Reviews by Vivienne Dunstan

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The Familiar, by groggydog

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Delightful fantasy-themed illustrated parser game, May 16, 2023
by Vivienne Dunstan (Dundee, Scotland)

This was a delightful parser game, where you, a witchís crow familiar, have to save your mistress. Thereís a light touch to the writing, and itís friendly to beginner parser players. The reduced parser helps, though I struggled with it in a few places. The fantasy worldbuilding is strong, and a series of fetch quests takes you through the story, plus extremely well written and nicely implemented conversations with various characters. Things got really frightening at times. In a good way. Iím still feeling relieved that I got a good ending and not a bad one as things played out! I was also grateful to the author for including a walkthrough (two versions). Oh and the artwork throughout is gorgeous.

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Mirror, by Ondrej Odokienko

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Intriguing set of 4 micro Twine games on the theme of "mirror", May 16, 2023
by Vivienne Dunstan (Dundee, Scotland)

This is a set of 4 game books by students in a creative writing event in Slovakia. In this quick review Iím treating each one separately, as well as giving overall thoughts at the end.

Lilian Lalonder

This starts compellingly with a strange mirror, and then takes you into another place, and some really bizarre and creatively written outcomes. Itís good. And the English is strong. I played all the endings, and was glad I could see them all. This was probably my favourite of all the pieces.

Mihi

This doesnít use the theme ďmirrorĒ so immediately, and it comes later, and is used in a very clever way. Itís rather a neat tale of how you handle unexpected news. However it resists the player following certain paths through, which left me feeling a bit cheated. I wanted to see the outcomes of those decisions, even the ones I doubted were wise. I replayed several times to try to explore different routes. The core idea is really strong, well done to the author, but let us play through things. Donít steamroller.

James

This is a multi part story, and feels more like a Twine version of a parser game than the others, which are more traditional Twine interactive stories. You start in a room with various objects you can examine, quite minimally described. And then see where you can get to. Itís quite a short piece, multiple branching narratives, but a quick fun explore, and an intriguing world. It also left me pondering at the end, which is good! And I was keen to replay, and explore different choices. Original use of mirror. Thanks!

Dr John

This one starts in all capitals, which was a bit of a shock to me. A mix of lower and upper case is generally friendlier for readers to read. It seems to be set in a strange world of reflections and observers, and stuff that is hidden. However I struggled to get a good outcome. At one point the game suggests you click randomly on every bit of blue text. I was exploring lots of options for ages, then suddenly had an idea of something to try. And got to a good outcome! So phew. It was very hard though. The scifi like setting was a nice contrast with the other three works.

This was an interesting set of micro short Twine stories. Each was unique in its approach, and together they showed a variety of ways the system can be used. Two of the games included input boxes asking you to type text in, and this was nicely used, especially in one of the games. And I liked the different approaches and genres e.g. fantasy, real world, slice of life, horror, sci-fi and also branching narrative versus geographical world model versus philosophical puzzle. So thank you all! I hope that there might be more from Senica Thing in the 2024 Spring Thing. New voices in IF are always welcome!

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The Sacred Shovel of Athenia, by Andy Galilee

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short beginner friendly parser game, May 16, 2023
by Vivienne Dunstan (Dundee, Scotland)

This is a short and beginner friendly parser game, set in a quasi fantasy world, with a very cute cat that you have to get to know better. Itís really charming, and I enjoyed playing through the light puzzles. There are in game hints if you get stuck. You can get the game into an unwinnable state. I recommend saving frequently.

There are a few things that could be polished more to make the playing experience smoother.

And make sure you read the ABOUT text info about the background to the game. It is quite charming.

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The Withering Gaze of the Earth, by Emily Worm

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
End of the world and family drama combo Twine piece, May 16, 2023
by Vivienne Dunstan (Dundee, Scotland)

This is a short - but not too short - Twine piece of the end of the world and family relations. I expected it to be shorter than it was, when the author said theyíd had to cut it short due to Covid. But itís a good length. The big downside for me was the general lack of interactivity. Often there would be big chunks of text and then just one link to click, so not really a choice. Though it got a bit more branching in places, and during some NPC interactions.

If I was to make a suggestion to the author it would be to think of ways to increase the interactivity. Because as a reader I want a sense of agency. I liked exploring in the house, even if in practice it was just effectively ticking off a bunch of options.

I did like the use of flashbacks, as you go back into your past life and relive events, which shed light on the present. That was nicely handled, and added depth to the story.

But it needed more interaction. But a promising piece. I got one ending, but didnít reply, because Iíd have had to back to the start. I noted quite a few typos. But it was intriguing.

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Structural Integrity, by Tabitha O'Connell

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Narratively innovative LGBTQ Twine based piece, May 16, 2023
by Vivienne Dunstan (Dundee, Scotland)

This is a LGBTQ novella adapted into multiple ending Twine form.

Thereís quite a lot of interaction with your partner, and a lot of choices about how to speak to them. But often early on I felt it wasnít offering me the chance to explore difficult choices. There were things I wanted to say or do that werenít offered to me. Which is maybe not surprising if itís adapted from a novella.

