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[IF-Comp] Bob's reviews

by Bob Woodward

Posted 21 November 2004 to

Since my computer broke down, my reviews are a bit belated, sorry about that. They are pretty short and may be of interest for authors to see what I liked and what I didn't and perhaps for players looking for games they could enjoy. The reviews are in the order I played the games (that means a random order).


Good Ninja has to retrieve a golden idol from the shrine of the bad Ninja. The first game I had to play was one of the notorious PAP. The game lives up to his reputation: common abbreviations aren't implemented, there's only a maximum of one possible action in any given situation, there's nothing to do or discover that's not essential for the solution. To make things worse, you die by chance. On the other hand, the writing is minimalistic but not too bad and personally I had some fun during the 10 minutes it took me to get through the game.

Sting of the wasp

Upper class bitch has to get her hands on pictures showing her with an employee of the local country club. Who of the other upper class bitches has them and how can she be convinced to give them away? As can be seen from the summary, SotW is a cynical satire with really loathsome characters, including the PC. Sadly, that's not my favorite kind of game (Varicella excluded, which is my favorite game). The puzzles are mostly quite nice, although for my taste it's too often necessary to examine everything. While the story is the strength of the game, the characters seem a bit one dimensional. I didn't finish it in 2 hours but intend to do some day.


A game by the developers of Janitor, set in the same universe. The task for the PC is to find out the way a machine works. That's not a really new idea for IF, but it certainly is new, that this is all a game is about (as far as I know, I didn't finish the game). I only managed to produce "mush". The hints also didn't help me, which is unfortunate: I looked forward to the game, because I liked Janitor a lot.

Luminous Horizon

Still on their mission to rescue their parents and the whole planet earth, Emily and Austin need all their superpowers. Third part of the Earth & Sky superhero saga. A technical brilliant and superbly written game that offers a true superhero comic feeling. The special feature that the player controls both characters, using a change-command, works very well and is a must for solving the puzzles. The help function is nicely embedded in the story and since the puzzles are logical and well clued, it is perfectly possible to solve the game without using it (I needed exactly two hours). There aren't real weaknesses, however, I liked the predecessor (even) better, especially the puzzles and story-arc. But perhaps that's only because I can't look forward to another sequal.


After the crash of his spacecraft, the pc is not only looking for rescue but also for his own identity. The story starts very interesting, but gets neglected after a while. It is a short, but not too short piece (I solved it in two hours, but had to resort to the hints at the end to do so), with some good puzzles. The game seems to be well tested, playing it was fun.


War memories of an old man are reevoked by the naive questions of his grandson about the whole purpose of war. Contemplative, well narrated story. Sadly, the decisions of the player don't seem to influence its course very much. But perhaps that is the real message of the piece... Anyway, I liked it, although I didn't see the announced multiple paths (and yes, I played it more than once).


As can be seen by the title, Gamlet spoofs Hamlet, however, it doesn't resemble that play very much. Neither the writing (which is very unusual) nor the humor are my style. Additionally, the parser often guesses what the player wants to do. By that, some puzzles can be solved by accident. Most puzzles involve scanning the text for hidden objects and examining them thoroughly. I'm not very fond of these kind of games (I also belong to the minority that didn't enjoy Savoir-Faire that much – although that is far superior to Gamlet in terms of writing and story). Obviously I didn't like it very much. Nevertheless, I guess people who liked savoir-faire could enjoy Gamlet, too, provided they don't mind being insulted while playing.


Now this was an enjoyable piece, a mystery adventure, hard-boiled style. The info text says, IF would be suited to get children to read. I wouldn't recommend Redeye for this purpose, it contains some violence, swearing etc. Not so funny: I needed the walkthrough to leave the taxi. Neither "leave car" nor "get out of car" worked, it had to be "get out of taxi". But after that I didn't need any help anymore, the game is fairly easy and fair. The writing is decent, the story is far from novel, but I like playing these kind of games again and again.


As I understand, Santoonie doesn't have the best reputation in the IF community. I never played a game of them before, but somehow I enjoyed Zero pretty much. You play a goblin, who has to get things in the goblin cave back in order after a raid by humans. That essentially means collecting items and bringing them back where they belong. The room descriptions are terse and accurat and gameplay is entertaining. There is a wonderful, swearing sidekick and the whole experience was very amusing (after I got a hint who to play the whole thing...) Problem: After two hours I found myself at the City of Murl, Front Gate. None of the nouns in the room description was implemented and there seemed to be nothing the player could do. Obviously, the whole thing was stopped being programmed far from completion. Now that's a shame!

