lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
Choice of Rebels: Uprising is an interactive text game from Choice of Games. I previously reviewed their game The Daring Mermaid Expedition, and have also played several of their other games, notably the Affairs of the Court trilogy. As implied by the name, the game's plot involves an uprising against a corrupt empire in which you, the player character, play the role of both instigator and leader. As in all Choice of Games offerings, this game is rich and divergent, with hundreds of choices large and small that can affect the outcome of the plot.

One of the game's main strengths is in its worldbuilding. The world of the Karagond Hegemony is richly drawn and thoroughly outlined in the attached codex, which is accessible from the game's stats screen. The centuries-old empire has swallowed up the nations that preceded it and morphed their religion into a doctrine in support of their brutal hierarchies. This world order is held in check by theurgy, a vastly powerful kind of blood magic restricted to elite practitioners, and requiring the yearly sacrifice of thousands of serfs to power it. The game does an elegant job of intertwining the cultural and historical elements of worldbuilding with this deeper, more metaphysical aspect of the plot. While at times confusing, it also provides a richness that long-time readers of epic fantasy can appreciate.

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I would heartily recommend COR:U to any fan of epic fantasy and interactive fiction who feels ready to stomach its themes of slavery, human sacrifice and dehumanization.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net. 

Writing Update

Tuesday, 5 June 2018 11:28
lea_hazel: Typewriter (Basic: Writing)
January: 10050 words.

Some aborted blog posts, including a snippet of a review of the Simon Feximal book. Two finished fanfics, which have launched the fic series that has dominated 2018 for me. One poem that I still haven't found a home for. Got positive feedback, though. One fic that I set aside and haven't gone back to, because alpha spoilers.

February: 27837 words.

Record month. Lots of fanfic, for 7KPP Week, for Purimgifts, for Decline and Fall. One of the PG series I qualify as a short story because the prompt was tarot and it's ostensibly a loose sequel to my Jukebox Fest fic of several years ago. February was all about getting my writing groove back and not sinking into depression.

March: 19277 words.

Many many words for Decline and Fall, some of which will not be posted for a good while yet. March is also when I started finally putting down words for my original fiction novel (working title, "Blue Rose").

April: 21015 words, 7165 on Blue Rose.

Tried to write a short story and failed. Wrote a fair bit on Blue Rose and did a lot of outlining, but didn't come close to my goal of 15K words for Camp NaNo. The first two weeks of April were dominated by the holidays and by writing Masters of the Hunt, which eventually clocked in at about 9500 words (a record for me) and which I am still gradually posting in installments here.

May: 16477 words, 3755 on Blue Rose.

Started work on Snowfall again, after leaving it languishing for a long while. Plot progression on Blue Rose is well underway. Late in the month I caught a mental bug and started revamping an old ChoiceScript game into a project I call "Turncoat Chronicle". Did almost 2K words on that before June ambushed me. Wrote most of a review for the blog, which has been standing deserted for most of 2018. It'll go up next week.

June:

I am still working on Blue Rose and making a little progress. I don't know what will happen with Turncoat Chronicle. I have a Decline and Fall fic that I want to finish but I'm taking my time since I have such a posting backlog. I'm cautiously optimistic.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
I'm in the process of writing a long, complicated review of Choice of Rebels: Uprising, but as I was working on it, I realized that it's not perfectly spoiler-free. For the benefit of people who prefer to go in as blank-slate as possible, or just aren't interested in slogging through my lengthy reviews, I thought I could post a brief, non-spoilery bottom line review.

Choice of Rebels: Uprising is an epic fantasy text adventure from Choice of Games, one of my very favorite game studios. It has all the hallmarks of the first novel in an epic fantasy trilogy, except that it's interactive. You play the protagonist and control their choices. The breadth of choice is huge. As in most COG games, the player can customize the PC's gender and orientation. Unusually, this game allows you to play the PC as asexual and/or aromantic. I played my first rebel as an ace lesbian, for example.

