Reviews by AKheon

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What Heart Heard Of, Ghost Guessed, by Amanda Walker

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Elegantly made, October 12, 2021
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: Inform, parser-based, IF Comp 2021, horror

What Heart Heard of, Ghost Guessed is a parser-based game by Amanda Walker, published in 2021. It's a kind of a gothic horror adventure that takes place in Goldengrove, a grand old house with some dark secrets of its own.

The game uses a set of unique verbs, which is something explained quite shortly after you begin the game: (Spoiler - click to show)you are a ghost who is unable to interact with the physical world via regular means. However, your strong emotional responses can cause a variety of haunting-like effects ranging from mirror shattering to limited telekinesis. These new verbs give the game a bit of unique flavor and also make the exploration feel more fresh and exciting than in your average parser adventure game.

The overall gameplay feels pleasantly streamlined and accessible both because of the unique set of verbs that can be recalled at any time but also because of the compact world design. The compactness makes the game feel as if you always have some type of an idea on how to progress, even without the prose containing too much blatant hinting or tutorializing at any point. In a word: the design is elegant.

The writing is somewhat terse and possibly slightly more utilitarian than I would've expected in gothic horror, only dispensing enough details to create basic impressions of the scenery and drive the story forward. It's not particularly lavish or indulgent in any way, which I suppose is another thing that contributes to the game's exceedingly neat and elegant air. (Even the cover is elegant!)

The technical quality is fairly good, with almost everything making sense and working as intended. I did notice a few typos, but it's nothing major. The difficulty seems fair, although I did personally resort to using a walkthrough twice since I couldn't figure out how to get past one door and also missed an important semi-hidden object in one of the rooms.

If the game has some real flaw, it's that it's possibly a little bit too neat and compact. For instance, parts of the game world can feel like they're mostly there in service of the puzzles, although to be fair, this is a pretty common thing in adventure games which rely heavily on puzzle solving. Perhaps the subtle dissonance between gameplay and story necessities felt slightly stronger here since the game does bank a lot on an immersive setting and a solid storyline, and so it stands to lose more compared to a more casual adventure-puzzler that doesn't care about story.

Regarding the story, (Spoiler - click to show)the narrative is centered around various types of emotions as you discover the truth about yourself and Goldengrove, but the comparative simplicity of the execution and character motivations, etc. among other small details kept me from fully connecting. Although I found the story tragic and interesting, it didn't grip me on every level that the game's blurb and the prose might have intended.

The estimated play time of around 2 hours seems accurate, at least if you take your time exploring and avoid the temptation of using hints or walkthroughs. Overall, it's a polished and thoughtful parser-based adventure, and probably worth trying out if you like gothic horror.


Codex Sadistica: A Heavy-Metal Minigame, by grave snail games

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
The power of metal compels you!, October 6, 2021
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: comedy, IF Comp 2021, parser-based, Inform

Codex Sadistica is a parser-based game by grave snail games, published in 2021. You are Scream, a metal vocalist at a tightly packed metal festival that is held up by a pretentious glam metal band. It's up to you and your bandmates to save the day with the power of real metal.

This is a fairly compact, fairly light-hearted puzzling adventure. It has one quite unique puzzle mechanic: you are able to jam with your band members to produce different type of metal genres. The sheer power of music generates different effects, f.e. (Spoiler - click to show)death metal makes people angrier and sludge metal causes literal sludge to spill out and cover the floor. It's a fun system, although the way it's handled in moment-to-moment gameplay does rely rather heavily on trial-and-error. The game is a little bit short for the complexity of the system too - in a way, I felt like the story ended right around the time when I was coming to grips with all the existing genre combinations.

As an avid metal listener, I found the setting and the writing amusing, although there were a few times I couldn't completely follow the game's humor and logic. For example, glam metal is presented as having fantasy themes and a very slow tempo, which doesn't really resemble any glam I've heard in my life. (Spoiler - click to show)As a side note, Mae's tirade about gatekeeping in metal also rings a little hollow since the entire setup of the game is based around heroically ridding the music festival of lesser metal... but maybe that's a part of the joke?

The implementation is somewhat lacking. Many seemingly important things mentioned in the prose haven't been implemented, and the ones that have been implemented typically have generic descriptions. You can't talk to your bandmates outside scripted moments, random NPC dialogue can be intrusive and repetitive, you can't "listen" to get unique responses even though it's a game about music... and so on. The game generally works and can be played to completion, but this type of mild roughness makes figuring out its logic harder, and it also seems like a missed opportunity for additional jokes and lore.

