Reviews by Rovarsson

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Grooverland, by Mathbrush

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Dimension-shifting theme-park, July 27, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Puzzler, Fantasy

Happy birthday to you!

It's your special day and your parents have gone all out and got you the Queen-package for Grooverland. It's an all-access special treatment pass for your favourite theme-park, with a coronation ball in the big castle included. You just have to enjoy the rides and find your Queen-stuff while you're at it.

A seemingly light and humorous plot, told in a funny and colourful tone. Until you get a bit farther along on your quest and start gathering the regalia you need to enter the Queen's castle. A darker dimension lies behind our own, and obtaining the symbols of your royalty causes it somehow to overlap more and more with the happy theme-park reality, subverting our familiar world into solid scary-clown territory. (Coulrophobics can rest assured, no actual scary clowns appear in the game)

The writing seems to have some trouble keeping up with the gradually changing atmosphere. The descriptions do change while the game-world devolves into a darker version of itself, and random background events now depict monstrosities selling snacks, but I never had the feeling of being dragged down into darkness with the protagonist though. I was more a curious but distant observer than an involved participant.

In part, this is because the puzzles are so darn good. They are very accessible, even on the easy side. At the same time, they are wonderfully original in the most creative way: take something that's well-established and add an unexpected twist. The laser-fight puzzle is among the best I've ever seen, while it is in essence a "push the right button"-puzzle in disguise.

Now, the accessibility and originality of the puzzles demands that the writing be crystal clear (which it is), without any ambiguities in the descriptions, so the player can clearly visualize the surroundings. This takes precedence over describing the atmosphere of the changing game-world. The clarity of the puzzle-descriptions shines a bright spotlight in the supposedly dim and gloomy alternate realm taking over our world, causing it to be not so dim and gloomy.

Grooverland's gameplay made a very solid, robust impression on me. The game-world felt like it was there, and I could try whatever I wanted without fear of breaking anything or confusing the underlying order. There are helpful NPCs, funny references to other games, a lot of tinkering and experimenting puzzles, all leading up to an exciting endgame.

The grand finale is just the way I like it. I have proved my worth during the middlegame, solving the fiddly puzzles with the many possibilities. Now it is time for a straightforward but very exciting and well-paced boss fight. Excellent way to reward the player and to leave him with a sense of accomplishment after finishing the game.

I enjoyed this very much.


The Faeries Of Haelstowne, by Christopher Merriner

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Midsummer Magicks, July 24, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy

(This review is for the competition release of the game. I fully expect many of the bumps to be smoothed out in a postcomp-release.)

I spent a lot of time with The Faeries of Haelstowne, most of it enchanted by the story, the setting and the beautiful prose, some of it frustrated as hells (yes, plural) by missing objects or unresponsive parser issues. I developed a rather passionate love-hate relationship with the game. By the time I solved it though, the balance had wholly shifted to love and I wholeheartedly forgave and nearly forgot the frustration.

The vicar of an old and quaint English town has disappeared. Police detective Arthur Mapple is called upon to solve the mystery.

The setting of The Faeries of Haelstowne is wonderful. A rural English town with its old history mingled together with even more ancient folktales makes a good place for a Faery-tale. Even better: the tale takes place in the early 20th century. Belief in the spiritual realm, contacting the dead through séances and looking for nature-spirits was combined with an urge to research these phenomena from a new scientific/empirical viewpoint. The rising popularity and technical simplification (to a point) of photography made for enthusiastic amateurs seeking to capture the spiritual world on photo-negative.

It is against this background that we see the arrival of our protagonist in Haelstowne. The first chapter is a lighthearted exploration of the magic-realistic rural surroundings of an old Vicarage. Puzzles consist of multiple steps but there is good guidance. The player is mostly being primed for what to expect in later chapters.

