Reviews by jakomo

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Jack, by Arlan Wetherminster

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
I see dead people, November 4, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2021

Solve a missing person case with a ghost partner, like Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), who only you can see. Three scenes (an apartment, an abandoned mall and a construction site), each with a few rooms to explore and a couple of puzzles to solve (mainly lock & key, with some variation). Feels like a first-time effort, as the game is filled with pedantic parser issues. The lack of synonyms for nouns, and the lack of automatic implicit actions are the biggest problems. Pretty flat writing throughout: the scary bits need to be scarier, the funny bit need to be funnier, characters need to have a bit more personality - I only found the homeless biker memorable. It's solidly designed though, with no moon-logic puzzles, no time-wasting travel (complete the objective in one scene and you're instantly whisked to the next), and even a basic hint system.


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

2 of 2 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

5 of 5 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

3 of 3 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

3 of 3 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.


Waiting for the Day Train, by Dee Cooke

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Whistle-stop, July 3, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: parsercomp2021

A short "magical-realist" text adventure using the Adventuron engine: navigate the simple puzzles in the woods to get to the train on time. A very smooth, frictionless experience to play through, aided by soothing background music and the game's unique selling point: real photographs instead of drawn illustrations. A lot of the lore remains a mystery: who you are, what you're running from, and where you intend to go, are left to the player's imagination. I scored 23, but the game neglects to tell you what that's out of, so it's unclear if I saw everything.


Closet of Mystery, by Michael Cox

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Trapped in the Closet , May 7, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: punyjam1

The least ambitious game I've encountered so far in PunyJam (the competition for Inform games using the slimmed-down PunyInform library)... but also the funniest. Closet of Mystery tickled my funnybone successfully at least twice. Which is good going for a game I completed in 16 turns (scoring a perfect 0 out 0 in the process). Play it.


Djinn on the Rocks, by Joshua Wilson

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Swap my wheelbarrow got me a horse, May 7, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: punyjam1

You're a genie in a bottle, but thankfully nobody needs to "rub you the right way". You have the power to SWAP any object in the game world with any other (providing it has similar properties). A door is locked? SWAP it with a different, open door you've seen somewhere else and just walk through. A really clever mechanic used in multiple crafty and surprising ways. Three new custom verbs, a karma system, puzzles with multiple solutions, and multiple endings, NPCs you can converse with, all crammed into a mere seven rooms. The game is an entry in "PunyJam", a competition for games using the alternate, cut-down Inform library suitable for 8-bit computers. I honestly didn't notice anything missing from the regular Inform libraries while playing, so that's a big success for both the library and the game's shrewd use of it.


Pub Adventure!, by Robin & Tom Edwards

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Distilled spirits, May 5, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: punyjam1

Like another PunyJam entry Arthur's Day Out, Pub Adventure is very bare-bones. Lots of nouns that are described but cannot be interacted with and the occasional guess-the-verb difficulty. Nothing game-blocking though, and the story, about the ghost of a pub that wants you to make its favourite cocktail, has a good sense of its own absurdity while rarely becoming frustrating.


Death Number Four, by Dave Footitt

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
High strangeness, May 5, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: punyjam1

An intriguing demo that ends just as it's getting started. The player-character is a fascinating enigma: you "crackle into existence" in a pub closet, covered in bandages: NPCs are familiar with you, as if you've worked with them before, but who you are and what you do are only partially revealed. In contrast to the player-character's mysterious supernatural nature, puzzles are mundane: fix a leaking pipe, retrieve something stuck in a tree, unlock a gate. Just as you're about to flex your powers, the game ends. Successfully does the job of an intro scene: I want to see more!


Captain Cutter's Treasure, by Garry Francis

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
What shall we do with the drunken sailor?, May 5, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: punyjam1

A puzzle-filled pirate-themed adventure: the local publican's daughter has been kidnapped by nasty pirates. To rescue her, you'll need to uncover the mystery of their stolen treasure. Lots of intricate details implemented here: chatty NPCs who respond to lots of conversation topics, a pirate ship that requires nautical directions to navigate, a very cool imprisonment-and-escape sequence. Everything exudes an appropriate 1700s-era flavour. Puzzles aren't easy: I couldn't get past the crate puzzle in the warehouse, which sadly brought an abrupt end to the fun.


