Ratings and Reviews by Amphiareion

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Ma princesse adorée, by Hugo Labrande

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Faire la cour à la princesse, February 20, 2015

Assez impressionnant pour un jeu de compétition, Ma princesse adorée raconte une histoire assez simple: trouvre la princesse et la faire tomber dans vos bras. Le monde du jeu est petit, mais assez bien conçu. Il y a un peu d'humour, et les événements et énigmes s'enchainent logiquement. Cependant, avec si peu de détails et de temps, il y a des choix qui mènent à des conclusions malheureuses sans avertissement préalable.

Inévitablement, c'est un jeu court sans trop de mystères, mais agréable et sans erreurs. Quelque chose de plus long et de plus envoûtant pourrait être encore plus intéressant.

Letters from Home, by Roger Firth

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Crossword IF, February 18, 2015

This is not a plot-driven game as such. Instead, the player collects clues to complete a crossword. The structure is consistent, with occasional pleasant puzzles, but suffers from obscurity in a number of places. (Spoiler - click to show)Since the main goal is to collect letters, one ends up having to work out synonyms or abbreviations for letter names. Some are witty, e.g. "double ewes"; some feel forced, e.g. "monsieur". A number of the puzzles also seemed forced, and one can put the game in an unwinnable position with no real warning. There was some occasional hunt the preposition frustration ("look in" vs. "look into").

While I enjoyed the technical exercise, I wasn't gripped enough by the game to invest too much of my time. I ended up using the clues to move things along (the clues are well done). This is a shame, since it made me hurry through the game and also not pay enough attention to the ending(Spoiler - click to show), which in retrospect was the best single piece of writing.

As a specific piece of wordplay, the game has a place, but as interactive fiction I find it falls short in terms of plot and engagement. That isn't really the point, I suppose. And I enjoyed the appearance of the great British removal man.

Christminster, by Gareth Rees

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Classic Oxbridge College adventure, February 6, 2015

In 2015, Christminster is almost 20 years old. It's closer in time to the Infocom classics than to the present and this is getting truer and truer. Trying to compile it from source requires digging out the Inform 5 compiler (which seems to crash with a segmentation fault?). The real question is how has it aged? Is it a timeless classic or a period piece?

I think the evidence is clear that it's at the very least a timeless near-classic. One can recognize a game that plays with Inform's new-for-the-time capabilities in what may now seem a stylized fashion, but which for its time must have been new and fresh. The important point is that the story holds up. The writing is witty, the puzzles are well-structured, and the whole thing fits together.

The most impressive quality for me though is the near-perfect timing and coherence of the whole. This is the definitive Oxbridge College adventure. The College feels right, the buildings look right, the eccentric Dons are right. The setting is some ill-defined post-war period; perhaps the point is it could be any time between say 1945-1954 (post-war, no mention of rationing) and 1972-1988 (women are admitted to mens' Colleges). The very timelessness is critical, and the author uses this, for example in the prologue which mentions strawberries. There are also a Chapel, a punt, a garden.

Particularly effective is the use of time. The game's structure uses the player's achievements to advance the clock. Within the different episodes, there is flexibility, however. The underlying plot is the driven forward by certain actions with irrevocable consequences (it is possible to get stuck in a non-winning situation). The hint system becomes vaguer with time. I certainly peeked at the source code a few times. I had not played the game for a long time and thought I remembered the winning sequences, but I was mistaken (a good thing, I would argue).

Getting all the points is not easy, but the game is fair in the sense of Chekov's Gun. Everything that is of later importance is indicated in some fashion. Possibly not the a reference to the Meldrew family buried in the game, but that is not actually needed. A tribute to Curses and to the origin of Inform.

Finally, while the author explains the origin of Christminster and Biblioll, it is an interesting exercise to see whether the setting is more like Cambridge or Oxford. The use of the word "supervision" suggests Cambridge, as does the river flowing South to North, although there are no historical Cambridge colleges on the west bank of the Cam. And the name Biblioll is of course based on Balliol, while it is older than Cambridge. In the end, it doesn't matter because the disparate elements come together and one is immersed in what feels like a College.

One of my favorite (Christminster spelling) games every. Every student of Inform should play it at least once.

Galatea, by Emily Short

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Conversation with a statue, January 25, 2015

Galatea is all about interaction. You talk to a statue. She tells you things. You don't go anywhere, you don't solve any puzzles. You talk. Well, sometimes things can happen to finish the games that aren't just talk.

The statue herself, Galatea, is still one of the most sophisticated NPCs in IF. It's possible to exhaust her responses to certain topics, but there are always more topics. At least, I think there are. I haven't tried every single word I can think of. Galatea gets somewhat irked if one types the same thing again and again; IF players will do that to try and exhaust all topics. Good for her.

