Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Posts Tagged ‘Shufflecomp 2014’

Shufflecomp: Sparkle

Posted by Tracy Poff on May 19, 2014

Sparkle by Karly Di Caprio is an entry in Shufflecomp 2014. If you’re planning on playing and voting for games in this competition, you should probably stop reading now. And I should say that I intend to mention some serious spoilers, even more than usual, so be warned.

Compared to Nova Heart, the last game I played, Sparkle is a much more traditional piece of interactive fiction. Not merely because it’s parser-based and written in Inform–it has very much the traditional feel of interactive fiction. The introduction ends with “The road ends here at an abandoned cable car platform. The cableway leads directly to my destination. I must get it running, somehow.”, and inspecting the cable car reveals that it is locked to the platform with an iron bar, which is attached to the platform with bolts. I will need a wrench!

With this as motivation, I explored the surroundings, coming to a gate guarded by a dog. Then the game instructed me to “Find a quiet place to MEDITATE.” I’d just seen such a place, so I did as instructed, and the game revealed a piece of information–“dog equals flute”–and a new mechanic: “With this information I can CHANGE things INTO their counterpart identities. I can also THINK to recall previously learned information.”

I was fairly excited by the possibilities, at this point, but I’m afraid that Sparkle didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The rest of the game involves solving some pretty standard puzzles with the aid of the new mechanic. That’s all pretty solid, but the only way to learn which objects can be changed into which others is to inspect some objects, and then meditate. Some of the objects you’ve examined may work with the new command. Or maybe not.

My biggest disappointment with this game is that the changing-things-into-things mechanic turns out not to actually be a puzzle. The game tells you, of this mechanic, that “the key to true enlightenment is to observe the Pattern and to understand it,” but that’s a red herring. The pattern is that there is no pattern–according to the game, anything can be changed into anything. That’s not actually true, though: objects can only actually be turned into the counterparts the game specifies, and only after the game tells you that you can, too–nothing clever happens on repeated playthroughs.

Despite my disappointment with the game’s unique mechanic, Sparkle does have a few things to recommend it. There are a number of optional puzzles, listed by the game as achievements. I didn’t get all of them, but they seem to be well-integrated into the game. For example, during one event, you’re told that your clothes get wet, and later you discover an umbrella–the obvious thing is to (on a subsequent playthrough) get the umbrella first, and protect your clothes. And, indeed, this yields an achievement–nice. The achievement system does seem to be a little buggy, though–I got some achievements that I didn’t actually complete, and I think it didn’t always notify me when I got one.

Also, Sparkle is written in first person, but can optionally be put into second person, which is a neat gimmick.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with this game. If it gets a post-comp release fixing the trouble with the achievements system, I might like to go back and try to complete some of the optional puzzles.

Play time: about 45 minutes.

Posted in 2014, Freeware, Full Review, Good, Interactive Fiction, Platform Independent | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Shufflecomp: Nova Heart: Don’t Be Standing Around While the Earth Dies Screaming, or: Who Is To Blame When the Owls Leave Candy Jail?

Posted by Tracy Poff on May 18, 2014

Nova Heart: Don’t Be Standing Around While the Earth Dies Screaming, or: Who Is To Blame When the Owls Leave Candy Jail? by Zenith J Clangor is an entry in Shufflecomp 2014. If you’re planning on playing and voting for games in this competition, you should probably stop reading now.

A bit of background: for Shufflecomp, prospective authors submitted a list of songs, which the organizer shuffled and sent back out. Authors were then to write a game inspired by (at least) one of the songs they were assigned (details). Nova Heart is inspired by seven songs.

I found Nova Heart‘s story to have a disjointed feel. There are sudden transitions and shifts in perspective, and the whole thing is rather bizarre. Intentionally, I assume.

Interesting language and vivid imagery are Nova Heart‘s strongest points.

You are in a woman’s clean white utopic apartment, one hundred floors above the city.

The wailing sirens of the deathpaddywagons are drawing closer. You have to run.

Run now.

There’s something forceful and immediate about this that I like. Between each paragraph, the game pauses, requiring a click (or press of the enter key) to proceed. I was more impressed by this before I saw the next line: “To run, type ‘run’ in the command box.” Indeed, typing ‘run’ is the only way to proceed from that point.

Nova Heart uses (what seems to me to be) a purpose-built javascript engine, and is played using a web browser (NB: the accompanying music doesn’t seem to play unless the game is played online). This engine allows the game to use both a text parser and mouse-based interaction. This would seem to allow for some very interesting modes of interaction, and the game does have a fairly nice bit where the PC is editing a news story, but that’s the high point.

The interactivity in Nova Heart is, for the most part, false. In the situation I described above, only typing ‘run’ allows the game to proceed, and no other command has any effect. This is generally true: at each moment, if any command is possible, only one command is possible. Nova Heart does not simulate a world; it just uses customized ‘continue’ commands. There are a couple of times in the game when the player may input a command sooner or later to get slightly different text, but the only real choice in the game is at the very end. There are, I think, six possible endings, though each is only a few paragraphs of text.

I think I’d like to play a game that has something of the style of Nova Heart, but more developed. Nova Heart is interesting as an experiment, but I wouldn’t generally recommend it as a game.

Posted in 2014, Freeware, Full Review, Interactive Fiction, Platform Independent | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »