Interactive Fiction Competition 2008!

Well, it’s that time again, and once more I’m planning on reviewing as many of the IFComp games this year as I possibly can.  Experience has shown I’ve got very little chance of making it through all of them, free time being something of a luxury at the moment, still – the few reviews I managed last year proved to be reasonably popular so I definitely have to give it my best shot.

We’ll start by taking a quick look over the field competitors and note the stand outs in this year’s competition.  I must admit, given that i’m likely not to get through them all i’m not going for a random approach – rather, i’m going to pick the ones that sound like i’ll enjoy them more.  This will work out well, because they’re also the ones i’ll undoubtedly be the most disappointed in if they don’t live up to their blurb – which will make the reviews far more entertaining.

As I go through them, i’ll link to the reviews from this post so you can simply watch this space if you want to follow along.  I’ll also post links to RGIF, to keep things simple.

So, state of the field:

The Absolute Worst IF Game in History

Well… no blurb at all.  Appears to be written in Z-code, and I can’t say i’m familiar with Dean Menezes, the author.  Still, you can’t go past a challenge like that.  The question is, will it be a funny poke at the genre’s foibles, or absolutely mind-numbingly painful that will be a struggle to play through.

Really, either option would be a win given the title, so the only way this title can fail would be with a mediocre, rather than a bad effort.  Way to set the bar low!

A science fiction time travel setting and a name I can’t pronounce. Sounds like win.  I’ve always had an interest in the philosophical theories of time travel and studied them at university, so this is one i’m looking forward to playing.

Cry Wolf
A wolf at the door after midnight.  Reading this I felt shades of Lovecraft and I must heed the call.  Ftaghn.

A Date With Death
It has a king, the grim reaper and the blurb suggests a fantasy setting.  I’ll be giving this one a look and hoping that it has the grim reaper as a literal character and doesn’t just mean “You’re dying.”.  It perked my interested, which is all a blurb has to do.

Dracula’s Underground Crypt
I like comedy and I like vampires.  I also like the turnabout Alex has tried to use, albeit somewhat unsucessfully, in his blurb.  “He’s note who you’re playing as” is full of contractions and just feels awkward as a sentance, though the intention is quite good and funny.  Perhaps better would be something like “This is not his story”, make it simpler and shorter.  I’m not expecting great things from this one, but I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

Escape From The Underworld
A demon with a change of heart… someone kitschy, but I like the idea of outsourced torturing so the setting sounds somewhat original.  Could be good!

LAIR of the CyberCow
Farm Noir… chilling, ambivalently moral look at social thems of our times… cyber cow?  How could you pass this one by without stopping in for a look?  With such an intriguing blurb, it has a lot to live up to.

A Martian Odyssey
The blurb is flat and sounds like generic space adventure A.  However, I do like space adventures, I havn’t seen Mars as a setting for a game in quite a while, and “chemist” is an interesting choice of hero.  I wonder if it’s just colour, or if it’ll matter.  Anything that makes you wonder in a blurb is likely to draw people in.

Piracy 2.0
As I said, I like science fiction, however given the way the blurb is written i’m not expecting a great deal from this one.  The story sounds somewhat cliche and giving the whole story in capsule like that doesn’t leave me wondering anything – not even if the main character will succeed.  The blurb gives me no reason to care, so this will be another one I will be hoping will surprise me.

Well, thats my pick of some of the most interesting sounding blurb, please note this is no indictment of the other games.  If I have time i’ll go beyond these, but lets face it – i’ll be impressed if I manage this many.

Many of the ones I havn’t noted here had no blurb at all, so no real way to gauge how interesting it sounds.  Also, I have particular tastes in style and genre, and I generally play for the story and not the puzzles – so i’ll go science fiction before say, Everybody Dies which sounds, from the blurb, like a deep, thoughtful literary excursion into fathomless depression.  I’d rather play a nice sci-fi, even one that isn’t very good – at least it’ll make a fun review.

I should also point at that some of my favorite interactive fiction of all time are A Mind Forever Voyaging, Babel, Anchorhead, Vespers and The Lurking Horror.  Take from that what you will, but I like stories.  Puzzles, unless they are particularly clever, are never enough for me.  (Lock and Key springs to mind, that was quite fun.)

Well, thats that, hopefully i’ll be back before too long with the first review.  Feel free to comment and join in the litany. 

A final note, I have never completed writing a piece of interactive fiction, though I’ve tooled around in the languages a bit, and i’ve no patience for teaching.  Obviously I am a natural choice as a critic.


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