Oh well. Time for some text adventures. I started with just a few minutes to dip my toes in, so I went scrolling through my personal sort for some short games...
But FIRST A PSA: the Interactive Fiction Competition could use judges! There are about 80 games, with little cover-art and synopses available, and a bunch of metadata (expected playtime, is this parser (type commands) or one of the newer web formats, although almost all the parser games are also available in a web interface, content warnings, etc.) Judges must play 5 to judge, and you play until you are done with the game (either by finishing it or being 100% DONE WITH IT, which happens) or you have spent two hours, at which point you record your rating and move on. So a max of ten hours to judge 5 games, but most of them are shorter than two hours. They're a mix of short heartfelt emotive pieces, one-room puzzlers, usually a healthy helping of cyberpunk dystopias (in the current political climate I don't know whether I should expect more or less of these...), classic dungeon crawlers, etc. Try a game!
Okay, so my first few games.
Dream Pieces 2: The Lego Box, by Iam Curio. As I said, I needed a short first game, and something SFWish, so I scrolled down until I hit what was clearly a small puzzler -- the cover art was perfunctory and it specifically said it was word puzzles, which is a genre I both enjoy and don't mind games with very little story to go with their puzzles.
It was an OK start to the comp. The game has some major bugs, and not enough responses appear to incorrect commands to point you quickly to how you're supposed to interact with it, especially when bugs are confusing the situation. But the idea is cute (if not super-original), the theming is amusing, and if the bugs were fixed, this would be a great quick kids' puzzler. (Or skip the "kid's" and add harder/more content.) I think the interface may have been homebuilt rather than one of the various packages, which means that a lot of work may have gone into getting something to work at all rather than polishing the content. The result: a mixed bag, but I hope the author isn't discouraged by bug reports and feedback; I had fun solving it.
I Should Have Been That I Am, by E.K. Wagner. A short Twine game to follow up -- and we're firmly in the cyberpunk classic genre. This one felt too short and was retreading ground that every piece about an AI character ever goes over; the prose was good and when I went back and made different choices, there were lots of little nuances of difference to tease out, but this sort of game needs to say something new to really be interesting, and this was just atmospheric.
Bi Lines, by Norbez. From the cover art and blurb, it looks like another in the confessional/autobiographical Twine genre, and claims to have been written just before the deadline. I don't have a problem with this genre, but often times I find them just sort of awkward; I'm not a fan of the close-perspective tradition of novels/memoirs that these often are an interactive version of.
So it is to my delight that I open it up and after the opening scene, there's a lot more to this game. The only thing that was irritating was that the fonts chosen would resize as you hovered (and were tiring to read, at least for me), but it was gripping and real because of the ways in which it departed from the norm for these games (just play it, it's better not to spoil it, I think). Definite content warnings for sexual assault and going into the feelings that brings up, though, so be aware of that.
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