IF Comp 2013 Recap

Looking back at this years competition I’ve made some observations. I had no game in the comp (maybe next year, I’ve got some ideas that might take me that long to develop if I start now….I’m just that slow), so I was able to be objective with the entries.  I did have every intention of writing more reviews, but just didn’t manage to do more than a few.  But I truly enjoyed most of them and congratulations to all that took the effort to put out something.

Thoughts

Going into the competition, I was at first a little dismayed at the number of web-based CYOA style games.  I’m not a huge fan, I like the old-style parser games with lots of puzzles.  But interestingly enough, despite that, I actually started with the web folder in the downloaded games and started playing those first.  My thought was to just “get them out of the way”, but I was actually presently surprised that a few of them were actually enjoyable.

Still, I looked forward to the parser games and I wasn’t really let down, out of the top 5 in this years results, 3 of them were in my top 5 (I actually didn’t enjoy the winner, Coloratura, as much as everyone else seemed to and I was a beta-tester on the game in the #5 spot, Tex Bonaventure and the Temple of the Water of Life, so I didn’t vote on that one.)

The ones at the bottom, were pretty much what I had down there.  I felt Reels was not great (though, it wasn’t my last choice).  I am surprised that a few placed much higher than expected.  Their angelical understanding, was one I just didn’t get, it was one of the first I played and I see their was an update after I played, but not sure what was changed.  The early version seemed buggy and the story was just too abstract (or perhaps just too deep for my way of thinking at the time).  After reading many positive reviews and considering how high it placed, perhaps I should give it another try.

I also didn’t really enjoy Trapped In Time, the story and implementation was fine, in fact if I was in the mood to read a CYOA book, then this was perfect….I just didn’t think it fit in the theme or spirit of the comp….my opinion and no disrespect to the author who I’m sure spent a lot of time and energy putting this together.   I guess I would have just liked to see the next step and put this into a CYOA system.  I may sit down on a cold winter day and go through this though the way that was intended.

I have some more thoughts in regards to the results based on parser vs other that I find slightly interesting, but may save those for another post.

 

Coloratura

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IFComp 2013 – Machine of Death – Review

Now this one was fun.  This one deals with the self-fulfilling prophecy in which you try to avoid an outcome you know is coming, but the outcome is reached often through ways you did not expect and could not avoid despite your best efforts.  This one kept you coming back as there are many different scenarios that you can play though (I won’t spoil any of them for you as the experience and surprise is most the fun in these kinds of games).

This was a well written both textually and execution wise.  There is a fair amount of decisions to be made and each do seem to make a difference.  I doubt I’ve reached all the different scenarios even after playing for a bit.  None of the scenarios are very long, so a single play-through shouldn’t take more than a 10 minutes or so.

What would be interesting here is if the author continues to expand on the scenarios as they could be endless and would continue to bring be back from time to time.

I’m still more of a parser / puzzle fan, but this is how CYOA is done correctly and makes me a believer that the platform has great potential in the correct hands.   Well done!

IFComp 2013 – Bell Park, Youth Detective – Review

Another CYOA style game.  This one I actually sort of enjoyed.  We play as a Bell Park, a youngster that is put in charge of solving a murder so that the police don’t need to be involved.  OK, the premise is pretty far-fetched, so many problems with that.  Why would someone entrust a murder investigation with a youngster.  Also, what do we do with the body?  At some point, the police will need to be involved.

So let’s set that little suspension of belief aside and just accept that little plot point.  The story then becomes a matter of interviewing the different suspects and attempting to solve the mystery.  Unless I’ve missed something, it seems to matter little what your choices are for investigation.  The questions simply reveal the story and the background of the characters, but really offer little in the way of helping you solve the actual mystery.  The ending appears to be fairly static and while interesting (and I won’t give too much away), the solution to the mystery is really pretty fantastical; in fact so much so, that it was actually a bit of a let down for me.

Now having said all that…and it appears that I’m coming down on the game pretty hard….if you can look past the unrealistic premise and solution and see it for what it appears to be, a crazy story aimed at the pre-teen audience, I could actually see where this has some appeal.  The writing is actually pretty good and the characters, while not deeply developed, give it enough variety and depth that your interest is held for the short time they are on scene.

Bell Park, in my opinion is actually a decently likable character.  She seems to have her self-doubts on whether she can solve the mystery, yet presses on so as not to be seen as, just a stupid kid.  Her initial incorrect conclusions she makes seems to be within that character of what a young person would react if put into a difficult situation that she is not equipped to handle.  So actually her character was pretty believable.

Overall, decently done.  While many parts of this are over the top, it actually works well if taken in the complete fantastical style….reminds me of some of the Goosebumps style stories.  No puzzles to speak of, and since I’m more of a puzzle person, that was a disappointment, but as a story….not bad.

IFComp 2013 – Autumn’s Daughter – Review

Another CYOA style game, but much to my surprise I enjoyed this one.  Not only did I find the story compelling, IAutumnsDaughter found the extra polish that was given to the interface made it stand out from others.  I find that many of these style of games often get lost in poor writing (a problem with all styles of IF), poor interface or just an overload of text with a few hyperlinks to click just to move the story along.

Autumn’s Daughter did not fall into these traps. It was well written, had a great interface and offered enough choices that made slight differences in the endings, that it made me come back and play it.  In fact I played it once more through before writing this review and managed to stumble upon another ending that I hadn’t come across before.  None of the paths take more than a few minutes to progress through, so there is no reason not to keep coming back.

The story is geared around telling us the plight of young women in Pakistan and it succeeds in getting that point across.  However, there is not real character or world building which leaves it lacking some and I never really felt much empathy for the specific characters in the game.  In fact, the first time or two through the game I didn’t realize what the underlying theme or setting were, so the whole story was lost on my at first.  But, I was intrigued enough and the effort to play again was minimal that I kept coming back.

Overall, a solid effort for the CYOA genre, nothing spectacular but still a solid effort that was well done, which in my mind puts it ahead of most other similar games.

IFComp 2013 – Review – 100,000 Years

Life got in the way so I’m a bit late on the reviews….but I’ll try to remedy that here soon.  Here’s the first one, for 100,000 years by Pierre Chevalier.  As I’m typing this, I am realizing that I’ve invested more time in creating this review, than I did with actually playing the game.

I guess some people may like this short of thing, but to me it was just a web page with a next and previous button with a small bit of text.  Perhaps some can appreciate the recursive nature of the “story”, if you want to call it that.  And i guess it fits the definition of Interactive Fiction, but to me I just didn’t see the point.  Very short, so not much time was spent on this, so give it a shot if you like this sort of thing….just not for me.