Finally, some new IFComp reviews! I know you’ve all been waiting for them with bated breath. Or, more than likely, not. Ah well. This time, we have “The Test is Now READY”, “Castle Adventure”, and “Fish Bowl”. Upwards and onwards!
Enh, I think I’ve exhausted all the amusing “spoiler alert” images I could find on the internet. Think I’ll just let everyone assume there will be spoilers in all my reviews from here on out. It’s easier that way.
“The Test is Now READY”, by Jim Warrenfeltz
The player starts out in a zombie apocalypse setting, which at first glance made me think we had another “A Killer Headache” on our hands, but as it turns out, it’s the first in a series of moral dilemma scenes. Kill yourself or kill your friend? Save your son, or save five strangers? Torture a suspected terrorist, or walk away?  That sort of thing. In the end, it’s revealed that you, the player, are an AI, and it tells you what occupation you are best suited for in the human world. I’d be a judge, whatever that means. People have been comparing this game to a Livejournal quiz, and I can’t disagree with such an assessment.
What this game reminds me of is of similar games my younger siblings used to play with me at the dinner table to irritate me, of the form “Hey, Deirdra, would you rather [do something undesirable] or [do something equally awful]?” No matter how many times I’d try to pick a third option, my siblings would continuously try and come up with creative contrivances that would prevent me from taking said option, eventually making me give up and choose one of the horrible choices and have to put up with “ha ha, you’re a bad person!” taunts. That’s what this game feels like it’s trying to make me do. It’s amusing, I guess, but nothing to do with real moral dilemmas at all. Best thing to do in these situations is just to go and try the most sociopathic options possible out of spite. Such actions, evidently, made me into more of a salesperson. Again, whatever that means.
“Castle Adventure”, by Ben Chenoweth
I am in a forest. If I try to examine the forest, I am told I can see no such thing. I am “as good-looking as ever” and carrying nothing. I go north. I try a bunch of random directions and cross a stream. I wind up near a crocodile-filled moat. I get stuck. I pull up the walkthrough. The walkthrough tells me that this is a very old school maze-like puzzle game, and I am probably not going to enjoy it. Eventually, I am fated to make it inside the castle and save a princess. The game believes I am a man. There is no “heteronormativity off” command. I know now that this game definitely ain’t my bag, baby. I quit the game and leave the princess to her imprisonment. Hopefully, one day, she will rescue herself.
“Fish Bowl”, by Ethan Rupp
Starts off with a vaguely amusing “you are a drunk beachcomber and you don’t remember what you did last night” premise, wherein you find a dead cat you must bury and a dead fish you must revive in the eponymous fish bowl. Later, you discover that these dead animals are, in fact, your former spaceship’s former crewmates, whom you killed in the midst of your transformation into a sea monster. 
The horror didn’t quite work for me as well as it probably could have, particularly since the initial premise read to me as a bit wacky and far-fetched. But then, I’m not really much of a horror buff to begin with, so perhaps that’s a good thing? If I read it as more of a zany comedy piece, it works a bit better, but the gradual reveal of your sea monster-ness still isn’t quite gradual enough, either way. There are also a few somewhat annoying bugs, such as messages printing twice and unimplemented scenery — could probably do with a bit more beta testing. The only part in which I got stuck involved me not registering at first that I actually had to go into the ocean to fill my bucket with water; other than that, things felt pretty straightforward and linear. Overall, not a bad game in the least, but not a terribly outstanding one either.
Yes! The heteronormative Castle Adventure peeved me off as well. You’re lucky you didn’t actually meet the princess, she’s as much a flat, airhead, scardey cat character as you might imagine this sort of game to produce. Bleah.