Reviews by Denk


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Beyond the Tesseract, by David Lo

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Very original game from 1983, February 20, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: Custom system, inform

This is what you get if you cross a Scott Adams adventure with an abstract math/physics adventure. The parser is primitive but consistent (verb+noun, only 4 letters of each word matters) and fast (running an Atari ST emulator at 32MHz - at 8MHz the text is slightly delayed). However, a z-code version exists.

Most puzzles you don't need to understand 100% to solve, as you will usually have an idea of what to do. For instance, you may come across a Riemann Zeta Integral. If I ever learned about it, I have forgotten about it, but knowing it was an integral was sufficient to have a hunch of what to do so I did manage to solve the corresponding puzzle.

For me, the difficulty level was just right but I think some of the optional puzzles I could never have solved without some knowledge of e.g. superconductors and electromagnetic fields. Luckily, being an electrical engineer helped me a lot here. However, if you allow yourself to google the concepts you come across, you will probably have a chance of solving all puzzles anyway.

Overall, a highly enjoyable and original game.

Parser/Vocabulary (Rating: 7/10)
Primitive but consistent, fast and has several synonyms for verbs. My only caveat on the Atari ST is that there is apparently no LOOK / REDESCRIBE command so if you want to see the location description again, you must leave the room and enter it again.

Atmosphere (Rating: 8/10)
The surreal atmosphere is very convincing. The writing is terse as can be expected from a game which originally was an 8-bit game.

Cruelty (Rating: Merciful)
I don't think you can make the game unwinnable.

Puzzles (Rating: 9/10)
Some fun, fair puzzles, though the perceived difficulty will depend very much on your scientific background, thus it may seem unfair to some people.

Overall (Rating: 9/10)
A surprisingly fun game, considering it was designed in 1983. Some scientific background may be needed to enjoy it fully.

Return to the Castle, by John Wilson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent Z-code sequel arrives after 31 years, December 21, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: PunyInform, Inform

(.z3 version reviewed - also available on vintage computers)
It has been 31 years since the classic ZX Spectrum game "Retarded Creatures and Caverns" arrived and now John Wilson has finally made a sequel, this time in Inform 6 using the PunyInform library so that it can be published as z-code for modern IF-players as well as the retro-community. There are still only a few PunyInform games out there, and I have only played a few before this. My impression is, that PunyInform maintains the "good parser feel" of Inform without sacrificing something crucial. The only "speciality" seems to be, that you cannot UNDO. However, in this game you are not told what is inside a container when you open it. You must SEARCH it (or LOOK IN it) if you want to know. This was the default behaviour of earlier PunyInform versions but could be changed by the author.

Back to the game:
Once again we follow Algy as he returns to the castle some 30 years later to gain gold and glory. There are several references to the first game but you do not need to have played it to play this. Still, I would recommend that you play the accessible Adventuron version of the previous game first, as it is a good game and it has a decent parser (not all Adventuron games have such a good parser - perhaps Adventuron has been improved significantly over the years). With this sequel, John Wilson has captured the feeling of returning to a place many years after, which adds something to the game.

Return to the Castle (RttC) is a relaxed comedy (fun but not hilarious) with some good puzzles of medium difficulty, which is what I prefer. Everything was well done and I enjoyed RttC very much.

The difficulty level has often a big impact on how much I enjoy a game and therefore also the rating. To me, the difficulty level was just right. Others may find it too easy or too hard. However, a walkthrough is now available so everyone should be able to finish this game. Recommended to all puzzle lovers.

Alien Research Centre 3: Footprints In The Snow, by John Wilson

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Short but good Inform game with strong parser, December 21, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform, PunyInform

This game can be played independently of the first two games. This is the first PunyInform game by John Wilson that I have played. I have tried other games by John Wilson, but this is clearly the game with the strongest parser. You are never in doubt if the game understands commands like LOOK BEHIND or LOOK UNDER 'object' and the game understands commands like GET ALL FROM BIN (fictive example).

This is the second PunyInform game I play, and as the first one (Tristam Island Demo) I rarely notice that I am playing a game with a library optimized for 8-bit machines. Well, if you go looking for unimplemented verbs you will find them, such as SING, PRAY, BLOW etc. though such verbs can easily be implemented if the author wants to. Fortunately, the game tells you whenever you try to apply a verb not known by the game.

EDIT: The previously mentioned bugs are not present in the newest version.

The game is fairly easy and can be completed without maximum points. Thus I played it twice to get the last points. Recommended.

