Reviews by Walter Sandsquish

Trivially-Challenging

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1-9 of 9


The Underoos that Ate New York!, by G. Kevin Wilson

0 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Goofy, March 11, 2021

"Underoos" is a nicely-designed game with a silly premise and several clever puzzles. There's not much in this goofy homage to monster movies, but what is here is fun.


In Memory, by Jacqueline A. Lott

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Passive, March 10, 2021

"In Memory" places the player in a surreal environment and prompts him to reminisce about a hazily-remembered past. While the game's ambiguous situation creates an engaging sense of mystery, the game's prompting inhibits the player's sense of agency.

Presumably, any reasonable response to the game's prompts should be accepted and used in feedback, but this doesn't work as often as it would need to in order to evoke the emotional response it wants. This turns "In Memory's" interaction with the player into an unintentional guess-the-word game. Even if the player can win this guessing game, his inability to change the game-state in any significant way hampers the game's intriguing premise.

Still, Jacqueline A. Lott's writing conveys feeling without becoming sentimental, and it effectively foreshadows the game's ending by making use of some common folklore without giving away the game through obvious cliches.


The Magpie Takes the Train, by Mathbrush

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Cheeky, November 25, 2020

Characters deliver back-handed compliments, subtle put-downs, and blunt reminders of social station to each other in "The Magpie Takes the Train." They are so absorbed with maintaining their own class personas they can't suspect that someone right in front of them is changing his own social standing with disguises every time the train enters a tunnel.

This cheeky, class-based humor is plenty of fun, but a few implementation problems occasionally mar game-play. Possessives aren't recognized, so terms like "Horus' talons" or the "Viscount's neck" produce unhelpful responses. "Change into" isn't a verb, which is odd for a game about costume changes. Even stranger, "costume" isn't always understood, for instance "maintenance costume" isn't recognized, but "maintenance uniform" is.

Also, a design decision hampers the generally enjoyable game-play. The "say topic" conversation system results in awkward, unintuitive commands, the topics don't have synonyms, and the topic announcements are intrusive and reduce player agency.

Otherwise, "Magpie's" game design is remarkably enjoyable. It features a set of iterative puzzles, which reveal new puzzles, which disclose more about the amusing situation, all of which reinforce the stifling class-conscious world the Magpie happily exploits.

"The Magpie Takes the Train" is first-class game hampered only by an odd design choice and a few implementation oversights.


Jay Schilling's Edge of Chaos, by Robb Sherwin, Mike Sousa

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Underdeveloped, October 6, 2020

"Edge of Chaos" has the makings of an interesting game. The player-character, Jay Schilling, is well-defined, childish and petulant, and surprisingly unsuited for his work as a private detective. He, for instance, constantly makes assumptions about people at a glance, even though his job is to investigate them.

This creates an opportunity to play with both the problems that Jay's character would create while attempting to perform his job and the problems the player will likely have with Jay while attempting to guide him through his investigation.

But, instead, the game just allows Jay to do things without the player guiding him, and then prompts the player to do Jay-like things when the player is given the opportunity to play. This reduces player agency to a frustrating level. Worse, the game's keyword-based conversation system breaks the interface's imperative-sentence format, forcing it to reveal topics the player no longer has the opportunity to discover though game-play.

"Edge of Chaos" is a missed opportunity to allow the player to experience the consequences of clinging to a puerile outlook in a situation which should require the player-character to adopt a more mature approach involving research, empathy, and reasoning.


Very Old Dog, by Tony Delgado

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A Romp, August 10, 2020

A cheerful take on the "dog ate my homework" excuse and the "can't teach a old dog new tricks" adage, "A Very Old Dog" follows the player-character's attempts to housebreak a grad student's science experiment.

This experiment is a playfully menacing pet, and your attempts to train him involve diverting, but straight-forward, puzzles. Unfortunately, a bug in the game's auto-naming feature can break the game, so name your new pet yourself, and you'll likely enjoy this little romp.


Labour's Letters Lost, by Christopher Huang

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Proper, July 20, 2020

"Labour's Letters Lost" portrays Edwardian England's sense of class and propriety properly. The player-character's friend is, after all, quite embarrassed that he meant to call your father, instead of you, for help. And neither he, nor anyone else, would like to admit they would wear eye glasses, though it might be helpful if they would. Speaking of the help, they would never allow that they might be interested in their employer's business, and the PC would never intrude on them by going downstairs to see if that's actually the case. You won't even ask about the particulars of the letters you're searching for until it can't be avoided.

But, the PC will take the kind of proper notes that will help the player sort through what can't be said as well as what has been. The notes, as it turns out, are the real focus of game-play.

Unfortunately, Huang's implementation isn't quite as proper as his characters. "Talk to" is described as a more general form of interrogation than "ask about," but "ask about" does not even reveal the information that "talk to" does. This makes interviewing frustrating, because "talk to" chooses the subject for you and "ask about," which should allow you to get to the particulars you're interested in, works very infrequently.

Fortunately, these coding problems don't make the game unplayable or even particularity unpleasant. "Labour's Letters Lost" is still a suitably proper example of a cozy mystery.


Pick Up The Phone Booth And Die, by Rob Noyes

1 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Pointless, February 2, 2011

Just read the title instead.


Shade, by Andrew Plotkin

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Surreal, February 2, 2011

Odd, eerie, surrealistic, and foreboding, "Shade's" mood is its real attraction. The game's only "puzzle" is actually a very clever meta-puzzle; once you've noticed what all the significant commands in the game have in common, you'll get the gimmick and soon find yourself at the game's notorious ending.


Chickens of Distinction, by Liza Daly

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Plucky, February 2, 2011

This "Chicken Comp" entry is a cute, one-puzzle game distinguished by incisive writing and slapstick humor.



1-9 of 9