Tuesday, 29 October 2013

An unintended early finish (to 2013 IFComp reviewing)

Dear anonymous reader. Concerning the gap in transmission, I was at first taking a little break from reviewing, as I was getting burnt out. I now have additional problems in that I upgraded my computer from Snow Leopard to OS X Mavericks this weekend, forgetting that Dragon (the speech-to-text software by which I play most of the games and dictate reviews of all) might not come with me. On the Mac at least, Dragon is a finicky and somewhat unreliable program with not-very-friendly upgrade policies, which is a shame considering its life-improving effects if you need to minimise typing. The latest version (3) is too expensive for me to punt on as a stopgap and it's not supported on Mavericks anyway.

I may begin to experiment with OS X's built-in speech features in the meantime, but overall I've lost my reviewing momentum,and I've got these new hassles, so I'm just going to put my fingers down now and concentrate on playing as many of the remaining games as I can in time.

To author readers, my apologies if I didn't get to your game and you had hoped I would. Sure, I don't owe you anything! - but I've been in the comp too and I know what it's like pining for reviews or waiting for your numbers to come up.

We hope you have enjoyed your trip through this door/blog.

- Wade

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Moquette by Alex Warren


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(Version reviewed: Original)

Moquette is a Quest hypertext game in which you play a hungover security guard who begins to feel the weariness of his lot too heavily during one morning commute on the London Underground, and who then begins to wander the network in some kind of attempt to do anything differently.

This is the first Quest game by the author of the Quest engine, Alex Warren, and I think it makes sufficiently good on views expressed in his blog over time about trying out different things in IF. It's not going for radically different, but it has its own feel and structure and some effects which are novel enough to make me say that the author has walked some of his talk. I found the game fascinating at times, well written as often, though in a way which underutilises (or just doesn't utilise) experiences the protagonist has had earlier in the game. Another problem is that no specific background emerges for the character. And I wasn't crazy about the ending; it seems really hard to end existential IFs in a way that is equally or more satisfying than the game content. There is a fair bit of content in Moquette, and its attention to geographical and other details of the London Underground give it the smell of the real. Overall, a mix of good elements and others which didn't work so well.

Considerably longer and more spoilery musings below.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Tex Bonaventure and the Temple of the Water of Life by Truthcraze


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(Version reviewed: Original)

Tex Bonaventure and the Temple of the Water of Life (or TBATTOTWOL… or maybe just TBAT) is a likeable and rather difficult to solve off your own back Indiana Jones-styled adventure. Tex is less competent and cool than Indy but he's no klutz, and the game doesn't play up his goofiness at the expense of dangerous puzzles or basic seriousness of adventuring. TBAT is chock full of traps, fast deaths and adventure movie quotes, the latter often appearing in the form of achievement-like score boosts. TBAT is a little short of the programming or prose polish that would really get it glowing, but it does have a good sense of danger and suspense.

The basic adventuring schtick of examining one thing, then examining something revealed by the first thing, then examining something revealed by the second thing, etc., is well executed on many occasions in TBAT, and this is complementary to the suspense of time-limit traps, like when a spiked ceiling is descending towards your head. Some wisecracks which happen to hit the mark and a plethora of wacky/gory deaths round out a tone which is recognisable from plenty of adventure films and games.

Since the game is named for its hero, I would have liked to see his personality shine through more clearly in the prose. The nature of some of the humour used is such that it can feel like the narrator is trying to be funny in general, rather than that I've got a window to Tex's thoughts and that they are funny, or illuminating of him. The game is a good romp through a dangerous temple in any case. Just keep those hints and that walkthrough handy. I estimate it took me 30-45 minutes to play through.

(I'm glad I liked the game, as it's also the first public outing of my Menus extension for Inform 7, a new take on Emily Short's long-serving one.)

I elaborate a little more on TBAT's hint/walkthrough situation below, where there are a few explicit spoilers:

Captain Verdeterre's Plunder by Ryan Veeder


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(Version reviewed: 1st update)

Ryan Veeder, winner of IFComp 2012 with Taco Fiction, brings us the tale of Captain Verdeterre's Plunder. This is a short and brisk Glulx treasure hunt in which you must locate and throw as many worthy valuables as you can into your sack before the ship sinks. The rising water acts both as an overall time limit and a series of separate time limits related to particular puzzles, with items on the lower decks becoming inaccessible sooner than those higher up. You only find out what items are really worth once you clear the game with them in your sack, and this will dictate when and whether you expend time on collecting them the next time you play. Flavour comes via the descriptions of the pirate booty, as well as from the running commentary on your treasure-hoarding efforts by the eponymous captain, a talking rat who's a bit of a jerk, though an amusing one.

