Game Review: Nose Bleed (2022, Stanwixbuster)

You are an office drone, just trying to get your work done without causing any trouble or getting on the bad side of the co-worker who is always reprimanding you for doing something to embarrass everyone else.  You are at your desk, not bothering anyone, when suddenly you feel it running down your face.  It’s blood.  Your nose is bleeding.  And no matter how much you try, you cannot get it to stop.  Even though there’s an event that you simply cannot get out of attending, you cannot get your nose to stop bleeding.

Nose Bleed is a text-adventure game that is primarily about dealing with a bloody nose but it’s also a game about social anxiety, office politics, and the horror of knowing that there is nothing you can do to prevent further embarrassment.  There’s only so long that you can hide a nose bleed and when the people you work with discover what’s happening, their reaction leaves much to be desired.  Not only is the text well-written but the visuals also put you right in the story.  As the nose bleed continues, just moving the curser from one option to another causes a trail of blood to appear on the screen.  Towards the end of the game, my screen was almost totally red.  Just like the character in the game, I couldn’t stop the bleeding.  It sounds grotesque but this game is about more than just a nose bleed.  It’s about the experience of dealing with people who, when they see someone else in distress, can’t do anything but worry about how it’s going to effect them.  It’s about the guilt that comes with being told that everything is always your fault.  The horror is both visual and psychological and it’s not always easy to deal with the emotions that the game captures.  But the ending is very satisfying, making this one of the best recent horror games that I’ve played.

Play Nose Bleed

Game Review: Deathtrap (2021, Deathtrap Productions)

A trip to the market turns into a fight for survival when you are abducted and knocked unconscious.  When you awaken, you find yourself in a dark cell.  Will you just check out the sealed door, with its keypad?  Will you try to figure out how to unlock the trap door or will you search the bookcase?  Will you make smart use of the stove or will you make the same mistake that I did?  And if you do figure out how to escape the first room, will you be able to find your way out of the abandoned theme park in which you’ve been imprisoned?

Deathtrap is an old school text adventure, one where it’s important to carefully read descriptions, search everything that you can possibly search, and not waste too much time while doing it.  It’s also a game that rewards those who are good at solving puzzles.  Puzzles, of course, are my main weakness when it comes to Interactive Fiction.  I’m terrible at puzzles.  I’m the player who dies in a dozen different ways before I finally figure out how to survive and usually, that’s just because I’ve exhausted every other option.  Usually, I can only solve puzzles by default.

My fear of puzzles aside, I enjoyed Deathtrap.  It’s a well-written game and it’s challenging without being impossible.  (I died several times but I imagine people who can actually solve puzzles might not have that problem.)  The vivid prose does good job of putting you in the reality of being trapped in a dark and dangerous place and it doesn’t shy away from the consequences of going down the wrong hallway or opening the wrong door.  It’s hard not to respect a game that will kill your character just because you randomly opened the wrong door or went the wrong direction or made the wrong decision when it came time to choose whether you wanted to walk or crawl down a hallway.  It’s challenging but it’s also very rewarding when you actually do succeed in surviving and escaping.  How long will it take you to find your way out?

Play Deathtrap!

Game Review: Deep in The Spooky, Scary Woods (2022, Healy)

The full title of this piece of Interactive Fiction is: I Was Too Lazy to Get Started on My EctoComp Entry at a Reasonable Time But I Still Wanted to Enter So I Crapped Out This Masterpiece Or: Deep in the Spooky, Scary Woods.

Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself!  It’s better than anything that I’ve come up with recently.  In this Choose Your Own Adventure style game, you’re in the woods, the spooky, scary woods!  You can cry if you want.  You can build a fire.  You can try to text a friend.  But what you have to be prepared for is that eventually, a witch is going to want to join you and you might very well find your way to Dracula’s castle.  How will you handle it?  How will you interact with the supernatural?  What choices will you make?  Will you get the good or the bad ending?  Play to find out!

Even thought the author states that this game was just something that was put together in an hour, I always enjoy games like Deep In The Spooky Scary Woods.  That’s because I’ve played enough pompous and self-important Interactive Fiction games that I can not help but enjoy one where the whole point is to get the player to laugh and poke fun at the whole genre.  Sometimes, you’re in the mood for Interactive Fiction that is big and complex and full of subtext.  Sometimes, you just want to play something that’s fun, that’ll keep you amused, and which will take less than 15 minutes to complete.

Play Deep In The Spooky Scary Woods!

Game Review: Crafty’s Escape Room (2022, dkmGames)

In this text adventure game, you find yourself in a room that you have never seen before.  You do not know how you got there or why you are there.  Other than you, the only things in the room are a bed, a trashcan, a desk, and a locked door.  Can you escape?

First things first, search the room and find the phone.  Then find the simple puzzle that will give you the password to unlock the phone.  (Neither task is difficult.)  In the phone, you’ll find a number.  Call that number and you’ll talk to Crafty.  Crafty is a joker and a know-it-all who likes to tell stories and answer questions.  Crafty says that he heard you like puzzles so he put you in the basement and gave you some puzzles that, when solved, will allow you to leave.

