Ratings and Reviews by Felix Larsson

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Magic Travels, by Mister Nose
Felix Larsson's Rating:

Suprematism in IF, by Andrey Grankin

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Somewhat cheap experiment, May 12, 2010
by Felix Larsson (Gothenburg, Sweden)

This sounded more interesting than it turned out to be. The work (it’s certainly not a game) belongs to a group of experiments in IF—or at least in the use of IF interpreters—that one way or other test the limits of playability, the most infamous one possibly being Pick up the Phone Booth and Die.

This particular work consists of two pieces that belong together. Each piece of the pair is said to represent one extreme of interactivity.

So, one of them promises absolute interactive freedom for the player to control just about every aspect of both game world and game play. That’s quite a tall order. If you believe any game that makes such a claim, you’re certainly bound to be disappointed. But even if you do not believe it, you might have been less disappointed by a work that failed in interesting way than in a work that, like this one, actually achieves that very goal but in such a trivial way.
(Spoiler - click to show)This piece lets you do anything. But it does so by not heeding to anything you do. The program does not model any world whatsoever: instead, as player, you are supposed to imagine any world you like, and whatever you wish to do in that world is fine to the parser. The program doesn’t have to keep track of what you do in a world it doesn’t model, so it can let you do anything. The idea is kind of good, but it’s not very exciting reading.

The other piece of the pair, then, should represent the other extreme of interactivity. Well – it does.
(Spoiler - click to show)Whatever you try, you get the same response from the parser—at least until you decide to quit (or ask the game forhelp). Actually, the surprise effect of that part made it the most rewarding aspect of the whole diptyk.


Stink or Swim, by Renee Choba

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Making short work of a skunk , May 7, 2010
by Felix Larsson (Gothenburg, Sweden)
Related reviews: gambol, [6]

The author of Snack Time! puts herself under Speed IF restrictions (“I’ve got three hours to write a game about … an olympic medalist, a public bath and a skunk), and this is the result. Like most any Speed IF the result is, I suppose, a trifle; but this one is a pleasurable trifle to while away a few minutes.

You play a former olympic medalist, now swimming instructor, who has to get a skunk out of the pool. Removing the skunk is the one puzzle of the game. I guess it will not present many difficulties even to an absolute beginner. But the writing is pleasing, the skunk is cute, there are footnotes to the text (and I love footnotes), and there’s even a certain amount of psychological development on the part of the protagonist who comes to grips with certain aspects of her olympic past.


A Walk in the Park, by Anonymous
Felix Larsson's Rating:

Figaro, by Victor Gijsbers
Felix Larsson's Rating:

Snack Time!, by Hardy the Bulldog and Renee Choba

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
A charming dog’s eye view on having a snack, April 23, 2010
by Felix Larsson (Gothenburg, Sweden)
Related reviews: truce, [8]

A truly delightful little game!

You are a dog and you’re hungry. It’s not dinner time in many hours, so you need a snack. Unfortunately, you’re not very good at making sandwiches, so you must get your human pet to make one for you.

The puzzles are quite easy, but it’s not the challenges that make this game but the consistent dog’s eye view of and on everything. Dog is the measure of all things in this game: canine interests permeates every single description of the game world. What makes the game so charming is the way Choba (the author) exploits the fact that Hardy (the dog-PC) has a set of concepts that doesn’t quite match the human player’s. For that purpose, a dozen words are worth a thousand perfect 3D-renderings.

(By the way, the same thing was done—to the same charming effect—by Admiral Jota in Lost Pig … and to a totally different but equally great effect in Shiovitz’s Bad Machine and even in Granade’s IF version of Pong!)

More actions are implemented. I missed most of them first time playing the game. So, if you manage your snack too quickly, chances are that you can have some replay value for dessert.


Adventure, by William Crowther and Donald Woods
Felix Larsson's Rating:

Six-Chamber Champion, by C.E.J. Pacian

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Instead of fun, March 16, 2010
by Felix Larsson (Gothenburg, Sweden)
Related reviews: literary, [6]

You’re in for an illegal game of Russian Roulette—you leave a millionaire or you don’t leave at all. The referee and the crowd sees to it that you and your opponent play by the rules.
For obvious reasons, even at its longest this game is very short.

Only, I’m not sure that this really is what you would call a game. It is, however, one of a growing number of IF works where you play a character with goals (or motivations or preferences or values etc.) that you, as player, find objectional and are unwilling to promote even in and for the sake of gameplay, works whose value resides in something other than being fun.
Gijsbers’s The Baron and nespresso’s rendition are, perhaps, the most famous and infamous examples, respectively, of this trend (if it be a trend) of IF.

Not being fun presumably has little to do with the objectional character of what (fictional) actions the player needs to let the PC take: you may, e.g., not feel the least tempted by a life like Niko’s in GTA IV but still enjoy the game; or you may honestly disapprove of Lottie’s schemings (and never actually have gone to quite her lengths yourself to secure your career) and still findBroken Legs great fun: rather, I suppose, it has to do with gameplay.

