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About the Story
A very short Parser game with weird mechanics rushed into makings and not at all expanded on, but something you can play and that I'm proud of! This was a rush! Was made in 4 days for a 30-day jam!
14th Place - ParserComp 2022
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Number of Reviews: 2
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An interesting consequence of hosting ParserComp on Itch has been the collision of traditional IF competition/festival culture with Itch’s more improvisational jam culture as folks noticed the Comp cropping up on their feed and decided to participate. In IF world, authors typically have their eye on a particular venue for their game and start work months ahead of time, building out and refining their game, then subjecting it to rigorous testing – please, always subject your game to rigorous testing. I’m much less familiar with Itch jams, but I’ll overgeneralize based on my limited experience (the wag who’s read the rest of this review thread will ask, how are Itch jams different from anything else I spout off on?) – as I was saying, based on my limited experience, jams tend to involve developers roughing something out and firing it off based on a couple day’s work, with minimal testing, just riffing off a new set of tools or ideas and seeing what sticks with the audience. Competitions seem more about setting ground rules that are rewarding for players; by that same token, the jam framework seem more about the author’s experience.
On the plus side, jams seem like a cool way to quickly test whether a particular approach is promising and get near-immediate feedback without much in the way of sunk costs; many indie games I like are elaborations of a no-frills prototype banged out as part of a game jam. At the same time, I’m not convinced the jam ethos is a great fit for parser IF. I think it’s most effective when it allows an author to generate a proof of concept for a game mechanic, and test out how it feels in play – plus a novel mechanic provides a hook to potential players, making it worth their while to put up with what’s probably a buggy, low-content game. But parser IF as a genre isn’t especially gameplay-forward, with prose, story, and characters looming large, and for me at least the quality of puzzles is usually less to do with their abstract mechanics and more about the extent to which they fit into the story. Sure, there are some IF games that are primarily about how they change the typical medium-dry-goods approach – the wordplay of Counterfeit Monkey, the sympathetic magic of Savoir Faire, the alchemical system in Hadean Lands. But even these mechanics would feel underwhelming, I think, if pared down to a series of minimalist examples, since much of what’s fun about them is seeing how they’re elaborated through the course of the game, and how they communicate the story’s themes in gameplay terms.
400 words of throat-clearing out of the way, we come now to Anita’s Goodbye. The perspicacious reader will have guessed by this point that it’s an example of the jammy approach I’ve outlined above – and indeed, the blurb reveals the game was made in four days, the download page offers two versions of the game file, one of which is labeled “finale now works” (I played that one), the comments threads are filled with players finding fiddly bugs and the developer cheerfully offering workarounds, and ParserComp is referred to as "Parser Game Jam” throughout. Beyond these extrinsic indicia, the game itself also plays the way you’d expect the product of a jam to play – the plot and locations are very lightly sketched in, with the main item of interest being a series of time travel mechanics that let you, and certain objects, move forward and backward through time as you attempt to bid farewell to the eponymous Anita.
If you judge the game by the standards associated with such a truncated, improvisational process, I have to say, I think it’s pretty successful. It’s true, even the fixed version that I played had some wonky technical features – the novice author appears to have implemented a lot of the game’s logic via a brute force approach to syntax that don’t take advantage of Inform’s ability to parse player input, such that verbs stop being understood depending on where you’re standing and some commands require to refer to objects with a “the.” And the story doesn’t expand much beyond the premise embedded in the title and opening narration, save for a final twist that renders much of the midgame nonsensical (in retrospect, how did a charged scooter help you get down the mountain?)
But it holds together well enough to function, and certainly is far more impressive than anything I could do on my fourth day with Inform! The time travel conceit isn’t implemented in a super robust way, but it does open up some fun puzzle-solving possibilities that go beyond the unlock-key-with-door standards of the genre. So again, as the product of a jam, I’d have to say nice job.
As an entry into an IF competition, though? Well, it doesn’t look so good using that lens. Like, even in this ParserComp, we’ve got the Impossible Stairs, which similarly has time travel as a major puzzle-solving mechanic. But that runs long enough to introduce some fun riffs on the basics possibilities of moving into the future and the past, plus has some fun characters to engage with and a neat overall story, plus is technically quite solid. I’m not saying this to pit games against each other – let there be a million time-travel pieces of IF, it’s all good – but just to point out that from a player’s perspective, the traditional way of doing things seems to deliver better results. With that said, Anita’s Goodbye shows a significant amount of promise, and if, in the tradition of game jams, it’s a necessary step in getting the author to put more time and energy into a future work of IF, it’ll have served its purpose very well indeed.
This game was written in four days, which is very impressive given how complex it is.
This is a time travel game with 3 different periods you can hop back and forth between. You can also send items to different time periods as well.
Your goal is to go back and say goodbye to a girl you love who died, but in a different timeline.
There are about 6 or 7 different puzzles, and it's engaging, but there are a lot of rough edges. Especially in the graveyard, where I tried tons and tons of words, none of which were implemented. There are typos as well
I think this would be an amazing game if it was tested and polished. As it is, though, it is merely a promise of a future good game.