Interactive Fiction Competition 2020 – Part Four

Screenshot of "Stoned Ape Hypothesis"

“Stoned Ape Hypothesis” by James Heaton.

At first I thought this was just going to be an ape simulator, but as it turns out, there is more to “Stoned Ape Hypothesis”. It is about advancing from ape to man with the help of psychoactive mushrooms (following the actually proposed theory by ethnobotanist Terence Kemp McKenna) and presents that in some interesting ways. That said, the game is also kind of confusing, so that you might need to hit the help button to get a hint for solving the quests. [PLAY]

Screenshot of "The Turnip"

“The Turnip” by Joseph Pentangelo.

This game was made by the same person who created “The Pinecone”, another submission I wrote about in the third part of this article series. “The Turnip” feels very similar to it in that I feel like I am missing something. Also, the presentation is just as simple and nice. [PLAY]

Screenshot of "#VanLife"

“#VanLife” by Victoria.

This charming little project about living in a van called “#VanLife” is a simple, but not easy life simulation, as a surprisingly high amount of it is based in technical knowledge and maths. Knowing how many watts powers a coffee machine and learning how to adjust solar batteries comes in handy here. The goal for the player is to pay off the loan for their van, while they maintain their mood and cash at the same time.

That concept in combination with the random events made the experience kind of inconsistent for me, as I would go long periods with my mood being fine, and then I would get hit with some events that would make it suddenly drop. Overall it was a nice and educational simulation game anyway. (A little hint: Make sure to play it in Mozilla Firefox, as the left sidebar does not seem to be shown in Google Chrome.) [PLAY]

Screenshot of "You Couldn't Have Done That"

“You Couldn’t Have Done That” by Ann Hugo.

As a person who is trying to get themselves diagnosed as autistic, I felt this competition entry and its writing a lot, especially this line: “You hope your smile wasn’t too big, or too small. He doesn’t seem disturbed, so that’s a good sign.” I am always trying to keep social rules in balance, so I totally get this. I also loved, “[It’s s]ort of similar to the comfort that comes from other repetitive behaviours, like flapping your hands or rocking yourself back and forth.”

“You Couldn’t Have Done That” is about an adult assaulting the protagonist, an autistic teenager called Theodora. It is a raw game that gets across the emotions it is trying to communicate pretty well. Also, I am glad that the main character had someone to support them in that situation; that was much valued. Overall, I appreciate this game, as a possibly autistic person and abuse survivor.

It really vibed with me as it explains how autistic people feel like they need to follow social rules as good as they can, and sometimes following them leads to more than just unpleasant situations. At the same time, if you did not read the submission’s description, you could miss that the protagonist is autistic, and have no idea why they are not much more forceful in stopping the aspect. That aspect of the character maybe needed to be clearer. [PLAY]