Damn, dude, you’re fast
Yeah, and it isn’t really indicative of what my pace is going to be forever. I get a three week window at work where my commitments are close to zero, and this happens about twice a year. This is usually where conferences or events would happen, but everyone is still a little iffy on forced large gatherings. Gonna try to keep a good pace (around 2-3 reviews a week) on average, but right now… I’ve got a lot more free time.
By Carlos H. Romero Jr.
"My wings are… missing. There’s not enough time to explain.”
You know those scenes where somebody wakes someone up, hurriedly hands them something and pushes them out the door, all the while the sleeping person is confused and trying to wake up? That’s how I felt with Missing Wings. Just a few ‘next pages’ in, and I’m just lost… It feels like I paid to be let into an arcade, handed an armful of tokens, shoved into the room, and then the door was slammed behind me.
You are an angel told by another divine creature that their wings are missing, and that there are tenfold wings. Go find them. Bye.
I’d imagine this is a skeleton of a story on purpose, because this is really a theme park equivalent of a Choice game. For lack of a better term, each hub has a somewhat self-contained story that you must… solve? Puzzle through? Gamble? Click at least 200 times? All of those end up being true.
Format and Typos:
Did not end up seeing any typos, but I also feel like there is not a lot here. Readability is fine, but I never felt like I had enough explained to me and never felt like I could find where it needed to be explained.
Game Mechanics and Stats:
Aside from everything else, this game feels like it was made as a proof of concept for what coding in Choice games can do for minigames and puzzles. There is a section where you must collect bones, by selecting ‘collect bones’ and then clicking next page to collect bones. You can give up the bones to collect them faster, as each one you give up lets you collect them faster, but it caps out at 5 per click. And you must collect 1000 bones.
You increase stats by paying credits, but you earn credits by gambling in minigames or doing other things. You can very safely win a small number of credits in a dice game, but you’ll be clicking ‘next page’ hundreds of times if you really want to max out your stats. You can buy weapons in different metal types, play a tic-tac-toe hybrid, manage a dwarven colony, flirt with an Ogress blacksmith… The list goes on.
The list going on is a big thing to talk about. Wide as an ocean, shallow as a puddle is an apt description. There is a massive quantity of things to do, but each of them is a simple diversion or puzzle that is meant to be a time-waster. Who you are doesn’t add anything to the game really, as all you need is a few hours playing ‘Nice Dice’ cramping your pointer finger and you can max out pretty much any stat you want to.
- I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to be doing in this game.
- Story is possibly a tower of children wearing a trench-coat pushing you out of a door screaming “You’re late for business and fun!”
- I had to click ‘next page’ a minimum of 200 times to solve one puzzle.
- If you are interested at all in how to use RNG to create Choice code… This game is a perfect primer.
- The idea of a theme park game is interesting. I just wish I had more of a tether for each story section.
- Give the game a try for free once. It’ll give you an idea if bite-size puzzles and games are something that is up your alley.
Spot on. I knew Carlos back when he still came around here, and we both had our first stories come out about the same time. It was incredible, the things he could do in ChoiceScript that most others never would have considered. But the story for Missing Wings was always a thin skin draped across the monstrous and fascinating bones of the only robust minigame compilation in ChoiceScript until Interactive Bonbons released years later. It’s such a unique animal that I was glad it existed and had some fun with some of the minigames, but I will freely admit that even using a guide, I still could never finish it. It remains one of the least-reviewed titles on the omnibus for that exact reason. Not many could get to the end to review it at all.
Choice of the Ninja
By Katherine Buffington
”You are to travel to the specified location and immediately bring the documents back. Any questions?"
To keep on theme, I have to ask that you click on Settings, and use a black background if you play this game. Well, dark blue would probably be more realistic. I mean, sometimes just looking normal would probably also be a good way to blend in.
Have you ever read something that you know is inherently interesting, but the words just can’t bring the images to life in your head? Choice of the Ninja delivers an interesting premise, but reads so blandly it was like it was trying to sneak by undetected.
You are a young Ninja who must serve their patron with honor. Or do you? The story follows your character as they are sent on multiple missions in service of Lord Sano, against another lord who appears to be scheming for his downfall. Over the course of the story, you’ll succeed or fail, decide to honor your commitments, or possibly even choose a more self-serving path. This is another story that is starting to fall into a category of stories that feel like they just want to be over. Scenarios that could fill other books are done in four pages, twists and turns aren’t fully fleshed out, and the content, while serviceable, reads more like an outline of what the story will be when it’s done. If you are looking for a simple story with low investment, this meets that expectation very well.