Thanks, Crafty!  I suck at puzzles so I’m probably going to die in your basement!

Crafty’s not really that bad, though.  He just thinks you’ll have fun trying to solve his escape room.  You can even call him up and ask him for hints and he’ll helpfully explain what to do next.  There are four puzzles to solve and none of them are that difficult.  I did get Lisa to help me out with the sudoku puzzle so, if you’re going to attempt this game, I guess you should make sure that either you or someone close to you knows how to play sudoku.

(As autocorrect just reminded me, I can’t even spell sudoku.)

I liked Crafty’s Escape Room.  It’s a well-written throwback to the good natured text adventures of old.  It’s a very good-natured game.  Despite my initial fears, you don’t die if you fail to solve a puzzle.  I appreciated that because, again, puzzles are almost always my downfall when it comes to Interactive Fiction.  As an added bonus, Crafty likes to talk so if you need a break from puzzle solving, you can call him up and just type “Speak” or “Chat” to see what he has to say.

Play Crafty’s Escape Room!

Game Review: Rock, Paper, Scissors! (2022, William Moore)

As is explained in the description of this interactive fiction game, you are a contestant in the biggest Rock, Paper, Scissors! tournament in history.  I did not even know that there was such a tournament!  While the crowd watches, no doubt spellbound, you and an opponent challenge one another to a battle of who can cover rock, cut paper, and blunt scissors!

That’s the entire game.  It’s just Rock, Paper, Scissors over and over again.  Sometimes you win.  Sometimes you lose.  Sometimes, you tie.  It says something about the way that interactive fiction works that this is one of the more addictive games that I’ve played this year.  You don’t get anything for winning.  As far as I can tell, the tournament goes on until the player decides to stop playing.  But I will be damned if I didn’t get caught up in whether or not I would be able to pick the right hand gesture.  By typing “rules,” you can command that the rules be displayed so you can see how and why your opponent picked whatever it is that they picked during each round but I preferred to keep the game mechanics a mystery.

It did take me a few turns to figure out how to actually initiate the game with the opponent.  The version of the game that I played did not understand the commands “play” or “challenge.”  Eventually, I got  frustrated and wrote “Hit Opponent,” because violence is always the last resort while trying to guess the verb while playing interactive fiction.  It turned out that was exactly the right command.

Play Rock, Paper, Scissors!

Game Review: You Arrive In America (2015, Clickhole)

Welcome to America!

If you’ve ever wanted to experience what it would be like to arrive in America for the first time, Clickhole has had you covered since 2015.  In You Arrive In America, you begin the game standing on a boat that is sailing into New York Harbor.  Soon, you will dock at Ellis Island and you will have many decisions and opportunities ahead of you.

Will you look at the Statue Liberty?

Will you be able to convince the immigration official that your name really is George Clooney?

Will you get a job at a factory?

Will you head to the tenements or spend the day at Coney Island?

Will you start a family and will they grow up to understand the sacrifices that you made to give them a good life?

How many times will you see Yankees great Yogi Berra?

All these questions and more can be answered by playing You Arrive In America.  You Arrive in America uses a Choose Your Own Adventure style of gameplay.  Simply click on what you want to do.  If you want to look at the ground and do nothing, that’s fine.  If you want to get the entire city to join you in chanting, “Let’s go Yankees!,” you can do that too and, as an extra bonus, it will increase your chances of seeing Yogi Berra.  The choice is yours.  You’ve arrived in America and you can do whatever you want!

Play You Arrive In America

Interactive Fiction Review: Graveyard Shift At The Riverview Motel (2022, Seb Pines)

In Graveyard Shift At The Riverview Motel, you have what might be the worst job in the world.

You work the graveyard shift at the Riverview Motel.  The Riverview was once a quality establishment but it has since fallen on hard times.  You can spend your shift sitting at the front desk or you can go outside and smoke a cigarette.  If you get bored, you can step into the employee hallway and, moving the pictures on the wall aside, you can take a look in each of the six rooms and the people who are staying there.

Inside each room, a different story is playing out.  Which story you get involved in depends on how involved you want to get.  If you want to spend your entire shift sitting at the front desk, you can do that.  You’ll get hints about some of the strange things happening in the motel but you won’t be under any obligation to pursue them.  If you want to spend all of your time focusing on one room, you can do that as well.  If you want to go from room to room and catch snippets of all of the stories playing out at once, you can do that too.  It’s all up to you how involved you get.

