Posted 16 November 2005 to rec.games.int-fiction
An introduction! It won't be long because you lot won't read it anyway, rather skipping to the reviews themselves. After gathering some experience in writing an IF game and entering IFComp 2004, I present to you the full set of reviews which are meant to accomplish the following tasks:
-Cover Every Entry
-Be Not Spoilyy
-Be Reasonably Interesting
In fact, only one of these tasks is accomplished entirely (the first one), but hey, you can't have it all! I also included some maps for the games that have a cool map. That's probably all you need to know. Have fun...
,-Histogram---------. | | | | | 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 X X | |1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 !| `-------------------' Average:4.94
So, my first game is "On Optimism". I like the title. As you may have noticed reading my IFComp 2004 reviews I think a good title is half of the game. Which probably means this game automatically gets 4 or so points before I actually play it! In fact I'm writing this before I started playing it. Also if you want to know which other names for Interactive Fiction I consider cool, well I'm just giving one suggestion: add ", or Virtue Rewarded" to the end of the title of your work-in-progress!
Oh no, not another Blue Chairs! That's the first thought that came to my mind as soon as I strolled through the first few screens. Well, let's judge this game on its own accord. OK, what's it about? As I understand it you wander around the heart of your girlfriend trying to make her love you. The writing is overly emo-ish and I'm sure many reviewers would blame the author for that. I won't, because I think that adds to the atmosphere. There are many things to dislike though. I for one don't like the abundancy of generic objects throughout the game. There is like 10 different papers (resulting in bad disambig problems—the author should've implemented that ChooseObjects fix), some statues, plaques, signs, paintings. But I guess abstract worlds contain only bland objects to carry around. There are some bad prose, some typos, some out-of-place stuff: "Windows to Souls copyright 2005" - talk about breaking mimesis. The puzzles are mostly of guess-the-verb type, except you don't know what you should do, making them even harder. The ending is horrible, IMO. But I guess that should've been expected. Overall, I think this one was worth the time spend on it. It's far better than the previous work of that author, although that one was really wacky. 6 points.
It's quite early in the morning and I'm not fully awake yet. But I think I should try to be playing more than one entry a day if I'm to play them all. So, the second one is "Snatches". Pretty cool name as well.
The game starts out with no clear indication what to do. You are in the house and want to go to town. But of course, I first explored all available rooms and that took a lot of time. It's hard to map this game because it uses non-reversible directions and different heights. So I map most of this thing and... my character's dead. Ouch. So I get another one. This one doesn't live a lot as well. Then another... Most of the time your goal seems to be to kill off your character ASAP so the game continues. That works quite well for a horror story. But it's hard to make yourself motivated to play a character if you know that he dies in the next few moves. There was one character (I think that was father, but I'm not sure) well, I just typed "x me" and—I'm dead. Whoa! Hardly knew ye. The implementation is fairly solid—there are different descriptions for the same locations for each character. The locations are minimalistic and there is not much to do in them. There are some useless props that probably exist only to divert your attention (but maybe they're used in the better ending? I should've tried to put that spider in the sink to see what happens...) I met at least one bug—it just said something like "ERROR: This character is not supposed to see this. Report to the author." when I tried to examine something. But apart from that everything was pretty slick. I'm not a big fan of horror stories, especially of those where everyone dies at the end, but this is probably the best IF implementation of that kind of story. 8 points.
| | \ / [N Hallway]-[Kitchen] | | | | | | | | | | \ / [Bathroom] [Basement] | | [N Balcony]--- | > | | \ | [W Manor]---------------[Entryway]-----------------------[Lounge] | | / | | | [S Balcony]--- | [S Hallway]--[Din room] / \ [Study] | | | [Your room]
XEN: THE CONTEST
This game took me exactly two hours to finish it. Up to minutes. That's magic for ya! I must admit I had to use walkthrough in the end to make things faster. The game suffers from bad parser (author obviously didn't take time to improve the standard TADS one). At the beginning I wanted to really blast this game to pieces. I mean: dull setting, the characters are standard, the prose is horrible, the locations are underimplemented, you have to repeat same actions over and over again—the worst case being the cafeteria. However the game becomes much more interesting as it progresses. The story flows well, and it's a good story, I must say. Like the main character (most of the time) I was suffering from starvation in front of my computer, but I had to play it to the end. The story never stops. At any point in the game you know what to do next and the story progresses with each your action. So, the use of the IF medium for the storytelling gets 10 points from me. The technical part really takes the game down. I imagine many people would quit the game after being unable to order a burger from the chef. Too bad. So, I give this game a solid 7 points. Good effort.
