Graveyard Strolls

by Adina Brodkin profile


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Number of Reviews: 4
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Haunted by Font-changes, November 23, 2022
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review

This one feels like an anthology of sorts. The protagonist is walking through a graveyard, interacting with unconnected stories of spectral apparitions. Initially, I didn’t approach it that way, but ultimately, that’s where I landed.

The presentation suffers some issues, one much bigger than the others. A smaller one is palette choice. The opening screen spends some time talking about the greyness of the location (incidentally in a way that could definitely use some better word choices). But the game is presented in tans and browns! That is a real missed opportunity to use the presentation to reinforce the mood of the piece. It does integrate a single picture in one thread, but because it is the only picture ever used it kind of jars. Even graphically, its blue clashes with the tan in a way that gives the page a slapdash look.

The biggest presentation issue by far however was font sizing, an apparent artifact of the Texture engine. As you make selections throughout the game, text gets added to the screen. Distressingly often, the entire screen font size shrinks, often more than one size, to accommodate the additional words. I cannot overstate how intrusive this was to the experience. At first it wasn’t clear that you weren’t seeing an entirely new screen. Then you had to parse an entirely unfamiliar block of text to find the new stuff (which was not always at the end). Then next choice, BAM, new screen of much larger font. It was distracting and off putting all at once. I’m calling this Intrusive. Though not a bug per se, it had the effect of one.

Gameplay was also uneven. I got two end screens in maybe three clicks by choosing not-obviously-wrong paths. This is a personal points-off for me - if I can ‘die’ due to not-obvious choices within two minutes (and there doesn’t seem to be an artistic reason why), I’m already not on the game’s side. It's punishing me for something I have no way of knowing is ‘bad.’ I did dive in again, and trained to go a different way, I did. That’s where the anthology approach opened up for me, which does kind of partially mitigate the quick-death thing. There isn’t really a through line to worry about.

The engagements were uneven. Some felt arbitrary, some pulled with unearned emotion, one dark and personal. All of them peppered with the font sizing issues. But one was notable - an encounter with a spectre who had… niche beliefs… in prior life. The decisions for this encounter seemed varied and impactful, and the decision path I took through was surprisingly nuanced, generous and touching. Definitely more nuanced than the other encounters. If that font hadn’t kept jumping in my face, this could have been a Spark of Joy.

As it was, I found this entry mostly Mechanical and unpleasantly Technically Intrusive.

Played: 10/21/22
Playtime: 30min, 4 different endings
Artistic/Technical rankings: Mechanical/Intrusive
Would Play Again? No, experience seems complete

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless