Sarah's Reviews
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Author:  Sarah-Adams [ Tue Oct 11, 2016 12:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sarah's Reviews

Hooray, I finally seem to have managed to hide some text, thanks for all your help and sorry for being so useless at this! For some reason, the first few times I tried typing the spoiler code around the text it wouldn't work, I still don't know what I'm doing differently that has made it work now! Thanks for all your patience anyway!

Author:  Sarah-Adams [ Wed Oct 12, 2016 11:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sarah's Reviews

Pogoman Go! by Jack Welch and Ben Collins-Sussman

I have not personally played 'Pokemon Go', but my wife was briefly obsessed with it for a couple of weeks when it first appeared so I know a little about it. I can't say that what I heard about the game made it sound terribly appealing so I was dubious about how much I would enjoy a spoof game based on it. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this whimsical and ambitious game.

Spoiler: show
This is a game of three parts. The first section is a tongue-in-cheek simulation of playing 'Pokemon Go'. You wander around a large number of locations trying to find and catch the little critters and then find gyms in which you can pit your Pogomen against others. Sprinkled around the game are several 'pogostops' where you can stock up on supplies that make the acquirement and maintenance of your Pogomen more effective. The objective of this section of the game is to get enough points, levels and fighting trophies to gain access to the shiny tower block in the centre of town. I presume you could have continued on catching more Pogomen after this point, but I had quite frankly had enough of the fairly tedious process by then.

The second section of the game involves solving a number of weird and wacky puzzles in the tower which will help you to increase your skill level and gain access to more of the building. Your ultimate objective is to stop the progress of the giant mechanical cat which circles the top of the building. I must admit that, while the writing was good and the descriptions clever and amusing, I did feel pretty lost at this point in the game. It was not clear to me what my motivations were and, more importantly, what I was actually trying to achieve, leading to extended aimless roaming about in the hope that I'd stumble across something helpful. Given the multiplicity of areas and objects to explore at this stage, amiless wandering was very time-consuming and frustrating and took up most of my two-hour play time. I did continue playing after the two hours because I was sufficiently intrigued by what other tricks the game had up its sleeve to want to make some progress. It took a long time to solve the cat puzzle and move on to the final stage but I was very satisfied when I achieved that goal.

The final stage of the game involved a neat subversion of the gameplay from the opening section, with you becoming both the hunter and the prey as Pogomen attempt to attack you. I found my way out of this nightmarish world pretty quickly and successfully completed the game, but the closing text suggested that there may have been other endings which I missed.

The randomly generated trophies which you accidentally win throughout the game were a nice touch and the option to turn the alerts off if they were annoying you was a good idea. A great deal of work has clearly gone into this game. The writing is tight and effective and the many complicated game mechanics appeared very robust, I don't think I came across one bug, extremely impressive given a game of this size and complexity. However, there were many puzzles in the game which made little or no sense to me. I am not sure if this is because they are related to Pokemon lore of which I am unaware or if the game was being deliberately surreal. This is not really a criticism, I was just aware that I may not having been getting the full experience from the game.

All in all, an entertaining well-crafted game which I am probably not qualified to judge adequately but which I enjoyed despite not fully understanding it. Recommended.

Author:  Sarah-Adams [ Thu Oct 13, 2016 6:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sarah's Reviews

The Game of Worlds Tournament by Ade

Spoiler: show
Although the blurb and certain character and locations descriptions suggest that this game is set in an alien and possibly distopian world, there is not a great deal of world-building involved in this game. This is not a problem since this is a simulation of a rrole-playing card game and the sole objective of the game is to play and win as many rounds as possible, with your aim being to become the champion of the game. Knowing anything about the world or other players is not necessary to achieve this goal. What you will need is some explanation about the game mechanics. Luckily, the game is very helpful, explaining the small number of verbs necessary to play the cards and providing information on the various suits and individual cards. It took me a few rounds to truly get a hang of playing the game but once I had had a little practice I felt comfortable enough with the game to play with confidence. The game is very well-implemented, it handles the complex and ever-changing stats effectively and I came across no errors.

The card game itself was extremely well-designed andI could see it working as a table-top game in its own right. However, implementing it as a text game in which the cards which the characters play are directly affecting the miniature life forms under the players control raises some interesting ethical questions. Although I have never played a table-top or strategic card game, I understand that many of them involve some aspects of warfare and colonisation. 'Game of Worlds' made me think about the ethics of this type of motivation. Because, in the world of this game, you are not just playing with hypothetical statistics but with life on actual planets, giving the players god-like control. With this in mind, I often found myself reluctant to play cards which would cause widespread death and suffering, however, trying to play the game peacefully never seemed to lead to a win as your ultimate aim was to crowd out your opponents population, outnumbering and subduing them by any means possible.

All in all, this was an excellent game which proved very addictive, I ended up playing a number of rounds. It also managed to be quite thought-provoking. Highly recommended.

Author:  Sarah-Adams [ Wed Oct 19, 2016 9:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sarah's Reviews

Theatre People by Michael Kielstra

Spoiler: show
This is a very short game which features a very compact game area and one central puzzle, though there are several steps to solving this particular problem. There is also a side quest which is optional but which gives the optimal ending. I felt that completing the game without solving the problem of your distressed leading lady felt like a failure.

Although the puzzles were fair and not too difficult, they could have been better clued in places. I did not realise that I both needed to search and examine one object since this was not a necessary action anywhere else in the game. In a game with relatively few rooms and items like this it would have been good if more attention were given to fleshing out the characters and locations. As it is the rooms feel empty and characterless and the characters appear largely static and bland, which is a shame as the odd flash of personality that shines through from the NPCs is fun and interesting. I felt that not all of the puzzles made narrative sense, though I am not as bothered by seemingly arbitrary puzzles as I imagine some players might be.

