Well I don’t like SOH either but I understand it’s because I’m really not it’s intended audience in more ways then one. Like the authors here said there shouldn’t be a right way to write interactive fiction (besides not being an offensive jerk of course) because it limits creativity and makes authors afraid of getting it wrong
The Midnight Saga: The Monster
By C.C. Hill
"It is said that from October 31 to November 2, The Keeper travels to the world of the living and abducts innocent children.”
"So, those of you going trick-or-treating tomorrow with your little cousins, nephews, and nieces, be sure to keep an eye out for The Keeper of Midnight, as you never know who or what is lurking in the dark.”
Ghost stories around a campfire are as ‘October’ as Jewel Staite in ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’. Which is odd, because usually fireflies are gone by Fall. This story actually reminds me a lot of those days when you’d finish watching an episode of The Adventures of Pete and Pete, follow it up with Clarissa Explains It All, and end your spooky night (around 830pm) with Are You Afraid of The Dark. I am now realizing I spent a lot of the early 90’s watching people in flannel.
So, submitted for the approval of the Midnight Sag… I mean, Midnight Society, I call this review…
You are a young adult who is sent to live with family in the US, bringing seemingly traditional Haitian ghost stories along with you. Turns out, some of those stories might be true and now you have to save those closest to you with powers you didn’t even know you had. You’ll brave the scary stories from your childhood, and try to find your way back to a candy-filled Halloween night.
Honestly, the story works pretty well; especially for a first entry in a series. It’s your semi-standard young adult novel romp, with a chosen one and multiple romance interests… Not a live parent in sight. There are some twists and turns, and everything lends itself to the feeling of a sleepy Halloween in a sparse town, even though I’m not sure it’s supposed to be a small population town. The title honestly cribs a lot of themes from Stranger Things and pairs it with your standard Super Sentai. It’s a super powered team mentored by dead papa Zordon, roaming the Upside Down taking on “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” made sentient.
Format and Typos:
A few typos, grammar, and formatting mistakes. I’ve submitted a few for corrections, and with new release HG titles, this is pretty common as beta testing and proofreading is often crowd-sourced. Nothing egregious, and readability was pretty good.
Game Mechanics and Stats:
Okay, everything really feels like a false front in the stats screen. So often I had trouble figuring out what choices would affect which stat (except romance option selection, those were marked very well) and reviewing the stats screen never really helped. After reviewing the code, it’s because as of right now; the stats don’t do anything but accumulate. I don’t believe I ever saw a check against the stats. You can fail if you choose the least correct option, but it never really matters if you’ve been focusing on using energy blasts or shields, as it depends more on what choice the author decided was correct. It usually goes like this, you choose the best option you get resources (a weapon, some candy, crafting items). Second best option gets you status quo, no losing anything but potential. Worst option usually results in death or damage, which isn’t normally a permanent failstate but an ever increasing death score.
The above isn’t to say that I felt railroaded at any point, but more that I was never really rewarded for focusing on a stat or trying to stay true to the character in my head because there was never any consequence related to the number value of any stat.
Tracked resources are a thing however. How many times have you used that meat cleaver? Weapons can break, but I found the usage very forgiving. So, if you can find a weapon even sporadically, you won’t run into much issue. The majority of your actual game mechanics is just making sure you’ve collected as much as possible during the time given to you.
Replayability is pretty high, and this is because of the romance options. There are quite a few options (some set in stone, others gender variable), and even some polyamory. The title features some (optional) steamy scenes, and they were well written. The majority of your playthroughs will fill the same with only your romance options changing, but there are a few different things you can accomplish in the title that change up major events like whether specific people will survive.
- Stats are not really used for anything. You can spend your entire time focusing on being an awesome energy blaster, but if you use shields when the author implies you should, it will always succeed.
- Creating the ultimate weapon lacked the fanfare I wanted with it.
- The sense of horror and helplessness does not stay at the forefront long enough before you start getting powers more fitting for spandex warriors.
- The romances are the main show here, and work well.
- There is a lot of potential in the main villain, and I am super interested to see how the relationship (non-romantic or otherwise) develops with them. So, for those that like enemy-to-lover, there is a good bullet point for you.
- “However, the real reason is that Mr. Audbawl is a strange one.” Never would have guessed.
