Thoughts on the 2008 French IF Competition
Here are my reviews for the 2008 French IF Competition, which had a theme I adore, at least in concept: smoke. Granted, that's a rather vague theme (I think the themes for this competition generally are; last year's was wind, if memory serves. At any rate, I launched the games hoping for stories of mystery, of flame, of mist... and hoping they wouldn't instead be about pollution or nicotine.Should you be interested in how I assign the numerical ratings for each game, I'm using the same scale I use to rate IFcomp games, and those methods can be found here.Clicking on a title will direct you toward more information about that game. If you're new to interactive fiction, I would recommend a visit to A Beginner's Guide to Playing Interactive Fiction before you download anything.For those who would prefer to read the reviews in French, my (no doubt poorly translated) reviews are here, along with all the other French-language reviews submitted during the competition, and the vote distribution for the competition can be found here.
Brume | Le Loup, la Chévre et la Salade | Les Lettres Volées | Survivre
A Z-code game by ...
Creepy.I enjoyed the prologue writing a great deal, though I'm always taken with floaty, somewhat vague and dreamy imagery with heavy use of natural elements. And there were images of fire on the landscape, something I'd hoped I'd see with the smoke theme of the competition and something which always conjures up brilliant mental imagery. Then the poetic prose ended, and I awoke seemingly in a delapidated hospital or ward of some sort, with a throbbing skull and atrophied limbs. The place seemed stark, spartan... My initial impression was that perhaps I was a fire fighter who'd been caught on the mountain, just now gaining consciousness and experiencing my injuries, but things didn't all add up. No mention of burns, per se, so perhaps the initial imagery was but a dream induced by the fever I seem to have. The author did a good job of pulling me in, of making me wonder who the PC was, and what they'd been through. Why were they here? What was this place? And, as it's obviously not a very nice place, how will I get away, given my current state? All these questions immediately sprung to mind... and yet I somehow didn't feel the sense of urgency that I think would normally accompany all those thoughts... at first. Then I solved the first major puzzle and things sort of took off wildly. The sense of urgency was then present, and I enjoyed the rest of the experience, disturbing though it was.The end of the game felt as if it came a touch too soon, with more questions generated than answered. I suppose that was potentially the point, of course, but in general I got the impression that the game was written to (A) show off the author's flair for flowery prose (I particularly enjoyed the hint system and the fact that there were two versions of the hints, one lengthy and poetic, the other 'non-romanticized'), and (B) to enter a game which centered around the theme of smoke. Fair enough on both counts, I suppose, but I would have enjoyed a better conclusion. And in reality? It's a good thing when a player wants more because the game has created questions in the player's mind.
Pleasure to Play: 8Quality of Writing: 9Programming: 8REVIEWSTOP
Le Loup, la Chèvre et la Salade
A Z-Code game by ...
The writing on this one—particularly as I played it immediately following Brume—seemed fairly simple, but it had a cute premise that sounded fun, and I was up for something a bit less grim and creepy after Brume, so I was immediately happy with the first bits of text.This is no doubt one of those old puzzles that's been done before (in fact, when I mentioned it to my husband he raised an eyebrow and replied, "What? You've never done that riddle before?"), but it was one that I had personally not done, so I enjoyed it. It seemed really simple at first, then seemed suddenly quite difficult, then I finally figured out the trick (unfortunately with a nudge from my aforementioned husband... now I'm wishing I'd figured it out all by myself).At any rate, this one is incredibly short. While the writing was technically okay, I feel it could have been made far better, by some more filled-out prose; perhaps the goat makes noises or does cute things, perhaps the wolf drools or threatens the goat from time to time, perhaps the salad... well, okay, I'm not sure what the salad could do. But it seems like if you're going to write a game this short and sweet, you should do something shiny with it.The one bit of the game that I did find quite shiny was the code which streamlined the puzzle with respect to picking things up and putting them into the boat or onto the shore. I greatly appreciated this as a player, and it was probably not something I as a coder would have considered implementing, so the author gets kudos there.
