Ratings & Reviews of the 2013 Interactive Fiction Competition

The Ratings

Game Technical Puzzles Story Overall
Game T P S
Ollie Ollie Oxen Free 9 10 10 10
Robin & Orchid 10 9 8 9
Coloratura 10 8 7 8
Tex Bonaventure and the Temple of the Water of Life 8 7 6 7
The Wizard’s Apprentice 7 6 5 6
The Paper Bag Princess 5 6 7 6
Who Among Us 5 4 8 6
Threediopolis 5 7 2 5
Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder 7 3 4 5
Solarium 4 3 7 5
Further 5 3 5 4
Mrs. Wobbles & The Tangerine House 4 2 7 4
Mazredugin 4 5 4 4
The House at the End of Rosewood Street 3 2 6 4
Autumn’s Daughter 4 2 5 4
The Cardew House 3 4 4 4
A Wind Blown from Paradise 6 2 3 4
Blood on the Heather 2 3 5 3
Their angelical understanding 3 3 4 3
Impostor Syndrome 3 1 4 3
Machine of Death 2 1 5 3
9Lives 4 2 2 3
Moquette 4 1 2 2
Sam and Leo Go To The Bodega 3 1 2 2
Our Boys in Uniform 3 1 2 2
Dad vs. Unicorn 4 1 1 2
Bell Park, Youth Detective 2 1 2 2
Vulse 3 1 1 2
Saving John 2 1 2 2
The Challenge 2 1 1 1
Reels 1 1 1 1
Trapped in Time 1 1 1 1
Final Girl 1 1 1 1
100,000 years 1 1 1 1
Dream Pieces        

Dream Pieces

Technical: -
Puzzles: -
Story: -

No interpreter for my operating system, so I’m not going to review this.

Tex Bonaventure and the Temple of the Water of Life

Technical: 8
Puzzles: 7
Story: 6

No matter what happens, it seems someone will attempt to turn the tutorial game Ruins into a full-fledged competition entry — with mixed results. We shall see what happens.

Cue John Williams music…


You’re carrying a whip and a gun. You are wearing the battered fedora and an old leather jacket.

Are we not men? We are…♬ oh, wrong song.

Ah, someone else who finds the proliferation of so-called achievements which are really a thinly veiled viral marketing campaign open for mockery. Or maybe he just finds them silly.

Speckled. Another Ruins word…

First bang-you’re-dead puzzle, but I expected this one. “No, Mab, I don’t think putting my arm in that hole will help us find Dan.”

The traditional twisty-maze-of-passages rears its ugly head. I guess the adage is true: if you can’t figure out how to fluff your map, add a maze.

Good death message for the bat trap. If you have to kill off the player every five minutes with obvious traps, make sure that they’re rewarded when they purposely trip them.

The homage to Hitchhiker’s Guide (the game, not the book) is nice. Actually, there are a lot of homages in here, from Indiana Jones (obviously) to Zork (the maze and the bats immediately spring to mind).

Hm, after drinking the water I remained grizzled. I would think that some indication of the water’s restorative effects would have been warranted.

Huh. There is only one thing you can put in the water; all else returns the boilerplate That can’t contain things. Weak reasoning there; the boilerplate is really inappropriate in this case.

Heh. The Amusing section really is. But the whole point of a LLP is to have exactly one non-obvious thing to do…

Not bad; not outstanding, but better than average. The problem with making a game based on movie tropes is that it is really hard to strike a chord of originality so the puzzles need to be outstanding (cf. Hollywood Hijinx). Only one noticeable typo, and most of the puzzles made sense; hit the hints exactly once, and that was because I was on a deadline. The humor was a bit strained in places (the evil bathroom, for instance) but overall the tone was consistent and light. Worth it just to try out the Amusing commands at the end to see all of the Zork references.