Format and Typos:
Readability is high. Dialogue is easy to follow, and I don’t think I was ever confused by who was speaking at any given time.
Game Mechanics and Stats:
Stats were super simple, except for a ‘stealth’ stat that isn’t shown in your stat page. I don’t know if this was purposeful, but all other ones are fairly easy to follow. Stat requirements were also fairly low until the very end of the game, and even then it was easy to meet the requirements. There doesn’t seem to be many early failstates.
I’d wager most people will get two playthroughs of the title, one honorable and one more self-serving. The different stats don’t really add to making your character feel exceptionally different, and the choices you end up making are pretty much only towards the service of seeing one of the two ends.
- So. Many. Fake. Choices. First time through, I was happy that there weren’t long stretches of story with no interactivity. But so many of the choices you make don’t affect anything.
- It’s dry. At one point, you can choose to use something described as a ‘heaven-earth’ move and it reads as exciting as if my character was being described yawning.
- Ending is a little lacking. Lots of loose threads that might have been left as potential sequel fodder.
- I liked the dynamic in working with a team. You can actually ask someone for their opinion, and choose to let them do the thing they are better at doing.
- One of the twists in the story works pretty well, and I enjoyed the potential of it.
- It doesn’t lean on you already knowing Japanese culture, or use any excessive amount of meta knowledge to be able to enjoy the story.
By Sam Ursu
“That is a totally different card game! The Old Republic Card Game is just a variant of the traditional Earth game Blackjack, so never say that P-word ever again, especially not in this cantina that, despite being located next to a two-bit spaceport on the edge of the galaxy, has a really talented live band playing at all hours of the day and night.”
This game describes itself like those 1980’s TIGER Electronics style games, and I have to agree. Very similar in style to Missing Wings as a collection of minigames and puzzles, it does a much better job of managing expectations and explaining what to expect. And double points for both having a KOTOR reference and the author having a name that would absolutely fit in the Star Wars universe.
There are 10 different games, and each of them have a very minor self-contained story that exists mostly as window-dressing and tutorial. The humor is well done, and if you are looking for something in bite-sized entertainment, this one works pretty well.
Format and Typos:
Game is set up like a hub-world themepark. I did not notice any typos, but the game is presented in a way to provide distraction in the form of sound-effects and emojis, so it is entirely possible I missed something.
Game Mechanics and Stats:
There aren’t really any stats to follow. Each game is self-contained, and you’ll basically be presented all of your information within the specific game itself. Games run the gamut of Pazaak, boxing, tennis, or less Revan-flavored Blackjack
Replayable for as long as you have fun with any specific game. If you like the randomized competition of the card games, this is essentially a text based version. It didn’t seem like you were making any choices that would change how the game ‘ends’, so this really just depends on if you find any of the offered games worth replaying.
- Not really what I’m looking for in interactive fiction, but it is a testament to quality code.
- Difficult to immediately tell how to back out of any specific game.
- Unsure if I prefer the connected nature of story that Missing Wings had, or if Interactive Bonbons simplicity is to its benefit.
- Easy to understand. Wasn’t lost at any given time.
- Humor works for a short punchy introduction to any specific event.
- Revan-flavored blackjack!
Temple of Endless Night
By Dariel Ivalyen
“Sadly, the nightmares don’t want to disappear as easily. While they do become less frequent, you still suffer from them from time to time. That body you saw…it keeps haunting you when you close your eyes. You’re still not sure what it was, and you doubt you’ll ever learn the whole truth.”
One of the jokes about playing Call of Cthulhu in table-top form was that if you wanted to survive, you should play an illiterate, blind, and deaf olympic sprinter. Learning more about any specific mystery was just as dangerous to your sanity as any monster in the… ahem… endless night.
A mysterious person hands you a task and a ticket to a caravan across the Egyptian desert to a temple that by divine decree should not exist. Do you brave the loss of your sanity to try and understand why? Can you depend on your divine patron in a place where they may not be able to reach?
This mystery and format work exceptionally well. This is both a mental and physical horror title that lean on your own misgivings more than trying to gross you out. There is a very eldritch feeling interwoven in the game from the moment you leave the river basin.
Format and Typos:
Everything was readable, and did not notice any typos. Dialogue works very well, and the majority of the story is spent in thought. No perspective confusions except where intended.
Game Mechanics and Stats:
You have to manage your sanity and the sanity of those around you as you navigate a mystery. Aside from that, you will be essentially making choices in the game that rely on the strengths of the character you chose. The stat system is relatively simple, and very easy to understand.
