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Timofei Shatrov's IFComp 2004 Reviews (because I couldn't think of a smart-ass title)

by Timofei Shatrov

Posted 16 November 2004 to

Before we start, I'd like to say some things. First, among other stuff, this article contains my ramblings about Stack Overflow and why it came out so bad—and you want to check it out. Second, I'd like to hear any feedback on these reviews so either post it in newsgroup or send me a mail. And I'd also like to thank everyone: organizers, authors and judges for making the competition a great fun event. Yay!

So without any further ado, here are the reviews:



Well, I didn't get the point of the game. The puzzles are too hard and I had to use the walkthrough. Not that it helped me to understand the damn thing.
Rating 4.


Well, it could be a nice parody on the games like Stack Overflow (which in turn is a parody on the mediocre IF games itself). There is everything here: bad grammar, nonsense world, and I can't even get one point out of 100 (walkthrough is helpfully not-provided). But thanks to the author, because now I know I won't get the last place...
Rating 1.


The game is thoroughly implemented and the gameplay in enjoyable. Some puzzles were too hard for me (especially the one with the vine) and some things really don't make any sense to an ordinary western man.
Rating 8.


What a wonderful Tads-abuse. Seems like the author put a lot of effort into that game. Quite playable, but too hard and gameplay is not very satisfying.
Rating 7.


You're not going anywhere until you get out of the throne.

>put goblet on table
>x goblet
I don't see any goblet here.

I actually thought the game has a good premise and wanted it to be good. The author's writing style fits perfectly for that type of game. But implementation is very sparse with a lot of obvious objects lacking destription, bad NPCs and other problems. I haven't finished the game, because there wasn't enough hints what to do. I just wandered through the locations and lost the goblet, probably putting the game into the unwinnable state. Sigh.
Rating 4.


Nothing exceptional, but the game had its funny moments and unlike the previous entry you always have a clear goal.
Rating 6.

Luminous Horizon

A flawless implementation, but somehow I got bored on the halfway through. Too much KABOOMS! and stuff and my head started to ache. I admit though that this gonna be one of the best games of this comp.
Rating 8.

All Things Devours

There is some interesting stuff going in this game which looks like a Vicious Cycles clone. The absence of walkthrough actually prevented me from finishing it first time, but after I found the walkthrough I found that there're too much z-ing on a place and no sane man would ever solve it himself. I thought that after your first failure there is no clear goal and I don't like when that happens (that's when I start using the walkthrough).
Rating 6.


Trading Punches

This game left me with mixed feelings. When I saw the size of it I thought: "Hell, if that guy wouldn't submit his game ifcomp04.exe would download twice as fast! This game should better be some good..." Then I find some seriously underimplemented stuff in locations (esp. Courtyard). Then I start to get involved in the story (and it's quite hard to involve me in something, so I give props to the author for some great fiction),but since there are non-obvious puzzles I had to resort to walkthrough (yes I suck at puzzles, but hey, sometimes they're too hard). All went well until I found that I can't finish the third part... I hope the post-comp release would fix all the problems.
Rating 8.

Goose, Egg, Badger

Well, well, the title makes me chuckle already. Let's see what's inside... Unfortunately not much. There are some of bugs with wires, x-rays, vacuums and such (although it must've been a PITA to implement). I got stuck unable to kill the goose even if I knew there is a needle inside (though I suppose the protagonist didn't knew that). And besides the title it seems there are no other Hofstadter references.
Rating 5.


Sorry, Paul, but 10K adventures don't cut it. Too many "You can't do that"'s. Is there something I CAN do in this game? And the last thing for your entertainment: ----- The ninja advances towards you...

@ You attack @
AMAZING BLOW! The ninja is sliced badly!
@ The ninja attacks @
WOW! The ninja sliced you badly!!
Your Hit Points:-48
The Ninja: 0
You deftly avoided it, slicing it with a mortal blow.
You have defeated the ninja, O' Master...

May the Gods bless you...

@ The End @

Score: 101 / 11

Play again (Y/N)?

Can someone tell me what exactly happened there?
Rating 1.

The Orion Agenda

As an author of Stack Overflow I could only approve this game: it has everything: aliens, nonsense puzzles and an alternative ending to get the chick! Fun and enjoyable.
Rating 8.

Who Created That Monster?

