Ratings and Reviews by Juuves

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Syzygy, by HobbyLevelWorkingMother

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Best of the best, May 10, 2024

Best of the best. I loved how the characters were characterized through their dialogue. I don't think the reveal/twist to the plot was particularly clever, but it was entertaining to play through. The author did a good job in making us feel like there was a world beyond the characters' conversations/pages of letters to each other. I, for one, would love to see more of Syzygy. Commendations to you, author!

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The Fading City, by KADW
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Darkness, by Jeff Schomay

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
There's light at the end of the tunnel, June 5, 2023

A game centered on the pursuit of light and finding your way out of the darkness.

The interface was very smooth, and I liked the idea of 'recycling' links. It felt very intuitive to me and even fun to go back and see how the content of each link changed over time in the game. This is my first time encountering links being used like this in interactive fiction. I wish more games could employ the same/a similar style push the boundaries beyond the known, y'know?

If I'm honest, I almost did end up tearing up at the last couple pages. Some might find the content too sedate or cheesy, and the emotional experience for sure isn't going to be all that there for everyone, but I personally connected very well with both its gameplay and message overall.

(Spoiler - click to show)It was also very nice how the page darkened/lightened in tandem with where the player character was in-game. I found that particular touch very immersive, and it's the second work I've encountered that makes use of this effect the subtle changing of the page visuals in relation to variations of time/place within a work the first being Perihelion, by Tim White, which I also only just came upon earlier today and I find that I like it very much. Opposed to, I don't know, say for example a new background image or the such in response to the player moving from place to place in other games the changes in these games are so small, so subtle even barely-there, I guess you could say that I don't find them as disruptive (or jarring) as automated visual changes usually are (in my experience) quite the opposite, in fact, I find they enhance the effects of the game quite a great deal for me.

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Your Post-Apocalyptic To-Do List, by Geoffrey Golden
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A Single Ouroboros Scale: My Postmortem, by Naomi Norbez
Juuves's Rating:

Mirror, by Ondrej Odokienko and Senica Thing

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
"Mirror, mirror on the wall", April 7, 2023

"Organizer's note: This is a special entry, with four games presented as one. These games come from a classroom in Slovakia that encouraged students to enter a 'mini competition' called the Senica Thing. These students are looking to learn and grow, and would benefit from constructive feedback."
From the game blurb of Mirror.

I have henceforth decided to write my review in the form of letters (if it's not too inappropriate).

Mirror

Dear Lilian Lalonder,

Your game was very imaginative. The language is very evocative of touch, feeling. e.g. (Spoiler - click to show)I liked that you took the time to describe the feeling of the glass under the protagonist's fingertips, or how the unnatural weather affected them. The endings were very creative and branched out, which I appreciated, if a little abrupt at times. Sometimes I had a little bit of trouble following the storyline, so you could work on strengthening the links between the events that occur in the story and maybe even some elements of the worldbuilding. It might also be nice if the reasons behind why certain things were happening (e.g. (Spoiler - click to show)the unnatural weather in the middle of August, the empty street and cars) were explained more.

Thanks! I had fun clicking through your game!
Jess.

P.S. I really liked the titles for the endings you came up with! They were funny to read and generally encapsulated what had happened perfectly!

Dear Mihi,

(Spoiler - click to show)The idea of forcing your readers to stop when they pick a 'wrong' decision is ... a novel one. Generally I didn't really understand why an option was there if we couldn't really go through with making that decision. On the other hand it was funny to read how the narrator / the situation constantly changed to try to throw the reader off from making those particular choices, which despite reading as ridiculous, always had just enough logic to make it believable. If I'm honest, the ending was a bit infuriating because it really made it feel like the player had no agency at all throughout the course of the game (especially if you consistently chose the 'wrong' choices in the game).

I don't think you need to dispense with the idea altogether, but I do think you might want to try exploring scenes where the action is allowed to take place? What happens if the player does make the wrong choice (i.e. instead of the narration just going (Spoiler - click to show)"nope! you can't do that!").

Good job and keep on going!
Jess.

Dear James,

Yours was the most alike to the traditional "parser" that I'm accustomed to seeing in the IF (interactive fiction) community. (Except, of course, that it was in hypertext.) Hence it felt very familiar and consequently was my favorite among the four (just as a matter of personal taste, nothing more). Your game really reminded me of (and I encourage you to check out these games if you haven't already, they might help you expand on the ideas you've had thus far) mutiple-ending Twine games such as 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds by Abigail Corfman, or even Insomnia: Twenty-Six Adventures After Dark by Leon Lin, which was one just entered in this year's Spring Thing (in the Main Festival)!

(Spoiler - click to show)It was nice that we had a checkpoint to go back to so that we wouldn't have to start from the beginning a bunch of times to explore all the endings. However, I'd advise against including things such as "You look around and find a secret trap door under the carpet. Do you want to explore it? YES / NO". Who wouldn't want to explore a secret trap door they find hidden under the carpet?! This is a very small nitpick, but perhaps try giving the player more realistic situations to romp around in.

Looking forward to more of your work!
Jess.

Dear Dr. John,

I'm sorry, but I found your game very confusing. (Spoiler - click to show)Who is IXI? (An alien?) Why are we observing him through a GLASS WALL? What's the deal with the light? It seemed like we were supposed to turn it on, but I couldn't understand the game enough to figure out a way to do that. It sounds like you had a pretty ambitious idea, which got lost on the way because of poor execution. (Spoiler - click to show)It was also a bit annoying having to type in something (your name?) to the box every time I went back to that point to try and solve the game.

