Reviews by Sono

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Doppeljobs, by Lei
Link doesn't work, April 30, 2023
by Sono

Note: the current link to the game is broken. I found a working link here:

So I Was Short Of Cash And Took On A Quest, by Anssi Räisänen
Breezy puzzlefest that you should probably consult a walkthrough for, August 10, 2022
by Sono

I liked the puzzles! They fit the sort of casual, escape room atmosphere, but it felt a bit guess-the-verb and it was difficult to figure out what to do. (Spoiler - click to show)For example... I kept trying to climb the shelf to get the key on the hook, and didn't realize I could just reach it by standing on a bucket. I got stuck and relied on the walkthrough to figure out what to do, but the game wasn't long or frustrating enough for that to be a huge problem.

I also thought the story was pretty thin, and the ending, though properly lighthearted which is the most important thing, felt a little disappointingly (Spoiler - click to show)meta with the reference to an underimplemented room. I would have liked to have seen it developed a bit more.

An Evening at the Ransom Woodingdean Museum House, by Ryan Veeder

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Slim-backed historical-modern horror story about women's places in time, March 9, 2022
by Sono

Really interesting game! This is very much of an exploration and a story rather than a puzzlefest, and I think it does those two things quite well. There was a very hard puzzle (how to re-enter the house) that I got stuck on, but the >hint feature allowed me to progress.

There's a lot of pleasing description here and a nice narrative voice (Spoiler - click to show)(with a contrast from 'I' to 'you'), standard of Veeder's writing. Although the end scenes were my favorite and what I remembered of this game for several years, I also really enjoyed the early game where you go around a museum you're a tour guide for and get to touch everything hidden behind the velvet ropes.

I especially liked the response if you try to >undo after completing the game.

The story has a satisfying ending. I think that's harder to find in horror stories nowadays, and I thought it was very effective, especially with how it was handled. (Spoiler - click to show)The woman that used to live in the house, with all the sexism and prejudices of the time, switches places with 'you', the tour guide living in the modern age. You'll get used to the uncomfortable bed and loneliness eventually, because it's time for her to try out her new car keys and autonomy!

(Spoiler - click to show)The use of a separate character choosing to leave her historical life (whilst fucking over someone else) instead of only having the narrator ruminating on how much it must have sucked or having it buried in subtext really made it for me. I especially liked how Lilian Woodingdean still felt like part of the 1800s even as she was ready to escape it. She dismisses the maid's room as unimportant if you try to examine it, and denigrates your attempts to play with the children's toys. Even the museum which prides itself on historical accuracy can't get everything right, and she provides corrections like how the rocking horse would never be provided to kids - no, that would teach them to be complacent with real horses. Her analysis of how values have changed as linearly pointing towards more convenient and comfortable makes very much sense from her perspective, and along with the mild, almost wistful tone that seems to be stereotypically packed with statements like those also comes with her implicit understanding that convenient and comfortable are things that she'd prefer to live with, given the option, and she's going to have such a great time in your car and modern life!

The Blind House, by Amanda Allen

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Creepy horror game that plays with the idea of puzzlefests, December 31, 2021
by Sono

So, you're in a house staying with a acquaintance after an incident left you with nowhere else to go. Maybe you have some ideas of how you should behave, or about what kind of houseguest to be. But, you're not playing as you. You're playing as Helena.

I think this is an interesting game to contrast with non-IF games. The closest equivalent to it I can think of is horror RPG maker games such as Ib, without a obvious goal but to go around solving puzzles anyway. The Blind House is less dreamlike with its grounded setting inside someone's home where you interact with mundane objects. You have puzzles such as how to fill a vase with flowers, how to cover an annoyingly bright window, and more traditionally slightly-insane IF puzzles like figuring out what a code on a blouse corresponds to, finding the password to a computer, and figuring out how to call someone. What doesn't feel quite homely does fit what you expect out of retro IF. And on the whole, even when you realize what you're doing is strange, you have to if you want to proceed in the game. To quote Emily Short's review, "Behaving in a “normal” IF adventurer way was, within the context of the fiction, behaving in a completely creepy and unacceptable way" and that's a really fun thing to play with.

