antimony (antimony) wrote,

ifcomp, five by five (next to last batch!)

Next to last batch, and I have now played all but one game that I can play on my hardware, the reviews are just still to-be-edited. ETA: Milk Party Palace requires OS X 10.6 or above, so my little 10.5.8 laptop is no good. (That's kind of true in general, really, but I've been buying bike crap with all my disposable income, lately.)

27: Creatures Such as We
[ChoiceScript, played on iPad]

A game about gaming playing and game design; very meta. This wasn't parody, this was straight-up exploration of that, which is something I see in fanfic a fair bit but not in gaming so much. Nicely done.

I wasn't sure how much my choices were affecting anything, and I think that was intentional. But, as with several other web-based games, I didn't feel bad about making "suboptimal" choices, I just picked a characterization for my PC and went with it.

The romance mechanic felt a bit odd, especially with the discussions on meaningful consent and attraction mechanics. And that I felt like it just suddenly threw me at someone, though that might have just been that I wasn't intentionally leaning my PC towards anyone. (I wasn't playing him as asexual, but as not into short-term flings and thus just looking for interesting conversations. So I wasn't thinking of it in terms of dating-sim mechanics, until it clearly was going that way.)

Oddly, for a game that's centered on discussions of replay, I was satisfied with a single playthrough. I don't know if anything significant changes specifically on replay; if someone tells me it does I might play it again, but I felt like it had said what it set out to say.

This is the first game I played that I thought seemed likely to win; I won't be disappointed if it does, although there were others I liked just as much.

28: Hunger Daemon
[Inform, played in Spatterlight]

The blurb for this did not give me high hopes, but I was glad to be proved wrong.

This is a Lovecraft-inspired (or, really, geeky interpretations of Cthulu mythos-inspired) romp. Very cute, very well coded, a bunch of nice but fair puzzles (and an ever-renewing flashlight!). I got multiple endings, including what appears to be the Good End, which was cute if a little silly, and nicely sized to fit in 2 hours.

Some people might mind the game sort of making an equivalence between Cthulu-worshippers and an established religion (Judaism), but it felt fairly respectful to me. (The PC is clearly enthralled with neither, although the good ending implies a preference for Judaism over Cthulu, and it mocks the cult but doesn't mock the synogogue, just has the PC be kind of confused over the need for tickets for High Holy Days.)

It also manages to have an encounter with an ex-girlfriend where things ended badly with no gender stereotyping or sexism -- good job, game, and it's sad that that's surprising but I just spent the half-hour before playing explaining a certain consonance-themed hashtag to my husband and thus was thinking about sexism in games and gaming a lot while playing.

This is definitely my favorite so far, and the second "solid contender for the win" I played.

29: Enigma
[Inform, played in Spatterlight]
Larger gameplay-mechanic spoilers in this than I've been doing in other reviews, for the record, but not plot spoilers.

A textbook entry in the "PC knows what's going on, player doesn't." I won't spoil the story, although it's not a happy one (are these ever?) It has an ingenious hint method, which turns it effectively into a hypertext game with a parser, but the rest of it is rather trite; I figured out what was going on long before the game let me "figure it out" and end it. I didn't turn hints on until I'd gotten one ending; putting them on got me a lot of extra text which I'd missed the first time, and the game is pretty good about covering ground, even unnecessary ground, with things you can examine, but it's not very compelling narrative.

It also knocks out UNDO in the last step and yet according to the information the game gives, the only actual choice is the last step. So you have to replay or save-restore to make the other choices. And by the time you're having the game tell you this, IMHO mimesis is broken enough that the "no UNDO as it's an Important Decision" is no longer relevant. Personally, I'd have liked it if the path you take to the end mattered; I thought it did, since I managed to have "sadness" or "sadness and anger" or "anger" building up with different routes, but yet it came down to the same decision. I felt like the thinking should be under my control and then perhaps the decision taken away from me as a player; that would have been a more interesting exploration of agency.

31: HHH.exe
[Twine with multimedia, played online]

The graphics were a cute Maniac Mansion-era videogame homage, and the slow degradation into static nicely done, but the game didn't have what it took to be a good parody. Random bits of different games (Nethack!?), very simplistic mechanics, and then it ended abruptly in a way I couldn't tell if that was The End or a Bad End and I should try again.

Humor and satire (and homage/nostalgiafests, if it was going for that instead) are difficult and take a lot of creativity; this had only the initial idea and not the rest.

(Having glanced at other reviews, evidently it's specifically a parody of a particular old-school game that I haven't played, and part of a genre of glitch mash-up games. That if anything, makes it less clever to me; the things I thought might be innovation weren't. Although apparently this genre is popular, and people think it's a good example. Whatever. My score will be the same; it wasn't really my thing.)

32: The Entropy Cage
[Twine, played on iPad]

As I said in an earlier review, cyberpunk has the problem of being instantly very dated, but this one seemed to embrace that and combined retro-cyber-punk absurdity with its musings on artificial intelligence.

The interpersonal drama between our human PC and her boss helped a lot, I think -- the players are human and it's easier to empathize with another human, rather than some of the games in this space where the PC is a program. And the randomness didn't bother me; I was clearly hitting some sort of counter I couldn't quite see, but that's what working a helpdesk-like job is like; it seemed appropriate.

I would have loved to have a tally/achievement list of endings, like Zest had. I sort of wanted to find out how many there were but the only list was in the notes and was super-spoilery (I glanced at the beginning but didn't read the rest). So after getting three or so including one clearly "good" end I decided I was done judging but might come back later and look for some more. It's fast to play and worked perfectly on my iPad so I can easily poke at it while commuting.

37: Ugly Oafs
[Inform, played in Spatterlight]

I generally love wordplay games. I didn't love this one. I'd worked my way partly through the basic idea of what was going on with the first (evidently of two, looking at the walkthrough) main puzzle, but didn't finish it. (Being vague because if you like wordplay, you should try it even if I wasn't a fan.) I just didn't want to be doing this sort of puzzle in an interpreter. Paper and pencil, maybe. I was also tired and cranky while playing, which didn't help.

Once I glanced at the first of the hints or so and realized what else was going on, it seemed like just tedium (or super-easy with web tools, but I generally try to solve wordplay without online tools) as it's one of the sorts of wordplay I don't do in my head well.

There were also some implementation issues, although I was playing the original download rather than the later update; none were game-breaking but just made it feel like there might be little reward to solving.

40: Laterna Magica
[Twine, played on iPad]
Urk. Glurgy new-age philosophical musings on enlightenment, framed as a text adventure. No thank you.

It would be an interesting way to present philosophy or other non-fiction if presenting philosophy was the task (and if the writing was better); playing this one not long after AlethiaCorp just made me wonder when the framing device was going to shatter and the game was going to start.

Last batch will be: Begscape, Origins, Sigmund's Quest, Krypteia, Jesse Stavro's Doorway, Milk Party Palace, and Paradox Corps. Milk Party Palace is the only one I haven't played yet; maybe tonight, maybe not until this weekend. I'll do a no-spoilers rec list then too. (I will be skipping Slasher Swamp, Jacqueline, Jungle Queen!, and Building the Right Stuff due to platform limitations.)

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Tags: ifcomp 2014, reviews and reactions
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