Technical: 5
Puzzles: 7
Story: 2

From the cover art, I’m expecting a SimCity parody, or maybe another attempt to make a game out of Edwin Abbot’s Flatland? It would be hard to improve on the concept behind Strange Geometries — the concept, no; the implementation, yes.

Huh, neither of my preconceptions were right. It feels more like a Norman Juster homage with lots of word play.

Lots of abbreviations for uncommon verbs, which is a nice gift from the author.

Hm. I’m not sure I’m happy with the author demanding a certain screen size.

OK, after struggling to get started for ten minutes, I finally hit the hints. Now that I understand the concept behind the game, it becomes a long hunt for synonyms.

Whoops! Halfway through I got:

*** Run-time problem P49: Memory allocation proved impossible.

*** Memory ran out ***
*** Memory ran out ***
*** Deep copy failed: destination empty ***

and could not recover.

Games like this are interesting, but difficult to judge. One-horse puzzlefests become tedious rather quickly: the narrative is so overwhelmed by the crossword that they might as well appear as a page in Games magazine. That, plus the game failure early on, led to abandonment after an hour.

The House at the End of Rosewood Street

Technical: 3
Puzzles: 2
Story: 6

The title suggests a gothic horror, but I’m not holding my breath.

Right off we have the game demanding a specific window width. There are ways to find out the current width of the window using assembly code. Actually, demanding a specific window size is indicative of a poor design, relying more on flair than prose. It also assumes that the player has control over his window size, which in the modern era of Apps everywhere™ is a poor assumption.

Gargoyle also seems to have a problem with Unicode in author names, but I won’t hold that against the author.

Hm. Left and Right are direction commands; the problem is that L traditionally is short for Look.

Unless something fantastical is going to happen, this looks more like a slice-of-life game. This is a disturbing trend. I demand escapism, dammit!

I suspect the demand for a specific width of window was to provide for the ASCII map embedded in the game. While it is nice, an external feelie would have been more appropriate.

Well, the first day was interesting. I have a friend who is a handyman in a desert motel, and I’ve always suspected his days are as tedious as this.

Whoa. The sexual tension between Caius and the handyman is palpable. I did not expect this. Boom-chicka-wa-wa.

Hm, there seems to be a delay between delivering the papers and the people returning to their homes: a full day’s delay. I doubt I am that exciting that they feel they must wait for my return.

Don’t these people have jobs to go to? Or are they all “self-employed”?

Ah, Look is abbreviated as K. Again, not sure if I like this break with convention.

Most of the things in the yards are non-entities. If an author implements a small map, it would be a good idea to make sure that there are a lot of scenery objects to keep the player’s interest.

Oh, Caius, love of my life, are you behind the disappearance of the governor’s daughter? Because it would be just my luck as a ne’er-do-well handyman to fall for a kidnapper.

Got to the bad ending.

Checking walkthrough…

Got to the “good” ending. It’s not much of an improvement. If the author had some deep symbolic subtext planned, it completely passed me by. The gameplay was tedious, and the puzzles practically nonexistent. Who were these people? Who was Elizabeth? Who was Caius? How did this connect with the player character? If Elizabeth was the murdered daughter, was Caius or the PC the murderer? Too many questions, not enough answers.


Technical: 1
Puzzles: 1
Story: 1

Gave up early — JavaScript errors abounded (I think non-standard APIs were used that are specific to Internet Explorer). Since this could have been caught with proper testing, no win for you. (If the game had exited early after detecting a non-IE browser, I would have abstained from voting.)

Sam and Leo Go To The Bodega

Technical: 3
Puzzles: 1
Story: 2

Oh joy, a drug-fueled CYOA homage to “Harold and Kumar.” I’m less annoyed by the topic and more annoyed by the CYOA-ness of the presentation.

It isn’t even CYOA. It’s make-two-choices then read a lot of faux-hip dialogue.

