Reviews by jakomo

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View this member's reviews by tag: 2021 Text Adventure Literacy Jam 2022 Text Adventure Literacy Jam ectocomp2020 ectocomp2021 parsercomp2021 punyjam1 springthing2022
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The Fable of the Kabu, by Jorge García Colmenar

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
I don't paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality, November 3, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2021

A 1-bit styled super-low-res graphical adventure buit with Môsi and set in "Oniria World - the world of dreams", a popular shared setting used by many Spanish language indie gamedevs. Move your sprite, a newly born "nightmare", around 2D tile-based graphic screens, bumping into interesting objects/NPCs to get some descriptive text that may or may not progress the (somewhat opaque) story. Appropriately for a "world of dreams", logic is not a priority: events often feel arbitrary and the pseudo-philosophical musings are difficult to untangle (especially when they occasionally remain untranslated from Spanish). I saw two of the three endings, neither of them the optimum one, which would presumably require not becoming a killer - something surprisingly difficult to avoid! Perhaps that's the point - the sheer difficulty of living a life that does not harm others, both in the world of dreams and our own.


The Deer Trail, by Dark Forest Media

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Oh deer, November 3, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2021

Starts off very promisingly, with a tense deer hunt, even if the game is literally telling you what to type at each prompt. Things get spooky as you track the deer's trail to an eerily abandoned farmhouse, where you learn the story of it's occupants. At this point it loses focus: suddenly, it's a collect-em-up where, without motivation, you're catching rabbits, trawling a pond - and that's as far as I could go, as I hit a game-breaking bug trying to use the meat scale. As compelling as much of this content was (shades of Edgar Allan Poe), the sluggish online Quest interpreter nevertheless made it a chore to play: use the offline interpreter if you're able.


Three Rogues Fight Death, by Solvig Choi

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
For though myself be a ful vicious man, A moral tale yet I yow telle kan, November 3, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2021

Interactive adaptation of Geoffrey Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale, in which the titular three rogues find treasure then trouble. The 14th Century language has been modernised a fair bit to be understandable to 21st Century folk, but the central moral parable remains. Choices are mainly between sticking with the original text or diverging from it, with divergence usually leading to a swift bad ending. Except, there is a way to subvert the original ending and "win" (as Chaucer turns in his grave). Excellent monochrome woodcut illustrations decorate a well-presented and easy-to-play game, although a more ambitious effort could have included further interesting choices and more branching storylines. The game also tracks five stats at the top of the screen, but they don't seem to be used at all?


The Lookout, by Paul Michael Winters

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
You are here, and it’s beautiful, and escaping isn’t always something bad., November 3, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2021

As in Firewatch, you've volunteered for Fire Tower duty, deep in the forest, far from civilization, and far from the personal tragedy that feeds your nightmares. Unlike Firewatch, you won't be doing much hiking, exploration and mystery-solving: in The Lookout the horror comes to you. Although very linear, this is an effectively told creepy tale, with a strong emphasis on atmospheric descriptions that provide a slow-burning escalation of visceral terror.


Crumbs 3: The Last Crumb, by Katie Benson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Project Fear, November 2, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2021

Struggling to see the Halloween connection with this EctoComp entry, beyond the real-life horror of post-Brexit Britain. The third in a series of Twine games that I have not yet played, Crumbs 3 explicitly talks about the care crisis, the petrol crisis, the supply crisis and the rampant inflation that has gripped the UK since Brexit (while the government desperately tries to blame it all on covid). As the owner of a food bank struggling to fill its shelves, you navigate three phone calls with your partner, an old friend, and your aging mother, before making an important choice about the future. Dialogue feels natural, the protagonist is a well-drawn character, and her troubles are relatable. Ends with a hint of hope.


The Crew, by Olaf Nowacki

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Hell is only a word. The reality is much, much worse., November 2, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2021

Tiny sci-fi horror, with some of the tone of the films Sunshine and Event Horizon. Arriving close to your destination planet after a long-haul space journey, you notice that things may not have gone exactly as planned. Start cheerily, then things get grimmer and grimmer. I saw three of the four endings, all perfectly bleak.


