Reviews by Dan Fabulich

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Infinite Adventure, by B.J. Best (writing as “A. Scotts”)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
More than it seems, October 18, 2021

This game was released as part of IFComp 2021 alongside another game, And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One, which is an excellent game about playing THIS game, Infinite Adventure. IA is effectively a "feelie" for ATYCtaHNUtPO, a bit of extra content designed to enhance the experience of playing ATYCtaHNUtPO.

BEWARE that IA doesn't work properly in DOSBox 0.74-3 on 64-bit macOS or Linux. (The text is messed up, with missing letters.) Use DOSBox-X instead. https://dosbox-x.com

IA is a procedurally generated adventure game. Each time you play, there's a small randomly generated map, a goal, and an item to take to the goal. Sometimes the goal is an NPC, so you'd give the item to the NPC; sometimes the goal is a pedestal or a chest, so you'd put the item in/on the goal. You "win" a round of IA when you deliver the item (or "lose" if you deliver the wrong item).

But there is also more to it than that. Spoilers follow for both IA and ATYCtaHNUtPO; I recommend not reading the spoiler until you've beaten ATYCtaHNUtPO and a few rounds of IA.

(Spoiler - click to show)There's a fractured wall between ATYCtaHNUtPO and IA, where objects in the IA game are also present in the "real world" of ATYCtaHNUtPO. This version of IA does something similar.

(Spoiler - click to show)Some of the stuff in the office from ATYCtaHNUtPO is here.

(Spoiler - click to show)Some of the NPCs are, too.


Taste of Fingers, by V Dobranov

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Inadequate treatment of themes of racism, October 18, 2021

If you check the about screen before playing, you'll see that this game includes a disclaimer:

Disclaimer: The thoughts, actions and attitudes of the characters in this work do not reflect the views of the author himself and in many ways contradict them.

This game depicts some fairly deplorable attitudes, including racism, without rendering any clear judgments about those attitudes. Note that the author doesn't say anything about his own views.

But, why not?

(Spoiler - click to show)The game is about the main character hiding in a closet due to a pandemic apocalypse; the story is told in flashbacks, exploring the main character's memories.

Later, it becomes clear that a man-made racist disease has spread, a disease that targets different races differently, and that it turns people into zombies.

But, in the twist ending, it appears that the main character was actually a zombie, but falsely perceives everyone *else* as zombies. He sees a couple of people who he thinks are zombies, but turn out to be government officials in hazmat suits, killing zombies. (In fact, we don't even strictly know that the main character's point of view was incorrect, except that there are multiple characters who perceive the main character as the zombie and themselves as zombie killers, and the main character has a nightmare that agrees with their point of view.)


Why tell this story about racists without taking a point of view? Is the moral of this parable that racists and anti-racists are both equally right, or equally wrong? Are they at odds because they're all insane, unable to perceive each other's points of view? (Or is it just the racists who are insane in this way? Are we all insane racists?)

Zombie stories have a long history of racism, and a long history of erasing their history of racism from the public eye. "Pop culture has used the zombie, fraught as it is with history, as a form of escapism, rather than a vehicle to explore its own past or current fears."

I'm afraid that the author's answer is to shrug: I dunno, I just wanted to tell a zombie story about racism because it's fun. Come on, man, can't we tell a fun, escapist story about zombie pandemic racism now and then?

To that, I say, no. Zombie stories don't have to be fun or escapist, but when they are, it's because the zombies are simply evil, without moral complications. There's nothing fun about suspending judgment about zombie pandemic racism. If the author was aiming for fun, the added racism themes and moral dilemmas work against that goal.

And if the author wasn't aiming for fun, then what's the point? To raise the question "is racism as bad as anti-racism?" Why??


The Golden Heist, by George Lockett and Rob Thorman

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Lovely, October 12, 2021

A beautiful piece. I especially enjoyed the background music.

The game is set in ancient Rome, during the reign of emperor Nero; your objective is to rob his palace. The description describes the game as a "comedic historical heist caper" but I would describe it as more "tense" than "comedic."

The slowly revealing text mostly annoyed me though I suppose it did help to build suspense. I wish I could control the pace of the text, because I can't imagine playing the game again while … waiting … for … each … sentence.


After-Words, by fireisnormal

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Lots of inventory puzzles, October 12, 2021

This is the kind of game where there are just a zillion inventory puzzles, so many that the primary puzzle of the game is just remembering which puzzles you've already seen. ("Didn't somebody need an object like that? Where was it??")

None of the puzzles are particularly surprising, and the very sparse writing doesn't really help establish a sense of place, IMO. (This seems like a poetic place, rather than a place that makes any internal sense.)

You can play the game on autopilot if you click the hint button too much; try to keep notes, instead.


The Belinsky Conundrum, by Sam Ursu

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Crashed, October 12, 2021

I got about three choices into the game and it crashed. I selected "oh my god" in response to the explanation of what OPERATION SNOW is, and the game just… didn't respond any more. There's no restart/reset button, so I'm just stuck. I can't play anymore.

IMO, a game set in Facebook Messenger should should be a chat of some kind, like Lifeline or Emily is Away.


And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One, by B.J. Best

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Charming!, October 2, 2021

We played this at the Bay Area IF Meetup. It's an incredibly fun zany meta-adventure. (We found the good ending, but for all I know, I'm still stuck in the game even now!)

Only one minor problem we encountered.

(Spoiler - click to show)
We first picked the "bad" ending where you decide not to give Riley any of the important items. Apparently there's a funeral, which is pretty dark, but then there's a phone call back in the '80s? That was extremely confusing, and I'd argue it's too confusing if you haven't seen the good ending yet. I think it needs another line, like "Despite yourself, you remember your last phone call with her."


