Off-Season at the Dream Factory

by B.J. Best (writing as ďCarroll Lewis") profile


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Number of Ratings: 13
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1-13 of 13

- Ray Leandro (Philippines), April 8, 2022

- Mr. Patient (Saint Paul, Minn.), January 23, 2022

A lovely melange, January 12, 2022

by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2021

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review posted to the IntFict forums during the 2021 IFComp. My son Henry was born right before the Comp, meaning I was fairly sleep-deprived and loopy while I played and reviewed many of the games, so in addition to a highlight and lowlight, the review includes an explanation of how new fatherhood has led me to betray the hard work the author put into their piece)

The ingredients in this Adventuron game arenít especially novel by IF standards Ė a dungeon-crawl with a combat system, an Alice in Wonderland riff, an inversion of the typical adventurer-vs-monster moral framework, a pun-filled scavenger hunt Ė but thereís something about the way theyíre stewed up in Off-Season at the Dream Factory that feels fresh and coherent. The clean prose and fantastical yet grounded visuals help create a unified aesthetic that equally fits the orc protagonistís dead-end job (he gets repeatedly slain by paying adventurers looking for a thrill) and his occasional visits to his fetch-quest setting uncle, whoís straight-up Lewis Carroll in orc drag. And the one element thatís thematically out of place Ė the occasional dungeon-delving segments where youíre a customer, not an employee, of the Dream Factory Ė is set off by bespoke vector graphics that make these sequences visually distinctive too.

(Side-note on my expectations on Adventuron games Ė by this point Iím unsurprised to find one with great visuals, but I also mentally prepare myself to struggle with the parser. But this time I didnít, and thatís been true of other more recent Adventuron games Iíve played too. Iím guessing this is some combination of authors gaining familiarity with the platform and the system maturing, but itís awesome to see).

The other thing that makes the disparate pieces work well together is momentum. I tend to like IF Comp games with a good number of easy puzzles Ė they make me feel like Iím a clever person making good progress through the big competition (this is not a flattering observation about myself) Ė and itís an effective choice here. There's a good variety of puzzles, from figuring out viable combat strategies for different opponents to some maze navigation, but none of them are especially difficult, and many even solve themselves, with inventory items being used automatically if your command is even in the right ballpark. Combined with the interesting worldbuilding, solid writing, and pretty pictures, this makes Off-Season at the Dream Factory go down easy.

Highlight: I figured out one somewhat outside the box puzzle straightaway (Spoiler - click to show)(catching lightning in the bottle) which made me feel clever, though I also worried it was underclued. Then I kept playing and found it actually was well clued, Iíd just gotten to the solution a little early.

Lowlight: The ending is generally satisfying, but I felt like one subplot (Spoiler - click to show)(the fate of the protagonistís father) was left a bit hanging Ė though I didnít get the Last Lousy Point, which I suspect might bear on that.

How I have failed the author: not by very much, I donít think! Henry was sleeping and I pretty much banged through this one, despite my new-parent brain.

- TheBoxThinker, December 19, 2021

- odetolava, December 7, 2021

- Xavid, December 1, 2021

- E.K., November 22, 2021

- Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway), November 15, 2021

- Dawn S, November 15, 2021

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
You're the Dream Operator, November 8, 2021

D&D fantasy elements mixed with Lewis Carroll imagery? Why not! Your character is an orc who is hired to battle adventurers that have paid to live out their dreams. I liked how the game evolved--there was a definite arc for us to follow. The battles got more fun as the game went on. The puzzles were not difficult, but still enjoyable to work through. There is opportunity for exploration, and a few surprises to be discovered. I have to mention one behind a spoiler warning, but you CAN NOT read it until after you have played: (Spoiler - click to show)If you examine your nametag, you will see it contains a code. If you then examine that code, a QR code appears. Scan it, and you will see updated information on what level your character is at, plus get a password to a bonus point. The descriptions were well done, but the illustrations were absolutely hilarious. I would have personally liked it even more if the NPCs were a little less flat; they never go further than stock characterizations. That might be intentional, but I still wished the dialog had been as imaginative as the other aspects of the game. This, for me, was one of the highlights of the IFComp 2021.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An illustrated Adventuron game where you play an 'NPC' orc, October 18, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

This is one of two Adventuron games in this comp, and its a great use of the system. The author has used a large number of properly licensed photos from various sources (including a number of cosplayers) to create a large fantasy world.

You play as an orc who is essentially an NPC in the Dream Factory, a place where humans (?) dream themselves as adventurers to fight against monsters (like you).

Gameplay consists of exploration, combat, leveling, etc. but with a whimsical tone. You can enter a dream world and learn about the history of anti-orc racism.

+Polish: This game is very smooth. I rarely tried a command that didn't have a smart response for it.
+Descriptiveness: Enemies and locations are lushly described.
+Interactivity: The main gameplay loop was satisfying.
-Emotional impact: The game was overall enjoyable, but I wasn't drawn into the world and its characters.
+Would I play again? I think it's a lovely game.

- Edo, October 4, 2021

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A well-written, skillfully implemented parser-based adventure, October 3, 2021

A nostalgic yet fresh adventure game set in an unusual world with unfamiliar problems that nonetheless felt very real. Light on puzzles, heavy on character. The story was both fun and emotionally resonant, and I appreciated the feeling of being able to choose how things turned out. Even the title is just really good. I enjoyed this game a lot, and I feel like I understand orcs better after playing it.

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