Notes on the reviews: In accordance with the voting rules, these reviews are based solely on whether the game achieved its goal of making me eager to play more - which isn't always the same as how much I enjoyed playing the intro. Also, spoilers aplenty here, though I've tried to avoid spoiling more than is necessary. (Death By Monkey and From the Files of Sigmund Sigmund Praxis, Guerrilla Therapist not reviewed yet, since I can't get them to run on my Mac.) --Neil deMause
ARTIFICTION: The plot seems fairly standard: A glorified scavenger hunt that devolves into you wandering about and getting thrown in locked rooms and the like. (The author especially seems fond of resorting to "Everything goes black" when he doesn't feel up to describing something.) This would be fine if the terrain were interesting enough to explore, but it's not; or the writing were enough to draw me in, but it's not. This is a game badly in need of a strong hook in the opening moves - without it, I'm left with the feeling that nothing unexpected is going to happen to me the rest of the game, which is strong incentive to type 'Q'.
AT WIT'S END AGAIN: Good writing, and I liked AWE a lot (at least the first section), and the gimmick in the opening scenes is great. But after playing AWE to the bitter end, do I really need more of the same? What's going to be different about this game from the ultimately tedious endgame of AWE? This is why so many sequels are disappointing: Not because sequels are inherently bad, but because it's too easy to fall back on formula. Of course, it's possible the author managed to transcend this trap - I'd at least give this game a try if it were completed, to see where he goes from here.
FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING: I played a Fellowship of the Ring game on my Leading Edge Model D computer, in 1986. There was some bug in the display, so I had to have it print all the text on my dot-matrix printer. Even so, I played for quite a while, because it was one of the only text games I had. But it's not 1986 anymore.
GENIE: Haven't we had a few games about genies already? Anyway, got completely stuck in this one, until I was tipped off to type INFO - that's a pretty weird place to put information vital to continuing the game, but so be it. (It'd also be nice if the game at least recognized good attempts at synonyms: I was running through CONDENSE, CONGEAL...) Unfortunately, matters didn't improve much after that - if there's anything worse than a scavenger hunt, it's being sent on a scavenger hunt by an asshole. (The NPC, I mean, not the author, who might well be a wonderful human being.) Add in some weird parser bugs, and needlessly convoluted descriptions (genies know what basketball is, but not a door?), and I had lost all will to live, let alone play more, after about five minutes.
JINGO: At first I was thinking this was nice but no great shakes - evocative writing, but a bit macguffinish in the plot department. And then ... and then it became my favorite intro in the competition, by a ton, and I won't say more in case you haven't played it yet. The intro could use some tweaking (the initial puzzle, for example, needed to be a bit more obvious - I was confused at first what to do, which almost caused me to miss out on a great game), but after the gripping (no pun intended) beginning, I am eagerly awaiting the full release of this one. Extra points for well-placed use of the word "bolus."
MADRIGALS OF WAR AND LOVE: Not that I can name any, but I feel like I've seen a bunch of games and/or short stories like this: lavish mansion, zany friend, abrupt love interest. (Belated note: I missed the fact that this was meant to be Wodehousian, since I've never read Wodehouse; I have apparently read enough Wodehouse homages to feel it was hackneyed, though, so make of that what you will.) The love interest is, in fact, the worst: If you're going to show me a beautiful woman, show me why she's beautiful - "You see The Most Beautiful Woman In The World" is a cop-out. I'm just left picturing a generic stereotypically pretty Disney heroine, which is about the most boring character I can imagine. Chasing after her the rest of the game isn't my idea of a good time.
MAINTENANCE MAN: This is buggy as all hell - it doesn't know that a radio has stations, that a phone can be unplugged, or for that matter that you can place phone calls on a phone. That said, the writing in the opening scene is just great - it pulled me in completely, setting both the scene and the PC's character subtly and efficiently, and setting up some nifty foreshadowing involving a meteorite crash as well. And the notion of a game where you're a maintenance man who has to save the day with his trusty crescent wrench is novel enough to make me excited for more. (I really hope the solution to one puzzle is BANG ON PIPES...) In fact, I was all set to say that with some more time spent by the author adding verbs and eliminating default responses, this could be a great one - until... Until I got to the first puzzle, which was not only bizarrely illogical, but completely gratuitous - the game would have worked just as well, if not better, if it had been omitted entirely. And then once I got past that, I found myself wandering around a tedious space that ruined a lot of the nice, taut design that had been established in the opening scenes. This game still shows promise, but it's an example of an entry that would have ranked higher with me if the author had ended it sooner.
PRIVATE CYBORG: Kinda trite SF - aliens as big hulking bugs, mm-hm - and not much else going on here. Nothing especially wrong with it (aside from some egregious typos), but I had trouble motivating myself even to finish the intro, which is a bad sign. Needs more of a hook - why do I care about whether this dumb-ass future noir dude gets toasted by a bug? Plot alone does not a gripping story make.
TIMETRAP: You know that bit in HHGTTG where Arthur can't wrap his brain around the Earth being destroyed? So he focuses smaller and smaller, until he finds something he can grieve about? Well, threatening "twenty-three of the world's most populous cities" with nuclear annihilation before I even know the protagonist's name is just too big a calamity for me to wrap my brain around. I haven't met any of the people in this universe yet, so I'm happy to let them die a fiery death. Maybe the superintelligent cockroaches who take over the planet afterwards will make for a more interesting game.
VIRUS: During the opening scenes, I was at first under the misconception that this was a game about an Ice Age human, and thought that was a great idea - mammoths! Giant sloths! Parables about extinction! And without any Disney animation! Then it turned out I was an Inuit, which was still interesting, but not quite as much. I had a hard time motivating myself to keep playing through the beginning of this, probably because while the background is obviously well-researched, the landscape requires too much aimless wandering, and the characters are too sketchy to really care much about. (This is only more problematic once the main plotline becomes apparent - at least Connie Willis knows to make you care about her characters before she starts killing them off.) Also, it's freezing cold in the house, so games about snow are a turn-off right now, I'm afraid.
WATERHOUSE WOMEN: Nifty interface design - I like the subtle way it draws you into the plot - but the story I find totally uninvolving. Yeah, I've stepped into a strange world, but then, I was in a pretty damn strange world before that, too, which diminishes the looking-glass fascination. And a mysterious woman who talks in standard stock-fantasy dialogue doesn't help. (She sure knows a lot of ways to say "No comment," though.) Much like AWEA, in a weird way - really well done, but I'm not sure how much I care what happens next. Possibly just not for me.