[IF Comp 2012] Body Bargain

Just like in 2010, this year’s biggest star for me is Body Bargain.  It’s a Sci-Fi/Horror style game, with a bit of blood and gore in the descriptions, meaning that it’s not for the squeamish.  But I will also point out that it’s a great game all the same.

The overall concept is that you’re in some kind of experimental facility, and you’re being forced to do experimental surgeries on various patients in order to enhance them for cybernetics.  This is where things get really graphic, unfortunately, but aside from that, the rest of the descriptions are very well written and even include things like smell and feelings of coldness.

The game itself seems simply enough and somewhat linear, but there are actually multiple ways of handling things and several endings to uncover.  There’s the straightforward way of playing, and then there are times where you can do things differently and try to find another ending that you’re happy with.  The commands are easy to work with and things don’t get too confusing at all.  An NPC is able to assist you at times with things, so you don’t always get entirely lost.

If the game were a little longer and less linear, I’d definitely give it a higher score.  But I still rate it highly all the same.

FINAL SCORE: 4/5

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[IF Comp 2012] Castle Adventure

Generic name, generic premise, and overall poorly written.  This is why a game should be beta-tested and input be given so it can be polished up.  As it stands, this game is definitely a sign of an amateur author, and could’ve had a lot more in store for it if it had been revised and given a more professional style.

Let’s start with the biggest issue here: The descriptions.  They’re mostly one or two sentences at most, and a lot of times they don’t tell you where you can go or differentiate in descriptions when you’re in similar areas.  It’s almost like the author was going by the walkthrough and figured people could figure it out themselves.  Well, at least there was a walkthrough to begin with.

Another issue is that some places that seem accessible are inaccessible for no apparent reason.  It’s almost like you’re supposed to wander around at random until you find a way around it.  Again, a good deal of playtesting and feedback could’ve eliminated this problem.  Oh, and did I mention that the princess being kidnapped and locked in a castle is the oldest story theme ever?

If the author is reading this, I suggest they go over their game and fix it up so that it’s easier to play and understand, as well as more intriguing in terms of descriptions and what not.
FINAL SCORE: 1.5/5

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[IF Comp 2012] Guilded Youth

This was definitely a nostalgic form of fun for me.  Harkening back to the days of old when modems were the way of getting online, and BBS’es were the way of communicating.  And when teenagers would roleplay as fantasy characters online… and in real life.  Not to mention the days where adventuring in real life was just as good as the real thing.

In Guilded Youth, you are Tony, a 14-year-old boy who also doubles as a thief in his online role-playing sessions.  With the help of his friends, Tony attempts several  attempts at locating what he considers to be ‘treasures’ at a nearby mansion that’s going to be demolished.  The challenge is figuring out which friends will go with him and how to convince them.

The overall gameplay consists generally of running back and forth between the mansion, through the woods, and to Tony’s home.  To get in touch with his friends, Tony must log in using his old-school computer and its modem.  Once there, you can’t directly talk to them, but you must do things like show them items, tell them about them, and so forth.  Depending on the situation, some might ignore you while others will go with you.

The game is a bit short and linear, which kind of hurts the overall replay value.  However, the descriptions of the areas really give a sense of what it’s like to be there.  The concept of having to convince your friends to go with you is also a novel concept.  All in all, it’s a great trip down memory lane.

FINAL SCORE: 3.5/5

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[Cover Stories] Darkness In Daytime

So I’ve written my first interactive fiction game.  Oh joy, oh joy…

OK, so I’m not exactly proud of it.  It’s not as refined as I hoped it would be, and I had a lot more hope for it.  In fact, it does feel kind of short, I will agree with that.  To be perfectly honest, Darkness in Daytime was a project which I had high hopes for, but due to time constraints and other factors, I was forced to rush it into production and publish it quickly.  As a result, I consider the game more like a prototype than an actual game.

The overall premise of Darkness in Daytime was like a protest against censorship in interactive fiction form.  I mean, think about it, we take a lot of things for granted in life, and we never think about what it would be like if it were taken away by the government.  Now, imagine you’re playing an interactive fiction game, and you try to do something that you would normally do, like take an object or open a door, only to be told you’re not allowed to do that because it’s against the rules?

There is a lot more to be done with Darkness in Daytime, but for now, I feel like Tod Frye, the Atari game designer who was forced to release a prototype of Pac-Man for Atari so they could have it ready in time for Christmas! At least I can refine my game, but poor Mr. Frye!

