Reviews by AKheon

IF Comp 1997

View this member's profile

Show ratings only | both reviews and ratings
View this member's reviews by tag: ADRIFT adult choice-based comedy Dialog drama educational experimental fantasy horror humor IF Comp 1995 IF Comp 1997 IF Comp 2003 IF Comp 2008 IF Comp 2011 IF Comp 2016 IF Comp 2019 IF Comp 2020 IF Comp 2021 Inform Ink mystery parser-based Quest sci-fi surreal TADS Twine Unity wordplay
...or see all reviews by this member
1-2 of 2


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.


Zero Sum Game, by Cody Sandifer

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Lofty adventures undone, September 21, 2020
by AKheon (Finland)
Related reviews: IF Comp 1997, comedy, parser-based, TADS

Zero Sum Game is a parser-based comedy game by Cody Sandifer, published in 1997. In it, you play as a newly victorious adventurer who, upon returning home, gets scolded by their mom and who then has to go and once again set wrong what has been made right. It's essentially an adventure game where you have to lose all your points and undo all your heroic conquests in order to return back to your mom's good graces.

The writing style alternates between imitating a lofty high fantasy style and being jeering and sarcastic, and there's a very cynical undercurrent running through the whole game. This is a world where so-called heroes are not necessarily very heroic and all life is expendable. The humor is dark and uneasy, downright sociopathic at times. But - if you don't mind twisted humor, adult themes and doing villainous things in an adventure game, you'll probably find the contrast between the fantastic and crude here at the very least amusing, if not hilarious.

It helps that the implementation is extremely detailed, with certain sections almost sandbox-like in their wealth of interactions. The game is packed full of funny responses to actions; there are even a few animated NPC characters who react to your odd behavior, and sometimes to each other as well.

The game is very difficult, though. There are countless of ways you can make the game unwinnable, and although the game provides a "warning" command to let the player know ahead of time when they've done something irreversibly dumb, the system doesn't seem quite fool-proof, as I found out on my first playthrough. It took three restarts total (with the use of some hints) for me to finally reach the ending.

The puzzles themselves are sometimes devious and clever, possible for a player to figure out if they play around with the mechanics enough, but there are some nearly impossible ones too. One part requiring the use of a non-standard verb while being misdirected by the game and also (Spoiler - click to show)the merciless timed section featuring Benny/Darlene come to mind.

Zero Sum Game is something of a mixed bag, personally. It made me laugh a lot, but it didn't make me feel good in the end. I guess such is the nature of dark comedy. And while the game has a good amount of content - you can easily squeeze around two hours of gameplay out of it - the daunting difficulty with the lack of an internal hint system is another thing that makes the game hard to recommend without reservations. You should probably give it a try if you're into deconstructive and satirical humor, at least.



1-2 of 2