Arthur's Day Out, by Jason Oakley

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Doesn't know where its towel is, May 5, 2021
by jakomo
Related reviews: punyjam1

The titular Arthur is none other than Arthur Dent, complete with gown and analgesic pills, in what seems to be a pastiche of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Does a good job of emulating the light, breezy writing style of the Adams/Meretzky game, despite the implementation being very bare-bones. I struggled to solve many of the puzzles presented here, as there too few clues to help you. I gave up at 90/200 points, stymied by an impossible light source puzzle, an impassable doctor's office door, and an uncrackable safe.


The Blue Lettuce, by Caleb Wilson

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Lettuce prey, April 12, 2021

You're a hungry groundhog looking for things to eat in a garden. This is Inform, not Adventuron, so the visual presentation is a bit different than other games in the Text Adventure Literacy Jam: (nicely drawn) pictures show up in-line rather than having their own window, for instance. It plays a little like a junior Eat Me: score a point for each thing you take a bite of (although it never acknowledges when your score goes up?): there are eight things to eat, but you can finish the game just by bee-lining straight to the blue lettuce if you want. The game seems to be targeting the youngest age-range of all the games in the competition, with all the anthropomorphic flora and fauna, hence the lack of any tricky challenges. Not sure how horticulturally accurate all these plants are, but perfectly cromulent entertainment all the same.


Barry Basic and the Quick Escape, by Dee Cooke

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Back in the summer of '69, April 12, 2021

The most ambitious game I've encountered so far in the Text Adventure Literacy Jam, Barry Basic and the Quick Escape features 3 playable characters that you can switch between at will: co-ordinating their actions and making use of their individual skills is crucial to success. The titular Barry Basic has got himself stuck in a guarded building, and he needs his two friends to help get him out so they don't miss their tea-time. While Dungeon of Antur had fun RPG combat, and Sentient Beings had its cool day/night cycle, Barry Basic goes furthest in integrating it's central mechanic with almost every aspect of the game, teaching the value of teamwork while delivering a really fun and highly-polished experience. There are even achievements: I finished the game with just over half of them.


The Manor on top of the Hill, by Kalyen

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Manors Maketh Man, April 12, 2021

A very traditional entry in the well-trodden "explore your eccentric relative's mansion" genre. The Manor on top of the Hill (I feel like the "t" of "top" should have been capitalized there) has no graphics unfortunately, but makes up for it with a lot of characterful locations, evoked succinctly in their short descriptions. Some lock-and-key puzzles, a dark room that needs to be lit up, a code to be cracked, and an inventory puzzle or two give text adventure beginners a nice, quick, friction-less tour of the standard puzzle types. The choice of font and colour scheme feels very Commodore 64. Good stuff.


Reflections, by Tristin Grizel Dean

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
I'm starting with the evil queen in the mirror..., April 12, 2021

An entry in the Text Adventure Literacy Jam, a competition for entry-level parser games for kids. Reflections goes out of its way to hold a first-timers hand: simple, bold and colourful images for each location, short MIDI-musical ditties at appropriate moments, a helpful tutorial mode, and a map on-screen at all times (alongside the competition-mandated two word parser).

You're a kid wandering around the house and the back-garden looking for the titular reflections of yourself. A light sprinkling of magical realism adds talking cats and magic mirrors to the mix. Puzzles are suitably basic: mix a recipe, find out a dog's name, distract a rat, play with coloured crystals. All well-clued in the environment if you explore thoroughly.

Would feel perfectly at home on a 1983 primary school's BBC microcomputer, alongside Granny's Garden and Devil's Causeway.


Sandcastle Master, by EldritchRenaissanceCake

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Here comes the sun, April 12, 2021

A really pleasant, relaxing experience. Soothing background music, a calming yellow and blue colour palette, a seaside ambience that is just what the doctor ordered coming out of this season's "long cold lonely winter". You're a kid having a day out on the beach, looking for five treasures to complete your sandcastle. The map is a 9x9 grid, impossible to get lost, and the puzzles are really easy and frustration-free. I would say the target age is two years below that of the equally excellent Reflections from this Text Adventure Literacy Jam competition. But whatever age you are, fire this up for a meditative ten minute break in the sand and sea.


Please do not the cat, by bubez

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Cool for cats, April 12, 2021

A strange cat has entered your home and fallen asleep on top of you. Find a way to wake it up, get it to trust you, then get it back to its rightful owner. This one's a little smaller and more basic than some other entries in the Text Adventure Literacy Jam: no graphics, very little freedom of actions. But it's completable at least; the built-in tutorial is helpful, prompting you for the right actions at the right time; and it doesn't outstay its welcome.


