Reviews by AKheon

choice-based

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Chorus, by Skarn

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Bureaucratic dark fantasy, December 1, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020, choice-based, fantasy

Chorus is a choice-based fantasy game by Skarn, published in 2020. The game is about an organization of strange creatures who are trying to complete three community projects, such as cataloging old books.

The gameplay is about choosing which of the numerous characters will do which projects. The physical properties of the characters are vastly different, ranging from a gorgon to an amoeba, so you have to think a little who might be the best suited for any given task. After making your choices, you get to read what transpired afterwards. The game has a lot of different outcomes - tasks can succeed or fail in a variety of ways, and certain characters can also have unique scenes if you put them working on the same task together.

The writing is good and the setting is imaginative, although there is a dark, stressful undercurrent to everything: (Spoiler - click to show)things seem to be on decline - massive amounts of red tape, among other issues, are choking the organization. Some creatures and elements here are Lovecraftian, which could also explain the feeling of mild gloominess.

The first playthrough will take less than 30 minutes, but Chorus is really at its best when replaying since you then have a better grasp of whatís going on and what type of character teams might create good results. There are a lot of branching story paths and multiple endings, plus you can conveniently place the game on ďfast textĒ mode which makes replaying even faster. Itís quite user-friendly that way, so depending on your level of curiosity, it can be easy to spend a while just tinkering with the game and seeing what can happen.

To criticize something, it can be a bit hard to get into the story at first since it starts with a massive info dump where you are introduced to the world of Chorus as well as 9 different characters at once. Some of the gameplay is also a bit trial-and-error, as most outcomes canít be predicted until you try them. (Spoiler - click to show)Consequently, it seems fairly tricky to reach the best ending - for me it happened by sheer accident after 6 playthroughs.

The good concept makes Chorus worth exploring, especially for fans of dark fantasy and low-key management games, even if the execution has some arguable bumpiness.


The Turnip, by Joseph Pentangelo

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The taste of a turnip, December 1, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: Twine, choice-based, IF Comp 2020, surreal

The Turnip is a choice-based fantasy game by Joseph Pentangelo, published in 2020. It features a story about a mysterious turnip a man finds on a field while working.

The gameplay is simple and linear, and the presentation neat. The real draw here is the eccentric story, which at first feels a bit like a slice-of-life story from somewhere in the 18th or 19th century, but turns into something more surreal in short order.

I think the writing is good. Itís economical with words, but it creates lively imagery and dispenses fantastic and weird details at just the right pace to keep the reader guessing. The story is very short, though - I wouldíve liked seeing even more of the world where the game takes place in.

The game is worth setting aside 15 minutes for if you like well-written, strange tales.


Big Trouble in Little Dino Park, by Seth Paxton, Rachel Aubertin

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Jurassic amusement, December 1, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020, choice-based, Ink, comedy

Big Trouble in Little Dino Park is a choice-based comedy game made by Seth Paxton and Rachel Aubertin, published in 2020. The game is a parody of Jurassic Park, where you, a reluctant summer employee, have to survive a particularly grueling work day at a cheap knockoff dinosaur park.

The gameplay consists of clicking text links to move around and make decisions. The game opens up after a linear beginning, but even at its most complex it remains a fairly relaxed affair where you donít have to think about your choices too hard. Game overs are frequent, but you can usually just retry from previous choice if that happens, so it doesnít impact progress too much.

The writing is exaggerated and comical, as youíd expect in this type of comedy. At times it feels like the humor is a bit unfocused and shallow since the pace of the game is thunderously fast - it doesnít dwell on any scenario or idea for particularly long. In addition, (Spoiler - click to show)later on the tone changes to something slightly more serious as you embark on a rescue mission, dampening the pure carefree comedy factor here.

Some more polish wouldnít have hurt, as there are a few typos here and there. I also found one game over link that just flat out didnít work, forcing me to restart the entire game.

I wouldíve personally preferred either a sillier or a more fleshed-out and well-paced story, but still, the game can be amusing, and itís clear the authors love dinosaurs from the way they name-drop so many different species here. The game could be worth a try if youíre a fan of Jurassic Park, dinosaurs and fast-paced madcap comedy.


