antimony (antimony) wrote,

ifcomp, group 3!

I'm...probably going to make it through all the games that will play on my machine(s)! I'm not sure I've ever managed that while judging before. (And I don't care to dig up my old posts to to find out.) I'm about 3/4 through the games, though the ones I have left are larger parser games. These posts are just lagging as I polish them up from raw reactions.

11: The Secret Vaults of Kas the Betrayer
[twine, played on iPad]

Perhaps I missed something obvious, but this was two guess-the-combination puzzles, where you couldn't back out of solving them, and there was instadeath on the second, and nothing much else? Didn't solve the second puzzle, after brute-forcing the first. If there was an obvious clue for the correct setup, I missed it, and the quality of the rest didn't make me hopeful. The walkthrough also wasn't completely specific, so I couldn't use it to skip the the second one.

The worldbuilding was fairly standard-fantasy but showed a little flair in places; I could have used a drama about the Dwarven University and the whole sordid history of the MacGuffin we were chasing, combined with a dungeon crawl, but that's not what I got.

12: Tea Ceremony
[Inform, played in Spatterlight]
Another game that feels like an author's first, but better-executed than the last game I said that about. Very short, very simple, and if I never do a water-pouring puzzle again it will be too soon. (Second one this comp, alas. And third one, alas combo.)

Decently well coded, except that the name of the main NPC wasn't accepted by the parser, probably because of the apostrophe, so I spent the entire game calling her "her".

So, clever idea, but not fully satisfying. It had a bunch of cute mechanics and a nice premise, but needed to be longer if it could do so without tedium. Still, not bad.

13: Transparent
[inform, played in Spatterlight]

There's a fine line between giving the player freedom to roam and not telling them enough for them to have a goal. Nice spooky possibly-haunted house, nice camera implementation, deeply annoying baggage handling (okay so I probably can't carry a stepladder, part of a statue, a bunch of small crap and juggle my camera, but just...handle it, OK? Don't make me play resource-management games if that's not what the game is about.

I wandered around, took lots of arty photographs, didn't die, and...what was I supposed to do next? Given that horror isn't my favorite genre, I was kind of loath to find out what was going to happen, and then I was out of time anyway.

I feel like I didn't see much of it and would like to -- I think this is one where I'll skim (at least the beginnings of) other people's reviews once I've decided on a rating myself. If people are really happy with it, I'll pick it back up post-comp and see if I can get the plot rolling.

15: AlethiCorp
[custom web, played on iPad]
Playing notes: I'm definitely going to play this one again on a desktop; some of the forms overlapped, and I had one weird error (which could have been part of the game but I doubt it, as I'd expect an in-game error would get a themed error page). And I got a poor ending, as trying to actually take notes on the iPad was too much of a pain so I just went random at the end. But I feel like I can rate it with what I did play.

Technical issues aside, this was great. The humor works really well if one has been in the sort of industry it's satirizing, and the setup felt very Mystery-Hunt-like -- like this was a metapuzzle for a round minus all the actual puzzle-puzzles. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about...I can't easily explain it. It's a compliment, though.) I probably won't get a chance to get back to it until after the Comp is over, but I am super-looking forward to diving deeper into it.

This really pushed the boundaries of what people are doing in the "IF" space with games, though obviously entire puzzle web sites have been a puzzle-game genre mainstay for years. Highly recommended.

16: Arqon
[inform, played in spatterlight]
Oh, plugh, it's a bad tabletop RPG implemented in Inform. Complete with listing the damage ratings as dice.


I like hack & slash tabletop, and I like hack & slash games, but writing one as IF is tough; the medium isn't optimized for it. It didn't work (IMHO, obviously) when Beyond Zork did it, and it doesn't work here. Here, unlike Beyond Zork, there's nothing else to the game, though.

It had some serious design issues, too -- it took the hints/walkthrough for me to find out about the existence of an important object, because none of the conversation options I was trying gave anything aside from an error/default; there was one that worked that was a fussy rephrasing of things I'd tried.

17: Icepunk
[Twine, started on iPad, switched to laptop]

Buggy, and has the problem all cyberpunk has of being instantly very dated, but I was intrigued despite the thin veneer of story. The ascii art was charming, and the descriptions of areas very vivid.

The problem was simple: performance. It was a pain in the butt to play on the iPad, as it was very laggy (though it did work except for one room with a bug which was clearly not iPad-related). So I decided to wait and switch to a real computer.

Unfortunately, it was even more of a pain on the laptop (which is older than my first-gen iPad, so that's some of the issue, but I did hit up some other reviews and it was bad on modern hardware as well.) Way too sluggish. And some of the ascii art no longer lined up correctly. The initial gathering-stuff puzzle thus became a painful slog even though I really wanted to explore the random-generated world.

I feel like I ought to get through the data-dragging before rating it, but having lost what I did put together twice (switching platforms, accidentally closing the tab), I just couldn't bring myself to start again.

18: Excelsior
[Inform, played in Spatterlight]

For some reason, the parser in this game is super-cut down -- "use X" and "use X with Y" are about my only action verbs. For no apparent reason. I have to use doors rather than open them. Bah. I wouldn't call it "streamlined" like the blurb does, I'd call it bad. Let me unlock doors and take cubes and put cubes on pedestals and touch bricks.

It's an old-school, unexplained puzzlefest, with locked gates and mysterious rooms, and a fairly large map open at once. It does tell me up-front that I can't make the game unwinnable, which is helpful, since it has that old-school feel where you often could make games unknowingly unwinnable.

It feels kind of like Myst or another early graphical adventure, but without all the decoration. I'm looking for cubes and coins and spheres and assorted doodads, to unlock some doors. Whatever. The puzzles are fairly cute, except for one really poorly done one with a very unclued action, that I used the walkthrough to solve because I wanted to get a bit further before judging.

I was still solving puzzles when it was time to stop, but I wasn't terribly engaged the whole time. It needs a bit more narrative, maybe? Even just a point system for puzzles solved would help.

Next up: One Night Stand, The Black Lily, Following Me, Hill 160, Tower, Inward Narrow Crooked Lanes

This entry was originally posted at Please comment wherever you prefer.
Tags: ifcomp 2014, reviews and reactions

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