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1-4 of 4

Flattened London, by Carter Gwertzman

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Maybe come back to this game later, the IFComp 2020 version seems buggy, October 28, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 2-3 hours

So I think this game had a couple things going against it for me. Primarily, I think the game is still very much not polished. Playing through it there were objects that I feel should have been implemented that weren't, as well as a lot of objects with very similar names so I had trouble getting the game to do what I wanted it to do (like reading this piece of paper instead of that one). Even the walkthrough provided with the IFComp 2020 version I think had an error in it: (Spoiler - click to show)You are supposed to attach a sharp rock (flint) to a device you get to turn it into a lighter, but I never found sharp rock and I can't see the walkthrough telling me where it is either. If any other players out there found it or if I missed it in the walkthrough let me know so I can correct this.

Also, and this might be a bigger deal than I realize, while I've played Fallen London a little I never really got into it the way others did, so it is possible parts of this game are lost on me.

I think this game has a lot of potential, having it play out in two dimensions is a neat idea and that could lead to some clever mechanics, and the atmosphere is interesting. It just needs a little more work.

The Eleusinian Miseries, by Mike Russo

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
One of the funniest parser games I've played, October 15, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 2-3 hours

"The Eleusinian Miseries" is a puzzle-filled parser-based game set during the annual Eleusinian Mysteries, the initiation rites into the cult of Demeter and Persephone. Most of that last sentence I had to google to make sure I was getting it right, I know very little about Ancient Greek cultural history, and if you are like me then don't let that deter you. Just think of it all as taking place during your final initiation into a fraternity that is very dedicated to authenticity. You play one of the current pledges with only a few tasks left to complete before you can be fully accepted into the group.

The game is a series of puzzles incorporated into a small map played out over several acts. If you aren't familiar with Greek terminology then keep a dictionary handy to look up some words. The game does a pretty good job of kind of cluing you in on what some objects are in modern English, but I still had to look up several and knowing the function of many of the objects is key to solving some of the puzzles. For the most part the puzzles are fun and fair. With a limited number of locations and objects you can usually brute force your way to a lot of the solutions. Most of them just needed a bit of common sense applied, and the parser seemed pretty forgiving with phrasing. That said, there were a few puzzles that I had to look at the walkthrough to get past. After seeing some of the solutions I'm glad I didn't wait longer as I don't think I would have ever figured it out. On a couple of the puzzles though, the way I solved it is not the way listed in the walkthrough, so I think many of the puzzles have multiple solutions.

While many of the puzzles were very enjoyable, it is really the humor that makes this game great. Don't forgot to stop and read the prose in between completing tasks as there are more than just funny lines, but hilarious whole scenes. It is unusual to me to see humor mixed into a parser game this well and at this level. My compliments to the author.

80 DAYS, by inkle, Meg Jayanth

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
One of my favorite video games (of any type) of all time, October 13, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 2-3 hours

This is a truly amazing game. I didn't think it was possible to create a game so gripping out of these simple mechanics. At the same time it is truly amazing the amount of free will you have in this game, and all the amazing discoveries you can make with it. (I just said "amazing" a lot didn't I? Well, there's a reason for that!)

The basic mechanics of the game are a little bit of resource management underneath a choice-based text adventure. The game includes some very fun and simple graphics to aid in the visualization of the story, without getting in the way of your imagination too much. Also, there is some nice music to accompany you on your journey.

The story is taken from "Around the World in Eighty Days" by Jules Verne, but set in a steampunk/futuristic past. You play the role of Passepartout, the valet to the main character of the novel, Phileas Fogg. However, unlike how I think the novel goes (apologies for never having read it), you as the valet are making all the decisions on this journey, Fogg is just along for the ride and is frequently more trouble than the baggage. Rather than having to fit yourself into the role of Passepartout, think of it instead as you being given a starting set of stats/personality, but after that you are free to mold the character in any number of interesting ways.

