The Next Day is a low stress and soporific (in a good way) slice'o'life piece in which you play a young person returning home from your first soulful all-night long outing with a friend. You wandered the town, talked about this and that and got very existential, and now you're feeling all reminiscent, but pining for bed.
The game captures the mood of early morning peace quite well, embellishing it with a sleep-inducing synth music loop. Your actions as a player really just consist of choosing which paths you will take home, triggering different small memories from your night out as you go. As sleep encroaches, Zs start to descend from the top of the screen, and different locations trigger different colour schemes, if you'll let them. There's a low-key charm to all of this, but I don't think the choice to make the characters (and thus a lot of memories) basically generic was a good one. What are memories without specificity? The game seeks to evoke some commonly shared experiences of growing up, but just offering a broad reminder of this fact isn't evocative enough. I know that I would rather have played a particular character with particular memories related to the world of this game, and that that in turn would have caused me to reflect more on my own memories of similar experiences. It's also strange, then, that the game's different endings, while presented in an abstract way, are opposite in nature to the game's content; they are ultra-specific to some relatively geeky online phenomena.
The author mentions the issue of specificity in his substantial About text, where he also acknowledges that the game may still be at the stage where it's more an experiment than a resolved piece. I think the game has got the mood right, but I would like it to be more specific.
Having just installed the shiny new Hugo game interpreter Hugor on my Mac, I hopped onto IFDB to find a quick game with which to test it. That's where I discovered Dragon Hunt. Three minutes later I had played through Dragon Hunt three times, and had to acknowledge that the game probably fit the 'quick' part of my brief too well.
In this accurately named adventure you find yourself trekking with a band of hunters through the wilderness towards Dragon Mountain, where the creature lives. The game has a sense of urgency because the hunting group must move forward every few turns, and also because there is a pounding and ominous MOD music file looping in the background. The prose is clean and simple and the main actions that will occur to you to try are all covered.
This is not speed-IF, though it is similarly sized. I'm uninterested in speed-IFs because their lack of implementation bugs me and their effects are too ephemeral. Dragon Hunt is still pretty ephemeral because of its size, but it manages to quickly develop some presence as you necessarily turn it over a few times. I didn't like the music at first but three minutes later I had changed my mind. Actions I couldn't try the first time I played because the hunting party moved forward too quickly I was able to try on subsequent games. Given that this is the authors' first Hugo game (their comments told me so) and also a small game playing against my 'size matters' biases, I would probably be an ungrateful churl to demand more of Dragon Hunt. It also looks like it was the authors' last game.