The Skull Embroidery
I had some difficulty getting The Skull Embroidery to work, but I'm especially motivated to try games based on custom engines so I put in some extra effort and managed to get it running. The game was enjoyable although there was a lot of low hanging fruit for improvement. I put in a solid two hours and couldn't beat the 2nd spider in the cave after three tries. It was a bit frustrating because I didn't feel like I learned anything in those three tries and I had very little faith future attempts would work out better. Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe it's intended there to be a "grinding" aspect to the game where you gather a bunch of health potions and things. But I was dying without even using up my potions. I just couldn't do much damage with the sword.
It did have some nice features:
* Descriptions of objects changed based on your knowledge about them (e.g. the mushrooms)
* The UI was nicely done: menus would be erased and overwritten with new events leaving a clean log. Also the log was restored with the game save.
* The "status" command was critical. I really liked the "perception" section. It's a nice innovation. You can use 0 AP and basically get a quick summary of what you should remember already. I can easily imagine this feature being useful in some other games.
And a few bugs: not all of my saves "stuck", some random languages issues like weird articles and bad verb forms. There were quite a few more minor things but none of them were particularly distracting or impacted gameplay other than the saving problem.
Random suggestions for improvement: if there is a way to have fewer sentences say more things and require less total keypresses the game would be significantly more enjoyable. I know that's a vague request but I found myself getting really good at skimming and just trying to button mash my way through. Also, it would have helped a tiny bit if some of the keyboard shortcuts were more traditional. For instance "i" is "inspect" whereas almost every IF piece would use "i" for "inventory" and "x" for "examine". Obviously this is kind of a preference thing, but using "grab" instead of "take" and then "t" for "travel" instead of "go" or N,S,E,W. There were so many nonstandard choices.
I did enjoy the game but I wish I would have made it through more content in the time I played. I pretty much saw one enemy type and then one other (that I couldn't beat) and about 10 rooms in the time I played. If it could be stream-lined a little so the action happened faster and was more natural it would be super-fun.
- Custom engine with novel experience. Attention to detail. Encourages curiosity and poking around your environment. Fun, retro, dungeon-crawler theme. The writing was fine although it was definitely more adventure than fiction.cons
- Difficulty getting it to work. Too many button presses. Combat needed to be streamlined. Couldn't get through much content in 2 hrs.overall
- Thumbs up for effort. Middling on execution. I enjoyed the experience and the concept. The writing was good. I was into it and really wanted to make some progress kicking spider ass. If I had the chance to play a sequel I would absolutely jump on it. If a little work was put into cleaning up the user experience and balancing the difficulty I think the author would have a really fun little one-off gem.