Reviews by Tracy Poff

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View this member's reviews by tag: ChickenComp IF Competition 1995 IF Competition 2000 IF Competition 2007 IF Competition 2014 IF Competition 2016 Shufflecomp 2014 SmoochieComp Speed-IF 7 Speed-IF 8 Spring Thing 2014 XYZZY Awards 1997 Xyzzy Awards 2001
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You are a Chef!, by Dan Shiovitz

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Zany, November 27, 2007
by Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States)
Related reviews: Speed-IF 8

This is a pleasant and zany little piece of SpeedIF. It's positively nonsensical, but so enthusiastically so as to be quite amusing. There's no real puzzle--walking about typing 'take all' would be sufficient to solve it--but it's brief enough that it's oddness alone is enough to sustain it. How can one not love a game that opens with "HELLO CHEF!!!!!1 You must make FOOD! You have a list! First to food wins!"?

Voices, by Aris Katsaris

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Voices is perhaps too brief, October 21, 2007
by Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States)
Related reviews: SmoochieComp, Xyzzy Awards 2001

There aren't any puzzles, and there's not really much chance to change anything that happens. You may choose whether to speak to Pierre in the first scene, although this doesn't affect the story. Between scenes, the game switches to a conversation between various parties (God, the devil, St. Michael, Pierre), and your choices affect the outcome or the game. The scenes themselves are totally scripted--you continue talking or waiting until the scene is over, and then move to the intermission and thence to the next scene, until the game ends.

This lack of choice in how the game plays out might have been annoying in some games, but in this game it is not just fitting but necessary; as I understood it, the point of the game was that the characters had no choice: their action or inaction was beyond their control. I think this worked quite well.

So: three scenes, three conversations, and then the ending. It's short enough that you can easily play it through several times to see all the endings, although they differ little.

The question, then: is it a good game? Perhaps. It's amusing, anyway, and short enough that it's no great loss if you don't like it. It's worth a try.

Slap That Fish, by Peter Nepstad

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Didn't draw me in, October 21, 2007
by Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States)
Related reviews: IF Competition 2007

Slap That Fish is an odd game, and I typically like odd games, but it failed to draw me in. Perhaps there was just not enough time to introduce me to the PC and the situation. Whatever the cause, though, I never really connected with the PC--never felt any of his emotions.

The fighting system was an interesting choice of vehicle for the puzzles, but I'm not sure that it turned out to be much good, in the end. At first there are no puzzles to solve, and in the end the puzzles are all that really matter--no clever combination of slaps and kicks will save you without the puzzle being solved.

It seems that the author intended to make the game replayable by basing your score on how efficient you were at fighting the fish, but I don't feel any particular desire to revisit this game to improve my score; perhaps this reflects my personality more than the game, though.

Ultimately, the game just seemed to take too long. There were a couple of good puzzles, but for the most part the solutions were pretty obvious. The final puzzle wasn't so much a puzzle as an extended sequence of following instructions, which didn't much appeal to me. Slap That Fish isn't really a bad game; it just isn't really a good game, either.

Chicken and Egg, by Adam Thornton

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Funny, but not perfect, October 21, 2007
by Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States)
Related reviews: ChickenComp

This parody of Spider and Web is amusing, if a little hit-and-miss. The best parts were the overly-serious parodies of the original dialogue of Spider and Web; the endings weren't nearly as interesting. This is no doubt partly because I really liked the dialogue from Spider and Web, and this parody recalls that to me.

However it ends, though, this game is worth playing for anyone who enjoyed Spider and Web.

Tanker and Webb, by Andrew Frederiksen

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Very short, October 20, 2007
by Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States)
Related reviews: Speed-IF 7

Tanker and Webb is a Speed-IF entry, so one cannot expect too much, but its single puzzle is too easy to present any challenge--I finished in two and a half minutes, counting killing myself and restarting. I will say that allowing you to kill yourself is a nice touch.

