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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IF Comp 2018: Six Silver Bullets

silverSix Silver Bullets is a parser-based spy game. It’s weird and uncomfortable. It’s an odd duck, difficult to assess. I expect to get at least one game a year completely wrong, and this seems a strong candidate for that.

You awaken.

You know nothing about yourself. If you had memories, they are gone.

So part of the reason why amnesia tends to suck as a device is that it’s often paired with a story that takes a very long time to get going, because the author doesn’t really know what’s going on and therefore doesn’t know how to get to it. This is not the case here: it is impressed on you that you have to start doing shit immediately. There’s limited time. There’s someone knocking at your door right this minute and they might be here to kill you.

This is the rare amnesia game in which it actually feels as though something really bad has happened to your brain. The world… doesn’t lack detail, and indeed it often seems to be going for a lurid Lynchian aesthetic, but it’s described in a cut-down way that gives the impression of tunnel vision. There’s a sense of foreboding and paranoia; your mistrust is often justified, and there’s an overwhelming sense of doom. You constantly need to know things that you don’t know. You are often forbidden to do things because of psychological conditioning.

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IF Comp 2018: mini-reviews pt. 1

I am not going to have time to write up detailed thoughts about every game I play in the Comp; with a lot of games I don’t feel as though I have a huge amount to say about them, for good or ill, but it’s probably worth saying something. Most of these I’m going to be scoring in the 2-5 range – when I’m strongly engaged by a game I’m more likely to have things to say about it – but I may not have sorted out exactly where yet.

Brief notes follow on Ailiphilia, Anno 1700, Campfire Tales, Diddlebucker!, Dreamland, Escape from Dinosaur Island, Into the Lair, The King of the World, Linear Love, Re: Dragon, and StupidRPG.

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IF Comp 2018: Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation Exercise

canadaLet’s Explore Geography! Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation Exercise is a game where you have a big truck and a million dollars and you drive around Canada buying and selling stuff.

I wasn’t sure if this was going to be an edutainment joke or not. Well, OK, I mostly assumed it was going to be a joke. It’s not a joke. It is really a game about trading commodities in Canada, pitched for an educational market, told entirely straight. It bears a distinct resemblance to the 1986 game Crosscountry Canada, which is also a thing about driving a big truck and trading things without ever deigning to venture into the US. Continue reading

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IF Comp 2018: LET’S ROB A BANK

bankrobLET’S ROB A BANK, by Bethany Nolan, is a choice-based game in which you pick a team of criminals – distraction, getaway driver, muscle – and, well, rob a bank. It does not go well.

There’s the germ of a good idea in here. Choosing a team of quirky specialists for a risky mission is a fun thing, and the character concepts offered trade-offs in a way that made me genuinely struggle with my picks the first time around. But the execution is pretty slight. The writing is utilitarian, the characterisation thin, and there’s little management of pacing. It’s not really aiming to be serious, but it doesn’t really click as comedy or over-the-top action either. Continue reading

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