IF Comp 2017: 10pm

10cover.png10pm (litrouke) is a Twine piece depicting a single conversation.

The protagonist, Bird, is a twelve-year-old boy who only speaks in pictograms (which might represent sign language, though I don’t think this is ever made explicit). His guardian, Ty, understands them (possibly imperfectly) but responds in English. As the scene opens, Bird is sitting up waiting for Ty to get home, late at night.

There are things going on that we aren’t told directly. There’s a suggestion that Bird’s inability or refusal to speak is tied to trauma. Ty is not Bird’s legal guardian, and we don’t know how they ended up together; Bird is undocumented, a non-citizen. Ty is involved in unspecified shady business. Bird is isolated – both by language and by his inability to go to school or otherwise participate in the wider world – and over-reliant on Ty, and frustrated about it. Continue reading

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IF Comp 2017: 1958: Dancing With Fear

19581958: Dancing With Fear (Victor Ojuel) is an Inform game about Cold War intrigue in an unnamed Spanish-speaking Caribbean nation.

The protagonist is Salomé Vélez, a one-time star performer, now a little past her prime but still able to turn heads. The frame-story involves infiltrating a fancy party in order to steal an intel MacGuffin at the behest of your Soviet handler; as you progress you see flashbacks of how Salomé ended up here.

So there are lots of things that are immediately attractive about this premise. It’s kinda noir-ish, but it’s noir with a female protagonist and in a less-frequented setting than the mid-C20th major-city US. There’s intrigue at parties, a well-defined protagonist whose backstory gets plenty of exploration, and a human-driven story with lots of room for conflict. So I was really hoping that it’d be great. Continue reading

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IF Comp 2017: a partial list of things for which I am grateful

partiala partial list of things for which I am grateful (Devon Guinn) is an extremely short Twine piece. Any review of it will inevitably take up more words than are in the actual piece.

Its main use of hypertext is to make it non-linear; you click on individual letters of the text, which correspond to the first letters of new nodes. Finishing it will take you five minutes if you linger. Continue reading

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IF Comp 2017: The Traveller

travellerThe Traveller (Kaelan Doyle Myerscough) is an visual novel about space exploration, alien contact and loneliness.

The story is highly Odyssey-influenced, to the point where it might be readable as a very loose retelling: the protagonist is a lost wanderer trying to find home in the wake of a war, washing up in strange worlds and interacting with their strange inhabitants. But for all that its protagonist is a warrior, this is not really a piece about heroics; mostly it’s about cultural contact, intimacy with aliens, and time and distance. Continue reading

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IF Comp 2017: Hexteria Skaxis Qiameth

hexteriaHexteria Skaxis Qiameth (Gabriel Floriano) is a short Twine piece about language.

It’s extremely Borgesian, so much so that it’s really best thought of as Borges fanfic. It’s quite good Borges fanfic, with a good ear for the basic tone, and I obviously have a prejudice for Borges.

It’s a piece about language, and the immediate gimmick is that whenever a proper name is introduced into the text, you’re given the opportunity to shape it by clicking through potential syllables – which means you can pick the ones which sound good to you, and have your brain hook onto them and remember them when they’re used later on. This device gets parlayed into a (very small) puzzle towards the game’s end, in which a word has to be composed out of the symbols for its three composite concepts.

The presentation is simple but attractive, with nice font and colour choices. At one point symbols from a fictional syllabary appear, and they feel just right – the sort of thing that might actually exist and have its own orthography, but not obviously related to anything real-world.
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IF Comp 2017: Salt

saltySalt (Gareth Damian Martin) is a (heavily-customised) Twine piece about swimming. It’s focused on immediate experience, physical and mental. It has a very vaguely-defined protagonist, because it’s about an activity that takes you out of yourself. The protagonist starts on the shore, and swims out across a gulf; in my playthrough, at least, they return to the shore they started on.

It’s very thoroughly customised. (Man, is this ever a year for heavily-customised presentations.) There’s suitably underwater-sounding music. It’s aiming to be an Experience as much as a text.

You’re asked to hit the space-bar as you play, suggesting the rhythm of a swimmer’s stroke; a rhythm bar counts down, quite quickly, not evenly enough to establish a perfect regular rhythm. If you stop, the sequence of text stops, and the swimmer surfaces; a narrative break. Continue reading

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IF Comp 2017: My night

mynightMy night (Ivsaez) is a horror game about Spanish teenagers. Five kids are having a party in a family home, and mess around with a ouija board; then the lights go out, the protagonist starts walking around the darkened house alone in classic slasher-victim style, and the murders begin.

The parser seems to be home-brewed. This is rarely a good idea, and this is no exception: it rejects a lot of commands with unhelpful responses, and especially at the outset I found it pretty much impossible to play without following the walkthrough. (I suspect the walkthrough only gets you to the least good completion ending, but I have no way to be sure about this.)

Warning: there’s at least one rape scene, which I’m going to discuss later.

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