Party Is Such Sweet Sorrow, by Anthony Smith

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short and sweet, September 29, 2021

I liked a bunch of the puzzles. (I especially liked the Mayor.) Some of the puzzles were harder than I would have liked, but that’s why I wrote invisiclues.

(Spoiler - click to show)I think fixing the robot bartender was too hard. It required pulling together several unrelated hints in a non intuitive way.


A Difficult Puzzle, by Kenneth Pedersen

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Unfairly clued, annoying to operate, August 29, 2021

This game has approximately three and a half puzzles, but only two of them are good, IMO.

I can't imagine that anybody will solve it without using the game's built-in hint system (Melinda) and asking her about everything.

Even then, IMO, the silver key puzzle is too hard/unfair. (I was unable to solve it without reading the author's hints posted on the ADRIFT forum.)

On the silver key puzzle: (Spoiler - click to show)I thought the poster rhyme was telling me to turn to page 6 and stand in the western room; that made at least as much sense as the correct answer, and is compatible with Melinda's suggestion to think about numbers.

The game is also annoying to operate, but it's hard to talk about that without spoiling the game's central mechanic.

(Spoiler - click to show)The game's central mechanic is that moving clockwise increases the book's page number; moving counterclockwise decreases the page number. Leaving the book in the recess allows you to switch rooms without changing the page number, allowing you to "dial" the book to a number of your choice.

Two out of the three puzzles are entirely about guessing a page number for the book and navigating to it.

But you can't "turn to page 624," noooo… you have to laboriously put the book in the recess, go to the right room, get the book, move clockwise, put the book back in the recess, go clockwise, put the book back in the recess, go to a smaller numbered room, move counterclockwise, etc.

It's even worse if you play it in the ADRIFT online web player, where each command can take a second or two.


Yesternight, by Robert Szacki

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
One puzzle, and it's kinda busted, July 4, 2021

It's interesting to make a game in AdvSys in 2021. (Note that you can play it in Gargoyle for Windows, macOS, or Linux, or Spatterlight for macOS.)

The game is extremely minimal. Five rooms. You can win the game in a dozen turns, without any meaningful optimization.

There's an item you can take, the book, that as far as I can tell is completely unimplemented; "x book" just says "nothing special" and the game doesn't have a "read" verb.

IMO, the flower puzzle is kinda busted. (Spoiler - click to show)You have to "POUR FLOWER" when you have the full bottle; "POUR BOTTLE" won't work. This took me ages to figure out, because "POUR FLOWER" isn't grammatically correct! You're not pouring the flower, you're pouring water (or the water bottle) on the flower.


Grandpa's Ranch, by Kenneth Pedersen

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Cute intro to IF, July 3, 2021

I wish this game weren't in ADRIFT, so it could be more easily playable online, and so it would work on macOS and Linux. (This game feels like a particularly good fit for Adventuron.)

I got stuck on the laptop password. (Spoiler - click to show)If you follow the tutorial, it will lead you to “say kennedy” to Molly. There is a good reason the tutorial advises you to do that.

Otherwise, the game was simple and charming.


The Arkham Abomination, by catventure

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Spooky, July 3, 2021

It's a spooky Lovecraftian game, a bit overwritten. ("The vacant church is in a state of great decrepitude" could be "is decrepit.")

Once you find the first body, it's not clear why you'd hang around town rather than fleeing.

The game has mazes, but they're combination locks, where you find directions from point to point; they're not meant to be solved in the traditional way by dropping items. I still don't love that; I'd prefer a "go to happy cow farm" command, where you can only go there once you have directions.

It's a pity that it only works on Windows; I don't see anything about this game that wouldn't work just as well (or better) in Inform.

The music only 45 seconds long, and looping, which gets annoying pretty quickly.

No rating; I haven't finished yet.


Waiting for the Day Train, by Dee Cooke

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A delicious treat, with rough edges, July 3, 2021

This game is short; you'll probably finish in 20 minutes or less. The game has a turn tracker (you have to get to the train before noon), but, in practice, the tracker is just an annoyance: you're probably going to run out of time on your first playthrough, and then you'll restart the game and play through more efficiently.

The music is fun, and the puzzles are fair, but kinda fiddly.

(Spoiler - click to show)The game wasn't clear enough about where I needed to stand to get the fishing pole and the gem at the bridge. It would say "you can't reach it from here," but why not? Do I need to wade deeper into the water? Is the pole on the east side of the bridge? The west side? Do I need to be standing on the bridge, or on the stepping stones?

Instead, you kinda need to guess that there are four locations in this area (west of the bridge, east of the bridge, standing on the bridge, and standing on the stones) and try to get the items at each of those locations by trial and error.

When dispersing the magpies, I had to "throw" the gem at the magpies, but I couldn't just "give" the gem to the magpies, or "drop" the gem and leave, and it's not clear why.


The Lord of Hunger, by Karina Popp

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
To be completed in July, June 29, 2021

The game's not done yet; it's being released chapter by chapter. The last chapter is scheduled to be released in July.

Tip for the author: invite me to subscribe to some kinda notification when new chapters are released!


The iCarly RPG, by StamblerRambler

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
This game has a lot of heart, June 29, 2021

I'm not sure this game really works that well if you've never seen the iCarly Nickelodeon TV show, but there's a lot of heart and soul in this game. It describes itself as a "horror" game, and certainly there are horror elements, but I'd describe it as a game about dealing with grief and guilt through the metaphor of Lovecraftian creepypasta horror tropes.


