Reviews by RadioactiveCrow

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Vampire Ltd, by Alex Harby

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
This appears to be the author's first game and it feels like it, November 29, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 1 hour

According to IFDB as best as I can tell this is the author's first game, and it definitely feels like the game you'd write based off of half an idea just to see if you can make a functional game. That said, it is a pretty good first effort, lacking depth and in need of polish, but showing potential.

You play as a vampire businessman, bent on getting revenge on your chief rival, another vampire businessman. You have to infiltrate his headquarters and destroy the latest project he is working on to ruin his reputation and his company. The parser was pretty well implemented and I only had to fight it a little, but there were a few hiccups that threw me off. The game bills itself as a comedy, but I think the hardest I laughed was reading the introductory blurb. That line was genuinely funny, but much of the rest of the game is only barely grin-worthy. The puzzles are lacking too, feeling either nonsensical, or telegraphed (again, like this game is a test run). However, I did enjoy the climatic scene and thought the solution to that, once I figured it out, was very clever.

The map is mercifully small and depending on how much time you spend reading the extra content (i.e. all the possible dialogue choices) can easily be completed in under an hour. A good first effort and I hope to see more from the author in the future.

Equal-librium, by Ima

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short and buggy, but does interesting things with text effects/timing, November 28, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 15 minutes

This is a very short choice-based game where you play the CEO of an investment firm facing moral choices about the company's action as well as how you treat your employees. With a game this short I don't think it is worth it to talk about the plot that much as just about anything I say would be spoilers. I will say that it is fairly heavy-handed in its messaging regarding the choices you have to make and what the author thinks the right ones are. I tend to prefer games that weave the message in with interesting plot or mechanics. Also, this game had several typos and one obvious bug, so it could stand a bit more polishing.

I did enjoy the way the author made visual effects out of the text, with flickering or timed text, among other things. I felt that really added a sense of being under stress and/or scatter-brained to the story. I love seeing text and the IF creation engines stretched and used in interesting ways to help convey something that might be hard with plain text alone.

Passages, by Jared W Cooper

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting idea, but falls flat, November 25, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 15 minutes

This is ostensibly a choice-based game, but as best as I recall only had a single page that offered up so much as two links, and one of those only changed the present text a bit, rather than send you down a new path. Considering that this is supposed to be interactive fiction, I have to mark it down for having only a modicum of interactivity.

The story takes the form of a journal in a strange version of the world where wormholes sometimes open up in the basements of houses and can theoretically be fixed by plumbers. The wormholes, if unsealed, can cause issues with the flow of time, and so consequently the journal entries don't seem to follow upon each other linearly and sometimes something happening in one entry can be explained by something in a later entry. An interesting idea, but the story just didn't grab me.

It is mercifully short though, if you want to give it a quick spin.

The Place, by Ima

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Not sure why the author choose IF as the form for this story, November 20, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: Less than 15 minutes

I mean, I guess I kind of understand why. They wanted to make a point about not having any real agency in life by writing a piece of IF where the choices don't matter. However, in this piece of IF, there are hardly any choices to make any way so I'm not sure what the point was. Instead of having any branching choices (even fake ones) the only really choices in the game were fill-in-the-blank interruptions with questions like "What is your favorite color?" But even those answers were just used to fill in text on future sentences, not in any way to try to show you how your choices were subverted or impotent. Top it all off with many spelling and grammatical errors, and a story that goes nowhere, and this one just is not worth your time.

A Calling of Dogs, by Arabella Collins

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Didn't like it at first, then got into the suspense, but the ending disappointed, November 20, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: Less than 30 minutes

So I think I'm coming to learn something about myself: I don't like IF that starts in media res if, whether through flashbacks or clues in the writing, you are never given enough context to help anchor you to the story. I don't need long, detailed backstories, but I need something to help ground me. I don't feel like I got that in this piece. Eventually, the pure atmosphere of it did hook me a bit, but I feel it could have been much better.

You play a girl, kidnapped and imprisoned in a large dog cage. Your choices are largely how you decide to interact with your kidnapper as you attempt to plan an escape. This isn't my favorite kind of environment to be thrown in to, so the lack of any information about who these people were really left me confused and disconnected to the story. Eventually, just the sheer tension of the situations did grab me and made me eager to see what the next turn would be. However, the ending (at least the one I got) was (Spoiler - click to show)so abrupt and out-of-the-blue, with no denouement, that I felt cheated out of a satisfying resolution to all that tension. I needed more.

Your mileage may vary.

The Pinecone, by Joseph Pentangelo

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Another absurdist game from the author, November 19, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 15 minutes

This game is the author's second entry into IFComp 2020, along with an equally absurd game, "The Turnip". You play a student waiting for a bus when a herd of goats come walking down the street. From there things get really weird.

I played through it twice and got two of the four endings. This piece is better than "The Turnip" for sure, but still not great. Perhaps this style of writing just isn't my cup of tea, but I just didn't get it. Everything is weird without reason, which is fine if something interesting happens in the world. But nothing really does. The ending is kind of funny, but seems disjointed with some of the penultimate scenes along some of the possible paths.

