Hooray, last bunch of reviews for the IFComp! The lucky remaining games are “Changes”, “Lunar Base 1″, and “Kicker”.
“Changes”, by David Given
After a rather bloody and gory introductory spiel, I wake up in a cocoon and discover that I’m a rabbit. I wander around, not sure what I’m supposed to be doing. I get chased by a fox a few times. I try the “hint” command, which tells me to go look for a crashed shuttle. I eventually find the crashed shuttle, after a lot more aimless wandering because my spatial navigation skills in all-text worlds are abysmal and I didn’t feel like scrambling around for a piece of paper on which to attempt to draw a map. I can’t do anything with the shuttle hatches aren’t made for rabbits. Ruh-roh. I pull up another hint, and it tells me to go exploring the canyon for something that might help me. Gee, that’s rather vague.
I give up and try the walkthrough, and the game warns me that my enjoyment of it will be ruined! *gasp* Well, I’m not enjoying the game at this point anyway, so what do I have to lose, right? I then discover that my next course of action is to kill an otter and inhabit its body. And then I have to kill other animals and inhabit their bodies until I get one that can open the shuttle. Eeugh. I quickly finish the game with the help of the walkthrough. There’s an semi-interesting sci-fi story to this whole thing, but I can’t really empathise with any of the characters or with anything that’s going on at all.
It’s kind of a shame, because I can tell a lot of work was put into getting all those animals to move around intelligently, and the game wasn’t buggy in the least. I’m just not the right kind of gamer for it, is all. I think I might’ve enjoyed it more if it had graphics and could be played using a gamepad, which I realise is the kiss of death for any text game, but there you go.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that I had to download this game because playing it in a web browser was excruciatingly slow.
“Lunar Base 1″, by Michael Phipps
Oh, goody, looks like we’re going to the moon! So, it’s the year 2080, but it really feels more like how people from 1950 imagined the year 2080 would be like, because all the main characters are white men and, you know, moon colonies! Keeping this in mind, the game starts to have a sort of cheesy charm to it. So, I explore the moon base, fiddle with my space suit a lot, run some errands, go to sleep, discover that my crew mate has started to turn evil, see a weird flashing light thing to the northeast but can’t go that way because I have pressing matters to attend to, get back home, realise that my evil crew mate has been tampering with the ship, and that’s that.
I peek at the walkthrough and find the “optimal” ending, which involves finding a window of time in which you can, in fact, go northeast, which, after much puzzle fiddling, leads to some kind of alien Egyptian god-like apparition that is “almost female” *gasp* and therefore evil. Or something like that. Maybe there’s some kind of symbolism in there, but my almost-female brain can’t quite grasp it.
The one thing that made me happiest in this game: once I was on the moon’s surface, the game actually had a proper response to the “jump” command. Hee!
“Kicker”, by Pippin Barr
I’m rather ignorant about American football, as I am when it comes to most sports, but for the purpose of this game, all I really care about is that I, the kicker, don’t actually do anything except run on the field, signal, kick the ball, and run off the field, when the coach tells me to. Very well then. So, I’m spending most of the game hanging out on the benches, exploring my surroundings, trying to talk to people who mostly don’t like me very much, and that sort of thing. Amusing freeform puzzleless interaction stuff. Oh, and there’s a football game going on in the background too, but I figure someone who actually likes football will be way more interested in it than I am.
If I were writing this game, it’d probably be about a tuba player in a symphony orchestra. You’d basically sit around for most of the song while the strings do their thing, and blast out fart sounds periodically when the sheet music tells you to. This is probably why I myself do not play in a symphony orchestra. But I digress. The whole thing would certainly be filled with music nerdery and in-jokes that other musicians would love, but the point is, it’d still have to make sense and be amusing to non-musicians. 
So, with that in mind, does “Kicker” succeed in amusing me? Kinda. I had fun watching the crowd. I had fun trying to chat up the cheerleaders, and the special teams coach. I also had fun trying to mess up as much as possible, leading to the coach firing me. I even had fun attempting to randomly start singing. But I’d have had more fun if there’d been more to screw up, and, well, just more to do in general. And if a lot of the aforementioned actions felt more interactive than just lawnmowering through the same command about seventeen times.
I’ll also say I was disappointed that “dance” wasn’t recognised as a verb. That would’ve been awesome.
- Actually, the more I think about it, the more I really want to make this game. Too bad I have like a million other things I need to finish first. ↩