The Big Fall, by Daniel River

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Buggy, interesting, June 29, 2021

The game feels fun, noir-y, but it has a number of bugs that forced me back to the in-game hints too often. (And even those have bugs, at least as of Release 1.)

I posted a big list of bugs on the intfiction forum. https://intfiction.org/t/the-big-fall-a-1947-detective-story/51435/5?u=dfabulich

My biggest issue with this game is plot-related.

(Spoiler - click to show)Why did Dixie (the mob boss) let Sylvia live? Why are the cops trying to kill me in the final scene? Shouldn't they just arrest me?

It seems like the game is being noir-y at the expense of its own plot.

I think if the bugs were fixed, this could be at least three stars, and if the plot issues are addressed, it could be four or five stars.


Baggage, by Katherine Farmar

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Not sure if I found everything, April 24, 2021

There's a lot of fun poetic imagery in this piece. It ends quite abruptly, and won't take more than a few minutes if you play it as I did.

(Spoiler - click to show)INVENTORY, then EXAMINE all of the stuff in the satchel. The game will suggest that you can CHANGE the stuff, so CHANGE all of the feelings, one at a time. Then you can trivially GO EAST and WAIT a turn to win that way, or CUT BRAMBLES and GO WEST and WAIT a turn to win that way.

EDIT: (Spoiler - click to show)You can also optionally help the traveler, who appears fifteen turns into the game. You can GET ODDMENTS (twice), GIVE ODDMENTS TO TRAVELER, and then TRAVELER, CHANGE MOMENTS.

Maybe there was another way to win? Maybe there's more to it? Or maybe that's all there is.


Take the Dog Out, by ell

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A cute little game, April 4, 2021

There's not a lot to it, (the game is over before you know it) but the puzzles are fair, and there's some cute stuff. I look forward to the author's future work.

I didn't think it was fair that (Spoiler - click to show)the game docks you three points for turning on the TV.


The Secret of Nara, by Ralfe Rich

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A nice little romp as a deer, April 4, 2021

You're a deer. You do deer things. It's pretty cute. The whole game is over in 10 to 15 minutes, maybe 30 if you decide to use the back button to explore all endings.

The language is strange, perhaps intentionally strange, but at some places it seems just accidentally ungrammatical.

(Spoiler - click to show)At one point, you meet a deer who's hurt, and you have the option to try to save the deer. You do, but the other deer then apparently walks away from the accident, apparently uninjured…? This seems like a bug.


Picton Murder Whodunnit, by Sia See

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Hazelden could have solved this, April 4, 2021

The game is pretty easy. The murderer and the alibis are selected at random. (Spoiler - click to show)Only the murderer has no alibi, falsely claiming "I was in place X; character Y saw me there" but when you ask character Y, Y will say that they didn't see the murderer. You go outside, accuse one person, and the game ends.

I would have liked the puzzle to include a little more depth, something that gave me a sense of surprise (while still being solvable in hindsight).

I don't know why, but in Chrome 89 for macOS 11.2.3, the sound effects were horribly choppy. I switched to Safari 14 and it worked much better. It appears that opening this game (or any Strand game?) pins a CPU in Chrome.

The voices sounded computer generated, which was weird, but sometimes they really worked. I'd be curious to learn more about how the author made these sounds.


Miss No-Name, by Bellamy Briks

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Needs one more thing, April 3, 2021

The premise of this game is pretty zany, and I enjoyed that. But I wanted a little something more after (Spoiler - click to show)getting the "true ending" and learning her name.

The About screen has a "Spoiler" section that explains the entire plot, to help make sense of it if you're still confused after seeing all of the endings.

(Spoiler - click to show)My feeling is that while the twist ending #5 is surprising, I feel like I wanted to do something more with the discovery. I randomly stumbled across ending #5 fairly early on and explored the rest of the endings using the back button. Some games give you one last "real ending" to discover after you've discovered all of the other endings; I think this game would really benefit from that. Maybe ending #2 could have a variant ending #8 if you've previously seen ending #5, where you ask for her help and she gives you a name, or something like that.


Stay?, by E. Jade Lomax

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An Epic Adventure, March 7, 2021

We played this game at the SF Bay Area IF Meetup, and we had a delightful time with it. It's *very* deep and *very* long, at least tens of thousands of words and a couple of hours of playthrough.

Time loops are a fantastic structure for puzzles, and the romanceable NPCs help keep the game from getting too repetitive.


The Iron Hand in the Velvet Glove, by Emilie Reed

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Let's-a Go!, February 3, 2021

A fascinating little Twine game based on real-world leaked documents.

A lot of the best Twine games use the form to reflect on its own structure and the feeling of making choices; this game does precisely that, using its "simulation" setting to allow you to decide not only how you'll approach the negotiation but how The Subject responds to your tactics.


Ritus Sacri, by quackoquack

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Charming, November 7, 2020

The core mechanic of this game is a latin translation mechanic. Once you get the hang of it, you can perform it by rote.

But (Spoiler - click to show)the game has a fitting twist ending for an Ectocomp game that makes the whole thing delightful. Surprising, but inevitable in hindsight.


Amazing Quest, by Nick Montfort

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Your choices have no effect, and that's the point (of the joke), October 6, 2020

The game around this game is the game.

The author provides the source code for this game on the game's website, but it's in the form of an image, and the source is minified so as to make it harder to read.

Luckily, Ant Hope did the hard work for you, analyzing the source.

And it turns out, your choices have no effect. (If you played this game like I did, pressing enter for Y on every turn on your first playthrough, you probably guessed as much.)