And the payoff is really great. I've found lots of horror games unwilling to explain themselves recently, but this game does not turn away from the weird shit that you've been doing in the end.

Are the puzzles fair? Eh. You'll probably need the walkthrough at some point, but it's included and not too much of a pain. A lot of smaller points are skippable if you don't explore, but the horror would not work so well if you didn't go out of your way to explore and solve these puzzles. It's impossible to get to the end without exploring, so if you find yourself relying on the walkthrough because the puzzles are impossible, I recommend playing again in a few months when you generally know what you need to do but don't remember the specifics.

Concerning problematicness, as stated by another review - the nature of this game as the player as a (Spoiler - click to show)creepy person trying to trap the victim in their own home necessitates an abuser and a victim. While I thought (Spoiler - click to show)Helena's twisted 'protectiveness' and self-justifications that could be read as romantic were a lot more cheesy and obviously evil than scary, especially compared to the her outright denial of what she was doing and the subtlety of her not being able to look in the mirror (because it was covered with bandages), I don't think that that's very out of place in a horror game. Subtextual or not, it's about someone (Spoiler - click to show)predating on someone else which is inherently creepy, and the game being about two women means that the relationship between them will be read as creepy. I don't think it came as a surprise as to what the story was building to, as you-as-Helena must do some very invasive things to reach that point. I also think a benefit is that this story is entirely about the Helena and Marissa - at full tilt, (Spoiler - click to show)the psychotic lesbian isn't a footnote or a joke or side character, she's the heart of the game, so if that's what you're looking for you can have it explored in its entirety here, and if you're not it's not a surprise what you'll be getting into.

My favorite horror moments include
(Spoiler - click to show)
Superglue disappearing from your inventory
Not being able to call anyone
The beginner's quality creepy paintings in the drawer, that Helena presumably made
White roses stained auburn
Twenty bandaids, ten for each arm

Somethings that might be better of fixed
(Spoiler - click to show)
You cannot call Marissa because you don't know anyone named Marissa... the default error message is silly when applied to people you obviously know
The phantom phone call will keep triggering whenever you step out of the room, making it a bit comical

Shambles, by Mona Lloyd

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short and sparse twine game where you play as a penned zombie, November 21, 2021
by Sono

The link is broken, but can be found at the creator's

The writing is sparse and describes only the essentials. As a zombie, you're characterized by hulk speech like in Lost Pig but you don't ever lose control or act truly monstrous. It rather seems like you're just another survivor. (Spoiler - click to show)And with the amount of memories and self awareness Janet has, seems like letting her out of the pen wouldn't be such a bad idea. She knows how to save food, how to use it for traps, can choose between attacking people or not... You spend a good amount of time observing people with more interesting choices in this game.

A fairly enjoyable 15-30 minutes. I played it a few times but the endings don't seem to have any major differences.

Tenth Plague, by Lynnea Dally

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Disturbing game about being the curse of the plagues of Egypt, November 19, 2021
by Sono

A grotesque and morbid short story where you find ways to murder the first sons. I did not find it to be an experience that I would find any enjoyment out of on its own, but it comes with design commentary (>COM) and religious subtext that I found interesting which is what led me to keep playing. This is not a fun game to play.

The strong points were the richness of the victims' lives. You have people trying to protect their houses by painting them with pitch, trying to desperately copy rituals and decide to not go outside, people trying to catch the cloud with a net, lots of slaves that are still firstborn children and definitely not getting freed. The weak points were the more overstated ones. I think the chilling look into the morality of the Bible had me come off feeling the right amount of unpleasant, but the adherence to the lesser known exact writing of the Bible such as the scene about how the pharaoh breaks down about how Yahweh mind controlled him was trying too hard to find something to point at and say this is evil. It's already pretty evil, no need to gild the lily then paint it with lamb's blood.

Grooverland, by Mathbrush

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Fun and spooky romp through a strange amusement park, November 19, 2021
by Sono
Related reviews: puzzles

As a fan of Chandler Groover's writing, the setting of this game was nice. There are references to many of Groover's games that were fun to find and read. This game is probably better enjoyed playing some of his first!