Still, I can say I had a fairly good time with the game. It could be worth a try if you're looking for a short- to medium-length comedic adventure about the power of metal.


Hard Puzzle, by Ade McT

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Redefining the word "puzzle", February 3, 2021
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: horror, parser-based, Inform

Hard Puzzle is a one-room parser-based game by Ade McT, published in 2015. You are a person held in a garage against your will, and you're told that you must assemble a three-legged stool to please your mysterious benefactors, or tormentors, called The Family.

The setting is that of undefined post-apocalyptic sci-fi or horror, with only dramatic proper nouns like The Event hinting at what grave terrors may have occurred in the past. The writing style is terse, which gives the game some sense of mystery - the player doesn't get to learn much about the exact circumstances of the game world, or even what's really at stake with this whole stool assembling operation.

Mystery really is the key thing about Hard Puzzle, and this extends to the gameplay and implementation too. You deal with a lot of different objects during your time in the garage - the stool parts, plus other miscellaneous things you find around the room - and figuring out how to use any of it is, ostensibly, a large part of the gameplay. Many items are discovered by taking apart other items, but the game never explicitly lists what you get when doing this. You have to keep manually checking your inventory, trying to keep a mental track of what is new, what might be useful and how everything connects to everything else. It's all somewhere between engrossing and frustrating.

With the slightly unhelpful and rough implementation, along with certain mechanical quirks that may very well be bugs, the game comes across a bit rough around the edges. Then again, it is said to be a "speed-IF", so maybe this is understandable. Many would even say that the technical shortcomings add to the odd charm of the game.

(Spoiler - click to show)The repetitive nature of trying to assemble the stool eventually makes you question the whole ordeal. You start wondering if, like the intro suggests, there could be a way to escape. As the player is stuck in the minimalistic environment doing the same things over and over again, even the mechanical quirks themselves acquire a significant meaning. For example, I personally started wondering whether the weirdly teleporting assembled stool could be used to leave the room. The way the fourth wall is broken here and there also casts doubt on everything the game claims to be about. Are the apparent implementation flaws a part of the design after all? What parts of Hard Puzzle are red herrings? Is it really a speed-IF? Can you take anything about the game for certain on a meta-level?

(Spoiler - click to show)Hard Puzzle is a trollish meta-game that is veiled in misinformation and deception. It's a puzzle game where the player knows neither the rules or the objective. It's a dysfunctional sandbox with a lot of moving parts that don't connect to each other. It's a contrived enigma. My opinion is that while the meta aspect is clever, it is essentially a game designed to waste the player's time.


The Eleusinian Miseries, by Mike Russo

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Delectable and farcical, December 6, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: comedy, IF Comp 2020, parser-based, Inform

The Eleusinian Miseries is a parser-based comedy game by Mike Russo, published in 2020. The game is about partaking in secret religious rites in Eleusis, (Spoiler - click to show)although in practice itís close to just being an excuse to gorge on food and drink, at least as far as the main character is concerned.

The game is, above all else, a puzzler. It consists of several mostly self-contained scenes with clear goals on what to do. The design is streamlined enough that itís usually not hard to figure out what to do, although sometimes locating needed items or understanding how to complete the various objectives might be a problem. I personally got stumped at a few parts, but I wouldnít say the design here is unfair in any respect.

The writing is rather verbose but polished. The game presents itself as a farce, and it definitely has some comical, unfortunate situations in store for the hero. The narrator voice has a lot of personality, being jovial yet a bit dainty and spoiled - it really fits the character of a cultured wastrel with a short attention span.

A part of me was expecting the game to go even further in some respects. The tone of the comedy strives to stay rather clean and prim at all times, which might clash a little bit with the hedonism- and debauchery-laden setting. Then again, Iím not too familiar with the major inspirations behind the story, or historical farce in general. Maybe this is the most authentic approach for this style? I couldnít say.

With around 2 hours playtime and a detailed implementation that is fun to mess around with, thereís a good amount of content to be found in The Eleusinian Miseries. Itís worth checking out for a solid puzzler, especially if youíre interested in anything pertaining to ancient Greece.