That’s a great review. I like how it highlights what’s lacking and need to be worked on and what’s done well that the reader should expect to enjoy. Thank you so much.
My favorite part was this:
That’s going to be my elevator pitch.
Thank you for the story. I really enjoyed it, and I’m happy I got to play it during October (I usually spend the month playing games like The Quarry, Until Dawn, and The Walking Dead Telltale), and it was fun to add it to the rotation.
And honestly, the steamy scenes felt grounded and well-described; which can sometimes be an issue when you have some variability.
The Nascent Necromancer
By Samuel Young
The corner of the demon’s lips twitch upward in amusement. “Creative, ambitious, and most of all hungry for revenge,” she notes. “All admirable qualities in a nascent necromancer.”
Supernatural romance might be one of the most common romps in interactive fiction, but almost as comfortable is the ‘deal with the devil’ sacrifice. What are you willing to give up in order to get the power you need to do the things that need doing? Ghost Rider to Constantine, Spawn to The Phantom of the Opera. This makes these stories feel like a well-worn glove, one where it needs some major twists to really stand out.
After an alleged goblin assault on your village, you begin to realize your brother may have gained powers. But before you can get answers, witch hunters arrive and begin terrorizing you and your friends in the search for your brother. As the story progresses, you realize you may have the same potential for power that your brother does.
This story leans pretty hard initially on the ‘bullied gains power’ trope, replete with the moral quandaries involving nebulous means and justifications. You’ll spend most of your read on the run, learning about the world and lore. The villains are pretty simple fare, with no redeeming qualities, but are interesting nonetheless.
For a story which is a literal power fantasy, I do have some issue with almost every single choice in combat ending with you slightly injuring your foe and then being knocked out (and this is with successful checks). Seriously, you’ll see ‘then you blacked out’ fairly often.
Side note,I was expecting a bit more ‘spooky’ in an October release with Necromancer in the title, but that doesn’t really harm the story.
Format and Typos:
Readability is high. There are a few typos, and there are a few unfortunate coding issues that stymied my first choice romance during my playthrough, with the medic, Tozi. This is already reported in the announcement thread, so I assume it won’t last for too long.
Game Mechanics and Stats:
As the game continues, you’ll build up your various stats like Combat and Agility. Choices can be locked away if you don’t meet certain requirements, but these are visible and easy to understand. The personality section eschews the normal opposed pairs (sort of), There are three stats, Introverted, Extroverted, and Thoughtful. Most choices that affect Introverted or Extroverted will reduce or increase the opposite. Thoughtful doesn’t have a reduction, and this actually becomes an issue because there are plenty of instances where the game checks against your Introverted vs Extroverted vs Thoughtful. Unless you are purposefully trying to be crude and unlikeable, you’ll likely outpace your other two stats, and will be locked out of the choices that require those to be your highest stats. As you progress through the title, you’ll gain one of three separate sets of powers.
Those powers sort of add some basic replayability, but the real draw is pursuing the various romance options. There are 5 romance options (3 female, two male) and each of them have quite a few scenes throughout the story.
- So many instances of your character almost seeming to do something cool, but just being worse than your opponent and depending on some form of deus ex machina. A pervading sense of powerlessness until the end of the story, and almost no payoff.
- Feels like opposing pairs, adding something to oppose Thoughtful specifically, would have been helpful to be able to see more of the options the author wrote.
- For as much as you spend in close proximity with everyone, there are very few reactions to your romantic actions. I think that someone I knew as a friend for a long time kissing another friend would elicit at least some reaction if we were all sitting within five feet of each other.
- Romantic options are varied enough to make it worth playing through each of them.
- The demon that grants you power is interesting and can make you understand what moral choices are needed to end up at the end of the story.
- There is quite a bit of good writing involved in action parts, and I’m looking forward to instances of actual powerful scenes in future titles.
Pirates of Donkey Island
By Gilbert Gallo
You look at each other, puzzled. You can tell from their faces that everybody’s completely clueless. Why does this have to be so complicated? Can’t the Loa simply tell us what they want and from whom?
Some people are Threepwood fans, but me? I’m more of a lagomorph and dog detective fan. Less ‘hit the high seas’, and more ‘hit the road’.
A female aristocrat cursed into the body of her pirate grandfather must guide her crew and herself to the cure. Along the way, you’ll discover whether the swashbuckling and the body suits you.
