and a planet-wide conspiracy by the shadowy Artificer's Guild.

The game is also very replayable. There are eight seeds to the story, with some locations or subplots only showing up in certain seeds, and you rotate through them with every playthrough. Additionally, with so many locations on the map you can always just choose to go a different route from your previous playthroughs to see what other parts of the world have to offer. A single playthrough takes about two hours, give or take how fast of a reader you are and if you encounter any material you've already read before and can skip through quickly (but still, there is always the chance to make a different choice from before and see what happens). I've played through this game at least 20 times and know that I'll be back for more again soon. Give it a try, you won't regret it.


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