Damn, this game is really stupid. As soon as I understood it I opened the walkthrough (wait, I do that regardless of the stupidity of the actual game) and made it till the end. Basically you need to go back and forth and talk to people. Not very entertaining, although some people may like the location descriptions...
Rating 4.

A Day In The Life Of A Super Hero

I thought maybe a decent ADRIFT game is coming my way. But it just didn't run...


The game lacks motivation. Seriously. The spaceship is large and I have no idea what to do. However I see a lot of effort from the author's side and some people may like open-ended, "wide" games more.
Rating 6.

Zero One

The first thing I notice after the title suspiciously reminding of Santoonie entry, is the maximum score. 42! Ew, that's just scary. This IS the perfect Stack Overflow parody. It even starts in the room with the gray walls! On to the game: obviously underimplemented: each object is accessible in only one way. And there are a lot of bugs... (empty lines omitted)

> open drawer
The drawer is now open.
The drawer contains a carving knife, a tea spoon and a wet trout.
> take all from drawer
(pot) You take the pot.
(drawer) You take the drawer.
(red lunch box) You take the red lunch box.
(cheese burger) You take the cheese burger. You can't carry anything
more. You have to drop something first.
(cup of sprite) You take the cup of sprite. You can't carry anything
more. You have to drop something first.
(blue track suit) You take the blue track suit. You can't carry anything
more. You have to drop something first.
(carving knife) You take the carving knife. You can't carry anything
more. You have to drop something first.
(tea spoon) You take the tea spoon. You can't carry anything more. You
have to drop something first.
(wet trout) You take the wet trout. You can't carry anything more. You
have to drop something first.

Rating 3. (including randomly given away bonus points)

The Great Xavio

What can I say? A fun little game. I like the author's writing style and although there were some quirks in gameplay (notably the repetitiveness of NPC's replies), overall this is quite an enjoyable piece of IF.
Rating 8.

I Must Play

The first TADS 3 game I played doesn't exactly shows all of the system's capabilities (I was hoping for some real time action). I'm not a huge arcade fan (well, I'm not an arcade fan at all) so these games meant little to me (except Toader, even I know that one!). I think I liked Eric's comments the most.
Rating 7.


Murder at the Aero Club

It's morning and we have another mystery here. Soon after I started I got that bug:

>x fire safety poster
I only understood you as far as wanting to examine the fire safety

Not exactly an encouraging start. Fortunately after that the game was rather bug-free and fun. Nothing mind-bogglingly fun though.
Rating 7.


The idea is interesting but implemented poorly. For example you see a pile of stuff and "x stuff" doesn't work, that kind of thing. Or "create ladder" doesn't work even if the hint system suggests it should. Too bad, because there were some things I liked, e.g. location descriptions.
Rating 5.


>enter door 1

[** Programming error: Hyper-mimetic Test Chamber (object number 26) has no property <number 0> to read **]

Class ** Library error 11 (1,0) **

You can see a CompassDirection, a Place, a PaddedWall and a Person here.

(the same happens when you enter exit door too...)

Huh? I guess it's not some elaborate joke from the authors. Well there are probably bugs in every competition game... Oh, well... so I got the pizza and tried to take it. The game corrected it to "bake the socks". And then the game HANGED! Damn. So far this game has the largest setting/realisation rate...
Rating 3. (Would be 8 without the bugs).

Getting Back To Sleep

That one didn't work on my system so I proceeded to winupdate server and installed stuff... That took a lot of time on my slow Internet connection... But that didn't stop me. Too bad because the game isn't any good... (but thankfully I'm able to run KoLmelion now!)
Rating 2.

Chronicle Play Torn

Ew, another buggy game—fatal error while trying to "take manuscripts" in the living room. After that the game was quite good, but had the same problem as Splashdown—no motivation. I mean Chapter III: you run around the sunken city and have to do some weird stuff... Not my kind of thing, really...
Rating 5.

After that I joined celebration of the Meat Day in Kingdom of Loathing. People were giving meat to each other and fun was had by all :).



What??? ANOTHER cryotube game? Oh well... This game is competently done and at every point you know what to do (that's probably because you can access only a few locations at a time).
Rating 8.

(hmm, I'm getting too many 8-pointers here and no 9/10-pointers. Miss Congeniality selection may be quite tough)

Kurusu City

Ew, I almost misread Miki Maeda as Miki Takeda which probably doesn't say much about me. The hints with the game weren't helpful at all, after you meet Sadie you have no idea what to do. The hints at the website were more helpful, but then I found that I have rendered the game unwinnable (because I haven't picked up everything in sight). Too bad, I almost wanted to give 9 to this one.
Rating 7.