The story is pure Ron Gilbert and Steve Purcell, painted from top to bottom with a guybrush. That is both the strength and weakness of the title. If you grew up following the secrets, curses, escapes and tales of this LucasArts legend, you’ll feel right at home as long as you feel at home in a cursed body. The splash screen tells you that you’ll decide who you become, but you don’t actually get to start there. So, you are actually playing a predetermined character who ends up becoming (at the very end of the title) who you want them to be. I could see that being a problem for some people who were expecting something different, based on what was missing from that splash screen.
Format and Typos:
No typos as far as I can see. There does seem to be some stylistic choices that may seem like typos, but they read easily.
Game Mechanics and Stats:
Opposed pairs help you decide whether the pirate life is for you, and what tools you use as a pirate. However, reaching back to that point about playing the original LucasArts Monkey Island titles… there are moments where the only correct answers come from past knowledge about the insult dueling quips that were present in the old games. You may not technically be penalized for choosing incorrectly, but you do miss out on some ‘mojo’ for not knowing them. This is a nice reward for those who are here to celebrate Guybrush, but seems really confusing for someone who didn’t end up here because of a love of Monkey Island.
Replayability comes from deciding on a different body, and who you may or may not end up with at the end of the story. There are a few separate endings, so you can probably expect to get 3 to 4 separate playthroughs, and each of them are fairly quick once you’ve gotten a handle on the story. There are also some additional difficulty options for replay, though these mostly alter how many mistakes you can make.
- Depends on nostalgia a bit too heavily. If you didn’t play the titles this is fanservice to, you are at a disadvantage. It wears this badge openly, however.
- Splash screen seems to hint that you might be able to play as a self-insert who ends up dealing with ‘wrong body’ curse, but this isn’t the case. You are a defined character who ends up becoming either the same person or a copy of your grandfather.
- You mostly need to focus on a single crewmember if you want to see all of their content during a single run. It’s hard to spread attention around.
- Classic adventure game comedy that marries the absurd play with the wordplay.
- Each crewmate is interesting, and I wish I had more time with all of them.
- Quite a bit of variability in the ending depending on your personal choices.
By Andrew J. Schaefer
So instead the decision was made to act like nothing was going on. Let people get on board their starship without a care in the world. Let them put whatever they wanted into their (admittedly very small) allotted baggage space. And then, when they’re frozen in sleep light years and decades from home and there’s nothing anybody can do about it, go through all that stuff and throw out whatever you don’t want. It’s not like much is actually destroyed.
Spend too long in cryogenic sleep, and you might end up with ‘freezer burn’. According to this story, that means you may end up not remembering large parts of your past. You are told it’s common, but a new world awaits! What they don’t tell you is in the quote above, that the blanks in your memory are not from cryogenic damage, but from purposeful removal of ‘distasteful or harmful’ memories.
That’s amazing, and terrifying.
Get unfrozen, change the course of history, maybe solve a mystery. All in a light year’s work for a Quarantine Officer.
The story surrounding the moral and utilitarian choices you make work well, but there is a lot of it and little in the way of choices between them. Those choices are meaningful, and impactful, but you mostly see the impact in the final epilogue scenes. It feels strange how broad and far-reaching this title basically promises to be, but continually shrinks further and further in as it goes.
Format and Typos:
Didn’t notice any typos, but readability suffered a little considering how much text was often included on the same page.
Game Mechanics and Stats:
Choices you make end up defining how the world you travel to turns out. Will it be forward facing and enlightened? Do you hold onto the sentimentality from Earth? In addition, you will be investigating a mystery, and the value seems to affect how much you end up learning about your new home and the residents that are already there.
There is actually quite a bit of replayability, if you want to end up seeing the different epilogues and how your previous tendencies towards ambition and corruption might affect how utopic your new home is. I would expect to find at least two or three playthroughs out of the title. These will be quick, because the game itself is only long when you first end up going through it; after you’ll just be looking for the text that changes.
- Feels super front-loaded. Most of the in-depth and super interesting stuff happens within the first few chapters.
- Pace seems to turn breakneck about halfway through the story, but for no real reason.
- For a story about moral quandary and if you are corruptible, I wish there had been more personal connection. Either a spouse, or a romantic interest that is entwined within it.
- The time spent on The Jessica in the early story is rife with potential, and I feel like you could have spent an entire game just in those first two weeks.
