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The Ascot Reviews
Author: Duncan Bowsman
Date: 2009

Reviewed by George Oliver

One thing I've noticed in the few years I've judged IFComp games is people talking about 'joke entries'. Like, 'is this a joke entry? Maybe this is just a joke entry but...I'm just going to assume this isn't a joke entry and...', etcetera. The assumption kind of being that I'm getting conned, and this isn't serious business, or more to the point that the author didn't put any effort into their game.

But what's wrong with a joke, especially if all IF games are supposed to be riddles anyway ? Furthermore, I haven't written any IF myself, but from the little I've messed around I get the sense that writing something that even just barely hangs together is significantly more work than I usually think about when I'm trying to tell a joke. All of this is a long preamble to saying that The Ascot is not a typical work of IF -- in fact it feels like a joke -- but whether it's a joke or not I think it's told very well. It demonstrates perfectly my opinion that the best IF uses the medium to its advantage; just because most IF doesn't have graphics doesn't mean that the form of an IF is not vitally important.

The Ascot conveys its form mainly by turning the game into a CYOA with two choices every turn; in this way it controls the game's pacing (and so how the shape of its form unfolds) nearly to a tee. Any attempt to diverge from this constraint will ultimately end in death (brilliantly done). This is a very good way to present a game, if the writing is terrific, and I enjoyed some of the writing here a lot -- "I mean, the sight of it is like nine nightmares wrapped in accidental electrocution... I mean, really shocking". However at other times the writing was too glib for me and didn't feel quite as vivid or gutsy as I would have liked, so in the end I wasn't as entertained as I think I could have been.

Execution: 8. IF doesn't have to be complicated to be done well.

Creativity: 7. A typical IF fantasy, but not done badly.

WTF!?: 7. The unusual format deserves some points here.

Score: 7.3


Reviewed by Victor Gijsbers

That should do the trick, and we can go on to The Ascot.

I expected a game about horse racing, high society, and (perhaps) definite articles. A spiritual successor to Sting of the Wasp, maybe? Instead, I got an obscure kind of tie.

And it was cursed.

The Ascot is a CYOA-game of an especially minimalist type: you can only type "yes" and "no". Your choices have some effect on the narrative, though not overly much: many lead to premature endings, and most others only change either your inventory or whether you get a companion. There is, in other words, not much interactivity.

The story itself is not going to win any XYZZY's, but it is brought with a lot of enthusiasm. It is a hard heart that can remain wholly critical while we get to defeat an Eagle Monster by giving it a slush puppy (which is s kind of poison-coloured iced drink, isn't it?), then have our parents take away all the treasures we found.

So: enjoyable, not outstanding, perhaps a sign of better things to come.

That said, it seems that Michael Martin discovered something impressive in the game. Unfortunately, I don't know what he is talking about, but it might be worth investigating.

Reviewed by Michael Martin

This is a terrible, terrible game, and you should go play it right now.

This is another CYOA. CYOAs are a lot less interactive than standard IF, so that's generally a point against it. Not only that, this CYOA is "a Shake 'n Nod Adventure", which is to say, the only interaction you have with it is to say YES or NO.

I realized this and figured that the best it could hope for was a 2.

But it turns out that this minimally interactive fiction is nevertheless more engaging than quite a few freeform IFs. The general mechanic is that the game begins telling a story, and then it will ask you, "Hey, do you want to do X?" or an NPC will do something similar. The sheer amount of random things it allows means that you still feel like you're doing something, even though the choices may be of no consequence. If anything, the choices of no consequence enhance what immersion there is.

The writing is mostly going for Generic Wacky, and comes off like a geeky 16-year-old on a serious Pixie Stix rush. It isn't good writing, but you can do Generic Wacky and fall flat, and this, I found, didn't really do so.

It's got a number of both good and bad endings, and the plot doesn't stall unless you try really hard to make it do so.

And, of course, the fact that the only inputs it really accepts are YES and NO means that the usual issues with the ADRIFT parser are entirely nonexistent.

So at that point, I figured that this would be Not A Waste Of Time, but still not really what we're looking for as a Good IF, so it would be a nice solid 4.