Still one game per day on average... Not good, not good...
Hanged my computer. Not a great feat I suppose, because it hangs quite often. Well, it seems that ADRIFT Runner hangs when I try to load ANY ADRIFT game. I have a big desire to just give 1 point to all of them. But they probably suck anyway so those who can run them would vote them down proper. Oh, it seems it not hangs after all! After 5 minutes or so: "Error loading adventure: input past end of file". So what do we have here? The game that wasn't even tested for runnability by its author? However the same error seems to be the case for every other ADRIFT game. With both run400 and gen400. This is really stupid. I'm probably not getting something, but I think that the games should run out of the box. It shouldn't be my job to discover what's wrong with them and why they don't run under the native interpreter. So this one deserves 1 point.
This seems to be the only ALAN game in the competition, and it is good chance to see the abilities of recent ALAN 3. The game is very enjoyable in the beginning. It is fun to play, the puzzles are obvious and the parser doesn't get in your way. But as it progresses the bad parts begin to emerge. In a way, Waldo's Pie is anti-Xen: The Contest. As you have to do non-trivial action the parser doesn't understand you. The puzzles became not obvious, but rather downright EVIL. It's very easy to miss a crucial item because you think that one of NPC's did their job and you have nothing else to get from him. I'm talking about "recipe card" here. Simple commands like "enter house", "take berry" and so on do not work when they HAVE to. You have to type "go in" or "take berries" instead. The final sequence is dire and seems to be tacked on in the last few days (I should know, that's how Stack Overflow's opening sequence has been added!). This is very sad, because the beginning is wonderful. I guess you can't have it all. 6 points.
JESUS OF NAZARETH
These kinds of games are better dealt with transcripts. Transcripts of bad interactions. In your first location you already have to cope with the inferior parser this game provides. "read note" -> "You can't make out the note". "x note" -> "The note reads...". OK. So I went to some fortress and centurion trapped me. I couldn't escape. So I attacked him (that's non-Christian way of solving the problem). He killed me. "You killed Jesus! The bastard!" as they said in South Park. I started over and these time I got the papers with me (why they were lying in a place where anyone can take them is beyond me) and I got stuck again in a fort. I had a choice to kill either some rebel or that main guy. I attacked rebel and lost again. Anyway this game is better than previous PAP work and has some decent location descriptions. But other than that it is just too old-fashioned. IF has progressed so much, yet Paul continues to produce games that even Scott Adams would call outdated. 3 points.
Well, people at RGIF suggested that I try another interpreter, so this game gets a second chance. The premise is quite good. You are the bodyguard and you need to kill the man who hired you. The gameplay is basically a CYOA where you choose the answer for various conversation. Not very interactive. The story is quite good, but I think the author shouldn't have used supernatural phenomena as a plot element. I was able to reach the bad ending (seems there are no way to die in the game). I thought I did rather well, and the ending didn't make much sense to me. Why after several scenes where she proclaims that she hates that guy she chooses him over me? That's not fucking fair. Oh, did I mention this game uses the f-word far too often? Well, it does. I played the game only one time so I didn't got all mysteries uncovered (wtf has happened in the attic?). Maybe I missed something really interesting as well. But when all you have to do is pressing space and 1,2,3 keys it really pains me to start the game anew. A bit more interaction would've made this one far more attractive. 6 points.
Note that so far all the games I played are fairly decent, if not good. I'm looking forward to some bad ones. Or short ones. Because really, spending 2 hours per game is a bit too much.
This is a very weird game. As it claims, it is a simulation of a hospital. You have to inspect patients. That means that if you don't know anything about medicine you're screwed. So, I was. There's really a lot of things to do but if you're not a medic you wouldn't even THINK about them. The game seems to be open-ended, which in this case means it has no end—even if you diagnose the patient right (which you won't unless you look at hints) there seems to be no way to share this knowledge with the game itself. From the technical POV it's quite well done, but numerous disambiguation nags are really annoying. You can't even examine a body part without being nagged whether you want to inspect, to palpate or to auscultate (sp?). It would probably be a good educational game for medic students, but exposing it general IF community was not a great idea. 4 points.