- The idea that there is a group of people who get to decide what memories make it into a new colony is amazing.
- The author is very good at describing a slightly alien feeling to your new homeworld.
No announcement thread here. Thanks for reading!
180 Files: The Aegis Project
By Karelia Hall
“Did I tell you about Petrovich’s crocodiles?” Angel says, perversely upbeat. “Too good a chance to miss, especially since it’ll point the blame at him. You did us a favor there. He’s clearly far too unstable to be a good long-term asset. Once we’re done with you, I think it’s do svidaniya for poor Mikhail.”
Ever wonder what would happen if you mixed Totally Spies with a dash of Bond, Powers and Eggsy? Now, turn down the brightness and contrast with the dark, moral quandaries of a license to kill and trauma in the line of duty, and you’d get a whole new direction to take the Files in, Agent.
Don’t forget the cocktail!
After suffering a traumatic event, the titular character Agent 180 with an anti-terrorist covert organization is placed on the trail of a bioweapon. Already under pressure, can they also handle the scrutiny of the legendary top agent, Agent 100?
Now this is a love-letter to Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan, with a postscript to M. Casino card games, dangling from helicopters, and flashing the Doctor’s psychic paper is the name of the game… well, the implied name. The story is necessarily fast-paced and reads like you are watching any spy film from the last thirty years.
Format and Typos:
High readability, and after going through quite a few paths, I’ve not noticed any typos.
Game Mechanics and Stats:
In a trend with some Choice titles, you build your character through choices over the course of the first few chapters. Your past and present determine your skill with technology, persuasion, skullduggery or combat. You also balance a personality that veers between loyal to the organization, to concern about your own well-being among others. These are pretty standard opposed pairs.
Throughout the title, success and failure determine how much information you can collect to hold against the main antagonist and the evil organization of DIABLO. This will determine your ending, which consists of both your overall choices and your assessment during the mission.
Difficulty checks ramp up pretty quickly as you progress through the story. It’s possible to focus on being good at three things, but all of a sudden, you won’t pass checks unless you’ve been focusing on only two things. And then, at the end, you’ll wish you had focused on being really good at one thing. Since character stat growth doesn’t really occur after the first few chapters, you may find yourself deep in the story and suddenly failing at a lot of things.
I found the title to be highly replayable. The ending can vary pretty wildly depending on your overall successes through the different romance options, choices, and paths you pursue. There are branching paths that can lead you through the final confrontation, and how the Agency views your successes and loyalty can affect the style of ending just as much. There are a few romance options (including gender variable, male, female, and non-binary), and the level of detail given to them fits perfectly in your standard Bond style.
- Difficulty scaling without much growth in later chapters feels a bit harsh because of how easy some of the earlier choices were.
- Some parts in the middle of the title confused me a little on how to interact with some of the people I wanted to interact with.
- Choosing equipment felt like it should be done to counteract the things you were bad at, when in reality it was to make the thing you were second best at be possible in most situations.
- Fast pace done well. Too often, stories that feel breakneck end up feeling shallow. The author includes all the details you need, but still makes the world feel like it’s actually moving around you.
- Perfect mix of absurd spy tech, overly suave characters while still representing the moral issues of an organization operating outside of the law.
- Might be one of the few enemy to lover-rival I’ve actually enjoyed.
A Long Weekend
By Nathaniel Becker
”You are the problem. Would you want others to like you? Have you seen yourself recently?"
“Stop it,” you mutter. You throw the book on the nightstand, bringing your hands to your eyes. “Stop it, stop it, stop it!” you hiss through your teeth, hitting your head with your fists. You curl up on your side, clutching the pillow.
You can’t bring yourself to cry.
“You don’t deserve to be able to cry.”
There is a trigger warning on the splash screen that you really should read and think about before beginning this title.
You have a lot to think about, and a long weekend to do it.
This story follows your character dealing with past trauma, present mental issues, and the possibility of no future. Describing it as a rollercoaster would be a disservice because being a rollercoaster might imply it could be fun, but this is more being on a rollercoaster and being afraid the entire time.
Format and Typos:
Pretty good readability. Found one typo and reported it.
Game Mechanics and Stats:
Though the game tracks your ‘mind and energy’, this game is mostly seeing what lies beyond certain choices. Do you stick to your routine? Spend your entire weekend sleeping and browsing a Reddit and Facebook analogue, or do you take up a coworker’s offer on a night out?