The Place, by Ima

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
It's a very elusive place, December 1, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020, choice-based, Twine, surreal

The Place is a choice-based game by Ima, published in 2020. The game features (Spoiler - click to show)a poetic, flighty description of a young woman known by the narrator, although you wouldnít know it from the bizarre game blurb that directly addresses the player, talking about fate, choices and meaninglessness.

The story is short and relatively linear. The gameplay consists of clicking text links while trying to make sense of whatís going on; slightly annoying pop-up messages are also used to make the player choose between options and name some things inside the game. Having the player give custom names to things might be a good way to make them feel more invested in a story in some cases, but here the pop-ups often felt like an interruption. Also, since the blurb flat out states that your choices are meaningless, and thereís a quite a number of these pop-ups, I felt like there wasnít much incentive to play along and name things the way the game would want you to.

Presentation-wise the game is fairly ordinary, although small things like timed text, changing text and background images are used in moderation to add some variety. Everything seems to work as intended, although the writing could have used some more polish as it has some rough spots and typos here and there.

Iím not sure what the game made me feel, if anything at all. I didnít become immersed in it very well due to the unfocused expectations set by the blurb as well as the frequent pop-ups. It might be worth a try if you want to set aside 15 minutes for something original but confusing.


You Couldn't Have Done That, by Ann Hugo

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Genuine, unpretentious storytelling, December 1, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: Twine, choice-based, IF Comp 2020, drama

You Couldn't Have Done That is a choice-based game by Ann Hugo, published in 2020. You play as an autistic teenager who starts a job at a clothing store.

The gameplay is quite linear. You have the occasional choice in what to do or say, but it usually doesn't make more than a minor difference in the following story text. However, (Spoiler - click to show)there is a reason for this - the main character finds herself unable to do certain things when stressed out; that's where the title of the game "You Couldn't Have Done That" becomes significant.

The story is written with just enough detail that it's light to read, but it also illustrates quite well what challenges there might be in retail work for an autistic person. The writing is believable, and I like the main character too - she has her uncertainties, but she's still willing to face her fears and earnestly try doing her new job. The way the color of the background changes to illustrate her anxiety is a nice touch; together with the changing background music it made (Spoiler - click to show)the encounter with Janice feel quite oppressive.

As for the level of polish, there are a few typos like "ettiquete", and the second music track with piano sounds a bit off, as if it doesn't loop properly. But still, the game generally works and does its job. It's worth a try for a short but emotional story-driven experience.


I Hunger, by David Yates

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A bitter late night snack, September 25, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: horror, choice-based, twine

I Hunger is a choice-based horror game by David Yates, published in 2015. You play as a mysterious God-like being who observes humans from inside a volcano and regularly demands sacrifices... or else!

The gameplay consists of making a choice of what sacrifice you desire each cycle. There are four different types of sacrifices, and your choice (Spoiler - click to show)impacts how the nearby human society will develop. Your role is a bit like natural selection; the humans will adapt in response to your cruel demands. There are also multiple endings, and the way you reach them makes sense in the context of the gameplay. If you (Spoiler - click to show)only demand one single thing over and over again, it usually results in a bad ending. For instance, demanding gold over and over again causes resources to deplete and the remaining humans will simply choose to escape your wrath. Playing smart on the other hand allows humanity to prosper, which lets you prolong the cycle of sacrifices indefinitely.

The writing is in first-person and it has a detached and grandiose style, as you would expect from some ageless being that expects worship. The tone of the game is not scary, per se, but it is fairly dark. The main character is an amoral glutton without real redeeming qualities, but the humans at his whim are also cast in a somewhat bad light as they (Spoiler - click to show)will rob and enslave people from nearby regions to placate your needs without having to sacrifice their own kin. However, it's also true that moderate expansionism can lead to one of the happier ending paths with humanity flourishing in long term. It seems that regular moral judgments become harder when you're dealing with a massive time scale, like in this story.

The level of polish is generally good, but I did notice one typo and one missing message: (Spoiler - click to show)you get a blank screen after you observe humans if demanding knowledge is your first sacrifice.

I Hunger features a thought-provoking concept and a compact, mostly functional execution. It's a very short game, but the multiple endings add a bit of replay value to it. It could be worth spending some 15 minutes with if you wish to step into the shoes of a mildly genocidal God.


