IF Comp: Valand/The Island

How long it actually took me to play: 15 minutes (the author estimated half an hour but I’m a very fast reader)

The opening of this story was really intriguing: The main character (a child—their gender is never specified) comes to consciousness having washed up on a beach, where they immediately meet a magical creature (who is unhelpful enough to keep the story interesting).

From there, however, there was a lot of dialogue with not much description and not much inner dialogue. It felt quite cursory (very much like my own first drafts, in fact) and wasn’t super involving. A lot of the time no choice at all was offered, and even when there were two or more choices I got the feeling that it barely made any difference (perhaps a line or two; perhaps looking at one part of a room instead of another) or when it did make a difference it wasn’t skill-based (eg finding a crucial object within two tries where there were three equally arbitrary options).

There were a LOT of spelling and grammar issues throughout, so much so that I wonder if the writer speaks English as a second language, or is dyslexic, or very young. My money is on, “Very talented, but very young” in which case the harsh standard of reviews for IF Comp may be discouraging (there are a few shocked and wounded writers every year) BUT if the writer is 16 or less they are definitely someone to watch in future. I feel like even one beta reader would have dramatically improved this story. It’s also possible that the writer is simply a newbie writer (newbie here meaning less than 1000 hours spent writing creatively and learning the basics like grammar). I also feel like there were no beta readers at all, which shows a lack of understanding of the (very generous and helpful) IF Community.

It was really good to see some diversity in the story, which felt natural and showed that the writer has the ability to write interesting stories.

I’m giving it 2 stars, which I feel terrible about, but there are two flaws. First, the writing is fine but not brilliant, and lacks truly interesting choices. Second, the spelling/grammar is quite bad. So if a perfect story gets only 4 stars, this one has to be penalised twice.

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(The above is a screenshot, go here for the full list of IF Comp entries, including this one.)

(Great cover, by the way. I would add half a star except covers aren’t officially part of the judging criteria.)

It’s awesome to find a G-rated story that kids could play safely.

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