In these later chapters, the mood grows darker and the puzzles more complicated and difficult. Partly, this is because, well, the puzzles are more complicated and difficult. However, it is also in part because there are frequent issues of guess-the-verb and of read-the-author's-mind. One puzzle in particular ((Spoiler - click to show)the antimagic object above the window) has many, many reasonable alternative solutions, all of which are ignored in favor of the one the author had in mind. To add insult to injury, that solution does not even use the object that the author has made us use in a previous and similar puzzle: (Spoiler - click to show)using the portable steps to get to high places....

The entire game is written in delightful prose. Eloquent and evocative descriptions, long-drawn-out but never boring conversations and cut-scenes. It's a joy to have such a wonderful game-world described in such beautiful prose.

The characters that Arthur meets during his investigation are interesting and lively. They all have their own personality and if they are helpful to Arthur it is because their own profession or personal choices brought them on his path, not cajoling or manipulation by Arthur.

After solving many puzzles, meeting a few helpful and not so helpful characters and finding out what indeed has happened to Vicar Peldash; in short: after navigating the complexities of the middle game, all the loose string are bound nicely together in a thrilling and expertly paced endgame. I was on the edge of my seat as I typed the last set of commands.

A truly magical experience.


Augmented Fourth, by Brian Uri!

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
"But if we throw the Cat in the barrel first,..., June 28, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Puzzler, Fantasy

...then how will the Aardvark learn to swim?"

A small taste of the sometimes absurd sense of humour that pervades Augmented Fourth

King Goosen of Papoosen did not enjoy your rendering of "Ode to a Duck". Consequently, you and your trusty trumpet are thrown down the pit, where you discover a community of sorts living at the bottom of the volcano.
Determined to make it back top-side, you must now overcome the obstacles that stand between you and the closed off ladder to the castle. You have your wits and your magically enhanced trumpet.

Instead of memorizing magic scrolls, in Augmented Fourth you must obtain and learn music sheets. Each of the melodies has its own effect on your surroundings and as such functions as a wizard's spell. This magic system is worked out in detail. If you play a particular ditty in a location that is not the intended puzzle-room, the surroundings will still react, sometimes hilariously. The actual effects of the spells are mostly natural phenomena (rain, gravity, ducks...), so it is not too difficult to judge which spell/song to play to solve a particular puzzle.

The game keeps a nice balance between magical solutions and more prosaic adventuring puzzles. Along with summoning ducks through trumpet-playing, you will also need to do the usual bit of exploring of the cave and manipulating of the objects.

The cave under the volcano has a splendid map. The adventure starts off in the center of the volcano, also the central hub of the area. All directions save one are open for exploration from the beginning, and multiple puzzles are accessible from the start. Almost without noticing though, you will have less and less options to pursue, effectively pushing you to the bottleneck in the northern quadrant. From there on out, the game shifts gears and the story gets on fast-moving railroad tracks to the hilarious finale.

A finale that is foreshadowed throughout the game in small amusing intermezzos narrating what is happening with the King up top, who is spiraling down to ever more insanely funny despotic madness.

Modern IF is often lauded for the way the puzzles are seamlessly integrated into the story. Augmented Fourth turns this on its head: the story is woven seamlessly around the puzzles, which are without a doubt the real reason of existence for this game. In many of those puzzles, well-known adventuring tropes are averted, subverted, completely avoided or twisted in a knot. Breaking down the player's expectations often leads to fantastically comic situations, when a certain build-up of tension is suddenly relieved in an unforeseen direction.

There are also a number of playthings that are just that: items to play around with. They're not even red herrings (of which there are also a fair number...), just opportunities to idly while away the time. In the same vein, there are a number of books that provide hints; they mostly provide page after page of completely unnecessary sillines.

A very silly, moderately difficult and very smoothly playing puzzle-romp.


