I feel Escape from Summerland may be underrated because it didn't get the IFComp reception it could have -- the authors were in a time crunch, and some bugs slipped through. Which is sad for those who maybe played it and got frustrated. It still may be frustrating with the bug fixes--but it's also a lot of fun, with very clever viewpoint switching and a lot of quirky humor.
You start off as a ghost who sees someone trapped in a tent. Seeing who they are gives a realization--you may be able to figure it out. Once his initial duties are performed, you switch to his pet monkey, which has a ... rather less nuanced version of things. Then once the monkey leaves her cage, you're the ghost, making sure she's safe. That done, you switch viewpoint to a robot. Its descriptions are technical and tough to decipher. But here's the twist: the more you observe and look around as the other players, the more you figure what they mean. And different items are described differently by Amadan (the ghost,) Jacquotte the monkey and Shinobi the robot. Shinobi appears to be some sort of drone from an outer-space invasion, not really malevolent but just obeying orders.
And with the three players' combined abilities, you switch perspectives until Jacquotte gets out of the park. It's fun but very tough. I've come back to EfS several times, and without the clues, I get stuck somewhere else. The puzzles make sense, but they're very sticky. There's a part-broken lift to operate, and pushing a box out of the way takes a while. Shinobi has lost both arms and is badly malfunctioning (the temperature gauge goes from -80 to 80 Celsius). And it is low on power, which is probably why the invaders desert it. And for big events, the power drops 2%. You may see where this is going. Will Shinobi have enough power?
EfS rapidly becomes a buddy-comedy but without the backslapping. Amadon, the least powerful, most knows what's going on. Shinobi, for its technical knowledge, has no clue what things are for. Jacquotte can reach places. Amadon actually needs to provoke Shinobi into an action, where Shinobi senses his presence without being aware he's, well, dead. And Jacquotte has fun with the buttons on the lift, as one always wanted to when one was much younger. Contrasting her with Shinobi is amusing, as she often reverts to emote-speak with no qualitative description, and Shinobi's technical descriptions include "Organic Pest Must Be Jettisoned Before Further Ambulation." In actual English, that means Shinobi must DROP PEST if Jacquotte has climbed, before moving on.
EfS also has neat touches beyond just the three entities seeing the same item in drastically different ways. Trying to change them to themselves gets clever responses. We realize that the amusement park is a sad place, poorly kept up even if there was no alien invasion. And ... well, there are still bugs hidden in there, so you may want to save after each small victory. Which sort of adds to the slog as the three entities push through, leading Jacquotte from her cage to freedom. And, yes, there is some guess-the-verb, due to the nature of how the three entities see the world, but I actually rather like the included hints. They help me stumble through, along with the three heroes.
EfS is a rare combination of charming and clever, where it's fun to take a step back and see what everyone sees even if there are pitfalls in he puzzles and parser. Once you get in the flow, it's clear the authors really knew what they were doing and had a great plan. I know after EfS I hoped and expected something even bigger and more polished. Sub Rosa, for IFComp 2015, was that. And it brings up a tough dilemma: would I rather have, say, EfS and Calm, or one Sub Rosa? I'll cop out here on my own question and say I'm glad we have both, since they're each unique in the IFComp landscape. And to say: EfS is worth taking another shot at, if you trip up at first. Even completing it with its hints/feelies by your side is extremely rewarding.
Changes may have the most creative story from IFComp 2012: you wake up in the body of a rabbit, but with the mind of a human. This isn't some "intelligent rabbit" or Watership Down thing, here. You're on a person-free planet called Elysia. And you observe how you became a rabbit: animals are putting other animals into the same sort of pod you came out of, and they are switching bodies. They know this instinctively. So your main task is: how do I find what happened to my body?
I remember almost giving up on Changes because the start was unclear and hostile and even random. You had a very diligent fox chasing you around, and being able to sense animal emotions around you only did so much--if the fox wanted to play prevent defense randomly, gosh darn it, it would, until you got impatient, and only trial and error showed where you were safe (Oddly, you could also run past the fox if, say, you were south of it, it chased, and you went north. Hooray for mimesis and feeling fear?) It wasn't really clear what animal you'd want to become, as everyone else was bigger than you. The solution wasn't that clear to me, though it seems hinted in retrospect. Along the way I found a ton of insta-deaths. There was one place where I fell into a lake and drowned, because rabbits couldn't swim.
This is the big clue here, because you need to become something that can swim, and there's only one real animal that can. I didn't find it at all obvious how to kill them, though in retrospect, it makes sense. I guess the solution felt like something you'd see in a cartoon, and not a serious sci-fi work. But once I took the new animal's body, I saw more of what to do.
I did not drown in the lake, but my predator did. Then I managed to annoy another animal and kill them. There were deer to manipulate and avoid. I noticed an abandoned shuttle which, well, looked familiar. I needed to become an animal that had something resembling fingers--all through the game, I spent time dragging the bodies of animals I'd killed by their teeth, into the cocoon and then out.
Opening the space shuttle is the big thing, and while actually moving a human body back to near the pod (there's no animal big enough to carry the body) again feels a bit cartoonish to envision, it's pretty much "do what you can to cause a disturbance."
Nevertheless it's all very clever to watch and see unfold, and each time you change animal skins, you get a flashback detailing more of the story. Perhaps you'll be able to guess it sooner than I did. But even escaping in human form doesn't change anything. There's a mythical feel to Changes, including the ending, which is far from "you board the shuttle and race home, vowing never to get near Elysia again." There's a tale of human tragedy and conflict to unravel, and the feeling I had that I was disturbing something perfect and special was, in fact, validated by the end.
Some parts of Changes do feel a bit loose, and they stop it from soaring. There seem to be more locations than necessary, and chasing certain enemy animals gets exhausting. But the payoff is legitimately rewarding, and with Andromeda Apocalypse won the IFComp that year, I can't help but thing Changes would've had a shot with a good deal more polish.
As-is, I remember the author had a bug tracker with a lot fixed, and there were obviously a lot of different moving parts with several animal NPCs. They all act pretty simply, with beavers hissing or deer fleeing, but they build a world remarkably quickly with little need for detailed scenery. As someone who is indulgent about using walkthroughs and giving the author a mulligan for a puzzle or two that may be a logical jump too far, I really enjoyed Changes, even though the random events and NPCs bouncing around made it hard to execute. Perhaps it added to the feel that I, as (initially) a human, had trespassed somewhere I should not have been, in the name of progress. It combines eerie naturalism with sci-fi horror in a way I don't recall any other IFComp games doing.