That was… fast. And boring. Definitely boring. Nobody wants to hear a narration of your trips, either the family-friendly ones to the Grand Canyon or the ones where you never leave the living room. Vapid, uninspired, derivative, and yes, I repeat, boring.

Of course, the introduction warned me. I should have heeded the warning and stopped right there. No major crashes, and that alone saved this from getting a 1. But barely.

Our Boys in Uniform

Technical: 3
Puzzles: 1
Story: 2

Crap. More “Twee”? I am so tempted to give all the “Twee” games an automatic 2, just to discourage people from submitting them. “Twee” lives up to its name. It’s good for writing Interactive Fan Fiction (“Where you are Mary Sue!”™) and that’s about it. Sorry “Twee” authors: search your heart, you know it to be true.

This is interesting, somewhat biased, but interesting. No challenge, mind you; inappropriate for a competition of this type, mind you. But next time please look at the name of the competition before submitting. This is neither interactive nor fiction: hypertext is a presentation form, and this is historical documentation.

Fighting propaganda with propaganda never works.

Impostor Syndrome

Technical: 3
Puzzles: 1
Story: 4

The randomizer seems to have it out for me; either that, or this year is just chock-full of “Twee” entries. More likely the latter, but I like to blame kismet once in a while, just to keep it on its toes.

Thank you for giving me a name, which is coincidentally your name. Mimesis and immersion is for wussies, right?

Yes, we all know Silicon Valley is one big hot tub, with people hopping from one bed to another. Not.

That was short, even for a “Twee” submission. Minimal branching, more of hypertext in the second person than immersive fiction. Obviously a thinly veiled autobiographical story, but inappropriate for the competition. I really despise entries like this: not for the content, but for the emotional blackmail that they commit. Rate it poorly, and you are part of the problem; rate it well, and you convert the IF Competition into a bully pulpit for every victim that is out there.

And make no mistake, they are victims. Assholes like this abound in the Valley, from the ex-CTO of Business Insider to the boorish brogrammers at a Python convention, a combination of social ignorance caused by anti-intellectual ostracism in their youth and the overwhelmingly male environment of the tech industry. These guys are jerks, they abound, they vociferate, and they get a disproportionate amount of attention from everyone. Women cannot escape them. Such women deserve respect and sympathy, but to anonymously post to a game competition is the wrong way of approaching it. If anything, the author is damaging her cause by attempting to hijack the discussion to her own agenda.

Trapped in Time

Technical: 1
Puzzles: 1
Story: 1

“Where you are the hero!” echoes through my mind…

Good Lord. I thought hypertext “Twee” adventures were the lowest of the low, but here we have a PDF. A frickin’ Pee-Dee-Eff! Sorry, no. I will skim it, but you are not going to get a decent score.

It’s not even a good PDF file. There’s no table of contents, no proper pagination, no hyperlinks (at least in my reader). The story (I jumped to random pages) reads like a poorly-written CYOA book, which may have been the author’s intent, but as a parody it is hardly effective.

Wow. Something worse than “Twee.” Whod’a thunk it?

Machine of Death

Technical: 2
Puzzles: 1
Story: 5

An interesting concept, but not truly original. While Ryan North may have come up with the idea of a perfect prediction machine, the general concept predated him by some time. Practically every other Twilight Zone episode covered people trying to avoid a predetermined fate, only to fall victim in a horribly ironic way. Hell, one could look at Oedipus Rex as being the progenitor of ironic deaths: the king abandoning his son to avoid a tragic end, only to be killed years later by said son who only after learned the king was his father.

Got stuck at one point in an infinite loop while drinking tea. Could not escape it no matter what action I took. Still, better than most “Twee” entries.

The Wizard’s Apprentice

Technical: 7
Puzzles: 6
Story: 5

Thank God. I don’t care how bad it is, it is not “Twee” or a PDF. That alone will earn it points, no matter how tired the concept.

Traditional adventure trope: underpowered, unproven neophyte given a series of tasks by a more powerful mentor. It worked for Enchanter, one of my all-time favorites.