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[IF Comp 2010] One Eye Open

(WARNING! Before I continue with this review, I would like to warn readers that the game I’m about to review contains textual descriptions of graphic violence, as well as adult language and other themes which may not be suitable for younger players.)

Horror themes are one of the more commonplace ones in the video game community, and interactive fiction is no exception.  I’ve played quite a few myself, some of which are pretty scary, while some are only scary in terms of their quality.  But I must say, One Eye Open by Colin Sandel and Carloyn VanEseltine, is a game that truly sets a new standard for the horror genre in the interactive fiction community.

The game sets you in the role of a test subject at a laboratory involving ESP and things of that nature.  What starts as another ordinary day on the job slowly starts to fall apart as things seem to change around you into something that looks like a spinoff of Konami’s Silent Hill. The further in you go, the darker it gets and the more becomes revealed.  It’s things like this that really make the game so gripping: It’s getting scarier by every moment, yet at the same time you find something new and you want to keep going to see what else will happen.

The general room descriptions and event details are rather large, but this is expected to be something from a game like this.  This isn’t something for your everyday IF game player, nor is it a game for the kiddies.  If this were an actual video game, odds are it would definitely get an M rating from the ESRB.  Some of the room descriptions actually have some graphic details to them, but they’re written in well so they fit with the atmosphere better.  Even minute things like senses of smell are included, making the game feel like you’re there.

Two notable tidbits for the game include the ability to use your ESP as a way of looking for hints, as well as archiving clues in a notebook so you can keep up with what’s happening as well as have a way of looking for clues in what you’ve gained.  This, combined with a gripping story and a mature theme makes One Eye Open a game that truly sets a new precedent for interactive fiction with a horror genre.

FIRION’S FINAL SCORE: 5 out of 5.

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[IF Comp 2010] Mite

And now here’s another game which I had the joy of playing as a judge, the game Mite by Sara Dee.

Mite has little to do with dustmites, except that it takes place in a world where the character is the size of a dustmite pretty much.  It’s one of those worlds where tiny little elves and things like that exist in gardens and things like that.  Your goal is to safely bring a jewel back to its rightful owner.  The general layout and aspects of the game make it obvious that this is a game that is geared specifically for younger children.

The descriptions are well written, in that they’re not too detailed for younger children to get lost in but detailed enough for them to know what’s going on.  The puzzles are simple enough for them to figure out with a little trial and error, and even then if they get stuck, there’s a built-in hint system that should be of good help to them.

The only downside I had with this game was how it felt rather linear in terms of the layout of the world.  Other than that, it’s a fun game for both children and adults alike.

FIRION’S FINAL SCORE: 4 out of 5.

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[IF Comp. 2010] Ninja’s Fate

As a judge for the first time this year in the Interactive Fiction Comptetition (IFCOMP,) I’ve decided to write up my personal reviews of some of the games that I’ve been able to play so far.  I’ll start with Ninja’s Fate by Hannes Schuel.

While the concept of playing as a ninja in an interactive fiction game may seem like a novel idea,  unfortunately it’s not well executed in this game.  In fact, it feels more like an attempt at an old-school text-adventure game with somewhat random encounters here and there.  The reason I say ‘somewhat’ is because it’s not like you could be wandering along and suddenly encounter an enemy guard or something like that.  Instead, it’s almost like the game designer chose a specific region of the game world and populated it with triggers for encountering one of several kinds of enemies.  There’s no real challenge to beating them though, you just attack them with your sword and they vanish.  There’s no reward or penalty for killing them either, nor do they vanish permanently.  It’s almost like the designer wanted some ninja combat incorporated in the game.

As for the actual story, it’s standard ninja fare with a more modern setting.  You’re a ninja who needs to recover a treasure stolen from their village… and put in a museum.  The thing is, you’d never know where you were unless you read the introductory story text and things like that, since the room descriptions are so small and brief that you’d think you were in a traditional ninja temple with various modern features and random rooms attached.

The game boasts having multiple endings, but there’s really little challenge in attempting to get them.  Partially due to the fact the hint system is very informative and good at giving you information on what to do.   The only saving grace for this game has to be some of the humorous computer bits in the game.

Otherwise, I’d have to say that Ninja’s Fate is not exactly what I’d call as sharp as a katana.  It’s more like a few throwing stars short of the actual target.

FIRION’S FINAL SCORE: 2 out of 5.

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