And then, I managed to work out how to get the best ending, which involves (rot13ed for Even More Spoilery Than Usual) npghnyyl rkcybvgvat cnefre reebef naq znxvat gurz cybg-fvtavsvpnag. This means that the player formulates an actual plan, and then executes it, and then it can actually work. All through an interpreter that only really accepts YES/NO answers.

At that point, I was sufficiently impressed that I had to consider this solidly a middle-tier game. Its precise score will have to wait until I compare it against the others.

Well done, Bowman. This isn't really the kind of thing I'm looking for in the IFComp - it never had a chance at top tier - but it's really quite good for what it is.

Reviewed by Jenni Polodna (Pissy Little Sausages)

Is he the bowman? Does he got a bow? No, you sad bastard, he is the bowsman, and he gots all the bows.

The Ascot is billed as a yes/no choose-your-own-adventure. It’s interesting to think about where the boundaries of interactive fiction hypothetically lie (especially since what constitutes IF in its purest form is a matter for debate), and whether or not you consider CYOAs to be IF, it’s easy to think of them as inferior. The PC’s free will is severely restricted. They contain no puzzles, no need for experimentation, no opportunities for the player to experience a blinding flash of insight. Some might include “examine important thing” in their menus, but even then, there is no sense of being free to explore a new world.

In exchange for this depth, detail, and moment-to-moment sense of freedom, though, CYOAs gain freedom of story, the ability for the plot to go anywhere and do anything at a moment’s notice. Multiple endings in IF are a bonus, but in CYOAs, they’re standard, along with multiple middles, later-middles, and right-after-the-beginnings. All the time that would be spent writing descriptions of chairs and making refrigerators openable is instead spent coming up with different things that could happen, and since “making something happen” in CYOA terms goes no deeper than writing that something happened, they could be absolutely anything, which is sort of awesome in its own way.

You guys don’t want to hear me defend choose-your-own-adventure games, though. I have been reading my analytics. You guys want me to say “tits” a lot and be funny and at least one of you wants me to fellate a live lobster, which I’ve already said isn’t happening because the rubber bands might come off and those things are pinchy.

Tits. Let’s play a game.

Mostly Spoiler-Free Upshot: Well, you can pretty much ignore all that stuff I just said, because this game is pretty much on rails. That being said, it shows every sign of being a first game by someone who could, in the future, make better ones, and what there was of it was, at least, not broken, so I kind of hate to shove its head in a locker and take its pants. Also, the CYOA format, while not utilized to anywhere near its full potential, at least meant that I wasn’t banging my head against “I have no idea what that word means” and “This chair has no description” and “I could have implemented that but I didn’t.” So, y’know, there’s that.

[spoilers begin here]

Oh, man, that green-on-black seems to be standard in the ADRIFT runner. Lemme see if I can change that quick.

Shit. Apparently not.

You decide to go walking to the convenience store one day when all of a sudden a man approaches you! You think he looks rather goofy-looking in a sombrero and lederhosen.
I thought we’d talked about this.

Oh no! The ascot is cursed!

“Good lad! Now, then, if you want the family fortune you must meet with Hilda in White Park–”
“The park around the corner?” you ask.
“Yes,” says weirdly rich guy. “And you must rendezvous with her at thirty minutes past twelve–”
“In five minutes?” You’re good at this.
“You’re good at this” as a non sequitur is really pretty funny. (Also, if anyone asks you if you’ve been to the doctor, the correct response is “Yeah, I’ve been to the doctor. Doctor Hotdog.“ I learned that from Roy and his whiteboard.)

So far it seems as though these questions have obvious correct answers. Do I want this free thing? Fuck yeah. Do I want lots of money? Fuck yeah. Should I go get it? What the fuck do you think?

Looks emptier than your Geocities guestbook.
…how long ago was this written?

“Hey, you found this key with all lettering on it, wanna try reading it?” the game asks me. I have no idea why this game was done CYOA-style and not as traditional IF, unless the author just didn’t feel like implementing all those boring rooms and objects. It kind of feels like playing something with an integrated walkthrough.

