Reviews by Rachel Helps

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CHASE THE SUN, by Frankie Kavakich

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Texture engine drives a roadtrip apocalypse story, November 6, 2022
by Rachel Helps (Utah)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

A woman is driving away from her wedding and the end of the world. I played through twice and got two very different endings. They were so different, in fact, that I am not sure what the author was trying to get me to think about with this game.

The main thing that stood out to me was the Texture game engine, which I had never seen before. It requires the player to click and drag a command to highlighted text, executing the command when the player releases the text. When the command is hovering over the highlighted text, it shows another small text box that explains what will happen (for example, asking about a certain topic will give you a small text of what the player character will actually say). I played on my tablet, and sometimes it was difficult to see that little extra text box, but it still worked pretty well. At first, I didn't realize that "examine" would bring me back to the game without passing time, and I missed examining the objects in my car in my first playthrough. I liked the Texture format. It gave the game more of an adventure game feel.

Back to the game's narrative. You're driving a car and will run out of gas unless you find more. (Spoiler - click to show)I made friends with a cute redhead and ran from the end of the world a little longer with her. I also did a playthrough where I stayed in my car and let the end of the world come to me! I didn't get very emotionally involved in the game, but it was very short.


U.S. Route 160, by Sangita V Nuli

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Surreal narrative about a woman reflecting on three major figures in her life, November 6, 2022
by Rachel Helps (Utah)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

You play as a woman running not only from her wedding, but also her own identity and upbringing. I played through it three times, and I had the experience of seeing a symbol in my second playthrough that I understood because of the ending I saw in my first playthrough (as someone interested in literary studies, that kind of typology fascinates me). I enjoyed the writing, which focused on the little details that give us a good mental image of a scene and gradually introduce the character's personality.

There is a frequent theme of the player character's surroundings reminding her of her past and triggering flashbacks, which help you to create a fuller picture of her mental state. The game is fairly short, but worth replaying. I think I got (all?) three endings. Each ending focused on a different key person from her past: (Spoiler - click to show)her lover, her fiancÚ, and her mother. I highly recommend playing all three endings!


The Lottery Ticket, by Anonymous
Emerging tech; not enough game to show us its full capabilities, November 6, 2022
by Rachel Helps (Utah)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

Determining if a word is positive or negative from a blank input is a much more difficult task, computing-wise, than having the player select one of two options. However, as a player, I didn't feel that blank input was any more fun than choosing between two options (especially since the result, to my knowledge, is positive or negative). I think the technology behind the game is interesting, but it needs a better-designed game to show its possibilities. Maybe the engine's mastermind could collaborate with a writer... ?


The Absence of Miriam Lane, by Abigail Corfman

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Giving self to a selfless woman, November 5, 2022
by Rachel Helps (Utah)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

I love the concept of this game--that a woman has lost her own identity in selfless service. The idea that we should erase our personalities and be a "window to God's love" is one that I strongly disagree with. I'm a Mormon woman and I identified with Miriam's struggle to maintain an identity (although, for me, this is a struggle I feel in the opposite direction, maybe being too much of an individual because I fear losing my identity). This is exactly the kind of concept that I wish more videogames would address! So thank you.

The mood/aesthetic in this game is amazing. The illustrative location art was derived from photos put through filters--and they look great. The music gives a great spooky mood too. I was amazed that this was all done in Twine. I've written some Twine games and clearly still have a lot to learn about the possibilities of this engine.

To get through the first part, I ended up spamming all the options in every room until I found the right things. I could figure out what to give Miriam pretty well, but I wish I had saved my game before trying some things out. I didn't remember anyone's name. I rarely do, even when I'm reading a novel. Sorry Miriam! HOWEVER I really liked the idea of bringing her back to life by caring about the details of her life and noticing what she really liked and how she related to other people in her life. A+ concept, but execution fell a little short for me, an impatient player.


Esther's, by Brad Buchanan and Alleson Buchanan

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A cute interactive storybook, October 1, 2022
by Rachel Helps (Utah)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

In this short game, you play as a mouse, with another mouse friend, who tries to communicate their brunch order to a human. There are a few minor choices that make a difference to the narrative, but eventually they all end in a similar way. I didn't rate the game because I think that I am not the intended audience. I liked the quality of the images, and that they conveyed information that was helpful to understanding the narrative. I didn't like that my choices didn't matter that much. However, I can imagine my daughter really enjoying this game.


