Experimental text adventure in the mould of Heavy Metal magazine's hard-edged sci-fi stories. Crashed spaceships, alien planets, biomechanoids and plasma rifles all figure. You play using just single verbs, but many of those verbs are not available until you have the necessary object to activate them. Compass directions are replaced with WALK and JUMP and further commands as you progress. Makes it pretty difficult to map! But the game is small enough that it doesn't matter. Finding new locations often entails returning to previous locations to try out new verbs you've acquired since your last visit, Metroidvania-style. Although small, there is a ton of optional content to discover. I barely scratched the surface, finishing with a meager 'C' rating. HINT commands are included, which you'll most likely need when replaying to find all that content.
The Little Match Girl: Wordle Edition. No fetch quests this time, just variations on the en vogue Hangman-meets-Mastermind word games. The most linear game in the series by far, but with all the elegant writing and succinct, effortless worldbuilding you come to expect from this author.
Each Little Match Girl game has been getting more and more elaborate, so inevitably The Little Match Girl 3 is a giant, open-world non-linear RPG. Yes, RPG: your character has stats, can recruit party members and battles enemies in turn-based combat. Pretty daunting at first: you'll need to map, keep notes, it's tricky to win battles and potential companions seem very scarce. Luckily there are no negative results to losing a battle, it's easy to restore your HP and ammo, and once you get into the groove of picking the right fight, using a winning strategy, then levelling up to do it all over again, it settles into a nice flow. Treasures of a Slaver's Kingdom vibes. There are a few traditional fetch-quest type puzzles too to break things up, but the main focus is on the combat, which has a lot of depth: my strategy involved using (Spoiler - click to show)the crow's "vex" and "shriek" to disable enemies, the match girl's "rapidfire" to do massive damage, and the mermaid's "heal" and "vortex" situationally. But there were lots of special abilties, stat-enhancing items and magic potions I never touched. There was even a whole other companion I never recruited. Every player will have their own unique way to win.
Light and fluffy when it wants to be, dark and moody when it needs to be, Veeder has an affinity for the JRPG Earthbound and, of all his work, this is the game that shows that influence the clearest.
A traditional sequel in the Hollywood style: everything people liked about the original but more and bigger. Locations are more expansive, puzzles are more complex (there's even a full-blown escape room in here), NPCs generally have more to say. As a result it does lose some of the elegance and simplicity that gave the original its charm. But it gains some great gags: the sea-captain's diary is an entertainingly absurd piece of Spike Milligan-esque nonsense-humour. The sudden appearance (and subsequent complete disappearance) of RPG combat is also worth a chuckle (but will turn out to be a major gameplay element of the next game). A nice wrinkle is that a lot of the puzzles are about creating the fire-source that you need to proceed. Straight-up (Spoiler - click to show)killing a guy may seem a bit out-of-character for the protagonist, but actually fits with the (Spoiler - click to show)implied violence of the first game's ending. As well as being a neat metaphor for letting go of the past and looking forward instead of clinging on to a mythical "golden age".
Structurally very similar to the first game: more fetch quests, more fun NPCs, more wildly imaginative locales to explore. This familiarity is likely a deliberate choice, designed to subvert the ending of LMG1. Where you previously (Spoiler - click to show)threatened violence to get what you want, this time round everything points to a similar resolution, but that doesn't fly and you need to find a more peaceful way, more in keeping with the protagonist's personality.
The "classic fairytale re-imagined" is one of the most heavily over-represented genres in IF, but when Ryan Veeder does it, you pay attention. You play the titular match girl, freezing to death on a street corner but able to teleport to different times/places/worlds by striking matches. Gamplay is super-straightforward fetch quests: find an object / find the right NPC to give it to, or find an NPC / figure out what object they would like. Superluminal Vagrant Twin-esque. It's elegant, clean and simple. Locations are varied and surprising. NPCs are deftly characterized and full of life, despite how little they actually say and do.
Another one-puzzle, one-room parser game about battling a terrifying body part, like Zombie Eye. This time it's the horror of a face spot discovered in your bathroom mirror as you prepare for a job interview. Use the contents of your bathroom cabinet, and your phone, to save the day. Lots of fun details about the player-characters life, household, family and personal relationships. Multiple amusing endings.
Tiny Adventuron parser adventure in which you try to rid the world of the titular monstrosity. A one-puzzle, one-room game, nicely illustrated with blocky graphics and some basic sound-effects. Uses the Adventuron "house style" - the look & feel of a 1980s BBC microcomputer. I managed to get stuck right at the start (the convenient VERBS command was enough to unblock me) but was smooth sailing from that point on.
A neat 500-word short story from 1916 about a skinflint who suddenly becomes generous, now in the public domain so available for reproduction. The modern co-author adds an impressive cover art image and a short bonus section in the middle of the story, where the interactivity lies. A text-box lets you type an appropriate noun to end a sentence. Contextually, this should presumably be a synonym for "miser" but it also allows many other words (and will tell you if it doesn't recognize what you type). The result is a short chunk of text with one line of dialogue altered depending on what you wrote. It then proceeds with the rest of the story, unaltered and unaffected by this little interactive detour.
Why the extra section is presented in a different form to the rest of the story (a play script instead of prose) is difficult to fathom. Why this interactive section is supposed to elevate the original short story is equally difficult to fathom. As an overall concept, there is potential in a twine-like choice-based system that hides the explicit choices behind a type-what-you-want text-box, but it definitely requires a longer work, with multiple choices that matter, to do it justice.