Étude Circulár

I’d assumed in my preview based on blurbs and cover art that this was a troll entry, but I’m not sure. I realize that isn’t a ringing endorsement. This Twine work consists of a few pages of open verse with sparse hyperlinks. Some of the language is coarse, but not most of it, and it doesn’t have that abusive tone towards that reader that most troll entries would.

What does it mean, though? No idea.

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Review: Antiquest

This was a creative but chaotic TADS game. Since it has some fun images and some of the game sections have graphic displays, it would best be played in something like Qtads rather than an all-text interpreter.

The introduction and instructions are really excellent, anyone who hasn’t played IF would do well to read this.

After that… the game starts off in bed with a bit of amnesia — a classic trope in IF to the extent that when I see it I’m not sure if it is meant ironically or not.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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Review: Insignificant Little Vermin

This work was written within a development system that weaves together RPG encounters and story generation. According to the info tab within the piece, it is the product of years of development, and it is clear from the code deposited on github that this is a large project and must have taken a lot of work. The stated goal of the project is to encourage reading by making it more interactive and fun. The story excerpt submitted to IFcomp this year is sort of a proof of concept.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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Review: Absence of Law

At the end of this game, in addition to choices like QUIT / RESTART / AMUSING, there is an option to READ a comment by the author about some of the inspirations for this game and what was running through his head as he developed the game concept. I have to say that the flavor of influences came through strongly as I was playing, so players who have had a reasonably wide exposure to other parser-based works, some foundational, some more recent, will find this game particularly rewarding. AoL builds on concepts drawn from these works, but the story is fresh, so this does not feel like a retread of anything I have played before. I won’t say which works he had in mind, because I would like other players to have the experience as I did and see if they can guess as they play through.

This is an ambitious work: multiple levels of interaction, several shifts in player POV, lots of rooms, NPCs, and puzzles. Despite its size, it has been meticulously proofed and tested. I can’t say much more without getting into spoiler territory. I suspect this game will rank highly in the competition, so please play it before reading further.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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The Unofficial Sea-Monkey(R) Simulation

Nominally, this is a Sea Monkey simulator, or rather a Simulator for the Care and Maintenance of Sea Monkeys. There isn’t all that much to taking care of Sea Monkeys: Add water, feed, stir, and top off the water. That about covers it, and all these options are, of course, implemented in this Twine-based story.

The blurb makes it clear that while this may be what’s going on in the foreground and the part of the game over which the young protagonist exercises control, there is plenty going on the background: a father with an explosive temper given to verbal abuse, a guilty, skittish mother, a dysfunctional household where none of the adults take responsibility, and occasional visits from well-meaning relatives stepping into parental roles until they are driven away.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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Review: A common enemy

As mentioned in my preview post, I had guessed that this work was written in something other than English, and it’s clear from some holdover ¡punctuation! that this must have been either written in Spanish and then translated or at least written in a word processor with Spanish language settings. Regardless, the prose makes sense although at times word choice comes across as awkward. A few passes by a native speaker would have helped, but as it is, I had no problems following the story. If this is a translation, it would be nice to have access to the original language version in parallel to the one actually submitted to the competition.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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Review: Grue

Ceci n’est pas une grue.

As expected, this is more or less Colossal Cave from the perspective of an old school grue. That’s a fun premise, and reminds me of John Gardner’s story Grendel, which is the Beowulf saga from the monster’s perspective.

Reliance on senses other than sight is a core mechanic in this story, since grues spend their lives in the dark. Here, the author had to make a decision: to require the player to type an action every time they use one of their senses other than sight, or to assume that these senses are always engaged and to constantly update the scene description in terms of these sensory modalities. In this game, the author went with the former.

However, because the standard turn loop for Inform games is visually oriented, without sight, room descriptions are omitted. Similarly, the room title is printed before the room description and often appears in the title bar as well — unless you are in the dark. In that case, you are just informed that you are in the dark. Entering a new room for the first fires off a description of what you see. By setting the game in the dark, these niceties are lost — but they shouldn’t be for a grue.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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Review: Deshaun Steven’s Ship Log

In this short Twine game, Deshaun works tech for shows on the intergalactic equivalent of the Love Boat. As the story begins, he has a few not very ambitious aspirations to improve his station in life: things like do more exercise, work out his relationship with his ex-girlfriend (or maybe find a new one), and perhaps get a better job.

The story is told through his personal log entries, which serve as a diary. The informal language, abbreviations, and content make it clear that he expects that he is the only one who would read this log, so he is honest in what he records in it. As you would expect, the reader follows the log entries in chronological order, learning Deshaun’s story as he sets down his thoughts and impressions of the day. Occasionally, there must be nothing to write about, and the date skips forward.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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