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Adventuron 2019 Halloween Jam

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1-4 of 4

Hallowe'en: Night of the Misty Manor, by Dee Cooke

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Overwhelming, but funny, game about Halloween curses and camaraderie, January 31, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: Adventuron 2019 Halloween Jam

HNMM starts out as a fetch quest but soon swerves into greater scary-farce. You visit an old folks' home and, finally, the misty manor in the title. Along the way there's a branch based on which mask you choose.

It's good fun if you know what to do, but I can't escape mentioning its biggest weakness, so you're prepared if you've enjoyed the author's other works (as I have) and want to see all of HNMM. This all spilled over, but I hope it's more to provide a buffer than to read a loud laundry list the author, who's a veteran at writing games by now but maybe wasn't then, probably knows and sees.

You can get stuck in several unwinnable states, and there is some arbitrary stuff you need early on. That's a problem of zany games in general that try to provide a lot of replay value. For instance, there's a sugar packet necessary for one of the five branches, but if you make it through another, there's no clue which branch you need the packet in. There was enough of this that I needed a couple more sessions to work through each alternate path (there are five total, including a no-mask option,) and I did use a walkthrough.

Once you get to a place, you may say "Oh! I wish I had (X) now!") but because the game map is broken into a few distinct parts, you won't be able to go back. So it's tough to see ahead. And it's also tough to figure when you're at or near the final puzzle, and it's easy to worry you may be shut out from a win in other ways. Given that HNMM keeps throwing zany situations at you, it seems like there can always be several more, and the game's score is tracked internally.

So--yes, just save before you choose a mask, and save before you enter the mansion. You'll be able to enjoy HNMM best that way. And there is a lot to enjoy despite the technical unfriendliness of being locked out near the final puzzle.

You are Eilidh, charged with supervising four kids younger than you as you go to an old folks' home to entertain them, but first, you have to find a gift. Nearly everyone at the party refers you to the next person, who says "oh, wait, no, the gift is over THERE instead." Which certainly gives you the feeling of "oh, man, i sort of don't want to deal with these kids." But I didn't want to actually throw anything. The scenes where you'd probably get exasperated in real life are funny in writing, though there is one guess-the-verb situation that's so on the nose I didn't consider it ((Spoiler - click to show)you're told you need to distract someone, and the verb is DISTRACT X</spoiler).) The scene at the old folks' home is sort of sad, and the kids' performances are objectively terrible in a funny way. Then you're given a spooky green rock as a gift.

This is where the manor comes into play. I figured a way in, but it was a one-way affair. Puzzles included sneaking up the stairs silently and giving a creepy girl a gift. There are neat touches such as having to peel an apple and the peel turning into a random letter, which is the first letter of your husband's name. Then there is the random bit based on what mask you wear. It's rather funny if you don't wear one, period.

The author had a lot of wacky humor to dump in, and it didn't all hit for me, but the aggregate on the whole was successful. While you do have to retrace a lot of steps even with strategic restore, HNMM hits all the undead ghoulies and tropes it's always fun to tweak for a laugh. By the first end I had some fear of "oh no am I trapped this time" but they had some really clever ways to let you retreat back to your car, or at least near it, as you explored more weird and spooky places. And so I felt like I could feel may way through well enough with the final mask--though I did have to make sure I had the special item(s) I needed!

HNMM is ambitious, but isn't as focused as the author's latest efforts, and it makes a few unfair demands on the player. However, it was neat to see Eilidh and Deirdre from its sequel Day of the Sleigh again. It felt like the sort of odds-and-ends game we all have in us, and whenever we get it out, we will, and it's more than worth doing. While parts definitely feel a bit arbitrary, it is a good dose of humor that all Halloween jams can use to offset the more serious entries.

The Witch's Apprentice, by Garry Francis

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Peak Adventuron, January 29, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: Adventuron 2019 Halloween Jam

I played Santa's Trainee Elf recently before playing WA, so my cynical first reaction was "Wait! Garry's already done this before, but for a different holiday." But of course WA was released in 2019, STE in 2020. And, well, it's a very good thing they're similar. Both have neat graphics and are really sensible and entertaining fetch quests that fit the season. If you forced me to decide, I'd say STE is a bit richer and handles the whole "find stuff to make something special for kids" a bit better. But I liked them both a lot.

