Reviews by RadioactiveCrow

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A Blank Page, by Edu Sánchez

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Decent short piece about overcoming writer's block, April 3, 2021
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)

This is a Twine piece in which you play a writer, or at least someone who aspires to be such, trying to just get something on that damn page to start your novel. I think anyone who has encountered such a problem will recognize many of the excuses to avoid writing and the honest attempts to jump-start your creativity.

The game loops a little bit more in the beginning than I would prefer (I was beginning to wonder if the game had an end or if it stayed in the loop forever to make a point), but slowly progress is made and new choices become available.

A decent effort, if nothing too special. A fun, short piece, worth a few minutes of your time.

Baggage, by Katherine Farmar

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Couldn't figure it out, April 3, 2021
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)

This game is very abstract, with concepts implemented as objects and I suspect able to be used in that way if the conditions are right. I could not figure out how to do so though, and after puzzling with it for awhile and asking the game for help (only to be told I'd created a game condition without an associated hint), I gave up. There wasn't anything about the game up to that point that made me care enough to fight harder to get a resolution/ending.

This is a game I feel like would have been better in Twine or a similar system. Instead of me getting frustrated to the point of giving up, trying to make the parser do what the author wanted me to do, I could have been guided gently down the author's intended path.

An Amical Bet, by Eve Cabanié

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
An author's first game, April 3, 2021
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)

This game felt like the author was just learning Quest and wanted to create a whole (though very small) world to test that she knew the ins and outs of the system. Sadly, that's all this is, a proof of concept, a prototype, a maiden voyage.

There isn't much to this game other than clicking (since it was programmed in Quest) the hyperlinks to navigate around the world and find the various objects you are supposed to find, all very obvious and none hidden behind puzzles. And there really isn't any story to it either.

I did really enjoy the implementation of the map creation system. As I moved around the game drew the map for me, which was a great help in orienting me in the world. However, when I went back down stairs and the ground floor map started to be written on top of the upper floor map I was less thrilled. That was unnecessarily confusing.

No bugs, but also not much fun.

Hunt the Wumpus, by Gregory Yob, Magnus Olsson, and David Ahl

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Fun little logic puzzle, March 18, 2021
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)

First of all, my thanks to Magnus Olsson for the z-code port of this game. So much easier to load up Filfre to play this rather than trying to get an ancient executable to work or what not.

I had never played this game until today, but had read about it many times. For the time in which it was created I'm sure it was a fun little game. Even in the modern era I enjoyed playing it for a bit and I'm sure I will introduce it to my kids one day as both a logic problem and computer history lesson. That said, it is just a puzzle/mapping game, no real story to it.

I recommend everyone play it for an hour or so to appreciate where IF started and where it is today. Still fun, if only for a bit.

The Feather Grange Job, by David Fletcher

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short series of puzzles that I didn't finish, March 18, 2021
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)

As best as I gathered, in this story you play a series of birds, I believe all pets, stealing diamonds from your owner.

The game provides very little backstory or direction and just have to flounder around for awhile trying to figure it out. You play though a number of scenes, embodying a different bird with a specific task of the heist to carry out in each. Each scene has a single puzzle. I finished the first few, but gave up on the third (or fourth?). All the puzzles seemed very guess-the-verb with few hints from the game to clue you in to the correct solution.

Didn't find much about this game to like, except the ostrich character. The stark change from the prior few scenes did have me giggling.

Your mileage may vary.

Beagle 2, by Larry Horsfield

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Not worth your time, March 18, 2021
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)

This appears to be a one-room game with a single guess-the-verb puzzle. No backstory, characterization, or reason to care about what is going on. Feels like a test game for someone trying to learn a new IF coding language. It did implement an impressive number of verbs for such a small game though.

Stuff of Legend, by Lance Campbell

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Funny game with clever puzzles and only a few frustrations, December 4, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 1-2 hours

This is a parser-based game featuring several puzzles, but also some funny scenes and dialogue. You play as Ichabod Stuff, the recently fired village-idiot of Swineford, headed back to the farm where you rent a barn stall, to figure out your next career move. You have to talk to the family you live with, and their animals, get some minor "quests" to start your career as a knight, and then complete them. The game features the typical parser interface, but with a menu-based dialogue system, which I appreciated.

The game is relatively short and features a fairly small map. Early on, before I was sure just how big the map was I did feel the need, for the first time in years, to draw my own map. This was primarily because the game used ordinal directions, which I have trouble keeping straight in my head. There wasn't really a pressing need for it and if the map had been rearranged to only use cardinal directions I think it would have made the game a little better.

I think the game starts really strong, particularly in its non-puzzle parts. The first descriptions you encounter, and especially the first dialogue you have with the NPCs, can be laugh-out-loud funny. I also appreciated that early in the game as you are going through the typical examine everything routine, that the game will just go ahead and make you take the objects that will be useful later, while not letting you get anything that won't be useful. The puzzles in this game were plenty fun and challenging (more on that later) without red herrings, so I appreciate that the author didn't include any.

