This is a rare example of arcade IF. You have to play a 9 holes golf course, against 3 other opponents. You choose the club, and you control power and direction (via a cursor which moves on screen, while you have to press SPACE at the right/desired moment). In it's way, it's curious and well done.
There is some story background, though minimal. And, being an Adam Cadre game, you might want to try different commands, other than shooting the ball. Many of them will have you laugh (showing the *famous* Cadre's cruel humor - which I love), and leave you craving to find all the possible ones - though there aren't many. Don't forget to check the "about the author" option in the beginning.
Definitely worth a try.
An alternate view of a well-known tale (can't tell which, or that'll ruin the brief experience). Written by the same guy that did the excellent "Lost Pig", this is a speedIF (that means you'll end it in a few moves: just got to find the right ones). Can't rate it, but it's funny and well-written (though don't expect to be laughing out loud), and will take you just a few minutes of your precious time.
I am awestruck. I played Not Just An Ordinary Ballerina (that too by Jim Aikin) and the much acclaimed Curses!, and I wasn't expecting to find another puzzle-intense game who could stand the comparison. Then I found Lydia's Heart. Which is not simply great like the other two I mentioned: it's better! (on my humble opinion ;-P)
First of all, the puzzles. They're coherent. They're logical. All of them, none excluded. And they fit perfectly within the story. Any puzzle lover knows that, most all of the time, you are confronted with puzzles which are either badly implemented, or not logical, or worse they seem they have nothing to do with the story you're involved in. Lydia's Heart instead: it's a perfect mechanism. I could finish it without any hint (though that doesn't mean it's easy: it's simply that it doesn't frustrates you with impossible or incoherent puzzles, even when you feel stuck), mostly because, if I got stuck, I could simply *think* about the possible logical solutions: and it worked. The difficulty is that you will come out with many logical solutions for some puzzles, and this game is so craftily written that it will entice you in believing most of them to be possible: up to you to find the right one (though sometimes there is indeed more than *one* solution). Any puzzle-lover will realize that a game that can do this, is not only awesome, but also very - very - rare. I mean, I gave 5 totally deserved stars to Curses!, but it was soooo frustrating at times :-P
The story is an interesting, *classic* horror one, and quickly drags you in (though the first part of Not Just An Ordinary Ballerina gave me the creeps a lot more than this one). The characters are very interesting, and they represent many ranges of wickedness (from subtlety to passiveness up to total evil). Time moves on, and things may change, but only when you achieve some of the goals, and this brings up another thing I love: that is, you won't find yourself in an unwinnable condition without knowing it. There are many warnings before you do some no-turning-back move, and you never worry if you really have to do that or not: you simply know (Spoiler - click to show)(though, pay attention when you actively succeed in *moving* an NPC, cause almost always they'll be back soon, and you won't have more than a couple of chances to do it). Thanks to the game's warnings and to it's understandable logic, I never died during all the game, and did a *bad* thing on purpose just to see the death sequence.
SO, NO DRAWBACKS?
Weeeelll... the ending is a little unsatisfying. (Spoiler - click to show)You never get to know what exactly happens to the people that wanted to do bad things to you, and this - given the way some of them get involved in your escape - would've been a compelling thing to read, and also something you would expect. But nothing else. There is one maze (plus a semi-maze), but it's very easy and short (Spoiler - click to show)(once you find the right way to deal with it).
IN THE END
Did I mention that I totally loved Lydia's Heart? It's perfectly crafted. It's fun. It's long. It's deep. It's involving. It's satisfying. You gotta play it.
As the author says, this is a lunchtime game. Easy and brief: just some 15 minutes to reach the end (though it doesn't really *end*, cause 4 more episodes are coming - supposedly).
Manhattan, 1954. A dog starts pestering both you than an unknown girl. The matter is: that dog is not much doggy-like. As the cover art suggests, it seems that your turn to deal with aliens has arrived.