I enjoyed the puzzles generally, but found one of them to be too difficult. The (Spoiler - click to show)creaky house was a huge pain to think about. Mapping it is probably necessary, and while that is traditional, I hate mapping puzzles and was happy to skip it using the in-game provided hints which were direct and helpful. I also found myself a little disappointed by the (Spoiler - click to show)midnight laserfight puzzle which seemed somewhat barebones where the items you could pick up and drop didn't matter. My favorite puzzle was the (Spoiler - click to show)menagerie puzzle with foods named after Groover's other games. Delectable and fun to strategize! I really enjoyed the use of the cake as well, which had a nice parallel to (Spoiler - click to show)Eat Me with progression being marked by what you eat and destroy, and the shenanigans with the animals in the petting zoo. The in-game hint system is very useful if you are having trouble, so if you're unsure about this game, the puzzles shouldn't put you off. It also helps that this game is impossible to be made unwinnable.

The (Spoiler - click to show)steadily more horror-themed amusement park was a nice touch, but this game by no means trips into the actual horror that marks Groover's games. You get about what you see going into Grooverland, with about Disney-level scares.

Story notes: (Spoiler - click to show)Although the beginning of the game really had the feel of a ten year old blitzing through the day that just for her, the high queen! I felt the ending was more caged in. Even if you don't interact with the family members early in the game, you still must pick up their dropped items and use them in the last section. But in the early game it's easy to ignore your siblings and parents in favor of the cool amusement park with very little dialogue from them, so going back to the idea of using their love to defeat the monster and save the park feels kind of hollow. The ending being unmissable thus makes it feel like, well, you have to do this to move on the plot, and somewhat unearned by the player.

Antique Panzitoum, by Caleb Wilson (as Abandoned Pools)

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Source code story, October 26, 2021
by Sono

Huh, this was really interesting. As other reviewers have stated, this is a story that you read from the source code as well as the game.

(Spoiler - click to show)
The "locked out" feeling that you get from playing the empty main game as compared to the vast treasures of the source code is something sublime and unique. I really like the usage of large numbers and the "It is..." construction as what appear to be part of the code but also make literary sense.

Also, this has been a really fun way of getting to know how the Inform language works better.

Caduceus, by Sarah Willson (as Mala Costraca)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Form follows function, October 26, 2021
by Sono

A game that is functionally unplayable without the source code, for the contest that for which it was designed. The source is lovely poetry and tells a story on its own.

Laika, by Ian Michael Waddell

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Cheerful, funny game about an anthropomorphized Laika, July 5, 2021
by Sono

I'll admit I got stuck on one of the puzzles. The answer to the dial (Spoiler - click to show)is CCCP for obvious reasons in hindsight, I ended up prying it out of the source code.

The ending felt a little sudden. If you enjoy the wit and writing of the first few passages, however, you'll probably enjoy yourself through the entire game.

Mindful, by Ian Michael Waddell

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Deeeeelicious, July 5, 2021
by Sono

An excellent short game. Great atmosphere, setting the table with the wicker-and-smiles live laugh love mindfulness and health and family cooking blog aesthetic.

(Spoiler - click to show)The game did a great job of annoying me while keeping me going, well it CAN'T JUST be that, can it? so the twist was quite satisfying. Seeing a fresh human heart as one of the ingredients pop out between the other spices was delightful. The gruesome murder scene still filled with cheerful, on-tone nudges to the reader was perfect.

Bee, by Emily Short

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Melancholy and wistful, February 13, 2021
by Sono

The word I'd use is "versimilitude". The Varytale version that is available is sadly hobbled, with the endings unreachable. I highly recommend checking them out through the source code after a few playthroughs. The ones I could find are epilogue.scene.dry and running-away.scene.dry.

Key moments that characterize the scenes are:
(Spoiler - click to show)
Your father speaking of the pecking order of the husband, then the wife, then the children below.
The choicelessness of all the children.
A competition that for winning is as much a literal unattainability as a wished-for reverie of things just out of reach.
The family living in poverty, and also donating away any money or help other people offer.
The futility of running away where neither societal safety nets nor individuals can help you.
"It gets better," Sara says, and her expression is wry. "It gets much, much better. You just have to stick it out until you're older, and then you can choose for yourself what you want to do. Go to college, travel the world, change religions, shave your head if you want."

