Reviews by AKheon

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The Best Man, by Stephen Bond

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Slightly elusive but rich, October 9, 2021
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: drama, IF Comp 2021, choice-based, Twine

The Best Man is a choice-based game made by Stephen Bond, published in 2021. The suspenseful cover art and non-existent blurb both give the game quite a secretive first impression. So, what's it about?

You are Aiden, a young man who is asked by his friend Laura to be a best man for her wedding. This involves doing a few simple errands before the wedding begins. The fact that Aiden still has some feelings for Laura complicates things, (Spoiler - click to show)as does the fact that he is an unreliable narrator, and there's a good chance much of the story takes place in his imagination.

The writing is detailed and realistic, and it also has a good pacing as well as some interesting twists and changes of scenery to keep the reader on their toes. I personally found it entertaining from the start to the end.

The choice-based gameplay is fairly simple, as you'd expect. (Spoiler - click to show)The story is essentially linear, without any significant branching paths. However, the creative use of the user interface and text-links - even including an imitation of a breakfast menu in one point in the story - as well as the engrossing writing sometimes create a satisfying illusion of choice, at least.

The game uses a bit of graphics and audio between chapters. The music is sequencer-based, with a slightly cheap sounding quality, but it's not intrusive and helps set the atmosphere.

As for what the game made me feel, (Spoiler - click to show)I think the predominant feeling is slight sadness. There's something a bit wrong with Aiden, what with his tendency to sink into elaborate fantasy, see people as exclusively Good or Bad, not to mention the oddly self-important, nearly religious significance he gives to his forever unrequited love. He talks a lot about self-improvement, but to me it seems like he is stuck in an unhealthy reverie. The epilogue partially reinforces this feeling: a lot of time has passed, but he still seems to frame life in the same terms as during the main story - in Good vs Bad, where people like Laura's husband are still expected to get their comeuppance some time soon. I can't say I fully understand all of the elements of the story, though. For instance, the meaning of the term "fighting the good fight" eludes me. Is he simply referring to living his life the best he can, or could it be a reference to something else?

At its heart, The Best Man is a kind of a character study with some interesting and evocative writing. The story is quite elaborate and lengthy too, and the suggested playtime of 90 minutes seems accurate. Overall, it could be worth a try if you're looking for a well-written, introspective character-driven story in the choice-based format.


Taste of Fingers, by V Dobranov

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A taste for horror, October 7, 2021
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: Twine, choice-based, IF Comp 2021, horror

Taste of Fingers is a choice-based game by V Dobranov, published in 2021. You are a business man hiding in a cafe somewhere in Hong Kong after something very bad has happened outside.

The gameplay is fairly linear and simple, basically consisting of clicking on text links to unveil optional text or progress reading the story. (Spoiler - click to show)Most of the narrative is focused on exploring your memories, and you have six different memories you can sink into. You only have a limited number of choices regarding which memories to explore, so it's not possible to see all of the game's content on a single playthrough. The game has no branching story paths beyond that, but keeping the player in a passive role makes sense in a story like this which is focused on introspection and fear.

The user interface is quite smooth to both use and look at. It also uses color to create an impression of the weather and time of day inside the story, which works well for setting the mood.

The story successfully creates a feeling of anxiety and hopelessness. It also feels quite topical: (Spoiler - click to show)unrest in East Asia, viruses, isolation, racism, social collapse... a lot of the individual strands of the story here seem to have at least some type of an indirect connection with current events, which gives the story additional dramatic weight as well as potential to depress.

My playthrough of the game took around 20 to 25 minutes, but it does have a bit of replay value if you want to see all of its content. Overall, it's a somewhat short but all the more grim horror story that takes place in a contemporary setting, and it should please those who are looking for one.


The Last Doctor, by Quirky Bones

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A slightly bitter pill, October 3, 2021
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: horror, Ink, choice-based, IF Comp 2021, drama, sci-fi

The Last Doctor is a choice-based game by Quirky Bones, published in 2021. You are an impoverished doctor in a conflict-ravaged, ambiguously post-apocalyptic setting. Some patients enter your clinic, you assess them, and you then decide how to use your scant supplies. The story can progress to a few different directions depending on your choices.

The writing style is compact and stylized. It feels like many details about the game's world are obfuscated by the intentionally vague and evocative prose, but it still tells you enough to create interesting mental images and make you care about your choices. (Spoiler - click to show)It's a pity that the game is very short and doesn't build much on its core ideas. You only take care of two patients, and the story ends so soon that it's a bit of an anti-climax.

The game has some brief descriptions of medical procedures and injury, but they aren't very detailed and come across somewhat milder than I'd expected considering both the main character's bloody profession as well as the grim feeling of the setting itself.

