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Vampire: The Masquerade — Out for Blood, by Jim Dattilo

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A sprawling town mystery in the Vampire: The Masquerade setting, August 20, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

This game is the second in Choice of Games's deluxe series of Vampire the Masquerade games. It is long (the 12th longest CoG game), has at least a dozen high-quality character portraits, and uses the White Wolf system of attributes.

Inevitably, this game will draw comparisons with its (unrelated, story-wise) predecessor, Vampire: The Masquerade—Night Road. That game featured you as a solo vampire making their way up the ranks of the city's undead through elaborate and high-powered missions. This game, in contrast, focuses on a human protagonist inheriting an old shop in a small Illinois town that has a dark presence lingering. I can't think of a more apt comparison than Jojo's Bizarre Adventures. Night Road is more like seasons 1-3 of that story, big battles and crazy powers, while Out for Blood is more like season 4, a smaller story where we meet locals with different interests and abilities and the main enemy is a sort of lurking, hidden figure.

Mechanically, there are a lot of statistics to sink points into. This is an RPG, so we get a lot of experience points over 12 chapters. I sank most of my points into Intuition and the Occult. I found this satisfying, as I was able to get flashes of insight at different points (although I'm not sure if this was from my ability or built into the story), and I was able to use magic extensively to curse people, place wards, and to scry. Given the different achievements and options I saw, I'm sure I would have had a very different experience with a different stat build.

Mechanically, the game has a few distinct threads.
-You have ownership of your late grandfather's shop, and you can decide who to hire to work there, what to invest in, how to pay for it all, etc. It starts you off seeming like it will have numerous recurring options, like Metahuman Inc., but it never really circles back to it, so you only get one real shot at setting up the shot and then many sub-choices after to affect minor details.
-There are numerous romantic options, including the sultry vampire villain, a goth/punk human friend, a handsome disabled attorney friend, a friendly vampire hunter, etc. I had numerous romantic encounters with my chosen relationship and it seemed fleshed out better than many CoG games. Occasionally there were scenarios with my love that may have seemed out of place given our current history, but they were few and far between and none spring to mind immediately.
-(Early spoilers)(Spoiler - click to show)A wealthy and powerful vampire seems to have set up in town and is manipulating affairs. This thread forms the main plot.
-(Middle spoiler but not giving a lot away)(Spoiler - click to show)A group of weaker vampires is also in town.They form the second-biggest thread.
-A lot of complicated town history is also floating around.

The game definitely was affected by my choices, and I re-evaluated my viewpoint multiple times as I realized a group I trusted was pretty bad, etc. Near the end, I felt like the whole weight of complex machinery the game is built on began to break down, as I double-crossed a lot of people without too much punishment. But while it pushed up against disbelief, it never really crossed the line. I think a lot of things depend on the relationship statistic alone, and I had had a lot of built-up trust before the betrayals.

Overall, the game is very long, but many people have said it feels short. This is likely because the game has so many options and avenues mid-game that it doesn't really get a sense of building to something. The other VtM game, Night Road, had the regular structure of missions and payments and handled increasing tension well, but here it's hard to feel much progress until near the end. I don't think this game is short or small or linear, but I think it could be paced or structured a bit better to indicate its length. Someone in the CoG forums said it has 12 chapters and 12 endings, and that really helped me set appropriate expectations.

Overall, I would rank this as one of the better Choice of Games titles. I think it is worth its purchase price, and that fans of Vampire the Masquerade or White Wolf in general will be pleased, as well as fans of small-town stories. It's a story that I wish I had written, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I received a review copy of this game.


Somewhere, Somewhen, by Jim MacBrayne

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A lengthy QBASIC traditional adventure with magic and codes, August 1, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

This game is a large treasure hunt that, like very early parser games, is a mishmash of fantasy and modern concepts put together for a treasure hunt.

There is a central hub with different 'mini-worlds' you can access. They are interconnected, in that the solution for one world is often found in another.