Before I go into what I didn't like about the puzzles, let me talk about the stuff that I really did like. The animals. Any puzzle involving direct interaction with an animal was delightful. Some of them were (Spoiler - click to show)guess-the-verb puzzles, but in the best way possible, with plenty of clues given to figure them out without too much hand holding. Any time I feel impressed with myself for figuring out a non-standard puzzle without too much frustration I enjoy it very much, and in those situations the credit really goes to the author for excellent puzzle design. I also really liked how those puzzles figured into the story arc and ending of the game, they were integrated into the whole, not just one-off puzzles. Finally, the game has a really good hint system accessible via the help menu, it is split into different sections so you don't get hints you don't want, and doled out Invisiclues-style, so if you just need a nudge you can get just that.

Regarding what I didn't like about the game: (Spoiler - click to show)the nest puzzle. Two aspects of it frustrated me greatly. The first was getting straw. Annabelle makes it very clear that you need straw and you only see it mentioned in one place, in your stall. But when you try to "get straw" or reference it in any way the games tells you that you can't see that here. I banged my head against this one for awhile. The description of your mattress and the "gaping hole" made me think the straw was spilling out, but I had to read the clues to understand that you have to "examine hole" in order to get the straw. So this was an example of an object clearly listed in the text that wasn't implemented in a way I was expecting. On the flip side, another aspect of this puzzle, the mud, was something that was implemented the way I expected, but wasn't clearly described in a way I was expecting. You can't find a mention of it in that room's description, nor when you "examine stream". Of course it is obvious that a stream is the place you would find mud, but in the midst of my frustration regarding the straw, I was wondering if the stall and stream were red herrings and I should be looking elsewhere for my straw and mud. After reading the hints and just typing in blindly "get mud" I was able to complete the puzzle. Later I realized that if you "examine bank" the mud is mentioned. I feel like here the mud should probably be in the room description, but at the very least examining either the stream or the bank should mention mud (or they could just be implemented as the same object). One other small problem with a puzzle I had, but got past quickly, was finding the cat after you get it out of the tree. After you fall from the tree there is no indication which way the cat went, but given the small map only two directions make sense. However, when you head NW to the clearing, the game seems to indicate that you hear the cat from that direction before you reach the location. It took me a second to realize I had to go NW again from the clearing. Unlisted exit puzzles are tricky, I think this could have easily been avoided by 1) put the text indicating that you heard the cat in the room description after you reach the clearing rather than on the way there and 2) making the direction you have to take out of the clearing not the same direction that you took to get to the clearing, as that makes it more confusing. The issues with these puzzles and the frustration they caused is pretty much the only reason I gave this game three stars. If they are fixed in a post-IFComp release I will happily bump my rating up to four stars.

Overall, a fun game with some clever puzzles that is well worth your time.

Lore Distance Relationship, by Naomi "Bez" Norbez

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Tore my heart in two and then put it back together, December 3, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 1 hour

In this choice-based work you play as a kid who, in order to escape a bad situation at home, goes to a Neopets-like website called Ruffians and makes a friend named BusyAsABee. The game plays out over the course of 11 chapters and 11 years (you start as an eight-year-old and get one year older each chapter). The game primarily plays out through the chat function on the Ruffians website, though in the interludes there is some conversation with your sister (including voice-overs). Over the years you have the choice of how to develop your friendship (or romance) with Bee and how much to reveal about your troubled home life.

The middle part of this game is rough, with the player-character experiencing (Spoiler - click to show)maternal abuse and ridicule at school. Some of the scenes and conversations are heart-breaking. But thankfully, in the end there is still hope and things are looking up. Depending on how warm you've been in your conversations with Bee, the ending scenes can be beautiful in how much trust and love has grown between the two of you. I played through the game twice to try some of the other options. It is possible to get an aborted game if you don't want to open up to Bee at all in the beginning, and some of the best stuff is cut if you are more aloof towards the end. So in this game, as in life, it seems best to open yourself up to those that love you to get the best experience.

I thought this game did many things well, including a realistic portrayal of a now decades-old messaging system, and the speech patterns, cadence and abbreviations of kids chatting with each other online from elementary school age through college. The images of the Ruffians website were also great to help set the mood. I also thought the voice acting was very strong and really added something to the game. I loved the character of Rachel and her relationship with the player character. Finally, I had a huge smile break out across my face when the game ended with some music, a la the credits scene in a movie. It was a great song for the occasion and I let it play to the end.

The few things that I didn't like were the parts of the game where the audio looped until a part of a scene finished. Purposefully, the audio is intrusive to match what is happening in the scene. But the more it repeated the harder it became to focus on the text. I'd recommend the audio fading out or stopping after 2-3 loops. Also, sometimes the text and graphics were so big that I had to scroll to find the right place to click to continue the story, and I think that could be polished a bit to make it more compact.

Well worth your time!

