Ratings and Reviews by Rachel Helps

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View this member's reviews by tag: IF Comp 2021 IF Comp 2022 Mormon IF
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Fish & Dagger, by grave snail games
Dazzling visuals, fourth-wall-breaking story, August 3, 2023
by Rachel Helps (Utah)

This game deserves every bit of the "Best Use of Multimedia" award. I didn't know Twine games could look this... modern and cool. Animated gifs in the background, a secondary quest from your phone, sound effects, etc. That said, I don't think the story is as ground-breaking as the design. There were some hilarious moments, including being able to compose my own tragic backstory, which I really enjoyed. But the ending reveal was something I found frustratingly self-referential.

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Computerfriend, by Kit Riemer

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Cyberpunk therapy, August 3, 2023
by Rachel Helps (Utah)

I engaged with this game maybe overly earnestly, only to have (Spoiler - click to show)this computer take advantage of my trust by taking over the internet? I think I was expecting that the computer therapy would actually help my character. Instead, it was a vehicle for telling a story about a cyberpunk dystopia. And it was a very intriguing dystopia with tantalizing details about poisonous spores! The introductory "5 things you can see" was an amazing way to introduce the world. I enjoyed the game's textual design elements, although sometimes it was hard to read.

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Birdland, by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Birds only ancillary, August 3, 2023
by Rachel Helps (Utah)

I played this game because it has birds in it. There was not as much about birds as I was hoping there would be. The references to Bell's earlier detective work seemed oddly indulgent, and the portrayal of summer camp in general was surprisingly negative. The ending felt like it dragged on for too long. I was happily surprised to find the elements of the queer YA romance. The way the dream sequences interacted with "real" life was interesting, but I'm not sure if my choices actually mattered that much.

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First Draft of the Revolution, by Emily Short, Liza Daly and inkle

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A new way of interacting with fiction: editing, May 11, 2023
by Rachel Helps (Utah)

Very interesting method of showing character development through the way they edit their writing. I was a bit disappointed that your edits don't affect the ending (at least, according to Emily Short's write-up). But now I am questioning if this kind of causality is really necessary to create a meaningful interactive experience.

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Ether, by MathBrush

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A floating fancy, April 28, 2023
by Rachel Helps (Utah)
Related reviews: Mormon IF

You play as a cloudlike entity who gradually forms into a creature and gains powers as it shows mastery of the world it is creating. You are opposed by the world itself, because it doesn't want you to leave. "Evil" enters the world. There are some puzzles that take advantage of your ability to move up and down, but they are not the focus of the game. The mood is impressionistic. You are a god-nautilus, and you are exploring your capabilities and making sacrifices and enjoying being in the world.

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Absence of Law, by mathbrush

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Noob-friendly parser game that hits on science fiction themes of embodiment., April 28, 2023
by Rachel Helps (Utah)
Related reviews: Mormon IF

I don't normally play parser-based games, but I wanted to play all the interactive fiction I could find by Mormons. Mathbrush suggested this game as one that he wrote that deals with themes of resurrection, which are related to theological themes. Despite the serious topic, the tone is silly and light-hearted.

Since I'm not familiar with parser-based puzzles, I think I had more difficulty than the average player. I used the hint command a LOT. But I could tell that mathbrush added a lot of flexibility to the parser, which I appreciated. The part where the "answer" to the puzzle is to (Spoiler - click to show)maximize the power wattage to get someone else in the spaceship to turn it off was funny and unexpected.

Most of the puzzles dealt directly with the limitations of not having a body. The POV of being limited to what a computer can "see" from cameras and "do" from speakers and other electronics was an interesting limitation/advantage. The three "ideas" for resurrection were interesting too: (Spoiler - click to show)transferring consciousness, cloning it, or making a younger copy. The ending decision doesn't make that much of a difference to your success.

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Book of Mormon Adventures, by Mathbrush

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Simple choices, interesting perspectives on sacred text, April 27, 2023
by Rachel Helps (Utah)
Related reviews: Mormon IF

I am LDS and I've spent a lot of time with the Book of Mormon. I'm also a writer of interactive fiction and a researcher of Mormon literature. As an LDS person, I liked being able to see Book of Mormon events from another perspective, even a simple one meant for teaching children. I liked that "The New Star" pitted honoring one's parents against following Jesus. I liked that you could complain about eating raw meat in "Nephi's Journey." And I liked that you could be a Zoramite or a Nephite in "Moroni's Warriors."

As an IF writer, I didn't find the narrative design or my choices all that interesting. I did like that the styling of the pages reminded me of church manuals. All three games are branch-and-bottleneck with slight changes to the ending text based on your previous choices. As a more experienced player, I wanted more nuance in how the choices affected the narrative. But as an introduction to interactive fiction for children, I understand how it's helpful for all choices to end up in a basically okay ending.

As a Mormon literature scholar, these are a fascinating reprise of the "home literature" era in the early 1900s, where most stories were meant to show the positive consequences of following the commandments (or the inverse).

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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.

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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!

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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... ?

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