While cast rust on lock is a reasonable grammar construct, I miss the Enchanter-style shorthand rust lock.

The keyhole puzzle was lifted practically verbatim from Zork II.

The list should have been rendered in a monospace font.

Ah, a complicated magical recipe. I wonder if it will be used?

Wow. A single über-verb: Make. I would have forced the player to follow the steps.

Move rug.

Moving it reveals no hidden trapdoors unfortunately.

Kiss witch.

Bleh! You’d sooner kiss a toad!

And… done. A fun little diversion, that. Nothing extraordinary, the story could have used some fleshing out, and some of the puzzles bordered on “find the verb.” Getting the scroll would probably be categorized as “cruel,” or at least “unintuitive.” The über-verb make felt like cheating, but that’s me. Overall, reasonable.

Autumn’s Daughter

Technical: 4
Puzzles: 2
Story: 5

Could not initially play — server was overwhelmed. Yet another problem with web-based IF.

Not bad, actually. But again, a thinly-veiled social protest rather than a serious competition entry. At least the storyline had significant branches, which makes it better than the vast majority of the web submissions so far.

Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder

Technical: 7
Puzzles: 3
Story: 4

Arr, me hearties! We support Nautical Vocabulary!

Hm. There are not very many puzzles here. It feels more like a supermarket shopping spree than anything else.

One puzzle of note, and one death-trap. A short game, but the tension of trying to escape the sinking ship was present. Overall, the game felt more like a prologue from a larger story than a self-contained novelette.

After a few plays, I hit the “walkthrough” only to find out even the author did not know which solution was optimal! Interesting, but irrelevant to the final score.


Technical: 10
Puzzles: 8
Story: 7

All right! Finally something interesting.

A lot of these descriptions remind me of trying to interpret the robots from Suspended.

Hm. The problem with this game is that not only are the descriptions alien, but also the actions that need to be taken. This has made the first puzzle vexatious.

Not many notes here; too busy enjoying the game. The biggest difficulty was finding the right verb, but that was intentional. Once I understood how the color command worked, the other puzzles made sense. Lots of sadness, though, and an Infidel-esque ending especially for Mercy. Not sure if I liked the epilogue. I’m really stretching to find fault, because this entry is head and shoulders above the rest so far. On the other hand there were no moments of surprise, either; nothing quotable that I feel I need to share.

Pretty sure this is going to take the competition: not just because of the plethora of CYOA hypertext, but because it has broad appeal to both the literate as a genuine science fiction story and the puzzleteir as an intellectual challenge.

Blood on the Heather

Technical: 2
Puzzles: 3
Story: 5

Yet more “Twee,” plus a wall of text before the first decision point.

Oh good Lord, vampires? I waded through four screenfuls of text for a vampire story?

Looks like this is a linear plot with the occasional tributary that quickly returns to the main flow.

Restarted to try the other branch. Looks like a completely different story; or the same story told from a different perspective.

Not too bad; a tad linear, but that’s the problem with “Twee.” Story felt like it was lifted out of Joss Whedon’s work-in-progress box, but that’s only to be expected. (Unlike most nerds, I think Whedon is overrated.)

Final Girl

Technical: 1
Puzzles: 1
Story: 1

Thank you, no. I don’t create accounts just to play your damnable game. Automatic FAIL for you.

Bell Park, Youth Detective

Technical: 2
Puzzles: 1
Story: 2

“Next” is hardly cutting edge. The company has been gone for, what, twenty years now? Acquired in 1996. Thanks, Wikipedia!

Hey, Encyclopædia Brown wasn’t a mercenary.

OK, serious suspension of disbelief here. Someone is murdered and you call in a kid to investigate? I mean, sure — ten bucks is ten bucks, and that’s a great rate for a murder investigation. But still… concealing a murder could land you jail time, buck-o.

