Reviews by Sobol

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Practical Astrology, by Admiral Jota

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
After wrestling with Suspended, try this, December 7, 2020
by Sobol (Russia)

A small, silly parody of Suspended where you turn dials and observe, via monitors, how your settings affect the planet.

I think Admiral Jota's SpeedIF output is worth serious scrutiny for those who want to learn making very short but entertaining parser games. Being so brief and written under strict time constraints, his SpeedIFs don't offer deep stories, complex game worlds or clever puzzles; and yet they are fun to interact with.

A Player's Heart, by Melissa Scott

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Сhemises, curlicues and craquelins, August 10, 2020
by Sobol (Russia)

A series of scenes from the life of an opera performer (or a backstager, if you choose so) in an alternate reality version of the XIX century where doing opera is traditionally a female occupation - like in Shakespeare's time acting was a male-only profession.

I didn't find the overarching story about your theater's relations with the authorities really exciting, but the writing, the atmosphere and the richness of detail were good; the city of Tristendesande felt alive and interesting.

On the whole, the game was rather relaxing. There are some things at stake for the PC - your performances may prove more or less successful, the Opera may even be closed down - but you mainly go around eating delicious and well-described food, wearing elegant and well-described clothes, riding in carriages, singing in aristocratic salons, talking with mostly pleasant characters (there are no "villains" here, although there are conflicts of interests), casually seducing people and generally having a good time.

Sixth Grade Detective, by Laura Hughes

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Cute and cozy, June 14, 2020
by Sobol (Russia)

If you liked young detective games by Brendan Patrick Hennessy and Felicity Drake, you should probably also try Sixth Grade Detective. It's in the same genre, but with younger characters: the children are around 11 years old, and reading about their fluffy crushes is as sweet as watching Chico and Roberta dance. The mysteries you investigate are accordingly tamer - like finding a missing book in the second episode.

The characters are likeable and have some curious hidden depths; I was particularly surprised by Kyle, the leader of the bullies. And the fifth "case" was really heart-warming.

States of Awareness, by Kerry Taylor

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
One of the highlights of the festival, April 20, 2020
by Sobol (Russia)

A concise, effective story with a couple of twists and interesting narrative mechanics akin to Common Ground.

It wouldn't work as static fiction. The player has to make choices without having full information and not knowing what to expect next - this experience is important in presenting the character of Nora Curtis. The plot structure doesn't just serve to tell a punchy zombie apocalypse tale; States of Awareness is also about personal relationships, and our current pandemic, and other things.

On my first playthrough, I got the most positive ending - but didn't realize it was the best for the characters until I replayed the game.

Behold!, by Admiral Jota

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A Short Game From 2001, November 13, 2019
by Sobol (Russia)

Those planning to participate in the recently announced Emily Short Anniversary Contest might be interested in this 2001 mini-tribute - a SpeedIF by Admiral Jota. Emily is the villain of the game, disrupting the XYZZY Awards ceremony. There's a reference to Metamorphoses and some other in-jokes.

In reality, the next ceremony went without incidents (you can read the transcript here); Emily won the Best NPCs XYZZY for her Pytho's Mask.

Grimnoir, by ProP

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Urban fantasy done right, October 29, 2018
by Sobol (Russia)

I had a dream based on Grimnoir after playing it. Don't really know what made this game so engaging; I guess it's just an interesting story, deliberately filled with recognizable clichés but humane and absorbing. It would make a good TV series.

After exploring and interviewing witnesses, at the end of each chapter you are faced with a diagnostic puzzle (in the vein of When in Rome). These puzzles make you read the previous text carefully, searching for clues, and not just skim through the links - which, of course, adds to the experience and makes the game world more vivid in your imagination. The bestiary guidebook you are given is well-researched and, in addition to unavoidable vampires and basilisks, features some rather unusual monsters; I was pleased to see it starting with Alkonost, a lesser-known creature from Russian folklore.

They Will Not Return, by John Ayliff

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A PC named PC, October 14, 2018
by Sobol (Russia)

The owners of the house are gone; they will not return. But the housekeeping robot still continues to clean dust, make food for them, trim their lawn... Sounds familiar? Yes, the melancholic first part of the game is basically Ray Bradbury's There Will Come Soft Rains. But then the author takes the premise in a new direction.

They Will Not Return is a short science fiction story in the classical spirit: you should play it if you like Bradbury and Asimov. It's the third game by John Ayliff that features an AI protagonist; and his AIs are wonderful - not too humanlike, not too machinelike, touching and sympathetic. (When playing Seedship, I cared about the player character as much as about the success of its mission.)

The Volunteer Firefighter, by Stefanie Handshaw

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Good, August 5, 2018
by Sobol (Russia)

On the first playthrough, I was having fun and experimenting and enacting a fireman fantasy. Then I died. Then I thought about the game for a while, replayed it and adjusted my rating up a star.

The Volunteer Firefighter is probably the most realistic ChoiceScript game I've played. It's set in our present world; the events and characters described are much more mundane than, say, in SLAMMED!; there's very little of extraordinary, over-the-top; no striking plot twists, no clever narrative tricks; you don't even have a chance to do many "heroic" deeds. It's a simple and honest game and it has some simple truths to remind you of.

The Road to Canterbury, by Kate Heartfield

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Educational, April 28, 2018
by Sobol (Russia)

I've been waiting for this game for a while. Since the promotional text specifically mentioned the Miller and the Wife of Bath, two of the most larger-than-life Chaucerian characters, I expected The Road to Canterbury to be a light-hearted merry romp through the comical version of Middle Age England - perhaps in the general spirit of Tally Ho and A Midsummer Night's Choice by Kreg Segall (based on Wodehouse and Shakespeare, respectively; Kreg Segall is also one of the beta-testers for The Road to Canterbury).

As it turns out, the game is rather serious, and political, and often reads as an encyclopedia of medieval life and thought. Your character stats, for example, are traditional medieval virtues and the four Hippocratic humors. It isn't particularly light-hearted: some important things are at stake. And while there are some gently amusing moments, the main attraction here are extraordinary many details for those interested in the life and times of Geoffrey Chaucer. Quotes from Virgil, Boethius, etc.; scattered references to the original Canterbury Tales and other Chaucer's works (the Prioress' dog, the name "Blanche", the astrolabe, Saint Christopher's medal, etc.); excursions into the English religious history - and so on.

The story is good and a bit slow-paced, as it fits the source material. The tales pilgrims tell each other are not those from the original book, but condensed versions of other medieval tales (a lay by Marie de France, for instance). Likewise, the characters are new. The Miller, for one, is completely redone and has little in common with Chaucer's Robin; Alyson of Bath, though, is still recognizably Alyson of Bath (and she's romanceable, too!). The most alive of the cast, for me, were two historical figures - Chaucer himself and Philippa.

The Dryad's Riddle, by Avery Moore

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Nice; could use a bit of polish, April 7, 2018
by Sobol (Russia)

The most unusual ChoiceScript game I've seen so far: there are no RPG elements and stat-balancing at all, only puzzles to solve.

A child gets transported into a fantasy land and has to answer a series of riddles to return home. The riddles are mostly classical ones and can serve as an introduction to some common puzzle types and themes; I especially liked the riddle about goldfishes - a homage to Fibonacci's Rabbits. (Several puzzles can also potentially give children an introduction to the joys of brute-forcing.) The characters are cute and provide some entertainment between riddles.

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