Came the day when I required the correct rule formatting for pouring tea from a teapot, and lo! there was this game for me to steal code from.
I have deleted my previous uncomplimentary review and given this five stars. It seems only fair.
Eh. The basic concept is all right (there is an actual winnable game, and not a very long one), but I was too distracted by certain mimesis-breakers to enjoy it much.
Item: fresh meat is a proven antiscorbutic!
Item: a useful command is left out of the commands list!
I won't even mention the ending, which...either you'll like it or you won't. Still, it'd be nice to see the travel dynamic elsewhere, and for a speed-IF it's quite solidly coded.
A warm and delightful piece, in which the player is invited to make a cup of tea and a slice of toast (Marmite and butter presumably being unnecessarily complicated for a comp game, or perhaps the writer just wanted to avoid the whole controversial subject of toast toppings...).
It's timed, but this doesn't matter especially - there isn't a losing state in this game - so it's a no-stress experience. You'll probably want two goes, one for looking at things and one for getting everything just so. There are a few oddities - there's an inventory management issue, surprisingly - but nothing untoward.
A story plays itself out in messages as you go; the details change slightly each playthrough, building on what you know about the protagonist's experience.
A sound-critical game, this is about as concise as games can be; a handful of words pop up on a screen, and you click on them. The whack-a-mole conceit is a familiar enough one from other video game genres (though not one I've encountered before in IF). In this case, though, a simple game mechanic came across to me as a beautifully self-explanatory metaphor for the creative process.
Because one of the words you can click is "Create", and it's colourful and pretty, and it plays a sweet little musical sting when you click it, and the thing is altogether lovely. But you can't click it forever - there must be time to eat and sleep and other more obscure diversions, and the necessities of everyday life interrupt. Which means that the "Create" melody that teeters on the edge of clarity never quite resolves, however hard you try.
Is that Utopian?
Well, it's still more exciting then a life without creation.
(Spoiler - click to show)Murder, arson and jaywalking. Or arson, anyway.
This is the sequel to "If I Wasn't Shy". Go and play that one first if you haven't yet, it won't take long.
Those who would enjoy a rambling discourse on sequels and continuity will find one below the cut. There are also spoilers.
(Spoiler - click to show)
Continuity always intrigues me, usually for its intrinsic connection to the fandom I'm looking up, but partly because the pattern recognition involved in its construction is a process that I find inherently entertaining. The ability to draw inferences seems to be a defining aspect of human intelligence, for both good and ill (scientific investigations versus conspiracy theories). I can generally contrive to get some deep enjoyment out of a guide to any media, if it be sufficiently lovingly detailed, by observing the manner in which small details are used to build up a logical system almost from thin air. In some ways it's more fun doing this with an unfamiliar fandom, because you're making your own pattern recognitions as you go along. (This sort of thing will be familiar to anyone who has read a D&D manual without ever trying the associated roleplay. It is also somewhat akin to this XKCD strip regarding sandwiches.)
The relative lack of interactive fiction that builds on itself thus came as a surprise to me (this is something that I'm looking forward to in Infocom games as I play more of them, and Marius Muller's Alex and Paul series, for that matter). I wonder whether it's because it's so easy to just put everything that you might want to say in a story in one complete project? Whether thinking of interactive fiction as stories with a definable end means that sequels seem besides the point? Or perhaps it's just because there's less of a sense of "privileged" media in IF then in, say, fan fiction circles where the book/television/movie will always be more important. This might lessen the pressure to build on the details of a single world when there is always the attraction of a brand new world to tempt creators. I am speculating wildly.
So this is where "All Alone" comes in. Logistically, this could be a part of the first game. A version of "If I Wasn't Shy" where you immediately proceed to the car theft/arson/walking away is entirely plausible. Nevertheless, it would have been less good for the story. It makes sense that this person's entire behaviour patterns don't necessarily change even after their big theft, and that it's possible to revert to type. This is a storytelling point that would be buried in a single longer game, but is perfect in two.
In brief: I wish more games built on each other, these two do and are fun to play. Hurrah!
Recommended for: not *immediately* after "If I Wasn't Shy". Noodle around for a while. Play some more Apollo games. Then come back and see what you think.
Or perhaps there are only so many ways to describe a Hall of Heads. At any rate, this is one of the Apollo games that went with the "based on the song" prompt with careful literalness. This is no bad thing: one of the many entertaining aspects of the project was seeing how different authors worked with the songs they were given.
(Spoiler - click to show)There is one way to win. A fairish amount of testing suggests only one.
Recommended for: whilst listening to the song in question. It's a good match.
I have played both the bugged version (in the tempting Internet link) and the unbugged (downloaded to a proper interpreter) version of this.