Whoa, way to name-drop all of the Web 2.0 super-companies in one paragraph. Fishing for a job, eh? You won’t get it using “Twee.”

“Futurist” is a fancy word for pseudo-intellectual con-man. Yep, the emperor is buck-naked; I said it.

“Youth Detective” sounds close to “Hitler Youth,” especially how the PC lays claim to the title.

Christ, not another screed. Who announced this contest on Gizmodo/CNet/Slashdot? They must suffer; this is not a forum for polemic pontification. (Leave that to the bitter reviewers.)

A millennial who does not understand the term “Information Superhighway”? And I thought that a prepubescent investigator called for a suspension of disbelief!

Ow, ow, ow. The technobabble effusing from the hacker is painful.

Impersonating an officer of the law is a crime. Youth detective, you’re getting a cell.

Let me guess — the twist in this story is that Bell Park has a crippling disease that only makes her look like she’s twelve: in reality, she’s forty-seven and holds a nine-to-five as a meter maid but has dreams of being a big city private eye. Because no way would a twelve-year-old not be aware of all the surfing puns made about the internet. Cringe at them, yes; be unaware, no.

You put on your trusty ‘sophisticated’ face. “Chet, I may be young but I get very good grades. I can follow along.”

No you can’t, sweetheart.

“Twerking.” Oh so close; I was hoping to get through the entire competition without seeing that word.

And now we get to the meat of the story. By story, I mean a poorly adapted version of The Adolescence of P-1, updated to the Internet era. (Or maybe for the cheese factor, Date With Danger. No points to you for understanding that reference.)

And that’s it. A cheesy story with more holes in it than a Michael Bay movie script, filled with technobabble that would make a high-school HTML coder cringe.


Technical: 3
Puzzles: 1
Story: 1

Boy, is the bell curve of votes this year going to be skewed.

And it insults me because I’m taking too long to do anything. Sue me for having to answer the phone. This is certainly not inspired by How To Win Friends and Influence People.

I am so impressed with the author’s eloquence. The overtly unfocused rage of the “Suffering Haves,” furious that they cannot find a reason to be angry, that their own circumstance and lack of motivation has doomed them to join the ranks of the ignorable mediocracy. Screaming “Fuck” randomly doesn’t make you special, edgy, or hip: it just makes everyone pity you for your Tourette’s.

And it’s over. Ten minutes. No interest in restarting, not that I expect anything different to occur. A flurry of random, faux-symbolic mutterings from a wanna-be beat poet. The photos were nice, that’s about all.


Technical: 4
Puzzles: 1
Story: 2

Oooh, fawncy HTML5 graphics.

“Zoran Tharp”? You give the PC a name, and you give him that name? Anyone born with that name is doomed to mediocrity or worse.

I have read four full pages of text and yet to reach a single decision point. I mean, even CYOA allows you to choose.

Ah finally, a decision. And what a decision it is: to go to work, or to play hooky. One will probably end the game chiding me for not going for the gusto. I wonder which one it will be?

This is a simulation of the London underground, with a few NPCs thrown in to break up the tedium. Now, I’m a big fan of mass transit, especially with insane train conductors that give you a small glimmer of hope that your commute may yet turn into a protracted gun battle with a SWAT team that will make you reevaluate your life and quit the mundane life of a web developer in downtown Los Angeles, but simulations leave me cold.

Seriously, I could go to work, or ride the trains all day. Not much of a choice. I’m not a big fan of needle-in-a-haystack games, so if there is one person on a train that will make the story interesting and the goal is to locate that person, I’m not interested in spending an hour looking for that magical person. Otherwise, a thorough waste of time.

The Challenge

Technical: 2
Puzzles: 1
Story: 1

“Written and designed in less than 24 hours!” Not a good sign — not good at all.

Seriously, am I the only one that knows how to use max-width CSS to make autosizing images and responsive design? It’s not that difficult, people.

Yes, after only a minute I’m tempted to Stab yourself with the Knife.