Tristam Island, by Hugo Labrande

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Review of full game: Very good!, December 17, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: PunyInform, Inform

After playing the demo in September, I was very much looking forward to this game. I wasn't disappointed.

The game starts as you have arrived on this apparently(?) deserted island after crashing your plane at sea. Since I don't want to spoil anything, I just want to say that the game can roughly be divided into four parts of different lengths, and that the demo only covers the first part.

The genre of this game is "Mystery". In case the exact genre of the game is important to you, you should know (Spoiler - click to show)that the game is not science fiction nor fantasy but purely realistic.

The game comes with some invisiclues and a post card. I am not sure if the post card is intended to be found inside the game, at least I did not find it, and it wasn't mentioned in the walkthrough available form CASA. So I first read it after completing the game.

I needed help with a single puzzle, and was later annoyed that I did not figure it out myself, so that puzzle was fair enough: (Spoiler - click to show)I did not realize that I would get a different response when trying to search the buckets while on the floor, instead of searching them while on the mezzanine.

However, the solution was NOT in the invisiclues. As a consequence, I read the clues for the wrong question by accident. I think the invisiclues could be improved here: (Spoiler - click to show)In the first room in the white house, there is a door to the north. It is not clear what it leads to, but I expected that there was clues for this door. Since there weren't any clues mentioning this door, I thought the door was actually "Major's office door" and read the clues for that, too late realizing that it had to be another door. I think the solution is to make some clues for the "contraption door" appear before "Major's office door", even if only giving vague hints if you don't want to give clues for it.

In the end, I had to look at the walkthrough on CASA to solve that puzzle.

Another problem was the final puzzle which had a (for me) Guess-the-verb/phrase/disambiguation problem: (Spoiler - click to show)X TRANSMITTER SAYS: "The dial of the transmitter...", which made me think that I should TURN DIAL, which works in other parts of the game. Then I tried X DIAL and was told about the geiger counter, so I left the geiger counter outside the COMMS room to avoid that disambiguation. Back in the COMMS room I once again tried TURN DIAL and got: "You'll have to specify if you want to turn it left or right." Thus I tried TURN DIAL LEFT and TURN DIAL RIGHT but that wasn't understood. I tried the same with "transmitter" and "radio". Looking at the walkthrough I realized that the answer was TURN KNOB RIGHT, i.e. the noun KNOB was required. Looking back at the X TRANSMITTER response, I see that the knob is mentioned. Still, I think the misleading responses to TURN DIAL/RADIO/TRANSMITTER should be avoided. I do acknowledge that many players will figure out the right noun as it is mentioned in the text. Still it would be good to get rid of the misleading response.

Despite my few problems, the parser is good and there were no really hard puzzles, so I think most experienced players will solve it without needing help with the puzzles. Some players prefer very challenging puzzles. Perhaps, they will find this game too easy. I can only say that I enjoyed the game a lot and recommend it very much.

Review of Demo:(Spoiler - click to show)
I just completed this free demo. I am not sure, but I think I used about 1.5 hours to complete it without hints(*). The full game should be 2-3 times bigger (I scored 34 out of 100 points). I am very much looking forward to the full game, which should arrive on the 20th of November. I have a feeling that the end of the game is going to be even better. If so, this might be changed to a 5-star review.

About this demo: The game starts as you have arrived on this apparently(?) deserted island after crashing your plane at sea. There are some fair not too hard puzzles, some more original than others, but all entertaining. Of course, the ending is a cliffhanger making you want to play the whole game.

(*):Only once did I feel stuck, and couldn't help looking at some of the screenshots. I got a single "hint" from one screenshot, but I more regard this "puzzle" as a bug. Since the full version hasn't been released yet, perhaps this might be fixed before the release. Except from this, the implementation is very good.
EDIT: This bug in the demo has been fixed.

I played the c64-version and it was surprisingly fast. I guess that is due to PunyInform and Ozmoo. I decided to play using the VICE-emulator and run it at 200% speed. However, you don't need to play around with emulators. You can just download the z3-file and play it with Gargoyle, Frotz etc. The implementation is thorough and the parser felt as good as any other Inform game - I never noticed that I was playing with a reduced Standard Library. So technically, this game is also very good.

The full game will only be $3.99 but try the free demo if you are in doubt. I am very much looking forward to the full game.