Turbo Chest Hair Massacre, by Joey Acrimonious

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The things people will do for love, December 2, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020, parser-based, Inform, comedy

Turbo Chest Hair Massacre is a parser-based comedy game by Joey Acrimonious, published in 2020. In it, youíre a woman about to go on a date when you suddenly discover you have some light chest hair you need to shave.

The gameplay is exploration-heavy - you mainly search around your apartment for ways to get rid of your chest hair. You are also able to switch between the point of view of yourself and a robotic colleague who is present. The narrative voice completely changes depending on who youíre playing as, which is a very nice touch that adds a lot of personality to the experience.

The tone of the story is pretty light-hearted, although sometimes all the naughtiness, innuendo and (Spoiler - click to show)the main characterís recklessly stupid behavior can border on the limits of good taste. Personally, I think good taste is a bit overrated anyway, but this is still useful to note since some players will inevitably find crassness of any sort a turn-off.

I feel like itís hard to get enough information about your surroundings in this game. The room descriptions only mention objects on a very general level; if you want to know whatís really inside some room, you need to examine individual things to reveal more individual things again and again. Opening a container doesnít seem to automatically list its contents, and the ďsearchĒ command can be criminally unhelpful at times too. It doesnít help that the rooms are generally full of red herrings and other detail that makes it harder to know whatís really relevant to the problem at hand. One final layer of confusion stems from the fact that (Spoiler - click to show)the two main characters see the world slightly differently, each listing different things in their room description - realizing this is necessary to solve some of the puzzles in the game.

Since most of the gameplay is centered around nearly unguided exploration and discovery, and the design is non-linear, plus the gameís train of thought can be rather eccentric at times (Spoiler - click to show)(you have to weaponize old yogurt against the final bossÖ?), my playthrough of the game felt sprawling, aimless and mildly desperate. But I guess you could say itís exactly what the story was going for, since the main character too doesnít know what sheís doing, and sheís willing to go to immense lengths just to rid herself of a bit of hair. Fortunately, thereís a walkthrough - it should come in handy with a few of the puzzles here.

This game could be worth playing if you want something with personality and outrageous humor, and are willing to deal with a lot of unguided exploration.


Sage Sanctum Scramble, by Arthur DiBianca

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Wordplay game with a brutal challenge, December 1, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020, parser-based, Inform, fantasy, wordplay

Sage Sanctum Scramble is a parser-based game by Arthur DiBianca, published in 2020. The game is about collecting keywords to save a fantasy realm.

The story is very thin, essentially just an excuse to get the player to engage in puzzle solving and wordplay, which the game is full of. Instead of typing full sentences you only have to type single words to progress. Each new puzzle presents a simple clue - or a series of clues - that lead you to the needed answer. Solved puzzles unlock new puzzles, and the non-linear structure of the game allows you to skip a few if they prove too hard.

I havenít played many other wordplay-focused games before, so the idea seems fresh to me. Figuring out solutions and making progress feels good, as youíd expect in a puzzle game that forces the player to really think, and the game is generally quite polished as well - thereís little to distract from the onslaught of brain teasers here.

One significant issue for me, being a non-native English speaker, is that the game is generally quite difficult. Having to think of (Spoiler - click to show)20 different colors or specific-length names for trees, etc. requires some specialized enough lingo that itís virtually impossible to win without consulting a dictionary or similar. At worst the gameplay becomes a matter of browsing an online dictionary and trying out different answers as they come - at that point I canít say it's fun any longer.

The flimsy setting could also be an acquired taste. At times I felt like there wasnít much motivating me to push forward, other than the mild rush I got from my occasional victory over the gameís logic. (Spoiler - click to show)Apparently you fight a boss at the end, but I never got that far.

This game is perfect for people who are proficient in English and for whom wordplay is its own reward. For anyone else, it could still be worth a try since the style is so original, but the experience may have a few frustrations.


Alone, by Paul Michael Winters

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Post-apocalyptic puzzling, December 1, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020, parser-based, Inform, horror

Alone is a parser-based horror game by Paul Michael Winters, published in 2020. The game is about a post-apocalyptic scenario where an infectious disease has ravaged the earth and youíre a survivor, just drifting aimlessly... at least until gas runs out of your car.

Itís basically a tightly designed, gloomy puzzle-fest. The design feels pleasantly streamlined - the game world isnít overwhelmingly big, and as befits a world half-empty, most rooms donít have too much to examine either. At least up to a certain point, the challenge of the game feels just right - itís neither too hard or too easy to figure out what youíre supposed to do.

