Reviews by Tabitha / alyshkalia

Spring Thing 2024

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View this member's reviews by tag: Ectocomp 2023 IFComp 2023 PunyJam #4 SeedComp! 2024 Short Games Showcase 2023 Shufflecomp 2023 Spring Thing 2024
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Nonverbal Communication, by Allyson Gray
Fun proof-of-concept, April 9, 2024

This was another game that had me quite confused at first—I couldn't for the life of me understand what I was supposed to be doing (Spoiler - click to show)if I couldn't use verbs! After some flailing I turned to the in-game hints, which fortunately clearly explained what was going on. From that point on it became a fun and unique little exercise. It's got an unusual parser game mechanic, and I'm impressed by the coding it must have taken to make it all work. The story was cute too; I liked the reveal and that there were multiple possible endings.

A downside is that it was very short—by the time I felt like I’d gotten the hang of the mechanic and was gearing up to do more complex things with it, the game was over! So it felt a bit more like a proof of concept than a full game, but if the author ever did make a longer game with this conceit, I would be first in line to play.

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Thanks, but I don't remember asking., by Mea Murukutla
Thanks, but..., April 7, 2024

I found this game disorienting at first, to the point that I almost stopped playing. I was confused about both the situation and the location (and still am about the latter to some degree, even after re-reading---I'm not sure where the chapel, school, and volleyball courts all are in relation to each other... or why there's a stage outside?). So initially I was more frustrated than intrigued---but when I read on I discovered that there's a good reason for the disorientation, and suddenly it became quite compelling.

Unfortunately, the story didn't live up to its promise for me; I never got enough of a sense of the wider world to understand the stakes for the NPCs, and they weren't developed enough for me to be invested in their fates. I didn't understand why (Spoiler - click to show)they became fixated on the PC after discovering the journals; there was an escalation there that I couldn't see a reason for. I also never felt much for/about the PC. (Spoiler - click to show)Her circumstances reminded me of the film *Memento*, but what makes that movie so good IMO is that the protagonist has a goal that he's deeply passionate about. Here, the PC has no goal beyond maintaining her status quo---and she is able to achieve that very easily.

I also had some quibbles about the writing; the dialogue was stilted at times, and the tense randomly switched between past and present. Finally, it would be nice if there was a "restart" button at the end; as-is, in order to replay you have to close and re-open the game.

I do feel like there's something interesting to be said about gender in the game---the PC is a woman, (Spoiler - click to show)as was her former lover, and the sole female NPC in the story has a different fate than the two male ones. I'll have to stew on that aspect some more...

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Octopus's Garden, by Michael D. Hilborn

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An octopus nestled in sweaters!, April 7, 2024

This is a cute game! I've never played a game with an octopus PC before, and my favorite aspect was the descriptions, which paint such delightful pictures as an octopus snuggled up in a drawer full of sweaters and an octopus sitting on a window ledge high above the city. "You're splayed out on the hardwood floor" is just perfect too. I also thought the plot was well done; your goal is to get your owner to move back out of her boyfriend's apartment, and I wondered how I might possibly accomplish that until it became clear that (Spoiler - click to show)her boyfriend is cheating on her, and thus my goal was to expose him.

I did have some struggles, mostly notably with the faucets as Mike already pointed out in his review. I also thought (Spoiler - click to show)opening the window latch with the plunger was a bit far-fetched; I don't think that would actually work IRL, and from the setup described I would have thought my arms would be able to reach it without issue. (Also, minor quibble, but octopus' limbs are actually arms, not tentacles!) It also got a bit old having to return to my tank every so often--I liked the realism of this, but I wish the game would've had me automatically drop everything I was carrying when I tried to get in, so that I wouldn't have had to type "enter tank. drop all. enter tank."

I had a little trouble with the endgame, too. Partly because I had completely failed to (Spoiler - click to show)examine myself in detail, so I missed that I could squirt ink until I turned to the hints for help with the clothesline--that one's definitely on me. But I also had to use the tip from Mike's review for getting the winning ending; (Spoiler - click to show)having to close the bottom drawer seemed pretty unintuitive, and I wasn't sure why it mattered that I was out of my tank at that point---I would have thought the presence of a stranger's underwear would take precedence. So overall I found it an enjoyable little game, just with a few hiccups along the way.

