Sunday, October 2, 2016

IF Comp '16: Stuff and Nonsense

Stuff and Nonsense, by Felicity Banks

Felicity Banks has been rather prolific in the past few years. She won Windhammer last year with "After the Flag Fell," published "Scarlet Sails" with ChoiceScript, and is a writer for Tin Man Game's "Choices." She writes historical fantasy steampunk and with "Stuff and Nonsense" she returns to the fascinating setting of Australia's fight for independence.

The game takes place at Australia's Great Exposition, where you play one of a group of rebels hoping to sabotage an appearance by Queen Victoria. You have a choice of several of the rebels (unfortunately, aside from some special moments there's not unique text), each with their own skills. In Felicity's Australia, certain metals have the power to magically enhance certain traits such empathy or strength. Each character starts with a different set of these metals.

(In the post-game credits, Felicity states she avoided period-realistic sexism and racism to give the players a full range of choice and not punish them for selecting a woman or native. I'm torn on this. We have a choice of characters and the game isn't long, why not use this opportunity to differentiate them?)

The game is a CYOA built with Twine. While it keeps track of which metals you've acquired, the interface is somewhat clunky and even warns you that using a browser's back button twice will break things. Also, the game says that choices that use a certain metal will be bolded, but I never experienced this.

I wonder if the game would have worked better for me if it had been a traditional paper gamebook. The choices and mechanics often seemed arbitrary, and I wasn't sure when I was testing a skill (this is cleared up in a much-appreciated post-game explanation). The game might have played out better if those mechanics were right on the page instead of hidden in code.

I appreciate Felicity's choice of setting, but I was more interested in the real historical details than the plot or the magic. The story feels slight and I was never really sure what my goal was besides "harass the Queen somehow." Likewise, the Grand Exposition itself was simultaneously filled with detail while remaining vague and under-defined.

Still, there's really nothing wrong with "Stuff and Nonsense." It floats along without much to ground it, but I can't say it really missteps. I'll probably end up giving it a solid 7 or so.


  1. PS I also didn't invent the engine for "Stuff and Nonsense". It's Twine.

    Felicity Banks

  2. Hmm. Looks like my first reply went astray.

    Thank you for the review! You're the first, as far as I know.

    I'm not associated or affiliated with Choice of Games in any way, and their only connection to the game is that it was built with ChoiceScript and it's hosted on the non-premier section of their site.

    Felicity Banks

    1. Thanks for the clarifications. I've updated the post to be more accurate.