I have no idea what to write in this review. The reviews above focused mostly on what I disliked about the games. You can hardly blame this game for anything. Bad prose? No, it's rather good. Stupid puzzles? No, they're well-hinted and well-implemented. Parser? Understands what you type and nudges you into the right direction. There is still one thing that I didn't like—the ending. It comes as abruptly as they go. The playing time is way less than 2 hours, and this game wouldn't be out of place in IntroComp. This is the opposite to author's previous game, "Trading Punches" which was really long for an IFComp entry. In fact I expected something like "Trading Punches" there as well, so it took me 5 days to find a free time to play some epic space opera. So you can understand now, why the early ending was really surprising to me. But after all, this must be one of the better games in the competition so there's 9 points from me.
THE SWORD OF MALICE
You know that this game will be quite poor from the beginning. The prologue is cliched and badly written, and as soon as you get to the first room and start doing things you'll see poorly implemented stuff. "x me" results in a standard message, as do other commands. There is a window but "look in window" provides no meaningful response. To do something, you must do it exactly like the author intended otherwise the game won't understand you. Author's intentions are pretty devilish as well: you need to "read book" two times to get crucial information. If you play without walkthrough you'll almost certainly not succeed. This is however, not the only problem with the game. As a work of fiction it doesn't work at all. The prison in which you're put is almost completely unguarded. You can walk around the castle and take precious items without problems—ridiculous stuff. Then you're seeing some locations which serve no purpose, then you get to some tomb which contains some magical stuff. The worst thing happened at the very ending of my adventure. At this point I was following the walkthrough and it said "put amulet in forge". But I had no amulet! Seems I didn't show some gem to elder and got punished for that. Really unfair. Well, that was rather horrid experience. 2 points.
Vendetta is a good example of what you can do with Adrift, so the result doesn't suck. The result is, in fact, a very entertaining game. The story, which involves a man with superpowers, an evil plan to take over the world and a damsel in distress, is standard, but it's delivered well. There are some non-interactive parts where all you do is reading dialogue and pressing 'z', but there are also long sequences where you actually have to do stuff. The puzzles are mostly easy. The only puzzle that I think is bad is the one where you have to go back and forth through about 15 locations to bring one item to the other—this is something from 80's games where hiding key at a large distance from the door was a popular trick to make the game harder. The number of useless locations is enormous. One can argue they add flavor, but do you really need a whomping 10 locations for a parking lot, or 16-locations lengthed electic fence? This is something you don't expect from modern IF as well. But these are minor issues and they don't stop the game from being enjoyable. 7 points.
Okay, my dear friends, here we have a contender for the biggest interactive fiction "fuck you" of the year. The start of the game is ridiculous. We have Ice Dragon smoking Fire and he also has a microcomputer (I didn't really understand this part!). Before you beat the dragon, you cannot do anything interesting. There is only one way to beat him and it's really ridiculous. I mean really, what the hell? The rest of the game is Ninja 1, if you played it you know what I mean. So, 2 points for funniness, but there's not much of anything else.
That was a rather short review. I'm running out of ideas... By the way if you like ninjas visit www.whiteninjacomics.com.
Ugh, another game starting in a cell (if you played Stack Overflow you can see how I cleverly added an opening sequence to prevent that reaction—didn't help very much though). You don't make a good impression with a passages like "You grab the hot pink-colored rodand for a moment are not sure how to work it, but soon discover that by twisting it clockwise you get the mechanicanical sound of something catching, like a key unlocking a door.". This is a very beginning, surely the author played a lot through this part. How the hell he didn't notice the mistakes? (There is no betatesting, but I can understand it—why anyone would play an unfinished n00b's game?). The game was playable until that point when you see this line: "You can also see (which is currently burning., (which is currently burning., (which is currently burning., (which is currently burning., (which is currently burning., (which is currently burning. and (which is currently burning. here." Now this is what I call a bug. Remember kids, never put wooden stuff near a source of fire. Because it burns. Looking at walkthrough I see there should be an arrow, a bow and a sword. In my game they were all on fire. And, to quote the eponymous song by Filter, "So I Quit". Sorry, but this game is too dreary—I can't take it any longer. 1 point.
Chancellor is not the first game in this competition that I wasn't able to finish in time. But it's the first one that I actually wanted to finish. Much has been said about Kurusu City, the previous game by Kevin Venzke, which had a nice premise but has been marred down by numerous design problems. With Chancellor the author improves in many ways. First, you cannot put yourself into an unwinnable state just by walking around. The puzzles were quite good—before I stuck—and even with minimalistic hints I was able to deal with them. There seems to be an interesting plot about imaginary and real world somehow related to each other (I haven't seen the end yet...). Also, there is nothing anime related this time. Although there are a lot of locations (in "real" part), they're easily navigable. So, the game was doing really good until my character woke up in medical office. The hints hinted that I should listen to some noises, but I didn't hear any noises. I was stuck. I got some new items, some old items, but I had no idea what to do. I was making no progress, the 2 hours passed by and I stopped playing. I really want to see the end! But there is no walkthrough available... 8 points.
[Garden] | [Balcony]--[Room]--[Hall NW]-[Hall NE] [Valley] | \ \ [Hall]-[S][E] [Hall] [Wood]--[Wood Edge] | | / [Hall]-[Bath]-[Hall]- [Dead End] | | / [Hall]--------[Hall] [Cave] | [Diner]-[Connector s] | [Lounge]--------[Rect hall] \ / [Med office] [Lobby]-[Front office] / \ /----- [End of Hall]-[Elevator] \ [Stairwell]
I'm begininning to see a pattern in this competition. While Comp'04 was overboard with spaceship, this is another game where you have to walk around the school. Of course some science fiction is added to the mix. The game is quite well done. There are no missing descriptions (although they all are rather short) and other things that are common to "my first game" IF. There is a serious design problem though. When you talk to the first NPC you might get an impression that "TALK TO X" is the only way to talk to NPCs. This is a wrong impression and you must use "TELL X ABOUT Y" as well. Of course you discover this only after reading the walkthrough. Even taking this into account, the puzzles are unhinted and unfair (all of them). The final one is the most nasty. It's not even a puzzle: you must somehow do the two unrelated actions in a quick succession without anything hinting at it. You can learn to do it the right way only after you finish with a "wrong" ending. I wasn't bothered enough to find out what the "right" ending is about. 5 points.
(I have a nice map here but it's too wide)
ESCAPE TO NEW YORK
This game started off quite good: I walked around, got some items, found the mail room (the objective of the first part) and... nothing happened (of course at the time I didn't know anything should've happened—It's just that I simply got stuck). I looked at the walkthrough and found out that I had to wear uniform so the Part II starts. That was really stupid and it put the game down in my eyes. I continued playing looking in walkthrough for what I should do next. Unfortunately the walkthrough focused too much on getting loot and I was only interested in finishing the game ASAP. Did I mention the game is huge? There are zillions of different locations and most serve no purpose. It is very easy to get los without walkthrough. There are some notable bugs, such as "take thing" not working while "get thing" works. And yes, I'm used to "take" even if it's 4 letters instead of 3. In the end I don't think playing this game was worth my time, but I can't ignore the amount of work that the author has put in the game, so the result is 5 points.
(Ooh, 21 game left and 17 days... I don't like that...)
SON OF A...
In this game you play a... student (of course!). With a really really shitty car. Which, as you may guess, breaks in the middle of nowhere. The main problem with this game is that the author obviously didn't test it much. You encounter the first bug as soon as you read the motel sign, which completely changes your screen font. Very annoying. The gameplay consists of walking around, collecting items and occasionally using them. The problem with this approach is that there is a lot of locations and a lot of useless items and the puzzles are completely nonsensical (well, they make sense, but only after the solution). Several locations are hidden in a very "smart" way: you are simply not told about their existance. Of course the game friendly offers the possible moves when you go in the wrong direction, but you must do it in every location so you don't miss something interesting. As I said the puzzles are really bad. "Throw gnome at window"? "Give teeth to Jeb"? Come on. The window has another problem associated with it. You can neither look in it, nor enter it. I guess after you break the window you access the office through it, right? Then why I can't "enter window"? Some positive things: the descriptions of things are quite good, and capture the atmosphere perfectly. Unfortunately the technical problems make this game far less enjoyable to play than it could've been. 6 points.
[Kitchen]-[Tavern] [Behind]< | [Prairie] [Back Room] | | [Stretch]--[Outside Car]-[Stretch] [Office] \ | [Tavern] [Driveway] [Front Office] | \ | [Garden]--------------[Parking Lot] | \ [South Wing] [Path] | / [Room] [Shack]-[Behind] | [Bathroom] -[Shack] /
Judging by the size of the .z5 file I thought this one may be rather short. It is actually beyond that! Now I need to write a review. Uhm... where do I start. Well, this is not a standard IF, but rather a Choose Your Own Adventure kind of game. It's kind of replayable—you can replay it 5 times. After that it gets repetitive. There are not any bugs that I found, but the plot is quite lacking—in fact there isn't one. There is one big text dump in the beginning. It's quite well-written. Otherwise there is not much content. That's basically all I need to say. 1 point.