The writing is terse and subdued, which works with this type of horror. The tone of the game manages to be consistently morose, although to criticize something, (Spoiler - click to show)the setting isnít particularly original - from a dark forest to an abandoned gas station to the underground bunker - nor is there any major twist awaiting here that would turn it all upside down in the end. This overall story feels a bit ho-hum, although to the gameís credit, the ending is surprisingly optimistic and leaves a nice feeling, and the gameís focus seems to be on puzzles anyway.

The polish is generally good, although sometimes the implementation felt just slightly lacking. Some things donít exist in the game world that seem like they should, but I donít think there are any problems that really hamper a regular playthrough.

The game can be finished under 2 hours if you donít get stuck on anything for too long. It could be worth a try if you want a solid puzzle-focused adventure and donít mind some unsightly horror imagery.


Academic Pursuits (As Opposed To Regular Pursuits), by ruqiyah

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Office decoration and mild revelations, December 1, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020, parser-based, Inform

Academic Pursuits (As Opposed To Regular Pursuits) is a parser-based game by Ruqiyah, published in 2020. In it, youíre a newly tenured professor who has arrived in her new office and has to unpack her things. Along the way, (Spoiler - click to show)you discover that you are not what you seem and have a secret agenda.

Itís a one-room game where the gameplay mostly concerns interacting with objects. You open boxes, take out things and then decide where theyíll end up: on the shelf, on the wall, etc. or straight in the garbage bin. Itís like a small sandbox with a few simulationist mechanics too; for instance, the game keeps track of available shelf space, and you can only hang certain type of objects on the wall.

The storytelling is non-linear and subtle. The player isnít given a very deep motivation at any point - youíre just expected to unpack your things. Examining and interacting with the items you find generates some useful story and flavor text, though, and the game world actually has a lot of detail that rewards the inquisitive player - there is even unique text in response to the multiple different ways you can decorate your office.

This was one of the first games I played during IF Comp 2020, and back then I found that it lacked polish. Dealing with the boxes was a bit awkward, and you could also ďtake passerbyĒ to pick up what should probably be a scenery object. Since then, however, it seems the author has went and fixed a lot of these bugs, so the game probably works much more smoothly nowadays.

Overall, Academic Pursuits is a bit of a mixed bag. The indirect storytelling is interesting, although I do wish the player was given a bit stronger motivation to start with. The gameplay has some meaningful decision making, but it also contains hassle from dealing with dozens of objects and their containers (especially since the coding has - or had - mild roughness here and there). Itís an original idea, at least, so it could be worth checking out if you have 30 minutes and want to try out something different.


Sheep Crossing, by Andrew Geng

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Lightweight delivery, December 1, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: humor, parser-based, IF Comp 2020, Inform

Sheep Crossing is a parser-based game by Andrew Geng, published in 2020. In it, you need to take a bear, a sheep and a large cabbage to the other side of a river. If this setup sounds familiar, itís because the game is essentially presenting the age-old ďWolf, goat and cabbage problemĒ in an Interactive Fiction-format.

The writing and implementation are both pretty minimal. The game doesnít establish much of a tone beyond being mildly charming - itís first and foremost just a puzzler. And since the main puzzle is historical, you might already have a decent idea on how to solve it due to cultural saturation alone.

The game works as intended, and it has a few small secrets that you can read about from the ďamusingĒ menu after beating it. But itís overall a somewhat small and light affair, and it can lack surprise value too since the main puzzle is played pretty straight - (Spoiler - click to show)the only real curveball is having to find some grass first to get the sheep to comply. I think the game would have benefitted from going a bit further and possibly featuring some larger twist to the core idea. Still, it could be worth a try if youíre looking for a quick puzzler.


Mortal Kombat: Fire and Ice, by James Mullish

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Practice-mode, September 25, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: Inform, parser-based

Mortal Kombat: Fire and Ice is a fan-fic parser-based game by James Mullish, published in 2020. In it, you play as Sub-Zero and have to defend Earthrealm by (Spoiler - click to show)walking one screen to the east and punching two guys.

This seems to be a practice game by the author. It only has two rooms and a bare minimum of interactivity; the help-screen also suggests this may be the author's first work.

Neither the writing or the implementation lend themselves to some fantastic Mortal Kombat-brand adventures; the silliest part is how trying to fight most characters results in the default message "Violence isn't the answer to this one". Like, it's Mortal Kombat. When isn't violence the answer to something in this setting?

