Ratings and Reviews by AmberShards

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Hauntings, by E. Joyce

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Cut From the Skies of November, November 14, 2011
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)

Sometimes, although rarely, less is more. Hauntings shows that the old advertising bromide is occasionally right -- it has just enough atmosphere to be evocative, using restraint where one could easily freefall into gothic excess. Although some rooms are too minimally described, most are just right, as in the case of the Sickroom. The pacing is questionable, but not overly frustrating, and the characterization is solid, at least until the end. One of the characters (Spoiler - click to show) (Leonara) isn't given the detail she deserves, and that diminishes the game a bit.

The parser occasionally refers to an object that isn't around, and some actions are unnecessarily clumsy (Spoiler - click to show) such as giving items to your employer, but on the whole, the parser works as you expect. There is a dramatic scene late in the game where everything rests upon yes/no responses, but it doesn't feel fake in the slightest. I hesitated for moments, thinking through what would happen if I said "yes" or "no". What resulted from that scene led me to two different endings, one of which was rather by-the-numbers, but the other was emotionally resonant.

Finally, Hauntings is a fairly short game, almost creeping up into the low end of medium length. It's an enjoyable, atmospheric piece that only loses its punch at the end. Not bad for a first outing. I look forward to more of what the author has in store.

Dr. Kong In: Plan DSDS From Practice Space, by Two Guys From The Other Bar
AmberShards's Rating:

Zork LXIX: The Great Underground Hot Dog, by Bob Reeves
AmberShards's Rating:

The Last Dark Day, by Bob Reeves

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Not Much of a Game, September 10, 2011
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)

Despite the Romantic sensibilities of the title, The Last Dark Day is anything but a Romantic, Gothic tour-de-force. It is a small, linear experience (not much of a game) that ends right about the time you've figured things out. You can't do much and waiting will effectively win the game the same as if you did anything. If the author wanted to convey a sense of helplessness or resignedness to fate, there must be better ways to convey it. On the plus side, this could have ended not as happily, so two stars for the implicit message.

Growing Up, by Andrew Van Deventer

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Just Shy of Glory, September 2, 2011
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)

Growing Up, in its understated pathos, is a game that could have been great. It still could be, if the author wanted to go back and do a few rounds of polishing. What sinks it is the usual IF maladies: lack of grammar and lack of implementation. The lack of object/scenery implementation isn't so bad due to the way that time advances in the game, but just a little bit more would have made all the difference.

The descriptions here are just enough to whet your appetite, and they are delivered from an unusual perspective; the tone is wryly humorous spiced with a bit of timeless sorrow. Thankfully, no profanities, porn, or gore screw it up.

Growing Up has been tagged with multiple endings, but I can't get the full 70 points (50 is my record), and that's after dying at least 20 times. Perhaps they are there; perhaps not.

The only thing that leaves me unsettled about the game -- and perhaps we're supposed to feel this way -- is the things that you can't do. Without giving away too much, times where you want to help one of the other characters abound, and yet, we're unable to help. Some of this is the fault of the underimplemented parser, and that's the part of the game that really needs work. You will be guessing the verb a bit, even if it's in vain.

Anyhow, I'd love to give this game four (or maybe five) stars because it held so much promise, but the parser keeps it out of that territory. It's worth playing at least five times, though, despite its shortcomings.

Run for the Oregon Legislature!, by Eva Schweber

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting but Unfinished, July 16, 2011
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)

I have to admit that I was hesitant to play this game, and even more hesitant once I had cruised over to the web site. I was expecting a full-bored feminist assault. What I discovered was a rather retiring, unfinished endeavor.

RFTOL (amusingly similar to ROTFL) proceeds in a CYOA type fashion, with the curious use of the letter "n" to advance. You can choose one of four candidates, then a political party, and that's where RFTOL begins to break down. If you don't choose one of the major parties, then the game continues just as if you had. I'm not sure how later options, such as choosing a campaign manager, impact the final result. The tone of the game is straight ahead, although a little reserved. If you're expecting a slice of life in the wheeling, dealing, dirty tricks, high-pressure game of politics, this is not your game.

I ended the game with a score of 0 out of a possible 0 (always a sure sign of incompleteness), trapped in the darkness, and carrying a professional campaign manager.

Run for the Oregon Legislature! is interesting, but unfinished.