I played straight through with the walkthrough, as:
-the game is in QBasic, and no scrollback seems to be available, making it harder to keep track of things
-the author stated it may take weeks to accomplish
-I wasn't sure if the game was 'cruel' or not in the Zarfian sense (i.e. can you lock yourself out of victory without knowing it?)

After I won, I went back and tried to explore on my own and look for different paths. I found it 'parcelled out' fairly well.

The parser is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the author describes it (in a forum post) as being the product of 40 years of work, and that it is a 'very powerful parser'. It can understand pronouns and complex commands like 'drop everything except blah and blih and..'

However, it has some issues. Sometimes you can refer to a noun by its first name (like EYE for EYE of NEWT) but not its second (like NEWT); sometimes, it's the opposite (so SCRAP doesn't work for SCRAP of PAPER but PAPER does). Perhaps most oddly, it, as many people have pointed out, can't take items out of container without using the phrase TAKE X FROM Y. Given the 40 years of development and the otherwise complexity of the parser, I can only imagine this is a conscious stylistic choice.

The world is sprawling, with many rooms having multiple exits and the ordinal directions like NW, SW etc. being used extensively. Rooms are almost ideally generic, with most rooms being empty and having names like 'MIDDLE OF CORRIDOR', with most descriptions being 'The room is vaguely lit and hard to make out. There are bare walls and floor and ceiling and several exits, including one going down.'

There is at least one NPC, who is fairly responsive. Puzzles include codes, riddles, leaps of intuition, musical puzzles, etc. with many hint sources in-game as well as built-in hints and a walkthrough.

Every game is written for a purpose. Some purposes are to share your feelings with others, to emulate something you find worthy, to try to become famous, to make money, to fufill a request for others, etc.

Due to the author's desire to keep in the oddities of the parser, the general vagueness of the game and its Zork-like setting, the QBAsic64 environment, etc. my guess is that the game's purposes are to evoke nostalgia and to demonstrate the author's system. Evaluated for those purposes, I'd have to call it a success.

For my own liking, the game is very polished and has some clever puzzles, but I didn't enjoy the interactivity as much as I could have and felt emotionally distanced from the game.


The Faeries Of Haelstowne, by Christopher Merriner

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A huge, complex story/puzzle game about dangerous Faeries, August 1, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

This game is very, very long, certainly the longest adventuron game I've seen. It's split up into 6 or so parts, and the first part alone is already one of the longest games in Parsercomp.

I'm going to go over my 5 point scale with it.

+Descriptiveness: The author does an excellent job of painting a rich and vibrant world. Everyone knows each other, and events in one location affect events far away. Rather than a Zork-like grab-bag of random magic and sci fi (like a lot of big puzzlers), everything is tightly inter-connected, like Anchorhead.
+Emotional impact: Unlike Anchorhead, and most horror IF games, this is based on Faerie magic. While you may or may not classify this game is horror, it certainly presents scenarios which would be strongly horrifying to those in them. I enjoyed the story, which is the main reason I persisted.
+-Interactivity and Polish: These two categories go hand in hand, and I kind of want to give half a star in each. More details below.
+-Polish: The author intentionally chose Adventuron as an engine to show what it could do in a long-form game. Through a great deal of effort, I think he was completely successful in what he wanted to achieve. However, one difficulty is with not always having useful parser responses when having the correct verb and wrong noun or correct noun and wrong verb. One frequent occurrence for me was using the right verb and the wrong noun (like saying 'mirror' instead of 'fragment') and having the game imply it knew what I was doing but that it wasn't helpful. I didn't even know the game couldn't recognize the noun until I looked at the hints or other people's discussion. This happened multiple times. Outside of that, the game is remarkably well-constructed for such a long game.
+-Interactivity: The puzzles are a mixed bag. Some are mundane (find and light candle), some are complex (operate a camera and develop the photos), some are very obscure (the game is filled with many details in every room, and four or five puzzles depend on examining such a detail, while all the others are red herrings). I enjoyed the complex procedures, the gathering ensembles. Perhaps the most fun was just grabbing everything along the way, wondering what it would all lead to. Also related to interactivity, there were numerous timed events to add flavor. These were well-written and interesting, but when repeated multiple times and in various settings with the same text, became surreal and blurred.
The game is ponderous, which a huge number of locations. To preserve realism, the game frequently has you 'wake up' with a few key items removed from your inventory and placed around you. This contributed to mimesis but also contributed to me wondering where on earth I set things.
+Would I play it again? Yes. This is a marvelous achievement of a game. I'd like to one day write something like it.