Congrats to the author for learning the basics of Inform 7. However, as a stand-alone game, there isn't much to see here.


Keepsake, by Savaric

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Mulling over murder, September 22, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2011, surreal, parser-based, Inform

Keepsake is a surreal parser-based game by Savaric, published in 2011. The story begins with the main character having just committed murder. Afterwards, (Spoiler - click to show)the game shows you what happened immediately before the murder through scenes playing in reverse, although this is not explicitly told to the player at any point during the story.

The ambiguity gives the game a sense of mystery at first. The game prompts you to escape the scene of the crime, and you do so, but then (Spoiler - click to show)you start seeing things in double and it feels like you have stumbled upon some strange time paradox. The tone of the game is uncanny, yet it has a sense of creeping fatalism to it too.

The writing is clear and functional, giving the gameplay an appropriate sense of urgency and mystery. I didn't notice anything wrong with the implementation either, although (Spoiler - click to show)having two similar things in many rooms does cause a lot of ambiguity questions.

It's a fairly short game, only 10 - 15 minutes long, but the ending changes a bit depending on what you did during the game and (Spoiler - click to show)you also see the game in a whole new light the second time around so in practice you will probably want to replay it at least once or twice.

But eventually you realize that (Spoiler - click to show)this is really just a very mildly branching and somewhat undeveloped crime story that is told out of order. The only thing your choices affect is whether you are a nice murderer or a slightly less nice murderer; a detail which seems incidental in the bigger picture. In this sense I would say the journey is far more interesting than the destination.

Keepsake could be worth a try if you're looking for something fairly quick yet different. It doesn't have hard puzzles, but it can still be challenging and refreshing in its own way.


Symetry, by Ryan Stevens

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Mirror mirror off-the-wall, September 22, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 1997, horror, parser-based, Inform

Symetry is a short parser-based horror game by Ryan Stevens, or Rybread, published in 1997. It's about a posh aristocrat who has an encounter with a haunted mirror.

With a small game world and a completely linear story, the gameplay basically boils down to figuring out the next command that lets you progress; sometimes it's easy, sometimes hard. The design is usually not very intuitive; for instance, the first item you find is a letter opener, but you don't even use it to open the envelope that you are carrying. The worst part is (Spoiler - click to show)the finale where plot-critical clothing - a night gown - appears on your character out of nowhere in the middle of a frantic timed section. I don't think this section is impossible to figure out without a walkthrough, but it's still quite nonsensical and unfair to the player.

The writing style is both pretentiously ornate and riddled with typos, like a bad imitation of classic gothic horror. The poor writing and the pompous yet crude tone almost makes Symetry seem like some sort of a parody game. Who knows, maybe it is? But to the game's credit, some of the imagery is otherworldly enough that it does have a somewhat memorable or unnerving effect.

The game has some bugs too. On my first playthrough I somehow managed to turn off the lamp so that I ended up in complete darkness with nothing happening afterwards, although I no longer remember what command created this result.

The game comes with a walkthrough as well as some other "bonuses" which seem fairly random.

With a better implementation and writing Symetry could have been a decent horror title. But, as it stands, it's closer to a clunky curiosity. It could still offer some fun for 15 minutes if you're willing to accept a few design shortcomings and other peculiarities.


Toiletworld, by Chet Rocketfrak

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Not enough toilets, September 22, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: parser-based, comedy, IF Comp 2016, Inform

Toiletworld is a parser-based comedy / troll game made by "Chet Rocketfrak" for IFComp 2016. I spontaneously gave this game a try because I thought the title was too silly to pass.

The game begins inside the titular Toiletworld, seemingly a bizarre dimension with a fractal arrangement of toilets. Toilets within toilets down to an atomic level, most likely. Such surreal toilet-shaped wonders!

Unfortunately, it quickly becomes apparent that the game is little more than a throwaway joke at the expense of the player. The room texts are pointless and misleading, many directions are not listed, items have weird debug-names that are arduous to type, there are no puzzles or meaningful interactivity or an overarching goal to the game. Most insultingly of all, I couldn't find a single toilet that was actually implemented. While you can type "in" to go deeper in some rooms, that's just a regular room entrance and not a fully implemented toilet.

