After a busy week, I’m just now getting to try a few of the Jay Is Games IF competition games. For those who aren’t familiar with it, this is a JIG-hosted IF competition on the theme of Escape; the games are short and all playable online, and there are some substantial prizes. It looks like this intrigued some people who aren’t IF veterans (and some who are) to contribute games. So, very cool.
I probably won’t get to all of them during the play period, but I thought I’d try out a few. Brief, non-spoilery thoughts on “Fragile Shells,” “I Expect You To Die,” and “Golden Shadow” follow the cut; if you’re interested in more, longer, and much funnier reviews, Jenni Polodna is also covering this comp, as is Matt W. And grue love.
Fragile Shells by Stephen Granade: I beta-tested this, so I’m biased, but I liked it quite a bit. It’s puzzlicious; there’s a story there, but not a lot of story. I suspect this comp will trend that way in general.
The setting is nifty. We have a lot of generic space craft from the far future popping up in IF, and looking basically like office buildings with starry backgrounds out the windows. Fragile Shells’ setting is much more plausible in the nearish future, and therefore much more unlike everyday experience.
I Expect You To Die by Anthony Schuster: I like the premise, which is that you’ve been captured by a Bond-esque villain who means to kill you with a bunch of crazy traps rather than shooting you in the head.
That said, the puzzles feel a bit on the arbitrary side, at least in the opening — I’m not sure why certain actions turn out to save me. That accurately replicates my flash escape game experiences, namely that you click a lot of things until you find the thing to click on that lets you progress, but it’s not always possible to tell in advance why something is a good idea to do. (I had this problem even with the demo screens of Machinarium, which is why unlike everyone else in the universe I did not play it.) There are also some rough spots in the implementation.
I didn’t finish it myself, but it may well appeal to the target audience. Probably would have appealed more to me had I been in a different sort of mood, in fact.
Also, it’s interesting to play because it really feels as though the author is coming in from a different medium with different expectations, so there are a lot of ways in which it is inventive but not at all within standard IF practice. For instance, a fairly small space is divided up into separate “rooms” in order to gate the player’s progress, in a way that is not very simulation-like.
Golden Shadow by The Technomancer: Very short, with simple puzzles and a surreal concept. There are a handful of technical glitches — I noticed a couple of typos/misspellings, and one or two actions that didn’t return any response at all — but overall it was reasonably solid. There’s some business about the various puzzles being metaphorical representations of psychological state, but this doesn’t affect the actual gameplay terribly much.