Interactive Fiction Competition 2020 – Part One

The Interactive Fiction Competition just came to a close, with over hundred new games entering the contest this year. To guide you a bit through the submissions of the event, I wrote some short reviews of all entries that take fifteen minutes or less to complete, cross-posted from my reviews on the non-public IF Comp Author’s Forum (sometimes the original version, sometimes slightly edited).

Warning for unmarked spoilers, as well as discussion of serious topics, such as child grooming, kidnapping and missing persons.

Also, a little disclaimer in advance: I entered the competition with my Twine game “Lore Distance Relationship”. However, this has not affected my opinion on the games I have written about.

Screenshot of "Amazing Quest"

“Amazing Quest” by Nick Montfort.

This is actually a real BASIC game playable on a Commodore 64, which is incredibly cool. Plus, the developer is offering it under a Creative Commons 4.0 license if you want to make your own games like it. Nevertheless, “Amazing Quest” is also playable in the browser.

While the presentation is fantastically old-school, the game itself is very straightforward: Just answer questions with a “Yes” or “No” until you win or lose. Even though this concept is kind of boring, the game does go to some cool places, from dark cities to outer space, and that is pretty rad. At first I was worried that it is composed of randomly generated events only with no end state whatsoever, but there is one, even though the game does not make it clear how many events you need to survive to get there. All and all, that entry was a charming and technically impressive little game. [PLAY]

Screenshot of "A Calling of Dogs"

“A Calling of Dogs” by Arabella Collins & Grey Havens.

Read the content warnings first before you give “A Calling of Dogs” – an interesting game, but also tough to swallow – a try. It is unclear how old the main character, a kidnapped person, is. Their exact age is unknown, as we are told that the kidnapper hunts “girls”, but the protagonist clearly talks and thinks like an adult. Also, they have a memory from when they were sixteen years old. But like I said, it remains unclear.

There is something about the earnest rage that the writing exhibits that really works for me. For example, I absolutely love this paragraph: “‘Goodnight, we’ll speak tomorrow, okay?’ He says with an earnestness reserved for thirteen year old boys and their first crushes. But betrayed within his eyes you see a depth, an immutable, and terrifying calm.” [PLAY]

Screenshot of "Captain Graybeard's Plunder"

“Captain Graybeard’s Plunder” by Julian Mortimer Smith.

“Captain Graybeard’s Plunder” is a charming little game with a nice presentation. I love how they used the sidebar to show different things about the character and the setting. The idea of an old, defeated pirate going through their library and imagining their revenge is really cute, too, though the cursive fonts are a bit hard to read. Also, if you do not know all the used literature (guilty as charged), you will not know what treasure at the end to pick. But besides those two tiny points of criticism, I like it. I want to see more of this concept, using classic literature to create real scenarios in-game. It is a great idea and explored well here. [PLAY]

Screenshot of "The Cave"

“The Cave” by Neil Aitken.

“The Cave” is an interesting submission, as it is more of a philosophical journey, but at the same time it frames itself as a literal one, which can be confusing. You explore a cave to find yourself, and then the game abruptly ends, at least it did for me. Overall, I enjoyed this experience. It was cool to see my character grow over time. [PLAY]

Screenshot of "Congee"

“Congee” by Becci.

The title of this stylish game about immigrant culture refers to a food from the main character’s childhood in Hong Kong. From there they moved to the United Kingdom, where they talk about finding home in the little things. There are many things I personally love about “Congee”: The texting effects when you are talking to the protagonist’s best friend Allison, all the drawings and GIFs, the music. It is practically perfect in every way. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be “cozy”. If I had three words, I would say, “cozy yet melancholic.” [PLAY]