I'm not sure how much the language barrier played in making your game hard to understand, but perhaps try to go through your game from the position of a player how much does each step make sense? Even better, get your friends or family to test your game for you. Or people you can be beside as they play your game, so that you can get feedback real-time on what's exactly not working each step of the way through your game.

I'm not sure how much help I was, but I'd like to see you take this game further (the idea seems really intriguing)!

Fighting!
Jess.

Afternotes:

* All four games would've obviously benefitted from better handling / editing of the English language. But we can obviously also be understanding in this case, as the authors are in Slovakia and aren't expected to have a perfect handle of English. (I wonder, were the works originally in Slovak and then translated into English (the most likely case), or were they written in English in the first place (not likely)?)
* I wonder if the students have been introduced to multimedia (graphics, audio) IF yet? Obviously it's fine to have work in just text, but I'm curious to know what they would've done with images or sound if they had access to / knew how to incorporate such things.
* The whole idea behind this bundle of works is very exciting. And novel, because I haven't really seen anything like it in the IF community before (I haven't been made aware of any if there is). There are jams, but they're grouped more under systems or a general theme or by creative process, how it should go, instead of, for example, a single object, a single thing, as was in this case. e.g. I'm curious to see, if we throw the theme 'Mirror' to the IF creation community, what they would come up with? In fact now I'm thinking about an annual comp, where a rather tangible thing is selected (different each year) and the participants have to make works spinning off that one 'thing' no restriction in system or type of game, so parser and choice-based and all the in-between or outside-the-box games are all welcome. But this is just a thought, I don't have much realistic know-how or abundance of time, energy, skill behind it to back it up. There are already so many comps throughout the year anyways, and I'm not sure how much value this one idea would add to the mix. Anyways. It was just really interesting to see how differently each of the students' games turned out and how varied their approaches were, in regards to a single thematic subject (which is an object). Some interpretations were quite creative, even if the gameplay was lacking. All were very personable. Endearing, even, perhaps.

And that's the end of it! I don't know the ages of the students exactly, but I hope I didn't sound too patronizing with my words here.

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The Mamertine, by K Vella

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Another Twine-ized parser, April 6, 2023

The Mamertine is a Twine-ized parser game supposedly about you (the player) escaping a cult. I say "supposedly" because I barely saw any hints of such a story when I was playing.

I imagine there's a lot of debate on "Twine" parsers / and a wide spectrum of them besides. Some of them are done so well that you forget that there's any distinction between the two Twine and parsers and they rightfully 'escape' into having a whole new genre of their own's. Some of them flounder, a little bit. The Mamertine was somewhere in the middle for me. The controls made the 'parsing' part of a parser easy but at the same time, they prevented the player (me, at the very least) from feeling fully immersed in the game this I could tell because I kept wondering during play if this and that 'action' or this and that 'command' might work better in a traditional parser format, instead of focusing on what I was doing and how I was supposed to solve the puzzles.

The puzzles and the endings were very confusing in this game. I couldn't help but wonder what, exactly, was the point for some of them at several points throughout my playthrough. The problem is that the game lacks logical flow in many of its departments. (Spoiler - click to show)e.g. The puzzles you pull the lever? To make someone scream? What for? I thought you were trying to escape? There was also the sitting skeleton in the room you return to near the end of the game is that the old man, and if so, how did he wither down to just his bones during the short period of time that we were gone? Is the implication that something happened during our brief sojourn into the outer walls to influence our perception of time or otherwise just make time go faster? But again, I ask, what for? There's just too many questions and not enough answers. The ending, when it came, was just as abrupt and as nonsensical as many of the events that happened before. (Spoiler - click to show)I've only managed to get one ending, with the variation of how many times or whether you managed to pull the lever at all. Let me know if there's anyone out there who's managed to get something different. But the author did describe their game as being "rather confusing" in the game description, so I suppose all of this should've been expected, anyways.

I looked up the title out of curiosity. Surprisingly, "The Mamertine" is a real place an ancient prison used in Roman times located in Rome, Italy. It's obviously fallen out of use now, and was in fact used by the Christians for worship since medieval times (the site, at least, apparently not the prison itself), so I'm having a fun time trying to place the "cult" that the player escaped from (Spoiler - click to show) and, assumedly, been brought back into in history and recognize its historical significance, if there's any to speak of in the first place ((Spoiler - click to show)and though some of the tools that appeared throughout this game gave off the feeling that the game is based in if not modern, at least very recent times). I'm now just curious why the author decided to choose the Mamertine as the setting at all (assuming it's even eponymous in the first place?). It just seems rather niche and sort of out-of-the-way, not an obvious choice for any author.

This game did make me think of other games with similar fuzzy categories A Long Way to the Nearest Star or JELLY (my personal favorite), for games that also kind of attempted to destroy, merge, blend (I don't know, okay) the boundaries between Twine/hypertext and parsers, and even The Master of the Land, though that one's more of a conversation puzzle game than parser and a bit more far-off than the others. Anyways, what I'm mostly saying is that these types of games are an interesting developmental direction that should be further explored. (Cue tiny me cheering in a tinny voice at the back: Yeah! Break the boundaries, baby! Okay, that was embarassing. Ignore that.)

As afternotes I liked the signage of the 'cult' in the story, as well as the background music, which is definitely not for everyone, but I personally found it suited the progression of the game very well though it stopped quarterway during play for me. Visual design was okay; the fonts could have been done better. Some proofreading and work on sentence structure might be in order to fix a couple obvious mistakes (e.g. (Spoiler - click to show)"You are you don't think ..." right in the beginning few pages) and to break up run-on sentences.

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Bear Creek, Part 1, by Wes Modes
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Murder on the Big Nothing, by Tony Pisculli
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Ishmael, by Jordan Magnuson
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