Ratings and Reviews by BitterlyIndifferent

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Seasonal Apocalypse Disorder, by Zan and Xavid

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Time travel antics and druidic magic, December 1, 2020

This adventure's narrative, which may involve cow tipping and casual murder, describes impossible developments in a consistently matter-of-fact tone. I was entertained by its understated absurdity.

The nature themes and seasonal locations were a good fit for the time travel puzzles. The clues are fair, and you donít need to understand druidic rituals or know which magic powers are associated with specific plants; this entry does a good job of providing necessary information.

I appreciated how the challenges were designed in Seasonal Apocalypse Disorder. Your magical abilities are limited at the start, which keeps early puzzles confined to specific areas. As you develop your powers, you are given more opportunities to explore how objects and locations interact with each other. There's also a map at the top of the screen, which helped me keep track of time periods and spot rooms that I would have missed on my own.

I got stuck in a few places, but it was my own damn fault for failing to pay closer attention.

Big Trouble in Little Dino Park, by Seth Paxton, Rachel Aubertin

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Thrills, chills, and the omnipresent threat of violent death., December 1, 2020

I enjoyed exploring the question at the heart of this entry: "What if Jurassic Park gave summer jobs to disaffected teens?" Things quickly change gears from summer job to survival challenge as catastrophe strikes and you must find a way to escape the park's hungry inhabitants.

Some descriptions made it difficult to tell where I was in the park, or where I wanted to go, but other passages updated to show how my previous choices had changed the situation. In some places, like the Dinosaur Nursery, it seemed like I was repeating passages that were only supposed to display once.

This entry could have used more polish, but it's entertaining in its current state. The authors explain that Big Trouble in Little Dino Park was created in 30 days, which explains why it includes a substantial number of typos.

Parts of this experience felt like living in one of those horror movies where the main character is alerted to obvious danger. I appreciated having the option to just go somewhere else, although calculated risks were necessary in a few places.

Accelerate, by The TAV Institute

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Puts a lot of work into creating a specific atmosphere., December 1, 2020

Some people might interpret the prose as atmospheric, and others might dismiss it as trying too hard. It sets a consistent mood, and it's quickly apparent whether this experience will appeal to you.

For me, the interesting question was whether the interactivity in Accelerate supports its story. Early chapters, which put the audience in the role of an addict trying to score drugs from a religiously affiliated medical clinic, set up a conflict that made it difficult to engage with the narrative.

Open-minded curiosity will help readers explore this story, but that makes it difficult to act like an addict on the prowl.

Assuming the role of a cynical addict will encourage the audience to remain distant from the religious propaganda, and that could mean rejecting the entire entry by quitting early.

As interactive fiction, it was difficult for me to identify my place in the story. It seemed like I was expected to assimilate with a movement as controlling and destructive as the authority it seeks to overthrow.

Doppeljobs, by Lei

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Focused, consistent, and entertaining, December 1, 2020

Dopplejobs was a delight. Itís told from the perspective of a doppelganger who endures situations that clients would rather avoid. Humans and doppelgangers donít have much experience with each other, so itís a journey of discovery for everyone involved.

The fantasy world of Doppeljobs is inhabited by stone goats and serviced by sandpipes, which encouraged me to match the story's tone of excited curiosity. Choices are smoothly integrated with the narrative: you're thrown into unfamiliar circumstances and asked to decide what your client would do.

Are there things you don't know? Has important information been left out? The City of Sand is part of a magical foreign world, so you're never sure what will happen.

Things are complicated by the fact that some of your choices might mean that your clients make lasting impressions on you. (The narrator chirps, "Surely, this will affect neither your business nor your life in any way whatsoever!")

The tone of this story fits the perspective of a naÔve magical creature trying to survive as an entrepreneur in the City of Sand ó it's exactly the kind of blank-slate optimism that you would expect from an entity that knows nothing about humanity.

The Copyright of Silence, by Ola Hansson

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
An example of the accretive player character, December 1, 2020

This work is laid out like a board game, taking place in a four-room apartment where you interact with the composer John Cage, his dog, and his parrot. Text tracks the four of you moving from room to room, and different actions become available depending on who is where.

I appreciate the effort involved in implementing these characters. Their behavior is governed by logical rules that can be deduced through observation ó you are expected to understand and apply those rules to engineer a specific result.

The blurb for this entry hints that it's like Elsinore or Varicella, where you are expected to fail many times and learn from your mistakes. However, those games immediately establish that a catastrophe is imminent and encourage the player to start working towards victory from the beginning.

If Copyright of Silence explained what it wanted during my first visit with Cage, I was too dumb to notice. There's a stopwatch in the kitchen that suggested a course of action, but the how and why only became clear after my visit ended and I endured the triumph of Cage and the failure of my own character.

The success of this entry relies on an accretive player character who can play through the scenario quickly and have fun learning new things each time. That's where I stumbled.