The Shadow in the Cathedral, by Ian Finley and Jon Ingold

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
St. Newton, St. Babbage, St. Breguet (hallowed be their names)., June 24, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy

Isaac Newton: Mathematical Lawmaker.
Charles Babbage: Father of the Computer.
Abraham-Louis Breguet: Master-Horologist.

These intellectual giants played front-stage roles in a cultural movement during the 17th and 18th century where natural phenomena were being pulled out of the realms of chaotic randomness or transcendental intentionality and grasped in terms of their inner mathematical and mechanical orderliness.
The passage of Time ( Abraham-Louis Breguet), the patterns of Thought ( Charles Babbage), the regularities of Motion and the intricacies of Calculation ( Isaac Newton) were captured both in logical/mathematical deductions in the mind and in mechanical contraptions of cogs and chains.

While aiding in freeing the human intellect of religious dogmatic thinking and opening up the path of naturalistic explanation and exploitation of the world, its mysteries and its resources, this mechanistical worldview carries within itself a rigidity not dissimilar to religious dogma. Once Nature is caught in Logic and Clockwork, it is unchanging and deterministic.

The world of The Shadow in the Cathedral exists as an exemplar of this rigid-mechanistic historical path. The cathedral from the title is a worshipping place for the three saints mentioned above. Worshippers make the sign of the lever when they PRAY. Priests gather around an altar and bow to the clockwork in the tower. Mechanical order replaces/equates divine order, with very similar institutions to uphold that order.

“The candles move in the space between floor and ceiling, the way the stars move between Earth and the Great Darkness of Heaven.They follow winding metal tracks that cross and recross along the length of the Great Hall, and as they move, pools of light form and then dissolve, so that some parts of the chamber are brightly lit at times whilst others are quite dark. The candles move day and night, with automatic systems to replace those that burn down to the stub.”

This paragraph might seem somewhat wordy, but it captures the atmosphere of the game-world perfectly by elaborating on something as down-to-earth as candlelight while the bigger background is never laid out this explicitly. Instead it has to be inferred from these detailed minor descriptions. To this reviewer’s preferences, a leather-bound tome on the development and history of the clock-bound civilization to LOOK UP BABBAGE would have been very welcome indeed.

Wren is a lowly clock-polishing grease monkey in the Abbey. While cleaning the Abbot’s grandfather-clock, he overhears a conspiracy between a mysterious Figure in Grey and his Abbot to mumblemumble…

When even the Archbisshop will not hear him, it is upon Wren himself to unravel the nefarious scheme.

Story takes precedence in every way in this game. The authors have gone to great lengths to eliminate annoyances for the player. When there is an important action to be taken, numerous but well-considered commands act as a trigger for that action to further the plot. There are calm exploratory and conversational parts where both Wren and the player can catch their breaths and learn more about the city. There are frantic chase sequences where it seems both Wren and the player will be out of breath a moment later but still push onward.

And of course, there are obstacles. Many, many obstacles. Not one of them breaks the flow of the story. And some of those puzzles are beautiful. Beautiful in that they combine storytelling, logic, engineering, associative reasoning and storytelling (yes, I meant to write that twice…) to engage the player and commit the Wren-and-Player team more and more to solve the mystery together.

Two puzzles are extraordinarily good. They are also great examples of the breadth of reasoning the player is asked to do . One is a completely down-to-earth physics question (). The other is an excercise in associative programming (.

During Wren’s investigation, he will meet several people on his way, both friendly (good for Wren and the player needing clues) and malignant (great for the authors and the reader needing suspense). Although the conversations are ASK/TELL, they do not descend in awkwardness. Sometimes the characters won’t answer, but they are almost always believably occupied with other worries or tasks of their own. And even while they are otherwise engaged, their dismissive answers make sense in context. Nifty programming and great attention to both the detail of the immediate surroundings and the big picture of where Wren has gone before.

The Shadow in the Cathedral is a remarkable feat of intertwined puzzle-engineering, worldbuilding and philosophy.