In WA, you are an apprentice who must find eight ingredients for the witch, for a potion to keep kids safe this Halloween. Some require more creativity than others. One even requires you to remove a cat's bell collar so they can (Spoiler - click to show)catch a rat. It's well-timed and paced, too, with the run-up to entering the Witch's mansion being just a bit spooky. There's no response when you knock, and the author deserves full credit for the joke/minor puzzle therein.

The mansion has a lot of off-limit areas that help it feel big without the game being overwhelming, and pretty much every sort of spooky location is covered. It's a three-story affair with a backyard, too. The ingredients aren't anything too novel. They don't need to be, though I laughed at needing rotten fruit. But there are amusing explanations for alternate names for mustard seed and buttercups. WA has a lot of small subversions of general witch tropes, and I particularly enjoyed poking at the scenery you couldn't use yet, or didn't know how to, as if to reinforce that you're an apprentice without belaboring the point.

WA just feels like the sort of game Adventuron was made for. You couldn't quite write it in Inform, and the parser bits feel like they'd lose something in Twine. I enjoy Garry's Inform games, but his writing seems to have a bit more character in Adventuron. There seems to be some nice synergy with the graphics.

Which leaves just one question. When's that Adventuron Valentine's Day jam coming? I'd love to see a trilogy from the author, if they had the inspiration.

(edited 1/29/23 5 PM, originally posted 1/28/23 5 PM)

The Missing Witch, by Dawn Mary Mac

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short semi-spooky game with a funny instadeath, January 28, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: Adventuron 2019 Halloween Jam

I'm really impressed by how unironically good last-place games can be in Adventuron jams, and The Missing Witch is no exception. Perhaps it doesn't soar, but it clearly does more than just make up the numbers, and if you're playing through the whole jam, you won't want to miss it.

You play as a nine-year-old who wants to get into a party and have some adventures. These involve, well, a lost witch. So the beginning is largely reconnaissance. One thing you must find is in your home, and if you dawdle too long, your parents make you stay in. (There's a joke to this. I won't spoil it.) The other things you need are strewn about the scenery, and this might be a pain in Inform with the non-sparse room descriptions, but Adventuron's ability to highlight critical words makes everything easier.

Once you've got a costume for the party, the summoning really starts. I was thrown a bit because I had to remove my costume to reach one semi-hidden room, and I was worried the twins would come after me, but that was relatively trivial. Getting there involves standard item-munging. There's a crypt of sorts to explore at the end, too.

The sorcery involved is decidedly g-rated and, well, it's trivial guess-the-verb. The ending was satisfying. It's a nice balance of kids'-party and minor spoernatural creepiness. So I really recommend playing through. Even if you get stuck, there's only so much to do, and there's one NPC you may forget about that turns out, indeed, to be an obstacle later.

One tip, though: the author added AI art for the 2.0 version now on, but it's in a 1x1 ratio, meaning you can't see it unless you narrow your browser a good deal. This, however, is worth it, since the graphics do add to the experience.

The Mansion, by Manuel Sagra

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short game about skeleton is comfortable in own skin, January 28, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: Adventuron 2019 Halloween Jam

The Mansion definitely recognizes it's close to cliche. It recognizes it probably isn't going to shake you out of your chair. But it's short and tidy for all that and about as light-hearted as a game about an amnesiac skeleton could be, and it's well-focused. You will immediately see what to do at the end, but that's because the author didn't try to do anything crazy.

You wake up unaware of who you are or were in a locked room, and you slowly make your way around spooky grounds. There's a diary filling in the past, along with a shovel for digging, a spooky portrait, and an empty suit of armor. Perhaps you've seen these before in other games. There are a few small jokes if you examine everything, which isn't arduous.

Given there are maybe six rooms, it's not hard to find the way through, and you may guess what one special-seeming item is for. (I never did figure what the hammer and nails were for!) The game's main challenge is navigating the inventory capacity of two, I assume because you have two hands and aren't very strong.

Every comp seems to have that one game that's very competent and says, hey, here's a bit of fun, take it or leave it. I'm not going to be profound, but I am well-constructed, and you're not going to get lost. The Mansion, down to its generic name, is that, and yet it was spooky enough, even as I was pretty sure of what I was supposed to be doing, and the end had just enough of a twist to make me look back in worry.

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