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The Case of the Solitary Resident, by thesleuthacademy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Satisfying mystery with a few rough edges, April 4, 2024

Having enjoyed the author’s *Last Vestiges* in last year’s IF Comp, I was happy to see another mystery game from them! This one is done in Twine rather than Inform, which allowed for some nice features, like a “case file” page documenting the evidence you’ve collected and pop-up notifications letting you know when analysis results are ready. The latter was a nice way of making it feel like time was passing in the game world and of ensuring that not too much information was dispensed at once.

Some aspects of the UI didn’t work as well for me; once I had all the analysis results, that section of the case file became overwhelming, so I would have liked to see it divided up somehow (whether with subsections or perhaps a sub-page). I also didn’t feel that the stock images representing the different locations and actions added much, as they were too generic to provide meaningful flavor.

Writing-wise, the tone was a bit odd, with the PC making some unjustified assumptions early on ((Spoiler - click to show)really, we never have any reason to suspect there was foul play), which didn’t fit with the otherwise realistic nature of the game. In contrast, the NPC dialogue was rather flat, and I wished there had been more depth to the interview segments (at least with the deceased’s son).

As far as gameplay, investigating the apartment felt somewhat lawnmower-y, and I would have liked if visited and unvisited links were distinguished with different colors. Seeking out evidence does get more complex later on, though, as new information opens new avenues of questioning and there are things you have to look up via keywords. The most fun part to me was once I had all the evidence and could start constructing a theory about what happened. Reviewing the various pieces of evidence and making connections between them made me feel like I really was solving a mystery. And when I saw how granular the game wanted me to be in describing my conclusions, I went over it all again before committing, because I was really invested in getting it right—and it was very satisfying when I did!

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Rescue at Quickenheath, by Mo Farr
A polished adventure, April 3, 2024

This game hooked me with the premise and vibes on the Spring Thing page, and it definitely delivered! I was drawn in right away by the lovely presentation, with a fun old-fashioned font for the title screen and pleasant spring-like colors. (The UI is well done throughout, with in-game documents set off with different fonts/colors.) The beginning clearly establishes the PC’s goal, and then it’s up to you to get to work accomplishing it!

This is a Twine game with a world model, so there are various locations you can visit and items you can try using in different situations. I enjoyed the puzzlely elements, which were simple enough that they didn’t slow down the story’s momentum. The game also balanced imbuing the choices with a sense of stakes (at one point I certainly thought I’d messed up and was in for a “game over”!) and leaving room for experimentation. The worldbuilding was fun (especially the details of the fae embassy), and the writing suits the PC in a way that often made me smile—e.g., “Your heart lifts at the sound, like a string of pearls from around a rich person’s neck.” It’s altogether a very polished work.

A personal quibble is the selectable gender (of both the PC and the LI). I'd assumed based on the characters' names and the LGBT tag that they were both women, and "lady thieves" seemed like a very fun premise, a la Lady Thalia, so I was disappointed to find that their genders were blank slates. In cases like this, where gender is the only facet of the character the player gets to choose and where it has no effect on the game beyond what pronouns and labels get used in the text, I’d always prefer to have characters that the author wrote with pre-established genders (or lack thereof) in mind, because those characters tend to feel more real to me.

On to some more mechanical things, in the latter half of the game, once you’ve (Spoiler - click to show)entered Fairy, there's much less autonomy in where to go or what approach to take, so it felt much more on rails. I also found it odd that the game didn’t acknowledge some of the information the PC (Kit) finds—(Spoiler - click to show)when you read Aubrey’s journal she all but says that she’s in love with Kit, but Kit doesn't react or acknowledge that in any way. Same with the letter to Aubrey that starts “Dear Sister”—despite this clear indication, Kit doesn't seem to know that the letter-writer is Aubrey’s sibling. Finally, I would have liked to learn more about Kit’s backstory and motivations, as they remained largely a mystery throughout, and as mentioned above I always love a richly detailed character!

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