Hibernated 1 (Director's Cut), by Stefan Vogt

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An extended sci-fi space puzzler on many platforms, June 21, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

In this game, you play as someone awoken from cryosleep near the end of a long journey when your spaceship encounters an alien vessel. You'll have to explore the vessel with your helpful artificial intelligence unit Io, discovering its origin and purpose and encountering some bizarre alien technology on the way.

I'm not sure where to rate this, so I'll use my 5 point scale:

+Polish: I've read reviews of the earlier versions, and it seems like the Inform version dealt with most of the issues. I definitely would consider this more polished and bug-free than most games I play. Most standard responses have been replaced, most error messages are helpful, and command suggestions are frequently handed out. The game includes complicated containers, text typing into various interfaces, talkative NPCs, etc.
+Descriptiveness: A lot of the text is vivid. The author is clearly enthusiastic about space and I think it pays off. I was able to get a clear visual idea of each room.
+Interactivity: I admit I liked the puzzles. Many recent old-school games I've tried haven't appealed to me, but this is more of a light Infocom style than the more difficult British games. There's a bit more hand holding than Infocom but I appreciate that as someone who prefers lighter puzzles. I did get stuck a couple of times and had to request help.
+Emotional impact: The storyline itself didn't grab me but my natural curiosity and interest in the setting and exploration was satisfied. I felt like there was always something to work on and overall found it similar to a crossword puzzle in satisfaction.
?Would I play it again? I'm torn. On the one hand, I don't think this will become a long-term favorite. On the other hand, it has a pleasant compactness and unity that I could see myself coming back to in the future, especially if there were a sequel (which the name suggests). So I'll award a point here.

To me this game compares most directly with Hugo Labrande's Tristam Island and Marco Innocenti's Andromeda games. They all have a fairly similar style of 'retro aesthetic with modern affordances', a playtime of several hours, and availability on multiple platforms.

I think this game succeeds in its apparent goal, which is to create a product that people who played adventure games in the 80's will recognize and enjoy. The availability on multiple retro platforms definitely helps with that feel. (I'm making guesses here since I didn't play IF until 2010).

There are two types of authors when it comes to feedback: growth-minded authors and marketing authors. Growth-minded authors are looking for ways to improve and eager to find flaws in their products, while marketing authors are hoping to make more sales/move more product and don't want anything negative.

Competition authors are usually growth-minded, but since this is a commercial game I don't know which type this author is, so I'll put the 'growth' comments in spoilers which can be ignored if not desired:
(Spoiler - click to show)Jon Ingold, a two-time XYZZY winning author and head of the Inkle company said recently that the PC should never take action that isn't somehow the direct result of a player's choice, and I think that's true. Too often our character here does something without input, like the data hub; we're told 'it's not powered on, so you decide not to put anything on it'. It just feels weird. I can think of more examples if you like.
(Spoiler - click to show)Also, IO provides very useful information but talking again just says you can't think of anything to talk about. Again it's
kind of making the decision for you, but more importantly it's hard to get the information again. It'd be nice if IO would summarize for you or if there was another way to repeat that information.


The Weight of a Soul, by Chin Kee Yong

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent multi-act game in gothic urban fantasy environment, April 6, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

This is the kind of game that comes along only once every few years, especially recently: a polished parser game that lasts far longer than 2 hours.

The author is inspired by Anchorhead, Blue Lacuna, and City of Secrets. Of those 3, I find this game to be closest to City of Secrets in both play style and prose style.

You are a medical student trying to solve a mystery: a mysterious black plague is destroying people in your city, and you have to help them.

