Reviews by Rovarsson


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The Darkness of Raven Wood, by John Blythe

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Darn Werewolf!, June 15, 2022
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Horror, Puzzler

A disturbing letter has come from your old friend Raynard, the blacksmith in the town of Raven Wood. A new lord has come to inhabit the Manor, and sinister events have been happening since. Alarmed, you travel by carriage to meet him...

The Darkness of Raven Wood is an oldschool horror adventure. The two word parser can cause some guess-the-verb problems. Worse however is that the necessary verbs are used somewhat inconsistently. Case in point: the "Instructions" explicitly give the example of UNLOCK DOOR, which can even be abbreviated to UNLO DOOR, since the parser only takes the first four letters into consideration. However, when I found a locked door, I had to USE KEY instead. When at another point in the game I wanted to USE AXE when ATTACK [x] or CUT [x] or HIT [x] didn't work, it turns out I needed to SWING AXE. I feel this is a much more ambiguous situation than UNLOCK door, where USE would actually have been appropriate.
(EDIT: apparently the instructions on the rucksackgames website do specify SWING AXE and USE KEY. Just not in-game.)

These bits of parser wrangling are the only real criticism I can bring up as negatives.

The introduction sets a dark and oppressive mood which the sparse but efficient writing underscores. The frightening atmosphere is further enhanced by beautifully gloomy pixel art, among the best I have seen.

The game demands careful exploration of the map and thorough examining of the contents of the locations (no X, but you can abbreviate to EXAM). Most of the puzzles consist of simple application of objects in the right place. Some however require a good memory of locations previously explored, to make the associative leap that what you have just done here will have changed something there.

There are some areas where you will invariably lose your bearings. While it is necessary to search these thoroughly too, once you have done so there is a simple sequence of directional commands to get you out of the woods.
The cryptic hint list on the game's homepage is very helpful with this and other obstacles.

What started as an inquisitive exploration around the town at the beginning of Chapter I, becomes gradually darker and more frightening, especially when you enter the grounds of the Manor and then the house itself in Chapter II.

A good suspenseful and atmospheric horror game, somewhat hampered by the limited parser. Recommended.

The Bones of Rosalinda, by Agnieszka Trzaska

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
♫---the headbone connected to the ... neck bone---♪, April 15, 2022
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Horror, Fantasy

The Bones of Rosalinda has a very compelling storyline. The minimally interactive prologue sets the mood, prepares the scene and introduces the characters. The equally minimally interactive epilogue provides very satisfying closure for the story, not only for the protagonist but for the side characters too.
Both are quite long and very well written, giving the player the opportunity to dig in to the story.
In between is, of course, the game. It's up to the player to pick up the introductory setup and carry it through to the finale, jumping through a great deal of hoops large and small while doing so.

The characters in Bones are a joy to get to know. They all have enough detail and glimpses of a backstory so that not one of them feels (or smells) like just having been pressed out of a plastic mold.
I particularly liked Piecrust, a talking mouse with a rather bleak outlook on the world and his future in it, and a distracting enthousiasm for foodstuffs of any kind. The apathetic deadpan delivery of his remarks made me laugh more than once, especially near the beginning of the game.
The elaborate conversations and cutscenes provide the player with background and insights to fully appreciate the characters.

The difficulty of the puzzles was just right for me, once I really got the central gameplay mechanic. It's PC-juggling.The player has to switch player characters with different abilities (and sometimes assemble them...) to solve the problems facing the protagonist.This mechanic is introduced gently and later expanded upon, providing a gentle learning curve.
Besides the PC-juggling there is also inventory-juggling. Lots of it. A shortcut to directly GIVE an object from one PC to the next without first dropping it would be nice. Also, (Spoiler - click to show)the ability to ATTACH limbs straight out of the backpack would come in handy.
Most of the puzzles are variations on the lock-and-key theme. The Bones of Rosalinda shows with gusto that original variations on that theme are still possible. Very satisfying.

I had a blast playing through this game. Highly recommended!

Dr Horror's House of Terror, by Ade McT

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Fright or Folly? Why not have both., March 31, 2022
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Puzzler, Horror

Franky and Johnny are strolling across the dark parking lot of the movie-theater. Some distance behind them, bright lightbulbs are flickering above the theater entrance.


So, what'd you think?

I don't know, man. I thought we were going to watch a Horror movie. But half the time this guy was joking around and I could plainly see the trees were plywood.

That's the point, J.
Think of it like this: you've got scary horror on the one side and laughable camp on the other. The director's hung a tightrope between the two and the whole movie is a balancing act, never leaning too far to one extreme. He reinforces this with how he shows the locations: sometimes like real places where something gruesome happened, sometimes like a fake plastic set, just as unscary and laughable as King Kong's zipper showing.

Yeah, I guess... What was up with the dialogue though? People don't talk like that, neatly listing their questions and getting them answered one by one.

