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IFComp 2011

All discussions regarding Board, Card, and RPG Gaming, including industry discussion, that don't belong in one of the other gaming forums.

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Hipolito
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IFComp 2011

Post by Hipolito » Sun Oct 02, 2011 2:14 pm

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It's that time of year again, kiddies. And this year the competition has 38 games, making it the biggest in some time. I am very excited about this, but I may not be able to review all the games in the next six weeks. So if you have an inkling to play and judge some games in this thread, you'd be more than welcome.

I'll post my randomized play order in the next post and fill in my reviews as I go along. This year, my reviews will have a particular theme to make them more fun, but rest assured that I'm taking the competition very seriously.


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(Edited to change image URLs)
Last edited by Hipolito on Thu Oct 20, 2011 10:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Hipolito
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Re: IFComp 2011

Post by Hipolito » Sun Oct 02, 2011 2:19 pm

Luster

Wander about your hometown looking for rainbow-colored gems. Missed opportunity for Lucky Charms cereal tie-in. There are some interesting puzzles, but it's all badly implemented and I got stuck halfway with no hint on how to continue.

Rating: 2 out of 10.

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Beet the Devil

You have to rescue your dog from hell using an inventory of vegetables. It's pretty fun and funny at first, but feels samey after a while. It's also too easy to lose inventory items and make the game unwinnable.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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Vestiges

Sabrina the Teenage Witch gets trapped in the Matrix. Or something. I'll never know for sure because the game is so badly put together that even the walkthrough is useless.

Rating: 2 out of 10.

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Fan Interference

A fan attempts to change the infamous outcome of the Chicago Cubs playoffs game. Highly likeable and funny, thick with Cubs lore and culture, but victory is nigh impossible.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

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Cursed

As punishment for a murder you didn't commit, you get magically turned into your choice of animal. Three possible paths, but each is unnecessarily long and drawn-out.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

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The Guardian

A woman wanders a wasteland while recalling memories of her lover. Part Lifetime, part Hallmark, all beyond my understanding. It's fairly well written and easy to play, but I'm not sure what it's about after going through it three times.

Rating: 5 ouf of 10.

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Dead Hotel

Retro horror text adventure with multiple choice quiz interface, sparse writing, and hardly anything to do.

Rating: 2 out of 10.

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Last Day of Summer

Brief game about a young farmboy who goes into town to sell cranberries and gets caught in a web of simple puzzles and nonthreatening characters.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

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Ted Paladin And The Case Of The Abandoned House

You play a text adventurer (no really) who has to explore a house that's, um, kind of meta. Clever concept and ideas, but some of the puzzle mechanics and solutions don't seem right. I like the ending.

Rating: 5 out of 10

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Taco Fiction

Anything with "Taco" in the title gets an automatic recommend from me, plus this is a great heist story with tons to do, funny writing, and rewards for exploration and risk-taking.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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Tenth Plague

Anyone ever told you to "avoid it like the plague?" Well sheesh, how do you think the plague must feel? Now you know. Go around killing the firstborn males in a Biblical setting. It's about as thrilling as being a tax collector. The commentary mode is a lot more interesting than the story.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

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Operation Extraction

Web-based game in which you oversee a team of SWAT-type agents who try to rescue someone. Interesting features of switching between agents and stepping forward and backward in the timeline, but the game needs about ten times more work to achieve coherence.

Rating: 2 out of 10.

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Calm

You're a scientist researching a widespread plague that kills people who get all emo. (Most people are therefore dead.) Starts with a great premise and promise, but gets killed by parser problems, overuse of humor, and a messy map. It's kind of fun to build up a collection of useless junk, though.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

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The Myothian Falcon

You're an old-fashioned private dick in the far future, trying to solve a murder. Unfortunately, you're no Tex Murphy and neither is this game. Okay, it's about as good as Under a Killing Moon (and has some similar flaws such as being too long and having too many people to talk to). It was nice of the author to include a plot summary.

Rating: 6 out of 10

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Blind

You're a blind woman who's been kidnapped and locked up in a strange place. Good idea for a story, but the experience is hardly different from that of a seeing character. (Maybe that's the point.) Unfortunately, blind people don't make up for their disability with large inventory capacity, and that's a problem here among others.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

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The Hours

Brisk, fun action thriller that feels a lot like last year's second place winner, Rogue of the Multiverse. You're a time traveler who screws up a heist at the Library of Alexandria. The convoluted plot has well-defined rules, so as with Inception, if you feel lost, just go with the flow.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Six

Aimed at kids, this one has you play hide and seek at a park. Pretty high production values with title graphics, sound clips, and a 22-page PDF manual!

