Category Archives: Interactive Fiction

The Impossible Bottle

Author: Linus Åkesson
Year: 2020
Development System: Dialog
Cruelty Rating: Merciful
Length Of Play: 3-4 hours

My Rating: 8

Awards: 1st Place: 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition;
Best Puzzles, Best Individual Puzzles, Best Implementation, Best Use of Innovation: 2020 XYZZY Awards

What initially appears to be a charming slice-of-life about a six year-old girl helping her dad get ready for a dinner party turns into a old-school puzzlefest with an extraordinary mechanic that I’m embarrassed to admit I needed the in-game hints to even discover. Discovering the mechanic is part of the fun so I won’t spoil it here. I’ll just say it involves changing things in your environment with some magical thinking.

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Necrotic Drift

Author: Robb Sherwin
Year: 2004
Development System: Hugo
Cruelty Rating: Tough (save frequently and you’re fine)
Length Of Play: 2-3 hours

My Rating: 5

Awards: Best Individual NPC — 2004 XYZZY Awards

I fell in love with New Haz and its universe while playing Sherwin’s Fallacy of Dawn. The story in Necrotic Drift occurs mostly in a nearby town with an entirely different cast, though frequent references are made to the events in the first game. And while this entry into the series is more focused, I unfortunately found myself missing New Haz and its citizens.

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A Change in the Weather

Author: Andrew Plotkin
Year: 1995
Development System: Inform
Cruelty Rating: Cruel
Length Of Play: 2-4 hours, depending on how quickly you look up a walkthrough

My Rating: 7

Awards: 1st Place: 1st Annual Interactive Fiction Competition

>hint
That’s now how life works.


And so sets the mood for A Change in the Weather: dark, dreary, and unforgiving.

I tried this a couple of times in my youth and could not get into it. I think knowing going in that you could lock the game out victory near constantly kept me from immersing myself in the world. I recently gave it another shot and I’m glad I did.

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The Elysium Enigma

Author: Eric Eve
Year: 2006
Development System: TADS3
Cruelty Rating: Polite
Length Of Play: 2-3 hours

My Rating: 5

Awards: 3rd Place: 12th Interactive Fiction Competition; Best Game, Best Individual NPC: 2006 XYZZY Awards

The Elysium Enigma is a competently made game that easily drew me into its world of intergalactic politics and subterfuge and I eagerly rushed through it. Unfortunately, the story and plot turns were unsatisfying and I felt like a spy left out in the cold.

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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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Kaged

Author: Ian Finley
Year: 2000
Development System: TADS
Cruelty Rating: Polite (can’t get stuck if you save reasonably)
Length Of Play: 2-4 hours

My Rating: 7

Awards: 1st Place — 6th Annual IF Comp

With a Kafkaesque dystopia the author must be very careful that while the world is constantly spinning around the protagonist that the viewer in addition to being misdirected doesn’t feel cheated. For the most part Finley does his job here.

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All Roads

Author: Jon Ingold
Year: 2001
Development System: Inform
Cruelty Rating: Merciful
Length of Play: 1-2 Hours

My Rating: 6

Awards: Best Game, Best Story, Best Setting — 2001 XYZZY Awards
1st Place — 7th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition

I normally am a sucker for anything involving time travel and paradoxes and I tend to prefer linear gameplay. Jon Ingold is also one of my favorite authors. So All Roads should be right up my alley. I judged the 2001 IF competition and remember giving this one a score of “6” and then being surprised it took first place and won a whole slew of XYZZY awards. I decided to play it again recently to see if time would change my mind, but I left once again feeling underwhelmed.

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Fail-Safe

Author: Jon Ingold
Year: 2000
Development System: Inform
Cruelty Rating: Cruel (but the game is so short it doesn’t matter)
Length of Play: 1-2 Hours

My Rating: 8

I’ve always enjoyed games that take place in space, especially on failing space vessels (e.g. Mission Critical, Seedship). I fell immediately for Fail-Safe’s hook, which entails playing the role of mission control talking to the lone survivor on a failing space vessel.

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No Time To Squeal

Author: Mike Sousa & Robb Sherwin
Year: 2001
Development System: TADS
Cruelty Rating: Polite
Length of Play: 2 Hours

My Rating: 4

Mike Sousa and Robb Sherwin as a pairing makes sense, as the former’s strength is coding and the latter’s strength is writing. So I was pretty stoked when I first played this. But instead of combining their strengths, it appears this was developed like a McCartney/Lennon song where they just jam two separate numbers together and hope it works.

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