Sentient Beings, by Tristin Grizel Dean

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto, April 12, 2021

Control a friendly robot on alien world collecting specimens. Requires a thorough exploration of everything in the environment to dig out all 24 specimens before you can blast off. The planet has a day/night cycle, with both diurnal and nocturnal species to collect, so you'll be exploring most locations twice. Some specimens are harder to collect than others, requiring some simple inventory puzzles to be solved first.

This is from the author of Reflections and has the same high implementation standards and child-friendly simplicity. There is even some cool optional content: try talking to the robot, or finding the HUMOR option in its settings. I reckon the final launch code puzzle is too difficult for the target audience: I had to resort to the walkthrough there. It also doesn't display too well on a phone (the instructions for the electrical panel puzzle don't show up). Nevertheless, this one's well worth playing.


Adventures Extraordinaire, by ElefantinoDesign

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Mike Hammer's Adventures in Wonderland, April 11, 2021

You play as Mickey Spillane's character Mike Hammer P.I., but the concept is abandoned as soon as you take a taxi to the English countryside. Apparently New York gumshoe Mike Hammer has relocated to England now? Naturally, he ends up meeting the Queen, who for some reason is now also part of the Snow White story, and wants Hammer to check who the fairest of them all is. Never mind that the magic mirror is literally in the next room (remind me why she needs a P.I. for this?), and her guard won't let you visit it, even though the Queen explicitly asked you to, in his presence. So of course you need to start a fire in the castle kitchen to distract the guard, because why wouldn't you? This all makes perfect sense.

Adventure Extraordinaire is so wildly surreal it becomes really charming, and the lovely art further adds to the effect. Unfortunately, it's also virtually unplayable. There is no way a normal human being could make any progress in this game without copious amounts of LSD, or by following the cheat sheet (thankfully available from the game's web page).


Dungeons of Antur, by Ricardo Oyon Rodriguez

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Is it wrong to try to pick up spiders in a dungeon?, April 11, 2021

Graphically impressive D&D-styled dungeon-crawl for beginners. The English is not perfect but understandable. The turn-based combat is straightforward (you can find better weapons and armour and health-restoring food as you explore the dungeon). Puzzles are logical and fun on the whole. I couldn't figure out how to retrieve the thing from the well, nor how to fix the gate lever, and finally the werewolf on the bridge was too much for me. " If you don't understand something, ask an adult" the webpage says. Hm. As long as that adult isn't me, sure, go ahead.


The Rotten Wooden Room, by Cat Galaxy Studio

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
The Rotten Wooden Game, April 11, 2021

In the very first location, the word "wooden" is highlighted in red. Normally you would highlight interactable nouns, not adjectives, so I was already off-kilter. Heading down into some tunnels below the shack, the word "hole" is in blue and "smelly mud" is in red. This time, you can interact with the mud, so that confirms the "wooden" highlight is a bug? The game is very inconsistent throughout in its use of red and blue highlights, which is a big problem for a game with such a thin implementation. It needs a ton of additional verb-synonyms and noun-synonyms to be implemented before it's even close to playable: even then, there is zero story to speak of, and the graphics are straight-up bad: why is a mole drawn as a stick-man?


Lone Wolf New Order, by Tomas Oplatek, Joe Dever, Project Aon

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Lone Wolf 2: Electric Boogaloo, November 27, 2020

An Android adaptation of the Lone Wolf "New Order" subseries (books 21-32): if you're looking for books 1-20, Lone Wolf Saga is what you need. Lone Wolf New Order currently covers books 21-29: book 30 (Dead in the Deep) is still available for sale in paper format and not covered by the Project Aon licence. Dever died in 2016, so the future of unpublished books 31-32 is unknown.

You play as a new protagonist, a student of the original Lone Wolf who sends you out on missions around Magnamund to fight evil. The app is not quite as polished/bug-free as Lone Wolf Saga but still works great, a must-download for anyone who wants to see further adventures after completing the original Lone Wolf's story arc.


The Imposter, by Carter Gwertzman

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Man is the warmest place to hide, November 9, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

Tiny Twine scifi-horror: well-written, with very effective descriptions of the 'kills'. The twist in the tale has been done before, 20 years ago in fact, but remains pretty effective in 2020.


Lifeline: Flatline, by Daryl Gregory and 3 Minute Games

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Bring back Taylor, November 7, 2020

Unlike Taylor, the fun protagonist you talk to and advise in Lifeline, Silent Night, and Halfway to Infinity, Wynn in Flatline is an annoying and whiny nuisance. Complaining, ignoring your choices, and, taking minutes to perform the simplest of actions (opening a door?). The story does expand the Lifeline universe in an interesting way, answers some lingering questions from Taylor's games, and the heart-rate monitor is a neat new mechanic, but it's still a bit of slog to get through.