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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The Play

Web-based story about the final rehearsal before a play's performance. As the director, you have to make decisions when things go wrong and your unreliable actors screw up. Nice, clean presentation, good writing, fun to go through several times to see the various possibilities.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Professor Frank

R.E.M. sang that "everyone hates a sad professor," and if there's a sadder professor than a newt biologist who's trapped in a library filled with psychopaths that can only be pacified with Scottish meats, I don't want to know.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

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Cana According To Micah

Presented as a found text about a wedding party in Biblical times, this is a cute and engaging tale that would especially amuse Bible scholars. The solution is so complicated that I was ready to hate the game. But I used the hints to get through it and found it pretty decent if suddenly preachy in the end.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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Fog Convict

Crummy, crummy entry about an escaped murderer that visits your college campus while a thick fog sets in. Lazily programmed and written, utterly confusing to navigate. Made me pine for the Xen games of earlier IFComps.

Rating: 1 out of 10.

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The Binary

You're some kind of dude-outside-time who has to repair the timeline, Bill-Murray-in-Groundhog-Day style. The story is too cool to explain what it's about, but it's kind of neat to solve.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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How Suzy Got Her Powers

David Whyld has written some real key-pressers (that's my IF equivalent term for "page-turners") in the past, but this superheroine origin story isn't on a par with them.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

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The Ship of Whimsy

Brief, easy, imaginative game in which you have to get a crazy fantasy boat ready to sail.

Rating: 5 out of 10

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Andromeda Awakening

This seems to be an interesting, if preposterous, sci-fi tale. Unfortunately, the near-UV prose makes it very difficult for me to play the game and take the story seriously.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

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A Comedy of Error Messages

What if TRON were a ROMCOM? Use cyberspace to save a geek from a crushing blow to his or her social life. Frankly, the player perspective made me feel confused and uncomfortable, but the game is amusing, clever, and well-written.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Death of Schlig

An old-fashioned gumshoe gets kidnapped by aliens and undergoes quite a mutation. The mechanics of his newly acquired ability don't quite come together, so the game isn't as fun as it could be. But there's a lot of admirably kooky gags here.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

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Kerkerkruip

A roguelike?! Sorta. There's a fixed set of rooms, encounters, and loot, but they're randomly arranged. And the game's playability and cohesiveness are surprising given how bad dungeon crawlers tend to be in IFComp. Roguelike scholars will definitely want to check this one out for its many unique mechanics. Normal people might like it, too.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Awake the Mighty Dread

Something about dreams, robots, and the unbearable lightness of being gooey. I think I understand the symbolism this time, and there could be a worthy story here (it's incomplete), but I didn't much enjoy trying to read the author's mind.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

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Cold Iron

A farmer searches a forest for his prize axe and sees strange things under the trees. Fun to read but way too short, ending right as it seems to be building up to something big. Bears some odd similarities to Last Day of Summer, almost as if it were meant to be a prequel or companion story.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

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Return to Camelot

The highlight of the game is meeting Merlin, that charming old coot. But I then got tired of wandering the big, empty castle, so I quit and read the transcript. It's a fine concept but a long slog.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

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Keepsake

You just killed someone and have to get away with it, and that's not even the weird part. After five playthroughs and some time to think about it, I only kind of get it. I think the game missed some chances to be more meaningful. Or maybe I missed the meaning. I'm troubled.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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Playing Games

You go through a trial to get admitted into a secret gaming society! Very annoying and pointless in the short amount of time it takes to complete.

Rating: 2 out of 10.

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It

Another hide-and-seek simulator. The girls are more catty this time.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

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Escape From Santaland

Harried Christmas shopper gets really, really lost on the way back to the parking lot. Good puzzles and all the grinchy sarcasm you'd expect.

Rating: 6 out of 10

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PataNoir

Another private dick story, but in this one, the dick sees typical detective novel metaphors as real objects and uses them to help solve the case. This leads to some very cool moments, but also some odd and unreasonable puzzles.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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Sentencing Mr Liddell

A man's daughter falls into the river, causing the player to drown in surrealism and allegory.