Of course it is sad to have the story broken off after what should be the first chapter of a series. A word of wisdom to the prospective player: let the clock’s tick-tock take you to the bell, and let your imagination take over from there…

I loved every minute, hour and day of this game.

And a small but hopefully annoying heads-up to the authors: the chapter-titles are misaligned. for example: (Spoiler - click to show)the chapter-title says “The Rooftops of St. Philip” after the chase across the rooftops. By then Wren is already safe with Covalt. This is just an example. Every chapter’s title (except 1 & 2) comes after the story it’s supposedly about. A grating flaw in such a great piece. I would find it hard to believe that you would not return to The Shadow of the Cathedral to put the titles in order. (or is this a reflection of the rebellion against the clock?).


Baluthar, by Chris Molloy Wischer

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Idolizing Vengeance., June 8, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy

A lonely bedridden father... His son gone down the well to seek demonic assistance in avenging his mother's death...

A statue of Baluthar, their self-erected god of Vengeance.

In a wakeful moment, the father realizes he does not want his son sacrificed in the name of revenge. He must bring him back from the underworld.

Baluthar is a well-written dark-fantasy game. The descent into the caverns under the well, infested with carrion-eating beetles gets under your skin as you explore the rooms. The introduction does a good job of describing the elderly and weakened father. This does not really play a role in the rest of the game though. The son remains a mystery until the very end of the game, and even then the player has to deduce his character from vague clues.

The map is small but very efficient. It serves as an atmospheric backdrop to the few rather easy puzzles.

I really liked the ending, simple as it was.

An hour, maybe two, of light horror cave exploring.


The Wizard Sniffer, by Buster Hudson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Not-princesses all around!, June 4, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy, Puzzler

It all begins with a rather awkward protagonist to control: a pig (which can alledgedly sniff out wizards...) Since pigs walk on four feet and have no opposable thumbs, a lot of commands are thrown out the window by nature of the PC. And although pigs are known to be very clever animals by those who study them (pigycists?), this particular pig does seem to rise even above normal intelligence levels of other members of the species Sus scrofa. For one thing, it can read...

Seeing that this smart pig is somewhat limited in the handiness department, it must find other ways to further its goals. Cue NPCs. By virtue of an excellent grasp of human psychology, our protagonist-pig can manipulate the other characters into following it around and it nudges them to interact with objects or other characters through very deliberately SNIFFing of pieces of the surroundings. Different characters will act upon this sniffing in different ways, according to their nature.

One of the pig's major ways to solve puzzles is therefore to choose the right NPC to come along and do the hands-on work. Instead of switching between PCs with their special abilities, here our pig-protagonist has to switch between NPC accomplices. The way this is handled in-game is both elegant and hilarious.

The puzzles flow seamlessly from the story and the setting. Some of them are pig-adjusted variations on standard adventure-fare, while others are truly surprising and original.

The writing is fresh and crisp, with a truly great comedic touch. There is lots of physical slapstick comedy, but at least as much of the humour comes from the pig's observations of the humans. Our pig always keeps a certain distance and so can easily see through the notions about identity the NPCs have about themselves.

Through these observations and the development of the story, what started as a laugh-out-loud comedy evolves into a character-driven drama by the finale. The Aesop that becomes clear near the end could have been cliché and heavy-handed, but the lightness and subtlety of the writing lifts it far above a finger-waving moral-of-the-story.

Truly one of the greatest games I have ever played.


Magic Realms -- The Sword of Kasza, by James Mallette

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Heroic character put to the test..., June 2, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy

On the surface, Magic Realms; Sword of Kasza is a nice but not too memorable oldschool quest. After being framed for the murder of the King's messenger, you escape and learn that the evil Rerex has reawakened. His first plan was to possess the magistrate of your town and let him throw you in jail to get you out of the way, for you have been foretold to be "The Chosen One".

But now you are free! After proving your worth to the king, you are sent on a quest to recover the fabled "Sword of Kasza".

