I’m Thomas Mack, whom you probably don’t remember from a couple of games I wrote that involved puzzles and birds and puzzles about birds. The interaction fiction community is a small and odd one, and I’ve been disappointed with the quality, breadth, and tone of reviews out there. This blog is my attempt to add more useful reviews for a broader range of games by covering all of the entries in the 2018 IFComp and the 2019 IFComp. Yes, all of them. I don’t think it’s a good idea either.
I’m rating the games in three broad categories:
Gameplay (10 points): Was playing the game an enjoyable, compelling, or rewarding experience? Did I get involved in the story, care about the characters, and want to know more about the setting? Did I have agency playing the game, and did the actions I took and choices I made matter? Was I changed by the experience? Did it take advantage of its medium? In short, was the game worth the time I spent playing it?
Mechanics (10 points): Were there any significant bugs in the game? If it had puzzles, were they reasonable and clever? Was it easy to communicate with NPCs in the game? Were there interesting things to do in the game? Was it clear how to manipulate objects in the game? Did I have access to a walkthrough or map available if appropriate? In short, was playing the game a smooth, painless process?
Presentation (10 points): Were there any minor bugs in the game? How good was the writing in the game? Were there any mistakes or typos in it? Were the descriptions of objects and characters in the game enjoyable, rather than merely necessary, to read? If there were illustrations or sound in the game, did they improve the experience? Would I recommend this game to my friends? Would I recommend it to my enemies? Did I run across anything in the game that made me wish I had come up with it? In short, was there anything that made this game stand out from all the others?
I also occasionally award a bonus point for:
Tilt (1 point): Was there anything in the game that specifically appealed to me, the author of this blog? I’m happy to give an extra point to games about mathematics, crows, old 16-bit video games, murder mysteries, and so on.
The final score of the game is the sum of the numbers above divided by 3, rounded off to the nearest positive integer.