I mean, the sight of it is like nine nightmares wrapped in accidental electrocution… I mean, really shocking.
This analogy is like Michael Showalter trying to do a parody of Eugene Mirman’s Secret Agent video, but getting confused about what a parody is, and just doing the video again only not at all funny. And that analogy was like creamed corn. I can’t really say anything about other people’s analogies.

Hey, genius. Looks like it’s time to stick that key in the door, know what I mean?
> no
You went through all that trouble to get the key, the goal is in sight, and you’re stalling now? Something wrong with you or something?
Nah, I just thought “stick that key in the door” was a euphemism for some weird sex thing I’d never heard of, and wanted you to go into detail. I collect weird sex things.

“That ascot!” booms the Eagle Beast. “Who have touched it must die!”
I’m pretty sure you can’t use “who” as the subject of a sentence if it’s part of a – what are those phrases called, that act as adjectives? “Those who have touched it must die” would work, though. I mean, you can say “This is Bob, who is interested in learning more about erectile dysfunction,” but you can’t say “Who is interested in learning more about erectile dysfunction is coming for dinner tonight, so cook more ham than you normally would.”

Hmmm, apparently I missed something, because not giving the beast the ascot resulted in the game asking me again whether I was going to give the beast the ascot, and doing so gave me a “Sayonara, then, quitter!” and ended the game. Let’s try this again.

Saying “no” to the free ascot in the beginning ends the game too. Remember all that shit I was going on about in the RSS buffer about how doing a CYOA frees you up to write many different branches of a story? If you don’t actually do that, you’re basically saying you’re too lazy to write your game as traditional IF, but not lazy enough to not write it at all, which, frankly, I find confusing.

I have my friend Gertie with me this time. Maybe she’ll know what to do with the Beast Eagle. Also, it’s weird that the strange rich dude knows only to burst into the shop when I’ve told Doug the clerk we’re related.

Gertie is being very helpful. Last time, I had to wait until the game told me I’d noticed something, but this time the game tells me when she’s noticed the same thing and is telling me about it! This is much more convenient!

Gertie eggs you on. “Head towards the light…” She says that all the time, though.
There is potentially a lot of funny in this Bowsman character. I hope he’s, like, seventeen. I belonged to the Zany Random Lederhosen school of comedy when I was seventeen; it’s just something you have to go through and be done with… well, actually, the fact that I’m wondering which variation on the theme of “like getting peed on by R. Kelly” to end this sentence with would indicate that it never quite goes away.

Hey, why couldn’t I give my stuff from the convenience store to the Eagle Beast when I was alone? Did I somehow not get it? Oh, man, and she stole my fortune. What a bitch. And if I don’t bring her, I get et. I wonder if there’s a better ending?

Reviewed by Jake Wildstrom

Well, mechanically it's not what I usually think of as IF, since it's essentially CYOA with two choices at each step. I don't predict this doing really well, simply because, on a technical level, CYOA isn't all that hard.

But within its technically modest presentation, this is not all bad. It's firmly in the genre of "unlucky everydude's clothing gets him dragged into a world of weirdshit". You might think that's too specific to be a genre, but then you clearly haven't played "Space Aliens Laughed at my Cardigan" or "Invasion of the Angora-fetish Transvestites". This may be better than both of those, or at least less distressingly juvenile. Its text is freewheelingly zany, but with enough restraint that eye-rolling was kept to a minimum, and free of the sort of technical errors that make me wish for the sweet release of death.

I did manage to run into a misdirected conversation prompt which got me stuck in an unwinnable loop, but the game is short enough that I could restart and work around it. Trying to do things differently the second time merely pointed up how linear the whole thing is: almost none of my decisions have any effect, except for the immediately losing ones.

The author of "The Ascot" is a competent writer with some good ideas, and a pretty good sense of storycraft. I can't rate this one highly because its technical ambitions are so very limited, but I would very much like to see more by this author, but less linear and less limited in interactivity.