A Day in the Life of a Superhero

I was looking forward to this one: I really dig superhero games (movies, comics etc.) and the beginning of the game is absolutely hilarious. Sadly, after a short while I found out this is no superhero game (at least the PC doesn't have any special powers). It has some very funny moments, but at no time is suspenseful or evoking that special superhero feeling (as E&S or Crimson Spring do). The story has no real arc and mostly silly. And then, there are technical problems: the scoring system doesn't work, no orders can be given to NPC's, some verbs are missing and there are problems with the conversation system. In presence of "The Cat" – villain who can kill you after all – the command "fight cat" produces the answer "There is nothing worth fighting here." That kills the fun. Whyld's talent for writing is wasted on a genre he doesn't seem to care about very much.


You are god. Like the guy from the old testament, who craves the sacrifice of animal and those kind of things. Now that's a perspective I was always interested in! Goal of the game is to guide one of your worshippers in safe haven. That is done by telling him (through your assistent who is a great NPC) what to do. This change of perspective works very well, the puzzles are logical (after accepting the premise of the story), the game is technical ambitious and excellently written. It just is bit too short and perhaps something to surprise the player would be nice.

Stack Overflow

A far as I got (on the space station), it's not clear where the story is going. But I was clear in my mind, that I had no chance of a successful traversal, since I didn't even get the hints for the machine puzzle in the sphere room. Sadly, what I had since so far didn't captivate me enough to exert my mind any further. There also were some spelling and grammer errors.

I must play

Playing a child locked up in an arcade, the goal of the game is to successfully play all the games and by that getting to the top of the high score board. That's not too hard and the puzzles are nice, but the whole thing never got me too excited. It's a piece mostly for nostalgic gamers that spent the eighties mostly in arcades.

Kurusu City

The fifteen year old Miki Madea is skipping classes to free Kurusu City from the ruling robots. Of the contents, it's clearly an anime piece, but I fails to evoke the special charm of the genre. The writing is more like Zork and it misses humor. The game heavy on puzzles, however, I didn't get very far in the two hours I played before voting. I probably won't finish it anytime soon either.

The Great Xavio

Haggerston (Professor of Logic) and his side-kick Todd (Ph D Student – controlled by the player) try to find out the trick of a magician. But when the corpse of the magician is found, they have to solve a murder case. Although the game is competently written and has no technical flaws, I din't enjoy it. The puzzles are not very inventive, but still (for me) very hard to solve. After playing it with the walkthrough I still have no idea how I should have thought about some solutions myself.


Splashdown was the game I enjoyed most in this years competition and I would have liked to see it win. The voyage of a space ship of settlers has come to an abrupt end shortly before landing. The computer wakes the protagonist from his cyber sleep, for him to solve the problem and save the settlers. The game is very influenced by the games of Infocom, especially Planetfall. There is a Floyd-esque robot side-kick, some references , the plot resembles Planetfall and so on. But all that is perfectly realized. It is humorous without being silly, the story may have been seen before, but the reason why the ship crashed and how the explanation is implemented are great. Moreover I enjoyed the puzzles very much (I used hints only once and only to get further in the two hours judging time – and even that puzzle could clearly have been solved without hints). Great game!


To defend their small empire from an external attack, magicians summon the PC who has the power to create things und thus fight the attacking creatures. Neither the story nor ist ending are very surprising, but the game could appeal to fantasy lovers. All puzzles are solved by using the "create" command, so the term guess-the-noun is not a flaw, but the basic game principle. I really liked the idea, but unfortunately not the story.

Blue Sky

As a tourist in Santa Fe, the player missed his group and now has to find it. This gives the opportunity to discover the obviously very beautiful plaza of the city and the surroundings and in passingsolving some not too hard puzzles. The idea of an interactive tourist guide is pretty nice and the game made me want to visit the city. But to really succeed, it would have been necessary to include more sightseeing sites and far more information about them. I look forward to a bigger post-comp release.

