[COMP99] Cranky Witch Reviews (1/3) LONG

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Nov 19, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/19/99

Okay. I didn't finish playing the games. I didn't even send my scores in
(*hangs her head in shame*) due to, well, various RL factors y'all aren't
interested in. But I did take notes as I was playing the games I did
finish and so I can review some. As if we needed anymore reviews.

Be warned: I have been very cranky lately. Yesterday (the 18th) was my
birthday and I officially became part of the Establishment. The same
various RL factors that affected my inability to finish playing the games
and had me sleep through the voting deadline (*hangs her head in shame
again*) may have affected my tolerance for games. Hence the subject of
this post. Nonetheless, I have endeavored to try to remain within the
constructive criticism rather than outright bitchiness realm.

There will be some spoilers about games, as I will be mentioning very
specific things in some cases that I liked or did not like.

A note about how I play games: I am not the world's best puzzle solver.
Therefore, it is a rare game indeed I do not resort to a walkthrough or a
hint system for. Also therefore, I do not consider a game difficult
merely because I might have to consult a walkthrough. This does mean that
games without walkthroughs or hints, on the other hand, may have suffered
from my point of view. I know this is an endless debate. This is my
opinion. I have no one else's to use.

I finished 16 games, and have something to say about all of them. The
reviews appear in the order I played the games.

Music Education: An Interactive Fiasco (Inform)
Author: Bill Linney
Blurb: "A typical day in the life of a college music student."

The initial premise seems simple enough: You need change for a meter so
you can practice your sax. I understand that there was a lot more to the
game than this. I did not experience it; I gave up in frustration after
playing for half an hour. The walkthrough wasn't line wrapped so nearly
impossible to read... and I just wasn't interested enough to try to
figure out how to make it usable.

I have three basic complaints about this game. The first is that some of
the descriptions were extremely sparse. I should note, contrariwise, that
there were a few that I rather liked, or at least where a phrase or two
really struck me as clever. But there were far too many "This is the
so-and-so. Such and such person works here. There are exits to the blah
and blorble."

Secondly: If there are all these people I know wandering around the game,
why can't I at least get some sort of sensical response to asking them
for change? I don't mind that I couldn't get change from them, but the
same default responses existed when I asked about the (obvious) goal of
the game as when I asked about virtually everything else. I mean, there's
someone in the game described as a good friend of mine, and all he can
say is "Man, that is so out to lunch." This irritated me.

Lastly: The death for walking into a room a second time is lame. Very
lame. I can live with the post office death; it's very cliche but at
least it was pretty obvious that it could happen.

This game just didn't work for me in initial premise or in
implementation. A real-world simulation in which I can't do the typical
real-world things to get change for a parking meter just isn't going to
anything for me. A couple of the puzzles I ran into, the few I managed to
see a potential solution for, did look like they might be clever, but my
interest was lost fairly early on.

Stone Cell (TADS)
Author: "Middle Edge"

The introduction to this game was absolutely lovely. I was very impressed
by the writing style and intrigued by the premise. Unfortunately, it
deteriorated fairly quickly after that.

The first dozen or so moves in the game don't leave you anything to do.
I'm sure other people have mentioned the 'yes/no' thing -- not that it
seemed to matter what you did say, given the non-interactivity of the
opening. You were going to end up in the same place under the same
circumstances no matter what. That's fine, but I'm not sure what the
point of making it /seem/ interactive was when it wasn't going to be.

The writing also did not end up living up to that great intro sequence.
Possibly it improved again later in the game; I don't know. This was
another game I didn't finish (see below for why). I am wondering if the
author is not a native English speaker; there were a few instances of
comma usage and phrasing that seemed like what I'm used to from German
natives. In any event; it wasn't /bad/, it just wasn't as good as I would
have hoped from the intro.

Note: Telling me in the game that the situation is so hopeless that I'd
like to give up makes me inclined to consider doing so.

I ended up resorting to the walkthrough as soon as I was in the cell,
virtually. I did try to do a few things but ran out pretty quickly. Of
course, when I awake, the cell turns from one room to a 9x9 room. Now,
this is an interesting idea, but the virtual lack of description really
killed it in implementation. There is at least one item in the cell that
does not appear in the descriptions and which I would never have known
existed without the walkthrough. Because I could not take the pot and got
the message that I had no need to make use of the 'befouled container'
(that was a pretty cool description), it would never have occurred to me
to try to do things with it. This trend continued -- there were actions
that made perfect sense to do once I read them, but which I saw nothing
in the game that would indicate they were possible or even having any
sort of effect.

Once I got out of the cell, I tried to get out of the hallway. I
double-checked the walkthrough. I tried the action in the walkthrough
again. It still didn't work. This is why I gave up. I guess some people
must have gotten further than this but I don't understand how, and I
don't know if I found a bug or the walkthrough missed a step or what. I
stopped banging my head against it eventually, and ended.

Overall, I think I might have liked this game with some more attention to
descriptions and a few more clues in said descriptions about things one
could do with items. I do sort of wish I had gotten further; it sounded
like it was going to be interesting.

Skyranch (DOS standalone)
Author: Jack Driscoll
Blurb: "A future that's not post-apocalyptic!"