The Archivist and the Revolution, by Autumn Chen

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Survive as an archivist in a hostile future world, October 1, 2022
by Rachel Helps (Utah)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2022

I loved the concept of this game, where you decode archival information from bacteria and decide whether or not to keep the information. It has a simulation element where you need to find food, medicine, and rent money. I wanted the game to focus more on ethical archiving practices, but it seemed more practical from a simulation standpoint to ask my friends for help. The game did address (Spoiler - click to show)the negative mental health effects of persecution on trans people very effectively. There were some similarities to pandemic stresses as well.

I liked that the game gave me many choices in interacting with my friends--I could ignore them, I could interact with them, and I could choose to have romantic interactions with them. At the same time, I felt a disconnect between the player character's (PC's) interactions and my own feelings. My interactions with were reduced to this bare-bones of asking them for money or helping them out, without me really growing to like the characters like the PC had at some point. In a short game like this, there isn't a lot of time for relationship-building, so maybe the caregiving tasks the PC can do can stand in for that.


Ma Tiger's Terrible Trip, by Travis Moy

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A two-player Twine game that includes a "conversation" between players, May 8, 2022
by Rachel Helps (Utah)

This game has an interesting concept: two people play as grown siblings. Some of the text displayed for the first person depends on the choices of the second person, and vice versa. As a writer of Twine games, this design intrigues me, but it also seems extremely complicated. There is a second, more action-heavy part of the game where both people are making decisions simultaneously! I am not sure how much the decisions of each person interact with each other, but the effect is having a feeling of cooperation.

As a demonstration of this experimental form, the game was a success. Story-wise, I wanted more development to have the ending be more meaningful.


Universal Hologram, by Kit Riemer

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Amazing mood, okay plot, December 7, 2021
by Rachel Helps (Utah)

The AI-constructed images and strange music really transported me to an alien, AI-populated (?) world. It made the story feel uncanny. The story itself was fairly thin, about an AI who disconnects their matrix-style universe from the network of other universes (for some reason?). My favorite part was going to the museum of plaques and looking at the products of our time through the eyes of a far-future consciousness.


Goat Game, by Kathryn Li

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Beautiful game about workplace problems, November 11, 2021
by Rachel Helps (Utah)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2021

This game is gorgeous, with slightly-animated illustrations for various sections of the story. I chuckled when I scrolled down to read about going down in an elevator and the elevator illustration scrolled up into the side of the screen. The UI is really nice too.

I have a daughter with a disabling genetic defect, so I teared up a little when I heard about how the protagonist of this story wanted to help their niece who has a genetic defect. I would have liked to explore more about the niece's disability and the medical researcher's aloofness to it (this was hinted at).

There are 15 endings based on your decisions. The decisions you make are things like who you decided to talk to and whether or not you ate alone most of the time at work. Finding the "best" ending (if one exists) was not intuitive at all. I chose all the "best" worker attributes and got one ending and chose a mixture and got a different one. I understand the idea, but I couldn't figure it out intuitively. I ended up reading the endings from the game's HTML files. I liked how nuanced they were, but I didn't have the patience to work out how to get them all in the individual game.


Weird Grief, by Naomi Norbez

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting window into another world, November 9, 2021
by Rachel Helps (Utah)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2021

This game gave me an interesting a different perspective on what it would be like to be grieving a romantic partner with someone who was also that person's romantic partner. Additionally, the player character and her friends are part of the furry community. This is ignorance on my part, but I didn't realize that fur suits could bring a level of psychological comfort to the people who wear them. I guess I thought it was more like role-playing. I liked learning about polyamorous furries through this game.

The writing dragged a little in describing endless cooking and going out for meals. I would have liked some choices about what to make or how I felt when partner slept in so long that my pumpkin pancakes went cold. There were some choices about whether or not to have sex and how to have it, and those choices did affect the narration, but I'm not sure if they affected the ending.



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