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 Post subject: Sarah's Reviews
PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 6:08 am 
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Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2015 3:35 pm
Posts: 20
Hi, my name is Sarah Johnson Adams and I've been playing IF for about six years now. I was born in the late 1980s and so missed out on a lot of the 'classic' games first time round but have played some of them since. My first introduction to text games was through the Quest website where I got a taste for shameless puzzlefests. I eventually discovered the wider world of contemporary interactive fiction and began playing games in Inform as well. I only began playing and judging IF Comp games three years ago so I suppose I'm a relative newcomer to the process, but I have very much enjoyed playing the entries and thought I would like to contribute some reviews this year. I've never written a game though I have playtested a few, including last year's competition winner 'Brain Guzzlers From Beyond!'.

A few disclaimers before I begin posting reviews. Firstly, while evocative story-telling, interesting concepts and vivid and varied characters are obviously very important to me, they are not my primary motivation for playing text games. What I am most interested in is the puzzle-solving aspects of a game. For this reason I tend to prefer parser games, though I try to remain open-minded. Also, because I use a screen-reader there are some games that I just can't play or that I can't play properly. I've figured out ways around playing most Twine games now but there are some formats that I still can't access, so, obviously, that will prevent me from reviewing some of the entries. Finally, I am struggling to apply the hidden spoiler text to my posts so I will try to avoid spoilers and to keep the reviews more general.


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 Post subject: Re: Sarah's Reviews
PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 10:59 am 
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Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2015 3:35 pm
Posts: 20
Fair by Hanon Ondricek

Having played this author's 2015 entry, 'The Baker of Shireton', I was both excited and a little reticent about playing this game. 'I had found 'The Baker of Shireton' an novel gaming experience and was deeply impressed by the complex and innovative mechanics going on under the surface, but I also found some of the aspects of gameplay a bit overwhelming and frustrating. So, going into 'Fair', I was prepared for there to be something more going on than the premise and the initial stages of the game suggested and, I must admit, I was a little apprehensive about how that might derail what seemed like a fun and promising set-up for a short game. Without giving too much away, there are some surprises involved in 'Fair, if you properly search for them, however, for the most part, they add to the game's playability and to the development of the PC and NPC's characters and give the game significant replayability. I think I have explored most of the paths, chatted to most characters, uncovered most secrets and seen most endings now, but this game packs so much excellent detail into a relatively small area that I would not be at all surprised to discover that I had missed something important. I have still not been able to achieve a full score or figure out how to deal with the saboteurs, that final single point keeps eluding me, any hints from anyone who has found this last dollar would be greatly appreciated!

I also loved the tone of this game, it was light-hearted and gentle while still managing to include some subtle social commentary. I also appreciated the ways in which the PC and NPCs were generally given quite well-developped personalities and motivations.

I have only a couple of very minor quibbles and these are connected to the specificity of some of the commands. For example, while stood by Stephanie's competition entry, if you want to examine or speak to Stephanie's mother then you have to specifically type 'woman in suit', because the parser doesn't simply recognise 'woman' or 'mom', even though she is the only 'mom' in the area. This same need for specificity occurs in a couple of other scenes and, while the parser asks you for clarification so you can figure out what to type, it can still get a bit annoying. However, these are extremely minor quibbles about what I thought was a truly excellent game. Very highly recommended!


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 Post subject: Re: Sarah's Reviews
PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 12:25 pm 
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Color the Truth by Mathbrush

I am a big fan of golden age detective stories by the likes of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. I am not too keen on more modern crime novels because they tend to be gory and more focused on forensic examinations where as many of the 'golden age' mysteries gloss over some of the more viceral details in favour of focusing on psychology and clues. I think what I like about the old-school 'whodunnit' is that it is, in it's own way, interactive fiction and encourages the reader to try and follow the clues to solve the crime before the detective does. I think this is why murder mysteries are such a popular topic for text games and why they can work so well, though implementing them well is a challenge.

'Colour the Truth' is set in a radio station studio in what appears to be the early 1980s. The setting is compact and well-described and the characters and their narratives intersect effectively. The setting is also well-integrated into the story and I enjoyed the way that more of the areas opened up as you spoke to more suspects.

'Color the Truth' removes the frustration of trying to work out what to ask the suspects by providing the player with the available topics, keeping the game moving along at a brisk pace and holding the player's interest. I also thought the method of gathering statements and the ensuing shift of perspective was beautifully executed. This was a very clever and effective device and made this one of the most player-friendly parser murder mysteries I've played.

The period setting, tone and cast of characters reminded me a bit of an episode of 'Murder, She Wrote', and you don't get much better than that. It's just a shame that the fairly anonymous detective you play isn't a patch on Jessica Fletcher.

I think Mathbrush did a pretty good job of establishing the characters of the suspects within the narrow constraints of this type of game. I don't expect deep and complex character development in a whodunnit game, though the detective could have been a bit more exciting. Overall, a terrific and entertaining game with a satisfying, if slightly rushed, denouement. Highly recommended.


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 Post subject: Re: Sarah's Reviews
PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 12:57 pm 
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Joined: Wed Nov 04, 2015 10:41 pm
Posts: 22
Location: Canada
Hi Sarah! I just wanted to let you know how to hide spoiler text, if that's the difficulty you're having. You can either type the spoiler tag before the text and the /spoiler tag after it, like this:

Code:
[spoiler]Your text.[/spoiler]


Or you can write your text, select it, then click the spoiler tag button in the full post editor. The button appears just below the bold, italic, and underline buttons.