I tried to give this game a fair chance, despite being a little wary of
any game not authored in some sort of standard system. I really did. I
even was willing to put up with the somewhat silly premise. (Wouldn't
they take roll-call before they left? Wouldn't /someone/ have noticed you
were gone?) But I couldn't figure out anything to DO, and there was, of
course, no walkthrough.

Some specific problems I had: all the platforms with virtually the same
desc. No verbose command. One reversed direction in the description of a
platform (says "east" when you need to go west), but that one at least
was pretty obvious.

I had a guess-the-noun problem with the keys and key rack. I had a
guess-the-VERB problem with the robot. I tried literally every way I
could think of to interact with the robot and did not once get any kind
of response. 'Examine' didn't work. There were misspellings everywhere.
Although at least the one I noticed the most was consistent...

Why didn't I know which was the key to the ferry, if I've been working
there a while? Why were the keys unmarked anyhow? What kind of boneheaded
people would run a station that way (the same ones who wouldn't realize
they left someone behind)?

Without help/walkthrough, I could figure out not one thing I could do
other than wander around aimlessly. I gave up. I was really starting to
think this was going to be a trend. "Maybe," I thought to myself, "I
shouldn't be even trying to play these games or review them?"

Winter Wonderland (Inform)
Author: Laura Knauth
Blurb: "Young Gretchen could only have imagined the fanciful events that
were to occur before finding herself lost in a winter wonderland."

The initial descriptions and opening scenes were beautiful. In fact,
though I did find some minor flaws, overall I very much enjoyed this
game. The hint system was extremely useful, but amazingly enough I didn't
have to use it that often; I usually had some idea where to go with the
puzzles even if I sometimes needed a little help getting it RIGHT. And
after the first three games, this was just amazingly nice to encounter.

One or two things in the beginning: The lady at the tavern appears to be
scrubbing even if she is called off, and timing it so you get her
attention takes a little work that was just a /tad/ frustrating at first
until I realized it really was possible. I didn't, on first pass, think
to ask for something to eat, though I should have. Not sure if that could
have been any more obvious; it may have just been me.

Since talking to the shopkeeper didn't give me an exact idea how to
purchase something, I did have a little trouble coming up with the right
phrasing, but it wasn't unreasonable.

Also, later into the game, it took me a while to realize the baubles
were not really important. I also consistently missed the entrance to the
ice floes for a while, until I finally decided to ask someone (usually I
won't do that, but in this case I had a feeling I was just missing
something obvious, and I was right). Maneuvering through the ice was...
well, a tad difficult to figure out, but there was that nicely written
hint file and all...

Other than that, the puzzles were either obvious or easily enough figured
out, which was a really nice change. In addition, as I think I implied
above, I loved the writing style, the ambiance, the whole fairy tale
thing in general. This was a very intriguing game, one I wanted to see
the end of, and I really hope that Laura Knauth continues to write games,
because I expect to continue to enjoy them.

I haven't been giving my number ratings (since I didn't submit them I
didn't see the point), but Ms. Knauth, if you are reading this, you would
have gotten a 9 from me for this. I thought you might like to know.

ti...@ripco.com - you...@foad.org - help, I'm stuck in a bottle

Mike Snyder

Nov 19, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/19/99
tls wrote in message <81399r$3es$1...@gail.ripco.com>...

>Be warned: I have been very cranky lately. Yesterday (the 18th) was my
>birthday and I officially became part of the Establishment. The same

Wow, The 18th was mine too. Heh.


Joe Mason

Nov 20, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/20/99
Mike Snyder <wy...@prowler-pro.com> wrote:
>tls wrote in message <81399r$3es$1...@gail.ripco.com>...
>>Be warned: I have been very cranky lately. Yesterday (the 18th) was my
>>birthday and I officially became part of the Establishment. The same
>Wow, The 18th was mine too. Heh.

The 18th was also my mother's birthday, which I forgot.


Neil Brown

Nov 20, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/20/99
In article <81399r$3es$1...@gail.ripco.com>, tls
<URL:mailto:ti...@ripco.com> wrote:

> Lastly: The death for walking into a room a second time is lame.
> lame. I can live with the post office death; it's very cliche but at
> least it was pretty obvious that it could happen.

Is this an American thing? Post Office workers are like that a lot of
the time in the UK; we just get used to it. So I was quite surprised
when what happened happened.

Neil Brown


Nov 20, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/20/99
In article <ant20181...@highmount.demon.co.uk>,

Neil Brown <ne...@highmount.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>In article <81399r$3es$1...@gail.ripco.com>, tls
>> lame. I can live with the post office death; it's very cliche but at
>> least it was pretty obvious that it could happen.
>Is this an American thing? Post Office workers are like that a lot of
>the time in the UK; we just get used to it. So I was quite surprised
>when what happened happened.

It probably is, although I know that a lot of people outside the US are
aware of it at least in the legendary aspect.

My memory isn't clear, but I believe there were a handful of incidents of
a postal employee's rage resulting in some sort of violence, to the point
where 'going postal' became a common term to describe someone getting
extremely angry and perpetrating violence. I don't really recall what
precise incident sparked it at this point, but I do recall there was such
an incident. So, it's become a cliche/legend, and therefore I wasn't
surprised to see it happen.

Boy, I bet that cleared things up. I blame my recent birthday and the
ensuing senility for any vagueness in this post.

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