The design of the game is dense and clever. The action moves quickly and is punctuated by suspenseful messages about the rising water, making for a fun and polished optimisation challenge. That said, due to the game's smallness, my knowledge that probably 100+ other people are playing it at the same time as me, my belief that I know how I would solve the game's problems and my confidence that I would indeed solve them if I just got out a piece of paper and did the work, I didn't feel compelled to put in the effort of doing that work. I played the game a few times to solve the major puzzles, then I started reading others' reviews of it to hear tales of their high scores. If you want to put in the work yourself, you'll get a stronger aftertaste. I'm content to say that I had fun with this small, quality game.

A Wind Blown from Paradise by N.C. Hunter Hayden - and some advice for new authors


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(Version reviewed: Original)

A Wind Blown from Paradise is a small Glulx experience which uses the drudgery of underground train travel and the wind blowing down the train tunnels as a metaphor for a greyed-out life not lived in the present; the siren song memories of the past are in technicolour. It's an idea well suited for delivery in IF format, but the delivery of this game is unfortunately frustrating. The solution shows me I had almost reached an ending after about 10-15 minutes of play, but I still quit at that point because I was tired of being thwarted by the random train travel mechanic and interrelated technical problems: the game failing to properly note when I was on a train or off it, turns being out of sync, some commands failing to give any response, a lack of the most basic synonyms, etc. These boringly common problems could all be sorted out easily with input from folks with even a little Inform 7 experience. There are also subtler design problems in that the game's responses don't give enough information to indicate that the game state may be changing, or that you may be progressing. It's too easy for the player to wander around in this one feeling lost, stuck in a repetitive loop with no guidance. Wind lists no beta testers.

What I'd like to say to the author of Wind and to anyone who's thinking of getting started with any of the IF programming languages is that you don't have to go the programming alone, and it will be better for your game (and probably more fun for you) if you don't. Just head to the internet forums of your language of choice, or to intfiction.org, a blanket site whose forums and subforums are flush with veterans of the majority of the languages.

The thing about being new to a programming language and in a vacuum is that you can't know what you might be doing wrong, technically. If you ask for a tester or testers on intfiction's betatesting forum, you'll almost always get at least one volunteer. In the case of this game, such a volunteer could probably have pointed out all the same problems I pointed out in this review in about five minutes, and advise on how to fix most or all of them. The obvious benefit of such improvements is that one's artistic vision may be more optimally delivered. However, the side-effect of one's game probably earning more points in IFComp isn't too shabby, either.

I suspect a lot of new authors create their first game in a vacuum, enter it in IFComp (the harshest IF mistress of the year) and then leave dispirited at the reaction. This isn't a win for anyone involved. What would be cool is if these authors realised they could get some assistance before they hit this point, and that there's plenty of assistance to be had afterwards, or irregardless, too. So I just wanted to let this advice out at a time when would-be or new IF authors might be reading it. Bonne chance.

Ollie Ollie Oxen Free by Carolyn VanEseltine

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(Version reviewed: Original)

Three time IFComp veteran (2010, 2011, 2013) and more than three time extra comp veteran (check out her list of games at IFWiki - to any newcomers, don't forget that there are 46 non-IFComp weeks a year when new games can come out) Carolyn VanEseltine returns this year with Ollie Ollie Oxen Free, a primary school-based adventure of rigourous puzzling in which you play a teacher who must rescue a series of trapped students in the wake of some kind of bombing. The source of the threat isn't specified, or ultimately important, at least as far into the game as I reached, a distance I will specify within two paragraphs. The game is delivered in the Glulx format.

OOOF's ambitious design supports all of the students independently. You can talk to them, order them about separately and have them act as the instruments of puzzle solving for you – which is necessary, because the attack has left you too weak to perform any dexterity-demanding tasks. To successfully marshal them to help you help them rescue each other is the kind of feat which will convince you that you could organise a team of green berets. But with great mechanics must come greater implementation (Ugh!). The tools the game gives the player to do what is being asked of them are underpowered, and there are still a great number of bugs and oversights. Also, it's not really acceptable to have a game say things like: "If that command didn't work, please enter it again," or "It looks like you've completed that part of the walkthrough, but I'm not sure." It looks to me like Caroline ran out of development time and decided to meet the competition deadline anyway. I still recommend that folks try OOOF, with a few caveats.
  • The game's programming is not up to the engineering beauty of its design.
  • If you don't like really stringent mechanical puzzles, OOOF is likely to wear you out.
  • I still hadn't finished this game after playing for two hours and 15 minutes, at which point I decided to stop and write this review.

