The following reviews are from an anonymous-by-request friend who played a number of games from IFComp, had a good time with the judging, but didn’t have a good venue for posting his own responses. I invited him to share some reviews of his favorites here. His background is mostly in film and theatre rather than interactive media, and he was drawn to several of the choice-based games. Without further ado…
Disclaimer: I know Emily Short, but I’m not a game designer or programmer. Neither I nor anyone I know (that I’m aware of) has games entered into this competition.
This was my first time reviewing anything from IF Comp, so I’m looking at it from the standpoint of a relative newcomer. As such, my opinions are obviously my own, not Emily Short’s.
There are quite a few games in this year’s competition – seventy-seven in total – of which I played about thirty. What really leapt out at me was the sheer variety of gameplay experience. Let’s Rob a Bank, for instance, was stupidly fun but over so quickly that I felt I hadn’t really gotten the full value until I’d played it multiple times (which I was happy to do.) On the opposite end of the spectrum, Cannery Vale, with its sophisticated interface and immersive story, was much more involved, and was a standout as far as shaping the player’s adventure.
Here are three I really liked, in no particular order:
Animalia (Ian Michael Waddell)
To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting much with this one, based solely on my reaction to reading the blurb. (Blurbs can be tricky. Sometimes they’ll capture the basic premise of a piece, but they won’t communicate the tone. This was the case here.) Animalia’s description mentioned it was a 30-minute game. I figured it would be a simple, paint-by-numbers animal adventure…
…so I was completely unprepared for Waddell’s off-the-wall humor and the remarkable variation of storylines contained inside.
Animalia kicks off with an emergency gathering of woodland creatures. The annual offering to the Forest God has backfired, putting the forest at risk for human incursion. During the opening chaos we learn that the animals’ offering was, in fact, a nine-year-old human child (!) named Charlie. It seems like this ritual is all fairly routine for the cuddly little murderers, but this time their child sacrifice has been getting obnoxious texts from his worried mother, who has tracked his GPS location. Now the entire forest is in an uproar over the inevitable search-and-rescue that will bring a deluge of humans.
The critters’ solution to this disaster? Stage an elaborate cover-up, obviously.