The unbugged version is amusing enough, in its way. It's Tetris. The probability that you have found your way to this page without playing Tetris is vanishingly small, but if so, then you may now avail yourself of the opportunity. Learn to enjoy the shapes. Consider trying a version with music next time. It is a joke not requiring a critic's explanation.
As for the bugged version...those who do not enjoy long reviews can skip the rest.
(Spoiler - click to show)Still here? You already know this scene off by heart. It is late night. The lights are off, leaving only an ethereal glow from the computer monitor. Yours truly is in a sleepy groove of lazy browsing, jumping casually from hyperlink to hyperlink, in that pattern of ecstatic information gathering doubtless familiar to Internet denizens everywhere. A game of Tetris presents itself. Very good! Let it be played.
A note regarding the implicit philosophical underpinnings of our binary Skinner box. Tetris is, as has been noted by other minds before me, a starkly pure vision of mortality. Blocks fall. You place the blocks. You score beautiful victories with straights. You despair over the awkward falls of Z-blocks. Maybe you find yourself living the good life of block placing. Time passes, your reactions slow, the screen fills with loose ends and uncertainties. You die.
Unless you're in a bugged version with no timed events, in which you control the downward progression of the blocks.
It begins the same way, with a little extra keyboarding. You move the blocks. You push them down. You make the odd mistake. Careful manoeuvring fixes this over the course of many turns. You are pleased with yourself, as you normally would.
But it goes on, and on, and you keep going, even though your eyes have started to smart from setting up the rows (it would be churlish to note that these are very small shapes, but, well, they are), and because you can't die. Correction: you will die, but only when you choose to make the mistake. It has become your responsibility to live, the creed dictated by a thousand other games - a thousand other games of Tetris, perhaps! - and so you continue, long after it stops being fun, because there doesn't seem any way to end it. This is a world without time, where it's not worthwhile speaking of events, not because they don't happen, but because stripping away causality renders them meaningless. There is no satisfaction in vanishing a set of blocks when your ability to do so was never in doubt.
Lost in an endlessness of the witching hour, you set a goal, an arbitrary goal, but an achievable goal, one far closer than the end of infinity. A hundred lines, perhaps. Maybe there will be an Easter Egg at the end of a hundred lines. Some small taste of human acknowledgement, buried in the numbers. Anything is possible.
And in a crazed, yet slow - excruciatingly slow! - progression, you work your way there. Ninety two lines. Ninety-six lines. Ninety-seven. Ninety-eight.
A hundred and two.
Nothing has changed.
In despair, you ram down the blocks on top of each other, willing your death. It comes.
The game resets. More blocks. An infinity of blocks.
And you ram the space bar down, down, watching the waterfall of blocks, cascading, expecting an end, and there is no end. There will never be an end. Infinity blasts into your soul and settles itself inside, leaving the wound too numbed for anguish.
You close the browser window and go play something by Porpentine instead.
I have been unable to determine whether I should score this with one star or five, and have settled for a weak, vacillating compromise. Perhaps I shouldn't have rated it at all.
Recommended for: any night you may happen to be dismal about the brevity of life. You will find this a ready cure.
That "slice of life" tag is to be interpreted loosely. We have here a game possessed by misrule, and a protagonist whose actions are ideally suited for Twine. The inevitable action is marked by the inevitable hyperlink. Parser implementation would be irrelevantly fiddly.
Recommended for: a engrossing distraction, while tentative and nervous about a large impending Life Event of Quite Dramatic Impact. (You may or may not be less nervous when you finish.)
(Spoiler - click to show)...how much do you like windows?
The idea of adapting old stories into interactive fiction is one with great appeal to me - "Bronze" remains one of my favourites to this day - and "The Griffin and the Minor Canon" is a beautifully rendered example. I played it first, then read the short story, and was impressed with how elegant the rendering was. The translation into second person adds a layer of - shall we say humanity? - to the protagonist that is left rather more implicit in the original, while benefiting from Stockton's rhythmatic prose (perfect for Twine). It's also pleasing to look at as well.
(I'm grading generously with four stars, but it is worth playing, and I wouldn't want anyone to be put off by a low IFDB average. It is the sort of exercise in which less is more.)
Note: Itch doesn't seem to play well with Chrome. Use another browser, it's worth it.
Recommended for: when you crave a faerie tale with genuine depth.
An exercise in 'how well do you know your IF parser?' I've compiled a list of actions with unique responses in the spoiler space; it's probably incomplete, but is longer than the Club Floyd list and includes some amusingly silly responses. A few typos, but it's fast and fun.
(There is no apparent reference to Suzanne Vega's 'Small Blue Thing', which I will admit was my go-to visualisation for the Blue Thing - the THMBGs song being slightly vague as to description.)
(Spoiler - click to show)
X blue thing
Recommended for: when you're in a methodical mood.