Posted by: Ben | October 31, 2015

if: Sub Rosa

This is a review of “Sub Rosa: The Seven Deciets of Confessor Destine,” an entry in the 2015 Interactive Fiction competition whose authors are Joey Jones (Master Writer) and Melvin Rangasamy (Master Programmer).  Usual disclaimers apply.  This review is based on a version downloaded on the 8th of October, and not the most recent update.

Image: Chaim Soutine,

Image: Chaim Soutine, “Carcass of Beef”, 1924

The setting for Sub Rosa is a fantasy world that is sufficiently different, from either our own world or the standard sort of fantasy world that one might encounter, to require extensive introduction. This infomation is imparted partially through of environmental features, noticeably a number of paintings to be found in a hallway, but principally from an extensive browsable selection of books in the titular Confessor’s library.  As far as I can tell it doesn’t appear to be necessary to read every single book to give oneself a reasonable chance at understanding what’s going on, but they do add background detail, or to be more accurate, colour.  Initially the player is merely flummoxed with a series of cryptic but highly detailed asides, the hope presumably being that the mystery of it all will be sufficient motivation to hang in there until the conclusion.

This gambit is partially successful, but at no point did it feel as though the adventure was taking place in a universe that consisted of much more than a house and a big desert.  Even after I got past the first location, which took about twenty minutes due to my underdeveloped puzzle solving abilities.  Once I got as far as I reasonably could have done, I turned to the walkthrough, which revealed quite a lot more than I had been able to discover unaided. Not, perhaps, a one for the novice.

[Rechecking the walkthrough for this review, I observe that it has seemingly been updated to better explain one of the puzzles, involving a singing bird and a brick wall.  The explanation merely strengthens my opinion that you would have to be some kind of mind-reading Machiavellian savant to figure it out.  Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing as such.]

The writing is crisp and clear, and the code seems to be well polished and free of obvious bugs and ambiguities, with the exception of a frustrating tendency for the game to think I wanted to do something with a book I was carrying when what I actually wanted was to interact with an object which was, not always uncoincidentally, mentioned in the book’s title.

I admired this game for its conceptual originality and for its extreme difficulty, but paradoxically (and this is such a difficult line to walk) I also found it rather unwelcoming.

Posted by: Ben | October 8, 2015

if: Life on Mars?

This is a review of Life On Mars? by Hugo Labrande, from the 2015 Interactive Fiction competition. The review may contain plot spoilers or other things one subsequently wishes one had not read, or in some cases, written. I am not a proper member of the IF community and am not qualified to judge interactive fiction, but will probably vote anyway.

cemetery gates Read More…

Posted by: Ben | October 25, 2014

if: Creatures Such As We

This is a review of Creatures Such As We, a web-based game by 2013 winner Lynnea Glasser, written in ChoiceScript.

The usual disclaimers apply:

  1. No misanthropy intended.

  2. Not your peer group.

  3. Grim = 1-3. Good = 4-7. Great = 8-10.

  4. Content warning: may contain content.

(My earlier review of the same author’s 2010 entry, Divis Mortis.)

Read More…

Posted by: Ben | October 12, 2014

if: Excelsior

This is a review of Excelsior, a z-code game in the 2014 Interactive Fiction Competition by Arthur DiBianca.

But first, some disclaimers:

1) Even if I hate your game, I don’t hate you.

2) Your game is better than mine, since I haven’t yet written anything capable of being shown to another human being. Sorry.

3) Ratings are at this stage only on a three-point scale of Great, Good and Grim.

4) This review may include content that some people might not want to read.

5) If you are the author and you want a transcript, please get in touch and ask for one.

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Posted by: Ben | October 11, 2014

if: Origins

This is a review of Origins, a hypertext-based game in the 2014 Interactive Fiction Competition, by Vincent Zeng and Chris Martens.  My standard disclaimers:

  1. Even if I hate your game, I love you.  But not in a creepy way.

  2. Your game is better than mine, since I haven’t written anything capable of being shown to another human being. But criticism is a skill too!

  3. Ratings are on a three-point scale of Great, Good and Grim, which will be finessed into a rating out of ten in time for the competition voting deadline.

  4. This review may contain (a) spoilers right to the end of the game in question, (b) adult themes and (c) material that some people may find offensive.

Read More…

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