The premise of the story is that the PC will initiate and eventually lead a provincial rebellion against a ruthless conquering empire called the Karagond Hegemony. The Hegemony maintains and suppresses a vast underclass of slaves for human sacrifice, which they claim is necessary to power the blood magic that protects civilization. Their entire religion revolves around justifying imperial brutality. I found the game dark and violent but not gratuitous, though opinions might vary.

The quality of the prose is high and the worldbuilding is meticulous (and meticulously documented in a codex that's accessible throughout the game). The non-player characters are compelling, although Breden is by far my favorite. The level of customization of the player character is more than acceptable, and places an emphasis on varying responses to the Hegemony's imperialist policies. You can play as a skeptic or as a defender of the purity of the faith. You can play as an impoverished aristocrat or as a helot (slave). You can win the day by your wits or by the sword, and often even talk yourself out of trouble, which is my favorite approach.

It's a good game and I recommend it strongly to anyone who thinks any of the above themes might interest them. Though the game's plot has a satisfying conclusion, I'm extremely looking forward to the inevitable sequel.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
I came upon a link to Reigns 2 quite by accident over Twitter, on the very day it was released. I’d never heard of it before, not the game to which it’s a sequel. It was a fortuitous discovery for me, because Reigns: Her Majesty is exactly the sort of game I liked. I downloaded it the same day and was enthralled for hours. Though the game has a learning curve I was determined to get ahead of it, especially since it comes with many, many unlockable achievements.

Read more... )

Reigns 2 provided me many hours of amusement, trying to unlock as many as possible of its tiny, hiding secrets from their dusty little corners. As I was playing the game when it was brand new, my early experiences were a little damaged by some persistent bugs, but not enough to cause me to give up on the game. Given a sufficient interval and some bug fixes, it’s become a very playable game. I still find that some of the elements of the gameplay are poorly balanced, but that generally becomes apparent only if you make for the distant, post-main quest goals. After a thousand years or so, the game can become more tedious than rewarding, even if there are goals yet remaining to be achieved. I do thinks some small tweaks would improve it, in this respect, but on the whole it seems a small enough complaint for a game that provides hours of fun for a very reasonable price.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
In preparation for my very first Yuri Game Jam, I found myself browsing some of the best-loved entries from jams of years past. The one that stuck with me most is undoubtedly Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet. This is a cute and quirky adventure with a mildly romantic tone. You play as Syrup, a self-proclaimed candy alchemist and the owner of the only mundane candy shop in a village occupied entirely by witches and magical creatures.

Syrup is an endearingly grumpy character, devoted to her discipline but a little lacking in social skills, and surrounded by an equally endearing supporting cast. Her best friend Pastille is her only employee, in charge of dealing with customers and all the aspects of managing a shop that Syrup herself just isn't very good at, while she works in the laboratory, creating fanciful candies. She carries on a friendly rivalry with the witch Butterscotch and her familiar Toffee, who are also her best customers.

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You can download Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet through itch.io or play it online through your browser. The browser-playable version has a slightly different interface, but I found both versions very playable. For a better look at the game's art, check out Nami-Tsuki's Deviant Art account, or find the game's music on Bandcamp.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
It feels odd to get started on a game, at least two years after it was first published. Still, it’s not as though Little Alchemy is ancient enough to feel outdated or irrelevant, and I can gladly report that it’s every bit as enjoyable and engaging in 2017 as it probably was when it was first released. The only downside is knowing that it’s unlikely to receive any more updates. Once you’ve exhausted the 500+ existing alchemical elements and their combinations, that’s it. And given the habitual nature of the game, you might find yourself marathon playing it for hours at a time, and end up running out of game within a day or two.

Little Alchemy is a lightweight and fun alchemy simulator. Beginning with the four classical elements, it allows you to combine two elements to create a third, sometimes with additional byproducts. Simple as that. To my great delight, it can be played out of any browser through either the official site or indie game outfit itch.io, and also has a mobile version. After messing around with the browser game for entirely too long, I downloaded the Android app and lost several hours of potential sleep to it.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
"Concerning the Mystic Marriage of the Earth and Sun to Beget Works of Great Virtue and Power...

