As promised, here are my thoughts on the other Text the Halls entrants. If I were to compare them to this year's bevy of IFComp games, I'd say that the Text the Halls entrants were less technically proficient, but a lot more lighthearted, fun, varied and - dare I say it - interesting.
The TIGSource forums are down (pining for holidaying TIG head-honcho Derek, I suspect), so I'm linking to each (non-online) game's page at the IFWiki instead. Alternatively, download the whole lot (except for Breathe) courtesy of Terry by clicking here.
When it gets down to it, I don't think there's any way you could order these games and not find something undeservedly at the bottom, so I've gone for alphabetical order, cowardly allowing Sesame Street to take the heat.
Breathe - Daniel Benmergui
Who'd think getting your head stuck in a sweater would be so dangerous and difficult a situation? Still haven't beaten this game, though it's very addictive.
Capture Santa! - James Higgins
It's not an especially good sign when you find yourself solving puzzles without understanding how you did it. It's worse when the game is constantly giving you heavy hints about what to do and you still struggle to make it respond to sensible commands. Capture Santa! is full of neat ideas that the author clearly wasn't entirely sure how to implement. Some tough testing might help to kick this game into shape. As it stands, I found it difficult to enjoy. Sorry. T_T
The Christmas Party - OldGrover
Definitely wins the award for best implementation, and it was even written in ALAN, which doesn't have the best reputation for that sort of thing. The Christmas Party relies on the fact that people like sticking things together, and gives you a straightforward but expansive goal from the outset. It's simple enough, and full of enough things to do that it holds your interest and makes the nicely festive atmosphere work well.
(Disclosure: I was one of the beta testers for this game.)
Midwinter Rites – Colossus Entertainment
An unashamed homage to the text adventures of old, complete with retro music and fantasy clichés. Great, simple fun.
My Magic Tire Hoax – nd
God, I hate this game. In particular, I hate the fact that I didn't write it. Because it's great. Sure, it needs a beta tester to poke and prod and add to the implementation and change some of the default responses and deal with some strange (occasionally game-breaking) bugs, but the setting is so imaginative and atmospheric and the characters are so believably strange and compelling, and the whole thing's like Terry Gilliam and Jean-Pierre Jeunet had a love child and Philip K. Dick was the midwife and when it grew up, it was this game. I love it, it's brilliant - I hate it, I'm so jealous...
Panorama - Ereth
Don't judge this game by your first impressions. The first thing you encounter is a poetic text dump musing about winter and its oh-so quirky foibles – no thanks. The next thing that happens is you discover that only directional commands have been implemented – I'm sorry, what? But if you stick with this for more than half a minute, you'll realise that Panorama has a huge depth of implementation in its own way. As a snowflake floating on the wind, you have a large and varied environment to explore, and a lot of places to fall. It's a game that teeters a little on the line between evocative emotion and mushy sentiment, but if you play around for long enough you're bound to find at least one ending that will warm the cockles of your heart.
The Snowman – Caio Miranda
The Snowman is a game with a lot of implementation issues – endless disambiguation, a confusing map, misleading instructions, puzzles that provide no indication when you're getting close to the solution...
And yet, The Snowman is also huge fun. A light-hearted, surreal, slightly sociopathic game, utterly insane, joyfully irreverent. I think this is what Text the Halls was supposed to be about: not a masterpiece, but a great piece of very unusual entertainment.
(Note: There's an improved version of this game that I've yet to play.)
TIGSaga -Terry, Kinten, Akhel, Xander, Haowan, Shinygerbil, and #tigIRC
A Wiki-made choose-your-own-adventure created at the last minute, full of TIGS in-jokes. Well-written, imaginative and unique, but there aren't actually that many branches, and they don't go all that far. Its heart is definitely in the right place, though - somewhere between its monocle and its top hat. No, really. o_O
Xmaton – Simeon Maxein
Aha! A gadget game. Push buttons in the right order to win, trial and error with amusing misfires. It's kind of annoying that it only seems to reward you for achieving absolute perfection, but it's simple enough that I was compelled to keep trying. Your reward for winning, by the way, is just to be told that you won, but getting everything to fit together properly is satisfying in its own way.
That's it. I think there was another game in the competition, but I don't remember what. Probably nothing important.