Well, again, judging by the size of the file there is a lot of content. Reading "about" tells us that this is not the whole game, but only the part of it. It also reveals why the game is so big: apparently you could turn in three forms (human, raven and dragon) and also do some other crazy stuff. Unfortunately you can't change into dragon, and changing into raven changes... nothing. You just walk at the same locations and people see you as human, only "x me" changes. Basically everything is like that: unfinished. As soon as you go through the beginning you're bound to find a bug. For example if you go into "about" menu then to "hints" you can never go back! You can't read again what commands are available, or read the walkthrough. The more things you do the more buggy the game is. I can't believe anyone played it before the release. My experience of playing Gilded finished quite abruptly: I tried to climb a cliff and after that the game was completely fubared. Every command including "about" and "quit" produced no response! I don't know what happened, but it is surely not what the author intended. 4 points, because the beginning was quite solid, and I also believe that if I just followed walkthrough (access to which was denied to me due to a bug) this game would've been quite enjoyable.
A gray, bare room... Many games start like that. But not many IF games have three authors in the byline, so this one has the chance to be interesting. The game doesn't warn you, but I will: this game is not for the easily offendable. The story covers a lot of disturbing topics, including: abortion, suicide, satanism, murder, rape, pedophilia and probably something else. It's quite a crazy romp. Much like in Chancellor there is a surreal part and "realistic" one, which constitutes most of the gameplay. In real world, you're playing a detective who solves a murder. In the surreal world you're playing for the unborn child of the killee (who is the young girl). As detective you need to solve some puzzles, some of which are quite hard, but overall the game is largely story-driven. The average gameplay time should be well over 2 hours. But it would hardly be boring as the story unfolds. The game uses Glulx, which allows it to add some graphics. The pictures are small, but really add to grim theme of the game. The descriptions are quite atmospheric too, especially considering that authors are not native English speakers. They are not very well proofread though, which results in some missed spaces and typos. Overall it's an excellent work of interactive fiction and I'd imagine people would talk a lot about it after the Comp. 9 points.
PHANTOM: CAVERNS OF THE KILLER
This game is bad. It's so bad that you know from the first few sentences that it's very bad. It looks like it's written by 12 year old (which may indeed be the truth), filled with typos ("A skelaton, that looks like he was ripped apart into peices... many pieces."), lack of capital letters (even author's own name is lowercased), implementation problems... Fortunately the game allows to miss the big part of it and go straight to the end. I didn't see the best ending probably, but I don't feel like I've missed much. I can't even be bothered to write a long review, sorry. 1 point.
THE COLOUR PINK
Take Dreary Lands, make it less buggy, add a sci-fi intro and you get the result. It seems that the intro was tacked on as a late addition (so the story makes at least some sense), because it's clearly not as polished as the rest of the game (which takes place in a surreal fantasy-land). There are two guess-the-verb puzzles which made me follow the walkthrough all the way. The first one is "plug cable in socket" where "connect cable to socket" results in "Futile." response. Very misleading. The second one is "widen crack with shovel" which is just bad. The rest of the game is filled with fantasy cliches and is quite boring, although it is well done. One of the questionable features of the game is that the description of a location contains the description of the possible exits and objects with which you can interact in a large chunk of text. It is sometimes hard to figure out where you could go and what you can use. The gameplay is non-linear and you have to solve only 2/3rds of the puzzles in order to finish the game. There are also many ways to solve each puzzle. That leaves you with some useless objects whose relevance is unknown. In fact the whole relevance of the fantasy part (except as an excuse to write an IF) is quite questionable. The hidden plot bits are never revealed and the whole game is basically a big plot hole. 5 points.
Finally a game with an interesting premise. The player character is a blond chick and everything in the world is against her. Imagine your life as a continous chain of puzzles, all of which you need to solve before anything happens. The puzzles are ridiculosly, um, tough, and I couldn't solve anything without the walkthrough. While the game is quite coherent when you type in the commands from the attached txt file, I can imagine many people being stuck in the first room. While there is a system which bases the goodness of the ending on the number of points you've scored I can imagine only two kinds of ending: the one you get from following the walkthrough, and the worst one, where the player makes too many moves before he figures out the right solution. Leaving aside the puzzles the game is nicely done. I found only one bug, but then, I haven't deviated from the intended walkthrough too much. I also like how the game carries you around the building without the needless walking. In conclusion, this is a mixed bag of IF goodness and badness, but at least it stands from the mold of other Comp games. 6 points.
This game is bad. It's so bad that you know from the first few sentences that it's very bad. It looks like it's written by a non-native speaker (which is the truth indeed), whose English is so bad that the game is almost unplayable! No offence to the author, but it is that way. Those with the knowledge of Italian are in the better position here, with Italian version available as well, which I hope is free of errors. That aside, the game's design is quite bad as well. The puzzles are very hard, and mostly involve doing one non-obvious thing several times in a row. There is some interesting stuff, like casting spells and a combat system (which is never used though). There is also some kind of underlying epic plot, at which we only can take a glimpse through the words of several NPCs, but they don't tell very much. Despite some interesting ideas, this game is completely ruined by implementation, which is horrible. I suggest the author to listen to the advice of his compatriots who made Beyond, because these guys seem to really know their stuff. Maybe the second part will be better. 2 points.
A long-awaited sequel to one of the best known works of Interactive Fiction is an epic apparition of unseen proportions. There are many locations, which are rather sparsely implemented (almost nothing is examinable). More importantly, there isn't much to do except walking around. The first NPC asks you for a weapon, but there is no weapon in the short vicinity of the starting location so I took a trip into the depth of the woods. I explored a good deal of it, coming to a historical place, which commemorates C.M., the only person who enjoyed the first Amissville. It's called the Green Bridge of Death. It's aptly named because once you see it, there is no way back. I think that's a bug, but it's really that way. At this point I was too bored to restart (obviously I didn't have a savefile since nothing hinted at the dangers of being trapped). So I have to conclude this review. While it looks more polished than the previous Santoonie work, the same flaws are still present. The game's neither funny nor interesting. 3 points (After quitting I got 0 points out of 100).
[Great Oak] [Supply] [Woods] \ | / [Baron's]-[Campsite]-[Lipe's] | \ [Etcho's] [Enbankment] / | / [S]- | / [Tunnel] / [Stream] [E] / | / [Tunnel] [Stream]-[Deer Path]-[C] | / -[Corner]-[LT Road]--[Green Bridge]- [Stream] / | / [GG Winery]-[GG Ent] [OB Rd] [Waterfall] > / [Cave]-[OB Road] / [Lee High]
SABOTAGE ON THE CENTURY CAULDRON
I was quite unlucky to hit the second long game on the same day. This one is massive and it's really not IFComp format. The beginning was quite fun, but the second part, when you have to fight monsters is really unbalanced. In the first fight my companion got damaged and she was asking for medicines all the time. Unfortunately there was no way to heal her even if I had the pills. In the second fight the monster ate my gun and killed me before Jersey could kill it. That was quite stupid, but after the reloading it all went fine. After that I had no idea where to go (the walkthrough was rather vague at this point). So I quitted the game (the time was already running out). The game is quite well-implemented although some minor bugs stand out. The NPCs in the first part are quite lively, talking with each other and doing their stuff. Puzzles are quite hard, but logical. This would've been an excellent game if it was more short and coherent. Or if it was really polished up and produced outside of Comp. I hope there would be a post-Comp release that accomplishes the latter. Meanwhile, 7 points.
[Dining Hall]----[Kitchen] [Quarters] | | | [Toilet]-[Sanitary]-[NS Corridor]--[RelaxODrome]--[Quarters]-[Cabin] | | | | [Bar] [Bath] | [Control]-[EW Corridor]- T | T [Laboratory]-[Observation]-[Hangar] T [Engine Room] | -[Fuel Room] [Office 202] | [EW Corridor]-[Corner] [Elev Room] | | | [Cell] [Corner]-[Hangar BN] [W Corridor]-[E Corr] | | [Hangar B] [Control Room] | | [Hangar BS]-[EW Bridge]-[Control Area]
I expected this to be much longer. 6 tracks on a CD? Surely there're more to fit. The story is quite decent, but extremely short. You cannot die and there are virtually no puzzles so there's not much to do. Given the shortness of the story, it's strange that there is a glaring bug in the intro: "tear page from scrapbook" doesn't work, even though it's supposed to. The rest of the story flows quite well, but the end is totally unexpected (much like in Distress). I didn't notice any special TADS 3 features, but the parser was quite smooth recognising quite complex "ask X about bla bla bla" queries. Returning to the game's concept... The songs chosen as the chapter titles were quite arbitrary and since I never heard some of them it would be better if there were some relevant quotations on how they relate to the story. The main character is quite unconvincing—at the time when the story finishes we don't know anything about her (until the second chapter I thought they're both guys, because Valentine is a male name!). Her boyfriend is described much better. There is only one other NPC, who appears in only one episode, his relevance is unknown. So, this game doesn't live up to expectations and gets only 6 points.