Cheers!


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 Post subject: Re: Sarah's Reviews
PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 8:27 pm 
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Posts: 20
Thanks so much for that Arclight, it's greatly appreciated! I'm going to follow your advice and try and hide this review, I hope it works out!

How to win at Rock Paper Scissors by Brian Kwak

Spoiler: show
A fun and diverting game with a neat central mechanic. Most of the challenge of the game is figuring out just how you are going to gain some much-needed 'rock, paper, Scissors' skills and this is a well-executed puzzle. The first character you encounter when you leave the gym will pretty much explain the process to you, from then on its just a case of waiting until the other characters you encounter make their own inadvertent moves before countering with your own deliberate ones. There were a few fairly basic puzzles that needed to be solved in order to win the game, though they did feel a little out of place to me. The zany supernatural elements were a little tiresome, but they felt more like a side joke than a major feature of the game so it was relatively easy to overlook them. I appreciated the simple and clear available verb set and also the ways in which the game offers support and hints to players in a way which helped ensure that I was never truly stuck.

Over all, this game was a lot of fun, I can't see myself ever coming back to it for another playthrough, but the experience of playing it was largely enjoyable and entertaining. Recommended.


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 Post subject: Re: Sarah's Reviews
PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 8:30 pm 
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Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2015 3:35 pm
Posts: 20
Sorry, I just can't seem to hide the text. I will play around with it a bit more tomorrow, apologies for this.


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 Post subject: Re: Sarah's Reviews
PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 9:33 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 09, 2010 2:34 pm
Posts: 4861
Location: Burlington, VT
If you're typing your text and then hitting the spoiler button, be sure to highlight the text before you hit the button! That way the spoiler tags appear at the beginning and end of the text.

Also, if by chance you want the spoiler button but you're typing in the "Quick reply" box at the bottom of the page, just hit the "Full Editor" button. That will display all the formatting buttons (and won't affect the text you've already typed).


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 Post subject: Re: Sarah's Reviews
PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2016 8:03 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:11 am
Posts: 1935
Location: US - Central
You can also use rant and /rant (in brackets) to hide optional text. It's intended to mask a long tirade that isn't necessary to the thread or the post that some people might not want to wade through, but you can change what it says with putting rant=SomeTextOfYourChoice (inside the brackets)

hidden for example : show
The text in brackets is: rant=hidden for example

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 Post subject: Re: Sarah's Reviews
PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 3:59 am 
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Joined: Mon Nov 19, 2012 4:51 pm
Posts: 190
Location: UK
You could just make a new thread called "Sarah's reviews (spoilers)". You can post reviews to a spoiler thread without tagging them.

The markdown code to type for a spoiler is [spoiler]text to hide[/spoiler].
In words: left square bracket, the word spoiler, right square bracket, the text (words, sentences, paragraphs...) to hide, left square bracket, the slash symbol, the word spoiler, right square bracket.

The markdown code for rant is [rant]off topic comment to hide[/rant].

If you activate the "Reply with quote" link on a post, the quote will print the markdown code in the post if there is any.


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 Post subject: Re: Sarah's Reviews
PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 12:21 pm 
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Posts: 20
Night House by Bitter Karella

Since the first text adventures I ever played were on the Quest engine I am always happy to see a Quest game in the IF competition.

I should probably begin this review with a disclaimer about my own personal tastes. I am extraordinarily easily scared, anything even remotely spooky can leave me traumatised! For this reason I tend to avoid anything with any horror themes. However, for the purposes of judging the competition games impartially I steeled myself to play what looked set to be a distinctly creepy game, the blurb did a good job of communicating that aspect, for which I am very grateful! Anyway, I played it during the day and at a time when I wasn't alone and with some cheerful music in the background in the hope of creating the least scary environment possible.

Anyway enough about my neuroses, I'm supposed to be talking about the game and whether or not it's any good. 'Night House' starts off strong, the creepyness is in evidence from the very beginning of the game and builds effectively throughout. The tension never eases off and I felt nervous about what result each move might yield. Wandering around a deserted house and rummaging around for clues is hardly an under-explored trope in interactive fiction, but this house has more to it than meets the eye.

Spoiler: show
All the extra information provided by the computer, photographs, clippings, diaries and other artefacts was well-delivered and added well to the tone of the game as well as fleshing out the game world and the characters of the protagonist and her absent family. The clues to the sinister forces stalking the house were also effective, hinting at what might be going on without revealing the full horror. The creatures are even more frightening when they are snuffling and scratching around outdoors than when you finally encounter them out in the open.

I know that some players may find that the puzzles might puncture the game's tension somewhat and slow down the story. However, as someone who adores puzzles I found it made the game more enjoyable, also, the distraction of having puzzles to solve helped me cope with the terror! I thought most of the puzzles were imaginative and well-executed. The puzzle involving the decoy was particularly good.

As a seasoned player of Quest games I am familiar and comfortable with the 'use' command as a synonym for everything, so I have no problem with it being the default here. The only bug I found was that, when you are in the cellar, if you type 'use scissors on box' instead of 'open box with scissors', the game generates the same text but it is only in the latter case that the game recognises that you have opened the box. It's only a minor quibble but, if 'use' works for everything else then it really should work for this too, or, if it doesn't, then the game should tell you it hasn't worked rather than delivering a misleading response.

Overall, an extremely good game, well-written, effectively creepy and genuinely terrifying (to a scaredy-cat like me anyway!). Highly recommended.


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