In keeping with the season, three short reviews of horror IF. The review of Her Pound of Flesh gets into some spoilers, but they’re clearly marked; otherwise, these should be safe to check out even if you haven’t played the games in question.
Magical Makeover is a fairy-tale game in which you, an ordinary-looking person, are preparing for a ball for the incredibly wealthy and/or exquisitely beautiful, so you must use the help of a magic mirror and an assortment of enchanted cosmetics to get ready. Your choices about cosmetic enhancement affect what happens next. As a result, you wind up on one of seven paths, which are themselves linear with no crossovers.
In this opening section where you’re choosing how to remake your look, there’s nothing you can choose that will throw the story off the rails: you’re tweaking various variables for later, in ways that aren’t quite predictable, but the narration has customized descriptions for any combination of products you might attempt. It’s only afterwards that you find out what it’s all done, when it’s too late to make a difference.
This is a rather unusual structure for CYOA. There’s no room for cumulative stakes-building, no way to change course once you’ve decided what you’re doing about your skin this evening; by branching widely but unpredictably at the very beginning, it maximizes the amount of work the author has to do writing the different branches while minimizing the player’s sense of agency at any point.
And yet despite the fact that it violates almost every generalization I could make about sensible CYOA structure, I really enjoyed this game.
Dial C for Cupcakes is a short parser-based game (45-60 minutes of play time, probably) with gentle puzzles. It’s a sequel to his comp-winning previous work Taco Fiction, but it plays fine even if you don’t remember all the details of that game, or didn’t play it to start with. It’s light and fluffy without being uproarious, and makes for a nice Halloween treat.