There are multiple romantic options and various character backgrounds that allow for quite a bit of playthrough replayability. There is a major character I didn’t even interact with during my first run. Being able to choose a background and divine patron allows for an interesting bit of altered text when interacting with your god.
- Dialogue sometimes felt more modern than I would have expected from the era, but this might just be not knowing much about the time period. Or may have been a purposeful choice.
- Attempts to learn more about the mystery can sometimes literally harm your character’s chances of survival. This feels antithetical to your standard mystery game where knowledge is paramount. This isn’t necessarily wrong, just hard for a player who wants a power fantasy.
- Ending feels a little shallow depending on what path you take.
- Horror done well in interactive fiction form.
- I normally don’t like having to struggle to follow what is going on, but this game uses that uncertainty as a sharp weapon against the reader, adding to the mystery and dread.
- The depictions of the divine patrons are both hilarious and awesome, and lent to some of the lightest and most comedic moments of the story.
Choice of Rebels: Uprising
By Joel Havenstone
"You’ve run only for a minute or two when you hear the timbre of the howl grow louder, more reverberant. The hound has arrived in the hall. Then comes the echo of its panting and snuffling in the tunnel immediately behind you, its talons ringing on the stone.
The first pinch point you reach would only hamper the beast for seconds as it wriggled its great shoulders past a protruding boulder. You almost run onward…but then slow instinctively, some part of your mind sensing the possibilities. Young Earnn pauses with you, wide-eyed and breathing fast. You extend a trembling hand to him. “Your spear, Earnn. Then run on.”
In playing interactive fiction, we all weigh choices against a myriad of consequences. Every click comes with thoughts. “Will this increase my stats, is this what my character would do…” It can even make you care about the question and fear the consequences. This is what Choice of Rebels brings to the world of interactive fiction. Promise I’m not just reppin for the Joels.
When writing these, I keep a list of quotes aside that stick with me. Some positive, some negative, sometimes funny… With Choice of Rebels, I had at least 15 and all were examples of descriptive writing and imagery I wanted to share with you. So many times, you can see someone describing jealousy or desire as simply that ‘I have those feelings’, but how often do you see it described as “a sudden pang, no less insistent than the worst hunger you felt in the winter”. Take the quote in the intro, you can’t read that and not get a sense of the excitement and terror that is happening at that exact moment.
You are thrust into the position of leader of a rebel army against a bloodthirsty regime, and the systems that support sacrificing people for the supposed safety of the realm. What beliefs guide your hand? What would you do to keep the rebellious fire stoked? You have to balance these questions and choices with a possible betrayer in your midst, playing a long game.
So much of this story is presented to you expertly in the background you experience as a child. It is so well provided to you that outside of some of the more esoteric things, you feel like you know what you need to, but are ignorant to what you don’t. And that ignorance can even be used as fuel for the rebellion, because it isn’t fair that knowledge is being kept from you. Lore dumps happen, but everything is ‘just’ close enough to something you’d have a concrete analogue to that it is extremely easy to wrap your head around uncommon words and titles like ‘helot’, ‘kurio’ or ‘Theurge’.
Format and Typos:
Extremely readable, format lends itself perfectly to lore dumps. Dialogue is always super easy to follow, and the game does enough work to let you know who anyone is to keep you from being confused. I only noticed a few instances where I had to remember who someone was, and that was during my first few playthroughs.
Game Mechanics and Stats:
Your character stats are super simplistic, but convey so much. Three skill stats, where you are great, okay, and bad. That’s it. Some personality attributes that help determine the driving force behind the rebellion (if you are truthful about it), and then a very efficiently done management system during the harshest parts of winter survival. The choices made during this may be some of the most interesting choices made in terms of balancing the health and well-being of a group against what ethics you’ve decided you’ll operate by.
All of this paired with how the groups that are still within the institution of the Hegemony view you. Do you try to maintain a good image with all of them? I mean, it might be easier to feed your rebels if you raided some noble farms… and I mean, there are some other farms owned by other landowners… It could get you through another week, and maybe free up some of your rebels to learn to read and write.
I’ve played this multiple times, and picking it back up to play again for the review, I got an ending I never received before. There are so many differing paths, and ways of managing your rebels, and levels of success and failure. Failure opens up new avenues as well, portions of the story you would never see if you were perfect. There are a few options for romance (it does seem like there may only be one option for a heterosexual male romance, that is a gender-variable choice). This option still has the potential to be the best one, in my opinion, just because of how well it fits within the story, and the potential for what it could be later. There are about three options in total within the story at this time, however. Better yet, the ‘big’ choices can determine whether those people will stay with you or reject you as you go too far outside of their beliefs.
