Reviews by J. J. Guest

IF Comp 2018

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Birmingham IV, by Peter Emery

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Period Charm, November 23, 2018
by J. J. Guest (London, England)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2018

It seems an odd thing to say about a computer game, especially one released this year, but Birmingham IV has "period charm". I started playing the game before I knew that it had originally been written in The Quill in 1988, but it immediately reminded me of BBC Micro games of that era.

Birmingham IV shares many tropes with the games of Geoff H. Larsen. It has a rural English setting with standing stones, long barrows and village inns with colourful names. It is peopled with trolls and other folkloric figures.

Unfortunately it also shares many of the faults of games of that period, such as an inventory limit. Room descriptions tend to omit the direction from which the player first approached the location, perhaps assuming that the player had made a map. It is also very easy to make the game unwinnable without realising it.

Nevertheless the Birmingham IV does have charm, and enough that its flaws didn't stop me from wanting to play it. I'm excited that David Welbourn has now produced a walkthrough, and I do hope that there's a post-comp release that's a little less "old school".

The Origin of Madame Time, by Mathbrush

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Short, Clever and Great Fun, November 23, 2018
by J. J. Guest (London, England)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2018

In this short, puzzle-centric game, we play as a young woman with a newly acquired superpower - the ability to stop time. Our job is to save a group of superheroes (and villains) from a nuclear explosion which we have put into a state of stasis.

As with all of Mathbrush's games, The Origin of Madame Time is clever, well implemented and fun to play. The action-packed superhero genre is a tough one to pull off in IF, but Mathbrush achieves it here by presenting the action just as it appears in a comic book - as a series of static vignettes. The puzzle mechanic is also clever; we must utilise the powers of the different characters in order to get them to safety.

Where it is less successful is in its sense of priorities. The exploding airship, which ought to have been front and centre, is not seen until some way into the game. In some of the descriptions, important details and bits of biographical trivia are given equal weight, which robs the setting of some of its drama.

The Origin of Madame Time was written as a sequel to The Owl Consults, but it is not necessary to have played the earlier game in order to enjoy this one. Both games are great fun, and highly recommended.

Bogeyman, by Elizabeth Smyth

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
An Impressive, Atmospheric Tale of Horror, November 23, 2018
by J. J. Guest (London, England)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2018

I first had the pleasure of playing Bogeyman in an IF Meetup group, and of meeting the author, Elizabeth Smyth. Before the playthrough, she felt the need to give us a trigger warning. The game does indeed include scenes of cruelty towards children.

What impressed me right away about the game was its presentation. A choice-based game, Bogeymanís links are presented at the bottom of each scene in a grid formation, separated by white lines, which is very effective. A glow effect around the text of each link on mouseover was a nice touch. The choice of a fixed width font for the Bogeymanís dialogue was less successful, however. There are also a few illustrations, of which I would like to have seen more, and some suitably eerie music.

One thing that parser-based games tend to be better at than choice-based games is creating a sense of place, but Bogeyman, a choice-based game, left me with a very clear mental picture of the Bogeymanís mountainside hovel and its surroundings. The child-kidnapping title character on the other hand is more of a cypher - we are given only glimpses, and this also works very effectively. One gets the feeling that description is absent because none of the children can bring themselves to look at him.

Also well evoked was the sense of a daily routine, which serves as a reminder of how quickly we tend to normalise a terrible situation.

Bogeyman is a long game, and I only had time to play through it once during the competition, but Iíll certainly be returning to it now that the comp is over.

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