IF Comp 2017: Measureless to Man

measurelessMeasureless to Man (Ivan R) is an Inform game. It’s aiming for a weird-fiction / Lovecraftian horror kind of vibe: a doomed protagonist slouches towards an ominous fate for reasons which never become entirely clear.

It’s a plot which is basically ‘weird spooky otherworldly shit happens for no clear reason’, which… can be made to work, but it relies on a much stronger sense of atmosphere, pacing and purpose than this manages.  Continue reading

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IF Comp 2017: Insignificant Little Vermin

verminInsignificant Little Vermin (Filip Hracek) is a heroic-fantasy dungeon-crawl; the protagonist is an escaped slave in an orcish stronghold, and must fight their way out while doing as much damage as possible.

There are illustrations. These are at their strongest when showing posed figures and details of weapons, less confident when it comes to action scenes, and largely ignore setting.

It’s made in a custom choice-based system, designed with mobile devices in mind and centred around combat. There is a simple randomisation system, presented as a five-reel slot machine. I’ll be up-front: this is a game with a heavy focus on combat that is not very good at fight scenes, either in terms of writing or choice. Continue reading

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IF Comp 2017: Harbinger

habringerIn Harbinger (Kenna May, Twine) you play a talking crow on the run from an unleashed evil; initially isolated, you team up with a witch and her apprentice to deal with the apocalyptic threat. (Gosh, but this is a witchy comp.)

My general feeling about it was that it was fine. I’m not mad at it. It doesn’t commit any glaring errors – the main visible thing that I’d fix is that it could use an edit to catch a sprinkling of spelling mistakes. It tells a story that’s clear and decently-paced; it uses interactivity in a way that’s light but significant. But it doesn’t really shine at any particular thing. Continue reading

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IF Comp 2017: Eat Me

eatmeME (regarding game list): I… guess I’d better play the vore game.

CHORUS: Lord-a-mercy but that vore game is A Lot.

ME: Yes. Yes it most certainly is.

Eat Me (Chandler Groover) is a limited-parser Inform game. The main verb of action is EAT. You are a child-prisoner in the dungeons of a castle of food. In the castle, everyone is made of food and fixated upon producing or consuming it; you are no exception. With a bottomless pit in your stomach, you have to figure out how to eat everything that isn’t nailed down. (No relation to Eat Me, the lesbians-made-of-food smut comic by Megan Rose Gedris.)

It is mildly puzzly, albeit with minimal inventory and very few verbs. Puzzles are generally straightforward but non-trivial, with a lot of emphasis on relative position on the map. The castle itself is torn apart in places as you go along; the ground is rarely stable under your feet. Underneath the stylistic shell, it’s an orderly parser puzzle structure, with some light gating and an emphasis on sequences of actions rather than verbs or inventory – close to a point-and-click adventure. But the structure is, uh, very much not the most prominent feature here; it’s highly capable, but inconspicuous. The rest of the game, by contrast, is horror of the unrepentantly gratuitous school.

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IF Comp 2017: The Wizard Sniffer

snifferThe Wizard Sniffer (Buster Hudson) is an Inform game in which you play a pig guiding a heroic-fantasy Hero. It seems like precisely the kind of game that tends to perform well in the Comp environment: it’s a cheerful and mildly subversive fantasy comedy, of substantial size and solid craft, lightly puzzly with a robust and entertaining hint system.

Goofy comedy is an extremely common mode in parser IF, and goofy comedies in a genre-fantasy setting are near-enough the founding style. There are a lot of games in this vein; some of them are great, but the cumulative effect is a little bit like having a bunch of friends who constantly quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But Sniffer is genuinely funny, and less predictable than it looks.

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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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