One part of the game requires you to access an external website to get some codes: that website is now shut down. You can now get the codes from https://pearsoncorp.green/ or https://twitter.com/Lifeline_Server/status/1076294978190622721


Last Day, by Earth Traveler

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The Earth is evil. We don't need to grieve for it., November 2, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

Melancholia: The Game. A comet has been forecast to strike the Earth and wipe out all life. Today is that day. A parser text adventure with a lot of locations, but sadly not much implemented in them. I assume this is at least partly intentional, to evoke the feeling of powerlessness, a world-weary depression that has descended over this character, and by extension of all humanity, knowing the inevitable end is nigh. This lack of connection further represented by the few NPCs scattered around, who cannot be communicated with or interacted with at all as far as I could tell. Gameplay seems to comprise finding the various ways to kill yourself, or waiting for the comet to do it for you. Lars Von Trier would love this game.


Cabin in the Forest, by willitchio

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Hail Pallas!, November 1, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

The "Choice Of Games" house-style is to start every story with a character-creator where you define their name, gender, sexuality and other traits. Cabin in the Forest takes things a step further, with a whole Myers-Brigg personality test being only the beginning of the detailed character-creation choices you have to make. I was expecting the resulting story to be something like the first vignette from Several Other Tales from Castle Balderstone, but things don't turn out like that at all... A wicked subversion of expectations, mischievous, malicious and magnificent. Almost Discordian in its chaotic outlook. Play it!


Phantasmagoria, by Jac Colvin

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
All greek to me, November 1, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

Short Choicescript game with eight possible achievements (I managed six). A dream-deity from Greek mythology (I guess Phantasos judging by the title) has captured you, and puts you through a gauntlet of challenges to secure your freedom. You're time-limited, with a candle-wax meter counting down how close to doom you are. The choices are somewhat arbitrary, so there is no real way to strategize, and role-playing is also limited to a handful of flavour choices. But the game is short enough that it doesn't matter, it's classic choose-your-own-adventure: play it over and over until you find the one winning path. Fans of Fighting Fantasy, especially, should enjoy.


Fracture, by Ralfe Rich

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Conan Examine Everything, November 1, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

A single-verb text adventure: EXAMINE everything to make progress. Why can't you do anything else? Because you're in your final death-throes, taking your last gasps before you expire in an abandoned church. As well as the physical objects around you, you can examine the memories they bring back, and the details within those memories too. There's no way to survive, you only have a fixed number of turns to live: it will take multiple replays to piece together the full story of this character's mixed-up life. Some English-language problems don't obscure a compelling central mystery. The ultra-deep implementation, with pretty much every noun I tried having further EXAMINE-text, is impressive.


A Pilgrim, by Caleb Wilson (as Abandoned Pools)

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Impenetrable to newcomers, start at the beginning, November 1, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

Either a sequel or a spin-off to two previous stories by the same author. There is zero on-boarding for newcomers to this series, so start with Antique Panzitoum or Old King Nebb instead, will maybe help explain things better. You're a septuagenarian on a hike between two major settlements, stopping off at an old building for a night's sleep. Some light exploration, a couple of basic puzzles, and a dollop of intriguing world-building, and you're done. Elaborate prose style with pleasing turn-of-phrase evokes Arthur Machen. Puzzles avoid frustration.


The Long Nap, by Paul Michael Winters

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A grave error, November 1, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

Parser text adventure written in Dialog: a thoroughly implemented one-room escape game, requiring careful examination of your surroundings and judicious use of your inventory. The "twist" is not the one I was expecting, but surprises and delights all the same. Too spoilery to discuss in any further detail, but it's so short you can complete it in in not much more time than it takes to read this review. Recommended.


Ebony & Ivory's Halloween Party, by M. Nite Chamberlain

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
They did the mash (they did the monster mash), November 1, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

The second werewolf-at-a-party game of EctoComp 2020, after Social Lycanthropy Disorder, but this time everyone else is a monster too. A short Twine where you resolve the terrifying and traumatic situation of not having enough pumpkins for the party games. Oh no! The game requires you to wander around chatting with the ghoulish guests, so it's annoying that you only get one conversation choice at a time, and have to go and start the conversation again to pick the other choices. I though this was about to turn into The Great Pumpkin Heist Adventure, but disappointingly you only get to solve one puzzle, then an NPC does the rest for you. It's an easy read, the low stakes are unstressful and relaxing, and the colour scheme of orange text and red links is pleasing to the eye. "Living together in harmony", you might say.