The Fishing-Trip - Brown Trout and Goblins, by John Wilson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A fun demo game with a few puzzles written with PunyInform, December 11, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: PunyInform, Inform

This game was written to illustrate the option in 'PunyInform' to change between the main characters. It is a fun little game, though its background shows. It is not especially well thought out and it can easily be made unwinnable. However, the player can quickly restart this short game or return to a previous save, so it isn't a big deal. However, as this game was made with PunyInform, there is no undo functionality, so save often. Besides that, the parser feels pretty much as most Inform games.

In this game we follow the two "boggits" Fuddo and Slam (many of John Wilson's games take place in a parody world based on Tolkien's universe). These characters had their first game in 1998, which simply was called "Fuddo & Slam". I haven't played that one, so I can't really comment on any similarities between the games.

In the present game, you can switch between these two characters at any time by typing "Become Fuddo" and "Become Slam". The primary difference is, that Slam is stronger and heavier.

Roughly speaking, this game is a treasure hunt. I don't want to reveal much, as part of the game is figuring out what the objective is from some subtle clues in various locations. You can get 230 points maximum, but not all points are required. Also, expect a few maze-like locations.

There really isn't a story, but there were a few fun puzzles and the parser is strong, as it is written with PunyInform. So if you are looking for a quick uncomplicated game, you might like this.

Sheep Crossing, by Andrew Geng

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Not very original, December 8, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

I don't mind short games if they have something original and if they are interesting or ingenious or hilarious etc. But I didn't think this game has much of that, though you might find a few funny responses if you specifically try NOT to solve the puzzles.

This game is an implementation of the classical "Fox, chicken and sack of grain" puzzle where you must cross a river, except that the animals and sack of grain have been replaced with something similar. Besides that, there is an extremely simple puzzle.

Nevertheless, I briefly felt slightly entertained as I couldn't quite remember the solution from my childhood, only parts of it. Luckily, the implementation is fine. After finishing the game, there is a short list of "amusing" things you can try, which was again fine but nothing special.

I think this might be a good game for someone new to parser games, as the player will get a feel of inventory limits, examining stuff, enterable containers etc.

For anyone else, they might be briefly entertained if they have never heard of the "Fox, chicken and sack of grain" puzzle.

The Incredibly Mild Misadventures of Tom Trundle, by B F Lindsay

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent first hour followed by Bullhockey-like puzzlefest, December 8, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

I liked the beginning of this game a lot. The story is on rails with a puzzle here and there, which increases immersion. After 1-2 hours (depends on how fast you are), the game turns into a puzzlefest very similar to the Bullhockey games. I have played both Bullhockey games for a while, but they couldn't hold my interest, in the long run, so I never finished those.

I think I played for four hours and got 155 points out of 400 while I tried not to peek too much on the walkthrough. So the game is definitely huge. I do like a good long puzzlefest, but for some reason, this part of the game is not for me.

Perhaps because too many similar standard objects (chairs, tables etc in most rooms) must be searched and examined, too many locked doors must be attempted to be unlocked with each key (confusing, as the game, in the beginning, can figure out which key to use) and there are too many keys to keep track of. All this becomes rather tedious with only a few clever puzzles (maybe there are some deeper into the game). Perhaps just a combination of all these things.

I think the game would be more fun if the tedious puzzles were removed and only the good ones were kept. A lot of locations could also be removed, as they seem to be there mainly for realism, which isn't necessary.

Still, the beginning is truly excellent and I wanted to see the end, so I copied the very long walkthrough into the command line (had to cut it into 25 pieces) to see the ending, as I didn't feel like playing through the whole game to see the ending.

If BF Lindsay ever makes a game with the same gameplay style throughout as the beginning of this game, I would love to play it. Also, if he is able to improve his puzzlefests, I would like to play those too. Still, if you liked the Bullhockey games, you will probably like the entire game.

Entangled, by Dark Star

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Well implemented old-school game with lots of conversation, December 7, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

This is a very well implemented game, old-school in the sense that you need to examine and search a lot. But modern when it comes to the number of endings and how much you actually can ask the NPCs about.

In this game you get to talk to a lot of people and you can ask them about lots of stuff. You might get some proposals on what to ask about if you TALK TO the NPCs, though these proposals are not exhaustive. When I first finished the game, it was without hints, and I got 35 out of 50 possible points. The ending tells you a lot about the fate of the many NPCs, so you might want ot play again to get all the 50 points. I tried to replay it once. This time I understood much more, but didn't get any more points. Then I decided to stop.

For what it is trying to be, I think this game succeeds. If you don't mind examining and searching a lot in addition to "standard puzzles" I think you will like this one.