I am sorry if I have been a little critical here, despite its limitations the game ran smoothly, I did not encounter any bugs and some of the puzzles were challenging while the writing was solid and often charming.

Author:  Sarah-Adams [ Fri Oct 28, 2016 7:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sarah's Reviews

Steam and Sacrilege by Phil McGrail

Spoiler: show
I should begin this review with a disclaimer. I am not a fan of the steampunk genre. I find 19th century history and works set in that time period particularly fascinating and I do not need armies of clockwork robots and retro-futuristic steam-powered machinery to spice it up. Having said that, since this game is mostly set in the present it managed to avoid many of the steampunk cliches which usually proliferate in works of this kind. Yes, the sinister mechanical hotel was built in the late 19th century and the opening scenes take place during that same period, when the hotel was a shiny new technological marvel, but the game is set in the present day when the hotel is a quaint relic slated for demolition, unless the protestors keen to save the historically significant building get their way.

I found the premise novel and intriguing but was somewhat frustrated by the implementation. I'm a big fan of puzzle-heavy parser games and so I'm not averse to spending some time tinkering with a game to find out what works and what doesn't, but the objects which could be interacted with were so sparsely implemented and the ways of interacting with them so specific that it really slowed down gameplay. The first section of the game (set in the past during the hotel's prime) was fraught with guess the verb and noun issues with synonyms very sparsely implemented. I also spent ages trying to interact with the glass panels by pushing or pressing them to no avail before picking up the paperweight and attempting to place it on them, a move which seemed needlessly clunky.

Once in the present day there is a long breakfast scene where you are essentially waiting around for something to happen before going to work. You are not told that you need to wait around and there is not much you can do in the meantime, apart from mess about with the array of, mostly useless, items on the kitchen table. The pace does pick up a bit when you get to work and events start to unfold, but I was still having trouble following the story. After wandering around for a while, stumbling into an unmarked store room which contained an object crucial to completing the game and getting lost in a maze of alleys, I ended up in the hotel. I went there, not because I had been given any clues that my husband had been taken there, but because there was nowhere else to go and it was indicated as the scene of the action. It was in attempting to gain entry to the hotel via the fire exit that ai came across what I think was the game's most blatant case of command specificity. I had the tool necessary for unfolding the fire escape but had to check the walkthrough for the precise command required.

Once in the hotel things got better, there were still issues withhaving to wait around and trying to figure out what to do next, but the tension was far higher and the hotel's interior was well-described. Unfortunately, by the time I entered the hotel, I had already used up most of my judging time and was forced to revert to the walkthrough so I could complete the game in time. This meant that I had a lot of unanswered questions by the time I finished to which I may have discovered answers if I had had more time to explore. I never figured out why my character's husband was being held hostage there, what the angel of death was doing there and just what sinister forces were running this establishment. I would have loved to have read the job advert the caretaker responded to. Do you think it mentioned that his duties would include kidnapping innocent citizens, dodging homicidal robots and trying to prevent apocalyptic forces from breaking loose and destroying humankind? I certainly hope the pay was good.

It sounds like I'm being very negative here, but there were a lot of things I enjoyed about the game, The setting was interesting and effectively rendered. The writing was strong and evocative and I got the feeling there was a strong narrative running through the game which I might have uncovered had I had more time to explore the hotel more thoroughly. I think a bit more rigorous play-testing would have gone a long way to help make this game more player-friendly rather than asking players to guess the very specific actions the author had in mind. I would love to play a post-competition update of this as it shows a great deal of promise.

I have one very minor pedantic point which I have to get off my chest. I wouldn't usually pick up on one minor spelling mistake in a large body of text, unless the game is riddled with such errors, but there was one mistake made in the description of the very first room which bothered me to such an extend that I was quite far into the game before I could quite put it behind me. Anyway, here goes. In the, evocatively and effectively described lobby of the hotel the description states that the lobby includes a reproduction of Da Vinci's 'Vitruvius Man'. This should obviously be 'Vitruvian Man' or, at a pinch, 'The proportions of the human body according to Vitruvius' would suffice, but as far as I know 'Vitruvius Man' is just wrong, though an art historian may want to correct me.

Apologies for all the nit-picking in this review, I really did enjoy the game and felt it had great potential and was clearly the result of a great deal of imagination and hard work. A little more polishing and stream-lining and I feel it could easily realise that potential.

Author:  Sarah-Adams [ Fri Oct 28, 2016 7:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sarah's Reviews

I was hoping to play and review more games but work has been getting in the way this month and it looks very unlikely that I will have time to get any more reviews done within the judging period. I'm afraid that's all the reviews I will be able to post this year, even though I have played and enjoyed several other games which I have not had chance to review. I have enjoyed most of the games I have managed to play very much and have been deeply impressed, as always, by the imagination, skill and creativity that authors put into their excellent competition entries and I would like to thank all the authors once again for sharing their wonderful work. Best of luck to you all in the competition.

Author:  Doug Orleans [ Thu Nov 24, 2016 12:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sarah's Reviews

Sarah-Adams wrote:
Fair by Hanon Ondricek
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!

There is a walkthrough here: ... POILER.txt

If you don't want to fully spoil the game, here's a small hint for getting the Last Lousy Point:
Spoiler: show
You'll need to choose multiple exhibits to win the fair.

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