The instruction manual and strategy guide are deliberately misleading about this, but, in hindsight, their awkward phrasing includes subtle hints that your choices have no consequences. Like this passage from the intro:

If you allow your imagination to help you elaborate each stop on your journey, and if you truly get into the mindset of the returning wanderer, Amazing Quest will offer you rewards as you play it again and again.

So, this game leaves something to be desired. But the meta-game has a puzzle: decode the source code. And now I've spoiled it for you.

But the meta-game also has a toy: play Amazing Quest and use your imagination to tell your own story with it.

If the documentation had been more honest about the game's purpose ("it's a little procgen ditty for the C64; see if you can imagine your own story to go along with it,") I could have given it a better rating.

But instead, I claim that it's a prank, a joke played on the player. I appreciate that the prank is a puzzle with a solution, and that there are even some clues to help you solve the puzzle. But IMO this game, this prank, treats its players disrespectfully.

This game would be 100% better by having players opt-in to the joke, so we're all in on it together. As it stands, you, having read this review, can now enjoy Amazing Quest on its own terms, though you probably can't enjoy the process of decoding the source, not now that I've spoiled it.


Congee, by Becci

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A lovely little Twine story, October 3, 2020

A small piece that tells a simple, heartwarming story.


The Cave, by Neil Aitken

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
The start of something interesting, October 3, 2020

It's a very short piece. The walkthrough says that it's heavily randomized, which some people love, but I don't care for it. Everything I look at makes my character feel sad and existential. I'd have preferred if the game had more story, e.g. some characters with goals and conflicts, or even just a surprise or two (building up my expectations and then subverting them).


Captain Graybeard's Plunder, by Julian Mortimer Smith

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
The real treasure was in the books we read along the way!, October 3, 2020

A charming mini game.


#VanLife, by Victoria

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Puzzling UI, October 3, 2020

The puzzle of this game is figuring out its menus. I played on easy mode with plenty of money, but I couldn't figure out how to buy the stuff I needed to keep my mood from falling rapidly to 0.

It's possible that figuring out the menus is supposed to be the point, somehow, but I don't think so… I think the game was trying to force me to consider trading off alternatives (money, power, mood). But since I couldn't really figure out the menus, I didn't get the opportunity to make those choices.


Caduceus, by Sarah Willson (as Mala Costraca)

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Unplayable without the source, August 31, 2020

This game took first place in Event One of the Second Quadrennial Ryan Veeder Exposition for Good Interactive Fiction.

Entries in Event One of the Second Quadrennial Ryan Veeder Exposition for Good Interactive Fiction were written over the course of one weekend. The challenge of Event One was to create a game in Inform 7 with beautiful source code text.
The trouble is, all of the top-ranked games are unplayable without the source, and Caduceus is no exception. It has two "guess the verb" puzzles, whose solutions make no sense, even in hindsight. (Spoiler - click to show)The gangplank is "fixed in place." Despite that, you have to "push" it. Why? Why do I have to "wave" the caduceus? None of this is explained, even in the source. (Why not "reclaim" the caduceus?)

So how did an unplayable game get four stars from me? Well, the source code is very, very good.


Scarlet Portrait Parlor, by MathBrush (as Prismatik)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
This game has great source code, August 31, 2020

The source code of this game is delightful, and you simply must read it. No, seriously, the game is basically unplayable (its puzzle is unfair) unless you read the source.

I played the game with the story file in an interpreter, which is normally my preferred way to play IF, but as a result, I missed out on a message that appears in the HTML "Play Online" version:

An Entry in Event One of the Second Quadrennial Ryan Veeder Exposition for Good Interactive Fiction.

The challenge of Event One was to create a game in Inform 7 with beautiful source code text. Therefore, you may be interested in viewing the source code text.
Well, it turns out that there is no way in the game to deduce how to win, or even to know that you should read the source to enjoy the game. (Spoiler - click to show)You have to get rid of your heavy guilt. You can't drop it. You win by putting the guilt on the loom, for no reason I can discover.

If the source code weren't so good, this game would merit one star, two at the most. But the source code is very, very good.


Mind The Gap, by quackoquack

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Another beautifully intimate story by quackoquack, July 27, 2020

This game and quackoquack's Moving (On) are stories about caring relationships between close friends told via the medium of parser IF.

There are precious few games like this; so much of parser IF is about using your superior intellect to solve devilish puzzles about things ("moderate-sized specimens of dry goods" as JL Austin puts it), often with a comedy theme, because solving puzzles in this way always feels faintly absurd.

quackoquack's games subvert this structure. Mind The Gap asks the player to solve a scheduling problem (and a traveling sales problem) in order to have cozy, personal moments with all of the friends you want to see in London, with bonus points available if you can help create and support connections between your friends, especially the ones who don't see each other often enough. Each meeting is sweet (bittersweet), tender, and genuine.

I very much look forward to her next work!


The Horrible Rotten Dancing Dragon...Strikes!!!, by Ken Rose

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Nothing to write home about, July 27, 2020

I went to the trouble of typing in this game from an archived copy of Softline magazine because I had fond memories of playing this game with my dad.

The game itself is playable, and has some cute bits. The centerpiece puzzle with the dragon has adequate clues, I think, and the magic spring puzzle may catch some players pleasantly by surprise.


One Last Thing..., by Dee Cooke

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Unfair verbs, July 27, 2020

This game has some "guess the verb" puzzles with non-standard verbs (Spoiler - click to show)(tip, crush) without much hinting.

