Reviews by Wynter

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View this member's reviews by tag: Choice-based fiction Multimedia Parser puzzles Twine puzzles
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Photopia, by Adam Cadre

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Well-plotted fiction, June 18, 2021
by Wynter (London, UK)

I appreciated Photopia above all as a short story. Alley's life is told through the medium of brief sections of text, presented out of chronological order, and not from her own perspective, but from the perspective of different people in her life. As in some of the short stories of Alice Munro, the reader takes these different fragments of time and pieces them together.

The framed sections, in coloured text, are outside of this world altogether: strange, imaginary landscapes. How do they relate to the main story? The reader has to figure it out. And the final scene reveals - to us, but not the main character - the ultimate source of these stories.

I found myself wanting more from the framed stories: there was enough description of the various fantasy landscapes to get me interested, but if they had been described in more detail, and allowed more "examine" responses, I would have been more interested in these parts. They may have benefited from some more complex puzzles. When I did get stuck, such as in the crystal maze, it wasn't the 'good stuck' feeling that comes from untangling something brainteasing.

The final revelation was an excellent twist. It made me wish the whole game was somewhat longer and more fully realised: we should be feeling that Alley is haunted by this buried memory, that it has been a part of her for her whole life and yet she doesn't know what it is.

I don't find myself as moved by Photopia as many other people do, even though it is obviously about a tragic event: I'd like the air of mystery and wonder to be greater, and for Alley's inner feelings to be explored in more depth (if that is possible, considering that it goes for the clever device of describing her through other people's eyes). But I can at least see the potential for a moving story in it.

The Impossible Bottle, by Linus Åkesson

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Cute, clever, and impressively polished, June 7, 2021
by Wynter (London, UK)

I came to this game with high expectations, having previously played Tethered by the same author. The Impossible Bottle is diametrically different in atmosphere and setting - the only thing they have in common is that, in both games, objects aren't what they seem to be at first glance - but this is another excellent game by Linus Åkesson.

This game is based on one single, very strong and very thoughtfully worked-out idea: (Spoiler - click to show)a dollhouse which allows you to change the size and nature of items inside the actual house, and vice versa. This reminded me somewhat of a similar mechanic in (Spoiler - click to show)Emily Short's Metamorphoses, except in that game the solutions felt a bit more arbitrary and random, perhaps due to the more mystical atmosphere, whereas in The Impossible Bottle they were more logical and easier to figure out.

After having struggled through a couple of fiendish (but deeply, deeply enjoyable) games by Graham Nelson (both of which, if I'm not mistaken, are referenced in this game: try chatting to Nolan at different points in your progress), I appreciated the 'merciful' rating of this one, not to mention the hint system, which gave out tips without giving too much too quickly.

The child-centred view of the world ("this room is the best, because it's yours") was sweet and funny, and once I had figured out how to make the game 'work' it was great fun to (Spoiler - click to show)move different objects and change them from one thing to another. And there is a cuddly capybara in it.

Summit, by Phantom Williams

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful, strange yet convincing, April 4, 2021
by Wynter (London, UK)
Related reviews: Choice-based fiction

What a strange and beautiful piece of interactive fiction!

Summit is based on a startling idea: that human beings must periodically expel living fish from their fishstomachs, and then swallow them, ultimately choosing a more gradual death over a prompt one. Somehow Phantom Williams manages to make this idea sound completely convincing within a few minutes.

The story is based on the desire for the far-off summit of the mountain, and the long journey that must be taken in order to reach it. I would have liked more time to have been spent expressing why the character desires to reach the mountain.

Your journey takes you through a number of different places, in each of which the people find a different way to deal with issues of death, fish, and ecstasy. Having played it through twice, I think the path taken by the character is roughly the same in different playings, but it's possible to skip parts and include or exclude other characters, and to make decisions about how to spend your time in each place, and how much time.

The style of frequent link-clicking, based on symbols which may or may not have significance, slows the story down and gives it an almost meditative feel. The descriptions of the places you visit are mysterious and beautiful, creating an excellent sense of atmosphere.

One question: it promises music, yet I couldn't see any way of turning it on (yes, I had sound switched on). Given the atmospheric nature of the piece, I would have loved to have heard that.

Babyface, by Mark Sample

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Atmospheric multimedia fiction, March 28, 2021
by Wynter (London, UK)
Related reviews: Multimedia

In this Twine short story, a great sense of atmosphere and suspense is created, not just by the use of images and sound, excellent as those are, but by thoughtful use of links: links that change text when you click on them, links that trigger a time delay, and changes of layout. I would have liked the plot to have developed more - it felt like reading the first half of a story.

Nevertheless, this is a good example of what I would consider multimedia fiction, where the interactivity provided by Twine is used not to give the reader a choice of narratives, but to provide atmosphere and to move the story onwards.

Bloom, by Caelyn Sandel

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Sensitive and polished, January 15, 2021
by Wynter (London, UK)
Related reviews: Choice-based fiction

An interactive novella about coming out as transgender in early adulthood.

This is a Twine production that really feels like reading a story. Although each chapter ultimately leads you through a pre-determined plotline, your ability to make choices gives an added layer of agency to the narrative. The young protagonist deals with some difficult encounters, but there is a strong note of hope.

The addition of music, colour and background graphics makes this an extremely polished production indeed. It made me realise just what a Twine story can be.