Reviewed by tenjouutena

This is simply a yes/no game. Or ‘Shake’ and ‘Nod’ which delightfully work in the parser as well. This game is written very well, the storytelling is pretty good. This is probably the first game of the competition that I would actually recommend to a friend to play. Maybe Interface, but this game for sure. The game is pretty madcap in it’s approach, all in all. Normal world logic doesn’t really work on the game, but it does maintain it’s own internal logic. Plus the cost of failure is pretty low, as there are only about 2 dozen choices in the whole game. I did enjoy this a lot. It was a good diversion, probably a bit short.

Reviewed by Amanda Lange

I had time for one more today.

This was a good one to play before bed and after doing heavy puzzles because it turns out there was not much thinking in it at all. There wasn't much to it at all either, really only about 30 minutes of play here, and that's from playing it through a few times to get what I think are all the endings.

Cute and silly but not particularly special.

I don't think these are any spoilers so I'm just going to stop the short review here without a cut or anything.

Reviewed by Shane Fitzgerald-Gale

Aha! A kind of CYOA type thingy. Oh, I remember well those wonderful lazy days of summer in the first flush of youth clutching my copy of FF’s Deathtrap Dungeon. I still have it. It has expanded to twice it’s original thickness with the damp and as an extra little bonus, has developed those lovely crinkly pages that you just can’t help… er… crinkling!

Gods, this coffee’s good. Always tastes more coffee-like first thing in the morning. Have you ever noticed that? I have. Maybe it’s because i’ve been denied my every-ten-minutes-coffee-fix by that other enticing addiction, sleep. I’m soooooooo up early today. Don’t know that my brains kicked into gear just yet. It’s probably in terrible shock. I think i even heard the morning chorus. Well not so much a chorus, more a morning squawk-fest. Crows. You gotta love ‘em really.

Anyway, lets dive straight in shall we? (i’ve a feeling i may regret this sooner than i think)

[...] My friend Danny did a lot of the beta-testing.

Hmmmmmm…! Now as credits go, this has a lot going for it. One beta-tester who happens to be ‘your friend Danny’. For a start, it gets round the problem of your game not being rated because it wasn’t beta-tested, because as he says – and quite succinctly too i thought – it was; And by his friend Danny, no less.

how to play

Yep, that’s how we find out ‘how to play’. Well, makes sense. No-one could deny, it does what it says on the tin – you may need to be British to get that – but even so, there tend to be conventions for these things.

I’m afraid i had to google the Ascot of the title. It appears to be, a very tall standing collar with the points turned up over the chin, to be worn with an Ascot tie.

Ok. I’m clearly someone for whom the words self respect mean little. So, anyway i’m told i decide to go to the convenience store. Here, i meet a man who for no obvious reason offers me said Ascot.

Hey, man. Wujalykan ASCOT?

Huh! Wassat? Whaaaaa…? Well, if you’re going to start making up your own words young fella-me-lad, two can play at that game.

The whole game revolves around me typing either yes or no to the various and unending questions put to me to move the story on. This is not what i remember it being like back in my FF days. Ah! Deathtrap Dungeon. It had a big wormy-snakey type creature curled up on the cover as i remember. Can i talk about that instead? <wistful sighs>

Surely it wouldn’t have been too much trouble to implement a few genuine choices instead of just yes and no? The trouble is, the whole story just leads you along one path anyway, so it’s not even as though it matters much what answer you give. In fact to test this, i answered everything with random yeses – that can’t be how that’s spelt – and no’s – is that even right? – and ended up not only doing no worse than before, but the story trundled along quite happily seemingly not giving a damn whether i was actually there or not. Now, i’m all for different implementations and different ways of doing stuff, but i’m pretty sure IF should be a little more interactive than this. Well, that’s my two penneth anyway – that’s probably not how you spell ‘penneth’ either – but it’s very early. That’s all the excuse i can muster at the moment.

You know, i actually feel a bit down after playing that. It’s actually depressed me a little. I’m sure of it.

You bastard!

You’re getting a zero. Don’t do it again. Now go to your room.

Reviewed by Sam Kabo Ashwell

I confess to not quite knowing what an ascot is, although I had the vague idea that it's a cravat-like thing primarily worn by the tweedy flaming. (This turned out to not be entirely accurate).