I.e., the author of this kind of IF has to do the opposite of what is usually done in games. He has to make sure that the player will not be so immersed in the gameplay, i.e. so keen to win the game, that he/she starts having fun (which would make the player insensitive to the moral issues of in-game actions). This does not mean that the reader/player can’t be allowed to be interested in the story as told nor identify or sympathize with the PC.
And, of course, even though such a piece of work mustn't be fun it needs other good-making characteristics to make it worth playing.
So, the player needs to be at once (sufficiently) alienated from gameplay but not from the game itself (or he/she would just quit playing it).

One way to achieve this is to make a rather ordinary game but basing it on actual events that still retains a traumatic impact on people’s minds—indie video games such as Super Columbine Massacre RPG! and Operation: Pedopriest tries this. The trauma serves to alienate you, but ordinary gameplay lures you on (with perhaps some social message or satirical lashes added for good measure). The end effect, I guess, is that the player oscillates in and out of an awareness of the abhorrent character of the PC’s actions.

The Baron works quite differently. The estrangement here comes, I think, from a feeling of disappointment in or betrayal by the PC; whereas what makes you keep playing/reading is partly the story (you want to know how it ends) and partly (perhaps mainly) an interest in the exploration of the complex moral issues raised by the … game(?).

In Six-Chamber Champion, as in rendition, the alienation from gameplay is rather more thorough than in the above examples. Even game mechanics serve to alienate you from it, being mostly repetitive or variations on a very limited theme. The rules of russian roulette just don’t allow a vast range of subtle tactics. (And rendition doesn't give you much choice either.) Also, you are given hardly no background at all to what brought the PC into the situation in either of these works.

So what remains? Why play such a game?

Well, in the case of rendition, there is of course the political message, but having a political message is hardly enough as far as good-making characteristics go. Actually I never could bring myself to play very far into rendition. Perhaps it’s an interesting experiment rather than good IF.

Six-Chamber Champion I found worth playing through, though.
The reactions of the blood-thirsty audience, the anguish of your opponent, and the heavy cool of the referee are all very well characterized (I was not equally convinced by the PC), and most actions you are likely to take is appropriately implemented.
I doubt that I would like to play my way through a whole tournament of russian roulette like this—even if fictive. But this piece is wisely confined to a single round. Small, in this case, is beautiful … or at least a virtue. Despite the limited size of the work it contains a number of possible endings, and I replayed the whole thing a couple of times to find them.


Byzantine Perspective, by Lea Albaugh

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Short and Novel Maze, February 5, 2010
by Felix Larsson (Gothenburg, Sweden)
Related reviews: [6], gambol

Why! There was another kind of maze to be had after all!

Here you play the role of an art student gone burglar, eyes set on that gem-studded Byzantine chalice in the museum. The main puzzle of this clever little game consists in figuring out how the maze is constructed (and how to familiarize yourself with the things you carry); after that, gameplay is very straightforward and the mission soon completed.

It’s definitely not a game to try unless you are reasonably familiar with IF conventions, though.

(If you want to prolong the fun or just more of a challenge, I suggest you try make do WITHOUT the map feelie provided by the author.)


Figueres in my Basement, by Kazuki Mishima

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Interactive Poetry, January 19, 2010
by Felix Larsson (Gothenburg, Sweden)
Related reviews: literary, poetry, [6]

Like Michael R. Bacon’s Arid and pale, Figueres in My Basement is actually a hypertext collection of lyrical poetry making use of Bacon’s Interactive Poetry Extension for Inform 7.

The reader is presented with the first lines of an as yet unfinished poem, chooses (i.e. types) one of the words from the last line, and the next line of the poem appears—a different next line depending on what word the reader chose to focus on—and so on till the last line.

Mishima’s works have lyrical qualities even in prose, and he has taken care for each of these poems to work as a poem in its own right—which of course is a challenge, given the formal constraint demanding that any two poems in the collection differ only from a given line down.

This is not to say, however, that this is a bunch of grave or overly serious poems—on the contrary, they are fairly playful.

That Figueres works better (for me, at least) than Arid and Pale is, I think, largely due to the fact that there is a discernible connection between the word the reader chooses to focus upon and the line produced as the result of that choice. In Arid and Pale that connection too often felt lacking or just haphazard, whereas in Figueres you feel there is a reason why the poem continues the way it does given that you focus on the words you do.

Something I believe that most any serious future work of this kind of interactive poetry will need is a good reason for the reader to read such a lot of poems that all begin the same. I.e. there should be some meaning to or unity of the collection of poems as a whole over and above the meaning that each particular poem might have and apart from the mere identical lines. (Aisle, e.g., is much the better for the common theme that unites the short stories in that work.)



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