Posted 3 August 2003 to rec.games.int-fiction
Review of Dutch Dapper IV: The Final Voyage
By Michael Bechard
Original game written by Harry Hol
Dutch Dapper IV is a game that nobly tries to follow in the space-opera-comedy footsteps of such giants as HGTTG and the many Space Quest games. It.s got the funny alien names, the average-joe protagonist, the what-the-hell-do-I-do-with-this-alien-gadget puzzles. But it lacks the polish and overall completeness of its predecessors.
Before I go any further, for those of you wondering what happened to Dutch Dapper I-III, don't. The author, in his own words, "pulled a George Lucas," and decided to begin the telling of the Dutch Dapper tails in the middle of the saga. One nice help menu item supplied in the game gives some brief accounts of what has taken place so far in the past three episodes. Fortunately, though, the story doesn't really rely much on what's happened before. You're an adventurous, time-traveling PI, whose adventures come knocking at your door, and that's all that matters.
The prologue and the beginning of the game are pretty good. You're immediately thrown into an adventure by the Mystery Client plot-hook, the writing is humorous, but not in a laborious way, and there are lots of things you can play around with. However, my frustrations began when I saw the inventory limit and all the seemingly pointless objects I could carry around. Come to find out, most of these objects are red herrings that you will never use in the game, and will pick up and drop umpteen times in order to try them on various "alien" puzzles. The responses you get on interacting with some of them are funny, but I think it's a bit of overkill; one or two red herrings aren't that bad, but five thrown in at the very beginning of the game is a little much.
However, at least those objects are implemented. Later on in the game, more important things, like many of the NPC's, are barely implemented at all. It was a bit annoying to find that they were designed to do one thing and one thing only; they would only answer questions about that one task, and that's it (see Slightly Spoilerish section below). If I run into a shopkeeper, is it too much to ask that they answer my question about their shop? Additionally, there were a few guess-the-verb problems, typos, and one fatal error that crashed the game when I "entered" a door.
But it's not all bad. The atmosphere is appropriately lighthearted and zany, and there were some moments that left me chuckling. For example:
Carefully, you plant the explosives around the room. Emperor Jacklejitt will never again be able to use his Psychotronic Strank-Inversor to enslave the cute yet intelligent Swoobies. The death of the Swoobie princess still brings a tear to your eye.
The descriptions struck a good balance between being informative and evoking a proper mood. The puzzles were clever but not difficult, which isn't a problem for me. They were strung together nicely along the lines of "You need A to open B which contains C that has the instruction for..." For being a game that was largely based in an alien landscape, the author did a good job of keeping the puzzles relevant and more or less intuitive (aside from all the red herrings at the beginning). It is also to the great credit of the author that his native language isn't English; capturing the proper nuances of humor in a foreign language is a pretty daunting task.
Overall, I got the feeling that the author slowly ran out of steam as the game neared completion, and for this reason I feel it could have been a better game. The end game is practically one big cut scene, which is a shame since the location it is set in is, in my opinion, the most interesting one in the whole game. I hope to see some more fleshed-out Dutch Dapper adventures from Mr. Hol in the future, as the characters, setting, and his writing seem to be a good match.
*** Slightly Spoilerish ***
Regarding poorly implemented NPC's: in one case, an NPC who was drunk (aren.t drunks talkative anyway?) would only respond to me if I showed him things.
This article copyright © 2003, Michael Bechard