The game calls itself a Shake'n'Nod Adventure, which is to say that it's a CYOA with yes/no choices. In some senses it's a reasonable send-up of the original CYOA books - the underdefined instant best friend, the somewhat poorly-conceived fantastic that intrudes randomly into everyday life, the inevitable moving of the action to underground tunnels, the abundance of failure endings. The most important distinction is that the original CYOA series was very heavily forking, usually telling entirely different stories. This game has a single plot, and forces you back onto it or else kills you, so even your pitiful choices seem redundant. (They're not, always, but you'll feel bullied anyway.)

The writing style is over the top slacker conversational with a side of obnoxious; the narrator enjoys misinterpreting your instructions, and does its best to make you feel pushed around and bullied. It's a touch manic, as if written in an afternoon under the influence of stimulants. As wacky goes, it's not terrible; it has its own voice, even if it's not a voice that I care for.

I am not sure if this quite counts as a game; it certainly doesn't count as IF.

Reviewed by Jeremy Freese

Your enjoyment of this game will l depend on two things.

1) If it’s your kind of humor.
2) If you can accept that the “parser” in this game only takes YES / NO as input.

The humor works for me (though, being german, I don’t find lederhosen especially funny. Those things are just hideous. Also, the over-the-top long “funny” name thing never worked for me.) The game is different from most CYOA books or adventures I’ve played in that your choices don’t lead to different paths. Rather, the make for subtle differences in the ending. There are many possibilites to win. Even more to lose. All of those were wacky enough (but see above) that I kept playing. One solution is especially hilarious. (Thanks to McMartin to pointing it out.) Ascot is a funny, short romp. Is it comp material? Not lengthwise. The yes/no thing was an interesting choice, but the story lacked substance as well, making the whole thing feel like an interesting looking treat – you play around with it, examine it, eat it. It was fun while it lasted.

Reviewed by Christopher Huang

The story was exuberantly silly, which could be irritating but which I found charming instead: it allowed the game to rise above its yes-no format. I think that the game would suffer if its silliness were squeezed into the conventional command-line format, or if the yes-no format were used to tell a more serious story. And by serious, I mean something that doesn't appeal to my inner six-year-old.

Figuring out how to get the best ending was perhaps the best "aha!" moment for me in the entire comp: here was a clever, subtle puzzle which called for the player to use the game's own supposed limitations against it -- how delightfully meta, and now the reason for the yes-no limitation became wonderfully clear. This pulled the game up by a notch or two in my estimation.

On the other hand ... it's still a silly game with not much more than the one puzzle behind it.

As a breakfast, this would be a blueberry pancake and a warm cup of chocolate milk.


Reviewed by Ben Dixon

I wonder which of the multiple conflicting versions of Adrift that I have installed will be required to run this game.

“That ascot!” booms the Eagle Beast. “Who have touched it must die!”

This is an interesting diversion, a choose-your-own-adventure with not much choice and only the most rudimentary adventuring. (Almost apologetically, it calls itself “non-interactive fiction.”) In common with conventional IF, you can take an inventory of your possessions and examine them (though there is no need to do either) and you can die without warning. There are three acts, and one true way to the winning ending, although decisions made earlier in the game influence the later game only to a very limited extent. The tale is narrated in a kind of studenty jive and the parser is absolutely perfect. Those looking for a challenge will be unimpressed but this is an entertaining enough way to spend half an hour.

Reviewed by Conrad Cook

This is a CYOA masquerading as an IF. The writer has a good narrative style. It’s very informal and joking, and the plot is a bit zany, which lead me to believe that the author is working through some first-author nerves, and feels awkward and perhaps shy about saying things he really means.

The form is pretty limiting, even for a CYOA. Most CYOAs give more than two options per choice, and in _The Ascot_ frequently false choices lead to an end-game. FWIW, I got into the story, which is a short and silly little tale about an inheritance that, even within its silliness, isn’t too coherent and doesn’t make much sense. — One character rushes on-stage to make sure you agree to something, and rushes off, never to be heard from again. That kind of thing.

I don’t honestly believe this belongs in the IF Comp (nor _Trap Cave_) any more than hypertext does (a suggestion for next year’s troll). But I can’t really say that with conviction. This game is far, far better, more lively and entertaining than _Eruption_, which is what we classically mean by “interactive fiction,” but which failed to tell a story or have any puzzles, really.

