Posted 18 November 2005 to rec.games.int-fiction
Three standout entries in this year's competition, one of which deservedly won:
VESPERS is an exceedingly well-crafted darkly satanic tale of murder and mystery in a monastery, in the style of Umberto Eco's NAME OF THE ROSE. Some spot-on phrasing perfectly builds a sense of "voices in your head" leading to temptation, and the ending (one of them at least - there are at least three paths) is fantastic.
BEYOND is an exceptional murdery-mystery with an almost equally wild conclusion. The setting is contemporary (a small Italian town), the conversation system is cunning, the story takes some wild giallo-esque twists and turns as it rattles to its conclusion.
DISTRESS is not quite in the same league, but is an excellent example of the IF subgenre of "interactive OUTER LIMITS episodes". These short sci-fi themed games take generic sci-fi stories and add a big twist ending—the other 2 obvious examples are THE WEAPON and FAILSAFE (play them both if you haven't already!). It can be quite tricky, with its timed puzzles and constant danger of death, but its short enough to be replayed multiple times.
I'm surpised by the high placings of CHANCELLOR (I found it a way-too-difficult conventional fantasy quest), and A NEW LIFE (seems very dull from initial impressions).
Other games failed to have much impact on me (FUTUREGAME made me laugh, once), but I have to say three potential XYZZY-award winners in one competition is not bad going at all.
This article copyright © 2005, Niz