Pleasure to Play: 7Quality of Writing: 5Programming: 8REVIEWSTOP
Les Lettres Volées
A Z-Code game by ...
Okay, this one is trippy at the start, with an extremely neat hook that I wish could have been explored a bit more thoroughly later in the game. As it was, I couldn't seem to find a way to explore it more, and this disappointed me.Overall, I'll be honest... I got to where I understood where this game was going, and it was probably a very interesting and good idea, but I had trouble figuring out what to do when. There was a lot of waiting around, which I think was meant to give me time to explore... and I did a bit of exploring, but there ended up being scenery objects that I couldn't find without the walkthrough, and some rather unintuitive (to me, at least) places to look to make the plot progress. And then there was a lot of waiting, which even with the specialized wait verb seemed tedious (note: I was able to get >ATTENDRE POUR QUELQUES MINUTES to work, but not >ATTENDRE POUR QUELQUES HEURES, and I'm not sure why). In short, I didn't have the patience to work through this one, even with the walkthrough. And that made me sad, because I was rather intrigued about what might be revealed in the letters.
Pleasure to Play: 6Quality of Writing: 7Programming: 7REVIEWSTOP
A Glulxe game by ...
This game had a fun start... I liked the use of personal photography to set an ominous tone, and I was even willing to forgive the use of an AFGNCAAP PC (when, really, it would have been more interesting had there been some backstory) because the original prologue was of the tone, "Who you are, where you are, none of that is important. You are alone, in the middle of the forest. Your immediate objective is to survive."My main complaint there was that SURVIVE should have been in capital letters and possibly in bold. But I am joking, and I digress.Let me preface the remainder of this review by saying that I make a living outdoors, and I make a living by sometimes rescuing people from the outdoors, and I've written my own interactive fiction game about being outdoors. So take that as you will.I was amused by the PC, who goes out into the woods armed only with a (hilariously-implemented) tent, a Swiss army knife, and survival guide that they've never read. The reason that amuses me is because, sadly, people in the real world actually do that (and sadly, in the real world, there is no >UNDO). In the real world people being woefully underprepared is frustrating (I say that as a park ranger who has rescued boy scouts walking in snow wearing tennis shoes, or people who hike deep into the woods with no food). However, in this game the whole premise made me laugh because I was put in the shoes of those underprepared people... ...but the laughter only lasted until I got frustrated. The puzzles just didn't work for me. I suppose this was because I don't think the same way that the author does. I had trouble using the field guide for somethings that seemed pretty important (though I did figure out later why >CONSULT GUIDE ABOUT ORANGE MUSHROOMS didn't work but also wasn't necessary). My knife seemed like it might be really awesome, but then it ended up not being as universally useable as I had hoped; some things that really were easily cut couldn't be cut, while other things that seemed too big for the knife could be cut.Next—and there's a mild spoiler here, but only a mild one—I guess that I was pleased to discover that the woods turn out not to be so ominous as first implied. As a park ranger, I am always sort of sad when people say that the outdoors are a scary place to be, or that they're afraid of being outdoors alone. I could go off on a full-scale rant about how people not being comfortable outside leads to people who don't value the outdoors and people who thus don't have a tangible, personal connection to the environment and thus don't speak out or vote in ways that protect the future of our planet... but I won't. That's a rant for another time.So, on the one hand, bravo that these woods aren't that scary because forests aren't scary and people should visit them more. Unfortunately, I think this game lost a lot of excitement and drive that might have been rectified by tossing a few zombies or wolves into the mix. Or, short of that, a bit more depth. The author has a great sense of humor, and I wish he or she had written more filled-out prose so that we could have enjoyed that more. In short, the game lacked depth or drive for me.At any rate, I really like the premise of this game, but it needed more depth, more of this author's witty humor (no doubt drawn from the author's own outdoor misadventures), and more functionality with multiple-solution puzzles that don't necessarily involve taking things that really aren't yours to take (although I do, of course, realize that in interactive fiction it's perfectly okay to trespass and vandalize to solve your problems).
Pleasure to Play: 6Quality of Writing: 7Programming: 7REVIEWSTOP
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