Reviews by AKheon

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Conversation With A Picture, by Eva Vikstrom

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
When art speaks to you (literally), September 21, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: experimental, parser-based, ADRIFT

Conversation With A Picture is a somewhat experimental parser-based game made by Eva Vikstrom, published in 2004. The game is about interacting with a painting, although strangely enough using your eyes won't get you very far - instead, you have to talk with it.

You simply ask the painting about various topics. The replies give hints on other things you could try asking about, until finally you learn the name of the painting and the game ends. It only takes about 5 minutes to play through the game once.

The game has a slightly charming air to it due to its unique premise and cordial tone. It has some educational value too, as the painting and its painter are both historical - (Spoiler - click to show)the painting is The Parrot Cage by Jan Steen - and you learn a bit of real history while talking to the painting.

The game works like expected for the most part, although there are a few immersion-breaking typos and the tutorialization is fairly minimal, which can lead to mild confusion at the very start of the game. I also find it slightly odd that (Spoiler - click to show)the player can't activate the winning commands "ask p about bird" -> "ask p about parrot" until they "sit". Seems like an unnecessary restriction to me, but it probably won't hurt a regular playthrough much.

Conversation With A Picture mostly succeeds at what it sets out to do. Its biggest problem is that it's extremely slight, ending right around the time the player gets into the mood of asking questions and, dare I say, learning. ...Maybe the secret to making a fun educational game is to make it so short that the player doesn't even realize it was educational until it's over? Eva Vikstrom could be on to something here.


The Old Church, by Eva Vikstrom

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Harmless haunting, September 21, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: horror, parser-based, ADRIFT

The Old Church is a fairly short parser-based game by Eva Vikstrom, published in 2004. I gave it a try because I wanted to try out some obscure horror-themed adventure, and so far the game had no ratings on IFDB.

The main character is a tourist visiting an unspecified European church from 13th century. After some exploration it turns out that the church is haunted, although strangely no one seems to mind.

The setting is one of the best things about The Old Church. The layout and description of the church makes it seem like a fairly believable location; sadly the game world suffers from a lack of implementation. There isn't much to interact with, which hampers the exploration part of the game.

The writing is clear but stilted, with a few typos and wrong word choices. The overall tone of the game is not scary at all - it almost feels like an educational piece with all its low-key explanations of how various rooms of a church work as you move around the place. Any remaining tension is finally deflated when you discover that (Spoiler - click to show)the "villain" of the game is essentially a non-malevolent church mouse.

It's fairly easy to navigate in the game world since the exits are listed whenever you need them. However, in other respects the game isn't always user friendly. The conversation system is implemented rather spottily, making it hard to know at times if not being able to talk to a character about some topic is because they have nothing to say about it or if your command was wrong. The worst example is how (Spoiler - click to show)in one part of the game you have to talk about "Axel Gyllenpil" to progress. The game only accepts the full name, giving default error responses for both "Axel" or "Gyllenpil". Fortunately the game comes with a walkthrough for cases like this, but still... And regarding the ending, (Spoiler - click to show)according to the walkthrough there are two endings, and I imagine the alternative ending has something to do with cheese and the church mouse, but I couldn't find the correct command to do anything with the cheese.

The overall design is linear and somewhat contrived. The player has the option to explore the area freely, but the events that progress the story can only happen in a certain order. So in practice, you need to wander around aimlessly until you hit the first few story beats by accident. The most egregious part is (Spoiler - click to show)the sword magically appearing in the crypt only after learning about it, and the cheese conveniently falling out of your lunch box right after you pick up the sword.

One last unpleasantness with The Old Church are some sound effects which hit suddenly and loud when examining certain things around the game world. Yes, this game has jump scares, although I'm not sure if they were even intended to be jump scares or just normal sound effects for the purposes of immersion. In any case, I recommend lowering the volume before you start.

The Old Church is one of the first games made by the author, and unfortunately it shows. It's not always smooth to play and the payoff isn't always there, but you could give it a try if you're hankering for something very obscure and only very mildly terrifying.



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