Reviews by BitterlyIndifferent

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Sky Caravan, by Studio Bravarda: Nicolas Leme (Lead Programmer), Maria Isabel “Mabel” May (Game Designer & Narrative Designer), Mateus Trigueiro (Game Designer & Narrative Designer), Yann Lemos (Game Designer, Programmer, Musician & Sound Designer), Cezar Loureiro (Environment Artist & Concept Artist), João Pedro Figueiredo (Character Artist & Animator)
You don't explore the world, but you do explore its relationships., June 9, 2024

Sky Caravan is about making airship deliveries in a fantasy world where nobody lives on the surface if they can help it. You have taken out a large loan to escape the surface, and now you need to make enough money to pay it back. Choices affect your ship’s fuel, supplies and morale, which are shown in a display at the top of the screen. Your relationships with different crew members are also affected by your choices, and changes to those values are displayed in a separate window.

This game is an entertaining fusion of choice-based storytelling and resource management. The story was designed with Ink and presented in Unity: You drag and drop tokens that indicate how you want the story to continue, which felt a bit like some games I have played that use Texture.

While I enjoyed the environment of Sky Caravan — there’s a mushroom casino, a Lovecraftian corporate bureaucracy, and encounters with different humanoids that were creative and memorable — it’s an experience that is firmly on rails. You will complete missions in a strictly defined order, and you are not free to explore locations at your own pace.

The variety of Sky Caravan’s choices effectively disguise its limitations. Some choices are reflective, determining how your character feels without changing the story. Other choices might end the game early, but you can quickly reload to your last save point. Having those options makes the list of available choices feel meaningfully larger.

Despite the restrictions of the narrative, players can also make substantial changes to story elements. I found three different endings that all amount to “you defeated the bad guy,” but each one left the player and their crew in notably different circumstances.

Resource management is another aspect of the game that is used as an effective distraction. Your choices collect different amounts of money used to pay off your debt, but there’s a general sense that the gameplay arc will steer you toward a specific outcome regardless of your performance.

If the text alone had been presented without the peripheral animation and status indicators, Sky Caravan would have felt much less interactive. Overall, I didn’t have much freedom to explore the game’s world, but I really enjoyed exploring the stories of its characters.

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Case #410113, by FetusCommander

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Feels like an experimental work, May 24, 2024

This produces a story that describes what happened when a "domestic terrorist associated with various extreme Pro-Life movements" visited an abortion clinic.

The woman used her superpowers to do some violence, and then a jumble of metaphors, references, and allusions struggle to present a coherent narrative.

It's a bit like Mad Libs. A person can select 17 options on the form to suggest what each segment could say, and then the final version shows whichever options received the largest number of responses.

...I may not be its target audience.

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Snowhaven, by Tristin Grizel Dean

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An atmospheric experience that focuses less on puzzles and more on details., May 24, 2024

Snowhaven uses effective storytelling to deliver a complete experience in a small set of locations. The player uses simple objects to complete some basic tasks, but relationships and memories add narrative weight to the proceedings.

The story strikes a balance between important physical details and the emotional components that motivate the main character. I appreciated its clean, efficient writing.

Black-and-white graphics make effective contributions to the wintry atmosphere without becoming a distraction — subtle animations in a few locations reinforce the impression of frozen stillness everywhere else. I initially thought that one challenge required a solution that could only be found in the game's images, but some later digging uncovered alternative clues elsewhere in the text.

A few parts of Snowhaven felt like the infamous “kill the dragon with your bare hands” sequence from Adventure. Had I cleverly guessed the correct sequence of phrases to solve a series of under-clued puzzles? Or were these obvious solutions that shouldn’t need to be telegraphed? (If it’s the latter, then I salute some brilliant design work that made me feel good about myself.)

Snowhaven offers an atmospheric experience that focuses less on puzzles and more on details. Overall, it’s a short, polished story that was satisfying to complete.

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Misty Hills, by Giuliano Roverato Martins Pereira

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Choice-based exploration of a novel fantasy environment, March 31, 2024

The author’s note describes this as a chill game that players are meant to enjoy at their own pace. The implementation supports that experience. (Misty Hills also received an audience award for being the “most relaxing” Spring Thing entry.)

The player is returning home after completing a quest off camera, and a clock on the side of the screen tracks the time while they wait for the next tram.

I enjoyed how Misty Hills provided a low-stakes opportunity to explore a fantasy environment that was engaging mix of the familiar and the magical. Although I wanted to catch the next tram, it didn’t feel like a life-or-death challenge that determined the fate of the world.

I also appreciated how there weren’t any unpleasant surprises or unfair traps. These structures have been described as confirmation-required choices — you might end up missing the tram, but it will be the result of deliberate decisions that you made while exploring.

Misty Hills is an inviting, complicated world that holds the potential for (mis-)adventure without antagonism.

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Waiting for the Day Train, by Dee Cooke

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A few puzzles in a small, well-implemented environment, March 31, 2024

The strength of this work comes from its simplicity. Descriptive details add depth without confusing or distracting from the major challenges.

This story establishes its stakes immediately — the early text and graphics show what will happen if you miss the Day Train. It quickly transitions into the game’s main environment, which is serene and natural, but the introductory sequence adds a feeling of tension that keeps things moving.