HOLY. CRAP. That’s it? I mean, you should have been able to get more done in 24 hours, dude. Seriously, have you even tried any of the past competition games? Did you really think you would have even the smallest chance, or was this a lame attempt at buzz marketing your mad DJ skilzz? If the latter, I bet you’re the kind of guy who thinks an iPod and twenty-dollar Walmart speakers makes you the next Ellen Allien.

The Paper Bag Princess

Technical: 5
Puzzles: 6
Story: 7

Every competition must have a game with a dragon. It’s a universal law.

Why, oh why, does the princess want to rescue that fop of a prince? He tried to sacrifice her to the dragon. So help me, if she ends up with him at the end…

Well, that was… short. Not as short as some of the “Twee” entries, but still it could have used more fleshing out. There was a small conversation maze, but not significant enough to really be annoying. All in all, it felt like a Jay Williams fairy tale more than a full competition entry. There didn’t seem to be much branching in the story either, so I think I covered the full gamut. Still, no overt agenda makes it stand out against the other submissions from this year.


Technical: 5
Puzzles: 3
Story: 5

Not sure I like the colors. Having been admonished for making games unfriendly to those with disabilities, I wonder how people with colorblindness might react.

This is another one of those one-trick-pony games. Find an object, focus on it, follow the instructions, go to the one room that is colored differently. Lather, rinse, repeat.

That was… fast. As in fifteen minutes from start to end. The unpleasant leitmotif of the competition entries this year seems to be on one-puzzle games with lots of repetition. The stories presented aren’t interesting enough to justify the lack of challenge.


Technical: 4
Puzzles: 2
Story: 2

Not another ghost story! Last year, zombies; this year, ghosts.

Nope. This feels like one of those life-changing decision games, which are really pop psychology tests in disguise. We went through this last year, with The Test is Now READY. And I did not enjoy that, either.

I didn’t even get nine lives! I only got three. What kind of a scam is that?

Looking at the walkthru, I see that the “nine lives” refers to the possible lives the player can have, but if the player is noble, he only experiences the lives that get progressively better. Cute, but not enough to save from a mediocre score.

100,000 years

Technical: 1
Puzzles: 1
Story: 1

OK, so what is the point? This isn’t even interactive; it’s just moving along a timeline that is cyclical, that assumes some form of psionic panspermia. Nothing to see here, move on.

Saving John

Technical: 2
Puzzles: 1
Story: 2

Oh Lord, save me. Another game in which I have to navigate a memory maze.

Ran through a couple of the scenarios, but they ended about the same. Not sure if I have a goal here, or if I’m just replaying memories of a life badly wasted. Not really interested either way.

Dad vs. Unicorn

Technical: 4
Puzzles: 1
Story: 1

Thought that read, “Dad vs Unicron.” While definitely one-sided, might have been fun to watch. This looks dull.

Yes, it’s dull: profanity-laden, Newgrounds-inspired, quasi-hipster drivel. A few interesting layout tricks, but that’s it. Nothing inspired here, move on.

Mrs. Wobbles & The Tangerine House

Technical: 4
Puzzles: 2
Story: 7

A half-megabyte image is not the best choice if you are trying to appeal to the bandwidth-conscious.

It’s definitely designed with the child in mind, especially with an actual narrator. That took some effort. I shall even forego my normal complaint about competition entries failing to recognize their intended audience is well-versed in interactive fiction only because it is a children’s story.

If you’re going to do faux interactive fiction, this is the way to do it. Simply state up front that you are presenting a story with occasional branching, and that the author would prefer you to read the entire story. But above all, let the reader decide. There it is, in black-and-white (well, black-and-tan as the background is parchment except that’s also a beer blend): I’ll let you decide.

This definitely has a Los Angeles tone. For those familiar with the city and its idiosyncrasies, it is charming; for those who are not, most of the references will be lost.