After completing a playthrough, the title says there are 9 total outcomes, and 3 separate finales. You can definitely try to find all of them if you want to, but (and I know this is the point) not all of them will end up well.
- Weird mix of “you can choose to rise out of your depression to get a good ending” and a bit of gross voyeurism in seeing how badly certain paths can turn out.
- Might be difficult for the people who would sympathize with the point and purpose of this story to actually consume it.
- I know that, in my experience, a lot of people lean on platitudes surrounding depression but it still makes the story feel a little preachy at times.
- I like that the mental processes were likened to Greek tragedy in the achievements.
- Accurately represents that bit of second-guessing anxiety that wants to try to explain away every good thing that happens.
- It can be a cathartic read for some people.
No announcement thread for this one. Thanks for reading!
Curious to see the Mummy review. It is arguably one of the least popular ChoiceScript games in existence, but my experience with it is that this is not a deserved title.
I’ve actually read it this weekend for the first time, and I can let you know that the cover image probably does the majority of the lifting of that popularity issue. Planning on getting up a proper review tomorrow morning, though.
Very curious about what you’ll think about The Soul Stone War and The Wayhaven Chronicles.
For me it’s evertree saga, heroes rise and fallen hero. It will take a while
Well, it’s also an eclectic genre, which didn’t help either.
I wonder what your review of Tin Star will be like.
Hey, all! To help celebrate closing in on 30 reviews completed, I’ve got a poll for you that closes on Oct 21st. You can help decide semi-randomly what reviews are going to be making a linejump. The instructions and process are in the Strawpoll description below. Let me know if you’ve got any questions!
I have no idea what I’m voting for here, so I’ll bow out. I have my own ideas of what should be bumped up, but since this doesn’t really do that…
Enjoying the reviews, though!
25 because I like Pirates of Donkey Island
16 because the idea of reviewing Samurai of Hyuga Book 2 before Book 1 is hilarious.
A Mummy Is Not An Antique
By Randy Condon
“Misfortune has already devastated me,” you say. “I produce antique appraisal shows for PBS. What’s going on?”
Who ever thought that Antique Roadshow might have inspired a better story than the man who spent over £100,000 on a Tesco brand olive oil bottle? How did I miss this title?
You are a PBS Antique Roadshow-esque producer smack dab in the middle of (unsurprisingly) an antique show. Providence drops a mummy in your camera lens, and hijinks ensue. Can you make sure you get enough footage to make your name in the PBS hall of fame? Or at least get to Netflix?
This story lulls you into a false sense of serenity, and then sprints towards the finish dragging you along with it. Dialogue is Edgar Wright levels of snappy, filled with puns and wordplay. Action clips along at about the same pace. And now that I think about it, I could 100% see Simon Pegg as the MC and Nick Frost as… wait… I feel like I need to go back and read the story again because there might be more parallels than I thought.
Format and Typos:
Great readability, one typo in a response that I reported.
Game Mechanics and Stats:
Game tracks your injuries (in a humorous fashion), but you only really deal with Empathy and Ambition. Ambition dovetails into a lot of choices that improve your ‘film quality’ as you try to follow the saga of the Mummy in the AntiqueCon. Other than that, though? There isn’t a lot of management in stats.
You ‘might’ get one or two plays out of this based on variability. There is a lot of (great) text and dialogue, but not much in the way of interactive choice beyond how it varies your next page. You are pretty much along for the ride on what is a great story with mild interactivity. The five endings are pretty much relegated to the epilogue, and you’ll make the choice as long as you meet the prerequisites there.
- Sometimes it is very hard not to judge a book by its cover.
- Too little Brenda.
- I understand that not every story has to have romance, but I honestly think that a whirlwind fling with some of the characters would have been both hilarious and thematically appropriate.
- Not kidding when I said I got some Hot Fuzz/Shaun of the Dead vibes from how the story and dialogue were fashioned. This is high praise considering Hot Fuzz is my favorite movie ever.
- Fast paced, but keeps your attention throughout. Constantly working towards an end goal.
- Absolutely hilarious writing. Another story where I had over twenty different quotes I wanted to use, but had to narrow it down. “We LUV Brenda”!
Feels good to get some external vindication after all these years.