Reviews by BitterlyIndifferent

IF Comp 2020

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1-3 of 3


Stoned Ape Hypothesis, by James Heaton

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Make Yourself a Better Caveman, December 1, 2020

This entry has a friendly gauntlet structure where you solve puzzles to unlock parts of the story, beating computer opponents in a series of challenges before you arrive at the ending.

As a game, it works: your victories earn a series of power-ups, and your final reward is full integration with society.

As a story, I found it difficult to engage with this entry. It felt like the triangle of identities got in the way of allowing me to understand the character's motivation.

Curiosity drove me to move from location to location and uncover new options, but there was no clear reason for the character. I never got a sense that food, water, or shelter were matters of survival ó they just felt like background details.

The association with the Stoned Ape theory introduced a disconnect between the scope of this game, which covers a few days (?) in the life of a single organism, and the scope of the evolutionary theory, which plays out across generations.

Developmentally, I couldn't tell whether this character was starting from farther back than everyone else, making it the "rite of passage" story of journey that each member of the tribe must compete, or whether this character was a prehistoric Prometheus bringing enlightenment to his tribe.

From a mechanical perspective, the challenges were well developed. You make strategic choices based on the actions of your opponent, and it's possible to fail. This entry was well implemented; I never felt stuck, and I found my way through to the end without any major confusion.

I respect the work that went into this, and it's a solid effort.


The Turnip, by Joseph Pentangelo

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Something Leafy This Way Comes, December 1, 2020

I appreciate the effort put into this entry's presentation ó the technical choices made to select fonts and colors, but also the information that is shared and withheld.

It's the terse story of an ominous turnip discovery: you play as someone with a job digging holes in a field, and the story is delivered in a fitting tone. The story advances one link at a time, but you can take detours to examine different things along the way.

Those detours make The Turnip stand out. Something is not quite right even before the turnip appears, and the narrator's world-weary tone conceals oddities that would only be present in a world much different from our own. When you click to examine something closer, you might get the bland description of something dismissed as commonplace, or it could be the wild perspective of someone seeing the world as a swirling, colorful omelet.

I enjoyed this storyís skill and restraint. It didnít get bogged down with excess description, and it didnít trip over itself trying to deliver an in-depth examination of a world that is Not Like Our Own. A measured amount alienating details did a nice job of keeping me off balance while methodically trudging along an assigned path.


What the Bus?, by E. Joyce

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
This is totally taking place in Boston, December 1, 2020

This entry is quick and dreamlike for good reason: it's a transit nightmare. In your rush to arrive at work on time, you only see a brief slice of content before arriving at one of many endings. Multiple playthroughs uncover a much larger range of outcomes.

What the Bus? pulled off a clever trick with my expectations, although discussing it ventures into spoiler territory: (Spoiler - click to show)the word "Nightmare" is not hyperbole. The author has created an experience where you start off sleepwalking through your daily commute before realizing that you're fully asleep and not walking at all.

The tediously familiar routine of commuting was presented so effectively that the various detours, delays, and redirections steered me to some very weird places before I realized what was happening. I like how it played with the assumptions embedded in city commutes ó of course you take everything for granted, you've done it a million times before.

There's a back button at the bottom of every passage that seemed confusing and unhelpful on my first playthrough. Then I realized that it was an essential mercy to let me back out of paths leading to endings I'd already seen. Background colors that change to show the different subway lines was another nice detail.

I appreciated this entry's use of procedurally generated text. You will see a lot of familiar passages, retracing your steps to arrive at new endings, but if you pay attention you'll see (Spoiler - click to show)mimes, former schoolteachers, zombies, and other dreamworld inhabitants. I checked my GPS app every time the option came up, because I knew the results would be entertaining.

I never thought I'd say this about public transit: "That was fun. Let's do it again!"



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