Rat Chasm, by Hatless

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
There's a rat in me kitchen what am I gonna do?, November 1, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

Weird choice-based story (prose-poem?) inspired by true events: falling through a manhole into rat-infested sewers and getting stuck down there. Everything is off-kilter, even the interaction method: you click the link until it displays your choice, then scroll down to see the results. Is it a stylistic choice for the player-character to speak in broken english? I don't think the spelling mistakes are a stylistic choice: "An uneven ground slams against you heels", "You grit you teeth." That the player-character's chooses to rage about society rather than addressing the practical issue at hand, is a definite stylistic choice, though, and plays nicely into the game's themes, a metaphorical descent into the human psyche.


Better than Alone, by willitchio

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
"How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book!", October 31, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

Wow, powerful stuff. A post-Covid Twine game (with clay figure illustrations) in which you are a live-in carer for a dementia sufferer in his last days. Choice-based conversations with your patient and reminiscences about your own life and relationships are interspersed with a deliberately grindy series of repetitive tasks (cooking, cleaning, counting medicine, reading Pride & Prejudice) that make excellent use of mouse-over effects to dynamically modify the links, cleverly representing the ghost of the house messing with you (or are you just losing your mind during the lockdown?).

Characterization of the player-character and NPCs feels very real, full of flaws and conflicting emotions, thoroughly multi-dimensional, sometimes beautiful, sometimes chilling: "Mark these words: there is no hope of escape. Lockdown will not end soon, and there will always be more. This is only the beginning." There's lots to process in this one, lots of levels to analyse, the Jane Austen quotes being just the beginning.


Toadstools, by Bitter Karella

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The wood wide web, October 31, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

A Twine about a magic mushroom picker lost in the woods after eating one of his finds. Quite verbose, with a big web of links, so reading it feels like the player is stumbling though the dense undergrowth, just as the character is. A cool mirroring of narrative theme and choice-space design. The physical actions the character performs to try to find his way out probably make up only 10% of the clicks, the other 90% being inner thoughts: about his job, his company, the woods and its mysteries, the mushrooms and their effects. Lots of intriguing notions are set up (the God of the Woods for example), but my playthrough ended abruptly before seeing any of it pay off properly. I assume you can use the various mushrooms you find to affect the outcome, but I didn't figure out how.


A Very Dangerous Criminal, by C.C. Hill

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Hey babe, take a walk on the DARK side, October 31, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

I normally associate ChoiceScript with ultra-long epics so it's refreshing to find one that takes only ~30 minutes to complete. A Very Dangerous Criminal starts with the well-trodden urban legend premise of picking up a hitch-hiker while a killer is on the loose. But things soon take a surprising, dark turn. Like, really dark. It goes to some pretty disturbing places. Not for the squeamish.

This was a good, compelling read, with a few annoying grammatical errors that could have been picked up by getting it proof-read first. I could have done without the final coda, where everything is clearly spelled out for the reader, it's likely that most players will have already figured out most of it for themselves by that point. Better to keep things slightly ambiguous for max creepiness. Good effort though: nice to see subversive stuff like this from the overly formulaic ChoiceScript factory.


Several Other Tales from Castle Balderstone, by Ryan Veeder

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Until the next time, boils and ghouls, pleasant screams!, October 31, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

I've somehow missed the previous two instalments of Castle Balderstone, but on the evidence of Several Other Tales, I need to fix that omission immediately. A comic horror anthology in the classic Tales From The Crypt style, it's presented as four spooky short stories from different authors, within the framing device of a late-night meeting of horror authors. It's all Ryan Veeder, but the four stories really do feel like they come from different authors, not just literarily but in the way they play too.

The first is a ridiculous improvised romp with laughs aplenty that would feel at home on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" or on stage at The Comedy Store. The second seems like a parody of the 2008 horror IF Afflicted, with it's hygiene inspector sent to a scary commercial premises. The third, written by a class of schoolkids as a project, is absolutely pitch-perfect, capturing that childrens-storytelling tone with panache. The fourth is a substantial, meaty monster-hunting adventure with many puzzles and a neat combat mechanic that feels suitably climactic.


Social Lycanthropy Disorder, by E. Joyce

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Lycan subscribe, October 31, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

Choice-based game with seven endings (I saw three, including a "winning" one) and eight achievements (I found five). You're a werewolf, on the full moon, stuck at a party. Can you avoid turning into a slavering killer beast? Or even worse, making yourself look like a dork in front of your friends?