The title went on for another half page."


The Mystic Marriage is a historical fantasy taking place in the fictional European principality of Alpennia, beginning in the year 1821. Both a romance and an adventure, its primary plot revolves around Antuniet Chazillen, last daughter of an Alpennian noble family that has been disgraced and all but destroyed. Antuniet's life is bleak and devoid of most comforts and securities she'd been raised to. She'd been a scholar and her access to continuing her studies is severely restricted so, like many young women in her position, she makes a strained living by tutoring more wealthy students. The only bright spot in her life, if it could be termed such, is her single-minded quest to redeem her family's reputation through the art of alchemy and her discovery, mostly by chance, of a singular alchemical text.

Read more... )

Heather Rose Jones' Alpennia series consists of: Daughter of Mystery, The Mystic Marriage, and Mother of Souls.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
I've written before about the Dark Parables series of hidden object games. They're great games and I revisit them pretty regularly, especially since I started them out by buying the standard editions and was quickly converted to the more expensive collector's editions, which contain an impressive amount of additional content. I still haven't completed my collection, which means I haven't played all of the bonus games. Since my PC crashed and burned in March and I'm operating on a new laptop, I decided it was time to get back to the games again. New installments of Dark Parables come out reliably once or twice a year, and there had been two new games released since I'd last checked.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.

Links of interest

(no subject)

Wednesday, 19 July 2017 15:52
lea_hazel: Kermit: OMG YAY *flail* (Feel: OMGYAY)
Finally starting to catch up on my reviews.
lea_hazel: Wonder Woman (Genre: Comics)
Diana and the Amazons of Themyscira


On Saturday night, I finally watched the Wonder Woman movie. It's been highly anticipated in general, both because of Gal Gadot's short but redeeming performance in last year's appalling Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but also because of the revolving-door rumors about a WW movie, and its many years in so-called development hell. It took me a long time to become a fan of the character myself, given the nature of creative work on a shared universe like DC Comics' universe. Writers and artists come and go, each one wanting to leave their mark on the character. With each change in creative teams, you never know what version of your favorite character you're going to get next. At the end of the day, every fan has their own idea of what Wonder Woman is, or should be.

Fortunately, this is an idea that the movie takes a strong stance on. Wonder Woman is a character full of contradictions. She's a superhero, a princess, a warrior, a mythological figure and an ambassador for peace, and none of these roles, no matter how conflicting they might seem, can be elided and still remain true to form. An explicitly feminist character from her inception, Wonder Woman was initially conceived as a superheroine who fights evil, "not with fists but with love". There's a great deal that might be said about William Moulton Marston and his ideas of gender, and how they gave rise to the Diana we know. Whatever else might be said, though, what persisted is a profile of a heroine combining strengths stereotypically both masculine and feminine.

Read more... )

Instead I will close with this: Wonder Woman is a five-star summer action film which approaches its subject matter with a little more finesse than is typical for the superhero genre. It fulfilled every expectation I had for it and then some. I fully see myself rewatching it, and finding more to see and love in it than I did in the first viewing. I recommend it whole-heartedly and have high hopes for a sequel.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
I tried out the prologue for the new Voltage game. It’s technically a period piece, which is mildly interesting, and it’s prohibition-era, which under different circumstances would probably intrigue me more. Except that there’s already The Blind Griffin, and while it’s very short and has no female love interests, I enjoyed it tremendously the three or so times I played it through. Plus, the heroine of TBG is just fantastic.

Anyway, the new game. Only the first few routes have made their appearance, but the prologue handily introduces all the many, many (many!) love interests. A little clumsily, but at least it’s super clear on what’s going on. There are about seven or eight male love interests, and one woman.

