All posts by Beau

Lock & Key

Author: Adam Cadre
Year: 2002
Development System: Inform 6
Cruelty Rating: N/A
Length Of Play: About 5-10 minutes for each run through; took me a few hours to solve the puzzle.

My Rating: 7

Awards: Best Individual Puzzle; Best NPCs; Best Individual NPC — 2002 XYZZY Awards

I was a senior in college when this game was released and played it the moment it dropped. I took copious notes while playing and brought those notes to my classes, occasionally ignoring my professors to hammer out this puzzle. No regrets.

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All Things Devours

Author: half sick of shadows
Year: 2004
Development System: Inform 6
Cruelty Rating: Cruel, but the game has a finite number of moves
Length Of Play: 5-15 minutes each playthrough; about 3 hours for me to solve the puzzle

My Rating: 9

Awards: 3rd Place — 10th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition
Best Individual Puzzle — 2004 XYZZY Awards

“The encounter could create a time paradox. The results of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe!…Granted, that’s the worst-case scenario.” — Doc Brown, Back to the Future 2

And such is the world logic of All Things Devours. The inventor of a time-travel machine, Natalie Williams comes to the same realization about paradoxes and sets out to destroy the machine. However, she soon realizes that her plans have been taken and she must find them so that the machine can never be made again. And soon the player realizes that time travel is necessary to find those papers, and there’s a total span of nine minutes in which to work to avoid the guards, avoid your present self, and avoid creating a paradox for your present self.

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Martha Is Dead

Publisher: Wired Productions
Developer: LKA
Year: 2022
Platform: Windows, Xbox One, PS4, PS5

Rating: 1

Martha is, indeed, quite dead. At the same time, she is quite lucky. I spent six hours in this world and grew increasingly jealous of Martha every minute. Because by being dead, Martha never had to play this game. Despite my jealousy, I would like to think Martha’s spirit was looking out for me, as a repetitive game-crashing bug kept me from finishing. 

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Gone Home

Publisher: Fullbright Company
Developer: Fullbright Company
Year: 2013
Platform: Windows, Mac, iOS, Linux, PS4, XBox One, Switch

Rating: 6

Walking simulators (a game where there are virtually no puzzles and you walk around unveiling the story) are fairly popular now, but they were few and far between for the first thirty years of gaming. An early one that comes to mind is Infocom’s A Mind Forever Voyaging, though being a text-only game it still felt like there was quite a bit of work to do. The Dark Eye comes close, though there’s a lot of guessing as how to advance the story and there are some binary choices to make. I would guess the first big modern version of the genre is Journey, though it wasn’t ported to the PC until 2019; no doubt it inspired the wave of PC games to come. And it appears the wave started with the excellent Gone Home.

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Keyword: A Spider’s Thread

Publisher: City From Naught
Developer: City From Naught
Year: 2021
Platform: Windows

Rating: 5

I worked in a video store in the late ’90s and my manager was the only person who could get rid of customer late fees. One day a verbally abusive regular came into the store and I knew she had a late fee so high the computer system wouldn’t let her rent unless she paid it off. I was not in the mood for that confrontation, so in a panic I tried to wildly guess my manager’s 4-digit password. I nailed it on the second try. Bye bye late fees!

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Letters — a written adventure

Publisher: 5am Games
Developer: 5am Games
Year: 2022
Platform: Windows, Mac, Switch

Rating: 7

Toying with lexicon has been an adventure game staple since the beginning, though it’s largely become a niche since the VGA era. Modern games that attempt to merge graphics and text gameplay have a daunting task of providing both a coherent story and an element of exploration while also engaging the brain with enough challenge. 5am Games, an all-women team from Switzerland, took on this challenge with their first game, Letters – a written adventure, and have largely succeeded. While the novelty of its unique gameplay mechanic wears off over time, the game’s charming aesthetic, word-driven approach and endearing young protagonist make for an earnest and delightfully unusual adventure.

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Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Developer: Technocrat Games
Year: 2015
Platform: Windows, iOS

Rating: 8

I’ve always been cautious to play games that take place in cyberspace after my brutal first experience with Ripper. While it’s still generally not my cup of tea, I am happy to report that Technobabylon won me over despite (and in sometimes because of) it’s tech immersion.

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