Graveyard Shift at the Riverview Motel is an interactive text adventure, designed using Twine.  Because of the game’s format, it can be played several times and it rewards player who have the patience to do multiple walkthroughs.  The writing is clever and the sense of humor is acidic.  It captures the feeling of being at work and looking for anything to possibly distract from actually having to do your job.  I spent a few months working the graveyard shift to help pay for college and this game brought back some memories.  All of the stories that occur in the motel pay tribute to classic horror films and they all end in a properly macabre fashion.  One of my favorite aspects of the game was how blasé the desk clerk remained, regardless of what sort of strange things he was witnessing.  It doesn’t matter how many people die as long as you can clock out when your shift is over.

There is a learning curve with the game.  Several turns make up a minute in game time and, unfortunately, if you stay in one location (like the front desk or the parking lot) for that entire minute, then the same description is repeated over and over again until the next minute begins.  So, if you’re in the front lobby and a man storms in and says something strange, remaining in the lobby means that same action will seemingly happen over and over again.  When this first occurred, I thought the game itself was freezing on me and I nearly stopped playing.  Eventually, I realized what the problem was and, after a while, I just made sure to keep walking from location to location until the next minute began.  I think this is something that could be fixed whenever the game is updated and I hope it will be because it was really the only problem I had with this playing experience.

Play Graveyard Shift at the Riverview Motel.

Game Review: Locked Door VII (2022, Cody Gaisser)

After taking a month off from playing the Locked Door games, I got back to them this week by playing Locked Door VII: Out of Line.

Again, you start out in the most boring room you’ve ever seen.  Bob is standing around and being useless.  Rex is your faithful companion.  Explore the area and, once again, you’ll find the shed and the stairs and the crate and all of the things that have been present in every Locked Door game.  You’ll also find a few new rooms and a some new puzzles to solve.  It may be because I was rusty after not playing the game for a month but I found the new puzzles to be challenging.  Some of that is because the game still occasionally suffers from the “Guess the Verb” syndrome but, at the same time, some of the puzzles actually are clever and require some thought.  The game is fun but it just needs a little bit of polish.

After I played the latest version, I glanced over the other Locked Door games.  As of right now, there’s a total of 11 episodes, each with its own tag line.  The tag line of Locked Door XI: The U.S. Theatrical Cut is “Can You Beta Test This Thing?”  That does intrigue me.  Could the game’s rough edges and guess the verb moments be intentional?  From the start, Locked Door has satirized the needlessly complicated locked door puzzles that seem to show up in almost every work of Interactive Fiction.  Could all of the Locked Door games be a part of an elaborate practical joke?

Maybe I’ll learn more when I played the eighth installment next week next week.

Play Locked Door VII.

Game Review: Locked Door VI: It Takes Two (2022, Cody Gaisser)

You’re back in the most boring room that you’ve ever seen, once again trying to figure out how to get Bob to give you the key so you can open the wooden door and get the trophy.

Locked Door VI continues on the path set by the other Locked Door games.  You are once again in the same strange location and Bob and Rex are with you.  Some new rooms have been added and there are new puzzles to solve.  After playing the first five versions of this game, I was feeling pretty cocky dealing with the first set of puzzles so imagine my surprise when I went to the place where I usually found the apple and I instead found an ingot waiting for me.  You’ll have to explore all of the new rooms in order to discover what to do with that ingot and even after that, the puzzles aren’t done. It’s getting more complicated to unlock that door.  Bob is no help.  Rex is a good companion, though.

I’m enjoying the Locked Door games, though there are still too many instances where you have to play guess the verb.  In that way, the Locked Door games feel like a first draft and I think people who haven’t played a lot of Interactive Fiction will probably lose patience, especially when they’re trying to figure out how to unlock the safe.  But the idea of each game adding to the previous game has turned out to be much more interesting than I was originally expecting so I will be playing Locked Door VII next week.

Play Locked Door VI.

Game Review: Locked Door V: Switched On (2022, Cody Gaisser)

Last week, when I played the fourth game in Cody Gaisser’s Locked Door series, I got bogged down in trying to figure out how to unlock a safe.  It was a real case of “guess the verb.”  Eventually, it turned out that I was guessing the right verb but I just wasn’t using it correctly in the game.  Once I got the safe open, I was able to get the key from Bob, open the wooden door, and get that all important trophy!

It’s a good thing that I eventually figured out how to open that safe because I had to do it all over again in Locked Door V.  That’s the way the Locked Door games work.  Each game features the same locations and puzzles from the previous games, along with new rooms to explore and new puzzles to solve.  Locked Door V also adds a new NPC, Rex the Dog.  Rex follows you everywhere and says, “Arf!”

After all of the difficulty that I had during the fourth game, I was relieved that I had a much easier time with Locked Door V.  It helped that I now knew how to open that safe.  Locked Door V‘s biggest puzzle comes from exploring the newly added basement.  Not only do you have to figure out how to make your way through a room that is completely dark but there’s also a puzzle that can only be solved by searching the rooms and being sure to pay attention to the details.  Do that and you’ll get the trophy!

I enjoyed Locked Door V.  Next week, I’ll see what Locked Door VI has in store for me!

Played Locked Door V: Switched On.