Next batch, a bunch more short web games. Let's Rob A Bank, Let's Explore Geography!, Instruction Set, +=x. And two longer games: Bogeyman and Escape from Dinosaur Island.
Let's Rob A Bank</b>, by Bethany Nolan. The blurb and cover are straightforward: this is a one-puzzle Twine game with a myriad of endings about robbing a bank. This was quick and fun. I would have liked an ending counter or something, because a lot of the fun in this is seeing how differently things can turn out, especially since the game prods you to find the wackier endings, but that's a minor quibble. Lots of death and blood, but in a campy gangster-movie sort of way, so that didn't bother me.
Let's Explore Geography! Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation Exercise, by Carter Sande. I played a lot of Big Rig back in the day, when text-based simulators were all the rage. From the blurb and picture, I wasn't sure if this was going to be an earnest entry in the genre, or if it was going to immediately turn into some sort of other game, like AlethiCorp a few years back. A few bugs where there were extra radio buttons on the screen (granted, I'm using a somewhat antiquated version of Safari), didn't help, but no, this was in earnest. As an earnest text sim, there were a few big problems -- the world is way too big (and constrained) to be able to play it without the reference materials and be successful, and the timeframe is too long to want to play to failure conditions, slowly dribbling out money, at least for me as an adult. In an actual classroom setting, it might be great. A few things would help -- get the inventory off a separate screen, tell the user how many pallets they can carry, record what prices you've seen in-game if you want users to not use the spoiler chart, etc. Possibly even record the fun/cultural things they've seen, too. So: not bad, but not for me.
Instruction Set , by Jared Jackson. Plus side: charming graphics made by possibly the youngest IFComp contributor. Minus side: 3/5/8 liquid pouring puzzles and a sliding tiles puzzle. There was a thematic reason for them, but I was much more fond of the marble puzzles and some of the other new styles that the game introduced. The framing story is touching and it's worth a go, even if you'll roll your eyes at the first puzzle.
+ = x</b>, by Chandler Groover. The cover and blurb tell me this is another entry in the philosophical/SF/cyberpunkish genre. It uses a funky drag-and-drop interface that works really well for the theme, but the characters are so thinly drawn and their fates so vague that I'm not sure what it was saying. It ends with an infinite loop between two screens, which I can't tell if that's intentional or not. I'd like to see this elaborated a little more; I feel like it was trying to tell me something I just didn't get.
Bogeyman, by Elizabeth Smythe. The cover art and blurb are creepy, and so is the game. Too creepy and relentlessly awful, to be honest, for me to enjoy. I played it once through; I don't know if there were any better endings, because I'm not going back in. The writing is fine, the implementation is solid, and the music is beautiful, but the story was just too grotesque and depressing for me.
Escape from Dinosaur Island The blurb, cover picture, and intro text promise a retro adventure. And, well, it delivers. Short choppy descriptions, odd grammar and spelling errors, a very limited parser, guess-the-verb/noun. I was still charmed until I got completely stuck, hanging around with what I thought was everything I needed for the next solution, but the game kept telling me "You're not carring [sic] all the bits you would need to build a [spoiler]". This is a couple of beta-testers away from a fun retro romp.