So, another Adrift game. I couldn't read the introduction because of Scare's weirdness (keeps replacing "y" with "yes"). Hopefully I didn't miss anything useful. The largest part of the game involves running around metro station to find enough money to buy bottled water. As you can guess it's quite boring. I was following the walkthrough until the point where I had to return to the vending machine and buy the damned water. Imagine my surprise when it turned out that had not enough money! At this point I was quite bored and I didn't have the patience to go through 20+ locations and find where the coins could be, so I quitted the game. Even though I didn't play the entirety of the game, I already found a bunch of bugs. I must say the story is quite good (with some hints of political satire) and the opening sequence is well executed. But the rest of the game seems quite boring. 4 points.
And now for something completely different... a man with three buttocks! Sorry, I have been watching some Monty Python as of late. Well, this game differs from the two previous ones as it actually succeeds in matching a good story and implementation. It explores a popular dilemma about freedom vs safety and there are several endings for both path. I have reached (probably) the worst ending, 1/9. Since there is an odd number of endings you can probably achieve both virtues. The implementation lacks any bugs, at least I found none (except that one typo). What this game lacks is some extra punch, because apart from flawless implementation it isn't really memorable. 8 points.
PTBAD6.5:THE URL THAT DIDN'T WORK OR HAVE YOU SEEN THE MUFFIN MAN? HE IS QUITE LARGE!
Apart from having a ridiculous title and having the shortest walkthrough in the comp, this game is quite weird. There are two items, an NPC (who does nothing) and a horrible poem. There is no Muffin Man. Do I have anything else to write in this review? I should probably beef it up a bit... Or something. Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef Beef. Ooh, that was good. 1 point.
Did you notice I reviewed 4 games today? That's because the deadline is behind the corner. Still I haven't yet seen one game that's worthy of winning this competition. The IF is going downhill! Maybe in a few years I would have a chance for the top 10.
Now, this one is really stupid. You have to complete a series of ridiculous puzzles in a Greek myths setting. The puzzles involve some devices, with wires which you need to somehow connect. It hardly makes any sense. The last puzzle involves drawing a heart on a box by walking around infinite field. It's quite annoying if you have a non-monospaced font: authors have clearly forgotten about "font off" command in Inform. Apart from that the game is quite bland and uninspired. Umm... Seems like this review needs some beefing up as well. By the way the name is almost an anagram to "Scythe's Planet". Except there should be "m" instead of "t". See, I'm good at making almost anagrams. Baaa! 3 points.
This is one of the few bad games, that don't look very bad at the beginning. Surely, the first 2 NPCs aren't the most interactive in the world, but hey. But soon you understand how bad it really is. The game literally falls apart between nonsensical puzzles, bad writing and sad attempts at humor (w00t???). The whole plot makes no sense at all. The bad guy you're trying to arrest is stupid at the extreme. Of course to take advantage of his stupidity you need to use the walkthrough. This game has by far the worst puzzles in the Comp. If you think Tough Beans had bad puzzles, NN's puzzles are beyond that. Although there are no bugs, many locations are really underimplemented. "You can't see any such thing" seems to be the game's favourite phrase. 4 points, but only for the effort needed to produce this. This game doesn't worth your time.
[Elevator] | [Backstage]-[Corner] | [Dance Floor]-[Bar] | [Corner] [Coat Check]-[Club] | / | [Yard] [Pavilion] [Bouncer] | | | | | [Corner]-[Sidewalk]-[Sidewalk]-[Sidewalk]-[Sidewalk]-[Alley] \ [Parking Lot]
SPACE HORROR 1
Seems like the author intentionally cut his audience by making a Windows-only installer for a HTML CYOA game. The installer doesn't let me even to choose the path where to install. Also the game can't be uninstalled using Windows' control panel. The game itself is typical CYOA. There are some inventive things like having to send an e-mail to some address (looks like spam collector actually O_o). Otherwise the game is quick and fun. The interactivity is quite limited so you just click some links. All the thinking is done for you, you don't get to solve the puzzles, but you also don't get to know what really happened. 4 points.
A NEW LIFE
Well, at last an IF with some tech. Everything just screams: "Look, I'm a leet Inform programmer!". Unfortunately the game is not up to par. It's one of the boringest adventures ever. Chunks of fancily written text, forgotten memories, annoying "talk to X until you exhaust all options". You have to examine every little detail, which gives you a long description, but still doesn't make things more clear. There is no direction, no story flow, you just go around and nothing interesting happens. I tried to switch to walkthrough, but at some place I got stuck. I was bored enough at this point and quitted the game (to prevent the danger of falling asleep (although it was only 15:00 at the time). What I saw in walkthrough made no sense at all. What I saw in the game made no sense as well (WTF with humans switching genders, huh?). I have the feeling that this author can produce a great IF game in some point at the future: he can write, he can program and A New Life proves that. But gameplay is gameplay, and in this game there is very little of it. 5 points.