Detailed discussion with spoilers ahead:

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Vulse by Rob Parker

Click here to play Vulse online

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(Version reviewed: Original)

Vulse is a Twee hypertext piece. I would say what I think it is about but I don't really know; I wasn't sufficiently engaged by it to run through it more than once, and that first play eventually began to feel like a chore. The protagonist sloughs about in an apartment with a collection of abstract and angry thoughts and perceptions. These are rendered with deliberately crafted language, a sort of free verse stream of consciousness. The prose wore on me over time, not inherently, but because it didn't seem to take me anywhere. There was little sign of the literal stuff mentioned in the game's blurb, of the Twin Peaksy corpse which floats into the town. Perhaps it was down other paths.

My primary beef with Vulse is that I could find no point of interest in it that would stimulate me to engage with the prose. There was no sense of a character, or inner or outer reality, or of a plot or story or mystery or something else to compel. This left just a series of links leading to different strands of language. Ability with the language needs to be in service of something, especially in the context of this comp. I'm afraid I couldn't find the something.

The Paper Bag Princess by Adri

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(Version reviewed: Either the 2nd or 3rd update, I'm not sure which. Sorry, the updates have been easy to miss and hard to identify.)

The Paper Bag Princess is a short Z-code adventure in which you play a beautiful royal lass whose beloved is snatched up by a dragon during her wedding, and who then sets out to get him back.
I found this to be a curiously toneless game, but it has a few amiable moments. I don't know if some of the strangeness comes from the fact it's based on a book (by Robert Munsch) and perhaps needed to fill in some puzzle blanks to IF-icise the book's content.

Increasing amounts of spoilers below.

Threediopolis by Andrew Schultz

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I was a tester for Andrew Schultz's Threediopolis and I drew its cover art, so I shan't be reviewing it due to Conflict of Interest reasons.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Reels by Tyler Zahnke

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(Version reviewed: Original)

Reels is a hypertext game posing 8 mathematical and trivia-based questions. Get them right and perhaps a gang of thieves will return the precious archival reel-to-reel tapes (!) they stole. At least they didn't also steal the ovens we'll need in the future to bake the decaying tapes before making crappy second generation copies of them in order to vaguely preserve the sweet knowledge contained therein.

I bailed out on this quest, without too much regret, after verifying that it doesn't function properly in either of Chrome or Firefox on my OS X Mac. These are the two browsers the game's "how to play Reels" file recommends for those without access to Microsoft Internet Explorer. For details of my short-lived experience with the first question, how I verified the game wasn't responding, why I looked at its code and other spoilery stuff, read on.

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Cardew House by Andrew Brown

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(Version reviewed: Original)

Coming off the back of the longwinded The House at the End of Rosewood Street, it was a bit of a relief to play a parser-driven game (a Glulx one) as small and direct as The Cardew House. Its introduction tells of cruel Old Man Cardew, he who so aggravated all his neighbours and kin that somebody eventually shotgunned him in the head. Cardew's daughter disappeared, too, but nobody really knows the whole story. Enter you, foolhardy explorer of... The Cardew House.

The author declares this as his first or equal first Inform game, and while it's simple and rough and doesn't declare any testers, it does have focus and is technically sound (* excepting its habit of just killing the interpreter where it stands whenever the game ends, which strikes me as unsound.) These are more things than can be said of a lot of first games which have appeared in the rather merciless venue of IFComp.

If, in life, you don't want to play any more adventures involving the solving of mechanical puzzles in a style typical of the two-word parser era, you can safely skip playing The Cardew House. If you aren't averse to such puzzles, or perhaps even enjoy seeing people doing them today, or you like Ectocomp games – because this is pretty much a haunted house game of slightly better than Ectocomp haste quality – I'd give it a shot. You're unlikely to be wowed but you might have fun, as I did. Cardew is short and has built-in hints for if you get stuck. Just save the game before taking any particularly exciting actions; there's no undo from a game over.