However it does something narrative wise part way through that totally switches around, and I found extremely satisfying. I only played through to one ending. There are multiple choices you could make and change how it ends up. But i felt interactive, and exploring the characters, and reaching a satisfactory resolution.

So yes, initially I thought this was going to be far too linear and not interactive enough. But then things flipped, and it took a totally fresh approach. Well done to the author!

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Red Door Yellow Door, by Charm Cochran

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Intriguing parser game of young girls playing a "let's imagine" game, May 16, 2023
by Vivienne Dunstan (Dundee, Scotland)

This is described as a short game in the competition listings, but Iíd say itís medium length at least, and possibly longer.

It starts as a visualisation game among four young girls, where one sister guides another sister through a stream of consciousness exploration of a strange imaginary world. It turns into something much stranger and darker.

The implementation of the parser game world is light at best, a series of well spread out rooms, with scattered objects. Initially it does feel as though itís insubstantial, a meditative experience that you could just step out of. But then things take a turn.

I think there are several endings. I got a bad one. And played through trying to get to a better one. I had a clue I think re the (Spoiler - click to show)meat and horsefly and the tower but I couldnít find the solution to (Spoiler - click to show)picking up the meat. Even though I had a plastic bag, that I think I should have been able to use.

The game has no hints or walkthrough. This was a problem for me. I play for fun, and although thereís a marvellous old tradition of hard parser games, nowadays people tend to like to have the option of clues to fall back on if necessary. Some of us very much so. I would ask any parser game competition entrant to consider including a walkthrough at least, if not a full blown hints system. Because for me banging my head against a puzzle isnít fun any more, even if itís something I was willing to do in the 1980s.

However, that said, this is a highly intriguing work. I loved the commentary and chat between the girls early on. And some of the spooky stuff is so effective. Just leave some clues for players.

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Aesthetics Over Plot, by Rohan

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short Twine job-hunting piece set at a party, May 16, 2023
by Vivienne Dunstan (Dundee, Scotland)

This is a short but entertaining Twine piece set at a party where through social interactions you need to try to get a job. Itís branching, and there are bad outcomes, and then others where you can get on better, and move the plot on. It is also possible to go back to previous choices, and try different routes. The writing is fun, though there are quite a lot of typos, including in the game blurb on the competition site. But that aside itís briskly written, amusing, and I felt a sense of immersion within the story. And I was happy exploring different endings.

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Lady Thalia and the Masterpiece of Moldavia, by E. Joyce and N. Cormier

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Witty crime heist accessible to newcomers to the series, May 16, 2023
by Vivienne Dunstan (Dundee, Scotland)

This is a Twine game, thatís a mix of historical, crime and social niceties. Itís the latest in a series featuring gentlewoman thief Lady Thalia. I canít recall if Iíve played any other others. This game is perfectly playable by people unfamiliar with the others.

I really enjoyed it. The writing was strong, and the mix of game play elements worked well. There are four acts to the story, so you get a sense of progress. It took me about an hour to play through in total, and I read pretty quickly for reference.

Some of the elements involved social interaction, and conversations. And this was very well implemented. Others were more of a traditional crime heist. Even almost a maze element at one point. Which I didnít make the best job of, but had fun. Everything leads up to a dramatic ending, but along the way there are unexpected developments, new foes to encounter, and intrigue to uncover. Even during the heist you have many options of how to approach it, e.g. what route to take, how to interact with things, how to respond to problems that occur. Itís just delightful.

If you like Jeeves and Wooster stories, or Arsene Lupin, do check this out. And even if youíre not familiar with them but enjoy a good interactive story itís a good one.

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Etiolated Light, by Lassiter W.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Long gothic horror Twine piece, May 16, 2023
by Vivienne Dunstan (Dundee, Scotland)

This is a moderately long (I wouldnít say ďshortĒ as the game card says) Twine piece, that is gothic horror and very spooky.

When it started up with "You are sitting in the office of an official" I worried how the writing would go. ďOfficeĒ and ďofficialĒ felt too similar to be effective writing. But you are a child at this point, and the opening captures that characterisation well.

As the story goes on you get drawn into a dangerous world of mysteries. And itís really compelling, and disturbing. Quite horrific in places, but not so much gory horror as spooks.

There must be multiple endings. I got a not great one, and the game doesnít allow you to step back, and I didnít want to replay all the way through. But I very much enjoyed the experience. I also liked how it offered multiple choices re gender in places. And how later individual choices already done are differently coloured (though this may not work for players using screen readers).

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Your Post-Apocalyptic To-Do List, by Geoffrey Golden

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Wacky mutant hog farming simulation, May 16, 2023
by Vivienne Dunstan (Dundee, Scotland)

This is a very wacky short Ink piece, where as the opening says:

"Today is your first day as a mutant hog farmer in the wild wastelands of Arizoona."

Itís bonkers, but highly entertaining. Surprisingly effective at world building. And it does have depth in terms of being a state management game. You are limited in what you can do each turn, and always need to do more than you have time for.

I only played through once but really enjoyed it. I didnít encounter any bugs, and it was solidly implemented. I was pleased to see in the credits at the end that there were a lot of testers. This game certainly made me laugh a lot. Thank you!

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