I'm not categorically opposed to "guess the verb" puzzles, but you can't have a GTV puzzle in a game with a limited parser, because 99% of the time, the verb you'd reasonably guess won't be supported.

For example, you can't (Spoiler - click to show)smash peanut; you can only (Spoiler - click to show)crush peanut.

The backstory was evocative, but it never became relevant to the lock-and-key puzzle the story was actually about.


Barry Basic and the Quest for the Perfect Port, by Dee Cooke

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
It's a tech demo, July 26, 2020

The game isn't really meant to be played; it's a sample game intended to demonstrate the Adventuron -> Spectrum converter. There's a YouTube video that explain the process.


FUNGUS!, by Thingomy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Cute, but the humor didn't work for me, July 26, 2020

To be funny, jokes have to be surprising, but inevitable in hindsight. The jokes in this game either don't feel surprising (the Ground Troll is silly!) or don't feel inevitable (what's Mario doing here?).

You can reach a winning 10-pebble ending if you use the back button when you fail, so winning is just a matter of straightforward hard work.


Sohoek Ekalmoe, by Caleb Wilson

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Play the web version, June 28, 2020

A delightful appetizer.

The web version includes lovely background music by Julian K. Jarboe, don't miss out!

It was a little hard to guess the command to get started, so here's my gift to you: (Spoiler - click to show)touch sunlight with leaf


Each Glimpse A Mirror, by Jack Sanderson Thwaite

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A simple Twine piece, June 28, 2020

A short, simple work in Twine, with a nice photo on every page.


Uncle Clem's Will, by Tony Rudzki

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Frustrating examine hunt, June 28, 2020

This seems to be a game where you have to go from room to room examining everything. But the game doesn't follow the BENT rule (Bracket Every Notable Thing), so it often describes things that can't be examined.

In the living room, for example:

"You are standing in the Living Room, the heart of the home. The majority of the hardwood floor is covered with a worn carpet of a repetitive design. Dark wooden paneling line the walls, matched by equally dark baseboard, poorly joined in the corners. Simple furniture and few knick-knacks decorate this room. Uncle Clem seems to have lived a simple life, with the bare essentials"

You can't examine the floor, the carpet, the paneling, the furniture, or the knick-knacks, ("You can't see any such thing") but you must examine the baseboard.

The whole game is like this! I gave up after trying to examine everything I reasonably could in seven rooms and never finding anything that I would call a "puzzle" or even a goal.

Maybe hints would help?


Laika, by Ian Michael Waddell

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Hilarious; fun to replay, June 28, 2020

This game is quite funny and charmingly poignant, which is perhaps no surprise coming from the author of Animalia.

Be advised that what happens on each planet is randomized, so the game is certainly worth replaying.


Moving (On), by quackoquack

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Delightful, June 28, 2020

A game where you can use verbs like "reminisce."

I recommend typing "help" even if you're very comfortable with text adventures. (For example, this is a game where you must (Spoiler - click to show)search.)

A hint: (Spoiler - click to show)You'll have to do the card last.


The Detective's Apprentice, by John C. Knudsen

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
The ebook is better, June 27, 2020

This game is an adaptation of a 1932 book, Minute Mysteries by H.A. Ripley. If you've read Encyclopedia Brown, you know what it's like.

Each case is a short story ending in a question. In the paper book version, you're meant to try to deduce the answer, then flip to the back of the book to see if you were right. In the ebook version up on Gutenberg.org, you can click a link to skip ahead to the right answer.

Here in this Twine version, the mysteries are posed as multiple-choice questions. But these questions are typically "yes/no" or "murder/suicide" questions, which don't work as a way of evaluating whether the reader correctly understood the mystery.

In most cases, the story is usually a tale told by a character, and the Twine version asks, "did the character tell the truth?" But if the character had told the truth, then there would be no mystery. So in literally all of the cases where the game asks, "is this true?" the answer is "no." In almost all cases where the question is "murder or suicide?" the answer is "murder," though it's always "the opposite of what the characters think/say it is."

For example, take the very first mystery, "A Crack Shot." In the story, a character named Butler tells a story of an accidental shooting. The game asks, "was this an accident or murder?" You can easily guess that it was murder, without even reading the story, because there would be no mystery otherwise.

But in the original novel, which you can read on gutenberg.org, the story just tells you it was murder on the last line.

There, the story ends like this: "‘Why did you deliberately murder Marshall?’ demanded Fordney abruptly ... ‘for that’s what you did.’" And then the story asks, "How did the Professor know Butler had murdered his companion?"

That is the right question to ask, but it doesn't make sense to pose it as a multiple-choice question; it would be much too obvious to reveal the the answer on a menu of options.

I think this would have been a better adaptation if it had adhered more closely to the ebook. Ask me "how did he know?" but just let me click a link to see the answer; don't attempt to keep score. Also, rather than splitting up the main part of the story onto multiple pages, keep the whole setup on one page, so I can scroll back and review it!

(In fairness, it works a lot better when the game offers a list of suspects—even when it's just two suspects.)

P.S. There's a bug on Case 9 where the answers are reversed; if you click "educated" the game thinks you clicked "illiterate"; if you click "illiterate" the game thinks you clicked "educated."

P.P.S. I think the quotations work better with author citations. The original book included authorship citations for each quotation.


silences, by beams

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Six endings, April 26, 2020

All of the endings are about what the main character won't do, and why.

