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The Impossible Stairs

I really enjoyed The Impossible Stairs. First of all, the game is a nice homage to The Impossible Bottle. Its setting, initial goals, and focus on family relationships are all similar to aspects of The Impossible Bottle. Its major puzzle mechanic bends time in satisfying ways, as The Impossible Bottle’s mechanic does with space. There are several small touches that reference The Impossible Bottle, too – from a crossover character to the ending.

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At King Arthur’s Christmas Feast

At King Arthur’s Christmas Feast is a retelling, in Choicescript, of the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I wasn’t that familiar with the original story, so I went into the game with only a hazy sense of what would be happening. I also don’t know how faithful the game is to its source material. But I found myself quite enjoying At King Arthur’s Christmas Feast. In particular, it was an interesting and fun challenge to play as Gawain. He’s a knight who adheres to a well-defined chivalric code—one that forces him not only into situations that tempt him to break that code but also into a promise to submit willingly to what will likely be his own death.

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Silicon and Cells

(some spoilers early, then major spoilers later)

Silicon and Cells is a cyberpunk investigation game made in Unity. You play as Jaya, a young woman intent on pulling the heist of a lifetime: She plans to break into an online casino, steal a fabulous amount of wealth, and give it away to everyone in the slums where she lives. To carry out the heist, though, she needs a body modification. And this is where we see the first of several themes featured in Silicon and Cells: a bionic or a psionic modification? Will she (you, the player) choose a mechanical enhancement or a flesh-based one?

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The Vaults

A couple of minutes into The Vaults, and I’m already impressed with what I’ve seen. The sound, visuals, and interface are closer to that of a commercial game than the single-authored works you tend to see in IFComp. Yet it does appear to be written by a single author! The scope of the game seems vast as well: It looks like a full-scale deck-based RPG, complete with ability tracks and experience, three game modes, trading, crafting, and more. While The Vaults does remind me a little of last year’s Tragic, I still wasn’t expecting to see a game like this in IFComp.

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Cygnet Committee

Joan of Arc is a fascinating figure. She’s been many things: heretic, martyr, saint, hero, military leader, feminist icon, nationalist symbol. She claimed to hear the voices of angels: Was she truly in touch with the divine? Or was she deluded—or did she suffer from mental illness? Along with Napoleon and Louis XIV, she’s also been the leader of the French in multiple editions of the Civilization computer game franchise. After playing Cygnet Committee, I learned that she’s a line of canned beans as well. As the company website says, “Joan of Arc® beans valiantly transform any ordinary dish into something extraordinary.” No doubt.

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Dr Horror’s House of Terror

Dr Horror’s House of Terror is a comedic send-up of–and homage to–the low-budget horror genre. Just about every staple from monster films is on display here, from cheap sets and pitchfork-wielding mobs to undead summoned by mysterious rites. It reminded me some of Renegade Brainwave. While Renegade plays with its genre’s conventions, though, Dr Horror wads them up and sends them through the spin cycle. What comes out is a unique, ambitious game that could have easily fallen apart but instead soars thanks to strong implementation, writing, and plotting.

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And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One / Infinite Adventure

(major, major spoilers – including spoiling some secrets)

This is going to be two reviews in one, as these two games are intertwined. And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One (hereafter shortened to “House Not Unlike”) is a game about two fourteen-year-olds playing a text-based computer game in 1987. That text-based game is Infinite Adventure. So we, as IFComp players, get to play House Not Unlike, as well as the game that the teens are playing in House Not Unlike. This appears to be a setup for some meta-gaming.

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The Libonotus Cup

(a few mild spoilers)

Once past the introduction, the first character you meet in The Libonotus Cup is your trusty parrot Virgé. There’s a parrot featured prominently in last year’s fifth place IFComp game, The Magpie Takes the Train, as well as a character named Verge in last year’s fourth place game, Limerick Quest. I immediately thought, “Is this game going to reference a bunch of past IFComp games?” Once I had that frame in my head, I couldn’t shake it; I kept looking for IF references in The Libonotus Cup. I don’t know whether the examples I’m going to cite later are legitimate references, but you know how it is when you have something on the brain: You start seeing examples of it everywhere.

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