The premise is fairly amusing, and the bugs aren't so bad as to cause difficulty. The ending is nice, too. This is more like a vignette than a story, and, if taken as such, isn't bad. It wouldn't be difficult to beat this in a minute, and Tanker and Webb is probably worth that minute, though perhaps no more.

Fox, Fowl and Feed, by Chris Conroy

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Amusing, but not exceptional, October 20, 2007
by Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States)
Related reviews: IF Competition 2007

Fox, Fowl and Feed is an IF version of the classic puzzle: you have a fox, a duck, and some grain to transport across a river, but you may take only one in your boat at a time. Of course, the fox would like to eat the duck, and the duck would like to eat the grain, so you have to be clever about how you do it.

The solution to that puzzle is fairly simple and well-known, but, being IF, it isn't that easy. The game consists not of trying to discover that solution, but of trying to implement it. The fox and duck don't want to cooperate, and even the grain presents a problem.

The puzzles are sufficiently clued and their solutions make sense. Despite being pretty easy, they aren't dull, either. The mechanics worked as expected, although I did find it a little annoying getting in and out of the boat repeatedly; if I had one suggestion, it would be to make that step automatic.

This is a nice take on the classic puzzle: short, fun, and well-motivated. It isn't terribly deep, and the ending is only just satisfying, but for a short game, it's quite worthwhile.

What-IF?, by David Ledgard

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Not a game, October 19, 2007
by Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States)
Related reviews: IF Competition 2000

"What-IF?" isn't a game at all. It's simply a menu-driven collection of essays. I didn't find the essays particularly interesting, either, so this game has no saving grace, as far as I am concerned. This 'game' is just a waste of time; I'd recommend avoiding it.

Annoyotron, by Ben Parrish

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Not even annoying, October 19, 2007
by Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States)

Although the game apparently attempts to be annoying, it falls short even of that. I suppose that it might be annoying if I were simultaneously very persistent and unaware of the ability to put multiple commands on a line or use my up arrow, together with expecting the game to be serious, but those circumstances, and especially the last, given that the game's name is "Annoyotron", are vanishingly unlikely to come about.

I imagine that it's possible to make a game that is annoying and worth playing, but this is neither.

At Wit's End, by Mike Sousa

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Fun, although not without flaws, October 19, 2007
by Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States)
Related reviews: IF Competition 2000

In AWE, you are Jake Garrett, who plays center field for the Boston Red Sox. When the game opens, you are up to bat, and--of course--the game rides on your success. The first puzzle is fairly well hinted, I thought. If you fail to get it the first time, you do get a second chance, which is nice--and even losing is interesting: the message is "You have failed to be a hero"; very nice. Another interesting thing that I didn't notice until a couple of scenes in is that replacing the usual score display in the upper right corner is an emotion display, which changes as does your situation, and dependent on your solution of the puzzles.

The game did a good job of pacing and keeping the player motivated through the first few puzzles, and they were easy enough to solve without needing to load saves--sometimes, perhaps a little too easy, but only a little. As well, the writing was reasonably good and the story sufficiently engaging to keep me interested.

However, it wasn't without flaws. In the middle of the game (and the game is short--easily solved in a half hour if you don't get side-tracked) there wasn't quite enough hinting, I felt, to indicate which part of the puzzle I ought to be approaching next, so the game felt rather slow as I stumbled around trying to figure out just what should be done. As well, there was a puzzle whose solution was to eat; it was noted earlier that you are diabetic, and there are messages insisting that you are hungry and need to eat, but the food is just right there in the refrigerator, so it felt like nothing but a distraction.

But those are minor problems; removing the eating puzzle and tightening up the mid-game a bit would be easy and would answer most of my complaints. Unfortunately, there were several unintended random features that made the game annoying. A couple of items just kept disappearing from my inventory for no clear reason, which was frustrating. Also, after completing the game, I checked the walkthrough to see what the optimal ending was; but there was another bug that caused the optimal ending to be impossible to achieve unless you worked around it--I had to examine a person twice after completing the final puzzle, or the game proceeded as though I hadn't completed it.

(This review refers to the original competition entry. The bugs mentioned may have been fixed in the later version, but I have not checked.)

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