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 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.

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


Once again, you are in a white room, with  locked door that needs to be unlocked.  Actually, there are two this time.  There are other exits that are not locked and which lead to other areas that were not featured in the previous Locked Room games.  Search the warehouse.  Examine the garden.  Or talk to Bob, who is again standing in the room and holding a key that he won’t just hand over.

Safety in Numbers is the fourth Locked Room game.  Again, the aim is simple.  Give Bob something he wants.  Get that key.  Unlock that door.  Get your trophy.  But this time, there are more rooms to explore.  There are extra puzzles to be solved.  And there is a safe that needs to be opened.  Finding the combination for the safe should be easy.  Any experienced IF player will know where to look.  Using that combination to unlock the safe is much less easy.  As much as I appreciate what the Locked Door games are doing, the fourth entry leads to one of the most frustrating cases of “guess the verb” that I’ve ever come across.  Turn, set, spin, what the Hell am I supposed to do with this dial?

Play Locked Door IV and let know if you figure it out.

Game Review: Locked Door III: Crate Expectations (2022, Cody Gaisser)


Once again, you are standing in a white room that is the most boring room in existence.  There are two archways, one to the east and one to the west.  There’s a man named Bob who you might remember from a previous game.  And there’s a door to the north that’s locked.

Can you unlock the door?  You’ll have to figure out how to get the key first!

This is the third Locked Door game.  You’ve now got slightly more rooms to explore.  And you’ve got a puzzle to solve.  Unlike the first two Locked Door games, you now have to use your IF skills if you want to unlock that door.  Luckily, it’s a very simple puzzle and your trophy awaits!  I solved it in 27 turns and scored all 3 points.

Like the previous two games, Locked Door III works best as a parody of the locked room puzzles that every IF player has gotten frustrated with at some point.  It’s amazing how there’s always something just lying around that the player can use to open whatever needs to be opened.  Most houses don’t have crowbars, hammers, and and wooden planks in every room.

Next week: Locked Room 4!  As long as I can keep figuring out how to unlock the doors, I’ll keep playing each installment.

Play Locked Room III.  

Game Review: Locked Door II: Fair Trade (2022, Cody Gaisser)


(SPOILER WARNING)

You’re in a room.  There’s one door.  It’s locked.  Does this seem familiar?  Maybe you played Locked Door, to which this game is the first of many sequels.  Can you figure out how to unlock the door?  In the first game, the key was just sitting in the room.  In this game, the key is not mentioned as being in the room.  Instead, there’s some schlub named Bob and there’s an apple.  Can you figure out what to do?

Like the first game, Locked Door II will be appreciated by people who have played and struggled with games that require them to figure out some sort of complex puzzle in order to open up a door.  Locked Door II does have a puzzle but it’s so simple that it makes a statement about how needlessly complicated some other games can be.

If you get that door unlocked, you’ll get a prize.  Unlike the first game, you’ll have to find prize, though.  Just look in the most obvious place.

So far, there are seven different Locked Door games.  From what I understand, each game gets progressively more complex.  Eventually, I’ll probably end up in a room that I can’t get out of and I’ll have to stop playing.  Will it happen with Locked Door III?  Tune in next week to find out.

Game Review: Locked Door (2022, Cody Gaisser)


(SPOILER WARNING)

You are in a room. A wooden door leads north. That’s the only exit. But, the door is locked!

This is a puzzle that has faced many a player of Interactive Fiction. We’ve all had to deal with the locked room scenario, where you have to find the solution for how to get that door open. You can play guess the verb. You can look for things to examine. You can check your inventory to see if you have something on you that could be used in some clever way to unlock the door.

Or you could just pick up the iron key and see what it does.

To quote the game itself:

Room A
A plain white room. A wooden door leads north.

You can see an iron key here.

Can it be that simple? Why not? One side effect of playing too much interactive fiction is that you reach a point where you assume that every solution has to be complicated. Sometimes, you can just pick up the key.

There is another room, though. Be sure to go in the other room and read what you find.

Keep in mind, this is only the first Locked Door game. There are at least three other adventures, all asking if you can unlock more doors. I’ve been playing the fourth one. I’ll review it as soon as I figure out how to open up the damn door.

Play Locked Door

Game Review: Second Wind (2021, Matthew Warner)


Society has collapsed.  Biological warfare has changed the majority of humans into werewolves.  Those who have not been infected live in locked-down shelters.  You live in Shelter 5, with your second wife Lorraine.  You used to live in Shelter 4 with your first wife, Wendy.  Wendy kicked you out after she found out that you were cheating on her with Lorraine.  Things have been tense ever since.

Now, Lorraine’s pregnant.  The midwife has told you that the delivery is not going as planned.  A C-section has to be performed to save the lives of both Lorraine and the baby.  (With humanity nearly wiped out, the survival of your baby could give hope to those few who remain.)  You have to get a doctor but that means making you way across the desert wasteland and the ruined city to Shelter 4.  Not only do you have to save the life of your second wife but you’re going to have to convince your first wife to help you do it.  You only have a few hours to make it and all of the shelter’s hoverbikers are damaged beyond use.  Best of luck!

Second Wind is an interactive fiction game for adults.  The stakes are real.  The puzzles require thought.  Your mistakes have consequences.  Puzzles are usually my great downfall when it comes interactive fiction.  Timed challenges are my second greatest downfall.  As you can probably guess, I had to play Second Wind a few times before I got anything close to a good ending and, even then, it was only as good as any ending can be when the world’s gone to Hell in a bucket without anyone even enjoying the ride.  But the challenge made the eventual success even more rewarding.  When playing a game like Second Wind, the best advice would be to remember that using google is not the same as cheating and that Occam’s Razor is your friend.  It also helps to take notes because a lot of the game’s puzzles depend on remembering numbers and then inputting them into the keypads necessary to enter the shelters.

I dug Second Wind.  It’s better-written than most and the descriptions are so vivid that you’ll feel like you’re in that apocalyptic desert, trying to make your way back home.  And if you really do get lost, there is a walk-through that explains the puzzles without leaving you feeling too ashamed for not being able to figure them out for yourself.

Play Second Wind.

Interactive Fiction Review: Being a Thing (2021, R. Asu)


Are you a person or a thing is the question at the heart of this game and finding out is going to take some courage.

At the start of Being A Thing 2, you are standing outside a dark city, unsure of who you are and what you are going to find inside of there. From the start, you have two choices. You can either follow what you feel you’re supposed to do and enter the city or you can turn around and leave and fail. Usually, it’s a bad thing to fail but considering what is waiting for you inside of the city, it might actually be the better option.

Most people playing Being A Thing 2 are going to want to explore. Since it’s a short game, why not take the 10 minutes necessary to discover what is inside of the city instead of turning around and leaving? And once you enter the city, you’ll still have the option to turn and leave. For a while, at least. Stay too long and you might lose that option but you may not have any other choice if you want to determine whether you’re a person or a thing.

This is one of those works of Interactive Fiction that is more of a short story with options instead of being a straight-forward game. Your main decision is how much of the story you want to explore before bringing things to an end by turning around and leaving the city. This really isn’t for people looking for complex puzzles or a huge range of choices to make. But if you’re looking for a well-written piece that actually has something to say about the human (or non-human) condition, Being A Thing 2 might be right up your alley.

Play Being A Thing 2.