2023 IGF nominees: wildly miscellaneous

Monday, January 30, 2023

Comments: 1   (latest 2 days later)

Tagged: reviews, gnosia, igf, case of the golden idol, the forest quartet, queer man peering into a rock pool

And now my "I couldn't think of a category" category.

  • Case of the Golden Idol
  • The Forest Quartet
  • Gnosia
  • Queer Man Peering Into A Rock Pool.jpg

(Necessary footnote: I was on the narrative jury and had access to free review copies of these games.)

Case of the Golden Idol

This one has a category: it's an evidence-deduction game, aka "Obra-Dinn-like". But it's the only one I've seen this year, so I have to put it here.

The evidence puzzles are excellent. The art can best be described as Beavis-and-Butthead-ish: everybody is exaggerated caricatures, which serves the purpose very well. The story is cleverly constructed but not much of a story, and the Golden Idol itself is kind of a let-down. But you should still play it if you like deduction puzzles.

See full review.

The Forest Quartet

A sweet little puzzle game about a Scandinavian jazz band trying to get back together. The puzzles are lightweight but thematic. There's a combination of ethereality (light and song) and physical heft (spinning flywheels) which is satisfying to work through even if the solutions are generally straightforward. The environments are very pretty, too.

Games about artists dealing with anxiety and depression and loss are, okay, a cliche at this point. But this one is convincing -- primarily down to the the voice acting, which just nails it. It's just three guys (plus a radio host) talking about their music; low-key but right on target. And they do, in fact, play jazz.

Don't get me wrong. This is a tiny little game that you can get through in an hour; it's not trying to go head-to-head with the year's big hits. But it's lovely. The designers didn't have to put in this level of polish and craft for a snack-sized game. It's worth calling that out for applause.


It's Werewolf. It doesn't pretend to be anything else. You're on a spaceship with a crew of anime hotties, you don't know anything about any of them, and one or more has been infected (replaced?) by the "Gnosia". The Gnosia acts exactly like people except at night they murder one of you. During the day you vote to put one person in cold sleep, thus neutralizing them. You know how it works.

Time is circular; each round gives you a random group of crew members, and randomizes which are evil. There's a bit of story on top of that, but most of what you do is play the game.

Now, I've been saying since, you know, 1997 that a computer Werewolf player is pointless. It's a game of bluffing and lying, so what is a bot going to do? Believe the opposite of whatever you say? Assume you are double-bluffing, or triple-bluffing, or N-bluffing for N large? The most sensible strategy (or at least the easiest) is to ignore what every player says and choose at random.

Gnosia doesn't do this. (At least I don't think it does!) Every player, including you, has a set of stats. How likely people are to think you're Gnosia; how likely people are to think you're lying; how easily you perceive lies; how seriously people take your accusations; and so on.

So there's a whole social sim playing out within the round. And since the round is one human (you) and a bunch of NPCs, you can try to game the sim. This is nifty! It's an approach that I never thought about; my opinion was implicitly based on the idea of dropping one bot player into a group of humans. A round of Gnosia is a tactical game which you can win. Play enough rounds and you can raise your stats.

Interesting, but not a game that I particularly enjoy. I will leave the story for other folks to explore.

Queer Man Peering Into A Rock Pool.jpg

On a beach, under a neon-pink tropical sky, a man wearing a puffy jacket and a scruffy mustache peers into rock pools. Things pop out and follow him around. They are katamaris... memories... from before the flood... singularity... naptime....

Look, it doesn't go into words real well. Although there is a cosmic pink laser of memory shining up from the ground, so Philip K. Dick has to be napping around here somewhere. But the game is mostly about getting postcards from your boyfriend and then emailing him about them. And walking on the phosphor-palette beach, in a contemplative way, collecting... whatever they are.

The strolls are slow and nothing exactly resolves. The colors shift from gentle contentment to nostalgia to gentle regret to quiet joy. "Gentle" is the operative word, really. If the protagonist is dead on his beach (and, to an approximation, all walking simulators start with the protagonist dead) he's got someone to share the beach with.

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