IF Comp 2018: Dead Man’s Fiesta

fiestaDead Man’s Fiesta is a choice-based story about grieving and angst and having a car haunted by crappy ghosts. It’s funny and sad, shortish but packs a lot in, and is one of the better-written games of this year’s Comp.

The protagonist is on compassionate leave after the death of a relative. Two relatives. Those people, their relationship with the protagonist, is not discussed much directly, but there are two urns, and the protagonist was the executor, so parents seem likely. The ghost is someone else’s father, so this is a kind of displacement, a way of talking about its particular themes without being centrally about exploring a particular parent-child relationship.

Its prevailing mood is one that’s common in bereavement and depression:

I wondered when the passionate display of raw emotion was going to happen

it hasn’t happened yet

This basic subject-matter, grief and pointlessness and a struggle to feel authentic emotions about them, could very easily have been the subject-matter of an extremely navel-gazey sadtwine. Fiesta is not that, which allows it to treat its feels with more depth and nuance. Continue reading

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IF Comp 2018: Bullhockey!

bullhockBullhockey! is a puzzly scavenger-hunt game. It’s considerably long – longer than anyone is likely to finish in the judging period without heavy use of the walkthrough. The protagonist wakes up to find that his girlfriend has left him, his apartment has been trashed and all his work clothes are gone, so he goes on a scavenger hunt to retrieve his clothes.

It is awkward. It’s got awkward prose, it has an awkwardly-designed map, and it has an awkward premise. Once you leave the house it sprawls, with very little direction. Its characters behave and react in ways that don’t make sense. The tone might have been intended as weird/surreal fiction, or as ridiculous comedy – and there are hints of both, but it doesn’t really commit to either. Continue reading

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IF Comp 2018 mini-reviews, pt. 3

More capsule reviews of games that I don’t have a full review for: Awake, HMS Spaceman, Instruction Set, I Should Have Been That I Am, Nightmare Adventure, Space Punk Moon Tour and The Stone of Wisdom.

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IF Comp 2018: Polish the Glass

polishglassPolish the Glass is a choice-based horror piece, almost entirely linear, about growing up under a family curse and being unable to escape it yourself.

This is a piece which gets narrative flow, and which is thinking about text presentation. It’s not astonishing text formatting, but care and thought and taste has been put into it, and that goes a long way. And it understands that when you’re delivering long chunks of linear narrative you’ve got to be thinking about the pacing of that text. I’ve played a lot of games this comp where the author plainly hasn’t really given any thought to how pleasant or easy their game is to read, so this is comes as a big relief. Continue reading

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IF Comp 2018: Erstwhile

erstwhileErstwhile is a choice-based murder mystery in which the deal is that you’re a ghost trying to solve your own murder; your memory is patchy, at least in part because there are things you don’t want to think about, but you can poke your snoot into other people’s memories. The victim, Mort, was a resident’s association president who thinks rather a lot of himself, and the suspects are all members of his dull suburban neighbourhood. So this is a story about lifting up an innocuous rock and seeing what kinds of gross scuttery bugs come crawling out. Continue reading

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IF Comp 2018: mini-reviews, part 2

Brief notes on Adventures with Fido,  Dynamite Powers vs. the Ray of Night, A Final Grind, The Forgotten Tavern, Intel Mission, Junior Arithmancer, Murder at the Manor, Shackles of Control, and smooch.click.

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IF Comp 2018: Grimnoir

grimnoirGrimnoir is a choice-based supernatural-detective story with an unprepossessing title.

It’s not all that grim, or at least not any more grim than you’d expect out of ‘supernatural detective.’ I’m not convinced that it’s all that noir, either, although that’s harder to assess; if noir has been hard-boiled down to “stories about crime; hard-drinking, fedora-clad PIs; and women who sometimes use sexual allure to get what they want”, then it’s noir, I guess.

Jacob Morris is a hard-drinking fedora-wearing PI with a tragic past who prefers to work alone. The main way he’s unlike the archetypical gumshoe is that he’s gay – exclusively gay, it appears, given that he describes himself as immune to the charms of his sorta-fatale succubus assistant Solene – but not really actively so, because he’s too busy being sad about his dead boyfriend. Continue reading

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