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(based on 12 ratings)
About the Story
We were sentenced to trial by ordeal.
However, there is a way to survive.
I taught you this incantation when I got into your head. Now it's time to take a deep breath and say it. Even I can't tell you what awaits us in the mind chambers, for every witch has a different path.
42nd Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)
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Number of Reviews: 7
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Inside, in a nutshell, is an INK-written game about exploring and finding the way out of the witch's mind which is filled with memories of the past all jumbled together creating all kinds of strange events similar to when a person is dreaming.
You can choose the name of the witch whose mind you are exploring and interact with her + the world around you in some ways which will decide what ending you get. I got the good ending on my first try (hooray for me) and decided the hide route with the husband. It was a nice and subtle berating sentence at the end about the loss of a talent, a savior and benefactor caused by the superstitious beliefs the people held. Another instance (Spoiler - click to show)is the memory of the witch's mother about to sacrifice her in the altar showing just how far can a person holding those beliefs go (remember the witch trials in medieval Europe).
As far as pacing goes, it was fairly balanced, neither too slow nor too fast. It doesn't tire me out playing through it which makes the game very enjoyable.
Surely, like another reviewer pointed out, I would like to see more descriptiveness when it comes to the scenery around the main character along with more passages to be added for the actions we take when entering the yellow framed window.
It's a game which provides minimal to average interactivity with the story and some sort of replayability but promises a good playthrough experience.
This review is currently based on what I saw from playing and how I peeked ahead at the source code, so it isn't really based on a full experience. This is more due to my own bad time management than any huge bugs on the writer's part.
In this Ink game, you play as an accused witch–or is it an advisor to an accused witch, or a friendly spirit, or a familiar? It wasn't clear to me what you were, and I think that fits in with the general tone Inside wants to achieve. But the action is fast, right away. You must flee. And you do, to an underground lair with many terrors. I particularly enjoyed the encounter with the giant, where I wound up stuffing it to death with random foods.
That was quality enough that I felt bad getting tripped up at the next part. There were four doors to get through, but for one, potions were to be mixed, and it took a while to find the ingredients and recipe books. Then I had a choice between grating and slicing and chopping. For whatever reason, my mind snapped a fuse. It felt a bit too fiddly, even though with Ink, you can scroll up and see what you needed. This was almost certainly due to my general procrastination and not wanting to get stuck. It's weird–give me a walkthrough and I'll eat it up, but the same information in-game that I have to scroll back for is too much for me. Or maybe it was just that I didn't really get to explore to find all the ingredients, as I might have in Lazy Wizard's Guide, and the mixing interface wasn't as smooth as Thick Table Tavern.
So I will have to give myself an incomplete on this, but I recognize there's enough quality and touches to make for an interesting story. I read through the source, and I enjoyed piecing together your final dash to freedom and what that meant for the village. What most intrigued me was that, based on your actions, the backstory filled in a bit, suggesting you (Spoiler - click to show)deserved your persecutions, or didn't. This alone is very clever and obviously gives a game replayability beyond the usual "let's see all the endings" or "there are consequences for your actions, you know." Different spells work in different ways. I'm frustrated when this happens, when something with clear quality trips me up of my own volition, first near the end of the IFComp deadline, then when I procrastinate migrating it to IFDB. Because the parts I played were well-paced and involving.
(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2022's IFComp).
First two children’s-book games in a row, then two witch games back to back? I think the randomizer’s been drinking. Despite being a short, choice-based game, with a female magic-user pursued by witch hunters, though, Inside has a very different vibe than Witchfinders. It doesn’t attempt to locate itself in any particular historical milieu, for one thing, and it’s much puzzlier to boot. Perhaps most importantly, rather than a low-key day of visiting neighbors and creating workaday hexes, in Inside the protagonist is up against the wall, facing death at the hands of her inquisitorial pursuers.
The mechanics of this, I confess, were a little obscure to me. The game opens in medias res, with the player coming to awareness but not given much information about where they are or what’s going on – or even who they are, because you’re apparently playing not the witch herself but her familiar spirit. This displacement or bifurcation of identities winds up being effective, as it allows the game to lampshade the player/protagonist divide, and also sets up odd-couple style bickering that helps keep the game engaging even when the puzzles risk getting a bit dry. The precise nature of the challenges you face also helps keep the plot from cliched territory – after being nearly drowned by the witch-hunters, the protagonist (and you) has retreated into her own mind, and needs to revisit her past, present, and possible futures in order to wake up and escape.
