I’ve played through almost all the games, except for the two that I beta-tested* and a few that raise interpreter issues,** but I’m behind on my reviewing because life is interfering and also I’m trying to keep blogging about the comp from becoming a chore. More reviews will show up eventually, if not before the end of the judging deadline.
My overall impressions:
It seems like a large proportion of the games are either very short or wildly ambitious. Out of thirty-eight games, I think about eight have something like 0-2 puzzles and can be finished pretty comfortably within half an hour (plus two web-based games that are pretty quick to play), and around 8-11 of the rest have heavy symbolism, enormous sprawling worlds, unusual gameplay mechanisms, rafts of fairly detailed NPCs, or some combination thereof. Coincidentally, there are a bunch of games that I didn’t finish in two hours (as well as probably the usual number I didn’t finish in less than two hours).
Related: there are a lot of interesting experiments. There are all sorts of ways in which Calm can be improved (for instance, getting rid of that one game-breaking bug), but I enjoyed it and really want to see the authors keep working on it. I enjoyed The Hours partly because of the ways it lacked polish, but it also did some unusual things with navigation and NPC interaction. And that’s not the end of it. I hope that the new “updates allowed” policy encourages people to keep working on their games after the competition. (And that IFdB does a little more to recognize revisions — I spent a little time playing Snowquest online, thinking, “Hmm, the revised version seems a lot like the old one,” and then I realized that it was the old one. I can has online play links for both versions, plz? — Maybe the issue is that the revised version is zipped and can’t be played online, in which case, don’t do that.)
I have no idea what will win. The last couple of years I think it’s been pretty obvious, what the winner would be, this year there are about five games I could see coming in first. Probably my highest score will go to PataNoir. I guess if I’m going to handicap it I might say PataNoir, The Life and Deaths of Doctor M, The Play, Six; but I could see either of the first two winding up around tenth place.
*Kerkerkruip and Fan Interference. I almost certainly shouldn’t try to judge Kerkerkruip, because I spent way more than two hours playing it during the testing process. Enjoying easy mode? You have my transcript full of comments like “This is too haaaaard!” to thank for that. Fan Interference I did much less testing for, basically playing through a decent part of the first part of the game and including comments that ran to things like “Randall Simon, sausage killer.” In fact I’d like to get to it sometime just to see if the author listened to me and included the bit about Randall Simon and the sausage incident. I don’t see how you have something set in 2003 that mentions Randall Simon and ignores the sausage incident.
**I played Myothian Falcon for about half an hour and was enjoying myself, but then I went to do other things and when I got back Quest’s webplayer had kicked me off. It looks like I can’t play that unless I’m committing an uninterrupted block of time to it, which probably won’t happen by the comp deadline. I had some similar issues getting started with Return to Camelot. Ted Paladin seems to require some more interpreter setup, which I do hope to get around to eventually. I probably could play Cursed on Spatterlight, but it’s last on my list anyway. Yes, I realize that I’m being unfair to non-Inform games here. [UPDATE: I’ve played Cursed now for pretty close to my allotted two hours, and trying to set up for Ted Paladin totally borked Gargoyle, so unless I go back to A Comedy of Error Messages I think I’m pretty much done with the official playing part of the comp. Cursed was another wildly ambitious one, by the way.] [UPDATE II: The new Gargoyle update — thanks Ben! — worked fine with Ted Paladin, so now I’ve played it and am pretty much done.]