(Spoiler - click to show)
"I won't waive my right to wear charms. The dread eye can hit the dirt."
"I won't sign. If they want my breath, they can draw it, jar it, shelve it themselves."
"I won't have need much longer. Services (assemblies, deliveries) are for moving parts only."
"I won't want for anything come summer. Mountains will scurry hither over my doorsill."
"I won't repeat myself again. This slingstone breaks brows as sure as the sun will scour."
"I won't dignify such a ceremony with lip service. They ate my heart and deemed it 'plummy'."


Easter Egg Hunt 2020, by David Welbourn

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting concept, needs more tweaks, April 26, 2020

As of the moment I write this review, IFDB and the game's website says that there's a critical bug in Release 1 (regarding an apple) that, as far as I can see, makes that puzzle unsolvable (unless you read the bug warning, I suppose). It seems like that would justify a subsequent release, but, uh, I guess it's not forthcoming?

A number of the puzzles didn't feel very fair to me.

(Spoiler - click to show)
• You have to "set" the minute hand and the hour hand. Turning them, pushing them, or doing anything to the dial does nothing useful.
• You have to clean the muddy wall with a rag. Fine, but everything's covered in mud/water in that room, and the rag describes a spaceship, indicating that the rag is meant to be used in a sci-fi setting, which this isn't.
• The Cragne Manor room might be my least favorite room from Cragne Manor, because its parser is so horribly picky. You have to "fill" the urn or "bail" the grave, but the parser errors if you "get" the water. And when you get to the bottom, "something pokes through the mud here" but the parser errors if you try to examine the something or get it. You have to "dig", and you can't just "dig", oh no, you have to "dig WEST". Why??
• Apparently fish eat popcorn? And when they do, they go away??


I could never have finished the game without peeking at the source code available on the game's website. I think a few of these fixes (including that critical bug fix, eh?) would make this game a lot more accessible.


The Curse of Rabenstein, by Stefan Vogt

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Cool graphics, interesting ports, not much game, April 26, 2020

This game has fun retro graphics, and is available for a shockingly large number of old platforms, including Commodore 64, Spectrum, Amiga, Atari ST, and MS-DOS. I played it in its HTML JavaScript version, which is almost certainly the version you should play, if you decide to play it.

Those are the good parts.

As a game, there's not a lot here. The limited parser is kinda buggy, the story is thin, and there are no interesting puzzles.

The game has a bunch of NPCs, but you can only "TALK [PERSON]" and "GIVE/SHOW [OBJECT]" to them. (TALK, GIVE, and SHOW are undocumented verbs.) But even GIVE and SHOW are incompletely implemented.

In order to engage a major NPC with the plot ((Spoiler - click to show)"OMG I'm trapped here and my coachman is missing,") you can't just ask them about it or tell them about it, but you have to find a piece of critical evidence ((Spoiler - click to show)the cloth) and SHOW it to them. Until you do that, TALK just doesn't mention the problem to that NPC. Worse, if you SHOW that critical evidence to anyone else in the game, you get a generic parser error, "That wouldn't help you much." This game would be considerably improved if you could GIVE/SHOW every object to every NPC and get at least a single line of dialog.

And here's another parser bug. (Spoiler - click to show)The priest tells you to get water from the well. But the well has no bucket and no rope, so you have to search for them. When you USE ROPE and USE BUCKET, "You attach the bucket to the rope and pull up a fresh charge of water." Cool. GET WATER. "You can't find it." You have to USE BOTTLE to get the water.

Then there's the story. The game is short, but there's… not much. (Spoiler - click to show)You're stuck in a haunted village. Or maybe you've time-traveled back to the past? You meet some people afraid of ghosts nearby, encounter a vampire attacking your coachman, who runs off when you attack him with a torch. Then you go to sleep, and all of the NPCs are gone (where are your horses?!), except an NPC who said he would help you has apparently been dead for years and has kept the object you gave him "yesterday" with him--buried with his skeleton in his grave. (Why? How?) You then sleep again. (why?) You bring holy soil to the vampire, who for some reason hasn't attacked you in your sleep for the past two days, wake the vampire with the soil, and kill him. And the name of the PC? You were Van Helsing the whole time. This story is paper thin, just enough to motivate the puzzles.

And then there's the puzzles. They're almost all of the form, "examine and search everything, take everything, then USE everything you own," except for sleeping, which is "accomplish all necessary tasks for the day, which are only known to the author, before you're allowed to sleep and progress to the next day."

The final puzzle is an exception to this. (Spoiler - click to show)To open the coffin in the Undercroft, you have to use the blanket upstairs to set a trap, then use the soil downstairs to force the vampire to wake. But the soil solution just sort of assumes you know certain traditional vampire lore. If you try using the soil in the Undercroft too soon, the game says that you need a plan, but the limited parser doesn't provide a way to say "I plan to burn the vampire in the library."

None of the game's puzzles offer any of the virtues of a good puzzle. https://xyzzyawards.org/?p=386 No extent, no explorability, no surprise, no ingenuity, no originality, no structural integration, and barely any narrative integration.


Labyrinth, by Brandon Smith

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Yup, it's a maze, January 26, 2020

It's a Twine maze. Spooky stuff happens. There are some death endings and one good ending. But, as is typical for mazes, you just have to be persistent and try all of the paths to find the exit. There's no particular reason "left" or "right" is the correct answer in any given situation.

I'm not sure I understood the theme. "You chose this" doesn't feel accurate when I chose "Go right" and I died as a result.

For some reason, the default Twine back button is hidden by default, but if you refresh the page, it will appear.

Here's a walkthrough.