My eyes! Damn this color scheme is ugly... and I can't see what I type. The game itself was quite amusing but due to some bug I got stuck in taxi outside the house and I wasn't able to interact with anything. And I thought that the bug (and bugmeat) day was yesterday.
Rating 3.

Stack Overflow

I'll use this space for some author's comments. First, as many of you pointed out my English sucks. Second, the game needed beta-testing. And, in all my honesty, I tried to get someone to play my game before comp. I put it on beta-testing site and got a whopping number of (count 'em) ZERO responces (altho' I think at least 4 people downloaded it). I've also received the same amount of e-mails concerning SO during the comp period. It was hard to resist the urge to ramble about that on the newsgroup, but then people would downscore my game on the basis that I'm not only a bad author but also a whining fuck ;). Third, the game wasn't serious. Some people didn't get it. I included some references to other games not because I couldn't think of anything, or I wanted to offend the authors of these (great) games but because it's fun! It's like an additional challenge, get all of the references. I guess that didn't work out. Anyway it was a great experience to participiate and I'm going to do that again. I'm planning to do a Z-abuse cross between Liberal Crime Squad and Republic:Revolution based in today's Russia. Phear me!!!
Rating NR.

Escape From Auriga

That one was disqualified (BTW I dunno why it betrays Rule #1—that's probably because I don't read many books), but I'm gonna play it anyway. Later...


Escape From Auriga (again)

The game is competently made and almost bug-free. I like nonlinear games with multiple endings and this one would've gotten 8 if it still was competing.
Rating NR.

The Big Scoop

This game is solid and atmospheric. On the other side the puzzles are extremely hard. Almost every puzzle is unsolvable without walkthrough, which discourages exploring the game world. But if someone has a lot time on their hands, that's a nice game for you.
Rating 8.



The beginning was okay, but then I got in the stupid forest and there was NO WAY OUT. I swear, I tried anything to no avail. And yes, there was no walkthrough. There were other problems here such as sparse descriptions and absence of some obvious objects, for example there was no "pond" in the Pond location. To hell with it, it's not like I was going to like it anyway.
Rating 3.

Die Volcommene Masse

Aargh, what a cute game... Too bad it's unwinnable...
Rating NR.


Square Circle

It's long, it's hard and it's good. The game file is 991K and that's a freaking huge lots of text (although I guess TADS3 library takes half of that size). I can only applaud for the author, he must've spent a lot of time. And the result is great.
Rating 9. (Why not 10, you ask? Because of too-hard-puzzles and not-very-consistent game world (and I'm not going to expand on that (actually I'll do a little... for example Kurusu City has a consistent game world: everything is "rational" and has it's place. SC's world has hi-tech stuff and dirty pigs meeting each other (but maybe it's just emphasizes the futility of trying to "rationalize" that world (wow, that was a lot of nested parentheses))))). And how did that guardian kill the hermit? Everyone knows you can't do that!


A Light's Tale

Yeah! In this creepy Halloween night I'm going to defeat the darkness. Phear me 'cause I'm the Light itself!!! This game really doesn't make sense and narrative is hilarious (which is a good thing). Puzzles were quite easy in the beginning with the game nudging you in the right direction but towards the end they become really evil (or maybe I haven't got a clue. For these puzzles.)
Rating 7. (Cause I gave too much eights already. My ratings don't count anyway.)

Sting of the Wasp

There is a lot of stuff happening in that game. You have a clear goal, but no idea how to accomplish it. Basically the main character should fuck up everything in sight and after another character gets fucked up, explore the new location. In short, it really doesn't make sense. Still, this game has awesomely implemented world and if you understand high society people's behaviour better than me, I'd recommend it.
Rating 7.


Blue Chairs

The first thought: "Who did write that one again? Must be Robb Sherwin" - the resemblance to Chix is uncanny. I liked the first part but then everything became too surreal for me to understand anything. I made it to the end (nice that there are several ways to solve puzzles, cause I messed with one item which made the walkthrough solution impossible) and the ending wasn't very revealing. Strange stuff.
Rating 8.


Heh, this game has definetely the best ABOUT ever written. Too bad I wasn't able to archieve much in the game itself. The walkthrough would've been greatly appreciated. There is some good stuff and there is some fun stuff, but basically all I've seen is 4 rooms where I can't do anything... Has a high banana-of-discord potential.
Rating 5.

