Threediopolis

by Andrew Schultz.

Threediopolis is an amusing puzzler containing pure wordplay. Figuring out how to work the game is a puzzle in itself. From there on, the puzzle-solving approach is similar to solving cryptic crosswords.

It’s a straightforward game, with slightly silly room descriptions and an interesting mechanic. Very, very gentle hints and prompts are built-in, which makes gameplay less frustrating, especially since a few of the answers were very obscure.

But if you prefer, there are hints available on the ifdb/ifarchive site (along with download links of the zblorb file). It’s a polished game, great for a half-hour or so of word-guessing with some really clever puzzles.

First impressions

With all that’s been said about transitions from flash-based or graphical games to parser-based IF, I was slightly surprised nothing has been said so far about Episode: Choose your Story by Pocket Gems.

One huge difference between this and more mainstream IF (including all incarnations of Versu/Undum, Twine, Storynexus and parser-based games) was the generous amount of animation. Though the animation does little to aid the story progress (as far as I can tell), I can see why it might be a pull factor, lest having textwalls and things too similar to books be intimidating. The animation, however, is jerky and reminiscent of Alice- in that torsos and limbs interact as if they were floating on top of each other. It was disconcerting, and a reminder that graphical bells and whistles is not a substitute for good story writing.

I will not venture to comment about dialogue or story yet, seeing as I have not finished one. Though it must be noted that writing may or may not be inconsistent across stories, as the website has an open call for writers.

Finally!

Finally finished playing City of Secrets (by Emily Short) today, after trying and aborting last year. It’s a vast game, extensively implemented, with an intriguing plot. It’s a rather good balance between puzzle and story, though it’s easy to get stuck wandering around in the middle and the endgame was mostly clicking through to read the story.

 

This is not a proper review. This is a placeholder of sorts because I have some other things to do, and because it’s always good to put a bit of distance between commenting and finishing such a long game as this.

Backup

By Gregory Weir.

You are the third backup unit for the Eastern Cascade Facility computer network.  You are capable of multitasked processing, natural language communication, fuzzy crisis management, and full-sensory drone immersion.  Self-diagnostics reveal that 92% of shared resources are unavailable to you.  You feel a bit ill.

You shouldn’t even be switched on. Something big’s happened to this facility, and you need to find out what!

This game includes a combat system, of sorts, though killing NPCs is not necessary to progress. It is extensively implemented, though the bulk of the story is revealed in a lengthy monologue from an NPC, without much in the way of anticipation. This made the story component feel like an almost-last minute addition, even though due attention was paid to detail in other parts of the game. Despite this, it’s enjoyable to play and pretty straightforward, with some story branching.

Glowgrass

By Nate Cull (1997).

You are a world-renown xenohistorian, and this is the largest intact Ancient structure you’ve been in so far. From your studies, you understand that this is a place of residence, complete with things you’ve only ever seen in papers and in the abstract! The only trouble is that your ride home- your dropship- has crashed, so you’ve got to make do with Ancient technology to get home.

This is a short futuristic puzzler with a tiny hint of romance. The images invoked are simple and colour-coded; navigation and puzzle-solving is straightforward, except for a tiny spot of occasional verb-guessing. Not knowing the names of things- which is puzzling, since you’re supposed to be an authority in this field, after all- made gameplay clumsy, though.

Worth a play, though. It’s well-written, engaging and emotive, with an intriguing ending.