The map is interesting. Five magical realms are accessible from a single convenient hub-junction. Each realm holds part of the Magical Sword or some wisdom to be gained or a foe to be vanquished in order to get closer to Rerex. The realms are self-contained puzzle areas. You do have to bring your backpack with you upon entering each one, but everything needed to advance in the game is in the realm itself. (The reason you need your backpack is to avoid the inventory limit and, more importantly, to have your beef jerky with you, should you get hungry...)

Sword of Kasza is fairly light on puzzles. Most are straight from the old build-your-own-adventure box for beginners. There is a code-breaking puzzle which left me scratching my head even after checking the walkthrough. And there is one truly fun variation on the distract-the-guards theme (although not that original).

There is a great and deceptively simple solution to getting into the king's castle. It relies on the player truly imagining what to do in the PC's place.

Instead of more intricate puzzles, the game relies more on the player finding the appropriate actions to trigger story-events. Sometimes these have a great dynamic effect (talking to the right NPC opens up a whole new set of locations), sometimes they are not so well executed (you have to SIT to advance the story...)

Nearing the endgame, there are some rather nice action-sequences. The text here is timed for dramatic effect, and although it may be too slow for some, I enjoyed this.

So far, a run-of-the-mill oldschool fantasy adventure that would not stand out among the hundreds of others of its kind.

The true strength of Magic Realms; Sword of Kasza lies in its completely new approach to player-immersion. Getting the player to forget she is playing a game was an explicitly stated goal of the Infocom Imps.

Authors have tried different ways to absorb the player in their stories. Some weave a story so breathtaking the player cannot help but be moved by the characters' fate. Some go to extreme lengths in building a detailed fictional world to mentally transport the player there. One step further, they might try to achieve a near-perfect simulation where almost every possible action the player thinks of is accounted for.

Here, the author takes a different path into the player's mind. Since interactive fiction is a textual medium, and players of interactive fiction may on average be considered to be more sensitive to language and writing than mere mortals, author James Malette decided to emulate the hardships of the questing hero in the player's experience through the cunning use of linguistic torture.

The most brutal yet least sophisticated example is the simple misspelling. "Messenger" becomes "messager". "Corridor" becomes "corrdior". These are the blunt-force weapons used to make the player feel the Hero's pain.

Of course, multiples of these can be joined together in a single sentence to act as a textual cluster-bomb. Consider this example:

> "This area has a fense inclosing a large field where horses are glazing."

A well-chosen rearrangement of letters in a single word can give new meaning, baffling the reader:

> "The village of Moon has been destoryed by the hand of Rerex!"

Far beyond mere destruction, we are facing a villain who can wipe a village from the story with a handwave!

More subtle than these are the slowly grating "mistakes" that get under the player's skin, making shouting at the screen or even throwing the computer against the nearest wall a real possibility.

> "You're" is "your". Every single time.
> Plural nouns become "noun's". Almost every time.
> The English past tense is written by gluing "-ed" to the verb. Just enough so it catches you by surprise every time.

The foulest weapon of all in this linguistic arsenal though is the dreaded "Seemingly Random Semicolon". It can show up in an innocent list of objects where, although painful, it is at least obviously out of place. It also rears its head in the middle of a descriptive paragraph, forcing the player to doubt her interpretation and reread the offensive sentence over and over, each time with a different emphasis. A truly haunting experience.

> "Beware the traps within, for amany bold knight entered; none never returned."

With this masterpiece I leave you to ponder the power of text, and text alone, to inflict harm upon the player comparable to the harm we put our protagonists through when exploring interactive fictional worlds.


The Lost Children, by Larry Horsfield

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Duke Alaric dukes it out with the trolls., May 20, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy, Puzzler

It had been a long time since I ventured into Hecate, the land of Alaric Blackmoon. I was immediately drawn back in. I love the high-on-questing/low-on-magic surroundings. Alaric is a down-to-earth veteran who got appointed Duke for saving Hecate in the first game, Axe of Kolt. Since then he has been roaming the lands to help his people where he can.

