Shufflecomp reviews (Truth, Tea and Toast, Fallout Shelter [by Voss], Illuminate)   Leave a comment

So there’s this event called ShuffleComp where people sent in playlists of songs and received random sets of 8. The same people then wrote works of interactive fiction based on those songs; 33 came back with an entry. Voting for works that get a Commendation goes to the end of May.

However, there’s this extra rule where each review counts as an extra yes vote. It’s an experiment that I believe is intended to tilt feedback to more-positive-vibes-than-negative but it makes me anxious, because even on interactive fiction I enjoy haven’t been able to tell if it’s “worth” the bonus boost of a review. Also, in some cases I’d like to talk about interactive fiction I’d consider a “no” vote but still have interesting discussion points.

The only way out of this is to write a review for everything. So I’m going to do that, with the caveat that reviews near the deadline might be choppy sentences without grammar control. Mea culpa in advance.

(I entered my own work under a psuedonym, and since I don’t plan to review myself the reviews have a side effect of potentially giving away my secret identity early. There’s a rule of no-speculating-on-pseudonyms but that’s for public discussion and you’re welcome to play the home game. I also realize I reduce my own chances at Commendation by one vote by implicitly voting for everyone else, but c’est la vie.)

Truth, by John Earthling

The intrepid player here must stalk about a minimalist town in a mission to root out untruth:

The man leans close and, glancing about conspiratorially, whispers “Snakes are the only animals with opposable thumbs.” Then he slinks away into the shadows.

OK, that clearly wasn’t the truth.
[You have debunked an untruth!]

The game feels loose and uncomfortable to me; I don’t really have much to latch onto. Either than prose needs to be deeper or the interaction stronger or the comedy just funnier. I’m keen on the scoring system, though: [You have come across a fib!] or [You have exposed a prevarication!] or etc. occur every time another fib has been found.

Tea and Toast, by Maria del Pangolin

Does a story need conflict? I don’t think so, and neither does Tea and Toast:

It was at the bus stop you first saw her. The first week, you stole glances as you walked past. The second week, you tried to figure out if she was stealing glances back. The third week, you decided to start taking the bus to work… even though it’d be a bit of a walk back.

It’s simple: you prepare tea and toast and memories flow in. Except, hm, I must be bad at preparing tea, because I keep messing things up by turning on the teapot (which is a thing you can’t do?) or trying to put leaves in without a strainer (which I guess is bad?) or doing a list of other things that are apparently wrong.

Still, it’s the sort of thing you play to be happy, and it works.

Fallout Shelter, by Amadeo Voss

Dreadful scratching sounds, the kind that remind you of when you were a little girl, hiding under the covers so the monsters wouldn’t get you.

I think (other than a weird burst of autobiographical material in a notebook) that perhaps the shelter is a little too sparse, because I couldn’t visualize anything; this was just words. There’s a choice about staying or leaving that doesn’t make me feel like any kind of story progression happened at all. The ending I had to work hardest at was getting eaten by the monsters, so I’ll call that my VICTORY END and move on from there.

Illuminate, by Summer del Mono

The surface of the table seems to bubble even as the clear ball approaches, magnifies it many times over, cracks spreading across its surface, until it shatters with a brief burst of red flame, leaving no trace of the table.

You find you have the crystal orb and the blood orb once more.

What remains: An orange wall. A fruit tray lies on the floor. Deep scratches and pits mark the plain table.

This reminds me of entries from the IF Art Show (wow, the last one was 2007? we should revive that sometime) where the goal is to fiddle with things (in this case, four paintings with matching orbs) and see what they do. This would be more engrossing if the prose had more style; as is it’s a bit dry. Still, I was intrigued enough to play about for a while and I do wonder if there’s any secrets I have yet to unearth.

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Posted May 20, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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