Archive for the ‘ Adventure Game ’ Category

Interactive Fiction Competition: Fan Interference, Cana According To Micah, and Last Day of Summer

The results are in for the 2011 IFComp. Below the fold, I have my final three reviews for games that I played. But first, a few comments on the competition as a whole:

  • I played 11 of the 38 games, and chose them randomly so there would be no selection bias when I submitted my votes. Of these 11, I only played 2 games in the top third and 3 in the bottom. Apparently, I ended up with a lot of the average games.
  • I suspect that I was grading slightly too kindly, and that seems confirmed now that I see how many high-rated games I missed. I am staying consistent with my scoring for the reviews here, but will probably be slightly harsher next year. My normal standard for giving something a B is “would I recommend this?”, which works well for books and CDs, but may be a little too low a bar for a free half-hour game.
  • Though my scores may have been a little too generous, I see that 9 of my reviews were pretty close to the universal consensus, but I liked 2 of them much better than most people. I stand by those, though: Blind was a surprisingly immersive and tense experience, and The Guardian was a strange but successful experiment in “interactive” storytelling. It’s possible that my years away from the IF scene made those seem more creative to me than they actually were, but that’s the only possible argument I can come up with.
  • I’ll definitely be playing again next year. It was fun, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that about half of the games are now designed to be completed in well under the 2-hour time limit. That will make it easier for me to commit to.

My previous reviews can be found here, here, here, and here. Now, on to three puzzle-based games: Fan Interference, Cana According To Micah, and Last Day of Summer.

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Interactive Fiction Competition: It And The Guardian

(Though the IFComp ends today, I’m still catching up on my reviews. Here are my impressions of It and The Guardian, with a few more to follow later this week.)

Despite the name “interactive fiction”, most works are first and foremost puzzle-based games. Does this limit its literary potential? About a decade back, there was a movement to create “puzzleless IF” that would let the characters and plot come to the forefront. I remember those attempts as unsuccessful, though; interacting through a text parser naturally leads to situations that need to be figured out, and without a focus on puzzles, it was easier to notice the ways that the computer system didn’t completely model reality.

Coming back after a few years away from IF, I’m pleasantly surprised with how far a plot-based focus and puzzleless approaches have come along. Some of the games that I already looked at (The Play and Keepsake) are about living through a simple story, with the only puzzle being the metagame of figuring out how the story can be changed on subsequent playthroughs. Here, I look at two more works that certainly don’t adhere to a pure puzzleless approach, but keep the puzzles very simple in order to focus on their story.

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Interactive Fiction Competition: Operation Extraction and The Play

Every year, the IFComp features a few web-based games. With the state of web design these days, these can easily include status screens and other formatting that compares nicely to the state of the art in old-school text adventures. However, they generally don’t feature any text input from the player. Text parsing is complicated, and if the designer wanted it, they would probably have used one of the established interactive fiction development systems instead of their own web application. This means that the web-based games may feel very different than the other works in the competition, but in some ways they are very like classic Choose Your Own Adventures.

That’s not to say that a CYOA story has to be bad. There are interesting narrative possibilities that the classic children’s books barely touched on, and telling them through a computer creates a lot of potential that books couldn’t offer. This review examines two of this year’s web-based entries, Operation Extraction and The Play.

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Interactive Fiction Competition: Keepsake and Fog Convict

Here are my next two reviews of games from the 2011 IFComp: Savaric’s Keepsake and Andrew Metzger’s Fog Convict. Though I try not to reveal all the games’ secrets, there are spoilers, so I’ve hidden them below the fold.

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Interactive Fiction Competition: Andromeda Awakening and Blind

Like a lot of people, I still have fond memories of old text adventures. You know, the games like Zork, that describe your surroundings to you with text. You enter commands like “go west”, “examine the vase”, or “hide wig under troll”, and the game responds with more text explaining the results. Though text adventures stopped being commercially viable decades ago, they are still being made today by a dedicated community of enthusiasts. Now usually called “interactive fiction”, a name that reflects an interest in the literary possibilities of text that responds to the reader, these free games are often better than the ones people used to pay for. The biggest event of the year in this community is the annual “IFComp“, which accepts any interactive fiction games with the caveat that they should be completable within two hours.

I’ve drifted away from the interactive fiction world in the past decade or so, but every couple years I try to use the IFComp as an opportunity to get involved again. This time, it looks like I really will succeed: 15 days into the 45-day voting period, I’ve played 5 of the 38 entries. I’ll get to slightly less than half of them at this rate, but I’m pretty happy with that. And, of course, I’ll be reviewing them here.

If you are new to text adventures and interested in getting started, they can be a little confusing at first. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources out there to explain them. And while some games are specifically aimed at beginners, probably the best thing you can do is check out the IFComp games. Since they’re intended to be shorter works, and they all contain walkthroughs to help you out when you’re stuck (either in standalone text files, or with the “HELP” or “HINT” commands), you can learn a lot by exploring as much as possible and then turning to the help when needed. The IFComp games range from unplayable messes to masterworks, so start out by trying out the winners from past years.

Also, of course, I’m not the only person reviewing this year’s games. A lot of other discussion can be found from the relevant IFWiki page. I recommend Emily Short’s reviews, which are very well-written and often focus on interactive fiction as a narrative tool.

Below the fold, (slightly spoilery) reviews for Andromeda Awakening and Blind.

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Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent (iPhone Adventure Game review)

Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent

Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent

Telltale Games is the force behind a recent resurgence in adventure games, with quirky properties such as Tales of Monkey Island and Sam & Max. Graham Annable is an animator behind the quirky Grickle series. Both Telltale and Annable have found success not through mainstream hits, but by developing a strong cult following for their low-budget work. On paper, then, their collaboration Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent should work perfectly. The results are disappointing.

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