_ / \ / [Behind] / \ -[Muddy Rd]--<---<-------' [Bottom]-[Hill's Crest] | / [Peddler's]-[Mossy Grove]--[Waterfall] / | / \ / [Dome of Refl] [Circle] | [Workshop]-[DC W]--[DC E]-[Library] | [Enclosure] \ [Ruins]-[Pillars]
OFF THE TROLLEY
For this game the author came up with an interesting premise. You don't get to play the trolley driver very often. The plot reminds of Sabotage at Century's Cauldron, and the stupidness off main character apparently leads to the death of many people. You know it's easy to get mad when you're doing the same boring job for 20 years. So the main character decides to destroy the building he doesn't like for some reason. The puzzles that you need to solve in order to accomplish the task are easy in principle, but poor implementation makes them quite hard. For example: you start in the cabin of the trolley. After I did everything that's possible in that location I typed "out". The game then told me that I shouldn't do that. I concluded that you can't get out of cabin. After being stuck I read the hints and hey! Actually I CAN get out of cabin. Other locations have similar problems. I used the walkthrough to reach the end. The game was quite fun. The ending is quite misterious: you aren't told about the consequencies of your deed, and what that building was about. In the end we have a game with a good premise, ruined by poor implementation. 5 points.
The only association with the word "Vespers" that came to my mind was a cocktail from Kingdom of Loathing. It's actually some kind of time of day, used by monks. Stylistically the game is very tight: the setting is captured brilliantly, and apparently a lot of research went into it. Up to some point the gameplay was great as well, and then, like in Chancellor, I got stuck. All hints were exhausted and there was nothing to do. Except that cellar... Maybe I had to open it on day 1? Anyway, the first part was a breeze. The story unfolds quite fast, and the hints were enough to push me through the puzzles. If the game continued at that pace it would've been excellent. Unfortunately for me it stopped to a halt in the middle of day two. Also there are other reasons to lower the score for this game. There are bugs. Some are minor, but some are quite striking (considering the number of beta-testers). I find it difficult to believe that no one of them talked to Cecilia on day 2—it produces a nasty programming error. The "walkthru" command is unwieldy and would've been better offloaded to a separate file. It produces about 6 pages of text, and if you don't want to spoil every remaining puzzle in the game it's not recommended. The post-Comp release seems necessary here to address all the problems, but in the meantime 7 points would be enough.
[Chancel] [Belltower] | / [Church] [Base] [Ignat] [Drogo] | / | / [Refectory]-[Cloister]--------------[Dormitory] | | \ / | \ [Kitchen] | [Outside C]_ [Luc][Matt] [Const] | \ [Locutory]--[Entrance]--[Bedroom]\ | [Calefactory] [Cemetery] [Archway] \ | [Outside I]-[Path] | [Gate]
Finally, the last game. It was really nice of RNG to stack two great games at the end. Yep, this one is great. It keeps you playing for 2 hours and a bit more. The story is gripping, and full of mystery. The game is extremely user-friendly: you can't die, you can't mess things up and the hints are enough for even a braindead to finish the story. It all makes up for a fun experience. There are a few moments where the game is not as fun: some guess-the-verb-isms have creeped in. I don't remember any IF where you had to "pry" something to progress. The fishing rod is another issue. I typed "swing rod" and the the line got extended. Then the game started bitching that I can't move this line around. I spend around 10 minutes to figure out how to get it back (I needed to "turn reel"). There are a few misspellings too. Again the crowd of betatesters must've been too captivated by the game to look at spelling errors. The ending didn't make any sense at all. Really. I must be stupid or something. Heh. Well, barring these nuances the game is excellent and you should play it. 8 points.
[Balcony]-[Bedroom] \ [Ent Hall] | [Porch] | [Cliff]-[Front Yard] \ [Estate] \ [Workshop] \ [Grasslands]- \ | / \ [Gravel] | | | [Bridge] | | | [Alley]-[Cobblest]-[Bakery] v \ / `-[Ridge]-[Pass] / [Beach] | [Pier]
So, that concludes these series of reviews. Hopefully you enjoyed reading them. Now, discuss/write your own reviews/play the rest of the games/save/restore/undo/quit.
This article copyright © 2005, Timofei Shatrov