IFComp 2018 Reviews and Notes

Well, I'm excited to be playing some of the games on IFComp again. As with last year, I haven't been able to participate as fully as I'd like: there's traveling and (again) moving during October this year, so I started late and didn't get to play through as many games as I would have liked. And, again, there are a lot of entries this year, so I'm going to pick things that I think are likely to appeal to me personally.

The IFComp 2018 home page can be found here.

Selection Criteria

With so many entries this year, I'm applying some basic filtering criteria to which games I'm going to play: I'm prioritizing parser-based games that are designed with systems that have an easily available Linux interpreter. (This second criterion rules out works written in ALAN, ADRIFT, and Quest, some of which I might be able to get running with some effort and time. But I'd rather put this effort and time into interacting with games written by people who aren't making a development decision that includes a belief, however tangential to the main part of their development decision-making process, however subconscious, that they're OK with a development system that cuts off or mandates a lot of extra work for some potential interactors, including me. This criterion sometimes also rules out Windows executables, if they don't work well under Wine. When it comes right down to it, I'd rather be trying to figure out how to escape from the elven mound than trying to figure out which version of a Windows 'terp for some development system happens to work well under my particular version of Wine.) I'm going to try to get through as many games that fit those criteria as I can during the comp period. Since that's still a fair number of games (17), I'm prioritizing games based on how interesting their description sounds to me. After all, I want to play games that I'll enjoy, don't I?

None of this is meant to suggest that there are certain inherently right or wrong ways to develop IF, or that there are certain ways that IF should be; all I'm saying is that there are works I'm more and less likely to enjoy interacting with, and I want to spend my time on things I actually enjoy. I'm more likely to judge them fairly and sympathetically, anyway.

I'm using Jacqueline Lott's rubric as the basis for my scores again this year. Thank you for a well-thought out rubric, Jacqueline!

Initial Plans

In any case, given all of that, here's my list of longish games I'd very much like to play through:

Here is my list of longish (or length-unknown) games I'd willingly play through, given enough time:

Here is my list of shortish games I'd play through if I wind up with enough time:

And here is a list of games I almost certainly won't play through because they don't meet the criteria already specified.

Lists above are ordered according to my personal sort on the IFComp website.

Note for Authors

These reviews are not primarily intended for authors of games, for the reasons that Sam Kabo Ashwell has explained. Some reviews are quite direct about my reactions to the games, and my reactions to pieces of IF is occasionally negative. I don't tone down my reactions to save authors' feelings; if the game is flawed, I say so, and if the flaws have a serious impact on my ability to engage with and enjoy the game, then I may have highly negative reactions to the game for exactly that reason. Authors are of course welcome to write whatever they'd like, whether I think it's good or not; but, by entering it into IFComp, they are asking for judgment on it, and my judgment, partial and biased as it may be, is what these reviews include. All of these are honest reactions to the game as it was actually submitted to the Comp. If you, author, have questions or want me to elaborate on something I said, please let me know! Similarly, if I've said something that is factually incorrect, or that is profoundly off-base, I'd appreciate hearing about that, too.

That being said, the game needs to stand on its own. I'm talking about the game itself, as it was actually published; and that may have very little to do with the author's vision for what the game could be, or should have been, or with the author's view of her- or himself as a game author. None of that is relevant to the review; the review is about my own experience of the game. I do try to engage with each game on its own terms, and I try to be explicit about my own preferences. Some games are just not for me. I try to be clear about that, too. I'm happy to elaborate and discuss, but I'm not willing to be wheedled or cajoled.

My Preferences

In no particular order ...

Spoiler Alert

All of the reviews below are spoilery. You may want to avoid reading them if you're still planning on playing the game. Or you may decide that you can appreciate a text even if you know some of its details ahead of time.

That's up to you.

The Reviews

Games Not Played

Divided into categories that give a rationale for each of those decisions.

… because I didn't get to them

… because I ran out of time, even though they otherwise met my criteria:

… because I lack an appropriate interpreter for the game

More often than not, this means one or more of the following things: there's no (good, easily available) Linux interpreter for the system that the work of IF was developed for, the Windows 'terp doesn't play well under Wine, and/or the 'terp is not free or otherwise comes with weird and unacceptable requirements.

… because they're not parser-based

… because they're web-only

Many games meeting this criteria have already been eliminated by being not parser-based.