The technical quality of the game is decent. The interactivity is simple but functional. I did notice two text mistakes, including a missing word and a typo. It's nothing deal-breaking, though.

The suggested playing time is 30 minutes, although I think my first playthrough was actually closer to 10 minutes. However, the game does have multiple endings which gives it replay value. Overall, it's not a bad title to try out if you want to briefly dip into a dark setting and think about humanity.


The Waiting Room, by Billy Krolick

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Still waiting..., October 3, 2021
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: horror, IF Comp 2021, choice-based, Twine

The Waiting Room is a choice-based game by Billy Krolick, published in 2021. You are a new employee at the Shady Oaks Nursing Home and you accidentally end up tangled in a supernatural mystery. The game's disclaimer says that it was inspired by "various snippets of true accounts", and it's easy to believe that. (Spoiler - click to show)Besides the supernatural threat, the evil that exists at Shady Oaks is unfortunately all too mundane - basically criminal negligence by the staff.

As usual for a choice-based title, the gameplay mostly consists of reading and clicking various text links. Some meaningful branching paths as well as one slightly puzzley sequence add some intrigue to the otherwise quite straightforward user experience.

The writing is decent. The prose can be slightly inelegant and unpolished, with some occasional typos. Sometimes the game just flat out tells the player what they should feel, which I think is not optimal horror writing. "...all the lights are off. The windows dark and empty. Weird."

The story itself is often eerie and even sad, but I do think it's a bit too fast-paced and compressed for best results. The flow of time is inconsistent and the world building somewhat minimal. Even the main character is just a nameless cipher, which feels off in a story like this where you have extensive social interactions with other characters - you are a nurse, after all. The game gives you enough context to care about the choices you make, but it does sometimes feel a little thin.

Besides that, the story (Spoiler - click to show)seems somewhat unfeasible, with the Back Hall apparently having actual rotting corpses which everyone just decided to hush up before getting back to work. Or are the corpses a hallucination which only appears at night? The game isn't exactly clear on this. Some of the big choices in the game also seem counter-intuitive. For instance, why would anyone cover up for Austin after realizing what he's done? You've spent exactly one work day with him, and this brief encounter shouldn't really inspire the needed camaraderie or attachment that would make the player want to cover up his crimes. This choice seemed to come out of nowhere, in my opinion.

The suggested playing time is around one hour, although I think a single playthrough takes much less than that, possibly around 30 minutes. However, the story does have branching paths and multiple endings which give it replay value.

Overall, I feel like The Waiting Room has a few powerful moments but also some strange design and wasted potential. At the very least, it's a generally functional title which can be worth a try if you want a somewhat eerie and sad visit to a haunted nursing home.


The Shadow In The Snow, by Andrew Brown

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Somewhere between cozy and clunky, December 13, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: Twine, choice-based, IF Comp 2020, horror

The Shadow in the Snow is a choice-based game by Andrew Brown, published in 2020. The game is about getting stranded in some isolated forest area during a snow storm (Spoiler - click to show)and surviving a werewolf attack.

This is one of the first titles I tried during IF Comp 2020, and I ended up playing an early version of the game that had some truly game breaking bugs. For instance, you could softlock the game by simply using a certain text link too many times in a single session. Since then, the developer has fortunately fixed the worst bugs in the game, making it at least playable.

The gameplay consists of clicking text links to move around the area, occasionally examining and picking up things. There is an element of trial-and-error here, since sometimes you have to choose between multiple choices that you can't know in advance which leads to salvation and which does not. Other than that, it's a pretty simple and short game, with a few additional details you can miss during a playthrough if you're not thorough.

The lack of ‘undo’ is an inconvenience - if you get a game over, your only choice is to return all the way back to the beginning of the game. While the lack of ‘undo’ suits horror, in my case it made playing the game feel extra unrewarding since I also encountered those major bugs that forced me to restart several times.

The writing style is simplistic but functional, with short paragraphs and terse descriptions of what’s going on. The brevity keeps the story moving along at a respectable pace while helping to create a somewhat tense, mysterious atmosphere.

The game uses background music. The music track itself is a pleasant if melancholy symphonic piece. It sounds very midi, but it brings to mind a wintry scenery and old video games, so it works quite well for its purpose. The dark presentation and the music together create a strangely cozy atmosphere that makes me like this game more than I probably should.

While flawed, The Shadow in the Snow could still be worth a try for some players. It should only take around 15 - 30 minutes to finish, so feel free to give it a try if you dare.


Minor Arcana, by Jack Sanderson Thwaite
Otherworldly and ominous, December 6, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: fantasy, IF Comp 2020, choice-based, Twine

Minor Arcana is a choice-based fantasy game by Jack Sanderson Thwaite, published in 2020. You are a sentient Tarot deck with a long, grimy history and an air of misfortune about you. The story consists of a loosely structured series of recollections, some of which can be explored through your choices.