I might have spent too much time thinking through each of my character's moves, or I might have missed substantial parts of the environment and the characters' interactions, but I felt burned out and frustrated from failure long before I had accumulated enough knowledge to reach the best possible ending.

The CursŤd Pickle of Shireton, by Hanon Ondricek

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A sprawling assortment of wonders, December 1, 2020

This entry is not parser-based, but its choices are intricate. You will enter text in some places, select options in other places, and open windows to click links that create additional options in menus that you might not even be aware of.

It is immense.

CursŤd Pickle of Shireton is a choice-based facsimile of an MMORPG where you can explore, take quests, build stats, and grind for experience. There is an entire adventure outside of the titular pickle's storyline, packed with outright comedy, subtle in-jokes, and external references that are serious and silly.

It's enormous, and it's amazing, but my experience felt unfocused. This entry's greatest strength and biggest weakness is that it's a sprawling assortment of wonders. Without a clear motivation, it took me a long time to find the pickle ó and at that point, I wasn't even sure it was a threat.

Age of Aeons, the fantasy RPG where this story takes place, is big enough and weird enough that I wonder what would happen if the pickle was left unchecked. Why not embrace the way of the brine? Would the wizards' guild steer me wrong?

Chorus, by Skarn

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Replaces community service drudgery with high-stakes fantasy conflict, December 1, 2020

You're asked to divide six people between three different community service projects. The enjoyable twist is that they're all monsters and mythological creatures integrated into modern society. (Oddly detailed personnel files offer scientific discussions of their abilities.)

The story follows a run down, under-funded nonprofit that is already stretched to the breaking point. In a normal city, these organizations serve different groups of people whose needs are regularly in conflict with each other. When those people are harpies, gorgons, and beings from alternate universes, the conflicts become more interesting.

Chorus relies on a player who is willing to return to the story and learn from repeated playthroughs. Early remarks about "the reorganization of the district" hint at tensions behind the scenes, and my first experience left me eager to go back and investigate why the city felt like enemy-occupied territory.

Quest for the Sword of Justice, by Damon L. Wakes

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
I admire this joke's commitment., December 1, 2020

This entry is a polished, smoothly executed joke, but it ends quickly.

After starting in a small village that presents obstacles along with obvious clues for overcoming them, this game delivers its punchline ó the big twist might be familiar to fans of Chrono Trigger.

Quest for the Sword of Justice differs from Chrono Trigger in that the proceedings have two possible outcomes. When I acted like I was in a normal RPG, I ended up in an increasingly silly situation that seemed like a permanent end state. Starting over and changing my behavior led to a different outcome with a clear "game over" screen.

The most interesting part of this game is the way it uses RPG Maker software to deliver Interactive Fiction conventions.

BYOD, by n-n

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent atmosphere, shallow experience, December 1, 2020

Gameplay in BYOD is not so much a limited parser as it is an alternative parser. Although standard commands are present for exploring your character's physical environment, the main action takes place through your smartphone's custom VFS software. The VFS commands were easy to understand and I correctly followed the author's trail of clues to reach the "good" ending.

The virtual feelies that accompany this entry include newsletters and supplemental information formatted to look like Usenet discussions and GameFAQs walkthroughs. I don't know enough to judge whether these are accurate representations of hacker culture, but they certainly evoke the 1990's mood of a group that I was never cool enough to join in real life.

The outstanding presentation details support a shallow narrative that needed more development. In this entry, corporate stereotypes tell a brief story about the abuse of power. When BYOD ended, my character had accomplished very little.

(Spoiler - click to show)The powerful CEO retained his job, perpetuating an industry described as the root of all evil. The secretary was momentarily protected, but what happens in the future? (And what happens to other employees who catch the CEO's eye?)

BYOD offers a tight, carefully defined experience that let me feel like a hacker. I wish it had put a similar amount of effort into telling an engaging story.

The Call of Innsmouth, by Tripper McCarthy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Builds up to a satisfying conclusion, December 1, 2020

This entry is a serviceable addition to the Lovecraft universe, although it stumbles over some common challenges that plague initial releases.

The story visits standard New England locations that are central to Lovecraft's work, and design choices support a creepy atmosphere. Presentation details, like the custom background and buttons to choose your next action, are a welcome departure from Twine's black-and-white defaults.

The investigation that leads the narrator to Innsmouth is much less exciting than time spent in the town itself. Early pages end with the equivalent of "click to continue" buttons, and every possible conversation option must be exhausted before doing something else.

(It made me feel less like a sharp-eyed detective and more like a bored student hearing lectures that repeated the same few ideas about Innsmouth and its sinister residents.)

However, it's evident that the author's skills were honed during the process of developing this work. My experience in the town of Innsmouth was briskly paced and full of enjoyably tense decisions. There are multiple ways to encounter plot points before fleeing to safety, and although bad decisions can end in disaster, the author allows players to undo their mistakes.

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