If you're into puzzles and ciphers, and want to play the role of a secret agent, then you should give Sentinel a try! Though the game is light on narrative, the story serves to connect one puzzle to the next, as you gather intel and piece together who killed your colleague (and more as the story unfolds). The puzzles are creative and challenging, requiring the reader to conduct research online and also stretch his or her critical-thinking skills. Though this story uses Twine, there are no divergent story paths, rather the system serves to deliver the story and to check puzzle answers. I confess that I needed more hints than I care to admit. There are more puzzles to come, so the current conclusion is a little anticlimactic. I need more puzzles to solve and for the story to come to a resolved conclusion!
UPDATE: Many more puzzles have been added, and though I think some are very difficult, I really enjoyed playing them. Just remember that this is not 'traditional' IF. It is a puzzle / cipher adventure that is delivered via Twine.
I found this story on a list of recommended IF for beginners. I shared it with my middle school students, and we had a good time with it. You can easily play through in 20-30 minutes, and there are at least three different endings depending on the path you take. I recommend 9:05 as a good first story to read!
Bronze is a great starting place for those getting into IF. It has a generous hint system and puzzles that are just the right difficulty (for me, anyway!). Though it has some parallels to Beauty and the Beast, it is it's own story and not romantic, if that's a concern. I would recommend printing a map or drawing a map to keep track of all of the locations. I didn't visit all of the possible rooms (the ones unlabeled on the PDF map), so I assume there is an alternate, perhaps more favorable, path. Next, I plan on having my middle school students work through this story as an intro to IF!
This one of the first pieces of IF that I have read/played. I played through it as a preview before sharing it with my middle school students. For me, this is a good follow up to '9:05' by Adam Cadre in presenting IF to students. There is a clear mission presented (delivering candygrams to students on a list), some puzzles along the way, and opportunities to be kind to others. The built-in map makes navigation a breeze. For me, the game took about 30 minutes to complete. A caveat if using this with students: in the story a student misreads 'tentacles' as 'testicles.'
Edit: To be clear, in my opinion this IF is not only for beginners, but the audience is teens. For a beginning teen, I give it 5 stars. If you're not part of this audience, it might not be for you; more like a 3 of 5 stars.
Mrs. Pepper is a great starting place for those getting into IF. It has a very generous hint system and fun puzzles that are just the right difficulty (for me, anyway!). I like cryptography, so I really like the inclusion of a cipher as part of the plot. I would recommend printing a map or drawing a map to keep track of all of the locations. After I did everything I needed to do for the main storyline, I got stuck as to what to do finish. I figured it out easily, but I thought the end was a little anti-climatic. (Spoiler - click to show)I was hoping that Mrs. Pepper would return home and maybe receive a little poetic justice! Next, I plan on having my middle school students work through this story as an intro to IF!