Blue Chairs

I ranked this one third of the comp and think it had the best writing of them all. Its prose reminded me of the games of Robb Sherwin (which is a big compliment). The game focusses on the story: a lost love, the merging of dream and reality, truth and fiction and the possibilities to determine one's own fate. The game is large and complex, with lots of plot turns. Additionally, it gives the impression of many different "solutions" and alternative endings (I'm not sure of that, having it played to the end only once, but I definitly will play it again). Still, it is not puzzle-free and has a sort of a maze. I thought that was a bit distracting (not the puzzles but the maze-like second act), so I won't rate it best score. Anyway: a definite recommendation.

The Big Scoop

The third mystery I played in the comp is a murder case, blamed on an innocent woman. The player is a journalist who is given the opportunity to solve the murder case and perhaps win the pulitzer prize on the way. The game is far from spectacular, but on the bright side doesn't have many flaws either. While the player solves nice puzzles (very fair, yet some were too hard for me, but I guess that was partly because I played it late in the comp and in the evening), most of the thinking is done by Linda, the presumed murderer. Accordingly, the story is pretty straight, brought forward by the players actions but not really influenced by them. Nevertheless, it's a fun game, best for a rainy sunday afternoon. In direct comparison, I would chose Redeye, but that's a matter of taste.

The Orion Agenda

Stationed on a surveillance outpost in orbit of Orion 3, the player observes the developing culture for a company called SciCorps. Even better: thanks to a promotion he gets the chance to go on a field mission for the first time. His mission is to disguise as an native and investigate a problem in the SciCops base on the planet. Trouble starts when the native Orionions discover them... I liked the story, which reminded me very much of Star Trek's prime directive. Also very nice is the slowly rising level of difficulty. The puzzles are well clued and satisfying, although the stone puzzle lost me. There is an interesting plot turn near the end. Although I didn't find it too convincing, I liked seeing it. But there is a severe disadvantage which made me mark down the game: it is almost unplayably slow on my Palm m515. Sometimes it was one to two minutes (!) until I got a response from the game. I finished it only because it was the only game I had with me on a four hour train trip. I don't know what the problem was, but I never encountered it before.

Trading Punches

After The Orion Agenda, this was the second game in a row that was told as a flashback. I don't think that's a really good way to start a piece of IF since it diminishes the feeling of being able to change the story by the players actions. Trading Punches is a fantasy/SF story about the first co-operation between humans and an alien race of fire-beings. The author puts great detail in the world and the plot and the story is nicely told. The puzzles are o.k. although sometimes a bit confusing. I had a huge problem in chapter 2.2. where I remained stuck although I consulted the walkthrough after a while. Restoring and playing the part again, following the walkthrough step by step worked, but I still marked the game down for this. I'm not a huge fantasy fan, so if you are, try this one out.

Goose, Egg, Badger

In the night before her birthday, a girl on a farm has a lot to do: clean the house, lock in the animals (which were, if I understand correctly, freed by a burglar?) and so on. The main attraction of the game is that most (all?) of the implemented nouns are also verbs. Or so I'm told by the help text. Since I'm not a native speaker I won't even try to guess what to "yak" or to "ape" could mean. The plot, of course, is weak (cleaning up is something I try to avoid by playing IF instead), but not the main point of the game. Perhaps I shouldn't rate it at all, but rules are rules:

Chronicle, Play, Torn

Searching for his grand uncle, who practices occult arts, the player discovers notes about a summoning of a kind of demon. He also discovers a perished city. In the two hours until judging, I didn't get into the mysteries any deeper. I also didn't get in the right mood for the game, mostly because I was annoyed by technical errors: a lot of reasonable commands that should solve the puzzles didn't work. When I found a book about herbs and knew I had to identify mandrake using it, "look up mandrake in book" didn't work. If you don't refer to the book, which is titles "Of roots divine" as the "green book" you get the answer "I don't know what you're referring to". It's frustrating knowing the solution for a riddle but spending lots of time trying to tell the game. There are other minor flaws: when I tried to "give" something to a dog, I was told "You can only do that to something animate". The verb "pet" (something I like doing with dogs) wasn't implemented either. I will give the game another shot, but only after it's beta tested more thoroughly.

This article copyright © 2004, Bob Woodward

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