Ruined Robots

Oh yeah, the blurb was quite entertaining, but the game is painful. I mean it's late evening, my eyes ache after the day of looking at my PC's display and I'm tired and I want to play a fun adventure, yet I have to play monstrous old-style game with robots, ugly pics and stupid hyperlinks and non-ASCII symbols which look awry with my cyrillic fonts, that kind of painful. Q: What is the definition of pain? A: I forgot, but it has something to do with dead babies.
Rating 2 (at least I can appreciate a good blurb).

Blue Sky

Thank god it was short. Anyway, I managed to get it into the unwinnable state and had to restart to finish the game. The city is nicely done, but I suppose the author wasn't able to finish the full game in time so we're left with a 2.5-puzzle snippet. Well, for not being annoying it gets
Rating 6.

That's all. Now get ready for some statistics.

4: Bellclap (bellclap/bellclap.z5)
1: PTBAD 3 (ptbad3/ptbad3.gam)
8: Mingsheng (mingsheng/mingsheng.z5)
7: Magocracy (magocracy/magocracy.gam)
4: Zero (zero/zero.gam)
6: The Realm (realm/realm.gam)
8: Luminous Horizon (eas3/eas3.blb)
6: All Things Devours (devours/devours.z5)
8: Trading Punches (trading/trading.hex)
5: Goose, Egg, Badger (geb/geb.z5)
1: Ninja v1.30 (ninja/ninja.exe)
8: The Orion Agenda (orion/orion.z5)
4: Who Created That Monster? (whocreated/whocreated.gam)
NR: A Day In The Life Of A Super Hero (hero/hero.taf)
6: Splashdown (splashdown/splashdown.z5)
3: Zero One (01/01.acd)
8: The Great Xavio (greatxavio/greatxavio.z5)
7: I Must Play (imustplay/imustplay.t3)
7: Murder at the Aero Club (aeroclub/aeroclub.z5)
5: Order (order00/order00.z5)
3: Typo (typo/typo.z5)
2: Getting Back To Sleep (exige/exige.exe)
5: Chronicle Play Torn (torn/torn.z5)
8: Identity (identity/identity.z5)
7: Kurusu City (kurusu/kurusu.gam)
3: Redeye (redeye/redeye.gam)
NR: Stack Overflow (stack/stack.z5)
NR: Escape from Auriga (escape/escape.z5)
8: The Big Scoop (scoop/scoop.z5)
3: Blink (blink/blink.z5)
NR: Die Vollkommene Masse (diemasse/diemasse.gam)
9: Square Circle (squarecircle/squarecircle.t3)
7: A Light's Tale (lighttale/lighttale.gam)
7: Sting of the Wasp (wasp/wasp.z5)
8: Blue Chairs (bluechairs/bluechairs.z5)
5: Gamlet (gamlet/gamlet.z5)
2: Ruined Robots (ruinedrobots/ruinedrobots.gam)
6: Blue Sky (bluesky/bluesky.z5)
(34/38 rated)

|              X    |
|              X    |
|            X X    |
|            X X    |
|    X   X X X X    |
|    X X X X X X    |
|X X X X X X X X    |
|X X X X X X X X X  |
|1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 !|

Av. Score 5.559
St. Dev. 2.299

And now for the most interesting part: Miss Congeniality vote!

Selecting 3 best games out of these isn't quite an easy task, I tell ya.

Much harder than giving out random ratings on a 10-point scale.

I guess I need some guidelines for myself so I won't get a headache.

To make the selection more controversial I would give 1st vote for the game with a rating of 9 (try to guess!), 2nd for 8-rated and 3rd—for 7-rated.

BTW, that's 48 different combinations!

You can ask, why won't I pick two 8-rated entries for 2nd and 3rd place.

But that would be 56 combinations to choose from!

And there is another reason.

Some of these 8-pointers are the result of the random unfair points giveaway bug and deserve a lower mark. That information got known to the 7-point masses and they're now rallying around my house and calling for my head. I've got to appease them somehow.

Am I going to stop this drivel?


Actually I will.

To name the winners.

The heroes of this competition!

The greatest of the great!!!

(In My Humble Opinion)

And that would be:

1. Square Circle by Eric Eve
2. Blue Chairs by Chris Climas
3. Kurusu City by Kevin Venzke

That's all, folks!

This article copyright © 2004, Timofei Shatrov

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