I was bowled over by how much content there was here: there is a ton of stuff to do, lots of interesting characters to chat to (with different conversations depending on what time of the night you approach them), lots of party-related activities to partake in, even some time-management based gameplay to give the whole thing some structure. Pretty great all-roooowwwwwnd!


Death Plays Battleship, by Nerd Date Night

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
"Ted, it's the Grim Reaper!". "Oh, how's it hanging, Death?", October 31, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

Parody of The Seventh Seal's chess-with-the-Grim-Reaper scene. It's a proper implementation of the game, in Ink (albeit only on a 4x4 grid), interspersed with a choice-based conversation. I managed to win first time, so I'm unsure how much branching or how many endings there are, but what I found was well-written and effective. Unfortunately Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey has already done this joke way back in 1991. Woah.


Ritus Sacri, by quackoquack

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Latin Translation Simulator 2020, October 31, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

Crazily original concept. "Translate" a Latin text into English, using a dictionary and a grasp of the grammatical structure (verb endings and how they match with nouns). LOOK UP words you don't know, MATCH word A WITH word B to make sensible sentences out of them. Don't worry, non-Latinophones, there is hand-holding as you go. It's an entry in EctoComp, the spooky Halloween competition, so no surprises that there might be great danger lurking in the words. Would love to see this mechanic integrated into a larger game. In it's current form, it's slight, but works well as a quick trick-or-treat bite-size candy.


The Curse of the Scarab, by Nils Fagerburg

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, October 31, 2020
by jakomo
Related reviews: ectocomp2020

Grab as many treasures from the cursed ancient ruins as you can, and get out safely before you get eaten by bugs, fall down a pit, die of thirst in the desert, or get ripped to pieces by a mummy. I was never fully sure of the game's mechanics but still found it enjoyable throughout, with it's mildly comic tone falling somewhere between the more serious Infidel and the more silly The Horrible Pyramid, to name two other grave-robbing adventures. I finally escaped with my life and £150 to my name. Lots of opportunity for replaying here, trying to maximise your winnings in the style of Captain Verdeterre's Plunder. Fun.


The House Abandon, by jonNoCode

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
in the dark, dark street there was a dark, dark house.., July 27, 2020

As a pure text adventure, it's passable: a standard short horror story with a twist of the type that now litters the internet. The parser is awkwardly non-standard (use LOOK ROOM, LOOK <object> and GO <location> instead of LOOK, EXAMINE and compass directions) and causes initial frustration.

But it's not a pure text adventure, it's displayed on a monitor screen attached to an old computer in a dark room: and this visual and sonic ambience surrounding the text is crucial to the experience, delivering the shocks and surprises so the text adventure itself doesn't need to.

This forms chapter 1 of "Stories Untold", a commercial compilation of four spooky adventures, and it sets the creepy tone very well. This chapter can be downloaded for free from Steam and GOG.


Reigns: Her Majesty, by Leigh Alexander, Devolver Digital, François Alliot, Nerial

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An improvement in all areas, July 14, 2019

Reigns was a good proof-of-concept. Her Majesty picks it up, and runs with the ball. The writing is spikier, the events are more interesting, difficulty is seemingly dialled down a little.


Reigns, by François Alliot, Nerial, Devolver Digital

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Great idea, tough as nails, July 14, 2019

A genius concept, perfect for on-the-go smartphone users (just swipe left or right to make binary choices). Stylish art, fun and jokey writing, but punishingly difficult throughout. There is a long-term meta-game that spans multiple lives, but it is very under-clued and somewhat unfair to achieve.


Swipe Manager: Soccer, by Swipe Studios Interactive

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Reigns-like narrative "management sim" with a scabrous sense of humour, July 14, 2019

I expected a straightforward football management game with some sense of narrative. I didn't expect it to have such a sharp wit, coupled with a biting cynicism about the game. Clueless owners, moronic players, corrupt agents and two-faced press all play a part. As the manager, you are the lone voice of sanity in a world gone mad. Much more interesting than I had anticipated.

Played on Android. There has since been a new release, "Swipe Manager: Soccer 2018". I don't know if this is a sequel, or the same game but made free-to-play with ads.


Lone Wolf Saga, by GDV, Joe Dever, Gary Chalk, Project Aon

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
For Sommerlund and the Kai!, May 19, 2019

This Android app collects all 20 volumes of Joe Dever's classic gamebook RPG series into one fantastic game.

