IFComp: EnCaptured

Continuing yet again with the next batch of IFComp entries, as I review my intial impressions of each game’s opening (introduction, “About” screens, and the first location), summarized by the Capture Score from 1 (intriguing; a definite play) to 4 (dreadful and forgettable). Just a reminder, no spoilers here, just early impressions.

Games covered here include “Violet”, “The Absolute Worst IF Game in History”, and “The Ngah Angah School of Forbidden Wisdom”.

“Violet”, by Jeremy Freese

“Violet” is a game that begins with a more minimalist approach; no long introduction, just what sounds like an initial conversation between two people. And I’m apparently a procrastinating writer; the ABOUT screen notifies me that I am the boyfriend of the character (Violet) narrating the game. It’s an interesting and not often used perspective, and it’s a nice touch to see everything, including the ABOUT screen, narrated in this voice. It is effective at making me feel like I’m playing along with another. The fascinating part is that the opening scene informs me that Violet is not actually physically present with me; I’m merely pretending that she is.

I also like that the ABOUT screen is written as a letter from Violet to me. It gives the character additional personality while performing a typical game meta-function (“I’ll be desolate if you QUIT.”). An intriguing option is that you can change gender by typing FEMALE (which seems easier than the accepted HETERONORMATIVITY OFF), although it’s not clear what impact that would have on the narrative of the game. Even the CREDIT screen is written in this style, effectively separating Violet and “the game” from its author, Freese.

The writing is solid and stylish; there are many small touches that make the experience feel dynamic. Given how much appears to take place in the initial location, I played for a few minutes only to get a good feel for the game, and I left impressed and intrigued. Really looking forward to playing this more.

Capture Score: 1. This game “gets it.”

“The Absolute Worst IF Game in History”, by Dean Menezes

I have to admit, I’m not looking forward to this one. I highly doubt that the title is wry or satirical, given some of the Comp entries we’ve seen in the past. The introduction is brief, the initial location described only as “Entrance” with reference to a nearby maze. There is no ABOUT, HELP, or HINT screen, and no readme file. Just to be sure, I head toward the maze, and I’m met with twisty little passages. No more need be said.

Capture Score: 4. Is it the worst in history? I’m not sticking around to find out.

“The Ngah Angah School of Forbidden Wisdom”, by Anssi Räisänen

This game wins for most alluring title. This is Räisänen’s sixth game according to Baf’s Guide, although I haven’t played any of the others, so I don’t know what to expect.

The setting seems cliché, but still worth investigating: my female partner has left to pursue her studies at a school she could not divulge; after searching for her in pursuit, I have finally found the hidden Ngah Angah School of Forbidden Wisdom, with its notorious deadly entrance exam. I must pass this exam to be reuinted with my love, a test which consists of three trials. Hmm.

The setup promises a game with puzzles, and the opening would seem to confirm this. It’s a challenge, and I’m tempted to take it up, but I’m just not sure the setting draws me in enough. The writing is fair; I cannot spot any obvious errors, but there’s not the same polish as I’ve seen in other games. Some sentences are clumsily worded, and I just don’t think the introduction gives me a clear enough visual of the scene to engage me.

I’m carrying a piece of paper with writing on it; READing it produces an empty response. I’m not sure if this is intended, a bug, or a problem with the interpreter. I’m just not sure. That about sums it up.

Capture Score: 3. Give some credit for a good title.

More to come…

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