Also, _The Ascot_ is very short, and took very little engineering ability to do. So, if I were rating the games, I really wouldn’t feel right about rating _The Ascot_ at, say, a 6 or a 7, on its own merits, when vastly more complex, longer, and more interesting works I was rating lower for their flaws. And I wouldn’t want _The Ascot_ to beat out a game like _Grounded In Space_, which I didn’t too much enjoy and which I ultimately consider to be a flawed game, but which is nevertheless a substantial entry.

On the other hand, I guess I’m glad I played _Ascot_ — as I say, I was entertained, which might be the bottom line — and I want to be open to experimentations around the form — but, c’mon, a yes/no CYOA? Even a yes/no CYOA with a Terrible Eagle Beast is *still* a yes/no CYOA.

(There’s kind of an attempt to make the y/n form integral to the narrative; but it doesn’t go past silly meta-commentary.)

Maybe I’d create a new scale, 1-5 for CYOAs, and max _The Ascot_ out at 5. _Trap Cave_ would be somewhere around 3, more for the engine than the writing, which was mostly in a language I don’t know.

The Ascot review addendum
My review of The Ascot doesn’t give the game all the credit it deserves. There’s a way to truly win the game which is cleverly linked to the formal constraints the game puts on you.

So, this game is considerably better than I thought, and I would say is competitive with a substantial entry like Grounded In Space.

Reviewed by George Shannon

This is a review of The Ascot by Duncan Bowsman, an Adrift game that is not terrible entered into the 2009 Interactive Fiction Competition.

I’ve been playing with Twine a bit lately, and it’s really neat. I like the idea of CYOA in principle. Usually it’s pretty poor; an excuse to lead the player on a linear trail. I like what Chris Klimas has written with it because the validity of choices aren’t constrained.

“The Ascot,” unfortunately, has a pretty tight flow for you to follow. And weirdly, I enjoyed it. There are a lot of places to fail spectacularly, inviting another play-through (I’m sure its shortness is key

The game strays into monkeycheesezany pretty often, but the simplicity of interaction at least keeps things moving. It’s hard to complain about a game that doesn’t really take itself seriously and is pretty lightweight.

Technical: I’m… not sure what to say here. My responses of yes and no were understood, I’m not sure what more than that you need.

Writing: Surprisingly snappy and fast-paced. There are things happening, are you keeping up or not? (y/n) I do have a feeling that I would have gotten irritating had it been any longer. The wackiness was at least exciting, I know a lot of people hated it, but it was the right length for me. I may just have a higher tolerance for the stuff.

Fun: A few too many restarts required, and quick reliance on the wacky side of funny for its solutions, but its shortness and rapid pace keep it pretty fun.

Defining Moment: Towards the end, reaching one numerous goofy bad endings: I realized, if I had a Slurpie to give the Eagle Beast, I bet brainfreeze is corny enough to be the answer…

Reviewed by Juhana Leinonen

To me the problem with CYOA is that the range of options that the author can choose as choices at any point during the game is huge. There’s only a small subset of all the options players might want to do that can be presented as an option. (In contrast, IF with a parser allows at least trying anything within the verb-noun(-second noun) structure, even if the freedom of action is often or always just an illusion.) This is what often annoys me — I might want to try doing something, but it’s not offered as a choice. I get the feeling that there’s something wrong with the game design since there’s no clear reason to why the thing I want to do isn’t given as a choice.

Then there’s The Ascot. The only choices at any point are YES or NO. The rules have changed: the set of every conceivable action has been reduced to two, and both of them are always available for the player to choose. This is like the CYOA equivalent of haiku poetry. In contrast to “regular” CYOA described above I’m not wanting anything more because nothing else is included in the overarching rules of the game.

So, I’m not a big fan of CYOA but I’m a big fan of CYOA haiku. Even better, the Ascot has the same kind of off the wall humor that I’m quite fond of. How can you say no when someone asks, “Wujalykan ASCOT?”


Reviewed by Rob Menke

Technical: 4
Puzzles: 2
Story: 7

Too! Many! Exclamation! Points!