"It's going to be years before I'm that old!"

"I know," Sara says. "I really, really know."

That it seems like the only thing that can be done is wait.

It is a familiar misery like dust on unopened living room cabinets. I've had neither spelling bees nor Christian homeschooling nor poverty but the melancholy is the same, and the desire. The paint strokes are very fine. The image is suffocating, a blanket so soothingly familiar that you won't realize you haven't breathed until you're gone.

Remedial Witchcraft, by dgtziea

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Simple, underdeveloped puzzler, December 13, 2019
by Sono

(Spoiler - click to show)

This game is a lot shorter than it first seems. You have a really nice intro where you solve some very basic puzzles to obtain a few items, that also shows off the tantalizing "rest of the house" and gives you two information sources about "Runecrafts" and "History" that seem to promise greater digging.

Then game follows up with a bigger challenge to find some more items, but as you go around solving them, they appear relatively uninvolved with the settings. In fact, nothing from the two information sources from earlier, or from the first two rooms, are used again. This trend continues with the later puzzles, where a cauldron and set of 4 ingredient dispensers appears, but is only used for an 2-turn put-this-in-the-pot. Each dispenser is lovingly described and three of them are just scenery, which is especially disappointing when it was sitting there with its possible alchemical mysteries earlier.

On the other hand, the teleportation wand + stone was a pretty nice combination and possibly the most complex puzzle in the game. It still felt pretty limited: there are very few things you can throw the stone on and nothing gave fun responses to it, so it was a dry lookaround for things you could throw it on. I suppose what I'm missing is the sense of magic or possibility that magical artifacts feel like they should have: they're really just macguffins to move the game along, and their only use is to solve the next simple puzzle in line, without any surprises or new ways to think about things from them. It kind of feels like the game started off bigger and got scrapped down, since you could get rid of the wand and just have the game auto-teleport you to wherever the stone is thrown and it would work the same. Same for the cauldron puzzle, actually. The bolding is also really not necessary in a game of this size (the pool of objects to look at is already really small), or the notebook (exactly what items you need to find isn't necessary, just knowing there are 4, and the game already reminds you of what spell phrases you need right before you need to use them). Stripping down unnecessary components like these would strengthen the game, I think, by not promising something larger than it gives, and allowing the focus to be simply on the items and the puzzles.

I also think this game had a bad case of game divorced from story. The protagonist's backstory and the twist at the end are both completely irrelevant to the player's actions and abilities, making it play like a simple puzzler with story painted on top. It's not really a Remedial Witchcraft as much as another Apprentice Fixing Things game. A way to ameliorate this would be to add some simple details, like making Lina have a hard time finding the right way to pronounce shyn to show how she's a bad student, or to have the cat lying around somewhere examinable and give un-cat-like responses to things to tie in with the twist a little better. It might actually help to simplify or remove things altogether- make the cat just a cat, because... said twist seems to come completely out of left field. See-

["The witch-my master-put a hex on me. She doesn't want me to talk human to her. It's active when she's in the house."

You consider this. "Why?"

"Because. She doesn't appreciate my advice." Sade tilts her head. "Bit odd, since she's the one who put a language charm on me in the first place. She wants me to be a silent familiar. Which is a bit of a waste, don't you think?"]

This seems to be setting up for some kind of relationship conflict between witch and familiar (someone keeping a very sapient silenced like you would a phone...), but instead the twist is that the cat is actually an evil giant!!! Why does the witch have said giant kept as a cat and given free reign of the magic mcguffin house? Why do none of Sade's actions line up with her helping Lina when she could have just told her to read the spell book as a lie to catch the missing objects in the first place, instead of waiting till Lina was done finding each of them? It doesn't make sense and I'm really not sure how workable it is without changing much of the game. And for a light puzzly experience, it may be better to remove it to not overcomplicate it with something that doesn't make sense.

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