Reviews by Felix Pleșoianu

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Castle of Doom, by Bad Dog Studios

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Gothic fantasy and simple fun, June 15, 2021
by Felix Pleșoianu (Bucharest, Romania)

You learn something new every day. For example, that people still made games in TADS 2 as late as 2015. Or that the same TADS 2 has a CYOA library. Good to know!

As for the game itself, it's a light romp cobbled together from Gothic horror cliches with a sprinkling of generic fantasy. It's a short game with little text, well-suited for a kid for example. Surprise deaths abound, but "undo" works. Choices are mostly well-clued however, more so than in other similar games, so that shouldn't be an issue. Supposedly it's replayable, too, but I didn't try.

And that's about all there is to say about Castle of Doom, but you know what? Sometimes a light snack is the best thing. Just don't expect more.

A Hobbit Trek, by Crispin
A flawed tribute, June 4, 2020
by Felix Pleșoianu (Bucharest, Romania)

This is a game very much in the spirit of the original Hobbit. You know the one. Too bad that means lots of sudden deaths with no way to undo. Implementation is also sparse, with no synonyms (I can't call the seedcake a cake? Seriously?) and flat rejection when I try to simply use an object: a standard verb in Quest, that the game puts on the context menu of everything. At least try to give me a hint or something.

On the plus side, and this is a big plus, the game is very easy to navigate in the opening area at least, providing a good sense of geography; you won't need a map. It also stands on its own, with a slightly parodic tone but otherwise a good theme and love for the source material.

Sadly, that's not enough to make it a decent game in my book. Maybe if I could play from a walkthrough.

Get Lost!, by S. Woodson
The fae in our lives, May 24, 2020
by Felix Pleșoianu (Bucharest, Romania)

This is a game that speaks to me, with meaningful choices that make sense for a change (and replayable too, despite the shortness). A portal fantasy done right, familiar and exotic at the same time, that invites dreaming of more. A story that doesn't overstay its welcome, tense but not cringey, and dramatic for the right reasons. That's a rare blend, one I'll be sure to savor a while longer. Try it, maybe.

The Legend of the Missing Hat, by Adri

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Simple pleasures in interactive fiction, May 17, 2020
by Felix Pleșoianu (Bucharest, Romania)

Why can't more story games be like Legend of the Missing Hat? With light prose, no drama and cuteness everywhere, it's still a joy to replay eight years after release: truly a healing story, as I heard them called recently. It also does the "small protagonist in a human-scale home" trope very well, something not many others can claim. Too bad it's not a little bit longer, but then maybe that would have ruined the magic.

Oh by the way: this game is a very good fit for mobile devices. Try it out!

Nootropic Wonderland, by Sasha Lea Griffin

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Twinkle, twinkle, little LED, April 2, 2017
by Felix Pleșoianu (Bucharest, Romania)

For some reason, Alice in Wonderland tends to inspire dark, gritty reinterpretations, like Tim Burton's film adaptation, or the acclaimed Alice is Dead series of room escape games. Perhaps it's what people read between the lines of the original -- and perhaps it's better that way, because straight adaptations have been historically just bizarre and/or bland.

Nootropic Wonderland is a linear (and seemingly unfinished) Twine that needs another round of proofreading, but these are minor quibbles. More importantly, it's a cyberpunk take on the story, which could be great if it was either less generic or else took itself less seriously. I'm afraid simply rehashing 35-year-old tropes doesn't quite cut it in 2017, especially when there's no substance to back them up. Why are people so afraid of the patrolling drones with their searchlights? Is police brutal? Is there supposed to be a curfew at night? Or maybe they're just a symbol of the uncaring rich people living atop those silvery spires while the street crumbles? At least a gang beating up on anyone passing by, human or android, could be explained as a show of force that announces bigger trouble -- as the ending, such as it is, in fact seems to suggest.

But that's very little to go by. The story needs to be seriously fleshed out, and could use a little interactivity as well. Even just being able to click on things and get progressively detailed descriptions before moving on would help a lot. Luckily it seems to be a work in progress, so that's not out of the question, hopefully. Until then, take with a grain of salt.

Click Faggot, by Christopher Kinniburgh

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A harsh reality, April 19, 2016
by Felix Pleșoianu (Bucharest, Romania)

Personal games have become increasingly popular as of late, due to a couple of factors: one, the democratization of accessible authoring tools, and two -- an increasing awareness throughout society of the fact that issues like bullying and depression are real, serious and all too widespread. These are exactly the issues Click Faggot is dealing with, as a slice of life covering a few years of a young man's struggle. It can be painful to play through; these aren't fun things to read about. But I forced myself to finish (once), because these are things we have to face.

