Review – Nyna Lives

The story opens in a familiar setting: a witch and her cat.

This is a short twine story premised on the commonly accepted wisdom that cats have nine lives. In this story, Nyna the cat is sent on a mission and must make a few choices along the way. In contrast to many twine games full of non consequential choices, almost all of them in this story are life and death decisions. Luckily, as we are playing a cat, there are lives to spare. Every the player chooses poorly, the story rewinds up to the fateful decision and Nyna has an opportunity to take another path.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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Review – Redstone

A screen capture showing background image and text and choices in the foreground.

Redstone is a murder mystery set in a casino on a american tribal reservation. The game was written using Gamefic and is played online in a web-browser. The game interface consists of a number of locations, each of which has a background image and presents the player with a number of clickable actions and objects. The actions are a subset of typical parser commands, like “go”, “examine”, “take”, and there are no more than a handful of objects in each location.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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Review – My Night

My Night is a text adventure, which uses a web interface with limited features to communicate with a backend server. By limited, I mean that many of the commands normally available for a parser-based game are not implemented or do not work correctly. There is no status bar, the parser’s understanding of words is limited, some common verbs like “search” are not understood, and out of world commands like “undo” do not work (although there is a restart button). After every command is sent, the screen clears and new text is displayed, so there is no way to scroll back to see previous text. So, I would term the user interface “punishing”.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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Review – The Dream Self

This game was built on top of the Unity Game engine, so it should be inherently cross-platform. I was not able to evaluate the Mac-specific version because the machine I had on hand was fairly locked down and the game was compiled to be compatible with a more recent version of the MacOS.

The windows version is provided as an executable file, which ran fine on a Windows 7 machine. For whatever reason, this game’s folder within the IFcomp 2017 zip download file contained a lot of other files including some DLLs that I did not need to play the game. The Mac-specific file is not provided in that distribution, but an HTML document points to copy in the cloud that can be downloaded.

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Review – Land of the Mountain King

This combat-based game is written in Adrift, so I know of two ways to play the game. It is distributed as a self-contained but relatively hefty (10+ MB) windows executable file, or you can load the blorb file into an Adrift version 5 interpreter, available from the Adrift website. Of the two, I would recommend grabbing the interpreter because you can later use it to play other Adrift games.

The story is minimal: you have been summoned by a witch to rid the land of the evil X, where X equals mountain king. I’m pretty sure that there is another game in this year’s competition where X equals wizard. This has been a boom year for witch subcontractors.

The ABOUT makes no bones regarding the nature of the game, the most important verb will be kill, followed by kill some more. The ABOUT is also helpful in highlighting use of a less common pair of verbs: equip and unequip to wield weapons.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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Review – Tuuli

Following my customized playlist, I can see that this story falls into the same category as the previous one: parser-based epic fiction based on a Scandinavian saga. I guess that’s a category now. So be it.

This game has an inconsistent feel to it — some parts are really excellent, but other parts seem neglected or play poorly.

The game opens strong in a well-implemented room, which provides some understanding of the game’s setting, of the main character’s place in that world, and about what has just transpired. Most players will probably look in detail at everything in the room and collect everything not nailed down before exiting the hut. Once they are outside, though, the level of detail plummets.

It is understandable that the game plays out using a limited number of locations, but if the world is so limited in terms of geography, the existing locations should have some detail. In particular, I felt hemmed in by the generic-sounding responses I received walking in any direction towards the borders of the map.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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Review – The Skinny One

This is a Twine story told from the point of view of a college-age woman with an eating disorder. I would recommend reading the ABOUT before playing because it adds some helpful context. First, that this is not autobiographical, but rather came out of an academic project with the intent of realistically portraying the experience of having an ED. The author also provides the sort of trigger warnings you would expect for a work on this subject as well as links to reference material.

While the author cannot speak from personal experience, I think that is something of a strength. She is clearly familiar with the condition, but is not defensive and can provide choices in the story that will clearly take Claire, the main character, in a self-destructive direction.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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Review – Salt

This was an experimental piece written in Twine and notable for the requirement that the player continually hit the spacebar. In the story, this represents swimming, and failure to hit the spacebar returns the player to the surface. If the review seems short, it is at least in part because it is exceedingly difficult to hit the space bar, pay attention to text output, occasionally follow instructions to hit the up or down key, and also take notes on one computer.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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Review – The Richard Mines

This is a medium-length parser-based game set in an abandoned German facility in the post-WWII period. The material that accompanies the game provides a lot more information about the historic locations that were used as a basis for the story, but unfortunately, the player does not encounter that background within the game itself (to be fair, though, the in-game “ABOUT” command directs the player to the release notes).

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

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