In The Lost Children the children of Hecate are being kidnapped by the trolls, who are normally friendly commercial partners. Might there be some magical coercion behind their changed behavior?

The story of The Lost Children is standard but great fun. Alaric goes on a straightforward, unironic quest to save the missing children, solving problems and puzzles on his way. The first area, west of the Fireheart Mountains, involves two fetch-quests. One is particularly weird/hilarious. The mother of one of the missing children has information Alaric needs, but she demands that he fix her leaking roof first. The fact that she's an Elf who knows through a psychic connection that her son is alive and well might help explain her warped priorities, but still...

The puzzles here range from the very simple find-object-use-object kind to more elaborate obstacles where our hero must obtain the right information first and go through a multi-step plan to get what he needs.

It is during one of these fetch-quests that the player encounters a magnificent puzzle where they have to take stock of their inventory, the geography of multiple locations and make a mental leap that would come natural for a playing child. The moment it clicks is fantastic. ((Spoiler - click to show)Skipping into the cave across the cove.

The area east of the mountains offers a whole other set of obstacles. Here Alaric comes face to face with the trolls and must find ways to deceive, kill or in some other way go around them. There is certainly some learn-by-dying involved in the endgame, where the player has to figure out which steps to take and then restore and execute those steps in as few moves as possible, or else be caught by trolls or pulverized by wizard-fire. In a game as proudly oldschool as this one, I had not one bit of a problem with that.

The problems with <iThe Lost Children mostly lie in a lack of gatekeeping between the two areas. It is exceedingly easy to move through the tunnels under the Fireheart Mountains to the valley of the trolls from which there is no return, and only then notice that you lack a necessary object to kill the ogre.
Indeed, there are many, many ways to get the game into walking-dead terrain. Too many. That's a shame, because the good oldschool features (I learned to like a well-thought-through try-die-repeat puzzle) of the game threaten to be buried under the frustration that comes with too many restores and lack of clues and guidance.

I enjoyed playing through this game with a massive amount of hints and explicit help. Without that, I would recommend playing another Alaric Blackmoon-game like Die Feuerfaust instead.


The Weight of a Soul, by Chin Kee Yong

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Dissection of a city district., May 10, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy

A sick goblin, bleeding from his eyes, is brought into the clinic and dies on the operating table, right before the eyes of Marid, a young doctor in training.

This is how The Weight of a Soul throws you in the middle of the action from the very first scene. Although there are some resting points in the rest of the game, they are few. Most of it is fast, moving from gruesome discovery to action sequence to an impressive and morally challenging finale.

The goblin's death is only the first in a row. Marid is sent out to investigate the cause of the disease and maybe find a way to stop it from spreading. It is the beginning of a journey that will take her deep into the bowels of the Channelworks District.

Into the bowels indeed. The great waterworks installation known as the Hydra Aquifera looms over the district and dominates the gameworld, both above and below ground. Its pipes, channels and canals run everywhere. The city's descriptions conjure up images of bodily fluids, purulent boils and Galenic humours. The city has been laid open on a dissection table with its innards bare.

The writing in The Weight of a Soul is excellent. In most locations, it follows a very standard IF-structure, with a short descriptive paragraph for each location, followed by a list of exits and of notable features. The images in those descriptive paragraphs are however of a rarely seen evocativeness:

---"The suspended mansion echoes with a grandiose hollowness."---

There are tense action-scenes, something hard to pull off in IF. Here they are well guided without sacrificing all interactivity.

The overall story arc was mostly satisfying. It's a great adventure story; I was happy to let myself be swept along. As a mystery however, it did not work so well for me. I was surprised at the scale of the villain's evil plan, but the basic plot, the nature of the disease and the identity of the villain were all clear very soon.

