IF Comp 2015 Guest Post: Robb Sherwin on Pit of the Condemned

As part of the project to get more reviewers talking about IF Comp games, Robb Sherwin writes for us about Matthew Holland’s Pit of the Condemned. Robb is the author of Cryptozookeeper and Fallacy of Dawn, among other works.

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IF Comp 2015 Guest Post: Duncan Stevens on Final Exam

final_examAs part of the project to get more reviewers talking about IF Comp games, Duncan Stevens has shared his thoughts on Final Exam, a dystopian science fiction parser piece by Jack Whitham.

Duncan has also written about Koustrea’s Contentment and Map for this project.

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IF Comp 2015 Guest Post: Liz Albl on Nowhere Near Single

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As part of the project to get new reviewers talking about IF Comp games, Liz Albl has written about Nowhere Near Single.

Liz Albl is a scriptwriter for Ubisoft and author of short stories.

Other posts written as part of this project can be found at this roundup post.

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IF Comp 2015 Guest Post: Duncan Stevens on Koustrea’s Contentment

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As part of the project to get more reviewers talking about IF Comp games, veteran IF reviewer Duncan Stevens has shared his thoughts on Koustrea’s Contentment. Duncan is one of the prolific reviewers of IF in the late-90s newsgroups, and has previously taken a look at Map for this series.

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Black Closet (Hanako Games)

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Black Closet is a dating sim/resource-juggling sim from Hanako Games (Long Live the Queen, Date/Warp, and numerous others). In it, you are Elsa Jackson, the student council president at St. Claudine’s, an all-female Catholic boarding school. (I hadn’t heard of St. Claudine before this game, but it was satisfying to look her up and discover that the authors seem to have picked her with some intention. Claudine Thevenet was interested in schooling for girls and also founded an institution to support female authors. It seems she was also, less happily, a sufferer of lifelong PTSD after seeing her two brothers executed in front of her.)

Catholic or not, the school still features quite a bit of romance between its students. Your task is to get through the year and graduate – which will require you to investigate and resolve assorted conspiracies, crises, and personal misunderstandings in the student body.

The other members of the student council are therefore both your dating pool (if you choose to date, which is not mandatory) and your tool for solving problems, as you’re assigning girls to intervene where their skills make them most suitable.

This by itself gives the game quite a different flavor from the lonely and ridiculously hard Long Live the Queen. This time, you are not alone. You don’t have to make yourself into a singular repository of all virtues. Not everything falls to you to deal with. Conversely, there are some paths of action that will alienate one or more of your team members so that they are less available (or, worse, leave entirely).

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Imaginary Cities (Darran Anderson)

So this year I’ve been trying (with only partial success) to publish a review of a CYOA book on the 5th of each month. “CYOA book” here may be a paper book or a Kindle ebook with links. This month, though, the CYOA book I originally planned to cover turned out to be enough of a non-starter that I didn’t want to post a whole review just griping about it.

imaginarycoverSo instead we have a non-mapped, non-CYOA print book, but one I think might be of some interest to the kinds of people who like IF.

Imaginary Cities is a collection of short chapters about city plans and city concepts. It discusses utopian and dystopian visions, cities imagined for other times and environments than our own, the cities we think other cultures would build and the cities that will suit the culture we hope one day to have. It pulls in the writing of architects and urban planners, historians and fantasists and philosophers. It is, among other things, a vibrant celebration of world-building:

Everything echoes. Inventing the ship and the shipwreck leads to the invention of lighthouses, judas-lights and pirate-plunderers, laws on flotsam and jetsam, the Sirens of Homeric myth, the immrams of Irish verse, Ahab and Prospero. (82)

Imaginary Cities is obviously inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, from which there is a quotation on the first page. I’ve also seen reviews comparing it to W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn — both books combine a wealth of anecdotal material — but Sebald’s work has a flow and continuity that Imaginary Cities does not always emulate, and his anecdotes (take for instance the business of the the herrings that begin to glow after their death) are selected in service of his greater themes. Imaginary Cities is more of a compendium of curious facts, first collated from a wide range of sources and then organized topically, with quite a lot of the content dedicated to quotation. The result is almost overwhelmingly rich. Individual sentences suggest whole stories and courses of research:

Having adopted the ironic name Filarete (‘lover of virtue’) and designed the bronze doors of St Peter’s Basilica, the architect Antonio di Pietro Averlino fled Rome after trying to steal the desiccated head of John the Baptist. (99)

I enjoyed reading Imaginary Cities. And yet — maybe because so much of the content is about formal experimentation? because my memory for isolated detail is not as good as I’d like and I want to retain more from each page than I do? — I kept wondering if it might have been better in some form other than a book.

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