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The 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition

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Flowers of Mysteria
Flowers02.png
Junior Arithmancer
arith02.png
Terminal Interface for Models RCM301-303
Terminal2.png

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by Herr M. (2018-10-08)

It is that time of the year again: The 24th Interactive Fiction Conpetition has started! So pull up keyboard and mouse – or if you are one of those trendy touchscreenusers, make sure that your batteries are fully charged – and get ready for some heavy reading and typing. With a list of 77 titles there is lots of adventuring to do.

Actually there is so much of it that I guess I will not have a chance to take a thorough look at each and every one of them. Mostly I will stick to my personal shuffle list and take some notes. The more interesting ones might get a full review sooner or later.

I do take wishes for comments and/or reviews though. Just contact me via the forum or write me some mail at:
Hr.M(insert very common mailing-symbol here)gmx.net

Last update: 21.10.2018

Recommendations

My recommendations, for when you do not want to give each and every game a try:


Games I played

Bogeyman - Hypertext

You have been caught by every child's nightmare
+ Suitingly grim setting with a horrific atmosphere
+ Excellent writing that conveys the (very intense!) mood with just a couple of words
+ You can decide yourself on how to react to all those horrible things that happen
+ And you have a bit of influence on how things turn out…
- … though in the end it all boils down to maybe just one choice
- Some of the things happening to the children is beyond horrible, yet they act relatively normal
= Great horror story, best played late at night before going to sleep.

Junior Arithmancer - Parser

Full review

Take an exam in the mathemagical arts of Arithmancy
+ Great gameplay: Simple yet clever
+ Good learning curve from supereasy to fiendishly hard
+ Lots of content and Easter eggs
+ Does its best to aknowledge your successes
- Background story feels a bit tacked on at times
= Great puzzle game that invokes the magic of maths

Nightmare Adventure - Parser

The people of your hometown have misteriously fallen asleep. Can you save them?
+ Concise writing
+ A appropiatly weird dream world
+/- Selfmade parser which comes for many OSes
- Too easy
- Limited interaction (only a couple of items and actions)
- A bit bland
= Solid foundation which could (and should) be expanded upon

The Origin of Madame Time - Parser

Things are about to explode (big time!) when time stops and it is up to you to save everybody
+ Throws you right into the action and gives you the right amount of information
+ Still has a detailed and believable (as far as super heros go) background
+ Interesting puzzles which feel organic to the scenario
+ Many different endings
- Super hero fatigue
- Minor flaws in the game world's logic: some things can move, others not
= Astounding: An origin story which makes want you want to see more!

The Forgotten Tavern - Hypertext

Flee from your past to a tavern in the woods
+ You get to make a couple of choices
+ RPG elements
+/- Weird scenario about hunting vegetables in a parallel dimension
- Patronizing writing style
- Game offers you to simply walk away from it, yet scolds, even kills you for doing so
- Boring characters
= Vegetable Hunter 2018

Tethered - Parser

Just one wrong step…
+ Puts you right in the middle of the action
+ Has some excellent narrative twists
+ Aknowledges lots of non-essential actions, actually relies on them
+ Everything is full of gravitas… in a good way
- You can not avoid your fate
= Interesting insights into relationships and how they shape us

Time Passed - Hypertext

Someone visits his highscool flame in order to finally confess his love to him
+ The writing is OK, not too pretentious, not too boring
+ Handles the situation rather natural, does not get preachy or too much teary eyed
- The scenario still feels slightly stalky
- The person that gets visited is adressed as you, while the protagonist is me, which makes it kind of hard to identify with either of them.
- It is almost a 'follow-the-next-link' game …
+ … yet there is one decision which does have a major influence
= Interesting read, horrible 'game'

Adventures with Fido - Hypertext

You are a Corgi in a sunny backyard
+ You can name your dog
+ Wonderfully stupid concept
+ Lots of different things to do
- Puzzles have almost no connection to the story
- Mental maths and trivia questions under time stress
- The protagonist does not feel particularily dog like
- Gets too fantastic too easily
= I am more of a cat person

Careless Talk - Hypertext

A short conversation piece about homophobia, marginalization and prejudices in a fantasy world very reminiscend of England
+ Good writing, not too wordy, not to obscure
+ Sounds like an actual dialogue
- Choices seem to have no effect
- At the most critical part you have four choices… and the game lets you pick only one, scolding you for trying to pick one of the others
= Interesting scenario with unused potential, almost just an intro.

Ailihphilia - Parser

Enter a world built of palindromes
+ Nice wordplays
+ Aknowledges unusual commands, comments on stupid actions
+ Very flexible hinting system
+ Lots of things to do…
- … maybe even too much.
- A bit too clever for its own good
- Overabundance of palyndroms makes the text weird and a bit hard to follow
= If you understand why rats live on no evil star you might like this game, if not it is still too hot to hoot.