More spoilery stuff beyond.

The House at the End of Rosewood Street by Michael Thomét


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(Version reviewed: Original)

The House at the End of Rosewood Street is a mysterious, strange and significantly imperfect Glulx adventure in which you play a caretaker to the residents of a suburban street. The residents all chip in to keep you housed (note that your house is not the one at the end of the street) and in return you run errands for them and deliver the newspaper each day. When I say deliver, I do mean deliver. You have to navigate right up to the door of each house, knock on the door and then GIVE NEWSPAPER TO (recipient). The game describes itself as "An exploration of the uncanny, the abject, and the fantastic" but I suspect many players will bail out early on the deliberately repetitious, sparse or tedious tasks the caretaker protagonist must perform, rather than continue to squint their eyes at the suburban grass in hopes of perceiving the promised strangeness. I don't think this game is optimally designed, and the distribution and delivery of some of its weirder content is quite out of balance, but I think it does eventually succeed in generating a feeling of mysterious inevitability, thanks in part to its grinding qualities.

Spoilers increasing ahead, and ultimately I talk about the end of the game.

Trapped in Time by Simon Christiansen


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(Version reviewed: Either the original or the first update. I reviewed this right around the time it was updated, so I'm unsure.)

Trapped in Time is a fun and novel CYOA game which operates not on a computer but on paper, either real paper if you print out the PDF file which comprises the game or on the virtual pages of the PDF itself. It is divided up into numbered paragraphs as per a Fighting Fantasy gamebook, and whenever you make a decision you will be told to turn to a particular paragraph. I played the game just by paging back and forth through the document in a PDF reader, a method which had the added convenience of enabling me to take notes by copying and pasting chunks of prose into a TextEdit document. Unless you have a very good memory you'll need notes to stay abreast of the game's trickery, and that trickery leads to an outcome I found strangely moving.

While Trapped in Time's prose has the clear, enthusiastic and kid-friendly style of one of the original Choose Your Own Adventure books, I'll point out that four-letter words and a bit of violence do make appearances later in the game. Ruling out kids who shouldn't be encountering four-letter words, I recommend the game to all and sundry.

Complete spoilers ahead.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Coloratua by Lynnea Glasser


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(Version reviewed: Original)

Coloratura is an outstanding parser-driven Glulx adventure in which you play an aqueous alien entity (or more gauchely, a blob) capable of interacting with the universe on a rich metaphysical level; part psionic, part molecular, part empathic. Unfortunately you've been dragged up from your seabed home by a crew of humans not unlike those in The Abyss and placed on a table in their ship for research purposes. Your goal is to escape and find a way to return to your home, and it is in your nature to seek to do so without inducing unnecessary violence or discordance in the universe.

The primary aesthetic is the viewpoint of the alien, rendered in a grammatically strange style and with invented words and unusual uses of tense and person. Your character is preoccupied both with the atomic joys of the universe, its magnetic fields, temperatures and viscosities, and with the emotions and empathies of other beings, which it perceives as coloured auras. You also have the power to try to affect others' emotions by instilling them with the corresponding colour, and many of the game's puzzles involve interpreting the panicking humans' emotional states, which the blob is very good at, and nudging them to alter the situation aboard the ship in your favour.

It took me about one and three-quarter hours to complete Coloratura using text to speech software, so the majority of folks playing by typing are likely to take less time than that. This is an excellent game with many levels of engagement and innovation, plus puzzles and suspense, and which exploits a lot of possibilities unique to text gaming. Therefore I recommend it to all and sundry. This is Lynnea's third time in IFComp and I think it's her best game yet. Spoilers ahead.

Dad vs. Unicorn by PaperBlurt


Click here to play Dad vs. Unicorn online

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(Version reviewed: Original)

This is a short (10 minutes) CYOA Twine (I think?) piece about a small-minded masculinity-conscious dad, his overweight and troubled son and how they are eventually attacked by a unicorn. I can let on about the unicorn attack because it's in the blurb of the game and also strongly implied by the title in the first place. I found the experience mildly unpleasant and lacking some other resonance to sufficiently make up for that. Dad vs. Unicorn does carry the fire of anger, manifest as sarcastic energy, and it uses highly crafted minimal prose which is sometimes hard to follow due to its frequent stylistic omission of the verb to be or other sentence-launching entities. This is not the first 10 minute Twine game I've played brandishing the particular combination of anger, swearing, sexual politics and characters throwing their entrails around, and my reaction to each one tends to be half instinct, and half – if I have ideas about what I think the game was on about – what I think the game was on about. This game has swearing, sexual content and violence, so the rest of my spoily commentary on it might, too.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Blood on the Heather by T. Orisney

