I have a couple more reviews to write, but those aren’t happening until a little post-comp. So it’s time for a wrap-up post.
In line with the trends of the previous few years, there were relatively few utter-bullshit games. Even the games which I gave 1s and 2s were, I think, sincerely intended. If you look back over comps from a decade ago, they were choked with trash: coding exercises, troll entries, things so badly-made and confusedly-conceived as to be effectively unplayable. (Spring Thing was originally created as The Comp Without All The Crap In It.)
- With Those We Love Alive: familiar Porpentine territory of lurid, oppressive, Giger-meets-Calvino horrors, but with craft that continues to develop and a potent-as-fuck gimmick. Clearly the best game in the comp, by my reckoning; this is the first time I’ve given out a 10 straight up.
- Krypteia: a traditional adventure-game format turned into a weird Dionysian night-journey about queerness and self-liberation.
- Creatures Such As We: ambitious if flawed attempt to explore contemporary issues in game design theory through a dating sim on the moon.
- Hunger Daemon: having tested it I am unreliable on the subject, but this seems like clearly the strongest of the parser entries. Good-naturedly gentle humour, solid craft, has some positions but doesn’t push hard on ’em.
Everybody has a specific set of things that they want out of IF, though, so here are some more specific recommendations according to what kind of experience the games aim to deliver.
Emotion: Venus Meets Venus treats the turmoil of early relationships with raw honesty. With Those We Love Alive serves up Porpentine’s signature blend of alienation, disgust, complicity and longing in a deeply-horrific fantasy world.
Beauty: With Those We Love Alive is a high-craft piece with tight, powerful, image-rich prose. Eidolon features an evocative, moody environment.
Concept: Krypteia and Creatures Such As We require the most non-puzzly processing.
Fun: Jacqueline, Jungle Queen is a good-natured, irreverently silly romp , though you may have to forgive its occasionally shaky implementation. Hunger Daemon (which, full disclosure once again, I tested) is somewhat less randomly zany and considerably more robust. And if you have a bunch of friends together, some drinks and a penchant for snark, Slasher Swamp may actually offer some of the best entertainment of the whole comp.
Challenge: Fifteen Minutes is a tough but fair time-travel puzzle. Ugly Oafs might be worth a look if you want pure wordplay puzzles with little pretense at fiction. Missive is also a crosswordy kind of game, though with a stronger narrative element.
Experiments: There were a lot of experiments this year- some largely aesthetic, others more substantial. As is usual in experiments, many of them were not really all that great overall. For having-an-argument-about-theory purposes, I recommend looking at Raik, Origins, Missive, Creatures Such As We, With Those We Love Alive, AlethiCorp, Transparent, Icepunk, Zest and Caroline.