The game features bits of real life Tarot-traditions mixed in with some dark fantasy and fatalistic drama. The writing is of high quality, and it has a foreboding, mysterious tone that makes it quite interesting to read.

The story has a few different branches to explore, and (Spoiler - click to show)it seems that some of the content can only be seen while replaying. The design gives the game a secretive air - even after multiple playthroughs I was left curious about the game's story and setting, wondering if there were still any important details or additional closure to find.

It’s a fairly short game, only taking around 30 minutes even if you replay it a few times. It should be worth it if you’re looking for something otherworldly and ominous. Personally, the game consistently held my focus due to its slightly unique format and esoteric storyline.


Phantom, by Peter Eastman

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Phantom considerations, December 6, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: drama, IF Comp 2020, choice-based, Twine

Phantom is a choice-based game by Peter Eastman, published in 2020. It’s a story-driven 30-minute experience about an aspiring opera singer who meets the Phantom (of the Opera).

The game begins with some discussion about the tropes pertaining to this classic horror character. On my first playthrough, I assumed the purpose of this was to refresh the player's memory and ease them into the setting. (Spoiler - click to show)You could argue the whole game largely *is* a character study of Phantom; in some ways this idea even eclipses the rather low-key main story line.

The writing is generally good. It has enough detail to create a convincing image of the main character and her aspiring opera singer ways. The overall pace of the story is quite fast, though, and towards the end characters are introduced and plot developments happen so fast that not all of it has the weight it deserves. (Spoiler - click to show)The biggest twist here is that the protagonist is also villainous, so it’s not a clear-cut “beauty and the beast” tale this time around.

Your choices during the game (Spoiler - click to show)are less significant than you'd hope. Act III changes depending on what you picked earlier on, but not by too much. For example, I think that even if you choose classic Phantom, he is still a master of using modern technology and cameras for some reason.

The game has multimedia. There’s a background image of red curtains that creates a nice stage for the story, although when I was playing on Chrome, the lowest part of the graphic sometimes cut off to white instead of black, which looked a bit glitchy. The game also uses some background music. The snippets of classical and opera music work well in the context, but some of the public domain samples suffer from the limitations of their day, making the game feel a bit anachronistic. The story is supposed to take place in the modern day, but the audio quality brings to mind the 40s.

Overall, Phantom is not perfect, but it should offer an interesting time if you enjoy any media related to this classic horror character.


Amazing Quest, by Nick Montfort

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Amazement is in the eye of the beholder, December 2, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020, choice-based, experimental

Amazing Quest is a choice-based game by Nick Montfort, published in 2020. The platform is quite unusual, as this appears to be a Commodore 64 game running on an emulator on the IFComp website.

You are a space wayfarer at the end of a victorious journey. To get back home, you answer simple yes / no questions about what to do in various randomized situations.

The minimalism is one of the most striking features of Amazing Quest. The various planets and areas you visit are described with exactly one adjective and one noun each, and the rewards for your success or failure are likewise expressed very succinctly. The writing is as terse as you could possibly get without losing sight of the core idea. It all leaves a lot to the imagination - perhaps too much.

The supplementary materials feature a 2-page manual written on a typewriter. The manual elaborates on the game’s apparent purpose: it should be all about meaningful decision making and getting the player into the mindset of a returning wanderer who has to decide if it would be wise to f.e. speak plainly in a strange place, potentially revealing your weaknesses to hostile characters. The language is somewhat mythical and dramatic, and it reminds me a lot of slightly pulpy science fantasy fiction, possibly even power metal.

The gameplay would work better if (Spoiler - click to show)there was anything at stake here. I tried intentionally creating a fail state inside the game by answering all the questions “wrong”, but I couldn’t do it very consistently and ended up winning every single playthrough. In fact, just smashing ‘enter’ over and over is enough to win the game. It gives me the feeling that victory is inevitable, wrong answers only delay it. I wonder if something like this *is* the intended message of the game? Such an optimistic vibe might be par on course for a game called “Amazing Quest”.

Overall, this is a rather strange title that requires a large suspension of disbelief from the player. Depending on how seriously you take it, there could be a world of adventures here, or there could be almost nothing. I personally found it a bit thought-provoking, at least.


A Calling of Dogs, by Arabella Collins

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A darker place, December 2, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020, choice-based, Ink, horror

A Calling of Dogs is a choice-based horror / thriller by Arabella Collins, published in 2020. In it, you’re a woman who is being held captive in a cage. Interacting with your kidnapper and (Spoiler - click to show)thinking about how to escape or gruesomely murder him make up most of your choices inside the game.