This is the story of a brash and outgoing girl of indeterminate age (if I had to guess I’d say no older than twenty) whose overprotective mother was worried about her hard-partying ways. So she sent her to live with her stern uncle. In Chicago. Which is clearly the best place in which to protect a young girl from the seedier aspects of life, such a good place that they even named a musical after it.

The MC is full of vim, and is meant to be quite clever and qualified. She doesn’t super sell it, though. It takes her the entire prologue to figure out what was immediately obvious to me as a reader, which is that her temperance campaigner uncle is secretly running a speakeasy under his shop. But anyway, she’s a lively and strong-willed girl, and that has its appeal. Runs a little close to “feisty” for my tastes but it’s hard to tell from such a short sample.

Verdict: I don’t know if I’ll get into it. Then again, it’s definitely better than L&L and I read almost a dozen episodes of that before I gave up. The background art is beautiful. The sprites are nice also, a style much more favorable I think than L&L’s had. It also remains to be seen whether there’s an overarching story to the different routes. Bottom line is, Astoria is still the best. If you can’t get more of that, fanfic is the only way to go.

Crossposted to Tumblr.
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
On most work days, I liven up my commute by listening to podcasts. They’re easy to listen to, because I can drift in and out of focus without too much trouble, and put together whatever I miss from context. Listening to audio fiction isn’t so easy. I need to focus on every word, or the thread of the plot is lost, and my enjoyment of the words themselves is lessened. I listen to short fiction on audio only rarely, and then only to very short things, twenty minutes or less. Still, I’ve found some remarkable stories online. These are three of them.

That hilariously short attention span aside, and ignoring for a second that sometimes depression prevents me from focusing on anything interesting, I like listening to short stories on audio on my phone. While waiting for the bus, on my commute, on lunch breaks, on the line at the supermarket… wherever I can squeeze in those twenty minutes of peace.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
After having been playing it pretty regularly for about a month and a half, I believe I might finally be ready to make my review of Kisses and Curses. There are 5-6 routes (depending on how you count) and I played two of them to the end, then quit halfway through another. Now I'm dipping my toes into a fourth with hopes of clarifying something about the reasons why I DNFed the last one. I've been trying to review this game for ages so getting this out of my system will be real nice.

In other game news, I made a thread for Wreath of Roses on the Lemma Soft forums, the mythological birthplace of so many OEL visual novels and dating sims. My concerns about text games and game writing and etc. are more or less validated, but it's okay.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
The game's full title is Niche: a Genetics Survival Game, and thank Darwin fish for that, because "niche game" is the worst Google search term in history.

Anyhoo. Niche is an eco-bio-something sim that charges the player with raising a pack of vague mammalian critters, collecting food, breeding, fighting off predators, and exploring their surroundings. The game world's science is a biological grab-bag of sorts. Differently colored tiles represent different "biomes" with different physical characteristics. Each critter has its own genome, where some traits divide to dominant versus recessive, and others mix interestingly, like fur color. A "mutation menu" lets the player pick specific traits to introduce into their newly-bred nichelings, rolling the dice and letting the odds determine the outcome. "Immunity genes" exist to discourage consanguinity. Later in the game's life cycle, "alpha/beta" status for critters was also introduced.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.

Lumberjanes Vol. 1

Wednesday, 4 January 2017 15:00
lea_hazel: Wonder Woman (Genre: Comics)
My fall's reading has been not nearly so prolific as the summer or spring had been. Since Icon wrapped up in October, I still haven't finished the small pile of graphic novels sitting on my shelf, gazing at me, forlorn. NaNoWriMo happened and I was focused on trying to break barriers in my own writing and, frankly, November had been a rough month for everyone.

It's a good thing I started out with Lumberjanes, then. This comics series, bound up in four-issue trade paperbacks, hovers somewhere between young adult and middle grade. Though nominally a fantasy adventure book, it's a little more unrestrained in its fantastical exploration than I'm used to seeing in YA. The art style is vibrant and compelling, but the human figures are stylized enough that the age of the protagonists stays ambiguous. The summer camp environment and the bright and cheery atmosphere give it an overall middle grade vibe.

