Playing and reviewing every game from the 1996 competition was a bit of a journey for me. At first, I was checking them out with an eye toward assessing the competitors to my own entry. That faded pretty quickly after I played Delusions, which was so much better than Wearing The Claw that I gave up all hope of winning then and there.
Delusions remained my favorite game of all the entries that year. It just blew me away. Once I played it and wrote about it, I knew that I wanted to share what I’d written, and in the spirit of fairness I committed to playing and writing about all the games. (The spirit of fairness did not extend so far as to rewriting the notes-y reviews I’d already completed. The deadline was a tough one.)
Some of my other favorites came toward the end of that queue, including Tapestry, Small World, and the ponderously named eventual comp winner The Meteor, The Stone, and a Long Glass of Sherbet. I had started playing these games to check out my competition, but I finished them in love with the competition. Sure, there were clunkers, and some outright painful experiences, but for a kid enchanted by Infocom, there was also this bouquet of brilliant new Infocom-like games, and even more thrilling, some games that opened up territory that Infocom had never touched.
So well before the 1997 comp, I was excited to play all the games, and write much more definitive reviews of each one from the outset. I settled on a format of three paragraphs, plus a similar breakdown to what I’d provided in ’96 — sections on prose, plot, puzzles, and technical prowess for both writing and coding. I discarded “difficulty” as a category, because it had proven irrelevant for so many of the Comp96 games.
Well, I bit off a little more than I could chew. By the time I got to the end of the judging period for all 34 comp games (10 more than I’d reviewed the previous year!), that format had beaten me up pretty well. But again, out of a sense of fairness, I didn’t want to alter it midway through the journey. I knew, though, that I’d need to take a more scaled-down approach in the future. I also grappled a lot with how to handle spoilers in my Comp97 reviews. I kept finding myself wanting to reinforce my points with specific evidence from the games, but doing so meant spoiling puzzles or plot.
As I revamp these reviews for >INVENTORY, I’ve taken out some spoiler tags that seem overly cautious to me now, but I’ve left quite a few in. Where there’s danger of spoiling major plot or puzzle points, I either provide a warning in red declaring “spoilers from here on out” or some equivalent, or I blank out the text of the spoiler and put red begin and end tags on it. Where I do this, you can highlight the text to see the spoiler. Fair warning, though: if you’re using a screen reader to read these posts, such color trickery obviously won’t work, so you’ll need to rely on the “spoilers begin” and “spoilers end” tags. Apologies for this — I got better over the years.
1997 was also the first year of the cool comp randomizer, meaning that rather than playing the game in filename order, I played them in an entirely random order. As always, I’ll post the reviews in the order that I played the games, since I often find myself referring back to previous reviews in the course of writing new ones. Finally, I apparently found it necessary to post an apology for my occasional irascibility, alongside some further explications of my opinions about unfinished games and cliched settings.
For the 1997 IF Competition games, I’ll provide:
- IFDB page
- Final comp placement
- 3 paragraphs of overall discussion
- Assessments of the following attributes:
- Technical achievement, split into writing and coding subcategories
- Overall score
I originally posted my reviews for the 1997 IF Competition games on January 1, 1998.