Even Some More Tales from Castle Balderstone, by Ryan Veeder

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
I am the Crypt Keeper. Or should I say Master of Scary-Monies?, November 2, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2021

The fourth in the Castle Balderstone horror anthology series is the first to mix Twine (for the framing story) with Inform 7 (for the stories being told). You can choose which order to play the stories, and the game even auto-saves! This time round, stories are being told in different rooms around the castle, so the Twine sections provide some back-story and characterisation via conversations with your host as you travel between them. The castle map serves as the main menu, from where you can select your chosen story.

- Explore a shipwreck with basic Metroidvania-style gameplay, revisiting previous areas with new-found abilities. Well-judged difficulty, lots of surprises.
- Be a space bounty-hunter, tracking down your target over multiple worlds. Really stylish, really atmospheric, really cool.
- Imagine if those pastoral/rural life sims (like Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley etc) were actually folk-horror? Plays almost like a turn-based business-sim (and keeps a score, if you want to replay).
- Look for your missing boss in a lake town. The highlight, a "HUUUUGE" game, that has got everything: a big map, lots of fun characters, a complex (and really thoroughly implemented) magic system, lots of puzzles (some with multiple solutions?). This one alone could probably win the XYZZY Best Game of the Year Award by itself.

And that's still not all! There's more, as Veeder begins playing with the medium (both mediums?) with one further spooky story to wrap things up. Must-play stuff from top to bottom. A sensational effort.


Worldsmith, by Ade McT

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Epic multimedia space opera: Arthur C Clarke meets Asimov meets Frank Herbert, July 18, 2021

Pay-what-you-want text adventure that runs in a browser and includes images, video and music. An amazing opening puzzle: build a world that can sustain life and evolve it into an intelligent space-faring civilization. Requires understanding and controlling dozens of variables to get it right. Daunting at first: you're basically given a reference book and told to have at it. But do the research, plan carefully, take notes, and it's all very rewarding when everything falls into place. Things get more traditional after that: explore a massive multi-level space station, get involved in political intrigue, rescue prisoners, build robots, a little sabotage...

It's easy to bounce off the crazy amounts of alien-sounding people, places and concepts, the high difficulty (no in-built hints and no walkthrough), the complex map (2/3 of rooms are purely decorative), but it's worth persisting for the thoroughly implemented world, the challenging but fair plot-integrated puzzles, and the twisting, turning story in the grand tradition of "golden age" sci-fi.


Snowhaven, by Tristin Grizel Dean

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Cabin in the woods, July 3, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: parsercomp2021

A beautiful audio-visual experience, with a haunting piano tune accompanying fantastic monochrome woodcut-style illustrations (some even animated). I played the "emotional" story (there are three to choose from), in which you cook a recipe in anticipation of your sibling's visit to your log cabin, dealing with the loss of a loved one in fragments through the process. Snowhaven builds a superb wilderness atmosphere while providing a thoughtful study of the player-character. It's let down by at least one bug that blocks progress: it's impossible to get the carrots from the storage locker, and typing HELP tells you that you can use the HINT command, but doing so gives you "This game doesn't use 'hints'". Presumably there is a way to catch the meat for the stew but I couldn't find any bait, or any clues about how to acquire the bait? I look forward to returning to this after the promised "major updates".


Black Knife Dungeon, by Arthur DiBianca

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
The sleep of reading produces monsters, July 3, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: parsercomp2021

A standard old-school text-based RPG where you run through a dungeon, fighting or evading monsters, until your HP falls perilously low, then you go home to heal and use the gold you looted to upgrade your equipment, then back into the dungeon to do it all again. But, like all Arthur DiBianca games, there is a devious spin on proceedings: in this case, a set of overlapping, escalating textual "puzzles" that requires careful reading of the location and monster descriptions to optimise each run. The game is thoroughly addictive: I had two full pages scrawled with notes, even without the extended post-game challenges. There is some heavy randomisation that makes things unnecessarily grindy at times, but the humour (especially the easy-to-miss bestiary entries) will keep you going.



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