Read more... )

Lumberjanes is a delightfully chaotic adventure, and I recommend it heartily to anyone looking for something bright and beautiful to read.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
The world of Fallen London was yet again enriched this month with the release of the long-awaited Zubmariner DLC for Sunless Sea. A stretch goal of the Sunless Sea Kickstarter campaign, Zubmariner promised to expand on the hints of sub-aquatic travel lore already present in Fallen London, and take players to a deeper and darker place than ever before. As the surface of the Unterzee already features sea-urchins from space who speak the language of stars, and a malevolent living mountain that’s can’t be permanently killed, it seemed a tall order. Still, the early promotional materials were intriguing to say the least, so as a KS backer myself I was very ready to be hyped.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)

The Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation runs a yearly competition for interactive fiction called IFComp. Though it’s been flourishing for many years, I hadn’t heard about it before this year, and too late to be able to plan and execute a worthy submission. Still, nothing’s preventing me from browsing the 50-odd submissions and looking for something to catch my eye. As a novice to IF I’ve only had hands-on experience with a very few platforms for writing or playing it. IFComp, though, exposes a whole array of techniques and manipulations that I wasn’t previously familiar with. Needless to say, this affected my play experience significantly.

Eight characters, a number, and a happy ending – K.G. Orphanides

This was the first entry I played. Eight characters is a parser game, where commands can be entered in the text box or through navigation links. Some of the commands are helpfully explained in the in-universe manuals. Some are fairly intuitive, once you catch the trick of it – another effect of my being a novice player. I fussed for a long time over trying to open a simple chest before I learned to adjust to the game’s expectations.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.


lea_hazel: Neuron cell (Basic: Science)
Medical history can be fascinating, depressing and hilarious in more or less equal measure. A few of my smarter teachers have touched on it here and there, and it always helps to contextualize the material. It also puts things in perspective, when you’re learning about historical beliefs that represented the best medical thought of the time, alongside the best modern understanding of certain scientific mysteries. Makes you feel like maybe we know as little about the human brain as our antecedents did about germ theory. Someday, future podcasters will laugh at us.

Read more... )

"Sawbones" is a Maximum Fun podcast hosted by Dr. Sydnee McElroy and Justin McElroy.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.

Greatest Hits

Wednesday, 7 September 2016 12:00
lea_hazel: Typewriter (Basic: Writing)
Some of the posts on this blog receive very regular hits, regardless of how old they are. Hits from Google, or from social media of the shareable kind, where someone might decide to revive an old-ish post and give it second wind. It’s easy enough to trace my most popular posts through this method, as well as by the hit-count which WordPress provides. It’s almost as easy to get to the bottom of why these posts in particular receive more attention than others.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Neuron cell (Science: Brains)
Disclosure: I received an ARC of Stay Crazy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The most important thing to note about Stay Crazy, of course, is that the protagonist is insane. Well, yes, of course. It says right in the blurb that she was discharged from a mental hospital. And yet, she is also at the center of a vast conspiracy. It would have been so easy to make this the story of someone who only appears to be insane, when they are in fact the only ones who see the truth. Most often when I see spec fic stories involving characters confined in mental wards or the like, the story is one of false imprisonment, and draws a sharp line between the POV character and all those other people, the real crazies.

Em is as real-crazy as they come. Despite her unflattering descriptions of her fellow patients, she explicitly sets herself among them, the other psychotics. The book is written in a very subjective and often claustrophobic first person narration, dragging the reader deep into Em's periodic bouts of hallucination. It's difficult to immediately determine, during each episode, whether is is delusional or merely trans-dimensional. The silver insects crawling over her boyfriend's plate at the restaurant, the swallowing brown smoke at the bowling alley, even the TV psychologist's hidden messages. Which of these are conspiracy, and which are artifacts of the mind?

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.

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