+ = x - Hypertext

A text about a fortune machine
+ Nice background art
- Almost no interaction (dragging blocks onto the text is not interacting with it)
- Fragmented text
- Very short
= Like reading fortune cookies and thinking about possible deeper meanings

Diddlebucker! - Parser

Enter a game show featuring a modern day treasure hunt
+ Good writing: short yet vivid, to the point
+ Good puzzle design with appropriate hinting
+ Some nice touches: You can name youself, your team and pick a colour for it
+ Constant background action in form of competing teams makes the gameworld lively
+ Relatively free movement between different places suits a treasure hunt scenario very well
- Limited parser expects very distinct commands
- You can interact almost only with plot relevant objects, which makes solving the puzzles either too easy (because there is not much else to do) or very frustrating (if you manage to miss something)
- Too much waiting for things to happen
= At its best times you feel like watching a good game show … at its worst it feels artificial like mocking a game show

Terminal Interface for Models RCM301-303 - Parser

Full review

Take control of a labour bot on a rescue mission
+ Unusual scenario
+ Many different endings
+ Seems simple, is actually quite deep
+ Solid programming
- Just one, very chatty and obnoxious character
- No real ending?
= Slightly unrealistic scenario with a very talkative character which nevertheless can be very thrilling

H.M.S. Spaceman - Hypertext

A space soap opera
+ Used the word 'zest', which I like
+ Made me laugh a couple of times
- Extremely implausible scenario, even for Scifi
- Immature ramblings about sex and drug abuse
- Constant, bad innuendos
- Lots of typos (especially capitalisation)
- You need to visit a seperate homepage, cannot be played offline
- Inconsequential choices or simply clicking the text to advance
- Game seems to be bored with itself (lots of Zzzz, snoring and checking the watch)
= Adolescent power fantasy? Unfunny joke game? Ubercool stream of consciousness?

smooch.click - Hypertext

A kiss simulator
+ Each 'kiss' is different
+ You can choose the gender of your liking
- Basically it is just a random generated text with several set pieces
- Nothing you do seems to have any kind of influence, except for very minor variations of the text
- It is very short
= 'your lips meet. it's just a kiss.'

Instruction Set - Parser with cutscenes

Puzzle your way back from the other side.
+ Some nice brain-teasers like the maze
+ Command line parser feels nicely nostalgic
+ Nicely framing storyline…
- … which still feels a bit detached until you reach the ending.
- Some rather generic puzzles like swaping water from different containers until you reach a set amount in each one
- Executing all the movements with text commands is a bit clunky
- You have to visit an external website
= A nice diversion if not all that revolutionary. Give it a try if you like logical puzzles.

Charming - Parser

Chaos in the witches' laboratory: Try to clean up the mess you made before the head enchantress turns up!
+ Cool cat familiar, who even helps you out
+ Good writing with the right amount of humour and lots of details
+ Spell casting system!
- Repetitive commands (put page 1 in book A, put page 2 in book B etc.)
- Too much reading in books and looking stuff up, almost none of the puzzles is solveable without doing so
- Speaking of puzzles: Almost all of them revolve around following instructions found in the books
- Long item names which have to be entered almost by the letter or have shorter version which are not that intuitive
= Funnily enough I think with all the looking up of different topics, this one might have been better with either hypertext or shorter commands for browsing the books. Still quite entertaining, maybe more so if you prefer searching for hints to doing some guesswork.

Flowers of Mysteria - Parser

Full review

Go on a quest to save a dying king.
+ Offers some solid programming (no bugs or crashes)
+ Feels nicely nostalgic
+ Finishable in one setting of moderate length
- Very generic setting
- Bland descriptions which offer almost no help
- Almost no explorations besides the main path
- Parser is a bit stubborn at times
= Exactly what it says in the subtitle: "An old fashioned text adventure" for better and for worse.

Grimnoir - Hypertext

A Monster hunt in a city where the rain never stops falling.
+ Atmospheric text which suits the genre nicely (could be right out of a pulp novel)
+ The 'monsters' are not just some brainless abominations, but show a bit of character
+ Believable dialogue with interesting characters
- Puzzlesolving = Guesswork re the monster's nature and breaks the reading flow to boot
- Too many feel-good moments, monster motivations are a bit too samey (spoilers: almost all of them just wanted to be loved)
- The pulp genre can get cheesy at times, this game is no exception
- The story is told from the detectives point of view, which makes the action uninvolving
= Nicely written urban fantasy with a noir touch, which makes you wonder whether this would not have been better off as a non-iteractive text.

Let's Explore Geography! Canadian Commodities Trader Simulation Exercise - Online forms

Drive around Canada in a truck and trade goods.
+ You might actually learn a bit of geography from this one
+ Different endings
+ Comes with a nice map of Canada
- The interface is clunky (just multiple choice question after multiple choice question)
- You need to go on a seperate homepage
- Could not find much to do aside from driving around
- Unrealistic and very simplistic economy
= Euro Canada Truck Simulator 0.013alpha

They Will Not Return - Hypertext

Become a household robot and clean you master's house. Again and again and again and… again?
+ Good, concise writing which neverthless carries a lot of atmosphere
+ Goes from a very strict routine to a very open ending, which suits the story really well
+ You can make choices and do not just follow the links (at least near the ending)
+ You decide how your robot thinks and feels about the things it sees
- Postapocalyptic robots feel overdone by now
- Contrieved at times, e.g. one of the robots felt less like a robot, but more as a plot tool or the author's voice
= Can be fun, terrifying or intense – however you want to interpret the texts – but will most likely be entertaining for some time.

Animalia - Hypertext

Pretend to be a couple of animals pretending to be a human.
+ Funny scenario with a nice meta-gaming aspect
+ Lots of choices… and consequences
+ Lively characters
+ Akward humor (in a good way)
- Torn animals: They fear and loath humans, yet they construct convoluted man-machines which feel less magical but very technological
- Double standards: Sacrificing human children is OK… but never ever let a snake eat a mouse
- Gender-neutral pronouns for animals… and even if you would do that: Ever heard of the little word 'it' which suits most mice, rabbits etc quite fine?
- Does not really feel like animals pretending to be a human, but humans projecting themselves into animals
= The cool scenario and flexible storytelling save this after all.

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