Reviews by Cory Roush

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A Long Way to the Nearest Star, by SV Linwood

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Not a long way to a masterpiece!, May 21, 2023
by Cory Roush (Ohio)

The game is written in a superb style, with descriptive prose and realistic dialogue. The writing balances between humorous and poignant, creating a contrast between the bleak situation and the hopeful attitude of the characters. The game also features multiple endings and branches depending on the playerís actions and decisions.

One of the most impressive aspects of the game is how the author was able to masterfully keep several twists and surprises a secret until the ending. The game constantly subverts the playerís expectations and challenges their assumptions about the world and the characters. The game also explores themes such as isolation, identity, memory and morality in a subtle but effective way.

The game is mechanically very well-done and professional. The puzzles are clever and challenging, but not frustrating or unclear. The choices are meaningful and impactful, but not arbitrary or inconsequential. The game is also free of any typos or grammatical errors that could break the immersion. The game shows a high level of polish and testing that reflects the authorís dedication and skill.

Overall, A Long Way to the Nearest Star is a captivating and immersive interactive fiction game that will appeal to fans of sci-fi and mystery genres. The game offers a unique and memorable experience that will keep the player guessing until the end. The game is well worth playing for anyone who enjoys a good story with a lot of surprises.

Jesse Stavro's Doorway, by Marshal Tenner Winter

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Rough around the edges, August 18, 2017
by Cory Roush (Ohio)

The premise of this game is interesting, and you can tell the author has taken some time to flesh out the world and the mechanics of the player's ability. However, this is not a polished game, and a lot of corners seem to have been cut in getting to the end.

I have no idea why I'm looking for Jesse, other than because he's not around. I have no idea why I didn't do more to confront someone who was willing to burn down the house I'm standing in... the main character barely responds and when they do, it's illogical. If you were a time traveler told that your only way to get back home was destroyed, do you think that you'd really be a-okay with that?

The conversations with NPCs are muddled and choppy - a NPC's response to a topic sometimes includes details about the room they are standing in, but there are no limitations on where the NPC can talk about that topic, so on several occasions in the game's first 15-20 minutes, dialogue was taking place in some weird kind of limbo where actions I had previously taken haven't happened yet and my surroundings were different... and unless I jumped ship too early, I don't think that was the author's intention or a gimmick of some kind.

And as a pet peeve, containers in this game are poorly executed. Authors: please design your containers so that when opened, the contents are immediately obvious to the player. It's really monotonous to be subjected to "OPEN FIRST DRAWER. You open the drawer. LOOK IN FIRST DRAWER. The drawer is empty. OPEN SECOND DRAWER. You open the drawer. LOOK IN SECOND DRAWER. There is a flashlight in the drawer."

Pascal's Wager, by Doug Egan

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent replay value, and (somewhat) educational, August 9, 2017
by Cory Roush (Ohio)

I loved this game. It doesn't take itself too seriously (a game titled Pascal's Wager about religion could EASILY be one of the longest, most verbose and pretentious stories out there) but instead, gives you a series of easy-ish puzzles that are uniquely constructed, with (at least) 6 separate endings.

It took a while to figure out what I was supposed to be doing, though. (Spoiler - click to show)Your goal in each playthrough is not to honour your family's chosen deity, as you would first think, but to instead go against your family's wishes to worship the "opposing" deity. It's easy to determine which deity is your family's chosen one - the command WHO IS GOD, ironically, will reveal that - but there's a certain item found at the very beginning of the game that will help you to determine the deity you're actually looking to serve.

There are some hiccups along the way, of course, but this was a very entertaining game that didn't strain the mind-muscles too much, but still felt like a worthwhile way to spend an hour or two.

Inside the Facility, by Arthur DiBianca

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Completionists, beware!, August 7, 2017
by Cory Roush (Ohio)

Only kidding - completionists will probably love this game, unless they have something important to do and are on a strict deadline. In that case, put this game off until later.