The mechanics are simple, you are given a small bit of the story, usually small enough to fit on the screen of a smart phone without needing to scroll, then you get to make a choice. The choices are presented as what the next line of the story or dialogue will be. When you pick one the game smoothly places in line with the previous writing as if it had been there all along and then shows you the result of your choice. It is through these cumulative choices (plus making sure your luggage is full of useful or valuable items and managing your funds) that you plot your journey and move around the map. At every turn there are interesting characters to meet and subplots to discover, some of which will follow you around the globe. The writing is superb and keeps you enthralled longer than I would have thought possible in a game that gives you so much agency. It seems there would have to be some boring branches to the story, but there really aren't and even the few places where I wasn't as in to the story didn't seem to last long before something else intriguing came along. Among the things that you can discover are (Spoiler - click to show)Captain Nemo and the Nautilus, a rocket to take you to the moon, a murder mystery that you can solve and a planet-wide conspiracy by the shadowy Artificer's Guild.

The game is also very replayable. There are eight seeds to the story, with some locations or subplots only showing up in certain seeds, and you rotate through them with every playthrough. Additionally, with so many locations on the map you can always just choose to go a different route from your previous playthroughs to see what other parts of the world have to offer. A single playthrough takes about two hours, give or take how fast of a reader you are and if you encounter any material you've already read before and can skip through quickly (but still, there is always the chance to make a different choice from before and see what happens). I've played through this game at least 20 times and know that I'll be back for more again soon. Give it a try, you won't regret it.

Alias 'The Magpie', by J. J. Guest

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Very fun and (mostly) fair game in the classic style, October 1, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 2-3 hours

I very much enjoyed playing this game. It is a parser-based, puzzle-filled game in the classic style of Infocom's "Deadline".

You play a gentleman thief (think Danny Ocean) and master of disguise, on a mission to steal a priceless jewel (and anything else you might find of value along the way). You roam about a two-story manor and the surrounding grounds, trying to find a way to get at the prize, while also having to solve a few minor mysteries along the way.

The size and length of the game are easily digestible. I was navigating without a map an hour into the game and it took me a little over three hours to complete (and I was definitely barking up the wrong tree a couple times). The puzzles were very fair (with one notable exception). I felt like there were plenty of clues to guide you along the way, and also a few red herrings to keep it from being too easy. The game is also very funny, with some off-the-wall characters, hilarious situations and always polished and clever prose.

The game, I think, pays homage to Deadline in a number of fun ways that I found enjoyable, including a (Spoiler - click to show) somewhat hidden room between two bedrooms, balconies that you had to access via ladder, and a curmudgeonly groundskeeper.

For my one problem with the game, I thought there was one puzzle that I never would have solved on my own without the walkthrough. Even the in game hints didn't do enough to get me to the solution. So if you are stuck and you've been over everything twice and you still don't know what to do next, see below for my own Invisiclues to help you get through it. But don't let that scare you, you should definitely play this game!

1)(Spoiler - click to show)
Are you trying to get your hands on the giant cucumber? If not, then I would just recommend examining everything and trying to "get" everything again, because these clues are cucumber-centric.

2)(Spoiler - click to show)
What if I told you there was a way to get the cucumber without finding the key to the padlock?

3)(Spoiler - click to show)
Good, because there is no key to that padlock. So what else can we try? In case of cucumber emergency...

4)(Spoiler - click to show)
...break glass. But wait, if the under-gardener hears us then the jig will be up. How can we break the glass quietly?

5)(Spoiler - click to show)
Maybe if we put something soft over the glass before we break it to muffle the sound. But we haven't been able to procure anything soft for the job, so what else do we have? Maybe the newspaper?

6)(Spoiler - click to show)
Okay, but plain newspaper won't really muffle it at all. What if the newspaper were wet?

7)(Spoiler - click to show)
If you are an American like me, you probably have no idea what treacle is. Apparently you can eat it, but mainly, if you put newspaper in it then it will turn the newspaper into a silencer for your clandestine glass breaking operations. Give it a try and good luck with the rest of the game!

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