Reviews by Portmanteau
IF Comp 2009View this member's profile
View this member's reviews by tag: Byzantine IF Comp 2009
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The first thing one will notice about Interface is the overly wordy prologue: a verbose description of a somewhat tired setup, written passably and competently, but without any real excitement. However, once the actual playing begins, one will find that the game is good fun with solid implementation, satisfying and sensible puzzles and interesting style and atmosphere. Ultimately a solid and enjoyable game, if imperfect.
A highly linear game with painfully drawn out cut scenes, Condemned appears to be the work of a teenager, and a 'disillusioned' one seems as good as any. The language is often awkward (both of the 'void' instead of 'devoid' variety, and a general attempt-at-a-literary-tone turgidity that makes reading through the often exceptionally verbose text more of a chore than it need be). Prolixity notwithstanding, the story does repeatedly achieve a sense of suspense and disquiet, at least until you get sick of pressing 'z' eleven times in a row (as is specified in the walkthrough not once, but twice!) and begin skimming the text waiting for the inevitable to happen.
The dialog is almost always hopelessly clunky, the game is dark and depressing in the manner of an overbearing "teen angst"-spawned melodrama, and your literal martyrdom is thrust in your face in a manner so brazen as to edge towards the absurd. Still, I did find myself on edge occasionally while waiting for the terrible to occur, and the game was technically competent and bug-free. A slightly lighter touch with the story and more natural language would have made this game something to remember. As it is, Condemned has more in common with the pained, quiet kid's creative writing project than any truly affecting work should.
A simple word puzzle of a game, without any meaningful IF elements. It also feels under-implemented, with parser "I don't understand that verb" messages your only feedback. The puzzle (and it is the puzzle) is moderately interesting, but the game is ultimately unsatisfying, and the experience has more of the throw-away browser game to it than it does IF.
An interesting, well-implemented game with competent writing and appropriate length. The story is of the pretty standard "precocious youth of the future" variety (cf. Lost in Space, Meet the Robinsons, Jimmy Neutron, although Grounded's youth seems to be older than his counterparts in these examples), with the first scene consisting of the protagonist getting in trouble with his parents, causing him to be sent out in a spaceship on his own. The primary puzzle (and the only puzzle that will provide more than a hiccup during a traversal) is interesting and fits well within the game's setting and plot, but going from realizing the solution to implementing it is somewhat tedious, with some interface battling and calculations required.
This game captures the feel of Golden Era Russian literature quite well, with the writing generally very good and effectively evoking the style of period. The memory/dream sequence which presents the basis for the duel, with its Faro, billiards and garrulousness, is particularly enjoyable, though player agency is effectively nil (which is actually the case for much of the game -- in many cases you can explore, but whatever you do it's merely a matter of waiting enough turns before the important event happens, which can be frustrating).
While there are some hiccups in the writing, these minor quibbles stand out at all only because the rest was so well executed. That said, the puzzles in the game are a bit disappointing, with a minor, irrelevant one depending on a bit of cleverness without justifying why the more common sense approach should fail, and the one major puzzle being particularly arbitrary, with many more sensible alternatives being completely ineffectual. Had it been better hinted, it would have been better, but as it is it was somewhat frustrating. Still, the writing and atmosphere was very enjoyable, and the short little story told was quite satisfying.
While its mediocre writing does recall the "mad scientist who will show them all"-style of some semi-classic science fiction, it does so clumsily and without any of the complexities that one could imbue in the brilliant-but-mad protagonist. There are a number of technical problems, arbitrary implementations and "guess the verb" style issues. The game has quite a few puzzles, some of which are clever (though unrealistic in a petty way which is somehow still slightly grating even in a world of one-dimensional revenging lab assistants with invisibility potions). Sadly, it's hard not to fall victim to boredom and simply read the walkthrough as the game doesn't offer enough in atmosphere, humor or interesting implementation to make up for its sometimes frustrating technical side and uninspired artistry.
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