Elsegar I: Arrival, by Silas Bryson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A few puzzles and a big maze, December 7, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: inform

This game seems to be a test game for someone who is just starting to learn Inform. It doesn't appear very bugged, but there is almost no story, a few puzzles and then a huge maze. I mapped more than 60 rooms in the maze before I gave up. What there is before the maze isn't horrible, but nothing special either. Feels like someone just wanted to create a game real quick though.

The maze is not a classical IF maze (no need to drop objects to distinguish the locations) but it is more logical, i.e. if you go east you can get back by going west etc. Still, the location descriptions are identical so it may make it slightly easier if you drop objects at certain locations. However, the real problem with the maze is, that it does not mention which directions you can go, so you have to try by trial and error to figure out which directions you can go in each location. And I wasn't sure if it is only N/S/E/W in all locations or if I should also try NW/NE/SE/SW and up/down. It appears as if N/S/E/W is sufficient though.

If you like mapping big mazes, you might like this one.

Seasonal Apocalypse Disorder, by Zan and Xavid

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Time travel to solve puzzles, December 7, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

This time travel puzzle game has some original mechanics and nice puzzles. You have to save the world from the Order of the Fiery Doom. There are several endings, though some of them are not accessible depending on what you did earlier in the game. Most puzzles were good, some easy, some a bit tricky. Except for a few uncritical bugs, the implementation was good. The writing was good too, though some of the comedic solutions did not fit so well with the writing which didn't feel like it was supposed to be funny. Still, a good atmospheric puzzle parser game.

BYOD, by n-n

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A very short but entertaining IT adventure, December 6, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

This game starts out when you arrive on your first day as an IT intern at McKenzie & Lloyds. The game is quite original. I would spoil it if I say much more. I managed to find two different endings. Not sure if there are more, but I don't think so.

In the time of writing, there is a sort of "bug" if I play the included zblorb-file with Windows Frotz: When the game begins there is a quote. You then press a key to continue but then the first three sentences of the introduction are not displayed. However, all I had to do was to start the online version, read the first three lines there and then continue playing using Frotz. Thus it did not affect my rating. (EDIT: later I have found this to happen with other games too when using Windows Frotz. I have switched to Lectrote, which doesn't seem to have that problem)

Also, the online version has a very cool presentation: An apparent DOS-screen where you can click on seven different files, with some related but not required information and a nice demo in the style of old commodore 64/Amiga demos.

The puzzles and game mechanics are fine. This game is quite short, but enjoyable as long as it lasts. If you don't mind short games, I can recommend this one.

PS: A note on my ratings: (Spoiler - click to show)On IFDB I rate games by how much I enjoy them, not for how long I am enjoying them. Thus short games can get 5 stars if I am highly entertained as long as it lasts. This is in contrast to how I rate games in IFComp, where the longer games get higher ratings if I am equally entertained (based on the two first hours).

The Magpie Takes the Train, by Mathbrush

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An excellent one-room puzzlefest, December 5, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

In this game you play the role of Sir Rodney Playfair, a gentleman thief also known as the Magpie. The Magpie first appeared in the IFComp winning "Alias 'The Magpie'" which I have played but not completed. Having solved this excellent one-room game, I feel tempted to return to "Alias 'The Magpie'", which I probably will.

This game is fairly easy but highly entertaining. If you prefer very dificult puzzles, this game is probably too easy for you, but if you enjoy easy puzzles as well, you will most likely enjoy this game.

You cannot have a Magpie game without disguises, so of course there are several possible disguises. This is mixed with Mathbrush's own conversation system, similar to his "Color the Truth" and other games by Mathbrush. Thus, the game keeps track of relevant topics and it is sufficient to simply type the topic, no need to "SAY topic TO character" so the gameplay is very smooth.

The puzzles are fun and the writing is whimsical, though I didn't experience any laugh-out-loud moments (well, except for one "easter egg"). Still, it was a very rewarding game, which I highly recommend.

Alone, by Paul Michael Winters

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent puzzles, good story, December 5, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

This game is based on some standard apocalyptic tropes but it is done very very well. I don't want to ruin any surprises in the game, so I will only say that the game starts right after you run out of gas on the highway.

The implementation is quite good. The game is not very difficult, though a few of the more clever puzzles had me thinking for a while. The game is a horror game, though not a very scary one. However, it is possible to trigger some turn-based events, which increases the suspense.

The story is well written, though it is definitely more a game than a verbose story. So it is mainly the introduction and the endings which are verbose. The location descriptions are well written too, but some might find them too short. I found them fitting for their purpose.

