Reviews by Andrew Schultz

EctoComp 2022

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Trick or Treat or Trick or Treat or Trick, by Stewart C Baker

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Groundhog Day for kids, November 15, 2022
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: EctoComp 2022

One of the things you have to face when you are writing a SpeedIF is, what should I leave out? It's stuff you'd rightly get destroyed for leaving out in a more robust piece. ToToT makes the right choice here, as what it leaves out only adds to the brief timed puzzle. (Plus, UNDO blocking is left out. Strictly speaking, it should not be, but for me, it added to the feeling of being stuck.)

It can't be the first Groundhog Day style game, and I've probably played one and forgot, but it fits the format well. You're knocking at the door of Old Man McGuffin, because your friends dared you, and when he answers, he sticks you with a weird-science item that sticks you in a temporal loop. You need to dump it on some poor unsuspecting soul. You have a fixed amount of turns, or you'll wind up having to do things over again.

And here's where the puzzle gets interesting. Stuff like directions to exit and so forth aren't revealed, because this game was written in 4 hours. So you wind up bumping around a lot, and in fact it's probably more efficient to avoid finding the items you might need first to make a map! This would be a poor design choice for IFComp, but here, it reinforces you're a little kid who's walked out well past where they should, and you're pretty lost. (My technical side notes it'd be neat to have a post-comp release that slowly fleshes out the directions you tried. That could be a programming exercise that takes well over four hours!)

There aren't many items, and if there were too many, things would be a mess. However, I always enjoy a good candy joke and seeing the box of L&L's (REAL candy! But you don't have time to eat it!) reminded me of the box of W&W's that the Suspicious-Looking Guy gave you every Halloween in Kingdom of Loathing, back when I played that game too much and enjoyed it.

I admit I disassembled to see the text of what happened at the end. I'd come up one move short, and I had trouble actually finding the person to give it to, though I knew they must be around. One feels sorry for the poor schlep.

ToToT reminded me of Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree by sort of being its opposite in many big choices. You're alone in ToToT, but HT has a whole group of kids. In ToToT, you're in essence getting free time as a kid and extending your Halloween beyond what you thought possible, while HT takes a year off the end of each kid's life. But I think each, if it actually happened, would provide a kid with a bunch of neat weird stuff to share for years. As for the end, I enjoyed thinking about why your friends may've poked you to see Mr. McGuffin. The possible motivations can vary greatly depending on how much they actually know about him.

There are spoilers I want to add and spoiler-fy, because they gave me a good chuckle going down some mental back-roads, but I don't want to add them into the review until after EctoComp, if at all. Part of the fun is being in that area of optimal confusion-versus-progress I think ToToT hits well.



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