The tone of the game is intense and unpleasant. The slightly rambly and at times very graphic writing creates an impression of a feverish thought process where it’s mainly hatred that keeps one sane. I thought the characterization of both the hero and the villain worked well - I was always interested in seeing what would happen next in the story.

The game has an ambiguous lack of polish. The writing has a lot of typos and odd turns of phrases, but that might be an intended part of the expression here to create that aforementioned feverish, raw feeling. However, I did find one softlock too, which is a bit harder to defend. (Spoiler - click to show)During day three, right after being let out of the cage, I examined one of the choices twice. This resulted in a dead end with no more choices appearing.

While the game is short - only around 15 minutes - it has some significant branching paths and therefore replay value, in case you want to relive this harrowing scene. It’s simply a potent experience, if you don’t mind entering a darker place for a moment.


Savor, by Ed Nobody

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Quite a confounding savor, December 2, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020, choice-based, horror

Savor is a choice-based horror game by Ed Nobody, published in 2020. The main character seems to be afflicted with a curse that makes his body ache and mind forget. Delirious, he finds his way to an old farm house, somehow convinced there’s a cure there.

Like in many other choice-based games, you simply click on text links to progress. The story is generally linear - most sections have one or two branching paths, but they eventually lead back to the same point. The game has a streamlined inventory system as well - the decisions you make during the game as well as any items you find impact which of the multiple endings you’ll end up with.

I think the writing is pretty good. The farmland setting as it is described has an eerie beauty and mild quirkiness to it, which creates a contrast with the more horrific moments. The game can get very dark very fast, for instance, (Spoiler - click to show)suicide is featured in more than one of the endings. I saw three endings, which for me wasn’t enough to solve the full mystery here, but (Spoiler - click to show)the story gave me strong Silent Hill-vibes with how there seemed to be two different versions of some locations - one nice and one hellish.

Actually playing the game is a bit cumbersome. The game extensively uses timed text which cannot be fully skipped - only sped up. I also had a somewhat bad time since I missed the “controls” screen, which is the only place the game ever tells the player that they can access the menu with ‘esc’ and load / save with ‘l’. I generally just avoided using the menu after one instance where the game seemingly restarted on its own and I lost all my progress after I entered the menu.

The cryptic, often surreal nature of the story can make it hard to predict what will happen as a result of your choices. It’s a pity that replaying and trying out different branching paths feels a bit arduous due to the aforementioned timed text.

The game uses a lot of multimedia - background images, music and even sound effects. The imagery consists of low-saturation photos with a bunch of filters on them. The photos themselves are usually quite good, although the visual filters don’t always look very smooth, and something about the resolution and zoom level might be a bit off too. (Spoiler - click to show)Something is added to the background during the farm house nightmare sequence, but I can barely see what it is because of how the picture is cropped by the edge of the screen. I can’t say if this is intentional or not, though. Could my browser (Chrome) or some other factor have caused the graphics to not work properly?

The music is varied and atmospheric. The most frequently heard track is a nearly uplifting piece with a conspicuous rhythm - I can’t say I was expecting something like that in this context. Many other bits of the ambience and music bear some resemblance to Akira Yamaoka, especially the eerie track that plays during night time. The music eventually grew on me a lot.

My biggest gripe with the multimedia is that the game doesn’t have a very fine-tuned pacing. It’s not uncommon for it to go from something very intense with a dark music (Spoiler - click to show)and even jump scare audio clips of people screaming back to a carefree vibe with no warning. Some of the use of audio is rather ham-fisted too. When the multimedia works properly, it complements the writing, but during the poorly handled moments it can cheapen it too.

Overall, I think this is close to being a worthwhile horror IF. The ingredients are all there, and the music adds a ton of charm and personality to the game. Some better tutorializing would be helpful to prevent people (like me) from missing important keybindings. I might still give this game another try after the competition to find out its remaining secrets.


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 what’s 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 “fast text” mode which makes replaying even faster. It’s 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 can’t 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. It’s 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 would’ve 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 don’t 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 doesn’t impact progress too much.

The writing is exaggerated and comical, as you’d 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 doesn’t 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 wouldn’t have hurt, as there are a few typos here and there. I also found one game over link that just flat out didn’t work, forcing me to restart the entire game.

I would’ve personally preferred either a sillier or a more fleshed-out and well-paced story, but still, the game can be amusing, and it’s clear the authors love dinosaurs from the way they name-drop so many different species here. The game could be worth a try if you’re 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 wouldn’t 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 what’s 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 there’s a quite a number of these pop-ups, I felt like there wasn’t 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.

I’m not sure what the game made me feel, if anything at all. I didn’t 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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