To solve this, you need to go through 4 acts (plus a beginning and interlude) to reach the depths of the mystery.

The map for this game is quite large, and it comes with an in-game graphical map that looks great.

Like Anchorhead and Blue Lacuna, gameplay is divided into days. Unlike those games, gameplay is narrowly funneled. This game reads more like a movie than a novel, with an emphasis on scripted conversations and scripted action scenes. Only rarely are there simultaneous puzzles, and the most difficult puzzle is generally learning to navigate the impressively large and responsive city environment, which has both randomized events and time-based changes.

This is a love story, too, with multiple love interests and multiple endings. Romance plays a key role in numerous scenes. It uses other movie-like techniques, including a lot of foreshadowing and an emphasis on visual and aural descriptions (okay, that's not just in movies, but it just feels like a movie).

There have been two really negative reviews of Anchorhead in recent years, criticizing that game for not being 'funneled' enough, for having too open of a world, too subtle of story, not enough romance, etc. This game directly addresses all of those issues, with its constrained gameplay and copious allowances (such as a GO TO feature, in-game map and journal with a list of goals). On the other hand, for fans of the open world, exploration, and difficult puzzles of Anchorhead, it may pose too slight of a challenge. Blue Lacuna was in a similar spot, and offered two versions: a story version and a puzzle version.

For me, though, I enjoyed playing through this game, and truly consider it a rare game. I think it will do well in the XYZZY awards for 2021, and makes me want to try my hand at something like this, although I expect it would take as many years as the author's original did.

The polish on this game is impeccable, the setting and prose is descriptive, I'd definitely play again, the interactivity is a bit narrow but has several fun puzzles (including [mild spoilers](Spoiler - click to show)a nice math one), and emotionally was satisfying. Recommended for fans of story-focused parser games. I spent around 5 hours on this game.

Review for 2017 Spring Thing preview:
This game is advertised as being incomplete, but a very large chunk of it is done. Playing it is like playing 'episode 1' of a large series.

The setting is unusual: you are in a large and decaying city where magic and science are blended together. Scalpels and anesthesia blend with goblins and soul magic.

I found the opening to be a bit constraining (which is something I do in my own games, too), but that after that the game was rich and rewarding. Locations have several interactible details, conversations feel natural, and I felt like a real detective.

I enjoyed the large feeling of the city, something difficult to do right in an interactive fiction game. I did get a bit lost from time to time. Locations were unique and vividly described.

I would love to see this finished.


Excalibur, by J. J. Guest, G. C. Baccaris, and Duncan Bowsman

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A fan wiki for a 'lost show', April 3, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

When I had heard that JJ and Grim had been working on a huge Twine project, this isn't what I expected, but I enjoyed this nonetheless.

This is a fake wiki, a sprawling website with links to tons of different actors, directors, characters, episodes, and even fan theories. It reminds me of the wiki game Neurocracy, although I believe they're gated differently. In this game, the wiki is being updated as you go, with new links appearing after you explore others.

The beginning was, as another reviewer mentioned, a bit difficult; with so much information at once, I just sort of lawnmowered through it, saving the fun stuff for last. So I ended up reading the 'people' page, then 'characters', then 'planets' and then the episodes.

It was slow going, with no real plot beats in those first segments because they were order independent.

But it was fun for different reasons. This project seems to have several different goals: to be a sort of 'lost episode' creepypasta-type story, to be funny, to provide a window into 70's culture, to honor and parody Dr. Who and original Star Trek (among others), and to impersonate and parody fan wiki culture.

That's a lot to deal with. One interview snippet from the wiki is an apt description of the wiki itself (mild spoilers):
(Spoiler - click to show)"In the end, I think we were all just pulling in different directions. Carson and I wanted this quite serious Space Opera, if you like, edgy, with political undercurrents and elements of folklore. Jerry (Newbaum) wanted a children's show to compete with Doctor Who, and Derek Farland, well, he really should have been writing kitchen sink dramas. In the end, the show just sort of tore itself apart."

