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Reviews by Rovarsson

Horror

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1-7 of 7


The Battle of Philip against the Forces of Creation, by Peter Arnold and Anne Ungar

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
In other news: Demons have overrun the Vatican., February 5, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Horror, Fantasy
But first:

Completely out of the blue, your D&D-game has cracked through the ceiling of your living room and spat out Tark, a confused sorceress. It has also incinerated your roleplaying band of friends and kidnapped your girlfriend.

The Battle of Philip Against the Forces of Creation is easily the most super-awesomest title for an adventure game I have ever heard. I wish I could write here that the game itself is as awesome...

Don't get me wrong, it's a fun game, but it does not live up to the radical-mayhem-supercoolness of its title.

After the intrusion of the D&D-world upon our own, you have to go on a castle-crawl to free Cindy. The puzzles are standard adventuring fare. Find a key, use a spell, get rid of a murderous demon-queen, stuff like that...
However, you have to die several times to know where the puzzles actually are, and a few times more to get the solution. That's obviously a part of the game. The death scenes are quite amusing.

The writing overall is quite good. The dark fantasy atmosphere when you finally get out of your house (past a Fire Elemental in the garage) is great. Once in the castle, the grim and oppressive feeling goes up a notch or two. In here, some descriptions, while well written, are downright horrifying and obscene. (So over the top to my tastes that it became laughable. But maybe not to all players. Be warned.)
Unfortunately, the scenery in those descriptions is disappointingly underimplemented. You are limited to examining and manipulating the objects in the list below the room description, everything else is met by a default "You can't do that"-response.

The castle is big and diverse. Many rooms are lusciously/revoltingly described. There are also bottlenecks in predictable but enticing places (getting in the cellar, climbing to the top of the tower,...), which makes for good pacing.

From background info on the Internet Archive and from an in-game object (the "Reference Book for People who are not Philip") I gather that this was a joke/gift game to Philip Kegelmeyer, the author of Tark Simmons, Priestess of the First Church. Because of this, there are a number of inside jokes and references that any other player will not get (hence the reference book). Nonetheless, the game is often funny and the grim & gore is well done (if you can stomach stuff like that).

Good game for a few hours of fun/gore.

Wolfsmoon, by Marco Innocenti

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Under a pale moon..., November 8, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Horror
Wolfsmoon is a chilling text adventure with graphics that unquestionably add to the pleasure of playing.

You play as an unnamed explorer who takes it upon him/herself to investigate a series of gruesome killings around a small farmtown. While looking around the town I found it honestly scary, thanks to small details like a family sitting safely inside their home while I was alone on the dark town square, a crooked scarecrow on the outskirts of the village and the ever-present pale moon hanging in the sky.
There are a few great puzzles here. All of them involve but two or three steps, but they are very clever, giving me a real "Aha"-feeling when I solved them.
The map of the town is altogether small, but it feels very naturally diverse, with wheat fields and hills surrounding the town. The graphics here do a lot to make the area feel bigger, more open than its number of locations. White, gray, black and blue, with a hint of red here and there, they add immensely to the oppressive atmosphere. The moonlit clouds almost take on a physical weight pressing down upon you.

After solving the cleverly bottlenecked puzzles outside, you gain entrance to the lone mansion in the fields. Here, for me at least, the feel of the game shifted from a creepy suspense-thriller to a more brainy escape-quest. You must examine all the rooms closely to gradually find your way into the master bedroom. This involves an obscurely clued combination lock puzzle that would have made me give up, were it not for an explicit solution I asked and received. (Thanks!) (btw: if you get stuck on the same puzzle -you'll know it when you see it- you can ask on intfiction.org, or just PM me.)

The final confrontation wraps things up nicely with a not-so-twisty twist.

It is clear from the writing that the author is not a native english speaker. Most of the time this is not a problem. In some places it's actually beneficial, with an uncommon twist of words that helps the game's atmosphere. In one place it was confusing, but a closer look at the graphics soon solved that. (Spoiler - click to show)The author uses "alcove", which I envision as a recess or crawlspace in a wall. It was used in the game to mean a smaller indentation or hollow in a surface. To be fair to the author, in several online dictionaries "alcove" is indeed listed as a synonym for "indentation".

The word that pops into my head when describing Wolfsmoon is "tight". The map is small yet full of atmosphere and things to explore. The number of verbs needed is limited but doesn't feel restrictive. The descriptions are efficiently terse and they are beautifully supported by wonderful pixel art.

Play this in a dark room on a moonlit night. Shivers!

Theatre, by Brendon Wyber

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Break a leg!, September 21, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Puzzler, Horror
"You have discovered the secret of the Theatre and have completed the game with a score of fifty out of a possible fifty in one thousand, one hundred and fifty-eight turns."

Yes, and I enjoyed every single one of those turns!

I'm not normally one to test my wits against what is described as a puzzlefest, most of the time enjoying more story-oriented IF. Once in a while though, I like to crack my noggin on some oldschool puzzles. I've given up on "Curses!" thrice already and "Christminster"'s opening scene sent me screaming to my walkthrough.

Theatre was different though. I never got completely lost, always having at least one clear goal. The solutions to the puzzles were always fair, also the ones that I didn't get. The very vague in-game hints were enough for me until very late in the game, and even then the problem was adventurer's fatigue on my part, not having explored thoroughly enough.

The setting and descriptions are creepy enough, but I never felt fear or horror. Instead I was excited and curious the whole time about what would be around the next corner of this sprawling run-down Theatre.

