Saturday, November 21, 2020

Little Girl in Monsterland: IFcomp 2020

Little Girl in Monsterland is a choice-based comedy by Mike Stallone. 

This entry is full of wild ideas. It has a comic tone that matches its six-year-old protagonists (although it contained an unexpectedly large amount of poop jokes, even for a juvenile comedy) and their journey involves mermaids, werewolves, vampires, and unpaid electric bills.

At some points, the comic tone made it difficult for me to follow the plot. I couldn't always tell when characters were supposed to see through transparent lies, or when I was supposed to ignore contradictions that had merely been introduced for a quick laugh. 

Little Girl in Monsterland also took an interesting approach to solving the Gabriel Knight problem: how can adventure games develop new puzzles? Game designers have endured a lot of public ridicule for presenting bizarre solutions to very old problems, like putting arbitrary obstacles in front of a player who just needs to find a key.

This entry approached its puzzle design challenges from the opposite direction. The player sets the goals to accomplish, and the characters manipulate objects to remove obstacles. 

These game mechanics elegantly sidestep a lot of parser problems, and they avoid some of the interface problems that can trip up point-and-click games. The player and the narrator agree on what should happen next, and then the characters act it out in the game. When it worked, it felt like collaborative storytelling. 

At other times, I struggled to figure out what I should be doing. There are some obvious red herrings that are only there to add some variety, but in many places the correct choice was just as absurd as the alternatives. 

Some of my confusion may have been due to a lack of imagination on my part. When I did stumble through the correct sequence of motives, it made sense within the world of the game. 

Overall, Little Girl in Monsterland is a big, ambitious entry, and I appreciate the amount of work that went into it. This game does a lot of things well, and it offers some ideas for improving adventure games.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Review Roundup: Move On

Move on is is a choice-based entry by Serhii Mozhaiskyi.

This is a game that I beta-tested, which means that I'm not going to review it. However, other reviewers made some good points. 

From Victor Gijsbers:

"Move on explores the possibility of having a tense chase scene in interactive fiction in a rather unique way: the player only gets a button that says “move on”, but what happens after moving on depends crucially on the timing of your click."

From Thomas Hvizdos

"The writing is solid. It’s difficult to write action–too much detail and you lose the momentum of the scene, too little and you don’t capture what makes it exciting. This game pulls it off well."

From Stian 

"An extremely short action thriller choice game, Move On demands you figure out its rather neat trick if you want to survive. The little writing there is is good. Apart from that, it doesn’t offer much." 

It's a short entry, so you should give it a try yourself.