The Impossible Bottle, by Linus Åkesson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A most unique puzzle design and a heart-warming ending, December 1, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 1-2 hours

This game is a parser-based puzzlefest and it has one of the most clever and unique mechanics I've seen in a game. You play as a six-year-old girl, trying to help her father get ready for dinner, while her mom is on the phone and her brother is hiding in his bedroom. At the beginning it seems like a normal (even somewhat boring) situation, with you doing a couple fetch quests in what is an extremely normal environment. But early on you figure out that all is not what it seems and your options are a lot more open than you realize. To say much more would be be spoiling it, so the rest of my review will be hidden behind spoiler tags below. But I will say this, even as the environment and puzzles aren't what they seem at first, neither is the story. The author's ending to the game really ties everything together nicely and brings some warmth to it. It is a fun story/game, especially for this time in the world.

Mid-Game: (Spoiler - click to show)The mechanic of being able to change things in the dollhouse and see them change in the normal house is great and I'm very curious what kind of coding it took to implement that. I did not figure that mechanic out by myself, but rather asked for a hint for another puzzle and got a hint that clued me in to being able to not just rearrange things in the house via the dollhouse, but to filter things through the dollhouse. I think it is a fair puzzle though, it is obvious looking at the dollhouse that it is a recreation of the actual house so I think it is only a matter of time and experimenting before you realize you can grow things.

As delightful of a turn as it was to have a dinosaur suddenly appear in the house (I loved the dialogue between father and daughter when that occurred), I wasn't as big a fan of the stegosaurus and hamster puzzles. Those steps didn't really follow upon one another and I had to rely heavily on the walkthrough. Also, for me the stegosaurus appeared before I'd gotten the brother out of his room, so I had to figure that puzzle out while this crushing sense of urgency to deal with the dinosaur is hanging over my head and it threw me off.

Late-Game: (Spoiler - click to show)So I figured out that you could take a page out of Inception and walk south from the dining room and into a much larger version of your room by accident. I was trying to navigate quickly and accidently typed south when I meant north. The next time I was in the dining room the description showing that you could go south was there and I wondered if I just missed it earlier. But the walkthrough talks about an exit that isn't listed (this must be the one time the instructions say you will have to type something in, rather than point and click). That said, if I hadn't discovered it on accident I think I would have become extremely frustrated by my inability to make progress shortly thereafter. And I think the problem is compounded by the point-and-click interface the author implemented (which I loved) that clearly let you know what was possible in most circumstances so that you wouldn't really consider stepping out of the house in that way. Though, now I see that perhaps that might have been the author's intention, to get you to think outside of the bottle, so to speak. Still, I think a better solution would be to have that exit appear when you'd progressed to a certain point in the game.

I thought adding this extra layer to the puzzles, being able to filter yourself through the dollhouse in addition to objects, was genius and was a lot of fun to use to solve the last puzzles, which I thought were clever and fair. The one thing I didn't like however, was climbing out of the house and down the ladder and realizing I'd messed something up and having to navigate my way all the way back to my room in the normal house to fix it.

Ending: (Spoiler - click to show)When it finally dawned on me that there was no one coming over to dinner a big grin spread across my face. I had noted the date on the calendar earlier and thought about the implications of having another family over to dinner during a pandemic, but then put them out of my head because games don't have to match reality. I wonder when the author conceived this game, if it was since the pandemic struck then that is a truly amazing amount of work to put in to a game of this complexity in about six months or less. The ending scenes and speeches were great and just what I needed to hear at the end of this year. Bravo!

Tavern Crawler, by Josh Labelle

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
The most RPG like text adventure I've had the pleasure to play, November 30, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 1-2 hours

This game has the feel and structure of a parser game, but in an extremely user-friendly choice-based, hyperlink format. A marvelous fusion between the two styles and something I hope to see more of in the future.

In this game you play as a member of a three-person team of mercenaries, given a quest to slay a dragon in exchange for more money than you know what to do with. As the game progresses you have to manage a few different aspects of the game including your personal stats, your loot and your relationship with your companions. Along the way to your ultimate goal, you will have the opportunity to explore the town you find yourself in, talk to many different people and even take on side quests to help boost your stats or acquire some loot.

The interface for this game is incredibly smooth and polished. The game gives you very clear directions, both on the instructions screen and weaved in to the text throughout. If I understand correctly this game was written in Twine and I think it really showcases just what Twine is capable of (and it is capable of a lot more than I thought before playing this game). Even though every choice you make might not have a huge impact on the game they all have a subtle impact that can be seen and appreciated in meaningful ways. You really do feel like you are living the story and that you have much more agency then is actually possible in a choice-based game. It really does feel like an old-school RPG or a D&D session, in the best way possible. There are a plethora of choices, the characters feel well-developed and the atmosphere is great.

My only complaint is that it seemed some of the tasks you can attempt to complete have very high stat thresholds for success. While all the major or necessary tasks seemed to have a reasonable bars to get over, some I felt like I would truly have to grind through the story, finding all the hidden ways that I could increase my stats, to be able to succeed at them. That was slightly disappointing. Also, I think there was at least one time that a certain choice was locked to me because I didn't have a certain relationship status with one of my companions, but looking at my stats page I did have that relationship. It might be a minor bug. Neither of these issues really got in the way of my enjoyment of the piece though.

Finally, I thought the epilogue was great. The author did a great job of making all those little side quests mean something in the end and I really appreciated that.

Well worth your time.

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