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Miscellaneous thoughts about selected Comp entries

by Greg Boettcher

Posted 17 November 2004 to


This was my favorite, the one I was hoping would win. In fact, I actually thought it would win, based on what I read of the game reviews before the comp results became available. But oh well, third place isn't bad.


Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. I liked this game. It was one of two games I gave a 10 to (along with All Things Devours). And now that I've read the author's comments, I almost wish I'd given it less. The author of this game:

-- seems to believe that any game written in a previously existing genre, such as science fiction, is cliched by definition.
-- says that his game has cliches, and is proud of it.
-- wanted to write porn, but wrote The Orion Agenda instead.
-- expects us to care about his rantings about his problems learning Inform, which is the best-documented IF language in existence, and is so well documented exclusively because of people who have gained not one dollar from their work.

That aside, when I played this game, I liked it without reservation. It had a good story, multiple endings, interesting narrative tricks (what can I say, the flashback gimmick worked, for me), a great hint system, puzzles that were logical and not unreasonably hard, and great implementation (at least, I was able to play it without ever getting the sense that "That should have been done differently"). Yeah, I had to give this game a high score.


The most underrated game in the comp, in my opinion. Sure, it's a gimmicky puzzle game, but it's a successful gimmicky puzzle game. Not quite as cool as Ad Verbum, but in the same ballpark. I gave this one an 8, and I only rated three games higher than that.


Not bad, and seems like a strong candidate for the "Best NPCs" XYZZY award. Good premise, good story, good characters, but I didn't like the interactive component of it. Somehow the puzzles were inscrutible to me. I don't regret that I resorted to the walkthrough in order to solve this game. Some of the required puzzle-solving actions were things I never would have thought of on my own. I wanted to like this game, and I did give it a 7, but I had strong reservations that forced me not to score it any higher.


A moderately successful game in my opinion, although most people didn't seem to like it as much as I did. A near-puzzleless game that tried to succeed along the same lines as Photopia, but didn't succeed, for two reasons. First, it didn't succeed in being puzzleless. Although I got through the swamp without hints, other people didn't. Second, when a game is puzzleless, there is a strong burden on it to tell a very compelling story. The story here is okay, but not excellent. Nevertheless, a game worth playing, and should have scored higher in my opinion.


I read today that the author of PTBAD3 intended this game to take second-to-last place, the rank it actually took. I was surprised when I read this, because I didn't hate this game. But then I read about the author's research into what makes for last-place and second-to-last-place entries, and I became convinced that he was telling the truth.

For what it's worth, I took this game to be a bad attempt at a bizarre, surreal, David Lynch-esque game. I wanted to like it. Call me a sucker, but I did want to like it. As I was thinking back just now, I thought I gave it a 4, but as I consult my notes, I see now that I actually gave it a 5. Sheesh.


Okay. I gave this game a 1, even though it had some good qualities. Why?

Let's say you have a chili cook-off, and one of the contestants presents his pot of gourmet chili surrounded by six pots of vomit. You're there to judge the chili, but does the vomit enter into your consideration? I think so, yes.

I guess my 1 helped this author win the Golden Banana. So be it.

I don't think for a moment that this game was written by Jacek Pudlo or any of his acquaintances. Will the real author of this game please stand up?

This article copyright © 2004, Greg Boettcher

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