"Theatre" does show its oldschool heritage: a key gratuitously hidden on the opposite side of the map from the door it's supposed to open, picking up everything that's not cemented to the floor to use it in a puzzle far down the road. Apparently ghosts have made a hobby of tearing up diaries and spreading the pages all over the place for no apparent reason...

The backstory was just good enough to be interesting in its own right, but it's not much more than a fragmented Lovecraftian template that supports the dark and damp atmosphere.

The great puzzles mostly revolve around getting to the next part of the map, getting "around the corner" as it were, in varying original ways.

There are glimpses of true genius here, especially one "puzzle that isn't": (Spoiler - click to show)"Tunnels go out in all directions." is not limited to the compass directions. This one had me stumped for a long while, and it was an exhilarating feeling when it finally *clicked*.

A fantastic experience, well recommended!

The King of Shreds and Patches, by Jimmy Maher

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A stroll through Shakespeare's London. (oh, and unspeakable horror), April 24, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Horror
It had been a long time since I seriously played IF. The King of Shreds and Patches pulled me back in.

Right from the back cover description, I got a tingling feeling in my brain about this game. A Lovecraftian horror set in the historical London of Shakespeare. Uhm,... Yes please.

The player is invited to empathize with the protagonist in a simple but very effective way: neither has the abilities needed to bring the story to a good end. So they have to be learned and practiced. The first few times you try a certain action, you have a rather high chance of failure. The more you perform it, the more proficient you get at it. Nice.

This learning curve also shows in the guidance of the player in solving puzzles: use a certain simple way to get an object in the intro, then complicate things in the middle game.
Two other puzzles are long but completely logical mechanical puzzles. These were great, as puzzles. I loved tinkering and fiddling with the objects needed. However, one of them in particular completely breaks the immersion in the character. (Spoiler - click to show)You are a printer of pamphlets, yet you somehow have to learn how to operate your own press...
One puzzle is frustrating as heck. I could not get my visual cortex to envisage the situation. I even thought it might have been better to implement this puzzle or sequence as a graphic mini-game. ((Spoiler - click to show)yes, the rowing boat)

Storywise, TKoSaP is very engaging. It's long and sprawling, with a good division into chapters that have to be handled in order. Two seemingly separate story-arcs meet eventually. Allthough you can see this coming, it is still very satisfying. That means good writing.
The adventure takes place in historical London, and the author has gone all out with this. There is an illustrated map of the city, the descriptions of background noise and activity puts you right in that time, and of course there are the characters you meet.

All of the NPCs that are of any importance are extremely well fleshed out, with many topics to discuss. Some have different opinions or viewpoints on one topic, filling in the backstory tremendously.

One of the non-player-characters is William Shakespeare. Nuff said.

The suspense leading up to the finale is long drawn out, as it should in a Lovecraftian tale. Books of lore, tales of myth, whispers and rumours,... it's all there, getting you to the very edge of your chair.

And then there is a very good and also very Lovecraftian finale.
(Spoiler - click to show)Of course, the story ends up shooting itself in the foot with a classic Lovecraftian backfire. Showing the tentacled monstrosity from the deep makes it laughable. But that's also part of the genre.

Lydia's Heart, by Jim Aikin

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Immersive slow horror., April 20, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Horror, Puzzler
"Let's get out of this cabin and go to the shack. No wait! What have I got in my hands? Put that in the sack so no one will see it. Phew, lucky I thought of that."

While playing Lydia's Heart I was well and truly immersed in the story, caring enough about my PC to not go "adventuring " all over the place. I left rooms as I found them, put books back on the shelves after reading them, closed cupboards after searching them,... Most of the time this was unnecesary, but this game made it feel natural.

The writing is great. Clear descriptions that also give you the feel of the place. Some of the puzzles I needed a nudge with, but they were all well integrated in the story.

And what a good story it is! Or better, how well is this story told! Those who like a bit of Lovecraft now and then will not read anything new, but they, and hopefully all others will read a thrilling, frightening adventure.

Divis Mortis, by Lynnea Dally

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Do Zombies go to heaven when they, uhm...?, January 2, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Horror
A zombie game in a closed building where you wake up all alone with no memory of how you got there; all while the living dead could break through the door any minute. Yeah, I know...
Play this one though. It's very polished and well implemented. There's lots to explore, and examine. And you learn a lot about barricades: how to erect them properly if the creatures mustn't get through, how to get through them if you yourself must. Also: chemistry, yaay!

The game has a twist at the end, but you must be blind and deaf not to have felt it coming. Still nice though.

I particularly liked the epilogue. It gives Divis Mortis some gravitas, albeit after the fact. (Well, it is an epilogue...)

Babel, by Ian Finley

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Classic Second Era., December 8, 2019
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: SF, Horror
Babel. What a game. During my first tentative journeys into IF-land, I stumbled across this deep, dark psychological horrorstory. I recently replayed it and it's still as haunting as it was then.

Do not riff on Babel for using the amnesia-trope. I have seldom seen it used so effectively as a source of suspense in IF. No lazy author here, but a tried and true storytelling technique that takes the reader down into the deep with it. Think Dr. Jeckyl.

Early modern IF that it is, Babel sometimes relies heavily on non-interactive scenes to make sure the player sees the whole story. I don't mind this one bit, I am as much a reader as a player, but I know this bothers some people.

The story is great, albeit not very original in this genre. Well told, well paced. The surroundings are fantastic, I thought. Varied enough to avoid feeling buried in a tunnel, without losing the thrill of the dungeon-feel.

The puzzles are not so hard, as long as you are patient enough to stick to The Adventurers Code: Read! Explore! Examine!

All in all, a true classic of the modern age.


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