Talking about endings, there are more than one ending, but only one optimal ending. It will be obvious if you reached the optimal ending. It took me 2.5 hours to reach the optimal ending without hints.

Even though the story is not highly original, the game contains some rather clever puzzles and everything is very well done. If you like parser games with many puzzles, I highly recommend this one.

Dr Ego and the egg of Man-Toomba, by Special Agent

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Fun puzzle adventure, December 2, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

In this game, you play the role of Dr. Ego, an adventurous archaeologist looking for the golden egg of Man-Toomba in the jungle. It is a fairly standard puzzle adventure with a few bugs and a few places where the descriptions could have described more thoroughly what was going on. Still, most of the puzzles were easy.

Besides examining things, remember also to "search" things. If the game had been a bit more polished and/or a little more effort had been put into the writing to make it more exciting, I would gladly have given one more star. For instance, the ending is very short. I prefer when the ending is a little longer, to give the player some sort of award for completing the game. Despite the few problems mentioned above, it was still a fun game.

Stuff of Legend, by Lance Campbell

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Funny writing, good puzzles, December 2, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

This game starts out right after the player character has been fired as the village idiot. He must now find something else to do...

Lance Campbell certainly has a talent for comedy writing. More over, he has come up with a funny story and some good puzzles which are well implemented. This is quite a good game.

I did loose patience with a few of the puzzles and resorted to the built-in hints, but looking back they were probably fair. However, I would never had completed the game without help from google. I wonder if English had been my first language, would I still have trouble knowing all the different (Spoiler - click to show)horse and cat sounds?

My favourite funny quote is probably this:
(Spoiler - click to show)"Regardless, you are in a conversation with an animal now, and she is clearly waiting for you to speak to her:"
1) "Moo. Moo."
2) "MOO! MOO!"
3) "Moooooo. Moooooo."
4) End the discussion.

Anyway, this is a really funny game with good puzzles, which I certainly recommend.

For a Place by the Putrid Sea, by Arno von Borries

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Sometimes serious, sometimes a comedy, December 1, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

This game is quite interesting. It takes place in Japan and introduces a little bit of the language and some objects. It is sometimes serious and at other times a comedy. The comp version I played in the beginning of IFComp 2020 had a few bugs. One of them was game-breaking, so I had to revert to an older save-file. But most of the bugs I could work around. Thus, my rating does not consider these bugs, as I guess the author will fix them in a post-comp version(?)

I liked most of this game a lot, both its story, puzzles and the humor. This game has several endings. However, it is clear whenever a better ending can be obtained, so the player will probably "undo" when reaching one of these less good endings. Unfortunately, the final ending was a bit confusing, and I couldn't help thinking that this game might have been a sequel to the author's other games. At least I noticed that the author has made another game set in Japan (Gotomomi). Thus "Putrid Sea" may be excellent if you have played that game first, I don't know. I have rated it without having played Gotomomi.

Perhaps if I had read all messages thoroughly several times, I could have analyzed the text to figure out what was going on with the final ending. Personally, I don't think that should be necessary and thus I rated it even though I didn't get the final ending. Still, I can recommend this game, as most of the game is easy to understand and well done (except the few bugs I hope the author will fix). You can just stop at one of the earlier endings, if you don't like the final ending.

Shadow Operative, by Michael Lauenstein

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Atmospheric sci-fi thriller, December 1, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

This sci-fi game is fundamentally a glulx game and you can decide to play the gblorb-file in a normal interpreter. However, if you play the online version, Vorple is applied resulting in a beautiful and practical interface with graphics and music. Especially, the music is quite cool, though after some time you will hear the same tunes again. A drawback about the online version is, that it is sometimes a bit slow. If you think this is a problem, you can play the gblorb-file in an interpreter and the responses will be close to instantaneous.

A bigger problem with Online play is (at least in the time of writing) when you restore a saved game. The longer you get into the game (? - or the more save-files you have?), the longer it takes to restore a game. It seems to grow almost exponentially. On Chrome it took more than 5 minutes and thus I gave up and started to play the Online version through the Windows Edge browser instead. Here the delays were also significant but at least the save-games were restored eventually (perhaps a coincidence?). I understand that the author is looking into this.

The atmosphere is great, the writing is good and so is the puzzles without being extraordinary. There is also a lot of humour here and there, which fits well into the game. I regard the difficulty level as medium since I only needed a single hint. Recommended.

