Posted 17 November 2001 to rec.games.int-fiction
These games are reviewed simply in the order I played them. There aren't many, I didn't have time to fully play many.
The reviews contain some mild(ish) spoilers. Mostly of really bad games, though.
THE BEETMONGER'S JOURNAL
Well... what a good concept; but what appalling execution...
The past tense & third person narration/commands in the prologue were superbly done; the hiding of the obvious path at the beginning was also brilliant. The writing was consistent, stylish and very readable. The main story also seemed to be shaping up pretty well - when the NPCs intervened.
This IF had the most appallingly written NPCs I have ever seen. Did this game have beta-testers? Did the author herself even try playing it? Characters left the area and followed me at the same time; they repeated their speeches up to four times in a row; they told me they had "more important thing to tell me" and then repeated what they had already said; the framing device repeated itself; cutscenes replayed. Frankly, I just couldn't be bothered any more. Such a shame, such a waste.
(having read other people's reviews, it seems that I was actually the only one to get these bugs. I used ordinary HTML-TADS - can anyone explain?)
THE COAST HOUSE
Here, on the other hand, is a good game made out of a second-hand concept. Sort of Uncle Zebulon's Will set in Anchorhead or Savannah - the standard adventure game American sea-side town, but executed so well; every little detail adds to the character of the place in some way. Strangely, there were some items and even places in the game which weren't used at all - it seems almost as if this game was finished at what was meant to be the half-way point. Likewise, the only NPC is terribly underused; once you have finished the puzzle with him (the easiest in the game) he just vanishes - and yet he has a lot of the plot, or at least a lot of the plot background. And it's so short! The 50 points of the score correspond to only 5 puzzles, which are fairly easy - often just 'what can I do with this item' - although, having said that, the last one was a gem, a logical, intuitive multi-step puzzle, while the first was brilliant; just one flash of inspiration (to give much detail would unfortunately count as spoiling).
There were also some irritating bugs; one item, crucial to a puzzle, once dropped could not be picked up again, and one location (the kitchen) did not list its exits, which had instead to be found by trial and error; also, there were the usual semantic irritations - examining something did not let you read it, and unlocking doors did not open them.
Thus, a very good game, but not a special one, nothing superb.
This game would probably have got a better review from me if it weren't for a stupid, stupid, bug right at the beginning:
[TADS-1023: invalid type for built-in function]
Well. This game claims four beta-testers. Did none of them try to put the suitcase down?
And then the game starts. A cruise ship has so many plot possibilities - and which has been chosen? Cliche on cliche on cliche. Evil wizard... enslave whole world... three magic crystals...portal to evil lair... evil detector... blah... blah... I only hope this is major irony.
The game falls into every design trap there is. Big chunks of plot text appear as if by magic (ha!); NPCs prompt you to ask them things; and the shop...
Actually, this is a bit unfair. The game is reasonably written and well-implemented; there are explanations for IF idiosyncrasies (something that should be done far more often) like 'go north' rather than 'go to lounge'; and there is a good (if somewhat incongruous) hint system built into the game itself.
Could do better.
EARTH AND SKY
Too short. Way too short. Marked down for that, I'm afraid. The original plot doesn't even happen (though a sequel is promised. Sort of.)
Otherwise, great. Mainly puzzleless, or at least with really easy puzzles, but so what? Funny ("We can't be superheroes... I don't have blonde hair and huge breasts!"), knowing, well-written, well-implemented & deeply-implemented. Fighting the monster was actually fun for a change... great fun, basically. Too short, though.
In the kitchen:
Exits lead north and west.
JOURNEY FROM AN ISLAND
I beta-tested, so no reviews or ratings, but deserves an honourable mention.
Rating: 2/10 (for nobly trying to write his own 2-word parser. He includes the source code...)
Plot? puzzles? good writing? grammar? no. (although to be fair - do I really have to? - it wasn't written in his native language) This game plays as if it were a parody of bad IF:
I mean, really.
Difficult, this one... I wasn't really in the mood for decoding or playing in gibberish (I wasn't sure which it was); besides that, the fact that the whole thing was based on an in-joke put me off. In the end, I decided just to leave it.
Well-written, in the main; usually well-implemented. However, the utter lack of plot, motivation, rationale, etc, did serve to counteract this plus I had to re-read the ending three times to work out what the hell it all meant - it did tie it up nicely, though (sort-of)
One of the opening lines of this game made me giggle:
It was not a good game. The yellow & green backgrounds didn't help, either.
This article copyright © 2001, Tom Smith