Metamorphoses, by Emily Short

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Intriguing idea for a game, January 9, 2021
by Wynter (London, UK)

A text adventure with a twist: all of the objects can be altered, both in size and in substance (e.g. changed from metal into wood). So not only do you have to think, 'What could I do with this object?', but also, 'What could this object become?'

This takes place in a fascinating and mysterious setting, a medieval/early modern world of alchemy and of the four humours. You are in a house filled with strange and wonderful objects and paintings, which enhance the gameplay considerably. I would have liked to have known more about the building you are in, and how it came to be as it is, and more backstory about the playing character and the Master more generally. In Emily Short's Bronze, for comparison, the castle and the objects within it are more closely linked to the story.

It is a short game, and according to the 'help' function, not a difficult one; I actually found it harder than I expected, perhaps because the setting is so mysterious that the actions you have to perform are not always self-explanatory, and also there is the extra challenge provided by the sheer number of permutations of the transformations of each object.

I admired this game mostly for the clever idea of metamorphosing objects and for the gorgeous descriptions and setting that I have come to expect from an Emily Short game.

Bronze, by Emily Short

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Incredible atmosphere and storytelling, December 5, 2020
by Wynter (London, UK)

I had played and enjoyed text adventure games before *Bronze*, but this was the first that I truly loved.

Based on the fairytale of Beauty and the Beast (not one I am very familiar with), this game is long enough to keep you busy for a while, with puzzles which are neither too simple nor infuriatingly difficult. But its greatest strengths are the atmosphere that it evokes, through the description of the castle and the objects in it - rich and Gothic, sometimes macabre - and the incredible storytelling: not just in the present day, but a whole history which leaves its traces in the castle, and which can be pieced together through paintings, objects, rooms and books. *Bronze* reminded me somewhat of Angela Carter's book *The Bloody Chamber*, a collection of modern retellings of fairytales with a dark but beautifully-described atmosphere.

An illuminating post on Short's blog explained how the story developed, leading to its various endings (CONTAINS SPOILERS: - I never succeeded in finding one of these.

The 'go to' function is very much appreciated, and there is a tutorial mode for new players of IF. But the atmosphere and storytelling should appeal to players at all levels.

Jigsaw, by Graham Nelson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An enjoyable journey through the twentieth century, December 5, 2020
by Wynter (London, UK)

It is New Year's Eve, 1999, and a mysterious stranger drops you a piece of a seemingly ordinary jigsaw. But each piece turns out to be a gateway to a different event in the twentieth century. Can you make history?

I came to this game fresh from Nelson's wonderful game *Curses!*, looking for something similar. It simultaneously is and isn't. Like that of *Curses!*, *Jigsaw*'s a nicely large game world, which allows you to jump in and out of different times and different places. Each jigsaw piece is a mystery: where are you going to go next? The overall tone is considerably different to that of the earlier game: it is much more sombre, dealing with the tragedies and crises of the twentieth century. There is, however, a romance, and there are a few moments of humour(Spoiler - click to show), such as when you rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Each jigsaw piece is a relatively self-contained mini-game: actions taken in one chapter rarely have an impact on others. This may or may not appeal: I enjoyed the sprawling, ever-growing environment of *Curses!*, where an object found in one place might open up another area of the game; but it helped to be able to concentrate the mind on a small area, containing one or two puzzles. Some of the chapters were over quickly, with just one or two actions to complete; many puzzles were difficult, and I am grateful for Bonni Mierzejewska's walkthrough. Examine everything, look under things, and talk to characters.

Each chapter clearly has a great deal of historical research behind it (and there are footnotes to each one in the Help menu), so it's a game that is both informative and entertaining.

Curses, by Graham Nelson

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Mystery and humour, December 5, 2020
by Wynter (London, UK)

I came to Curses! as a relatively new, but not completely inexperienced, player of IF. I had recently completed Emily Short's rich and beautiful game Bronze, and was looking for a game to fill the gap, one with a fascinating atmosphere and which was long and challenging enough to get my teeth into. Curses! was everything I wanted, and more.

This game manages to combine a sense of awe and wonder with an excellent sense of humour, as a simple search for a map takes you on a journey through time and space, through the mysteries of the Tarot pack and of ancient Egypt, and into heaven and hell themselves, with the odd joke thrown in. The puzzles are good enough to get your brain going, and I was often proud of myself for figuring out some which were at first glance far too difficult. Whenever the going got a bit too tough, I consulted Russ Bryan's excellent walkthrough until I could progress further.

As some other reviewers have noted, some of the puzzles are very difficult, and others require some strange actions or choices of verb. I advise playing in 'long' mode, and noting that you can speak to characters (or non-human entities) by typing their name followed by a comma, and then what you want to say: e.g. 'Jemima, hello'. Examine everything, and try pushing and pulling things. Occasionally you will need to watch the actions of other characters, and imitate them. Although the game is huge, often you will find that the item you need is not far away from the puzzle it exists to solve.

I began Curses! shortly before the Coronavirus lockdown of spring 2020 and can honestly say that it kept me well occupied during this unexpected rise in alone time at home. If you like satisfying puzzles, ancient mysteries, classical civilisation, T. S. Eliot, slider puzzles, or cats, and don't mind consulting a walkthrough, then this is a game for you.

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