Ratings and Reviews by mazirian

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View this member's reviews by tag: comedy deduction fantasy IF Comp 2006 IF Comp 2007 IF Comp 2008 intrigue mystery narrative focussed politics randomized elements science fiction single room story focussed
1-6 of 6


Floatpoint, by Emily Short

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful:
You take up the seed by the least drippy part., November 30, 2008

Floatpoint is an excellently written scifi story played to a point where an important decision must be made; then you make it. More specifically, you play an ambassador from Earth sent to an imperiled planet of genetically divergent humans. Your job is to learn enough about the people here and at home to set the terms of a possible relocation of these now-aliens to Earth.

The game text is well written indeed. This is classic science fiction filled with clever little elements I really appreciated--such as a borrowing of or convergence on Jack Vance's "comporture." Exposition at length is mercifully avoided in favor of brief, imagination triggering descriptions. The issue the game presents you is almost certainly connected to any of a dozen cultural battles you are already familiar with, so it should have something to offer everyone. If, however, you don't appreciate the tale she's spinning (or you find it too contrived), then you won't find much else to keep your interest. In other words, this game is absolutely not about puzzles (there are none).

There is some clever coding here too: a PDA-like interface to the game that obviates the need for player generated notes, and in game email. But there is also a glaring bug that interferes with an important thread of the game. [N.B.: get off you hover unit and the bug goes away (I think).]

In the end, however, I found that the length and fullness of the story came up short (so to speak) so that the whole thing felt a bit like an examination question or simple thought exercise. A bit more development of the characters, a few more juicy details, and this might have been avoided. The game is still very worthwhile for the excellent writing alone.


An Act of Murder, by Christopher Huang

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful:
Violins isn't the answer to this one., November 30, 2008
by mazirian (Yarmouth, Maine)
Related reviews: If Comp 2007, mystery, deduction, randomized elements

Act of Murder is interactive fiction in the style of an Agatha Christie murder mystery: an old manor in the countryside, five suspects and a dead body. You're charged with sorting out this whodunit in two hours or else face the displeasure of the Chief Inspector. Christopher Huang has added an additional layer of mystery to the game by randomizing the "who" in whodunit when the game initializes--the motives, clues and even the interactive hint system all switch to correspond with the randomly chosen culprit. This is a nice touch, and while I suppose it's intended to address replayability, I can't say I was in fact tempted to replay it. But that's not to say that this isn't a very good game; it certainly is. The writing is spare, but universally excellent and there are almost no typographical errors. The descriptions are not so filled with red herrings so that you go off chasing the wrong ideas, but do include just a few irrelevancies to turn you about here and there. The simple deduction puzzle that is at the heart of this game won't overly frustrate one, but still keeps one engaged. Technically speaking, the use of an inspector's notebook is helpful and clever and dispenses with the need for paper notes, but the notebook can inadvertently reveal the names of some objects that one has not yet unveiled through natural game play. Oddly, deducing the killer may not be the hardest part of the game--or at least it wasn't for me. The harder part was laying out the case before the Chief Inspector when he arrives. I don't think it is a spoiler to note here that if one fails to provide him with all of the evidence uncovered, the guilty party may escape prosecution on a not guilty verdict (which is so unsatisfying!). In other words, the prosecution of the case rests entirely on the evidence you relate to the Inspector at the end, so take care there.


Varkana, by Maryam Gousheh-Forgeot

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
If you build it, they *might* come., November 26, 2008
by mazirian (Yarmouth, Maine)
Related reviews: fantasy, If Comp 2007, intrigue

This is a romantic fantasy adventure in what I believe to be the style of writers like Mercedes Lackey and Tamora Pierce. The game relies a lot on its world-building, and it is an interesting setting to be sure. As a result, however, there is an initial avalanche of exposition that is overwhelming and causes things to get off to a clumsy start as you have to remember a host of fantasy names to inquire about. The style settles down, though, as you are firmly directed into a series of tasks. The story is mildly engaging, with decent writing and minimal (but a few) typographical errors. The author is forthright about a bug that interferes with the questioning of other characters, but this is only a minor nuisance once you are aware of it. There is a sudden, jarring leap into overdrive near the end of the story that seemed somewhat out of place, but may be good to know about up front if you find the early parts too slow.

N.B.: I play in text mode only, so I cannot comment on the art, but there is a very convenient ASCII map for which I thank the author.


Nightfall, by Eric Eve

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
It was a dark and lonely night ..., November 26, 2008
by mazirian (Yarmouth, Maine)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2008, mystery

The premise of the game is that you have ignored a mandatory evacuation of your home town in order to remain behind and find a woman important to your past. Why she's important and why the town was evacuated are matters one is left to discover by collecting recollections strewn across a rather large map of the town. The game hits just the right tone of mystery in serving up descriptions of the deserted town and the memories that each location prompts. Technically, the game is just excellently crafted, and this was perhaps its strongest selling point for me in the end. Although there are a number of methods the designer employs to keep one from wandering aimlessly, none of these are so obvious that it overly interferes with one's immersion in the game. The story, however, suffers from a minor flaw: perhaps because the designer was unsure how many locations a player would investigate in the course of the game, he left a number of clues as to a certain character's personality that tend to pile up in a suspension-of-disbelief-crushing way if one investigates too thoroughly. That issue aside, this game fully kept my attention for the somewhat more than two hours that I played it.


Violet, by Jeremy Freese

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful:
My favorite xyzzy response ever., November 26, 2008
by mazirian (Yarmouth, Maine)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2008, comedy, single room

Violet is entirely responsible for rekindling my interest in interactive fiction recently. The interesting aspects of this game are amply highlighted in the other positive reviews here--that it's a single room game where everything, even metagame response, is conveyed in the voice of the protagonist's girlfriend. In the hands of a less capable author this would have quickly turned into an annoying gimmick, but Freese avoids that fate so thoroughly that I was actually sad when the game was over. Everything, from the nature of the puzzles (battling procrastination) to the never ending stream of increasingly bizarre pet names (lemon squidgie?), fits together perfectly, and almost nothing in the coding of the game was irksome. The single negative review below (at the time of this review) can only be the result of an unfortunate, soul-crushing cynicism.


Lost Pig, by Admiral Jota

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Making fun of orcs never gets old., November 25, 2008
by mazirian (Yarmouth, Maine)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2007, comedy, fantasy

A short but fun game that relies on the inherent humor of its orc protagonist. Fortunately, the game is easily solved before the joke of doing things to your pants wears thin. This would be a great introductory game for anyone new to IF.



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