You have a reasonable ability to customize the story; in particular, an early choice lets you establish whether you’re a good witch or a bad witch, or occupy a middle ground somewhere in between. Many puzzles also have alternate solutions, with a quick, selfish answer typically juxtaposed against a more laborious, selfless one, with concomitant implications on the plot and ending. The witch is also unique in that she’s married, and by choosing snide or supportive comments, you can do a little bit of characterization of the relationship (I wanted a lot more of this, but in fairness, I think I’m way more excited about marital-dynamics simulations than is the target audience).
This well-considered set-up didn’t feel quite as engaging to me as I’d hoped, though. Partially this is because I found decoding the dialogue between the witch and her familiar occasionally challenging to decode – they use different font colors, but to my slightly-color-blind-eyes, they amount to a somewhat brighter and a somewhat duller shade of beige, and there are no dialogue tags making clear who’s saying what, so I frequently found myself losing the thread of conversation and having to double-check who was saying what. Partially this is because the puzzles sometimes felt simultaneously overly laborious – there’s an alchemy one that’s cool in theory, but requires a lot of clicking to get through – and overly forgiving – I flubbed an early puzzle, only for the game to institute a do-over and automatically solve it on my behalf, which made me question what it even needed me for in the first place.
Still, as a reasonably short game, these faults didn’t do too much to undermine my enjoyment – Inside puts enough of a spin on a common premise to feel sufficiently unique, and it was fun to try to draw a line between the different versions of the protagonist I encountered in the various vignettes. Some tightening up of the gameplay, and cleaning up of the aesthetic experience, would certainly make it a stronger entry, but what’s here is still solidly worth playing.
Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review
As an IF setting, "mind palaces" and dreams carry a lot of the same advantages: ability to lean into IF limitations as features, ability to ignore real-world logic, full-on integration of symbology and metaphor. In a way they're kind of the same thing. I mean its not like dreams occur somewhere else.
I liked the central conceit of this one: two (Spoiler - click to show)(or is it one??) witches trapped in one of their mind palaces due to some kind of unnamed real world threat and needing to escape by passing through replayed key events of the host’s life. Escape by solving puzzles! Sure, I’m in.
In practice, I had unanswered questions about the implementation. For example, it seems like the host is at most a middle-aged adult, yet there was an encounter from old age they hadn’t lived yet. There was an encounter as a baby which doesn’t seem like it could be remembered. And in one encounter, it seemed you could effect the past in the ‘real world.’ It is possible, I suppose, that the mind palace incorporated time portals and those were not memories but ‘real.’ There was nothing in the text to imply this, and the unreal nature of the puzzle solving ((Spoiler - click to show)at one point a tiny hand reaches out of a cat’s ear) suggest otherwise. This game doesn’t owe me anything, it has every right to be what it is without my permission. But I felt those choices traded away some of the power of the setting without getting enough in return, dramatically speaking.
Gameplay is mostly puzzle solving, the exploring aspect is pretty limited, maybe 8 rooms. I liked that there were often multiple ways to solve puzzles, that tracked to whether you wanted to be ‘good’ or ‘evil’. The puzzles themselves were a mixed bag. Generally, the text didn’t provide a lot of nudging or feedback on your choices, so solving felt a bit arbitrary. The solutions did not come with that ‘oh, that’s why that worked!’ feeling. I got the sense that either I got lucky a lot, or the puzzles had multiple solutions. Even that is not terrible if the solutions had some kind of thematic through line to draw them together. I did not detect such.
I did like what the final escape implied about the physical fate of the witches, and really liked how understated it was. There was some nice ambiguity about the true nature of the dual protagonists, but the finale only hinted at resolving it which was maybe TOO understated. All in all I think the setting is a strong foundation that would support much tighter thematic construction and payoff. If I awarded points for ‘potential Sparks of Joy’ this would deserve it. Unfortunately, I typically do not.
Playtime: 30min, finished
Artistic/Technical rankings: Mechanical/Mostly Seamless
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
Inside by Ira Vlasenko
In this game, you play as a witch inside the mind of another witch, and many of your choices consist of things to say to your host. It was interesting playing as the main character but existing within the NPC at the same time.
Over the course of the story, you are trying to escape from some unknown place you have found yourselves in. There are some light puzzles, but I would expect every player will navigate them easily.
What I liked: Written in Ink, the game makes it easy to progress, make decisions, and eventually replay it. I feel like the majority of the games I’ve tried for this year’s comp so far have been in a click-the-link style, which I am really preferring. It’s great for when you don’t feel like spending a long time on one passage.
What I wish were different: I always enjoy it when I can experience different content by playing the game differently. On a second playthrough, I made a different choice at almost every opportunity, but almost everything unfolded the same way. Also, I would have liked to have more characterization. However, for readers who just want to get to the action, this story moves along at a brisk pace.