The Prongleman Job, by Arthur DiBianca

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Verbless treasure hunt in a house, April 3, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

Probably inspired by the game Sugarlawn(?), Arthur DiBianca has made a fun treasure Hunt set in a house. Similar to Sugarlawn, you must find as many valuables as you can within a time limit. The story is different but not so important to the game. Still, it is nice to have a story: You are a member of the local Thieves' Society and you are given your first real assignment. You're to enter the home of the wealthy Prongleman and steal ten valuables...

So already here, the game begins to deviate from Sugarlawn since we know there are ten valuables and that it should be possible to get them all. Well, I haven't collected them all, only (Spoiler - click to show)eight and I'm pretty sure where the two missing ones are but I don't know how to get them so I cannot be 100% sure since no walkthrough has been released.

Another significant difference is that the game is verbless. To examine and/or interact with an object you should simply type the object of interest. The only other commands you can type are N, W, E, S, Look(L), Inventory(I) and Leave. You can choose to leave the house before Prongleman gets home if you think you are not going to find any more valuables. Alternatively, you could just pass the time until Prongleman gets back, then you will flee out of a window. In any case, you are given a rank, e.g. Slight Thief if you only got one valuable.

The game is certainly smaller and less complicated than Sugarlawn but for as long as it lasts, it is just as enjoyable with its own original feel. It is a nice contribution to the list of IF optimization games like Sugarlawn and Captain Verdeterre's Plunder.

Napier's Cache, by Vivienne Dunstan

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Short, easy and well written, April 2, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

I have been looking forward to this game since I played the IntroComp version in 2018. I wasn't disappointed, except that I was hoping for a longer game since I was having such a good time! But I guess no matter how long a game is, you would like it to be longer if it is great.

This game is both short and easy but what there is, is well written and I was constantly excited to see the next scene. There were no ingenious puzzles, but they fit well into the story. The ending was a bit tame, but otherwise, it was a great game. And I cannot guarantee that there isn't a better ending and that I just didn't find it.

Anyway, I am glad I played it.

City of Secrets, by Emily Short

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Good game, November 24, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: inform

This game is kind of a spy thriller set in a city where magic and technology exist side by side. You, an innocent tourist, is aboard a train when the train suddenly breaks down. You will thus have to stay for a while in this city you never intended to visit. Quickly you will get involved in a plot.

The game starts of very well with some events happening, which makes the story progress smoothly. After this, you get to explore the city, have lots of conversations and you get to solve some puzzles along the way. More events will occur later after you have played for awhile, progressing the story further, even if you haven't solved that many puzzles.

It turns out that you do not need to solve all puzzles to complete the game. At one point I got stuck, so I searched the internet for a walkthrough. Apparently no one has made one, so when I finally managed to complete the game, I decided to write a walkthrough. Some events occur simply after a number of turns after something has happened. As a consequence, following the walkthrough you will at some point have to wait 90(!) turns as you wait for something to happen. However, the first time you play the game you will be using even more turns exploring the city and so it will feel natural that something suddenly happens. Only if you replay the game and you are trying to figure out how to trigger a certain event, you will realize that it will occur simply after many turns have passed.

It is my impression that this game cannot be made unwinnable, though I am not completely sure. It may also have more than one winning ending(?), though I only managed to find one. So, unless you are looking for alternative endings, you shouldn't need to restart the game. Should you die, you can always undo.

To complete this game you do not need to solve a lot of puzzles. However, there will be lots of conversations. The conversation system takes a little getting used to, but then it is quite convenient.

To sum up, this is a very well written story-driven game with a few puzzles and lots of conversation, which I can certainly recommend.

Old Jim's Convenience Store, by Anssi Räisänen

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short but fun puzzlefest, November 20, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: inform

This game is a short puzzlefest set in the present. You inherit a convienience store from your uncle. However, there is more to it than that. I don't want to spoil anything, so I will not say anything more about the plot. The puzzles are quite easy. I did however, have to consult the walkthrough once, which I regretted since the action I needed to do was an action I usually try if I am stuck, but forgot to try here. So the puzzles were certainly fair. The story is not original at all but serves the purpose for a good but fairly easy puzzlefest. Recommended, especially to people new to parser IF.

The House on Sycamore Lane, by Paul Michael Winters

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Good game with minor issues, November 20, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: inform

This is a quite good game with a few issues here and there but nothing serious. The story is simple but sufficient for a small entertaining puzzlefest. There was one puzzle, which made me look at the walkthrough since I was impatient to get on with the story. I immediately regretted it, since it was a fair puzzle. The rest of the puzzles were fairly easy, despite technical issues here and there and so I managed to complete it within 90 minutes. I enjoyed it.

Skies Above, by Arthur DiBianca

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Very original, November 20, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: inform

This game is something I have never seen in interactive fiction before. The only game I can think of being slightly similar is "Superluminal Vagrant Twin", in the sense that you need to save up money and that you gain access to new locations as you progress. However, besides money you must gain "floatrons" in Skies Above, which determines how high up in the sky your airship can go. There are several "mini-games" where you can earn money, floatrons or both.

I must say that when I first started playing the game, one of the first "mini-games" seemed a bit repetitive. However, the game quickly opens up with very varied gameplay and you gain routine so that you can quickly finish the repetitive jobs. So even if the game may not impress you to begin with, carry on. This game is really good!

Even though there is a sort of ending, the game can apparently continue forever it seems with a list of achievements and some mysterious objects you can obtain if you keep playing. You can never die and the the game has a limited parser, so guess-the-verb is never an issue.

I played for about 4 hours before I was satisfied, but I could have continued for a long time without seeing everything there is to see. I highly recommend this game.

Sugarlawn, by Mike Spivey

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Optimization problem with easy and hard puzzles, November 18, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: inform

In this game, you are participating in a reality TV show on the Sugarlawn Plantation. Your objective is to earn as much money you can within 30 minutes. You earn money by finding valuables and return with them to the foyer. Even better, if you can find out what the target location is of a valuable and put it there, you will get a bonus. In addition, you get a bonus if you manage to escape from the house. There is also mentioned a secret bonus. Bonuses will be doubled if you do not bring the sack to carry stuff. In other words, if you accept an inventory limit, your bonuses will be doubled. So this is a rare example of a game, where it makes good sense to have an inventory limit, since it makes the game harder but you earn more points.

This game has a lot of original puzzles it seems. The fundamental gameplay is quite similar to Ryan Veeder's "Captain Verdeterre's Plunder", which isn't a bad thing. This game is however bigger and some of the puzzles are harder. In both games you need to optimize your playthrough to earn as much money you can, which is hard, since there isn't time to get all valuables and bonuses. I like both games very much.

This game has a lot of humor in it, and it is very well implemented. Within the two hour limit I kept increasing my score, and I feel quite addicted. I hope there will be an online high score list at some point, which is the case for "Captain Verdeterre's Plunder". Such competition would give the player an incentive to keep improving. As it is now, you are mainly playing against yourself, which is also fun but could be even more fun with a high score list. Anyway, this is a very fun game I highly recommend.

Jon Doe – Wildcard Nucleus, by Olaf Nowacki

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short but entertaining, November 17, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: inform

This is a little straightforward story-driven parser game. You play the role of Jon Doe, probably the best MI5 agent. You are given an assignment: Investigate the death of an informant employed at a tech company. There are puzzles but they are mostly easy. The game takes place in small areas, which you never return to, so you don't really need to make a map.

I found the writing to be good and sufficient for this kind of game. The implementation was usually good, though a few places, there could have been more responses to the things you can try, especially conversation. However, I managed to complete the game without hints, so it never became a big issue. Overall, I found this to be a very good game.

Founder's Mercy, by Thomas Insel

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Nice Sci-Fi Adventure, April 9, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

In this sci-fi parser adventure you are the last person aboard an abandoned space station. Your objective is to get away from the space station. The game comes with 3 feelies: A map, an antenna calibration guide and a Getting Started manual for an utility scanner.

The map is very convenient and so there is no need to draw a map yourself. The space station is spinning and so the directions Spinward and Antispinward are introduced in addition to port, starboard, up, down, in and out.

The game is very well implemented. There was a single puzzle that required a bit of guessing the verb, but besides that everything worked well. The puzzles were all fair, mostly easy and a few ones harder. Some of the puzzles are a bit technical but none of them requires special knowledge.

Some people might find the minimalistic descriptions too short. I personally found them sufficient to create a good atmosphere and to describe what's going on. This is definitely a game more than a story and so, too much text would disturb the playing experience. However, I would have liked the ending to be more verbose and interesting.

To sum up, the game is atmospheric with some nice puzzles and solid implementation. The ending could have been more interesting but still it was great fun. Try it.

Junior Arithmancer, by Mike Spivey

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Original math puzzle game, November 16, 2018
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

This was my favorite 2018 Ifcomp game. I can imagine that this game is not for everyone, since it is basically a logic/math game. However, it does not require a lot of mathematical knowledge. I would say that you can complete the game using basic math, though to get a perfect score, you should have heard about complex numbers.