The series was always leaps and bounds ahead of its nearest competitor (the Fighting Fantasy series) by virtue of telling one continuous story. Your character, "Lone Wolf", is a Kai Lord: a cross between a Shaolin monk, a ninja, and a Tolkienesque ranger: Book 1 is largely spent running away from the bad guys, but you gain new skills and abilities with each book, and by Book 20 you are trading blows with demi-gods. The world of Magnamund is really well thought out, a step removed from the generic D&D lands of the mid-80s, and the writing is definitely more evocative than the norm.

This Android version is nigh-on perfect: all the finicky dice-rolling, stat-keeping and inventory-managing is done for you, it plays just as well as the paid gamebooks from Tinman, Inkle, Cubus etc, but is nevertheless completely free. You can pay for optional extra bookmarks, but don't need to as if you get killed you are only sent back to the beginning of that book. If you're an Android user, install this immediately!


3 Minute Adventure, by Peter Achberger

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
3 minutes of goofy, fast-paced silliness, December 1, 2018

A very simple choice-based comedy skit: thou must saveth thy princess from thee dragon. Naturally, things don't go to plan. Plays in a browser window and is over in a flash. Very linear, but guaranteed to raise a smile.


Curse of the Garden Isle, by Ryan Veeder

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Hawaii Drive-O, September 8, 2018

The current eruption of the Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii has led to lots of speculation that the goddess Pele is back and she's angry. But this game has taught me there is another form of Pele's Curse: if you take any local rocks away with you as souvenirs, bad luck will befall you. This scares the thieving tourists enough that many send the rocks back in the post: as a Hawaii tourist board employee, you need to drive around putting them back in their rightful places.

This is very much a postcard from Hawaii, both in size and style: an excuse to implement a "what I did on my summer vacation" as a text adventure. Not that there's anything wrong with that. "Bolivia By Night" is another really good example of that kind of thing. There is not much to do, puzzles aren't really difficult, and it's short, but well-written throughout.


Can you stop Jeremy Corbyn from joining ISIS?, by Tom McNally and Ben Edwards

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Corbyn is the absolute boy, January 9, 2018

Absurdist silliness in the style of Clickhole's Choose-Your-Own-Clickventures. Does exactly what it says on the tin: you play a struggling journo following Corbyn around, convinced he's about to join ISIS. Adds a slice of political satire to the mix: a jab at the right-wing British media, but this is unlikely to be toppling the establishment anytime soon. It's more about the protagonist than the February 2018 GQ Cover Star. Lots of losing endings, so lots of replayability. Is there a winning ending? I didn't find one. I laughed.


It's Your First Day On Wall Street, by ClickHole

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Greed is Goodish, July 31, 2017

A cruel game that takes delight in being unfair, the Wall Street stock exchange was founded in 1792.

Is this the vicious skewering of the capitalist economy you've been waiting for? If that vicous skewering of the capitalist economy includes two youtube videos about monkeys, then YES!

It's Clickhole. Fans will already know what to expect. Or not expect. Non-fans need to know: the entire Clickventures series is surreal, off-the-wall, and brilliantly funny. "It's Your First Day On Wall Street" hits the mark. It is shorter than most, but the videos are a new (and delightful) development.


A Study in Steampunk: Choice by Gaslight, by Heather Albano

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
"Elementary, my dear Albano.", August 25, 2016

Highly impressive. A Study In Steampunk's title may be slightly misleading (steampunk stories usually take place in our world's past, rather than a fantasy analogue of it), but that is the only mis-step in an epic-length rollicking ride filled with devious spy-craft, grisly crime, intriguing magic, and high adventure round every corner.

It's clearly influenced by Sherlock Holmes, Jules Verne, Fu Manchu, but the story is very original and filled with unexpected curve-balls, characters are very well developed, and of course the world-building works beautifully.

Options are frequent and plentiful, and cleverly they are written as "thought bubbles" for the player character (a doctor and war-veteran in service of the crown). Often, the choice you are making is not the action you will perform, but rather *why* you are performing it.

A Study In Steampunk not only sits alongside the best Choice Of Games releases (Choice of Robots, Slammed!, Hollywood Visionary etc) but surpasses them, through the power of literary quality and technical innovations (it has a save game feature, for example).


The Shadow in the Cathedral, by Ian Finley and Jon Ingold

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Clocked it, May 27, 2016

This formerly commercial text adventure game really goes to great efforts to ensure its accessible to its target audience (of schoolkids). You will be subtly nudged, quietly coerced and gently goaded towards the correct commands to proceed. There are almost no red herrings, explorable areas are tightly constrained, and there is no death. If that's not enough, invisiclues and maps are also available.