One issue with writing 'creepy' or 'weird' TV shows is that a lot of TV shows are both intentionally and unintentionally weird, and you run into Poe's Law.

There were three threads in the wiki about its own origins, of which I found two pretty compelling (heavy spoilers from here on out):
(Spoiler - click to show)I enjoyed the 'curse' aspect, where the crew enacted an unholy Crowley-based ritual in Glastonbury Tor, invoking the 'thelema' of the producer to enact his will, and thereby dooming the entire show to obscurity.

I also enjoyed the 'Tulpa' idea whereby the whole show (and possibly all of human existence, according to 'Hantises') is a form of haunting or mass delusion or collaborative psychic projection which, once disrupted, fades away forever. If you're a fan of this idea, I recommend this game itself (of course) and also SCP-3930 (http://www.scpwiki.com/scp-3930), a similarly masterful telling of this idea.

The least compelling to me was the idea that it was just a lie.


There's a lot of humor in the game. My favorite line was "It was later found that a fried lentil from a packet of Bombay Mix (Newell's favourite snack) had become lodged in the cavity left by the write-protect tab."

Like I mentioned earlier, there's a lot of insights about the 70's. I liked this line about that (spoilers for ending)(Spoiler - click to show)Strikes, shortages, sexism, and the Black and White Minstrel Show. Yet the way people talk now, anyone would think they were Britain's glorious heyday. And that's the point, you see. You can't go back to the way things were, because they never were like that in the first place. We create our own past, we invent it. We make it whatever we want it to be. But the reality of it is, there is only now. The eternal now.

The final theme of the wiki seems to be around (Spoiler - click to show)loss and the past, as that last quote describes. For me, the real 'ending' was when I read (Spoiler - click to show)about how the documentary-writer's friend had had an 'incident' and pulled away, in conjunction with the final episode summary about saving the world but no one remembering you. The actual ending itself was less satisfying, but I see its purpose as (Spoiler - click to show)you need an anchor point for people to say 'okay', I've seen the whole game. Perhaps I just didn't understand it. In any case, I enjoyed my own gradual realizations of the themes shortly before the true ending.

I initially was going to give this 4 stars, with a point taken off for the overly spread out info at the beginning, then 5 stars as I approached the end, then 4 again for the mild letdown I had with the actual ending. So I'll just go with my formula:

+Polished: Immensely polished. It doesn't really get better than this. Also appreciated the art, which I hadn't mentioned before.
+Descriptiveness: Incredibly detailed. More detailed than some real wikis I've tried to use to look up shows before.
+Interactivity: At first, not so much, but as it went on I enjoyed it more. A real wiki dive.
+Emotional impact: Left me quite thoughtful at the end.
+Would I play again? It doesn't really lend itself to replay. I was planning on making this a '-', but I love the story of Excalibur, and maybe one day I might (with the author's permission' do some fan fiction in the world, as it's truly delightful. But that would be far in the future.


Queenlash, by Kaemi Velatet

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Finnegan's Wake meets Antony and Cleopatra, April 3, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

This game is a 22-chapter work relating the story of Cleopatra in Egypt told with a dense, symbolic word style.

I am a fan of the play Antony and Cleopatra and interested in the history around that time period, and I also have at times enjoyed dense symbolic text.

That enjoyment didn't crystallize this time. The game describes its own writing very well:
"Pour pen terrene this dysnomia volta syschronicity to formendulate paragraphs smashed into spare fragments of evocative semiimagery, mimetic shards that don't quite cohere to any generative idea."

They really don't cohere to any generative idea.

When the portmanteaus include French and Latin it gets even less 'generative':
"drunken nothings fuzzed up to retend in the mode prior to resolution beatified immolution densigravitas of the decolor demolition, wickedness we entrenched cheri in jouissanceunteurre catapulted in the cancers cant,"

(I prefer when the game's language is simpler, such as 'Slurp you up a jello mistake.').

I think there are times when this writing style works wonders: when it is used to tell an brilliant and exciting story, hiding the details behind a wall of words; or when it is used in a very short game, like B Minus does, allowing the player to have time to digest and process.