Click here to play Blood on the Heather online

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(Version reviewed: Original)

Blood on the Heather, or BOTH as I will call it from now on, is a wack-seeking Twee format CYOA adventure about three young Americans who take a vacation in Scotland and get mixed up with petulant feuding vampires and their scenery-destroying vampiric offspring. The author says it was inspired by the vampire B-movies of his or her youth. This raises disturbing questions about how old the author might be… Twelve?! Okay, that was facetious of me, but the game's combination of vampires who act like the rabid zombies of the cinema of the 2000s, Underworldish vampire clans and a splat of Twilighty romanticism points to pretty recent stuff.

BOTH gives off a strong vibe of modern vampire movie zaniness through its predilection for one-liner gags and funny/cool character behaviour, but it is of course prose. It's quite driven prose in what is possibly the biggest CYOA game I have played to date, and also the one with the longest passages inbetween each moment of player choice. I've been curious about what a text game which was confident enough to use this much unbroken prose would be like. As I'd expected and hoped, the prose can gather more traditional momentum because it remains unbroken. I also feel that it can add more context to each choice, potentially making the whole thing more character-centric. While I'm grateful to BOTH for demonstrating all of this to me in a big, real world case, I did find it an effort to get through a lot of this game because I just wasn't interested in the petulant vampires or their moderately complicated mythology. In this respect, the game definitely reminds me of my experience with most of Hollywood's recent films about supernatural clans.

Very mild spoilers ahead, and I do mean mild.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Further by Will Hines

Click here to play Further online

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(Version reviewed: Original)

Further is a short, parser-driven Z-Code adventure set in the afterlife, or at least after your death. In my relatively short experience of IFComp (2010+) I've observed that afterlife games have been a mainstay. They've appeared in forms as various as the cerebral puzzlefest, the religious sampler, the existential angst generator and the poser of ethical and moral dilemmas. Further's approach is an uncomplicated one. It uses simple puzzles to dramatise the process of remembering your life as you head for the light. The result is a modest game which didn't stir my emotions as much as I think it might have liked to, but whose concept is clear.

(A technological anecdote: I played this game entirely on my iPhone using Frotz, partly on a train and partly in a cafe. This was all pretty exciting for me. Having never owned a smartphone before this August, this was only the third IF game I've played on a smartphone and the second during this competition (the first was Autumn's Daughter). What I can report is that while Further responded instantly to most commands, it would typically pause for up to 25 seconds each time a Player Experience Upgrade response was invoked. Yowza! Player Experience Upgrade is Aaron Reed's suite of code for Inform games which seeks to come up with more accessible than average responses when players type stuff that isn't understood. It seems that whatever it does is highly taxing for Frotz or the iPhone 5 or both. This anecdote is not any reflection upon the quality of Further. I'm just reporting back on how some of this software is performing in the field.)

Now back to the game, and with spoilers ahead.

Final Girl by Hanon Ondricek

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(Version reviewed: Original)

Final Girl is a highly innovative horror-thriller delivered via the StoryNexus platform. The player takes on the role of a teen girl who must identify a masked staple gun(!) killer in the wake of a cabin-in-the-woods-vacation massacre of her friends. I haven't played anything quite like Final Girl before, and while some of that will be down to me never having used StoryNexus before either, it's also clearly down to the game itself. I've not seen a game manage horror genre microscopy like this before, with stats like Squick, Terror, Exertion and Badassery. You even need to manually control your out-of-of-control breathing. The whole thing is framed as a slasher flick, and there are some touches of meta level commentary, but they don't come at the expense of the effect of the core story. As it is tense and gruelling to be the final girl in a horror film, it is tense and gruelling to make your way through this game. This is why I find the author's 'send up' description in one of his blurbs (though not the other, and I prefer the other) somewhat off target.

(The other day I read that a term emerging to describe a variety of ironic storytelling less aggressive and more affectionate than postmodernism's is 'metamodernism', but since I've only heard it once, I'd best not harp on it.)

