Divis Mortis is an excellent first foray into interactive fiction, with strong writing and good puzzles.
As a zombie survival game, it draws heavily on common tropes, making the player feel comfortably at home in terms of understanding and reacting to the situation. Descriptions are properly gruesome, with human limbs and putrid flesh strewn about, but always with a certain distance; the PC finds it as repulsive as you do. The particular scenario here is well imagined and cleverly told, providing an intense sense of danger, further heightened with several urgent matters for the player's attention.
According to another reviewer, there is apparently one way of getting locked out of victory without realising it, if you do things in the wrong order. If this is the case, it was probably an oversight by the author, and nothing that I experienced myself. Apart from that, however, I would place this game as Polite on the forgiveness scale; there are many ways of dying, but a simple UNDO always let me correct my mistake and carry on. Personally, I found all the puzzles I encountered well clued, perfectly reasonable, and very much in the spirit of the situation, without being overly simple.
A bit too easy for experienced IF players looking for a challenge, but that was somewhat expected. 77 Verbs is a thoroughly implemented tutorial game, familiarising the player with the different commands commonly used in parser IF. The story is great fun and features references to a wide range of classic works of IF, making it enjoyable even for the seasoned player.
I have played IF before that had three games in one. This is the first time I have encountered one game in three. These games tell three sides of the same story and are in fact impossible to finish without each other. While I see that it could be confusing for someone who stumbles upon just one of them, I had fortunately already noted their connectedness and expected some degree of intertextuality, though perhaps not at such a level.
As for the game(s) [it|them]sel[f|ves] (referred to in singular from here on), I quite enjoyed it! The Knot features a very curious mix of cultural references, including, but not limited to: Nazis, spaceships, magic, alchemy, youtubers, fairy tales, Jabberwocky-type Nonsensish, and several religions, both existing and imagined. For some reason, for me, this mashup works rather well, probably because it actually feels linguistically grounded. The puzzles in The Knot are easy, especially since they are overly clued, which is done in a very funny way, and the whole thing should take no more than half an hour to play.
I did not experience this as a horror IF at all, but rather as a sad and personal story, a story that is depressingly relevant for many of us during the current pandemic. It is really well written, very emotional, and feels very real. The author provides the choice between playing a truncated or an extended version of the novella. I started out with the extended version but found it excruciatingly frustrating and changed to the truncated version after some minutes. Iím glad I tried the extended version first though; the frustration is indeed intended, and it does drive an important point across. While not exactly interactive in terms of choices, Better than Alone does use the medium of choice IF in an unexpected and elegant way.
Excellently written and very peculiar, Toadstools takes you on a mythical-scientific trip through the forest. A good amount of thoughtful world-building seems to lie behind it, part satirical and part wondrous, providing enjoyment, engagement and immersion. As a choice IF, it certainly feels like a puzzle, like you could get rich, crazy or die of hunger, depending on your choices. Still, I was not able to ascertain if this actually is the case, nor whether a good ending exists, during my play. As a horror game, itís not particularly scary, at least not in a brutal way, though I guess one would have to be of some age to enjoy it.
Despite some lack of polish, this is actually a pretty good horror story. Iím mostly impressed by its narrative arc, which is well grounded in classic storytelling while also offering a few well placed extensions in just the right places. On the other hand, there is no interesting interactivity here; you get to choose a few traits for the protagonist, which I donít think has any bearing on the story, and a few details that appears to be completely arbitrary. I think A Very Dangerous Criminal easily could be a great novella, but a lot of work would be needed to turn it into a good piece of IF.
A choice IF set at a Halloween party, this one has only minimal amounts of dialogue. Here you are tasked with a puzzle of sorts, which involves going back and forth a bit. Iím not entirely sure what to take from this story, but the writing was pretty decent, and the cover art was nice.
Playing this game was a truly horrifying experience. Iím afraid I canít say more; the memories are too painfulÖ
Not particularly scary, but hilariously funny, The Curse of the Scarab is an optimisation parser IF inspired by Captain Verdeterreís Plunder and Sugarlawn. Here, you are attempting to loot an Egyptian tomb, which is not only filled with treasures but also deadly traps and flesh eating creatures. I have never used UNDO so many times in an adventure, and never had so much fun doing it. The Egyptian lore and hieroglyphs present in The Curse of the Scarab may be meaningless or fake, I donít know, but they are perfectly convincing and really contributes to the immersion. I also donít know what authoring system Fagerburg has used for this game; while there was no download link, the online interface was really lovely, with tasteful fonts and adorned by subtle decorations. All in all an excellent game!
Itís hard not to love Veederís Balderstone series of parser IF Ė perfectly framed horror anthologies where each tale has its own style, both literary and in terms of play. This latest instalment may be the most impressive yet, if only for the second of the eveningís tales, one which gives a whole new meaning to the term interactive fiction. Although Iím not sure I can vouch for the literary quality of that particular story, it was certainly a delightful experience. The other several other tales here are as elegantly written as I have come to expect from Veeder, although I do sense a slight shift to a more humoristic approach than the previous tales offered. Puzzlewise, all the stories here are very straightforward and youíll hardly be stuck for more than a minute, leaving you to enjoy the imaginative descriptions from Veederís dark side.