It's a shame, then, that the story cannot quite live up to this excellence of execution. A fascinating setting, where Newtonian mechanics has become a religion, is squandered in service of a dull villain-steals-a-macguffin plot. Your character, a low-level clock mechanic, gives chase, explores the Steampunk city, solves some puzzles along the way, that's it. It's rote Harry Potter level stuff. It's the first part of the aborted "Klockwerk" series, which will never see the light of day since the company shut down, so it has to do the grunt-work of introducing people, places and concepts, without any of the pay-off, thanks to its cliff-hanger ending.


Reference and Representation: An Approach to First-Order Semantics, by Ryan Veeder

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Don't be put off by the title.... , April 30, 2016

... this is actually a classic puzzle-based text adventure with a great sense of humour. You play a prehistoric man on a Quest For Bark... slowly making profound realizations about the world around him. It reminded me of the book "The Evolution Man, Or How I Ate My Father" by Roy Lewis, both in terms of tone and content.

It's a Ryan Veeder joint, so of course the writing is funny as hell. If you haven't played Taco Fiction, The Horrible Pyramid, or Captain Verdeterre's Plunder yet, why not? Go do it, then come back. Some of the descriptions are side-splitting: the first time you examine the cave wall, for example, is perfect comedy. There is only one real "puzzle", but the solution is totally logical and makes perfect sense. Its very satisfying.

It's too short though - the ending is hyper-abrupt (in fact, I'm not even sure if I got the definitive "win"), and there are some mysterious loose ends: does (Spoiler - click to show)the river changing its direction of flow mean something, or is it just a gag about you (Spoiler - click to show)turning around and not understanding what that means? Also, why are there (Spoiler - click to show)tyrannosaurs living alongside humans? They were millions of years apart!


Escape from the Man-Sized Cabinet, by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The pen is mightier than the sword, if you shoot that pen out of a gun, April 28, 2016

This is brilliant! Classic Colbert-ian humour wrapped up in a ridiculous Narnia-styled fantasy choose-your-own-adventure. The player character is Stephen Colbert himself - "Your are Stephen Colbert! Congratulations!" is the opening line - and all the locations and possible actions are described in that deliciously hilarious style.

Obviously, there is no political humour here, as its a send-up of the adventure game genre (and Colbert has stopped doing that character for a while now) so republicans can play too, safe in the knowledge that their worldview will not be subverted! ;)

It's a quick ten minute romp that nails the Stephen Colbert style dead-on. If you're a fan, it's a must-play, if you're not, it may even convert you.


Draculaland, by Robin Johnson

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Fangs for the memories, April 5, 2016

Superterse descriptions, minimal plot or characterization, semi-nonsensical puzzles: all the hallmarks of a classic Scott Adams text adventure (even the title seems to be a reference to Adventureland).

No graphics, but playing on the web gives a cool 2-window point-and-click experience that works very nicely - I hope to see this form used in future parser-based games.

The game is very well-written, with tongue firmly in cheek (i dug the card-shark skeleton), and just enough background to keep you invested. Sure, the puzzles can be pretty obscure, but good, detailed "Invisiclues"-style hints are provided.


The Horrible Pyramid, by Ryan Veeder

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Mummy's girl, March 30, 2016

Starts off like Infidel: you're an archaeologist investigating an ancient Egyptian pyramid, scooping up treasures wherever you find them. BUT things go in a different direction very quickly. And it has to be very quickly, as the game is over in around 10 minutes. But it compresses a lot of fun and quirkiness into that bite-size framework. Good writing, simple puzzles (and one poorly implemented one involving a door - acknowledged as poorly implemented in the source code), and a rather predictable (but well-done nevertheless) twist.


Superluminal Vagrant Twin, by C.E.J. Pacian

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Space is the Place, March 30, 2016

First impressions are of a text-based Elite, but it's only a superficial resemblance. Sure, you're travelling from planet to planet buying and selling, but there is no economy to speak of, only fetch quests - which is perfectly fitting, given the text adventure format, fetch quests being the atomic unit of adventure game puzzles.

Money is used as a gating mechanism, your limited resources only granting access to a few planets and low-paid activities at first, you will need to use your ingenuity and wits to gain the big bucks - opening up more and more untold vistas for your delectation.

The writing is ultra-sparse but extremely evocative. A whole galaxy of strangeness. There is humour, creepiness, sadness, awe, sometimes all at once. It touches on themes of humanism and racism whilst delivering a rollicking science-fantasy adventure. Brilliant stuff. I recommend the hell out of this game.



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