Talk to man.

Whoa, easy tiger! You better just stick to just YES or NO, cuz you speak through an electronic interpreter for reasons unexplained. Don’t want to overload it now, do ya? It’ll totally explode on you if that happens and, I mean, then where would you be?

Speechless, that’s where!

And pushing it does make it explode. So the major interaction with the game is saying either yes or no. This is even worse than a Choose Your Own Adventure™ style of game.

Ah, I get it: “Shake ’n’ Nod Adventure.” You’ll have to excuse me: my new schedule has left me a bit slow on the uptake.

So, basically every wrong answer I give results in either my death or an uneventful ending. I can live with that, because the author has graciously allowed undo in the conclusion.

Pity that the game interaction is so simple. There are some classic lines in here: Looks emptier than your Geocities guestbook, for instance.

Got the game into a state where it refused to accept any answer but yes. I wonder if this is a bug.

I think I found the optimal ending (the one that brings Gary Coleman to mind), but I’m not sure: the walkthru is rather vague about it. I’ve covered most of the possible paths, so I’m satisfied that I can make an honest evaluation. The concept is cute, but it suffers from the same perceptual lack of freedom that conversation mazes have. It’s just too easy for the author to come up with a linear storyline then force the player on it by merging all divergent paths. Aside from the bang-you’re-dead endings, I think there are only three or four true endings in the Eagle Beast’s cave. Sad, really: the Dadastic writing deserved better game structure.

Reviewed by J. D. Berry

Do you want to read a review of The Ascot? Well, do ya, fimblesnitz?

> uh, maybe?

Really? It’s going to be short and rather negative.

> no

You page down to the next review, hoping for something from Paul O’Brian. To your dismay, Paul has retired from IF Comp reviewing.

You have sighed.

Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) is a misnomer. You’re not really choosing your own adventure; you’re choosing a few extreme paths that trigger virtual cut scenes. If the author carries 90% of the load, the player therefore has only 10% of story ownership—an accountability of individual actions. In turn, the identification with the PC and his predicament lessens. While nearly all IF is about creating the illusion of choice, overcoming such blatant transparency seems almost impossible for a CYOA. You’re choosing the author’s adventure (CTAA).

The best a CTAA could hope for, then, is to be interesting in its own right. The Ascot wasn’t—for me anyway. It’s decently-written, it’s quirky, it’s occasionally smirk-inducing. However, like the kid on your school bus telling raunchy stories with odd jargon, initial amusement quickly fades to annoyance. Eventually, you wonder if the joke isn’t you actually paying attention.


Reviewed by Dark Star

After some of the frustration with the Adrift games last year, I’m a little hesitant to try any this year wondering if they’re just going to be a waste of time. And The Ascot didn’t let me down. The game seems like a strange collection of ideas from a teenagers mind, mixing the real world with fantasy elements. It's a Choose Your Own Adventure type of game using yes and no for input, making it real easy to play, but there’s almost no room for replayability once you find the golden path.

A CYOA can be pretty good. There’s a series of books from the 80’s that I have, Endless Quest, and even though the writing is simple they’re fun to read. But when you break down all the action to just yes and no you really take away a lot from the genre. On top of that there’s not much to do, there are only three to four scenes depending on the path you take, and each one only asks you a few questions.

I scored this game a 5. It does have vibrant writing, but I can't give it a bonus point, everything seems random and odd with nothing coming together at the end to make a point. The resolution is as week as the set up. I also ran into a technical error when I didn’t buy a certain item for the last scene. But I did like some of the imagery, and it doesn't take long to play, so you might want to give it a whirl. Just know that there's not a lot there.

Reviewed by  MathBrush

I swear I remember playing this game from years back, but I only finished it in 2015.

It was originally in adrift, but now in Choicescript. You are a young man (?) offered a cursed ascot, and embroiled in a quest to find a hidden treasure. This sounds like a big game, but there are less than 15 choices in a typical playthrough. The only options are yes/no (and, in choicescript, ?).

It turns out, on multiple playthroughs, that there is more to the game than it seems, making many people rate this game highly.

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