The basic premise is that 130 rooms make up the Facility, and your job is to discover each and every one. At first it seems simple, until you run into the Facility's security clearance system, which only grants you access to new parts of the Facility once you've found a keycard of the corresponding color. From there, the game is a series of fetch quests and minor puzzles, but it's hilarious and cute and the characters, even though you can't interact with them outside of a very limited set of actions, are so endearing.

There's not a lot of story, at least not an overarching one. But about halfway through the game I realized that I didn't need a story, I was just eagerly waiting to fill in the next box on the paper map I was playing along with. (Don't skip out on that part - half the fun is in filling in the squares and eventually gazing down at a fully developed map.)

Sub Rosa, by Joey Jones, Melvin Rangasamy

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
An espionage game that rewards attention to detail, July 20, 2017
by Cory Roush (Ohio)

This is one of the best - if you're a fan of espionage AND fantasy/sci-fi, you're going to love this too.

I want to see more of this setting. The REVEAL at the end (no, literally - if you achieve a perfect score, you have access to a command that describes the game's biggest twist and explains the "perfect" ending) left me speechless and also wanting more.

One of the game's biggest puzzles is simply leaving no trace that you were ever there to begin with. This sounds like it'd be a real chore, but it actually required me to be 100% engaged at all times so that I could remember how I had entered the mansion and what I had disturbed. It also allows the authors to completely avoid one of the tropes that is my biggest pet peeve with interactive fiction: you're not forced to be a pack rat... in fact, there are a lot of items that you conceivably could pick up and take with you but are prohibited from doing so because they'll leave traces that you could not clean up. So clever, and I appreciate it so much!

Ecdysis, by Peter Nepstad

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A reminder why I can't read Lovecraftian horror..., July 19, 2017
by Cory Roush (Ohio)

I still have chills.

Implementation: flawless. Prose: wonderful. Ending: fantastic.

5 stars, 10 out of 10, whew.

Glowgrass, by Nate Cull

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Fun, short romp through a Twilight Zone episode, July 19, 2017
by Cory Roush (Ohio)

I really enjoyed this one - adequate length, not too verbose, the parser responded to most commands that I tried, and the puzzles did not detract from the story. If I had one critique, it'd be that the reveal (Spoiler - click to show)of your expedition to a post-apocalyptic Earth came too early in the game. I suppose it wasn't all that difficult to figure out, but it could have meandered a bit more. (Spoiler - click to show)In fact, with the addition of some sci-fi technology like VR and "glowgrass", there's really no reason that one of the first items you find on the ground is, of all things, a Frisbee. The player could have been introduced to several other "new" and unique items, leading them to believe they were on some kind of exotic alien planet, and then the story could have really pulled a rug out from underneath you at an emotionally poignant part, such as when you find the Ancient's skeleton in her bedroom.

Olivia's Orphanorium, by Sam Kabo Ashwell

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Fascinating... maybe for all the wrong reasons?, July 17, 2017
by Cory Roush (Ohio)

I'm a huge fan of casual simulations and resource management games, so when I stumbled upon this game, I was definitely intrigued. Fortunately, the game lived up to the expectations I had for it, which were appropriately low given the limits of the medium and my lack of experience with similar IF games.

This is not a difficult game... in fact, it's one of those simulations where it quickly becomes very obvious how to win. But instead of just amassing huge amounts of wealth, the path to victory is paved with emotional twists and turns. Another reviewer commented on how much affection you can discover for an "orphan" that is nothing more than a name, gender, and age, and I entirely agree. I wanted to see it through to the end not so that I could gain over 10,000 coins or some arbitrary end-goal, but because Ethel came to me as a dirty, sullen toddler and at the age of 16, was beautiful, healthy, and charming enough to stand in as a model for an artists' portrait. She'd later go on to work as an apprentice to a local entrepreneur, and I'm quite certain that if I checked back in with her in twenty-five years, she'd have a family of her own and a legacy to leave them.

