Reviews by Stian
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View this member's reviews by tag: ectocomp 2020 IFComp 2019 ifcomp 2020 Spring Thing 2018 Spring Thing 2019
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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.
High Jinnks is a funny and well written story about a Jinn trying to get home. As a choice IF, it is more or less completely linear, the choices mainly being between funny responses.
Due to its detailed historical portrayal, A Catalan Summer gives the impression of being based on the story of a real family, describing not only the conflicts between love and family duties, but also the question of Catalan independence and the emerging anarchist movement. Whether or not the Vidal family in the story was real or imagined, the issues are approached with care and understanding. The interactivity here is similarly impressive, probably more so than in any other choice IF I have played. Part of this is the constant change of protagonist, which admittedly was slightly confusing, but lets you shape the paths of several family members, and in turn the familyís place in history. Also a bit confusing was the inclusion of parser-style navigation, with links to go east, north and so on. For a choice IF like this, it would have been more practical with simply a list of the possible destinations. Still, it provides an interesting read, no matter your choices.
Congee is low on interactivity, but it does tell a cute story about homesickness, friendship and family. Interspersed with the text are music and occasionally some nicely drawn pictures. A problem for me, playing it on a poor internet connection, was the size of the images, some up to a megabyte. Iím sure they could be reduced to a tenth of the size without sacrificing much detail.
Literally an idol survival game, giving you options to sabotage and hurt your competitors, this choice IF is based on an uncomfortable premise, though probably one that unfortunately mimics some of the reality of that environment. Also unfortunately, the game seems to be broken, as I was unable to progress beyond a certain point, even after a second play with completely different choices. The layout also leaves something to be desired, with sidebar text overlapping the main text in my browser.
A short choice IF equally remixing and paying homage to classic literary works on the theme of pirates, Captain Graybeardís Plunder speaks to the value of literature as escapism, in the best possible sense. There is no particular story here, though there is a certain beauty to the remixing that your choices determines. A nice touch are the various fonts used to represent the different authors the game refers to.
Phantom is an investigation into the myth and the various portrayals of Erik, the Phantom of the Opera. As a choice IF, it reconstructs the story Ė albeit in a very abridged form Ė based on which aspects of the different adaptations you would like to see, including an option for further modernisation. Although this rendition is too short to be considered a thorough discussion of the character, it is nicely done, with the music being an extra nice touch. Only slightly bothersome was a strip of white background below the text on most pages, which does not seem intentional and should be changed to black.
Ghostfinder: Shift is a truly professional piece of IF. Set in a consistently well imagined and thought-out world of shifters and ghostfinders, the story features the player as an occult investigator trying to solve a string of horrific murders.
As with the world building, the writing is on a professional level all the way through, and meticulously detailed. With access to case files and your orderís private database, a choice IF interface allows you to draw connections and approach the identity of the killer. As such, the choice mechanisms here function as a way to solve the puzzle, rather than navigating a branching story.
Every aspect of Ghostfinder: Shift is impressive, but even though the puzzle aspect was well done, its writing is where it truly shines. However, as with every genre work, it does cater to a niche audience. I can easily picture a Ghostfinder series of novels in the adult urban fantasy section at my favourite book store.
Primarily poetic, Sana is a choice IF brimming with links, making for intentionally confusing navigation. The stories seem old, from a different time, a different culture, the metaphors obscure. I did not see much variations in two different playthroughs, but maybe it is enough.
This is a cute little love story, featuring some weird sci-fi elements that remain unexplained in the background. It is not really interactive at all, though at one point the choice IF medium is utilised in an elegant way.
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