While the game may sound limited, the whole goal (I would say) is to tease out the emotional states of the statue and of the player. It's possible to do this in a fairly natural way, and this is the core strength of the game. There are some hints about the impact of Galatea's responses on the player character, but they tend to be muted. The effect on the human player is really up to personal taste. I found some themes dull (Spoiler - click to show)(animate vs. non-animate) and some powerful (Spoiler - click to show)(the goddess Aphrodite). In the end, you have to play the game yourself to decide.

On balance, I think the game transcends its deliberate limitations (a static conversation) to achieve some kind of catharsis (appropriate given the ancient Greek context). Yes, it's an exercise of style, but one that I think is worthwhile. As in much IF (and traditional fiction), the effect bordered on the manipulative, but for me it succeeded. (Spoiler - click to show)(In few games does one try so hard to see if the NPC can die - you have to decide if that's a good thing.)

The game has aged well and hits home. I can't think of a very similar follow-up; maybe I need to play more games.

Lost Pig, by Admiral Jota

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An orc and a pig, January 19, 2015

This short game was deservedly lauded on its appearance. Lost Pig seems to start off as a concept piece: Grunk is an orc and communicates as such. But as it progresses, it becomes more than this. Grunk starts to function as a Candide-like observer of a small and seemingly static world: the distance induced by his vocabulary eventually vanishes and the player ends up identifying with Grunk. This is an impressive feat.

It can only work because the game as a whole has an internal structure that is unusually coherent and whose logic meshes with Grunk's ability. The NPC is a gem: quite different from Grunk, but complementary. By the end, the player is urging both NPC and Grunk on as they bring the game to a conclusion.

There have been discussions about the place of Lost Pig in the pantheon of contemporary IF. Without entering that debate, I would argue that Grunk is (written as) one of the most memorable IF characters, one who is transparent and who ends up being, in his own small way, a hero. The pig is a tremendous character, too.

Pytho's Mask, by Emily Short
Delightful romp through the Court of the Sun King, January 19, 2015

Pytho's Mask succeeds effortlessly in painting a picture of a Court of an 18th Century that never was. A place of intrigue and courtiers, of Ministers prone to idle musings. A heroine with wit and resolve who seeks to strike at the heart of the malaise afflicting the kingdom. A Man in Black. Comets, androgynes, a grotto…

It's all done quite delightfully. The plot is strong and the conversational system is cleverly put together. I was able to get stuck at one point, but that was a one-off. The underlying mechanics are well implemented.

If you succeed, the ending is as it should be. If you fail, the unfortunate results are encapsulated pithily. A model example of romantic IF in a strong game setting.

Photopia, by Adam Cadre

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Integrated graphical effects and strong emotional impact, January 19, 2015

Photopia has been an influential game. The amount of interactivity is small, but the story drives the game along. As has been mentioned, the emotional impact should really be classed as manipulative, but it is effectively done. The author manages to put the player into the skin of a number of different roles and also to make the reader identify with characters at different stages of their lives.

The underlying "story within a story" is pitch-perfect. Probably because it appeals to the wish fulfillment natural to games (or gamers?). The outcome of the game ends up being telegraphed about half way through, but this leads to the emotional punch and drive of the narrative. From then on, it unfolds remorselessly.

The greatness of the game is its ability to remain in mind after one has played it and yet be fresh on replay.

An important game. Emotional reactions will differ, but I would categorize it as touching. (Spoiler - click to show)Few mazes are as satisfying as the one in Photopia. We all have wings...

Bronze, by Emily Short

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Finely crafted recounting of a well-known fairytale, January 19, 2015

You are Beauty in this retelling of the classic story. Something is amiss in the Beast's castle when you return after an absence, and your actions on exploring the castle (and discovering it as player of course) lead to a potential resolution of the Beast's condition.

The game is extremely well crafted. The writing is relatively sparse yet evocative. The puzzles are clearly set up, with logical and mostly satisfying solutions. While some solutions seemed more straightforward than others, in all cases they were "fair": none of the elements necessary for the answer were hidden. The "goto" command was convenient (although the punctuation did occasionally seem to go awry when moving through the castle) and the "think about" hint system was intellectually pleasing, tapping in to the narrator's thoughts to become hints.

In the end, however, I have to agree with other reviewers that I felt somewhat let down by the final resolution of the story. The mechanics of the retelling of the story are cleverly thought out and satisfying (Spoiler - click to show)(summoning via bells, contracts), but my investment in the outcome was not repaid by its emotional impact. This is of course a personal reaction. I found the ending of the author's Mask of Pytho much more satisfying - maybe I'm an incurable romantic although that's not how I normally think I approach IF.

Access to the source code is a nice touch. The author clearly likes bells and I enjoyed her work here. Recommended.

Being There, by Jordan Magnuson
Amphiareion's Rating:

Leather Goddesses of Phobos, by Steve Meretzky
Amphiareion's Rating:

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