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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.