Fast-paced as it is, the game eschews traditional puzzles in favour of story-bound obstacles, conversations and examinations (of the city and of bodies alike).
It rewards the exploration with pieces of character backstory, long and well-written cutscenes and insightful dreams.

During the story, there are many conversations. These are handled with choice-menus. The choices of what you say do not alter the path of the story for the most part, but they do serve as an excellent device for the player to colour in the character of the protagonist in her own mind. The NPCs are many, and they have much to talk about. (I personally found Webster the bouncer a fascinating man.)

Throughout the game, I kept noticing the ambiguous player perspective. Although the story is written in the traditional second tense, I experienced it as somewhere between second and third tense. Whereas I normally use "I" or sometimes "you" to refer to my player character in my notes, here I used "Marid" and "she" almost every time. This testifies to how much I read this game as a book. I must note that this didn't take away from my involvement with the story.

The Weight of a Soul is a great technical achievement. The depth and smoothness of implementation are astonishing in places, so well done that they become almost invisible to the player. In one scene, there are multiple dead bodies in the same room while Marid examines them one by one. The game effortlessly tracks which body she is working on, avoiding many, many disambiguation issues with a graceful ease that must have been a pain in the unmentionables to program.

The polish on the player-help features is so bright it's almost blinding. A beautiful map, a nudge-to-explicit hint menu, a list of the characters Marid has met and the locations she has visited. On top of that there's a journal that keeps track of Marid's discoveries and her current objectives. More than enough reasons to feel safe as a player and trust the game.

When I started playing IF, I always had a strong feeling of excitement when opening a new game. The experience of being there, embodying a character in a strange world and determining her actions was my main attraction to IF. In The Weight of a Soul it is exactly this feeling that serves as the basis of the interactivity of the game. Rather than levering up the sofa to find a bolt to screw into a machine, the interactivity here comes from being a collaborator of the protagonist, looking through her eyes and helping her decide. I found this extremely engaging and immersive.

In the finale, you, the player, must really decide which path Marid will take in a grey moral area. Very satisfying.

This all takes place in a beautifully crafted grimy and gritty fictional world. The phrase alchemy-punk came to mind...

The Weight of a Soul is an extraordinary IF-story.


Basilica de Sangre, by Bitter Karella

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Funny Demonic Nunnery., April 21, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy

The nuns of the nigh impenetrable Nunnery of Blood have taken your mother. Against all odds and the other demons' advice, you will infiltrate it and free your mother.

First off: a bit of tech stuff.
The adjustable interface is pretty nifty. You can toggle all of the player conveniences. Old-fashioned purist that I am, I chose to turn off the side panes (which show exits, inventory and interactive objects in the room), the auto-map (which is cool, by the way) and the keyword links (I find the blue highlighting distracting and hey, I'm playing a parser game!)
The room description-layout is very basic: first a dry list of exits, objects and characters, followed by the actual room description. Any special action taken is listed even before the exits-and-objects list, but the circumstances and consequences of that action are only described after the room. This basic (default Quest?) layout cuts up the flow of the narrative into discrete chunks.

The writing itself is very good though. It captures the locations efficiently (a dank cellar, a smelly cottage,...). The NPCs are very nicely characterized. As they are mostly means to be used for solving puzzles, the attention mostly goes to their relevant physical features, but there's always a hint at their deeper personalities.
Overall, a playful and mischievous tone pervades the game.

Basilica de Sangre takes place on a small, condensed map, making the most of the limited number of locations and avoiding to send the player on long unnecessary walks.

The puzzles hinge on an original main mechanism. The author has struck a good balance between using this mechanism and incorporating some more traditional text-adventure puzzles to support it.
I mustn't elaborate too much. Suffice it to say that it's always a good idea to take note of where the NPCs are, what they are carrying and to read the (short) conversations attentively.

A very pleasant little game!



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