A cute story, but 1) it’s still CYOA, and 2) it’s a preview of a larger story that may or may not ever be written. Points off for that.

Their angelical understanding

Technical: 3
Puzzles: 3
Story: 4

Got past the first puzzle, then got the following:

Walking down the chalk road, Error executing macro stopsound: Error: InvalidStateError: DOM Exception 11

Game still seems to function.

I’m stuck. For the last five minutes I have been trapped in the cottage with no apparent means to escape. All links lead back here. Either this is a bug in the hypertext, or the way out is deeply hidden.

At least this was an attempt to tell a story; granted, a story buried under purple prose (literally purple in some cases) but still, a story. One cannot ignore the plethora of HTML tricks used by the author; unfortunately they distract from, rather than enhance, the story. On a non-traditional platform, such as a tablet, this is unplayable.

Who Among Us

Technical: 5
Puzzles: 4
Story: 8

Even the title makes me cringe.

Actually, no. I was fearing another political screed, but this looks like genuine fiction.

Nice way to give me a name, by forcing me to take an alias. Granted, it’s also forcing me to a specific gender but we can’t have it all, can we?

Not really much of a choice, is there? I either talk to people then go into the back room, or skip the introductions and go into the back room.

All I’m doing is reading page after page of text, with the occasional choice point that barely leaves the main stream. And I thought Bell Park, Youth Detective was pushing it…

Aw, you gave me a name. It could have been carefully avoided, too; just like the gender issue.

…And Then There Were None: The Game.

Inconsistency: I was with the bounty hunter when he was attacked; he was not alone.

Well, the answer was pretty obvious after finding the evidence in the desk, but the dénouement did not confirm my suspicions. Only by purposely choosing an ending that I knew was wrong did I get my confirmation. Not sure if this violates the Players’ Bill of Rights, but it sure feels like it: the only way to be satisfied is to lose.

The Cardew House

Technical: 3
Puzzles: 4
Story: 4

Storytelling is a little stiff… The author seems to be going for a Lovecraftian haunted house atmosphere (e.g., The Shunned House) but is too adjectival to establish the mood (cf. DM4, §51, “The Room Description”). Not only are we given an air of sadness and a gibbous moon, but also a light that seems to sigh.

The second room is no better. Every sentence but the first begins with there is or there are. Hope is fading…

The random house noises worked (barely) in Hollywood Hijinx, but here they just fall flat.

Please, please check the state of the object before overriding messages:

Open cupboard.

The cupboard shakes as you open it...

Open cupboard.

The cupboard shakes as you open it...

Push and pull should have had the same effect with the cupboard, I think.

Open door.

That’s not something you can open.

Ergh. Some of these puzzles border on the ridiculous. Hitting the walkthrough…

I take that back: these puzzles cross the border and go deep into the heart of ridiculous. There were not enough hints about the actions needed to be taken, and some of the actions were illogical.

Nice try, but needed serious editing and beta testing…

Ollie Ollie Oxen Free

Technical: 9
Puzzles: 10
Story: 10

Oooh, violence. Papa like!

This is a way to start a story: in medias res, with an obvious immediate goal placed in front of the player. No initial frustration, no difficulty establishing motivation. Survive, find students. Questions (“Who is responsible?”) will hopefully be answered.

Oh, this is going to be fun:

Get scissors.

Your hands are shaking badly enough that you’re afraid of dropping the pair of safety scissors, but you could ask Ashley to get it for you.

No coöperation allowed between students:

Ashley and Tyrone, move block.

To talk to someone, try “someone, hello” or some such.

That’s OK, that would be some advanced parser tweaking right there.

Look under table.

Jude’s Mr. Bunny is wedged far back under the table…

Hint about Mr Bunny.

HINT ABOUT only works for students who need rescuing.

Try telling Jude that…

There are some unintentional guess-the-verb puzzles here. I know what I want to do, but I can’t figure out how to convince the parser what I need to do.


