Posted by: Ben | November 15, 2008

Scores On The Doors: The IF Competition 2008

That’s a decimal point, not a central nipple.

I didn’t manage to play all 35 games properly. But with the competition drawing to a close, it seems time to round the whole thing off nicely with a little summary. What I liked, what I hated, what I had no opinion on and why not.

Played and rated:

The Tens
No 10s, for the second year running (which means I’ve never given an IF comp game a 10, not ever. Bad competition. Must try harder.)

The Nines
Nightfall: Probably my favourite. Big, polished and generally like a proper IF game.
Opening Night: One of only two games in this competition to elicit an actual emotional reaction from me.
Everybody Dies: Again, very polished, and what it lacks in bigness it makes up in technical quality.

The Eights
Piracy 2.0: Lots of detail means it feels bigger and tenser than it is. Disappointed not to hear a single “Arrr!” from a space pirate, although one of them at least had the sense of occasion to leer at me.
Berrost’s Challenge: I felt the author had a real feel for devising puzzles, whatever the pros and cons of the setting.
The Ngah Angah Temple Of Forbidden Wisdom: I tend to award points on a subtractive basis, starting with a 10 and deducting points as appropriate when something disappointing happens, so a short and well designed game naturally scores highly…

The Sevens
April In Paris: …while a bigger and more frustrating game may suffer despite being technically far superior. Still, it’d be a dull world if we were all the same.
Afflicted: Would have been a 9, but even with the walkthrough I couldn’t get anything to happen to end the game. That’s when I noticed the lack of tension, and the fact that I could lose my hand over and over again.

The Sixes
Violet: Violet wants you to write your thesis. Me, the guy typing the commands in, wants you to write your thesis. Just write your thesis already, bitch.
Snack Time!
Channel Surfing: There’s certainly room in IF for angry young men and their polemics, although this one didn’t quite throw the TV out of the window for me.
A Date With Death: Lots of text but not enough to do.

The Fives
Ananachronist
Escape From The Underworld
Search For The Ultimate Weapon
A Martian Odyssey
Buried In Shoes: You’re getting off very lightly, Buried In Shoes. Four of those five points are for sheer pretentiousness. (Compare Grief.)
Trein: Easily the best bad game in the competition.

The Fours
Lair Of The Cybercow: At the bottom of a well. Obviously.
Red Moon: Fascinating scenario. Would have made a great game.
Freedom: Ditto. Social anxiety is an excellent subject for a really challenging and thoughtful IF game. Imagine if you had a real-life problem to solve, say a leaking hot water tank, or an elderly relative terminally ill in hospital, but you were limited in how your character could interact with the world because he was too shy to use the telephone or to speak to anyone. You could build all sorts of problems around that, and actually make people see the world in a different way. Instead, Freedom is about going to the shops and having people look at you funny, and the message of the game becomes: People look at you funny when you go to the shops. Kill yourself or get over it.*

*For anyone reading this who isn’t familiar with the work of Black Box Recorder, this is a quotation from their seminal debut single, Child Psychology. It is not, repeat NOT a proposed solution to social anxiety.

The Threes
Recess At Last: Homework = Boring
Riverside: The first game on my random list, so the one I will forever associate with the 2008 comp, just as Reconciling Mother symbolises 2007.
The Absolute Worst IF Game In History: Well, I quite enjoyed it. Finished it, too.

The Twos
The Lucubrator
The Missing Piece: Now I’m not the sort to penalise an author for not using a recognised authoring system, but this GUI really is ugly, and on my display it put immovable windows on top of each other and all over the text making it not only unreadable but literally unplayable. Also: You know bats are about the size of dormice and don’t carry cash, right?

The Ones
The Lighthouse: Must try harder, or at least at all.
Project Delta: The Quest: “As far as you can see from your perspective you are a young and white female with shorter hair and a smooth body making a fit impression.” Nice. Well, hello, me. A truly bad game, whose lack of substance is offset by its tremendous self-importance. An outstanding achievement.
Grief: The other game that prompted an emotional response from me. Hateful and exploitative.

Unrated
When Machines Attack: Seems appropriately nutty.
Dracula’s Underground Crypt: I died horribly within ten turns and couldn’t work out if there was more to the game than that or if it was a joke entry.
Cry Wolf
The Hall Of The Fount Of Artois: Best title of the year.
Nerd Quest
Magic

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