Randomized Escape did mostly not make any sense, as even the descriptions seem randomly generated. Still, it tries to be scary, and that is noticeable: There is some thing, in some fog, and some blood. However, as long as passages such as “This van is very dirty. Maybe I should limit my examination to visual perception. And you did.” and “You cannot see any obvious issue through the fog. There is no time for hesitating.” appear, it’s hard to become immersed in the horror. The introduction recommended drawing a map, but I found that to be difficult and not very useful; many rooms have the same name, and the protagonist might suddenly run only to find themselves in a different (random) room. Still, despite not being a particularly enjoyable game, it’s interesting to see an experiment like this.
Limerick Heist does impress,
its story impresses no less.
I thought I was smart
but then must restart,
finding myself in a mess.
Flight of the CodeMonkeys is based on the neat idea of setting an IF into a programming notebook. You can play it even if you don’t know any programming from before, and probably even learn something through it. The game doesn’t go very deep into coding, however, and the opportunities you get to hack the system end up feeling less than immersive. Still, I liked the idea, and think it demonstrates how you can use IF as an educational tool to teach programming. My main criticism of this game is that you need to create a Google account in order to play it.
Fat Fair is really well implemented, with special verbs, alternative endings and several secrets. The main task is rather simple to achieve, while the challenge lies in finding the alternative paths. I was very impressed to read in the ‘about’ section that this was the author’s first game. However, the humour that is integral to the game did not really appeal to me. I really hope the author continues to make IF games, though somewhat less crass.
Mental Entertainment was a curious piece of IF. It is essentially puzzleless, and although conversational you don’t really get responses to anything but the set of keywords listed in ‘about’ and whatever the replies are to those. You are assigned the heavy task of assessing three people’s mental states and deciding whether they are addicts or not. However, the outcome is the same regardless of your decision; you do not get to see the consequences.
As such, as a work of IF, Mental Entertainment doesn’t really reach very far. What we are left with then is the fabula, the story behind the plot. In this, Mental Entertainment is slightly unique and somewhat cliché; we are exposed to a world of the future where everything right and real is gone, and where VR is the only reasonable escape. To me, this is a decent premise, and the world has been crafted with passion and care, but the IF aspects, or rather lack thereof, left me somewhat dissatisfied.
Gone Out for Gruyère is based on one of the most silly, crazy and absurd premises I have encountered in an IF. It’s also quite easy; here I ultimately find the writing and the humour more essential than the puzzles. And with a talking cheese that mocks your every move as its antagonist, it is very funny.
The homage that is Frenemies does not only feature a die-hard fan who has filled his dorm room with objects from Andy Phillips’ games, but is also centered around a single puzzle that should make Phillips proud. Of the games alluded to in Frenemies, I have only played Inside Woman 1, which is without doubt the longest and most difficult game I have completed. The main puzzle in Frenemies is possible to solve in five minutes, but more likely to take you close to two hours of tears and frustration, followed by a deep and fulfilling sense of accomplishment. If the game were significantly larger, I would have probably regarded this puzzle as too clever, but as it stands more or less alone in a one-room game, I think it’s just perfect. The writing is mostly excellent, though the humour a bit juvenile at times, while the protagonist carries some of the naïve, self-mocking touch that characterised Tom from the Bullhockey games.
Ocean Beach is primarily meditative, beautifully and frustratingly so.
Pauses are part of the game.
Pauses are a big part of the game.
They take time. At sunset.
I quickly realised I wasn’t going to get far in Very Vile Fairy File without the walkthrough. Almost all of the interaction in the game consists of coming up with a suitable alliterative rhyme. I can absolutely acclaim an admirable alliteration (with or without a rhyming sensation), but managing this was beyond me. In the required rhymes were old English, American slang and several words I had never heard. For those who feel they are up to a serious rhyming challenge, the game does feature an innovative help system, and for those who don’t, it’s still worth playing through with a walkthrough. Very Vile Fairy File is funny, clever, and well implemented.
Jon Doe - Wildcard Nucleus clearly alludes to the classic James Bond stories, most notably in its opening scene, but generally lacks the humour to be characterised as a good parody. In fact, the absence of humour throughout the game becomes rather noticeable after introducing two silly names in the beginning: Miss Bestbeforedate and Adolf von Bolzplatz (Adolf of the football field). I do get the feeling that the game was intended to be essentially parodic and funny, but that this focus was lost during production.
While the descriptions generally are good and paints a decently vivid picture of retro-modernity, some of the language bears the mark of a rudimentary translation. This, along with several bugs and the fact that little of the described scenery is implemented, made Jon Doe a somewhat disappointing experience. The puzzles are also few and not that interesting – and I still got stuck twice. However, I would probably not have been equally disappointed if it weren’t for the promising premise and the intriguing blurb. Jon Doe has a lot of potential, but requires more work to fulfill it.