Unlock A35.

What do you want to unlock George’s locker with?


The combination lock would make a lousy lockpick. Try something more sensible.

Hm. The game has been very good about scoping and implementing objects that are in descriptions, up to this point:

Samir, look.

You call, “Samir, what are you seeing?”

Through a vent in the ceiling, Samir hollers, “It’s really dark, but I can see a little bit from the light behind me. There’s another grate in front of me […]

Samir, examine grate.

Samir won’t understand those instructions. You need to rethink your strategy.

Tsk, tsk. Students taking the opportunity to loot the classrooms.

Samir, turn off flashlight.

You ask, “Samir, would you please switch off that flashlight?”

Samir says, “It’s already on, Mr. Ginsberg.”

You ask, “Oh... right... sorry.”

Oooh, nice twist at the end. Unlike a certain movie starring Bruce Willis, I did not see that coming at all. A little long for a competition entry (I hit the walkthrough to reach the end before the deadline), but near perfect with only one or two parser glitches. A great balance of puzzles and story. I’m glad I hit this before the end of the competition — it completely renewed my faith that the competition had mettle and was not just a showcase for stale CYOA.

Robin & Orchid

Technical: 10
Puzzles: 9
Story: 8

Take pictures. Lose Sharon. Find ghosts. Nice to have my goals enumerated up front.

There’s an old scam where Polaroids were partially exposed to make it look like ghosts were present when a photograph was taken. Hm…

OK, the notebook is a little too prescient.

I can’t tell if this story is religious or mocking the religious.

Am I supposed to say “Bloody Mary” three times or what?

“More handbell!”

Yeah, it’s a scam. Figured that out pretty early.

Oh, I’m a female Robin. Didn’t notice that. I should have consulted the notes about myself early on.

This map is amazing, and the number of items implemented is fantastic. It’s not a bad story, but unfortunately there were so many red herrings that it was frustrating. I spent far too long trying to figure out how to open the desk, for example. For a full-fledged game, it’s great; for a competition entry, it could have used some paring down.


Technical: 4
Puzzles: 5
Story: 4

The prologue feels a bit CYOA-ish. Actually, it reminds me a bit of the setup for Calm which used a series of multiple-choice questions to tune the game for you. Not sure I like this. I gave the author of Enlisted grief for this, and my opinion really hasn’t changed.

And you give me a name as well. Hell, if you’re collecting this kind of information, ask me for the PCs name directly. Don’t be lazy!

Isograms. Looks like another case of a puzzle in search of a plot. Well, considering the amount of purple prose that I had to wade through to get to an actual game, I can live with it.

Hm. There’s definitely a need for noun disambiguation. Also, while it is unsafe to burn wood that I am holding, there doesn’t seem to be any restriction on picking something up that is on fire.

Lots of words are missing. I’m not sure if they were ever there or if it’s an interpreter bug. The walkthrough is useless. All in all this doesn’t feel finished.

A Wind Blown from Paradise

Technical: 6
Puzzles: 2
Story: 3

Sounds a little too much like the title of the debut album from an emo band.

Oh dear, another self-indulgent escapade into the mediocracy of one’s daily life.

Ouch. While I tend to relish the adjectival, this is a little too much:


Glorious Apollo in regal transit graces each grain with a spark of his spirit […]

There was not much there there. One puzzle (if you can call it that), a vague and rather bland memory of a beach, and a train simulator (the second in this competition, I note).


Technical: 4
Puzzles: 3
Story: 7

“Requires ActiveX”? I’ll try later, if I am still in the mood.

Did this one last because I still had a few hours left. Not really a CYOA as there were very few choices to be made. The choices made unlocked other branches of the story until the entire thing could be read. Like Slaughterhouse Five and other out-of-order plots, with the twist being that the PC jumped from body to body through eternity. Nice artistic presentation, and a decent story. Not overly florid nor overly base.