Rating: 1 out of 10.

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The Life (and Deaths) of Doctor M

A controversial doctor finds himself in the afterlife, and has to root through his past to decide his final destination. Good imagery and decent writing, but the puzzles involve too many repetitive steps, drawing out the game beyond my interest.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

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Hipolito
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Re: IFComp 2011

Post by Hipolito » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:06 pm

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Well, kiddies, we had fun this year and maybe even learned a thing or two.

Personally, this was one of the best IFComps since I started judging in 2005. There was a lot of games, a good number of them were worth playing, and even the bad ones were better than the worst games of other years.

I was disturbed, though, by the number of post-deadline patches. In past comps, maybe one or two games would get a late bug fix for serious problems. But a lot of games were updated during the judging period this year, some of them multiple times. One game even underwent a name change. (A Comedy of Error Messages used to be Elfen Maiden.) I don't know wha happen this year, or whether this kind of thing should be allowed. It seems that a post-deadline bug fix gives the author extra time to work on his or or game, an unfair advantage. Since the original versions of the entries remained available, I suppose it's the judge's choice of whether to allow that unfair advantage. And, um, it looks I did since I played the updated versions in most cases.

Other trends:
- This is the Year of the Hardboiled Detective. No real whodunits, but a number of games featured that type of character.
- Zombies are finally uncool. Only one game had them.
- Indescribable hats. Three games featured hats that the authors said were indescribable. Is this some joke or meme?

Here is a chart attempting to rank the games from most to least favorite. When I get the exclusive envelope with the competition results, I'll post them here and compare them to my rankings.

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Taco Fiction was my favorite. The buzz seems to favor The Play, though, and that's no surprise. It's witty, innovative, expertly presented, and just has that winning quality.

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Re: IFComp 2011

Post by Isgrimnur » Wed Nov 09, 2011 1:31 am

Hipolito wrote:- Indescribable hats. Three games featured hats that the authors said were indescribable. Is this some joke or meme?
Maybe they were all part of the same book club.
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Anonymous Bosch
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Re: IFComp 2011

Post by Anonymous Bosch » Wed Nov 09, 2011 10:53 am

Thanks for taking the time to share your reviews, Hipolito, that was a very entertaining read.
"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." -- Daniel Webster

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Re: IFComp 2011

Post by stessier » Wed Nov 09, 2011 5:32 pm

I read the last entry as "Frog Convict" and thought that was a really cool concept. I give free use of the name and idea to anyone who wants to make it into a game. :D
I require a reminder as to why raining arcane destruction is not an appropriate response to all of life's indignities. - Vaarsuvius
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Hipolito
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Re: IFComp 2011

Post by Hipolito » Thu Nov 10, 2011 1:26 am

Isgrimnur wrote:
Hipolito wrote:- Indescribable hats. Three games featured hats that the authors said were indescribable. Is this some joke or meme?
Maybe they were all part of the same book club.
Very interesting find! Maybe the Golux will be the new Randall Flagg of IFComp through his special hat.

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... which indeed defies description.
Anonymous Bosch wrote:Thanks for taking the time to share your reviews, Hipolito, that was a very entertaining read.
Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!
stessier wrote:I read the last entry as "Frog Convict" and thought that was a really cool concept. I give free use of the name and idea to anyone who wants to make it into a game. :D
That would be awesome. The idea of an escaped frog (turns out the prison bars were spaced far enough for it to get out!) dropkicking people to death would totally redeem the game. There's still about a week left in the competition, and with the new liberal patching policy, the author could gain a few points by making this change.

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Hipolito
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Re: IFComp 2011

Post by Hipolito » Wed Nov 16, 2011 11:00 pm

WINNAR:

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That's right, my favorite game came in first place, earning its author a cool $500. You could buy a lot of things with that kind of money. Six came in second, and its author gets $100. The Play came in third, and the author gets her choice of item from the Adobe Creative Suite.

Here are the complete results:

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It's a little weird seeing Six rank so high, but OK. Escape From Santaland ranked much higher than expected, too, but it's reassuring that a tight, competent game with no frills or hoodoo can do so well. The Hours and Death of Schlig were treated a little harshly considering some of the games that scored higher than them.

Thanks for reading this edition of our yearly IFComp roundup, boys and girls. And the next time some fancy 3D game crashes on you, play a text adventure or two! You just might like it. (But you also might hate it, so reconsider.)

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