(Spoiler - click to show)
Go forwards
Go left
Take the apple and eat it
Explore the rest of the room
Exit left
Walk forwards
Leave the path and enter the forest
Go left


Kentish Plover, by Daniel Gunnell (as Kentish Plover)
Nearly puzzleless, January 26, 2020

It's a short game; just follow the on-screen instructions to win. There's not a lot to it.


Don't Push The Mailbox, by Ralfe Rich
A cute first game, January 26, 2020

A very basic game with a simple (Spoiler - click to show)guess-the-verb puzzle, but it has some charm for its size.

If you liked this game, you'd probably also like "Pick up the Phone Booth and Die."


INHERITANCE, by ProP

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting, spooky, June 30, 2019

The graphics and music are spooky; and the puzzles are good, though none of them were especially amazing.

This game describes itself as a "limited parser" game, but I think I disagree. "Limited parser" games typically have a very small and explicitly enumerated list of verbs, (often including "use") but this game supports dozens of verbs, most of which are undocumented, and some of which are required to win.

There are so many verbs that at times the game has bugs when you use the wrong verb to do the intended action. (Spoiler - click to show)You have to put the key in the lock; you can't unlock the lock with the key, even though "unlock" is a valid verb. This sort of bug basically never happens in limited-parser games; you'd just "use key on lock" because that's the only verb that could possibly work.


Anchorhead, by Michael Gentry

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Unfair, January 7, 2019

I'm not at all sure that Anchorhead has any "fair" puzzles in Emily Short's sense. https://xyzzyawards.org/?p=386

I played Anchorhead about four-ish years ago, but I gave up on it and used the "Guided Tour" walkthrough linked from IFDB. I never felt like I could trust that I was actually solving a puzzle. For many of the puzzles I "solved" by following the Guided Tour, I never understood the solutions at all.

Even for Anchorhead's relatively accessible puzzles, the vast majority of them only make sense in "adventure-game logic" (e.g. the very first puzzle of the game, (Spoiler - click to show)breaking into the real-estate office), but those puzzles are surrounded by red-herring "you can't solve this yet for no known reason" puzzles, so it's unfair to expect the player to apply adventure-game logic to just that puzzle and not any of the other red-herring puzzles.

Good puzzle solutions need to make sense in hindsight. Why does it make sense to break into the (Spoiler - click to show)real-estate office, and not the (Spoiler - click to show)asylum, or the slaughterhouse, or the church, or whatever? Why can I break in on Day 3 but not on Day 2? It just never makes sense.

I'd give Anchorhead one star, but its prose and story are pretty good. So, do as I did: follow mjhayes' Guided Tour. Don't worry one second over the puzzles. Just enjoy the ride. (Note that the Guided Tour hasn't been updated for the 2018 re-release; you'll have to use the 1998 original release, instead.)


Unnamed Google Easter Egg, by Google

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A cute little text adventure in an unexpected place, September 29, 2018

For an easter egg, this is a pretty substantial game. It has dozens of rooms and half a dozen puzzles.

The game uses a restricted verb-only parser. "grab" to pick up objects, "use" to use one of your inventory items. I think this undermines a little bit of the fun of puzzle solving; if you reach a puzzle and you have the right inventory item, you can usually auto-solve the puzzle just by typing "use." If "use" doesn't work, you just have to fully explore all of the rooms, "grab" everything that isn't nailed down, and come back and "use" again.

(It also includes a "why" command that just prints random cute messages.)

The game includes a built-in ASCII map, but I found the map illegible, not least because it's full of symbols that aren't defined in the legend. (It doesn't help at all that the game starts by giving you a partial map, then briefly reveals a full map, and immediately takes it away. What's the point of that?)

For the record, the full legend should include:

(Spoiler - click to show)//, \\, and = means a walkway or bridge.
^ means a skybridge, which connects to another ^
~ means a body of water (impassible)
< means a room containing an elevator going up or down


Perfectly Ordinary Ghosts, by Victoria Smith
A delicious snack, July 6, 2018

This is a short but very rich piece, like a dark chocolate lavender ganache. I loved the use of additional documents, which appeared suddenly in contrast to the fading in text.


The House of Mystery, by James G. Lynch (Jimmy Joe)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting; needs work, July 6, 2018

In the current 1.0 version, the zip includes full source and a Vorple website AND a gblorb. I couldn't get the Vorple website to display images, even when I ran it on a localhost server, but the gblorb displayed images just fine, so just use that. It's in "Project New Media.materials/Release/The House of Mystery.gblorb".

The puzzles I encountered were interesting, but eventually I got stuck. The game doesn't offer a walkthrough or in-game hints. The game doesn't credit beta testers and has a lot of "You can't see any such thing" errors.

I look forward to a future version of this game.


The Man Who Calls The Shots, by Ola Hansson
Short but sweet, July 6, 2018

I don't think the choices make much/any impact on the ending. (Spoiler - click to show)The twist ending was cute, but implausible.


Diviner, by Josh Labelle
Give me more actions; give me restore points, July 6, 2018

The game has an interesting setting. I didn't like that the game only allowed three actions per day. Since one of which pretty much has to be praying, it allows effectively two actions per day.

This was aggravated by the fact that some of the actions involved randomness, e.g. the (Spoiler - click to show)pace the room action can randomly have a good effect, or it can take days to activate.

(Spoiler - click to show)Especially when you find the hidden journal, it seems ridiculous that it takes five actions—spread out over three days—to read it.

Last, especially since the game includes a lot of right/wrong answers (especially during prayer), it would have been nice to have a more convenient way to replay options, instead of just restarting the whole game from scratch and replaying. Randomness makes replaying all the more tedious if I just want to see the "good" options.