It may be possible to complete Final Girl in under two hours but I died at around the two hour mark, then accidentally conceded my death, losing all my progress. Well, I'm pretty sure I lost it. The trouble with StoryNexus is that there isn't one piece of freaking documentation for players. While working out how to play was a broadly intuitive experience, finer points like 'Is there an undo? Can I save? Do I need to save?' were all left blowing in the wind. Maybe some veterans can chime in here.

The upshot is that Final Girl is a substantial game with some demanding elements, and it might take you to the two-hour mark or beyond. You'll also need to create a StoryNexus account or log in via Facebook or Twitter to be able to play. It's absolutely worth doing these things, unless you hate horror, because this is an unusual and surprising game. It also has an attractive visual style and an effective audio soundtrack. And more than once it says: "You no longer have any of this: 'staples in your face'". Low level spoilers ahead.

The Challenge by ViRALiTY

Click here to play The Challenge online

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The Challenge is a one and a half room demo with graphics which are stills from a simple 3-D modelling exercise. You can turn to face in different directions. There's a knife. And that's about it. If this competition had had a qualifying round, The Challenge would have been eliminated at that point, because this isn't the place for elementary demos.

Mrs. Wobbles & The Tangerine House - The Mysterious Floor by Mark Marino

Click here to play Mrs. Wobbles... online

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(Version reviewed: Original)

Mark Marino's entry into the competition last year was The Living Will, a curious Undum game which a lot of people couldn't apprehend, myself included. Mrs Wobbles is a far more vivid and transparent affair, a pro-reading, episodic and illustrated adventure tale aimed at younger readers (7-11 it says) and again delivered with Undum. While there is a fair bit to read here, it turns out that this game is also an introductory one, with more episodes potentially to come in future. Folks have entered introductions into IFComp before, and while I don't think there's any rule against doing so (and Wobbles is voluble, not a tiny tease) it's just in its nature that the Wobbles we're being presented with in IFComp has some of the density of a novel without the payoffs of a novel. I also find it hard to gauge how hooky it might be for those future episodes, but I'm not the core audience. Mrs Wobbles feels to me like the opening of an attractive e-novel for tablets. Interactivity is mostly at the level of deciding in which order to read things, and while this area isn't of much personal interest to me, when I consider the overall quality level of the project I think most players will find something to like here. Some may find a lot. Pretty minor spoilers follow in the rest of this review.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Dream Pieces revisited

So I got stuck in Dream Pieces on my first attempt, and thought maybe I'd hit a bug. It wasn't a bug. I hadn't noticed wordlets also need to be of the same colour for them to mix. Once this was pointed out to me I got past the stumble point and powered through to victory like I'd thought I'd been about to the first time.

The game certainly offers easy word chopping for an adult, and might prove more outwardly satisfying for a kid. It uses some features of Quest well, like being able to right click a wordlet, click 'Mix', then click the thing you want to mix it with from a menu. The presentation has a little bit of cute and there are musical stings. I was going to add that Quest really needs to automate things like not asking what I want to break something with when I've only got one breaking implement on me, but in truth, default Inform, for instance, is just as bad about failing to guess that I want to unlock a door with the only key I have. I guess it's always down to individual authors to watch out for these things.

So Dream Pieces is simple and with a bit of charm, and it's also the first word game I've seen done in Quest, coming after a year in which saw the release of a decent number of sophisticated word games in IFdom.

Autumn's Daughter by Ali Sajid & Shumaila Hashmi

Click here to play Autumn's Daughter online

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(Version reviewed: Original)

The lyrically titled Autumn's Daughter is an Undum hyperlink story taking the form of a series of social encounters in the life of a young Pakistani woman named Areesha, played by yourself. Though you apparently hail from an okay-to-do family, various threats to your future independence and happiness are looming quickly, and their sources are not always obvious.

This game seeks to educate about the difficulties faced by women in Pakistan by engaging the player in a story with outward touches of romance and intrigue. This is a good strategy, given that some of the obvious alternative ones – like involving the player in a story which is grim and didactic – might just turn players off or bore them. Thus Autumn's opening scene seeks to get folks onboard immediately and build up the heroine's happiness. When you greet your visiting friend Samina, the tone heads towards conspicuously exuberant soap opera with lots of squeals and exclamation marks. The writing is broad in its exposition and a bit ripe, but the situation is inviting. The challenge for the game, then, is to be able to convincingly take the drama to the bleaker places it wants to go in a short span of time, and I don't think the challenge is fully met. Possible spoilers ahead.