Adventure Time, by Derek O'Neill

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Disasterpiece, July 4, 2011
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)

You know you're in for rough waters when the very first screen of a game drops the f-bomb on you. As you might expect, things don't get better. All the usual grammatical sins abound: misuse of ellipses, forgotten hyphens, missing apostrophes, you name it -- it's here. And what's up with the weird listing of scenery objects like doors and such as if they were moveable objects?

The paper-thin plot trundles along, stopping only long enough to diss the elderly. (Spoiler - click to show)(Try examining the table in the cabin.) The game, as its name might suggest, consists of objects and areas lifted from other games: the grate from Adventure and the cabin-cum kitchen from Zork. Adventure Time also features an annoying maze through rooms that differ only in their names (as if we needed another annoying maze), a very shortly-timed lantern, and no way to proceed past a certain point. (Spoiler - click to show)Once you use the well, there is no way to get back underground, and no way past the castle. I agree with the other reviewer -- Adventure Time isn't finished, but even if it was, it's not worth playing. AT is a ripoff of better games, pastiched together with stock locations without any sense of atmosphere, plot, or theme.

Inspiration!, by Jacob Polar

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Mildly Charming, June 13, 2011
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)

As ideas go, Inspiration! is a novel one, bringing the game within a game concept home with aplomb. As games go, Inspiration! is decidedly ok. The humor is in the silly and exuberant type vein (enjoyable in small doses, but your mileage may vary), and the room descriptions are minimal, but it's really the structure that annoyed me.

You are looking for inspiration to write your IF game, and so you set out to look for it around your house. I didn't mind the random actions you do to find inspiration; it's the fact that when you come back to the office to write your game, you write and the game ends -- boom. You'd better have a decent score before you get there, as you get one shot at it.

On the plus side, the game is fairly easy and there's no trash. It's also short, so you probably won't spend a lot of time trying to puzzle things out. I scored 25/40 on my first time through, and even that was a surprisingly positive ending.

On the negative side, Inspiration! is a story about finding inspiration, but itself does not inspire. It's basically a better-than-average "explore your own house" setup without any enduring themes.

If you're in the mood for something light-hearted and silly by turns, Inspiration! is just the thing.

Fragile Shells, by Stephen Granade

0 of 17 people found the following review helpful:
Disappointing, June 5, 2011
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)

Yet again, I'm underwhelmed by games everyone else loves -- not so much for the technical aspects, but for the content. That's precisely the joy of this game: facile and mindless "peace" sentiments coupled with some arguably anti-American stereotypes. (Spoiler - click to show)Herein, the UK has a space program, and America decides to attack one of their outposts. Yes, yes. It's more of the same thing we see every day. I guess nothing much has changed in the future!

At any rate, until those aspects of the plot show up, there's nothing but quality. The puzzles are challenging but not impossible; the descriptions are spartan but serviceable; the flashbacks provide the reason for your actions and enough backstory to keep you interested. Even the amnesia makes sense and doesn't feel trite.

As far as making use of the "escape the room" mentality, Fragile Shells does a good job of it. There are enough "rooms" so that you don't feel hemmed in, and yet, you do feel the need to escape. Your situation is dire, but yet communicated without annoying timers and suchlike.

However, the characterization is inconsistent (no particularly English, Scottish, etc dialog is used), and the story is largely unemotional. Also, you won't find out the content until late in the game, but be aware that it is coming.

On one hand, I can see why this placed so high in the Jay is Games comp: it's well-designed and the puzzles are challenging without being unfair. On the other hand, I can see why this placed high in the Jay is Games comp: it feeds the insatiable hatred of the envious and the jealous.

Snack Time!, by Hardy the Bulldog and Renee Choba

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Cute But Flawed, June 5, 2011
by AmberShards (The Gothic South)

Snack Time! is a cute game where you are a dog and your pet is a human. The atmosphere and the sense of immersion come off without a hitch; even the frustration at getting the human to obey is endearing, up to a point. Unfortunately, that point comes fairly soon.

The game is not an exploration game, so it does feel close and small. That, coupled with the lack of items to manipulate, begins the first fire of frustration. The second major puzzle throws kindling on that fire, because to solve it you must do something non-obvious three times in a row. It's also not helpful that doing that is the only way to advance the plot; time itself doesn't advance the plot and it really should. (Spoiler - click to show)In other words, you can wait forever, and the human will never exit the bathroom.

Other puzzles are similarly bizarrely solved. Even after looking at the walkthrough, what I was doing didn't seem to have any connection to getting what I wanted.

All the pieces of the puzzle of a good game are here, but Snack Time! mashes them together in a way that make no sense to me.

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