Technically, the game is fine -- a custom browser-based engine that works on a principle similar to Undum -- and the author makes good use of single continuation options for pacing. It doesn't have any frills, and doesn't need them. Just give this short game a try; there's little else to be said.

Dragon Fate, by Kris Schnee

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A blast from the past, April 11, 2016
by Felix Pleșoianu (Bucharest, Romania)

You know, people who grew up with gamebooks, like I did, often wax nostalgic about the medium. It's not as common to see someone try and bring those simple pleasures back to life, even for a glimpse. That's why I was excited to hear that Kris was working on Dragon Fate -- a good old-fashioned fantasy adventure where you, an adventurer, investigate claims of a dragon sighting off a small mountain village, hopefully getting rich in the process. But there's more up there than you bargained for...

Briefly put, Dragon Fate does everything right. The writing is to the point, but pleasant (Kris is a writer, and it shows). You can choose what kind of character you play. There's a diceless rule system that allows for freedom in how to tackle the various challenges, and you even get to decide the meaning of the mysteries you uncover, which will have an impact on certain endings. (The story features transformation themes.) The game is non-linear; you can explore in any order, and you'll want to visit everywhere multiple times to catch everything as you level up. The game also boasts no less than 14 endings (not counting death from injuries), but isn't judgemental about them -- you decide whether they're good or bad. All in all, a very replayable game.

All that makes the game more of an RPG than some titles actually claiming to belong in the genre. And to think it's made in plain old Twine! It's not exactly some deep meaningful story, either, but still entertaining, definitely head and shoulders over most of the classic gamebooks it reminds me of. Even the size is just right -- not so large as to require multiple play sessions, but neither so small as to leave the reader disappointed. There are places where there's nothing to suggest that coming back later might be fruitful, but that hardly impacts the enjoyment. So, enjoy!

Untold Riches, by Jason Ermer

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Simple pleasures, November 17, 2015
by Felix Pleșoianu (Bucharest, Romania)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2015

A deceptively small and simple game, Untold Riches is an old-school puzzlefest with a backstory that seems to run on the Second-Hand Storytelling trope (appropriately given the set-up). The map is nice and tight, with mercifully simple puzzles -- though I did need the hints in a couple of places, simply for failing to realize there was hidden detail to examine. Also I found a couple of places where the text seems to assume I'll have encountered things in a particular order, but I'd have to replay to be sure. If I had to nitpick, the parrot could have been more entertaining, rather than a vending-machine NPC, but fluff by definition isn't essential.

All in all, a silly game with no depth that's nevertheless worth playing. I'd say it's nothing to write home about, but I just did, and that means more than the words themselves. Enjoy.

The Hunt for the Gay Planet, by Anna Anthropy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Rushed but not pointless, April 7, 2013
by Felix Pleșoianu (Bucharest, Romania)

Having read Lesbian Pirates From Outer Space, I expected this game to be the poor man's version thereof, judging solely by the title. And it is... kind of. The ending in particular, with all the revelations and the choices, reminded me of the webcomic. Too bad the first segment of the story feels tacked on. But even rushed as it is, it does help drive home the point. Because it has a point, for all the faults. So try it out if you have a few minutes.

A Martian Odyssey, by Horatiu Romosan
A game that's flawed in interesting ways, December 6, 2012
by Felix Pleșoianu (Bucharest, Romania)

I wanted to play A Martian Odyssey ever since I noticed it was apparently written by another Romanian author. Stupid reason, but there you have it.

Unfortunately, the game suffers from misplaced priorities. The 50-megabyte download is all due to a long ambient/electronica soundtrack, which is nice, but hardly essential. Worse, it can't be turned off in-game, and it gets loud at some point. No offense, but I don't want to turn off my speakers because of a single application. Give me a sound-less version and I'll be sure to play it further. A few more verbs wouldn't hurt either. Did no-one think to try "radio Harrison" in beta?

On to the good parts: retro sci-fi is sufficiently rare that it feels fresh here, and I'd like to see that angle developed. Terse writing doesn't bother me either, and there's a cast of characters who actually feel alive and interesting, at least initially. (I didn't get far at all.) And while it was jarring to find unimplemented nouns, that at least told me what wasn't important; in more polished games, it's all too easy to waste countless turns poking and prodding at irrelevant scenery. Though on second thought that's arguably a part of the fun.

No, I can't give the game as it stands more than two stars. But I think it does have some potential, if only the aforementioned annoyances were fixed.

P.S. I'd like to know more about the author. Is he also the composer? Did the soundtrack inspire the game? It does help create mood...

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