Some bad games become endearing through the effort that was put into them. There's no effort here. The game has a dire lack of amusing things, and a player who is planning on having the slightest bit of fun in Toiletworld really has their work cut out for them... although there is irony in the fact that a game named Toiletworld is completely bereft of toilet humor.

It's all just a cruel subversion of expectations, that's what it is. I suppose it's not saying much, but I really did expect more of Toiletworld. As it stands, this game is not worth dipping one's feet in. (Is this a toilet-related pun? I can no longer tell...)

If you're still planning on giving it a try, here's a small hint for dealing with the items: (Spoiler - click to show)type "take all" in each room instead of dealing with the hassle of the long item names. This also tells you if you can even pick up the items, as some of them are arbitrarily fixed in place to mock the player for even trying. You can also use "take all" to pick up the eight nameless items in the secret room to the north, not that they have a real use anywhere.


Afflicted, by Doug Egan

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
When health inspections go wrong, September 18, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2008, horror, parser-based, Inform

Afflicted is a parser-based horror game by Doug Egan, published in 2008. You're a health inspector who is supposed to inspect an extraordinarily seedy bar called Nikolai's Bar and Grill. The core gameplay involves moving around the bar and gathering information by examining things and talking to people; there's some light puzzle solving to do as well.

You have a notebook that you can use to mark down any health code violations you find. Using it acts as the game's score system too: every infraction you list makes Nikolai's Bar and Grill lose points. A big part of the game's charm lies in simply finding as many infractions as you can while reading colorful descriptions about the Bar's filthiness and seeing the score sink deep, deep into the negative.

The game is pretty easy on the player. While there are some actions that lead to untimely game overs, it's easy to deduce from context when doing something is a bad idea. The game doesn't lock the player out of success either; like the IFDB-page of the game says, it's always possible to reach *an* ending.

The writing is generally good. There is dark comedy in how over-the-top it can get, not to mention some of the multiple endings are also quite humorous in tone.

Sadly, Afflicted could have used some more polish. One example of this is the slightly inconsistently handled player scope. To simulate outdoor areas and windows, the game often adds things into player scope that are not in the same room as the player. This can be mildly confusing, and in one case it directly makes a puzzle harder to figure out: (Spoiler - click to show)at the start of the game "x window" gives you the message for the Bar's front window no matter your location. This is bad because there are three different windows in the area and you have to "knock" on a specific one to progress in the game but the buggy examination message makes it seem like there is only one window.

Another example of slightly lacking mechanics is the (Spoiler - click to show)anti-climactic end game. The villains aren't programmed to do anything very threatening - they just hang around waiting for you to solve some more puzzles.

Besides that, some descriptions lack a punctuation, examining the mirror gives a slightly buggy message, some objects in the game world partially share a name which leads to constant disambiguation questions... Small rough spots like this can be slightly immersion breaking.

Still, Afflicted is a decently fun way to spend one or two hours. The game is not too difficult to complete, especially since it offers an internal hint system for any subjectively tricky moments. It has personality and some gruesome imagery, so you'll probably like it if you're a fan of parser-based horror.


Mystery Science Theater 3000 Presents "Detective", by C. E. Forman, Matt Barringer, Graeme Cree, and Stuart Moore

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
The flimsiest of detective adventures (now with a comment track), September 12, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: parser-based, comedy, IF Comp 1995, Inform

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Presents "Detective" is a parser-based game from 1995 by C. E. Forman, Graeme Cree and Stuart Moore. Its sole purpose is to be an interactive satirical commentary of Detective, an infamous low quality IF title from 1993. The game uses the characters from Mystery Science Theater 3000, a TV show that was all about riffing on bad films, for this purpose. (Isn't this a bit iffy copyright-wise, though?)

After an optional intro and explanation, you are left playing Detective as normal, although the game will print some additional lines as you move from room to room and try doing various things. The presentation ends up looking slightly cluttered as the text of the original game is frequently disturbed by out-of-world dialogue, but I guess it can't really be helped in a strictly text-based format like this.

Detective is not necessarily a bad game choice for this sort of meta-commentary. After all, it's short and easy, plus you have a flimsy storyline and implementation to make jokes about. However, a lot of the humor here is riding on the idea that Detective is not only bad, but it's spectacularly, heinously, criminally bad... which I don't fully agree with. I think Detective is fairly painless as far as bad games go, and the constant exaggeration of its badness just seems uncharitable, even insecure, as if MST3000 Presents "Detective" was trying a bit too hard to justify its own existence.