But this story seems largely hung on the traditional story of Caesar, Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra, almost as if the author wished to write as much as possible, and used the old story as a framework to drape their own words around. The end result is a like a wedding cake made of a wooden frame with heavy fondant draped over, no cake inside.

I found specific moments fun: (Spoiler - click to show)Octavian hiding, the birth of the twins, the deathloop. There are hints of a larger trans narrative, but only in the middle and later parts and even then just vaguely alluded to.

The book itself is well aware of these faults, the author offering to be attacked for the content. In the end, the best description of the book is the one given by the characters in the primer:

"Unfortunately, the finished work appears to have become a bizarre mess of unreadable nonsense. The author appears to have been far more interested in playing obscure word games than telling our story in a way that people could actually understand."


Choice of the Vampire, by Jason Stevan Hill

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An ornate and sprawling blend of the supernatural and history, April 1, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

This game is like a text version of the Winchester mystery house. That house was built upon continually for over 30 years, with constant extensions added, some leading nowhere, others connecting with each other in strange patterns.

This game was one of the earliest Choicescript games, and with that has some of that early-choicescript strangeness (now manifested primarily in its large number of stats and the occasional habit of the narrator addressing the reader directly). Since then, though, it has been expanded on considerably. This game contains 4 sub-games, two of them free and two not. So it's simultaneously one of the oldest and one of the newest choicescript games.

Its overall structure is very different from other titles from CoG. It has a periodic narrative arc. Instead of tension rising to a peak and falling in one grand swoop, it features a single vampire moving about America throughout the 1800s, experiencing a variety of historical events in addition to dealing with vampire society and the curse of immortality.

This episodic structure gives a sense of deja vu and ennui to the main character, as you see so many historical fads and people come and go.

Just like the Winchester house, there are a lot of dead alleys and lost construction. I tried beta testing the game before, but died in the second sub-book. Playing it for this review, I died twice at the end of the fourth book. Similarly, there are huge chunks of the story that can be skipped out on, such as romances, and the opening is completely different depending on your chosen background.

In another departure from Choicescript games, this game addresses race in a very direct way. This game is largely a history of black people in America, with each chapter containing large segments in relation to black history: the liberation of Haiti, the Exodusters, Cuba, lynchings, vodou, the treatment of former slaves after the civil war, etc. Black characters speak in heavily accented text, and for most of the game they are the only ones to do so, with Germans, quakers, and Jews receiving some accents later on.

A game that deals so intimately with black history and black stories risks embracing stereotypes or profiting on stories that don't belong to the author. However, I've seen in the forums mention of several sensitivity readers, although I don't see them listed in the credits the way that Fox Spirit has done (might be worth considering). From what I've seen from PoC authors on Twitter, many consider sensitivity readers a way to make sure that PoC voices are heard, considered, and paid.

The history in this game is detailed and heavily researched, especially in the fourth chapter. If you're interested in silver arbitrage resulting from the Coinage Act of 1873 or the invention of the modern celebrity via Oscar Wilde, the 4th act should appeal to you heavily. The third act deals with a lot of letter-writing and numerous social engagements with other vampires leading to political maneuvering. The 2nd act deals with the Civil War and deprivation, while the first has the most material dealing with you, yourself, as a vampire, and your feelings about that decision.

This game will appeal to a certain type of reader, those who consider themselves interested in philosophy and history or fans of vampires in general.

The game is not yet complete, but due to its plot structure you can pick up and stop off just about anywhere in the journey. A unique choicescript game, huge and detailed.


Chronicon Apocalyptica, by Robert Davis

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A hidden gem of a game for people into books and fae, February 13, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

I've noticed that most Choicescript games' quality matches up pretty well with the total and number of ratings on the omnibus app, with most of the lower-scored ones ending up being confusing or dissappointing.

This game proved the exception for me. While it had problems, especially near the start, I ended up enjoying it quite a bit especially the ending.