Although the train platform is only a short distance away from the player’s starting point, not much time is left before the train departs. The countdown felt like it was managed effectively, leaving me with just enough time to work through challenges while still feeling like it would be a close call.

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Lady Thalia and the Seraskier Sapphires, by Emery Joyce and N. Cormier

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Playful thievery, February 11, 2024

This is an intricate heist story where the player navigates branch-and-bottleneck structures to conduct a series of thefts. Strong writing supports the narrative while disguising the code running behind the scenes, and it feels like there are multiple ways to achieve your objectives.

Most of the player’s time is spent Getting People to Do What You Want — the main character flinches at describing it with a crass term like “manipulation.” It feels like a combat system for conversation (Convat? Combersation?), and success reveals useful information. In the evenings, that information helps the next heist run smoothly.

Lady Thalia is confronted with a few puzzles during her adventures, but players who find them too difficult can use alternate solutions. I especially liked the scoring mechanism, which is embedded in playful banter between friends.

Additional excitement comes from the interactions with Thalia’s nemesis, a consultant with Scotland Yard.

The overall enjoyment of this work is going to depend on personal preference; I may not be the world’s biggest fan of cucumber sandwiches, high tea, or drawing room repartee. However, those sequences were nicely offset by nighttime skullduggery and daring escapes from the law.

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Foreign Soil, by Olaf Nowacki

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Atmospheric exploration in a responsive environment, February 11, 2024

Foreign Soil starts strong, with effective writing that clearly establishes the main character’s situation and how they feel about it. Narrative details provide hints about a backstory, and environmental threats offer a sense of danger.

A substantial part of the gameplay involves figuring out what to do next, which makes it tricky to discuss Foreign Soil in a way that doesn’t ruin the experience. I liked how the environment changed around me, creating new locations and updating descriptions as various objectives were completed.

I also appreciated how in-game deaths were handled — the setting is supposed to be harsh and unforgiving, so it needs to show appropriate consequences for risky decisions. The game struck a nice balance that encouraged experimentation while showing how dumb choices will get you killed.

Unfortunately, I got stuck in the middle of the story because I wasn’t willing to take enough risk. I knew where I was supposed to advance the story, but I was reluctant to try different commands that might move things along. After overcoming that hurdle, things flowed logically through the endgame.

Foreign Soil was fun, and my only complaint is that I wish it was a longer experience.

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Daddy's Birthday, by Jonathan8

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The mainstays of interactive fiction interpreted by a younger author., February 11, 2024

I chose to take this entry at face value: a sweet collaboration where an 8-year-old’s work of interactive fiction has been implemented by a skilled programmer.

Emily Short described this approach to game development as writing the through-line first, starting with an ideal walkthrough and then building out a larger experience from there. Daddy’s Birthday includes an extra feature that lets people read the original walkthrough to see what the writer had in mind.

It’s interesting to see the mainstays of interactive fiction interpreted by a younger author. While there are familiar mechanics at work, some design choices have gone in novel directions. (The house is laid out along diagonals, with most of the passages heading northwest and southeast.)

Some of the writing is understandably awkward — one description says “A few rooms go different directions, but you decide to go down the stairs” when a different phrase might have worked better — but that’s largely because the implementation remained faithful to the source material.

The complete project feels like a thoughtfully negotiated compromise. It’s an interactive experience that maintains the spirit of its original ideas, and I hope that the creators continue to build on those ideas to explore new frontiers in game design.

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My Gender Is a Fish, by Carter Gwertzman

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short and enjoyable, January 6, 2024

This choice-based work is beautiful.

Maybe it’s not technically beautiful — MGIAF uses Twine’s basic Sugarcube format with default font colors — but I really enjoyed the writing. Your gender gets stolen by a magpie, and you make a sequence of choices on the path to reclaim it. Each playthrough sees the same choices, but the story is short and the text changes enough to make it worth playing more than once.

I'm reluctant to call My Gender Is a Fish an allegory. For one thing, it doesn’t take itself seriously. Also, I’ve never clearly understood what makes an allegory. But that word feels like a good fit for this entry's affirmative message about being okay with ambiguity.

My Gender Is a Fish asks thoughtful questions and makes sharp comparisons: How much of your life is tied to your gender identity, and what would you do without it?

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The Daughter, by GioBorrows
Difficult to access, but maybe that was intentional?, January 6, 2024

I had difficulty engaging with this work because of implementation issues. The pale gray text was difficult to read, most of the passages included spelling errors, and then it ended abruptly. (Right after I asked to be pointed to my room, everything stopped.)

The Daughter’s blurb makes it sound like The Children of Men meets The Eyes of Heisenberg, but its focus was uneven — some details were described exhaustively while other information felt like it was missing. This might have been translated from another language, which could explain some of its unusual phrasing and descriptions.

If not, there were some bold style choices that failed to resonate with me.

Overall, I couldn’t find enough relatable context to understand the forces at work in The Daughter’s far-future setting. Yes, there were some jokes about the broken culture of the twenty-first century, like our fixation on true crime podcasts, but they were used to emphasize differences, not to build empathy.

The Daughter might be waiting to be discovered by the right audience, but at the moment I think it could be improved with more thoughtful editorial decisions.

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