Blind Date from Hell, by rook

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Still a better love story than... ah, never mind, September 24, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: twine, choice-based, horror, adult

Blind Date from Hell is a choice-based horror game by rook, published in 2017. The first part of the game is about going on a blind date, the second is about (Spoiler - click to show)getting violently murdered and/or raped in somewhat unlikely fantasy circumstances; the scenarios involve, among other things, black magic, shapeshifting and tentacles.

The game is conceptually pretty one-note. But... should I really be surprised? The game does market itself as an adult IF; even the introduction says it's for "getting-off purposes".

For what it's worth, the writing is proficient and descriptive. The game manages to create a contrast between the romantic start and the later half where the "from Hell" part of the title comes into play. There is also a fairly wide variety of grotesque or sadistic situations you can end up in. Considering all this, I believe Blind Date from Hell is a success in its own terms, at least.

As a casual horror fan possessing a particularly morbid curiosity, I can appreciate the game for its sheer shock value. But shock value alone doesn't necessarily get you very far. It's the same deal as with many extreme metal bands that believe that 230 bpm speed and harrowing screaming is a meaningful end in itself. Even if well-executed, it's mostly a cheap thrill if there's nothing beyond it.

And I may have missed the point already by starting to criticize the depth of an adult IF.

Anyway, if your interest was piqued by anything I wrote above, you already know whether you should try out Blind Date from Hell. It's simply a... very specialized affair...


The Coffin Maker, by A.M. LeBlanc

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A glimpse into unknown, September 11, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: horror, choice-based, Ink

The Coffin Maker is a short choice-based game by A.M. LeBlanc. You can get through it in less than 5 minutes, but it has multiple endings for some replayability.

As you start playing The Coffin Maker, it quickly becomes apparent that not everything is right in the world. Mysterious illnesses seem to plague people and you... are the coffin maker. *title drop*

The core gameplay loop is simple. A few different local people come to you for a coffin, but you only have a limited amount to give. Your choice as to what type of a coffin you want to give (or none at all) plays a major role in regards to what happens afterwards.

The writing is cryptic and terse. It evokes gloomy pictures but doesn't say many things straight. Most facts about the seemingly apocalyptic setting are left ambiguous on purpose, and it doesn't help that (Spoiler - click to show)common terms like "winter" and "coffin" seem to have a vastly different meaning in this grim fantasy world than they do in real world. But the ambiguity gives the game a sense of mystery as well.

The only error I noticed in the game was that (Spoiler - click to show)if you don't give the mayor a coffin, a sentence says "Your workshop is permanently." I presume it was meant to say "permanently closed"?

While short and light, The Coffin Maker has the potential to engross and provoke thought. Personally, I like its dark and mysterious tone. I don't regret trying it out.


Saint City Sinners, by dgallagher

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Film noir absurdities, August 21, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: choice-based, Twine, comedy, IF Comp 2019

Saint City Sinners is a choice-based comedy IF by dgallagher, published in 2019. It's essentially a 50's film noir detective story, only exaggerated to absurdist comedy degrees.

The main character is a gritty vigilante detective with a dark past who has even named his own fists Truth and Justice. He proclaims himself to be "the only barrier between innocence and corruption" in Saint City. He's here to kick ass and ponder gloomy analogies about crime, and he's not about to run out of those analogies any time soon.

The humor is the best part of the game. Nonsensical and often comically serious, the jokes keep on coming at a very rapid pace. Fortunately more of it is hit than miss, at least personally.

The story is fairly short - you could reasonably get through it in under 20 minutes, although it does have extra branching paths and things to discover if you want to go around clicking all the options. You can even have the main character (Spoiler - click to show)go back to school, momentarily turning the game into a college simulator. Just don't try shooting the dean with a harpoon...

The game uses some light jazz music in the background to really get you in the film noir mood. It's a nice addition that complements the game's idea quite well.

Unfortunately, Saint City Sinners is not without its flaws. It could have used some more polish, as there is the occasional typo, and one of the prompts to return to last checkpoint instead sends you to a screen that says "Double-click this passage to edit it". It's slightly immersion breaking.

Overall, it's a fun and short romp. I would generally recommend it for anyone who likes this type of comedy.



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