Valentine's belated IF-Comp 07 comments - part 1

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Nov 19, 2007, 10:29:44 PM11/19/07
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This is the translated version of my comments on the IF-Competition 07
games published on the ifiction.ru forum. As I found myself too lazy
to make two different versions for the Russian and English
community:), I just translated them, footnoting*) things that might be
not quite understandable by those who aren't native Russians and/or
active participants of the Russian IF community. Oh, and I excluded
games for which I plan writing more thorough reviews for SPAG.

This is the first part, more will follow (I hope) till the end of the
week.

Valentine

* - Yeah, apparently, that's my favourite thing to do;).

***

This year, I managed to play almost all of the games (you can find the
exceptions at the very start of the list). Almost a third of the games
I rated "exellent" (although a couple of them at a stretch) - a great
result! I ought to mention a remarkable performance of Adrift games
(really, they're the best Adrift games I've ever played), as well as
the progress of Quest. On the other hand, TADS works were
disappointing (especially the one written in TADS 3)... although Slap
That Fish was the best TADS 2 game entered in the Competition over the
last three years or so.

My rating scale:

1 - I couldn't find a single nice word;
2-4 - the drawbacks outweigh the advantages by far;
5 - average a.k.a. non-descript;
6 - pretty solid but nothing special;
7-8 - excellent;
9 - almost ideal;
10 - my favourite.

Games with the same rating are listed in alphabetical order.

The Lost Dimension - not rated

After starting the game it suggested I'd download Microsoft
NET.Framework (more than 20 Mb). For reference: that's about twice as
big as the entire zip-archive including all the games of this year's
Comp. Spasibo, NET (pun (c) Gremour*).

* - This phrase actually means "no thanks" in Russian. Gremour is an
inhabitant of the ifiction.ru forum; he used the word NET this way as
someone announced creating a new game based on that particular
platform.

Vampyre Cross - not rated

When someone offers a game that requires an emulator to run, and
doesn't even provide a link for getting that emulator (let alone
distributing said emulator with the game), I guess this person doesn't
care whether I play his game or not. Thus, I don't play it. That's my
principled attitude.

Adventure XT - 1

Paul Panks is an original character of the English IF scene. In
particular, he seems to be obsessed with text RPGs written in BASIC.
Unfortunately, even putting aside all other issues, creating a "new"
game means for him (at least for the last couple of years) just
shuffling the locations, introducing new (still as faceless as before)
monsters, and renaming the resulting work. Such a re-edition of even
the most ingenious game wouldn't receive more than a one from me.

Eduard the Seminarist - 3

The game is packed with obscure puzzles, minor and not-so-minor bugs,
but doesn't contain even a hint of an answer to the question, what the
PC is doing here at all. As far as I can see, this work is based on a
book about Eduard Friedrich Moerike "A Priest and a Poet" (I didn't
read it myself, the information is from Wikipedia). Maybe after
reading the origin, the whole game will come out in an entirely
different colour; unfortunately, such reading clearly would take more
than two hours provided by the IF-Comp judging rules.

The Immortal - 3

Tons of bugs, text studded with mistakes, a nonsensical, yet
pretentious surreal SciFi plot... OK, let's stop kicking the author -
he did his best.

Beneath: a Transformation - 4

The plot of this work remains completely shrouded; to uncover it, one
probably has to read the book that underlies this game. Solving
puzzles is often based on series of obscure actions I had some
problems to reproduce even with the help of the walkthrough. On the
other hand, the ability of the PC to see even small things on the
other edge of the town somehow stuck to my memory; on the first
occurrence, I even thought the phrase "You see a glove down the
street, to the west" just contained a typo, and the author meant "a
glow". But no, it was a glove indeed. I'm not sure what the meaning of
it was, but there seemed to be something interesting about it...

Press [ESCAPE] to Save - 4

A story about a surreal prison escape - not the worst one, btw.
Rudiments of atmosphere are present, too... But then, problems begin
that involve both technical glitches and text quality. The picture is
completed by deadly unfair puzzles (in addition to requiring obscure
verbs and several saves/restores for gaining enough information for
developing at least the general strategy of overcoming individual
obstacles, it's coupled with a most cruel time limit). All in all,
that's a pity, because the idea itself isn't so bad.

And one more thing I forgot to mention. The title has nothing to do
with the actual game.

Reconciling Mother - 4

The author's rather shallow acquaintance with TADS shows through -
this eats up a considerable part of interactivity. In certain ways,
it's probably for the better - a decent implementation depth would
make this conglomerate of dozens of rooms with loads of items
completely unfinishable within the two hours limit. The way it is,
though, I even managed to get to the end (apparently), and stiffened
with astonishment in a dilemma: either the skis don't slide, or...*) I
mean, either I'm not mature enough to get the author's deeply
symbolistic allegories, or the author didn't know too well what he
wanted to say himself;).

* - A reference to a joke verse rather well-known in Russia, which
goes like this:

I'm standing on asphalt on skis. What's the nub?
Either skis don't slide, or my brains're *$%#ed up.


Ferrous Ring - 5

From the technical point of view, the games is worth of much envy:
e.g., the possibility to choose the game mode - parser-based or menu
based (the dream of Russian IFers;)*), or the walkthrough mode, when
the game automatically substitutes the commands at the prompt, so that
the player just needs to acknowledge them by pressing ENTER! The
game's distinctive style can't be denied, either - it becomes apparent
in terse, spare, yet pretty expressive room descriptions.
Unfortunately, these achievements aren't backed up by a more or less
decent plot - by the end of the game I still didn't know what it all
was about. Maybe the problem is not on the game's part but on mine.

* - The Russian IF-community is split in two sub-communities: those
who like parser-based text adventures better, and those who prefer
menu-based stories (a.k.a. CYOA).

Fox, Fowl And Feed - 5

If you expand the tutorial game for RTADS by GrAnd *) by adding a
little uncomplicated (although nice) humour and make the puzzles
somewhat tougher... it's still not enough to get more than five points
from me.

* - RTADS is a TADS extention for writing text adventures in Russian,
by Andrey Grankin a.k.a. GrAnd. BTW, the Russian version of the
classical puzzle involves a wolf, a nanny goat, and a head of cabbage.

Gathered In Darkness - 5

To be honest, for purely subjective reasons this story about a mad
scientist flavoured with mystic rites, demons and dismembered corpses
bored me to such an extent that, after playing somewhat more than an
hour and getting through two chapters of the offered three, I sighed
and read the rest of the chapter in the enclosed walkthrough. Even so,
from the technical point of view, there is only one issue to complain
about (apart from non-fatal small bugs and a limited set of recognized
verbs with peculiar rules of their usage - those are things one can
get used to): namely, complete room descriptions are only listed once,
for subsequent looking they're reduced to little more than a line of
text barely containing any useful information. Since the locations
need to be revisited, and they often contain lots of objects requiring
interaction (those objects aren't listed in the short subsequent
descriptions), an average player not burdened by a phenomenal memory
has but two choices: either jot down the complete descriptions on
paper, or scroll back and forth through the output buffer, trying to
find the turn when (s)he first visited the room (which might very well
have happened several dozens moves before). As to stylistics, I'd like
to mention a not too high, but constant percentage of misspells
(misspells indeed, no typos), and the aversion of apostrophes by the
author (they are very frequently used in English, but in this game,
there's barely any trace of them. And I don't think this can be
attributed to the limitation of the developing system). Besides, I
just have to point to a funny example of product placement - the
author didn't hesitate to put a link to his shop's web site on one of
the items in the game. All that said, this game is still the best
Quest works I've ever seen.

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