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.
Capturing some of the same eeriness as Alien (the film), The Imposter is a very short story set in a spaceship. Itís hardly interactive though; the only choices you make is the order in which you visit the different locations. The little text there is is well written; the only issue is that it did not always feel coherent with the spectacularly creepy ending.
Not really interactive, Rat Chasm features a single link that takes you to a news article on which the story is based. Apart from that, it simply consists of scrollable text. The story behind it is gruesome enough. Here, it has received a subjective treatment of the accounts, and a truly hellish one at that. The ending was a bit abrupt though, with a message that may be a bug of sorts. Perhaps there should be more to it.
I have no idea what is going on here.
It really doesnít seem to be randomly generated.
The sentences are cool and coherent.
Itís very, very short.
I played it ten times in a few minutes.
But I have no idea what is going on here.
This is a choice IF with lots of endings and achievements, presumably a mechanism designed to have you replay again and again, to discover all there is. Iím afraid it did not grip me enough to motivate more than one play. The foremost reason for this, I guess, is the stereotypical American party setting that the game takes place in. The choices are to a large part dialogue options that lets you choose between fake sincerity and disinterested excuses to shift your focus elsewhere, and there is a discomfort number that represents your feeling of awkwardness. Suffice to say I have never attended an American party, and the situation described in Social Lycanthropy Disorder is so far from my reality that it was impossible to feel any involvement with the story. The writing is decent enough, however, and although it was low on spookiness, it does fit the Halloween theme well.
The most realistic story I have encountered in Ectocomp, Duck Diary is all the more scary for it. Dealing with anxiety and trauma, the protagonist finds comfort in a rubber duck that keeps them company through baths and through dreams. As a choice IF, it does not appear to be properly branching. Rather, the choices affect only the next screen. As such, you get one narrative, but with some variations in the details. The writing is of course the essence here, and itís positively superb, mixing the realistic melancholy with touches of comforting humour provided by your rubbery friend, and a gradually unveiling horror that builds up as the story unfolds.
Really more funny than scary, this choice IF parodies the famous chess scene in The Seventh Seal. Death Plays Battleship is very short, so you can easily try all paths in a matter of minutes. As far as parodies go, this is a rather good one; Death is recognisable as based on the character in the classic film, though this one is more fun to hang out with.
A very short Choicescript game, Phantasmagoria provides a single puzzle of escape, with several endings available. As a puzzle, however, it is fairly easy; it took me two playthroughs in five minutes to emerge victorious. The writing seems to be more essential here, but though it was horrific enough, I found it a bit too chaotic to properly enter the story. It has bits of Lovecraft, touches of Shakespeare, and references to both christian and pagan occultism, but all this was disjointed and lacked a certain coherence. It certainly has its scary elements, but it would have been more terrifying with a more solid foundation that could have suspended my disbelief.
A meticulously crafted parser IF, Ritus Sacti starts off innocently enough with a school task of translating a Latin passage into English. This is as far as puzzles go in this game, and for me, someone who is interested in languages and knows next to nothing about Latin, it was actually a fun and interesting exercise. I have been wondering, as a matter of fact, whether Latin is the most evil sounding language to modern ears. The author may agree. Here, Latin is used to great effect and builds up the horror slowly, slowly. The writing is excellent throughout and may even offer up a surprise or two.
In Last Day, the only progression you will achieve is counting down to the apocalypse. With a ambitiously large map for a game made in less than four hours, it is not surprising that there is little polish, and no puzzles involved. What this IF offers you is a bit of time to explore your neighbourhood and decide how to die. In the end I managed to experience four different endings, one of which the author seems to regard as optimal.
Sumbitted to the La petite mort category in Ectocomp 2020, Fracture is a very short and slightly experimental parser IF that puts you in a precarious position and allows only a single command to be used. The whole IF is actually based around this limitation, and it makes very good use of it. Thematically centred on suffering and decay, the story is splendidly horrid, and the writing is excellent.
Made in less than four hours, A Pilgrim provides an intriguing glimpse into a different world. As a lonely wandering pilgrim in an area reminiscent of a mythical South America, the protagonist allows you to experience a day (well, a night really) in their sandals, sharing their perspective and their dreams. There is no spooky twist or clever puzzles here, but rather strong and imaginative imagery that is strange yet familiar, lending an eerie sense of the Unheimlich.
The Long Nap is written in Dialog, and the first Ň-machine game I have played locally. Itís short, clever, appropriately spooky, and solidly implemented for a La petite mort game. The playthrough took about five minutes, and I was smiling with enjoyment all of the time.