American Angst, by m3g1dd0

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Unsatisfying, May 29, 2018

You win American Angst by winning fights. But the fights are just grinds: keep clicking the "hit" button until you randomly win or lose. If you lose, you'll have to go back to the last checkpoint, click through to the combat, and try your luck again. Eventually, you'll succeed.

But the result of this is that none of the combat options mean anything. There's no puzzle, no risk/reward tradeoff, no meaningful tactical situation. Once you grind through the combat, the game runs on rails, with a few arbitrary "left or right?" choices and a few "how brutal do you want to be?" choices.

As for the story, it's an amnesia game, which means that we know nothing about the player character. As a result, it's difficult to care about this character, even when the "surprise twist" is revealed. There are several endings, apparently selected at random based on earlier choices, including one where the bad guy inexplicably explains everything, with hundreds of words of non-interactive exposition, and then (Spoiler - click to show)kills you.

This game was nominated for XYZZY awards for Best Game, Best Writing, and Best Story. I don't see it.


Read This First, by Jessica Creane

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Cute, limited, April 1, 2018

I'm pretty sure there aren't any "instructions" to read. Just click around and enjoy the ambiance.


In Good Company, by A.M.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Cute but buggy, January 3, 2017

This is a cute puzzle game, but there are a number of bugs in its implementation that detracted from my enjoyment of the game so much that, by the end, I resorted to just following the hints.

1) Almost every room has important objects in it that are not visible in the initial room description, forcing the player to examine everything in every room. That's fine in so far as it goes, but in that case the game needs to Bracket Every Notable Thing to ensure that objects in the description are actually examinable. http://lacunagame.blogspot.com/2010/08/best-practices-in-if.html

When examination of scenery objects failed at first, I gave up on examining scenery objects, which then got me solidly stuck.

2) There are parser bugs, e.g. right in the first room, there's no way to examine the right fireplace.

>x right fireplace
I only understood you as far as wanting to examine the right overmantel.

You also can't examine important objects like: (Spoiler - click to show)"puzzle" in the office ("crossword" works), "resin" in the studio (you can only directly refer to the cans, so you can't "pour resin in mould"), "controls" in the lab. You also can't examine the "statue" on the bookcase in the Sitting Room until you examine "oddments" (most of which cannot be examined), even if you examine the bookcase.

3) Flipping switches is totally buggy.

>flip switch a1
You flip on Switch A1 on. It makes a satisfying "ca-CLING"!

>flip switch a1
You flip on Switch A1 on. It makes a satisfying "ca-CLING"!

>flip switch a1
You flip on Switch A1 on. It makes a satisfying "ca-CLING"!

>flip switch a1 on
You can't see any such thing.

>flip switch a1 off
You flip off Switch A1. It makes a satisfying "ka-CHUNK"!

>flip switch a1 on
You flip on Switch A1 on. It makes a satisfying "ca-CLING"!

If the user doesn't explicitly say "off," the game assumes that "flip" means to flip ON, and then shows a "ca-CLING" message even if the switch is already on. I incorrectly thought I was flipping the switches correctly and that the switches did nothing until I realized the problem.

4) (Spoiler - click to show)The controls in the lab are not correctly described in the text.

>x cage
At first glance, the cage appears to be quite ordinary, if old-fashioned, but on closer inspection, you realize that it does not appear to have any sort of door or access hatch.

>x dish
The small kibble dish is attached to the outside of the cage by way of a motorized hinge, which you presume is operated with the tiny controls inside the cage.

>x controls
You can't see any such thing.

IMO, this ruins the hamster puzzle. The player has to realize that the controls correspond to controls in the utility room, but since the game never describes the hamster's controls directly, the only way to solve this puzzle is to hit the hints.


Those are my most serious complaints. Other minor bugs follow:

5) (Spoiler - click to show)
>get a tile
(tile Z)
Taken.

You have to "get tile a" instead.


6) (Spoiler - click to show)I don't know why the game lets me stand on a stepstool to reach the skull but won't let me stand on the bar to reach the skull. Maybe use a stepladder instead?

7) (Spoiler - click to show)The game won't let me handle the resin while wearing the respirator unless I'm also wearing the latex gloves. But it gives the same message as if I wasn't even wearing the respirator, "Safety first!" It made me think I had to turn on the respirator in some way. Instead it should tell me that my hands aren't protected or something.

8) (Spoiler - click to show)
>close ledger
You close the tall ledger book, which makes a "THUD" the way only proper big books can. Beneath it, you discover a small, empty-looking jar.

>open ledger
It isn't something you can open.


9) Finally, I feel like the hints aren't structured very naturally.

(Spoiler - click to show)
Why can I not leave? Considering that you start in a locked room, this should be explaining how to find the west exit.
Should I be interested in the walls here? "Yes!" A misleading answer for anyone who's not a subscriber.


Planetfall, by Steve Meretzky

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Doesn't hold up, January 4, 2016

As I write this, Planetfall is #7 on the IFDB top 100, narrowly beating out Trinity and Blue Lacuna. No doubt it was one of Infocom's best, but now it has to be judged against the best games of the 21st century; it just doesn't hold up.

The sprawling map full of empty rooms with nothing interesting in them, the simplistic NPC conversation mechanism (wouldn't it be cool if you could "ask floyd about achilles"?), but above all the gotcha-game cruelty, where you're never sure if you just permanently locked yourself out of solving a puzzle.

We used to think this was just part of what IF had to be like. This game was an important historical milestone, but now, we've moved beyond it.


walking home, by spinach

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Twine poetry, March 28, 2014

It plays better when you read it aloud.



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