- Some of the mechanics options, like dedicating raiders to certain raids make it a little confusing to understand just how much food you actually need.
- As before, there is (as far as I can tell) only one romance option for a heterosexual male, which cuts down on the replayability for me as someone who tends towards the idealized self-insert. But only by an infinitesimal amount.
- The only other complaint I have is that the management portion of the title can often take so long that replaying this takes forever.
- Every single scene is filled with so much description, from surroundings to describing how characters are feeling just through body language.
- Variability coded throughout the game based on what your character is like is always welcome. A skeptic through and through? You won’t use the name of the main deity in vain, because why would you? Maybe your reluctance to let go of homeland tradition changes up your speech. Small changes like these make reading a pleasure.
- No other story has made me question my tendency to play a pacifistic do-gooder to such an extent that I personally believe it is not the best way to play. At least this specific title. So much gray, so little black-and-white.
… One of my all-time favorite series next, I’m going to enjoy your thoughts on it, whether positive or negative
I was glad to get an early draw on the review list, and thrilled when you started rocketing through the earlier ones at a pace that meant you would soon reach Rebels.
I knew from reading your earlier reviews that I would enjoy your insights even if you were one of the readers put off by an excess of made-up words, management games, or the relative dearth of ROs.
As it is, I’m so glad you enjoyed it and grateful that you’ve put that into words so well. You’re the kind of reader I was trying to write for.
Thank you so much for the story, I am very much looking forward to the Stormwright follow-up.
So, I want to share three things about upcoming reviews.
- Series, like Samurai of Hyuga, will usually include a little bit of a longer wait time because I want to talk about the series as a whole along with the final review.
- I won’t be bumping reviews up because of DLC releases, so no Parliament of Knives review jumping forward.
- After every 30 reviews, I’m going to do something random and mildly celebratory. Usually somewhere around 5 reviews before it, I’ll post what it is. This will usually be community driven in some way.
(In Progress - Samurai of Hyuga)
Here comes the snow…
Samurai of Hyuga
By Devon Connell
"I motioned to slide the shoji screen open but Hatch held it shut. I couldn’t help but notice that he had a nosebleed. “H-hold on a second! She may be changing…”
There was no force behind his grip, which really shouldn’t surprise me. I shook my head and shoved the door aside. The room was empty, much to Hatch’s dismay."
Before I ever read Samurai of Hyuga the first time, I saw so many people decry the conversations and some cultural references as childish or not well-researched. I can tell you that this may be one of the most researched stories written ever. The author must have seen every English-translated anime from Ninja Scroll to Samurai Champloo, because this is what this story reads like from front to finish. From the ‘baka’s’ to the nosebleeds, this is a love letter not to a period in Japan, but to the influx of localized animation. If you don’t care about anime, or the pages of Shonen Jump and want historical Japan… this story may not be entirely for you. Seriously, try naming a character after one of your favorite Samurai from manga or anime. You might be surprised by what you find.
By the way… did anyone else’s parents let them rent Ninja Scroll from Blockbuster when they were waaaaaay too young for it? All I’m saying is I came across my fear of snakes from a video store.
You are a samurai without a master, a ronin. You’ve agreed to protect a young spellcaster who drags you into an exceptionally lethal episode of 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo (Hatch is Scrappy, don’t @ me) at the behest of the Emperor. What follows would fit onto the pages of a book read back-to-front. Chapters are short, snappy, and brutal. There is nothing wasted in the writing that doesn’t lend itself to the story. There are crude jokes, perverted insights, deep thoughts, and a reckoning of your past. That reckoning has a name, Jun(ko).
I’ve noticed during my time with this series that it can jump from comedy to self-introspective drama to psychological horror quickly, and the quick chapters during the first entry really lend to the whiplash. As my character’s namesake once said, “Only hope can give rise to the emotion we call despair. But it is nearly impossible for a man to try to live without hope, so I guess that leaves Man no choice but to walk around with despair as his companion.”
One thing this story does better than most is that you get a very good sense of characters and delineation between them. Some titles will pop up a name, and then I struggle to remember who exactly this person is after a while. This title benefits from a heavy episodic style focus on the introduced characters and almost a commedia dell’arte-esque dependence on anime tropes. You read about Momoko or Hatch, and you immediately recognize who these characters are in your mind based on a multitude of shared archetypes.
Format and Typos:
Format is readable, and I believe the story has been read enough that any typos that would have existed were probably all handled by now. There are some internal snippets that pop up to let you know if you just selected something that altered stats.