Judging from this first chapter, the story is nice and humorous, though somehow plain, and ends with an opening for more interesting episodes (and also for new peaks of chauvinism to come: that's fairly due to the chauvinist decade where this game is set, though I personally disliked that - but maybe a feminist revenge is ready to strike). Being a lunchtime game, the author doesn't want to cause you any stress: only a couple of very easy puzzles (imagine otherwise: you get frustrated by your precious lunchtime gaming, you go back to work, and all you want to do is to kick your colleagues/friends/anybody, just to see if they too are wearing a V.I.T.A.T.T.O.* armor). The drawback is that you really don't feel much involved: this looks too much as a linear tale where, at a certain point, you have to solve something to go on (and maybe it would indeed work better as a regular tale, without any interaction inside).
Anyway, as a lunchtime game this is nice. And the light and well crafted tone will surely cause many a satisfied smile.
*Violence Isn't The Answer To This One
In this game you are a king (somewhere and somewhen). You are brought back to life because your heir - your son - is behaving like a kiddo, and the High Councelor wants your help against empire threats. Don't worry about the empire threats though, because your only mission will be to drop dead again, hopefully forever. That is: you gotta suicide, baby.
The suicide idea is great (though I admit that I was quite disappointed, because I was thinking to develop a game about the same basic idea, and now I can't anymore because this has already been done - sigh ;-P). Anyway, with suicide in mind, "Back to Life..." should be a fun game indeed, developed in very few rooms. But, sadly, it doesn't deliver. The writing is funny only for the first minutes, than it flattens out.
The puzzles too, have many nice ideas (and nice ways for being carried out), but them too, they don't deliver. There's too much "guess the word" for such a brief game. And some badly implemented puzzle.
In the end, ok, this game is not THAT good. But you might have fun playing it for awhile. And, given it's briefness, you'll get the initial fun.
This game is a puzzle galore. It is long. It is tough. It is great.
Starting from your mansion's attic, you simply have to find a Map of Paris, for your soon-to-be holiday trip. Though what this game does, is show you how a simple task can become incredibly arduous. You'll discover family memorabilia, curses, and travel time (and not only that). *Only* to find that blasted map. Nevertheless, don't let this banal task deceive you: Curses is full of atmosphere, and the stories you'll discover around your mansion - and around your ancestors - will totally capture you.
Again, this game is long. Both because it is big (very big, almost huge), than because the puzzles are so tough that you'll spend ages wondering how to solve some of the most difficult ones. But if you take notes (and you'd better - and you'll also want to draw an accurate map), you'll find that all the puzzles are quite logical, and this is extremely good for a puzzle game. The only drawback is that some of the logical deductions/connections you'll have to do are so hard that they're almost impossible, and maybe they might've been implemented better (but this doesn't mean they're badly implemented).
Al lot of the stuff you encounter is not considered (you might well find a table in a room description, and get a "you can't see such thing" message when examining it). But, for once, this is no drawback, because it allows you to concentrate on the important stuff.
On the bad side, sometimes Curses can be really frustrating. It is easy to get stuck (tough puzzles, remember?), and also to reach an unwinnable condition, because a lot of what you do is irreversible, and you might not be prepared. Though, if you pay attention and save often, you will catch the wrong actions soon enough.
Overall, if you are a puzzle lover, you HAVE to play this game. This will be a real challenge, and if you can complete it without any walkthrough, go out and buy yourself a prize: you're a genius (sadly, I was not, and had to recur to some help in a few of the most difficult situations).
If you don't like puzzles instead... well: go away ;-)
One last note, about a thing which is always given as expected, but which I'd like to point, for such a complex IF: this game must've taken many months of development, then more months of debugging, and IT'S FREE!!! A bow to Graham Nelson, and to all the makers of huge IFs out there.
Gotta give it a try, absolutely. It will take you just a few seconds. And then maybe some more seconds. And then more...
The simple idea of this game is quite intriguing and fascinating. And very creative. The outcome instead...
...well, initially i thought: "Wow, this is great. I didn't think it might be this interesting. Some ending - if ending is the right word - has great writing."
...after some time: "Mhmmm, the writing is not that good after all. It's somehow too rhetoric and over-sentimental and simplistic. And i don't like the protagonist."
...then i "did" something and: i was touched. Touched like in "moved". Moved like in "i got shivers". And suddenly I loved the writing again.
You have only one turn in Aisle. And you have no goal. For once, YOU are the goal. And whatever this game might be, it fully reaches it's ambitious goal.
Although David Whyld's review almost says it all, I wanted to express my opinion on why this game is awesome, and what is the best way to play it (yes, you have to be prepared: preparation will lead to a deep gaming pleasure, while getting to Varicella unprepared might lead some people to total frustration).
The king is dead. Within your palace, all will happen, and you will have to plan your way to the throne. That is: get rid of all the opposition. Within 100 moves. You are a vile, treacherous man, and you will behave as such.
You have a very limited amount of moves before Varicella ends, and you have to plan everything with a huge amount of accuracy. Personally, I totally hate games with time/move limits. But this was not the case. Because this game is wonderful. And because I was prepared.
You gotta think of yourself as a time voyager. Varicella is simply the body that you will evilly posses in your journey. Thus: you have a mission, but you also have time-voyager curiosities.
Begin by satisfying the curiosity. Dedicate a number of games just to the discovery of what happens in the palace, and when. It will not be boring at all, because the world you'll get immersed into, is a deep and fascinating one. And in it, a lot of things change during those 100 moves.
After you know what's going on, and possibly when, you can get on the puzzles/treacherous-plannings. Start by solving a puzzle a game. Then, when you think you have solved everything, put them in the right sequence for the final rush.
Other than that, if you're not a lover of draw-the-map-yourself, you might also want to download the map.
If played the right way, this game will totally capture you. The palace is rich and detailed. Almost everything is interactive. And, while some NPCs are quite interesting, others are totally fascinating. Plus, for once we have an IF where you play a vile, immoral, and clever character: and this adds a lot more depth and fun ;-)
This is a story game, with just a few and very simple puzzles in between. You are a superhero. Your superhero-lover has been killed (with a great deal of cruelty in between). You want to avenge her and start on a quest of your own, with some help from your superhero friends.
The plot is interesting. The background is interesting. The story is interesting. The gritty and cynical take on superheroes is interesting (reminded me of Pat Mills' Marshal Law comics). The moral decisions are interesting. In short: many interesting things around. Also, there is music and pictures.
All the interesting stuff I mentioned before was weakly developed. The plot misses many points. After some time the background looks depth-less. The story often looks inconsequential. Though you are left to your own moral decisions, you always feel like the author is judging you (and not objectively). Also, the music is bad. And the same goes for most of the pictures (the photo-retouchings for some areas are nice, but the hand-made drawings are not, and can really ruin the atmosphere, especially in the last part).
Other than that, it's filled with story-bugs (like things happening when they shouldn't, or contradictory statements), game-bugs (like the parser saying a person is not there while instead he is) and parser-holes (like a desk being mentioned and, if you try referring to it, getting an answer like "the word 'desk' is not recognized by the game").
Finally - but this is purely a personal judgment - I disliked the game's social, religious, and political approach. Even considering that the game is written in first person (and thus the author had to interpret a gritty superhero's thoughts, which might not have been his own), it's superficiality on some matter was very annoying. But again, it was very annoying to ME: this is personal.
In the end, i found this game very immature, in all it's aspects. But, as I said, there were also many - undeveloped - interesting things. Thus, I look forward to playing Sherwin's following games: confident that, with time and experience, his qualities will have grown.
Anyway, if you're into dark and gritty almost-puzzle-less stories, you might want to give this a try. Yes, there are bugs, but they don't totally ruin the game, and you might find some of those interesting things inside.
Don't get this game for puzzles. Nor for deep character interaction. Nor if you want to spend the next week with just one long and involving IF. Grab this game for the fun (fun as "laughing out loud"), and for having houses that follow you!
Ok, this is a speedIF, thus: it's quick, very quick. Takes some 5 minutes to reach the end. So, no waste of time. You have to go showing your vacuum cleaner to a TV show. But: it's broken! Along the road to the show, you'll have to find - possibly - a solution.
The writing is spectacular: clever and funny (i'd dare say: funnily clever! or not?). You know, it's from the guy that made Lost Pig, and he is a real assurance for fun.