This game also doesn't elevate the source material by all that much. The jokes mostly consist of someone pointing out the obvious, for instance how some bits in the writing are redundant or how the room connections are bizarre. It doesn't help that Detective is a very simple game where the same type of mistakes crop up again and again, which means the riffing also ends up being pretty repetitive. So, while I would say the commentary has its fun moments, it's overall a bit one-note and limited in its effect.

If nothing else, MST3000 Presents "Detective" is a success on its own terms. The writing does justice to the style of the TV show, and while personally I would've preferred a more informative commentary over unceasing sarcastic complaining and snide one-liners, the game essentially does exactly as advertised. It's pretty unique too, as there aren't many games out there that have this angle. Could be worth exploring if you have half an hour.


Detective, by Matt Barringer

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
The flimsiest of detective adventures, September 11, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: mystery, parser-based, Inform

Detective is a fairly short and simple parser-based game made by Matt Barringer in 1993. You play as a detective who is ordered by the Chief to solve a crime. To do this, you progress through a series of rooms and (optionally) interact with various clues and items scattered around. There is a score system, and you are awarded points for picking things up and finding new areas. Eventually the plot thickens as (Spoiler - click to show)you find out that it could be a group of vigilantes orchestrating the murders. There's also a werewolf, or something.

Apparently the author was only 12 years old when he made this game. Unfortunately, it shows, as the game is rife with various types of implementation and writing errors. Besides the main character and a few items you can pick up, essentially nothing exists in the game world. There are no puzzles, and almost none of the items do anything beyond giving you some points. While the game is entirely linear, the room layout is rather confusing, with a lot of dead ends, one-way exits and even an instance or two of rooms seemingly overlapping. The room descriptions are also misleading, with mentions of items even after you have picked them up. All of this makes the whole adventure seem nonsensical at best.

The narrator voice is slightly smarmy in a very pre-teen sort of a way, regularly breaking the fourth wall and sometimes mildly teasing the player if they - by trial-and-error - accidentally enter rooms which are dead ends or contain a random game over. It can be slightly amusing at first, but it also leaves the whole storytelling aspect of the game very unconvincing.

So, is there something this game does right? Yes! The ending where (Spoiler - click to show)the killer is caught and the "Jurrasic Park" (sic) theme song starts playing in your head actually made me laugh out loud. It was suitably uplifting and somehow made the whole short trip feel worth it, if only barely.

So, if you have 10 to 15 minutes to kill and wish to embark on the flimsiest of detective adventures, this game isn't a bad pick.


The Fat Lardo and the Rubber Ducky, by Anonymous

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
The game's title says it all, August 26, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: parser-based, comedy, IF Comp 2003, Inform

The Fat Lardo and the Rubber Ducky is a very short, seemingly aimless parser-based game from 2003. Its flippant subject matter caught my attention, so I decided to give it a try.

You are apparently an obese, simple-minded man confined in a small room with a rubber duck. You are invited to pick up the duck and use various verbs on it to see what happens, but in the process the narrator will insult you.

I must admit that the extremely abusive, foul-mouthed narrator voice caught me off guard at first, making me laugh out loud. It's not very often you get a narrator like this in Interactive Fiction, so the game is pretty unique in this respect. I even thought whether (Spoiler - click to show)we could be dealing with a completely unreliable narrator here. He does seem to be quite petty and intent on disliking you, so he probably wouldn't be above embellishing some important details about how ugly, fat, clumsy, dumb and gassy your character actually is. But the truth of the matter is probably irrelevant, since almost nothing happens in this game. There are no big character moments, no grand revelation, no heartbreaks to mend (except maybe the player's own, if they listen to the insults for long enough).

The implementation is better than you'd expect, but still not very thorough. There are only two things to interact with: the player and the duck. Many standard verbs give generic messages. A lot of the verbs hinted by the prose do nothing. Especially by modern parser-based game standards, it comes across somewhat inconsistent and slight, and it doesn't help that the humor is pretty one-note as well.

This game might be fun for 10 - 15 minutes if you're someone with a dark sense of humor (like me) and also enough of a pedantic completionist that you'd try scrounging the limits of a joke game to find all the verbs that work (also like me). But for anyone else, might be the best to steer clear...

Oh, and I did find an ending (of sort) to the game: (Spoiler - click to show)by typing "xyzzy".



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