I'd like to see more from this author, but I think it would have to be a longer piece with more interesting character development and interactions. Not just weirdness for its own sake.

Big Trouble in Little Dino Park, by Seth Paxton, Rachel Aubertin

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Keep your dinosaur manual handy, November 19, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 15 minutes

Bottom line on this game is I did not enjoy it and don't think it is worth even the 15 minutes it took for me to die twice. You play an employee of a dinosaur park (a Jurassic Park knock-off which is ubiquitous in the game world) on the day when another employee goes crazy and opens all the cages. You have to escape from the park somehow.

I just didn't care about any of it, not the characters, not the "puzzles", not the writing. If you die (no real way to tell that's what your choices will lead to) the game will let you restore from the point where it all went wrong. I died twice and restored, trying a new path, but before I even got to my third death (or perhaps victory) I got bored and quit playing.

Minor Arcana, by Jack Sanderson Thwaite

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Play as a deck of Tarot cards, November 13, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: Less than 30 minutes

Yes, that's right, in this game you are a deck of sentient Tarot cards, crafted millennia ago, lost, found and passed down through the ages. But rather than only being a tool in the hands of humans you are beginning to realize your power to shape events, not just foretell them.

This is a pretty short and straight-forward game. Make some character choices at the beginning, that may influence the story options available to you or maybe just be filler text for certain scenes. I played through the game twice and it seems more likely to be the latter. Then just pick your path through some fortune-tellings and ownership changes. Read about the fates of the humans you come in contact with. And that's about it. Not sure if there are different endings or the same ending showing up regardless of which path you choose.

My favorite thing about the game was being able to choose certain adjectives along the way. Instead of the normal blue text of a choice link, some words displayed in yellow and would change when clicked on to a different word that also fit that part of the sentence. As an example, you might click on "short" to change it to "tall" before making your next branching choice in the story. Not sure if what you picked affected anything later or not though.

The Cave, by Neil Aitken

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A game where you wander around aimlessly until you stop, October 31, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 15 minutes

So, this game makes more sense to me now than it did when I played it (more on that later). But I have to base this review and rating on my experience playing the game in the way it was presented to me.

In this game you wake up in a cave that may or may not be pitch dark. Some of the writing certainly makes it seem like you are just feeling your way around, but then you see things in the room with you so I'm not sure which to believe. Many room descriptions start with the line "You are swallowed in an even deeper darkness." Then many of those follow with the line "It is dark." Then again, many of those rooms continue with a description of some items in the room. I think a lot of the text was generated by a poorly tuned algorithm. The writing just felt really awkward at times.

Anyway, you just wander around trying different things, not really sure if you are making progress and then at some point you stumble across the exit. Then you are told what your final stats are (even though you never realized you were collecting or generating stats), along with a few achievements. Not very satisfying.

I highly recommend you read the review that deathbytroggles wrote. It contains info that the author put into the walkthrough, but that I strongly believe needs to be on the front page of the game. Apparently the author intended this game to be a unique way to generate stats for a character you are creating for D&D or a similar game. You play the game for 15 minutes, make whichever choices seem appropriate to you and are awarded stats based on your personality in the game. That's a genius idea! I love the idea of creating your D&D character not by rolling dice, but by making choices in this somewhat abstract environment. It seems the game is designed to make you wander around until you have used up all the points at your disposal for character creation and then generate an exit. Which is fine as long as everyone knows what they are getting into.

So as a character creation tool for D&D, two thumbs up. But as a piece of IF, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Quintessence, by Andrea M. Pawley

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Weird game about life, the universe, and a cosmic cat, October 30, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 30 minutes

This is a fairly short, choice-based work where you play a quantum particle in our universe, which is hidden away from the multiverse by the Forever Cat, forced to endure the collapse and recreation of spacetime over and over again when all you want is to rest.

Yes, this game is weird.

I was right on the edge of giving it two stars, but it was just interesting enough at the end to bump it up to three. Halfway through I was very frustrated as it seemed that the game was primarily about picking your way through the branches of the story to find the end. I suppose being forced to repeat the collapse and rebirth of the universe several times is kind of the point, but it got tedious after awhile. Once I finally figured out how to get to the semi-interesting part of the story, with meaningful choices that didn't trigger the collapse of the universe so often, it got better.

The writing is weird, but pretty solid. There isn't much of a story in the traditional sense, as much as ruminations on meaning, from quantum to multiverse in scale. Honestly, in the end what bumped it up from two to three stars for me was that after I finally achieved an ending (one of five possible endings), I had about 10 minutes left on the exercise bike, and rather than move on to something else immediately I was interested enough to go back and find another ending. Also, it helped that in the end (Spoiler - click to show)dogs were the heroes.

For those who want to find the path to the interesting part of the story, here it is: (Spoiler - click to show)This has happened to me before. - Our gravity ruptures. - Our expansion is steady. - Too far from our gravity, our awareness fractures. - This has happened to me before. - I wonder if being alone has any purpose. - I'm captured by a rogue planet. ...

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