Game Mechanics and Stats:
Stats are fairly simple in opposed pairs, and actually affect portions of the story where you automatically react to certain instances based on how you’ve previously played the character. If you stay in character for the entire game, you are ‘attuned’ to your spirit and have some additional options during the later portions of the game.
Honestly, most of the replayability comes from which side of the opposed pair of stats you choose. I would expect most players of the title might find themselves with two playthroughs, essentially flipping their choice style during it. Most romance within the story is almost dripfed, and SPOILERS for future titles (at least to the middle of the fourth entry) Most romances feel like they are focused on for one book, and then dropped in favor of the next intended romance during the next. This is not a terrible way to go, but can be off-putting to some people.
- Yes, you ‘make’ your character, but this is about the most predefined custom character I’ve experienced.
- Some humor skews very juvenile.
- Not a game for someone if they want to experience normal, healthy romances.
- A game for someone if they don’t want to experience normal, healthy romances.
- Writing is on point, and I don’t feel like anything is wasted in trying to bring you into the world of Hyuga.
- This game brought me back to a time of Adult Swim, DVD’s selected on hope from Suncoast, and Newtype magazine. Excuse me while I go find a Ramune.
Always loved the bootleg vhs feel of Hyuga, glad you picked up on it. The biggest praise of the series I have is my inability to state who I want my MC with after 5 whole games
A thought for later on, but all the lost heir stuff, life of a wizard, and the last wizard take place in the same continuity so my suggestion would be to shuffle those around on the list so you do them all one after each other
And for people who are too lazy for that, enjoy this link.
So, these stories take place within the same world, but are self-contained stories. I was essentially only going to group direct sequels together. So, the Lost Heir series will be grouped together, but the others just make references to the other story without any direct connection. If this is something a lot of people are interested in happening, however, I could be convinced.
By Devon Connell
“Has to be romantic, so…” I began my thought but it didn’t go very far. I didn’t know how romances worked—my relationship with Junko was twisted and not something I would wish upon anyone. But if our flings taught me anything, it was this.
I forced my comrades into a huddle and came up with a plan. “Lisssten up, girls. We’ll get those pair of hearts—hiccup—pumping, if itss the last thing they do.”
If the first in the series was a love letter to localized animation, this is a continued love letter trying to justify all parts of the medium. Such as the filler episodes, but there is a bit of a twist here that works. You start realizing a little bit that the actual content of the story does feel like it could have been presented without a lot of the surroundings at this time, a stark contrast to the previous title. But, if you are all in on the style and presentation of this as anime in Choice form, it scratches the itch perfectly.
After barely surviving an encounter with a jilted ex, our ronin continues to track down ghosts with Scrappy and Flim-flam… er… Hatch and Toshie. This time, however, our hero has to depend on their young charge to help them cheat at a board game to attract the eye of one of those ghosts, while avoiding those hunting for them.
The thing is, this whole entry is a set-up for the actual confrontation with the next ‘demon’ that occurs in Book 3, so when I bring up filler episodes, I’m not exaggerating. That isn’t to say there isn’t good world-building and solidifying of story, but it does start to set a precedent for one story bleeding into the next book only to be wrapped up in that one and another story being the focus for the next half of the book.
Format and Typos:
Noticed a few minor grammatical typos, but I specifically went paths I don’t normally take; so maybe others haven’t really picked a lot of those choices before. Still just as easy to read as the previous title.
Game Mechanics and Stats:
Basically the same as book one. Opposed pairs, working towards attunement by acting in character. It adds an element where you stat titles change up to add uncertainty to your actions later in the story. This is more cosmetic and nothing you need to specifically attempt to counter, but it is there.
This meets the same replayability level expected in the first title, as the majority of choices are based on the opposed pairs and you still feel a little like you are on rails. For example, in the intro quote, you end up going along with the situation even if you choose that you’d prefer to ruin it. The story just lets you know you were convinced to help. This makes sense in context for the anime-style nature of the story, but less for a choice-driven game.
- It’s becoming a little more apparent that the story is very on-rails and choice just alters how you view the story that is already decided.
- If you are here to slay demons at the behest of the Emperor, then you may not be satisfied with this entry.
- It really feels like the story doesn’t know what to do with someone who doesn’t want to ‘romance’ every option presented to them.
- Still a great representation of anime tropes and appreciation for the Toonami era.
- For a board game, the action was described with the same zeal as any of the more lethal duels.
- The author is very good at disconcerting sequences that appear to show that something isn’t right, especially using mechanics to illustrate that.