In this game you are given the role of a candidate in something called Arithmancy, which is some sort of magic concerning numbers. You need to pass the exam in Arithmancy. To do this, you have to cast spells in the right order, to produce the digits of pi, e, etc. I don't know if this sound like a lot of fun, but it is, if you like logic and math puzzles. In addition, you can get extra points. Some points require that you produce the digits with very few spells, while other points can be gained by finding the numbers with a given color. Yes, in this game all the numbers have a color, though some numbers have the same color. Figuring out the color system, at least to some extent, is needed to obtain a perfect score. I didn't understand the color system completely, but still I managed to get a perfect score, though not within the two hour limit of IFcomp. Thus there are several hours of entertainment in this game.

The game starts out easy but slowly gets harder. Whenever you achieve something in the game, you overhear conversations from the examining committee, which are quite fun. The real fun for me was however figuring out the puzzles.

So if you are into logic puzzles involving math, I can highly recommend this game.

Risorgimento Represso, by Michael J. Coyne

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Enjoyable puzzler, April 15, 2018
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

In this parser game, you play the role of a student, who is by accident sucked into another world of magic where you become a wizard's apprentice. The wizard quickly gets in trouble and you have to help him out.

The writing is full of humor and there are many fine puzzles, though a few of them were a bit unfair to my liking. Luckily there are built-in hints so you can get through the game with some help. I doubt many will solve the game completely without hints. The implementation is very good though.

I prefer the sequel Illuminismo Iniziato over this one, since I regard the puzzles as better in the sequel. Still this was an entertaining game with a good story. I can certainly recommend this to anyone who can accept the need to consult the hints once in a while.

Illuminismo Iniziato, by Michael J. Coyne

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
English game with italian title, April 12, 2018
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

This game is the sequel to Risorgimento Represso. Though I have never played Risorgimento Represso, I enjoyed this game immensely.

In this game you play the role of a wizard's apprentice who has been given an apparently simple task by the wizard. Without spoiling the story, lets just say that the plot will develop as you play.

This is a rather long game with an impressive amount of detail and excellent implementation. The game contains an auto-mapping feature and a newspaper, where you can click to turn the pages.

There are a lot of ingenious puzzles in the game, some easy, others more tricky, but except from one puzzle ((Spoiler - click to show)how to use the hoop) I was able to solve them all without the use of the built-in hint system, where you can ask NPCs for help. So I regard the puzzles as very fair and well clued.

The writing is good and witty, and did a great job in communicating the surroundings. There are several references to Risorgimento Represso, but they are all understandable to those who haven't played it.

This is the best game I have played this year so far, so I highly recommend it.

The Lurking Horror II: The Lurkening, by Ryan Veeder

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent game!, February 25, 2018
by Denk
Related reviews: inform

Though I have never played The Lurking Horror, playing this unofficial sequel was really really fun. To my knowledge the concept is quite original: You have 9 moves to finish the game, before something bad happens. However, you need to play the game over and over to obtain the necessary knowledge needed to succeed.

The puzzles are great and are solved by casting spells. To begin with they are quite easy but later on they get a bit tricky. For my taste the difficulty level was just right.

The implementation seemed flawless and the atmosphere was fitting. I can't really say anything bad about this game, so I higly recommend this one.

The Wand, by Arthur DiBianca

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Two games in one, November 16, 2017
by Denk
Related reviews: inform

This was my favorite 2017 Ifcomp game. I don't see how to make a meaningful review of this one, without touching on the hidden content, which is more than half the game. If you cannot find the hidden content, check out David Welbourn's excellent walkthrough.

The Wand is a very polished puzzle-based text adventure, where the player seeks out a challenge at Bartholloco's secluded castle. The player is not allowed to touch anything in the castle, except from the wand, he/she is given at the beginning of the game. Luckily the wand is magical and can be set to 1000 different color combinations. The wand has different abilities depending on the chosen color combination. Unfortunately you do not know which combinations are useful, but clues to this are placed around the castle.

The apparent challenge of the game has a very nice level of difficulty and can be completed in approximately 2 hours. However, (Spoiler - click to show)if you restart and approach the game with your knowledge from your first play-through, you may find a much deeper and more involved challenge.

It is during this deeper challenge you will come to realize how well thought out the magic system actually is. Also, the ending of this deeper challenge is much better than that of the first challenge.

I don't think a pure puzzle game comes much better than this.

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