Like the author’s excellent entry in last year’s competition, “Poppet” is a puzzle-based parser game with a strong theme and compelling characters.
Gameplay: The game involves the protagonist’s exploring a mansion and solving puzzles to determine what exactly is going on. The puzzles are fair to the player and interesting, involving a mixture of several different mechanics. Some are a bit complicated, but there are in-game references that explain the supernatural elements of the setting (and a walkthrough if those fail). The creepy-doll theme is strong throughout the game, and it’s integral to the plot and to the puzzles. 9/10.
Mechanics: Although the first few puzzles are straightforward set-piece ones, later puzzles involve the supernatural elements of the setting. The story provides both a rationale for and instructions about handling the latter, and it works well as a mechanic. The pacing of the game is smooth throughout. Overall, it’s a well-designed game that’s fun to play. 9/10.
Presentation: The writing of the game is strong throughout, and it captures of creepiness of the setting and the character of its protagonist. There are a few minor issues with the text (e.g., a “decimated figure”), but nothing that interfered with my enjoyment of the game. There are some syntax issues (some of which are undoubtedly due to my unfamiliar with the Quest parser, as opposed to Inform’s), with phrases like UNLOCK DOOR WITH KEY not recognized (and giving the spurious response “You can’t unlock it,” possibly treating DOOR WITH KEY as a single object to be unlocked), but UNLOCK DOOR itself perfectly fine. Those are mostly cosmetic issues, but there were instances in the game where items were both my inventory and still listed in the room descriptions, and certain commands had no response whatsoever. 8/10.
You might be interested in this game if: You like the “Toy Story” series of films, but wished they were creepier.