Well, J., you gotta remember: not everyone going to the movies is as smart as you are... Some people need a bit more handholding to pull them along through the story. The neat question-by-question dialogues give a bit more exposition to those poor sods that can't quite follow as lightning-fast as you, Johnny...

Heh, yeah... I suppose some o'them would need some more explanation than brainy ol' me.

The flickering lightbulbs above the theater entrance blinked out one by one until only two remained. These two seemed to tear themselves free from the fašade, blinked as well and then squinted, two shiny yellow eyes were focusing on a prey...

Hey, something else bothered me about this movie. What was up with all those weird obstacles? It was like the main guy was jumping through all sorts of hoops.

Those diverse obstacles are there to show to the audience how smart and versatile the protagonist really is, man. And since we're there on the front row watching him, we get to experience his cunning solutions as if we thought of them ourselves.

The shiny yellow eyes had now closed the distance to the two young men. They were following quietly in their footsteps...

Well if he's so smart, why did he lose the end-battle huh?

I dunno, I kinda liked the ending. Even if he did lose at the end, it was all nicely wrapped up in the epilogue. By the way, my cousin saw this movie last week, and he says the main guy won the final battle. So there must be different versions around. Maybe you could go and see it tomorrow and it would end differently.

Really? Wow, that'd be so cool. One more thing: I really didn't care for how the guy just killed all those innocent people. Seems he should've tried to just knock 'em out or something.

Well, maybe the director wanted to show that normal moral principles don't hold up when you're trying to avert the end of the world as we know it.
Or maybe it was just some gratuitous gruesome killing, just for the heck of it.

At this point, Franky glanced over his shoulder at the beast following them. He sighed and gave an almost imperceptible nod.


Johnny's headless body stayed upright for a few more seconds. Then it fell down to the tarmac. As Franky made his way to the car, the scrunching and slobbering noises continued.

Guttersnipe: Carnival of Regrets, by Bitter Karella

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Coulrophobia!, August 18, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Horror, Puzzler, Comedy

We join our protagonist Lil' Ragamuffin (Rags to her friends) and her pet rat/best friend Percy while they are preparing an evening feast: a leather shoe roasted to crispy goodness above their small campfire. A man approaches and offers Rags a way out from the streeturchin life: join the carnival! He gives her a free ticket to come and see it for herself. Against Percy's advice, Rags, unafraid, visits the carnival and soon finds herself confronted with some very nasty clowneries indeed.

Rags is a great character. She's small with a big mouth, keen on adventure and very curious about anything that crosses her path. I often chuckled when I read what actually came out of her mouth when I entered a simple ASK ABOUT command.
Percy the rat is her counterbalance in some ways. He's more cautious, more prone to using his common sense and more knowledgeable about the "civilized" world. To the player, Percy functions as an in-game cluegiver, comparable to Crystal from Illuminato Iniziato, though not as deeply realized. The player should treat him as an in-game convenience rather than as a last resort hint-system. Small nitpick: Percy's hints appear to be location-specific. If you forgot to ask him about the blue-striped giraffe ropeskipping on the ballroom balcony, you'll have to return to that location. (note: No blue-striped giraffes were found nor hurt during my playthrough.)

The map of Carnival of Regrets is very well done. The carnival grounds are clearly subdivided in areas like the Side Show and the Animal Pens. Parts are blocked off by an adversary, almost like a level-boss, ensuring that the map does not become overwhelming and that the player will have (probably) seen everything before crossing to the next area.

The carnival is filled with a diverse and entertaining cast of colourful characters, some helpful (but mostly powerless themselves), some outright dangerous to stray little streeturchins...

It's a true joy to read the adventures of Lil' Ragamuffin as they unfold. The writing is gleefully creepy, with evocative and adjective-rich descriptions of many things grotesque and scary. The enjoyment of the author shines through in reading these passages. In the bigger picture, the action is well-paced, there is lots of freedom to explore, well-placed bottlenecks and a growing sense of urgency as you learn more about the underlying mystery of the carnival.

Sadly, Carnival of Regrets is bogged down by a lack of smooth and trustworthy gameplay.

The world and its contents are seriously underimplemented, and what level of implementation there is is unevenly spread. Sometimes an unimportant scenery-object is vividly described and attempts to interact with it are accounted for, while there are plot-relevant objects that are hastily and too tersely described. This underimplementation means that the game misses many opportunities for funny or helpful responses to "wrong" commands. More importantly, the lack of synonyms for important verbs (for instance: SCREAM works, SHOUT does not) can lead to frustrating attempts at mindreading.

The puzzles are easy-to-medium difficulty. They are well thought out and well clued, some very clever in concept. The lack of smooth implementation hinders the player's enjoyment however. For most puzzles I had the correct solution figured out, but it was still helpful to use David Welbourn's excellent (as always!) walkthrough to get the exact commands when I got stuck.

All criticism aside, Guttersnipe: The Carnival of Regrets is funny, delightfully scary and very well written. Recommended!

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

6 of 6 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, 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

7 of 7 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

4 of 4 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

2 of 2 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...)

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