In this game, you play as a monk/scholar in 1000 AD who is entrusted with a book of marvelous prophecy called the Chronicon Apocalypticon. At the same time, you discover a disembodied hand running around. You embark on a quest to save (or destroy) England, meeting many weird characters and discovering the magical side of the world (with undead, elves, dragons, etc.)

The NPCs all are very different from each other and creative. They include a beekeeper and his special bee helper, a Joan-of-Arc type woman, a conflicted nun, a bard, and others.

I enjoyed the fact that 'being good at reading' is a superpower in this game. At least, it's a skill that can be used to save the world.

Overall, the main characteristics it has with other less popular CoG titles is its weaker/confusing stats and it's lack of flexibility when it comes to romances (there are romances, but gender of ROs is fixed and many will only specific types of romance or none at all).

By 'weak stats' I mean that I ended the game with almost all skills at 50%, one in the 60's and two in the 50's. This can cause a lot of problems, such as trying to figure out if you just screwed up your stats royally, or figuring out what's enough to pass challenges. My personal analogy for stat growth is that it's like walking speed in a 3d game: really low stat boosts are like having a character move at 1/10 of normal speed.

By 'confusing' stats, I mean that it can be really hard to figure out which stats are which; for instance, the game frequently asked me if I would do things myself or work as a team, but I cannot identify any skill that that corresponds to. On the other hand, there are many tracked stats that I can't for the life of me tell how they apply in the game.

Many people in reviews for this game mention difficulty with stat checks, which I think is a result of the above issues.

So that's a lot of time spent on the weaknesses. The good thing is that the game is at its worst at the beginning and only gets better with time. The final chapter was great, on par (in my opinion) with Heroes of Myth, another excellent Choicescript game. The actual last page was one of the best I've seen (in my playthrough).

As the game progresses, you can figure out the author's signposts for the stats. It's usually the simplest possible: he mentions the name of the stat in the choice.

As the game goes on, there are many factions you can choose between and many ways to influence the world. The choices are great. The whole game story was really compelling for me, better than most of the games I've played in the last few weeks.

I think this game most appealed to me because of my love for reading and my enjoyment of monastical, historical, and/or fae-based narratives with a bizarre cast of characters, as well as my patience for puzzling stats. If that sounds like you, you'll probably enjoy this game.


A Wise Use of Time, by Jim Dattilo

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Great author and great concept with some problems in the execution, February 11, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

Jim Dattilo is a good interactive fiction author. He's great at creating a variety of characters.

The power to affect time is a fun subject in IF, and has a lot of potential.

However, I think this game misses at its aims a bit.

You play as an insurance salesman who one days realizes they can stop time. You can use this to enrich yourself or help others, and you can attract the attention of many might people or romantic interests.

I think where the trouble is is that Jim's strengths are a vibrant cast of NPCs and a superhero game's strength is the hero's growth, and they don't mesh well.

Your character in this game has almost no development; all the interesting personal plotlines are pushed on to other people. There is an enemy, but they enter pretty late in the story.

The problem is the NPCs with the interesting plotlines don't have powers, so the game basically alternates between two chunks: interesting, non-supernatural segments with NPC's personal lives, and exciting but aimless explorations of your powers. So, for instance, you might go to a party with someone and learn about their childhood, then go out to a park and decide to steal a bike or help a kid not scrape their knee. And that's the bulk of the game.

The writing is good, though, and over time I found the characters interesting. The workplace subplot is fascinating. I definitely feel like playing this game was not a waste of my time.

The other main problem I had was a 'sudden death' ending in Chapter 12. I don't mind sudden deaths in Choicescript games, but these are essentially 'hardmode' games where a death wipes your whole file and you have to restart. If there was some kind of denouement to your death (like in Mask of the Plague Doctor) or options to restart a given chapter (like Choice of Rebels or Cakes and Ale), it would be a lot less painful.

So I can't strongly recommend this game, but I can recommend it to fans of Dattilo's other work and fans of slice-of-life style superhero works (or corporate drama; honestly, if you're into that, that subplot alone is a pretty good game in and of itself).



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