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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Auto-biographical parser game that should have been a choice-based game, October 2, 2021
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: About 1 hour

First let me say that this game would have been much better if it had been a choice-based game. I think the author learned Inform 7 to make "The Eleusinian Miseries", his IFComp entry in 2020 (my personal favorite from that comp and one of the best first games ever), and just stuck with it for this game. Sadly, I think making this a parser game detracted from it overall. That said, it doesn't take long to play and is still worth your time.

The game is a combination of personal memoir, tribute to the author's twin sister, and diatribe against bees (preach!). It is broken up into six vignettes, all personal experiences of the author, each punctuated by a bee sting (or twenty).

The second section (and to a lesser extent the fourth section) frustrated me greatly as I couldn't find a rhythm with the parser. It seemed like I was always getting scolded for either waiting or trying to talk, and in the meantime a lot of sailing jargon was being thrown at me and it was up to me to guess which words of that mumbo jumbo (land-locked pleb here) I was supposed to parrot back to the parser to get the game to progress. My advice to future players would be to just fight through that second section in whatever way possible to get to the rest of the game, which is much better.

In the end the game becomes a story of love, both the romantic and sibling variety, where it was found and where it was missed. All the while getting stung by bees (what rotten luck!).

Halfway through the second segment this felt like a two-star game, but at the end it felt closer to four stars. I'll settle in the middle with three with the knowledge that this game will probably stick with me a lot longer than other three star games.

(Spoiler - click to show)My sincere congratulations and condolences to the author. I hope you keep making games, Mike. F--k bees and f--k cancer. Prayers and best wishes.

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Mike Russo, October 2, 2021 - Reply
Thanks so much for the kind words on Sting and TEM, and the review! I appreciate the feedback on what worked for you and what didn't -- some of the parser fiddliness in the second scene is intentional, as it's meant to have a bit of an adversarial vibe to it (though much less so now than in its initial version; pity my poor beta testers!). But if there were particular things there that were especially frustrating there, or in the fourth sequence which isn't meant to be awkward, please let me know since I'll likely pull together a post-comp release.

(Oh, and on your observation that Sting would work better as a choice-based game, I can definitely see that! Part of what I was interested in was taking a piece whose genre and gameplay would be a natural fit for a choice-based game, and seeing how I could make it work in parser format. I'm not sure the experiment was a success, but I definitely learned a lot, including gaining a fuller appreciation for how challenging it is to do choice-based design just from creating the multiple-choice dialogue bits!)
RadioactiveCrow, October 2, 2021 - Reply
Hey Mike, thanks for the reply! I love your work, both the games you make and the reviews you write.

I totally get wanting the second section to have an adversarial vibe (and it worked!), if I were to make any suggestions I think it would be to see if you can make the game being adversarial to the player more obvious and throw in some more jokes. Because there were times that I did the right thing at the right time and the game told me so, so I kind of assumed it might be possible to keep those going. Though I did realize at the end that of course you were going to lose the race, it is a memory, not a live competition. Off the top of my head maybe Liz can suggest an action to you every turn or two and then when you do it turns out wrong and she gets on to you for it ("Russo! Why would you do that! I told you to do this other thing!"). I would hope the player would realize they are being taken for a ride at that point.

With the fourth section, you were adamant that you just wanted to play video games, but things kept getting in the way, like eating breakfast and preparing it the right way/in the right order. It just kind of took me out of the rhythm of what the game wanted me to do.

I understand the desire to fiddle with play modes and not draw between the lines so to speak, and I'm definitely here for the experiments. But I can picture in my mind's eye how well this would work as a Twine game. The multiple choice dialogue would be smoother. When you try to get on the swings that aren't really there in the first scene the text could re-write itself right after you click on it, ala "Will Not Let Me Go". In the second scene instead of having to guess not only what to do, but also which of those words were verbs and nouns, you could just always have three options available and make it like playing whack-a-mole where you are always picking the wrong one.

Anyway, just my two cents. I haven't written or programmed a word in years, much less done something as great as TEM so take or leave my suggestions as you see fit.

Condolences for your loss, that sucks any time, but much worse during this rotten pandemic. Congrats on the baby! Looking forward to your next project!
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