The game is presented as a "beat an orphan" simulation and I think it's selling itself short. Yes, it's all sarcastically written to point out how horrifying orphanages have been throughout history (and, to an extent, still can be) but it's got an inner layer of charm that I wasn't expecting to find.

If there are any downsides to the game overall, it's that the difficulty is either completely impossible (but not on my most recent playthrough) or much too easy. I'd also love to see a version of the game that incorporates some visual cues to let you know you're doing, so long as they don't shatter the boundary between immersive simulation and game; color changes to the text to show negative/positive outcomes of your actions, for instance.

P.S. The "Play Online" version of the game appears to be v1, and unfortunately I did not have the time to go back and play v3 to see if the game was improved in any of the ways mentioned. If you have access to an interpreter, I imagine that's the version of the game the author intends for you to play.

Glass, by Emily Short

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
"Bronze" is certainly stronger than "Glass", July 16, 2017
by Cory Roush (Ohio)

Another in a series of Emily Short's fractured fairy tales, but without the depth and complexity of "Bronze"... so unfortunately, not as enjoyable.

I appreciate the experimental nature of a game like this; not only are you given limited ways to control the outcome, but your character is limited by nature itself as you play a bird in a cage.

Two problems stand out in my mind, though:

1) Available conversation topics are shown after THINKing, but it always seems like the topics come one moment too late. By the time you actually SAY something, the other characters have already proceeded, and it's not always clear how your input changed the course of the conversation.

2) With games like these, with multiple endings and a limited window of opportunity to branch the storyline, I'd love to have a system that tracks how many other endings I have to discover. I wouldn't want the "clues" to be too descriptive... something like a Choice of Games' Achievements system where the author could allude to one of the many paths available. Without knowing if I've already discovered all of the endings, going back and replaying after a few restarts seems potentially fruitless.

Lydia's Heart, by Jim Aikin

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A daring escape with a just setback or two, July 15, 2017
by Cory Roush (Ohio)

I love Lydia's Heart, except my own heart broke playing it... but we'll get to that.

The characters in this story are really quite diverse. There are some stereotypes at play, of course, but you have a chance to get to know almost every single one of them and they each have different reasons for being a part of the story.

The puzzles? Difficult, but aside from a really cruel maze, I required very little assistance to solve any of them. The solutions are logical, and it always felt as if I had the right tool (or at least knew where I could probably find it) when I needed it. I'm never a fan of IF that forces you to be a kleptomaniac pack-rat right from the start. In this game you certainly could act that way (in fact, there's a "holdall" sack available to you right from the start) but if you choose to interact with the game as a teenage girl would do, you never feel forced to pick up things just because they're on the ground or on a nearby shelf.

All that being said, I was very disappointed to find at least one scenario that made the game unwinnable. As a disclaimer, I am not the kind of person who saves their game very often. I usually forget, which is my own failing. However, this particular "mistake" was not well broadcast to me and I played the game for at least another hour before realizing what had happened. (Spoiler - click to show)A very important item is hidden inside a container that is initially locked when you find it. You have to steal the container from a cabin that is empty at one point in the story, but inhabited later. I successfully stole the container but made the fatal mistake of trying to enter the cabin later when the inhabitant already came inside... basically, if you go in the direction of the closed door, you automatically knock on it and the person comes to the door. Since I had the locked valise in my hands when the owner came to the door, he took it. And there's no way to get it back. The message that you see when this happens, though, is very similar to what you would expect to see if you tried to enter the cabin with the item safely stored away, and so I just proceeded to go on without trying to restore an earlier save or UNDO. Just a fair warning!

I dislike these scenarios so much that I didn't even bother to go back and try again, because I felt like I was at least 90-95% of the way through the game.

I would have loved to witness the ending, but a decision on the author's part to let realism trump enjoyment stopped that dead in its tracks. Good luck, Diane - I hope you made it out alive!

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