I've not played a keyword-based IF before; the approach certainly solves the divine-the-verb issue. Not quite a CYOA, but not as complex as a conventional IF, it falls somewhere in between. It's a big Internet, though, and I think there's room for this sort of thing.
It's a very brief story, but the author manages to suggest a fair bit of setting in relatively little text. Characterization was somewhat limited: the player character's definition revolves entirely around one key factor in their life. I would have liked more--more story, more background, more characterization. That it feels in need of fleshing out is perhaps a flaw; that I am intrigued enough to want more is perhaps a strength.
In any case, it's certainly worth a few minutes of your time.
Many have reviewed this, so I won't spend too much time praising the particulars. Given my own interest in horror stories and the almost universal high reviews, this seemed like an obvious choice for a dark and stormy night after the kids were asleep. (It was a good choice.)
This one frustrated me in a few places, but the hints were excellently graded such that you had plenty of "nudges" to work it out for yourself before the game gave up on you and told you what you needed to do. I completely missed the chance to put the final pieces together, as far as what is going on, but on reflection (and a few replays from a well-timed save game) I can't blame the game for that at all; the clues were there, I simply didn't attach much significance to them. Paying attention to detail pays off.
Multiple solutions to the final conundrum. Make sure to read the appendix (sort of an afterword) after each ending before trying for a different one, since that changes with the endings, too. I haven't found everything yet, but I expect I will start over from scratch sooner rather than later so I can better appreciate the stuff I missed the first time.
...though perhaps that was part of the point.
Initially, I felt like I was humoring the game, waiting for it to give me some reason to do something. Then I was weirded out. Then I was very weirded out. (Spoiler - click to show)Having spent some time in Afghanistan, I am more familiar than I care to be with sand that gets in everything--I had a rather strong emotional reaction as things started getting, er, shifty.
Unfortunately, after a while, I just started getting annoyed. Part of that is simply from inexperience with the medium--I have not done many of these, and I have a better sense now of what is needed to progress than I did starting out. But after a while it became clear that everything was heading in a certain direction, and it was only left to me to figure out the right keywords to make it go that way in a timely fashion; this is where the annoyance really came in.
The ending was odd. It's hard to strike just the right note of ambiguity without leaving most people scratching their heads wondering what just happened. For me, it wasn't quite right, but other people apparently were enthralled with it, so I'm not willing to criticize too much.
Enjoyable. Creepy, particularly if you have spent much time in deserts. The more I think about it, the more I like it. Even if you end up hating it, you'll probably think about it a bit, and it only took this tyro about 50 minutes--surely you can spare an hour.