Reviews by RadioactiveCrow

IFComp 2023

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1-4 of 4


20 Exchange Place, by Sol FC

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Short, non-sensical game about trying to recapture a bank from robbers, October 11, 2023
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 30 minutes, IFComp 2023

In this choice-based game you play as some sort of a cop trying to recapture a Manhattan bank from 6-7 robbers/culprits who have barricaded themselves inside. Even though the blurb talks about hostage negotiation I didn't do any of that, maybe I didn't get far enough in the game, but the PC starts out with no other options other than to plan the infiltration of the banks by "Spec-Ops" guys.

So I played through once and got a bad ending. The thing was that the game gives you absolutely no clues as to how to avoid a bad ending. You aren't given any information, just asked to start making decisions. I briefly went back and played another branch of the game making a different choice for how to breach the bank and got the same ending. I wasn't interested enough to try again.

I feel like the author was trying too hard with some of the wording to make it sound authentically New York, with phrases like "grey-shirts", "silver-badges", and "Spec-Ops", plus at least one "yous guys". But Spec-Ops strikes me as a more military term (though I've only visited NYC so maybe I'm wrong), and the constant use of the terms "robbers" and "culprits" feels real dated for a game set in 2006. There were a number of other well-worn tropes that popped up as well. Finally, 20 Exchange Place in Manhattan is a skyscraper, not a 4-story bank building, and there isn't a Westward street anywhere in the Financial District that I can tell. Just a lot of misplaced steps in this game.

Solid coding. The author's diction and style might make for a good transition to hard-boiled noir fiction. This game was just a miss for me.

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Xanthippe's Last Night with Socrates, by Victor Gijsbers

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
What might it have been like to be married to Socrates?, October 10, 2023
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 1 hour, IFComp 2023

So right off the bat let me tell you that I'm right on the line here between giving this one 3 or 4 stars. To me it does everything well, except provide for much narrative branching or interactivity. The writing is superb and the humor is excellent. As I've said on social media, if Victor were to ever write a novel I'll be first in line to read it. He really is talented. My only complaint is that the story is very linear.

In this game you play as Xanthippe, the wife of Socrates, spending the last 12 hours you have with your husband in his jail cell before he will be forced to drink hemlock as a method of execution. As the author notes, we donít know much about the real Xanthippe, and so the author uses his creative license to reimagine and subvert the very few descriptions that we have of her. And the result is fantastic. This Xanthippe is a character I could easily see myself spending a lot of time with. The game gives you your primary objective on its opening page, (minor content warning) (Spoiler - click to show) you are horny and would like to be intimate with your husband one last time, but he does not seem to be in the mood at the moment. What are the chances that you can talk him into the mood, even if it means going over, or around, some of the baggage that the two of you have with each other. However, even though the game starts you off with that objective, there is so much more ground to cover and more philosophies to delve, both the universal and the personal kind. The piece takes you on a rollercoaster, starting out with the simple (Spoiler - click to show)convince your husband to have sex one last time objective, before exploring why Socrates would choose the path he did, the ways youíve hurt each other, the ways youíve loved each other, all the Athenian ingrates that donít appreciate him (or you), and the way each of you hopes to be remembered.

The author does a good job of using Ink to create some fun and humorous scenarios and reactions (by the game and Socrates) to your choices. The writing is excellent throughout, with flowing dialogue and clever turns of phrase. You could imagine this being part of a Kevin Smith or Quentin Tarantino movie (and I mean that in the best way possible). But, as multiple playthroughs reveal, the amount of choice you actually have as the PC is very limited. Iím not sure you can direct the narrative off of what appear to be its rails. Rather than explore branching narratives, you get to explore the personalities of the characters. And that is enjoyable, but I wonder if I wouldnít have enjoyed it more if the author had picked out his favorite scenes, his best jokes, his optimal route through the game, and published it as a short story. Iíd hate to think Iíve missed out on some of Victorís best writing.

I might reconsider my rating in the future with the perspective of time and revise it, but for now Iíll give it three stars.

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Bali B&B, by Felicity Banks

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Delightful, heart-warming game about running a B&B and/or deciding your own fate, October 6, 2023
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 2 hours, IFComp 2023

For reference, I played this game during the first week of IFComp 2023, but when given the option to play the original IFComp submission or the latest version I choose to play the latest version. Not sure if there was a bug fix or what, but I would recommend this version to all.

In this game you play as the grandchild (you can pick your gender) of a strong-willed woman, who left her native land of Australia as a young adult to move to Bali and turn her in-laws house into a bed and breakfast hotel. You've grown up in Australia, part-Australian, part-Indonesian, and fluent in the languages of both countries. At least once a year you travel to Bali to visit Granny, but this year is different. This year you will not only be unexpectedly thrust into running the B&B, but you will have a chance to decide your own future in a number of ways.

What can I say about this game without giving away some of its best parts, except that the writing is excellent, the characters are the kind that you just want to spend more time with, and it actually got me to care about cats (a minor miracle!). Though getting you to care about cats is definitely a strength of Felicity's as I know from some of her past games. I've only played through once, and I'm reluctant to play it again as the playthrough I got was so lovely, but it feels like there are a number of different ways you can progress through the game. You can jump in headfirst to your duties or you can play the rebel, you can welcome romance or ignore it, you can be a peacemaker or you can choose violence (figuratively!). I thought the choices offered were great, and even for the ones where the difference was subtle I would sometimes agonize over which one to pick as I was shaping my fate.

Truly, the best things I can say about this game is that it really warmed my heart and I read each new passage with enthusiasm and expectation. There was even tension and drama in a few parts that didn't feel out of place in the overall narrative. Stories like this one and the author's most recent IFComp entry make me want to go play all of her games. Highly recommended!

(Also, she is totally right that brushing your teeth ruins the first few bites of your next snack!)

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All Hands Abandon Ship, by David Lee

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Funny, simple puzzler, October 1, 2023
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 30 minutes, IFComp 2023

This is a simple puzzler in the classic fashion. You are a crew member of a space ship. While you are sitting on the toilet an emergency strikes (doesn't that always happen!). You have to figure out a way to abandon ship, but there are a lot of things broken that you might have to fix first.

That's pretty much it, a simple, straight-forward puzzler. You are playing against the clock, so it might require multiple playthroughs to beat the game, learning from the failed playthroughs (much like how I found Zork to be). In the end (Spoiler - click to show)the solution is pretty simple, you just have to know the correct order of operations.

Honestly, the game/puzzle part of this is nothing to write home about, but what I appreciated was everything else that the game was wrapped in. The humor and pop culture refences in the game made me laugh out loud several times. The game's code was very robust and allowed you to do a number of things that didn't matter to solving the main puzzle (sidequests and easter eggs if you will). I also appreciated the author's attempt at making feelies to go with the game (which can be accessed on the game's website) as well as the very polished hints and walkthrough document.

I hope to see more from this author in the future.

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