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About the Story
Third in a series of anthologies of unbelievable terror, edited by Ryan Veeder, again. Also an ECTOCOMP 2020 entry.
Nominee, Best Implementation - 2020 XYZZY Awards
2nd Place, Le Grand Guignol - English - ECTOCOMP 2020
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Ryan Veeder's playing a completely different ball game than most authors. It's almost like he just has fun making up things with weird ideas and then polishing them intensely before releasing them. Who does that?
There are four mini-games that I encountered, like the other Balderstone games (with each game serving just fine as a release on their own). They are:
-A complex combat game (Spoiler - click to show)This one reminded me of Kerkerkruip. You have a large map filled to the brim with weapons. You have to fight a lot of different people, but each weapon is destroyed upon use. This was fun but difficult, it took me a while to solve some of the cool sub-puzzles.
-A small game that is more interactive than most interactive fiction. (Spoiler - click to show)This is a mad-lib game where you are asked for a series of words, then you play a game involving that series of words, and it's implemented very well.
-A story told by children.(Spoiler - click to show)This has some surprises in design. Like usual. Ryan seems to think 'What if the players tried something weird and I just ran with it?
-A more traditional game at an abandoned gas station with some narrative surprises.
I thought as I played these games is that one thing Ryan does well is making sure the player encounters every story beat on every playthrough. It's so easy, due to the non-linear nature of games, for players to miss important backstory or details, but all of these games incorporate that into the gameplay itself, which is wonderful.
I've somehow missed the previous two instalments of Castle Balderstone, but on the evidence of Several Other Tales, I need to fix that omission immediately. A comic horror anthology in the classic Tales From The Crypt style, it's presented as four spooky short stories from different authors, within the framing device of a late-night meeting of horror authors. It's all Ryan Veeder, but the four stories really do feel like they come from different authors, not just literarily but in the way they play too.
The first is a ridiculous improvised romp with laughs aplenty that would feel at home on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" or on stage at The Comedy Store. The second seems like a parody of the 2008 horror IF Afflicted, with it's hygiene inspector sent to a scary commercial premises. The third, written by a class of schoolkids as a project, is absolutely pitch-perfect, capturing that childrens-storytelling tone with panache. The fourth is a substantial, meaty monster-hunting adventure with many puzzles and a neat combat mechanic that feels suitably climactic.
Itís hard not to love Veederís Balderstone series of parser IF Ė perfectly framed horror anthologies where each tale has its own style, both literary and in terms of play. This latest instalment may be the most impressive yet, if only for the second of the eveningís tales, one which gives a whole new meaning to the term interactive fiction. Although Iím not sure I can vouch for the literary quality of that particular story, it was certainly a delightful experience. The other several other tales here are as elegantly written as I have come to expect from Veeder, although I do sense a slight shift to a more humoristic approach than the previous tales offered. Puzzlewise, all the stories here are very straightforward and youíll hardly be stuck for more than a minute, leaving you to enjoy the imaginative descriptions from Veederís dark side.
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