Oct 14, 2015

Strolling through the texty fields of 2015 IF Comp

The 21st Interactive Fiction Competition, the aptly named 2015 IF Comp, has opened its virtual doors (to its titular virtual fields obviously) and you can now either download a single .zip archive containing all 55 --I think-- texty entries, or simply follow this link to the comp's games to download and play stuff individually. 

Many will work better online, some might require you type words, others will come with digital feelies and most parser-based ones should probably be played using an interpreter like the excellent Gargoyle, but, I know, you care not for the details.

You love your interactive fiction, crave text adventures and deeply appreciate CYOAs. You are my precious reader and it's this texty time of the year when you get to play, discuss and judge an excellent selection of i-f offerings. A selection that's so far proven so amazingly good, I couldn't help but think that an exhibition might be a better idea than a competition after all.

As for the games I've already played, well, I've been writing about them over at the Impish Words, Spirited Games page on facebook, though I do suppose I could edit and post some of those mini-reviews here. Actually, I just did:

TOMBs of Reschette: A Videogame About Fighting Monsters (Richard Goodness)

TOMBs of Reschette (disclaimer: I helped test this game) is the first choose-your-own-adventure, twine-powered, fantasy dungeon-crawler that manages to actually define an excitingly new setting. A setting I would love to further explore. A truly clever, funny, unique and well-written setting filled with hilarious monsters and at least one excellent dungeon: the titular tomb of Reschette.

As a game, TOMBs is one of the puzzlier Twine offerings I have ever encountered, but also one whose puzzles are fun, clever, funny and actually worth solving. The thing feels very rich, truly well-written and you might (barely) need to map it out. It's a definite must-play.

Capsule II - The 11th Sandman (PaperBlurt)

You have been awakened from cryo-sleep and are to spend the next 8 years in complete solitude on the huge Makida colony spaceship. You are, as in Capsule I, a Sandman. A person responsible for making sure nothing goes wrong while hundreds of millions of deeply frozen souls travel towards a new habitable planet.

Yes, Capsule II is indeed a sci-fi tale that's wonderfully presented and modestly interactive. And even though I didn't replay it to find out whether the few choices available can meaningfully change its outcome, I simply loved reading it -- it's excellently paced, effectively evocative, lovely to look at and I really do not need to know whether any other routes through it are available.

Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! (Steph Cherrywell)

Obviously inspired by those kitschy yet adorable late '50s b-movies, Brain Guzzlers from Beyond! is an excellent piece of genre writing filled with gory humour and funny sci-fi horror bits. 

A properly pulpy adventure sporting a good, solid parser.

The game starts off with a 10 questions quiz to determine whether you're a keen gal or a dull dame. It's a quiz you'll never get to finish though, as it swiftly and not without style gets cleverly interrupted by the beginning of the main feature:

A text adventure involving space monsters of the brain eating variety obviously and one that comes with some good, appropriate puzzles ranging from the very simple pulling of a handbrake to the involved and very well-designed creation of B.U.B.U..

I do suggest you set aside a couple of hours to enjoy Brain Guzzlers; preferably in its quite lush downloadable version, which does come complete with a Pine Nut Days show flyer.

Grandma Bethlinda's Variety Box (Arthur DiBianca)

Remember The Room? That celebrated interactive puzzle box? Well, Grandma Bethlinda's Variety Box is way more entertaining, smarter and, above all, parser driven. Obviously it's a puzzle box too. And a very playful one.

Instead of fiddling with camera angles you just UNDERTAKE TO INTERACT WITH things (simply by typing "U" if you cannot be bothered) or EXAMINE them. Then you solve puzzles, feel clever and have the odd chuckle.

Absolutely worth a try.

Arcane Intern (Unpaid) (Astrid Dalmady)

Arcane Intern (Unpaid) is a twine that manages to simultaneously be all about magic and being an intern. It's thus all about the conflict between the otherworldly and the insufferably mundane. The deathly boredom and constant anxiety of working menial jobs.

Arcane Intern (Unpaid), you see, also happens to be a great piece of fantasy interactive fiction, that's quite large, definitely well-written and comes with an adorable menagerie of magical creatures and places. It even sports a few rudimentary puzzles and some hidden routes to explore.

Cape (Bruno Dias)

Impressively sleek presentation and engine aside, what's really great about Cape is the fact that its prose simply flows. Despite the dark subject matter and those seemingly interesting choices that only affect details of the narration, this was one lengthy piece of interactive fiction I simply couldn't put down.

Now, as I really do not want to spoil it, I'll simply mention that its dystopic city feels incredibly realistically gentrified and appropriately contemporary and that Cape does indeed manage to capture that season 1 True Detective vibe, where you are not sure whether the tale you are being told is supernatural or not, but can be absolutely certain of the nasty yet oh-so-interesting world surrounding you.

Reminder: I could really use your support via Patreon in order to survive long enough to make more indie gaming (and gaming in general) words and, of course, actual games and things. Thanks!

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