[IntroComp] Reviews

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Eric Mayer

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Mar 24, 2002, 8:45:26 PM3/24/02
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VERY VERY SHORT INTROCOMP REVIEWS


My expectations for the Intro Comp games may have been a bit different
than organizer Neil DeMause's. To me the "introduction" is the bit
that grabs you and drags you into the story. No more than the first
scene, and only the whole first scene if it's short. But Neil clearly
specifies "the beginning of a game" which, I'd say, can include more.
Nevertheless, I'm going to review the games by my own criterion since
I think the ability to hook a player/reader quickly is important and
difficult to accomplish.

A caveat - in reality I don't instantly discard games that don't hook
me. My approach is the opposite. I play until a game discourages me
from playing any longer. So my estimate of whether I would play the
Intro Comp games or not is somewhat theoretical. Since I'm "judging"
these on the very limited criteria of whether just the bit I see
really makes me want to play on, my judgments might be overly harsh.

I tried to be fairly vague but how can you even talk about intros
without:

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協rom the Files of Sigmund Praxis, Guerilla Therapist
Mark Silcox
Adrift

You are a most unprofessional psychiatrist awaiting an unknown
patient. The apparent premise, a kind of battle of minds in the
psychiatrist's office just doesn't grab me, especially since when the
patient arrives you size her up to be "interesting" but you aren't
told why you think that. It seems you have about fifteen moves to
examine your surroundings and there are some laughs evoked by the
doctor's various trophies and degrees. But I don't think I want to
play a psychiatrist even if I am a guerilla.


Private Cyborg
Tony Ash
TADS

So the file for this game is called "deadman". What was the author
thinking? Would a mystery writer title a novel "The Butler Did It"? I
guess one could argue giving away the introduction isn't giving away
the game. Publishers usually give away the introduction in the
publicity blurbs. Still, you do start off in a fairly attention
grabbing bind, although the actual writing is not the most compelling,
given the situation. The game runs on tracks, which, I suppose makes
sense if you look at this as a kind of interactive introduction page.
Rather than just pressing space to show repeated pages of text you
seem to have a minor puzzle that can be solved, if you choose, and
multiple beginnings, depending on what you do or don't do which is
kind of cool. I'm not sure if the concepts tossed out here are
intriguing or just muddled. Maybe I'd play this far enough to find
out. Maybe.


The Maintenance Man
Philip Dearmore
TADS

OK. The "intro" to the intro, which consists of being on your way to
work isn't very exciting. Worse, if the introduction stumps me - this
one does -- I'm not likely to want to try to play more. At least this
game doesn't advance automatically. In one place it specifically gives
you the command necessary to scroll up more text (pretty much like
being instructed to hit the space key but a bit more elegant) But
there are people trapped in an elevator and I can't just leave to help
them? Instead I keep coming back to answer the phone? Would I really
do that? Of course not. So it looks like the puzzles in this are going
to overwhelm any logic, which means it is probably just not my cup of
coding.


Artifiction
Mikko Vuorinen
ALAN

More of a beginning than an introduction, I think. Simple settings,
but rather nicely implemented. Being confronted immediately by a
vortex to enter was good. Entering the mysterious vortex and ending up
in a field of grass, and then a dungeon, not so good. Finding a simple
way to escape the dungeon was good. Unfortunately I'm still in a
dungeon. Not so good. And confronted by a door I can't figure out,
really not good. Mind you, I'm not saying a game shouldn't have
puzzles but to my way of thinking, the introduction shouldn't give you
much pause, otherwise it isn't really grabbing you, or me at any rate.
I don't know I'd play this, simply because it is a dungeon and I'm
already stuck.


FOTR-IC (By One of the Bruces)

Since I sometimes use an Atari emulator to mess with the old games I
used to play (hey - three Activision badges!) I figured this would be
cool but my particular emulator didn't take to it - nor did my
desktop! (Nothing a quick restart didn't fix I might add. I don't want
to scare anyone off.) But I expect I'll wait til reviews are in and
maybe choose a "safe" emulator to play it.


Time Trap
D. R. Porterfield
Inform

The world is about to end and you're opening doors with ID cards and
keys and checking items off a to-do list! It just doesn't quite hit
the right note for me, though the clock is ticking away and that helps
some, plus the writing is good. What you're doing, specifically, is
preparing to flee in your homemade time machine. Since, presumably the
real story isn't the escape but what you do after you've escaped I
would've preferred to reach that point more quickly. However, once you
do activate the machine and get going things become more interesting -
again multiple beginnings, in a way -- and I'd definitely play this,
especially since I can zip through the first bit now and get to the
story.


Death By Monkey
R. Rawson-Tetley
IAGE

I played this on the web, which was neat. The setup is the sort that's
so cliched its fun. (Cliches don't get to be cliches because they're
unpopular, after all) A rainy night. Car breaks down in front of
brooding mansion. You go up to the house and looking in the window you
see -- well, something weird and horrible of course. After that,
though, I was at a loss. That would've been a perfect place to end an
intro but there didn't seem to be any indication there wasn't more to
do, nor did I have a clue as to what to do. But, indeed, I'd be
interested to play more.


At Wit's End Again
by Mike Sousa
TADS)

YESSS! You're trapped in a burning ambulance, a falling plane. You're
having a nightmare. No you're not. Yes you are. You're in a falling
elevator! This one's nonstop action. I've been to Niagara Falls a few
times and rode the Maid of the Mist to the base of the falls. When the
boat makes its closest approach the engines are shut down and your
guide intones - "Ladies and gentleman. This is Niagara Falls." All I
can say about this game is - "Ladies and gentleman. This is an intro."


Virus
by Philip Dearmore
(TADS)

This one's a conundrum. The opening sequence, set during a bleak
winter's day in the depths of an ice age is brilliantly atmospheric
and detailed. Check out the way the scenery changes as snow moves in.
You can see what's coming before your player character does, but that
just adds to the tension. My problem with this is that I can imagine
it going somehwere as a novel, but not as a game. I'm not sure how you
would play the story that seems likely to unfold. But based on the
quality of the writing I'm guessing the author has something in mind I
haven't thought about.


The Waterhouse Women
by Jacqueline Lott
(Inform)

You begin by contemplating a painting by a favorite of mine, the
Pre-Raphaelite artist Waterhouse. This is finely wrought but
describing visual art works verbally is a difficult task and this was
all a little too static to engage me very strongly. There is one
action you have to perform to get the intro going - which happens to
be an action you would definitely not perform in reality. To get
around this, I suppose, the author, almost literally, hands you a hint
but I feel a more gentle nudge would have been in order first. Maybe
there was one that I missed. I would take a look at the finished game
because of the general quality of the intro, however, in hopes that it
would become a bit livelier later.

Genie
by Stark Springs
(Glulx)

I have to admit I don't want to play a genie who has to walk to the
neighborhood liquor store to grant his Master's wish for a drink. I
guess that should be funny but somehow it wasn't. Anyway, you can't
really have a genie as your player character and not implement "grant
wish." Or so I would have thought.


Hey, Jingo!
by Caleb Wilson
(Glulx)

The year's 1942, the location a tropical colonial outpost. You, a
ministery agent, are sent on a simple mission, to steal a carved mask
from the office of, one assumes, the native despot. Easy enough, but
maybe the comic books in the office should've tipped you off that this
is going to a bit more off the wall than it might first appear. A most
unappetizing horror - one your superior seems to know about - is
waiting to greet you when you return to the ministry. This flowed
beautifully, while giving the illusion (or was it an illusion?) that I
was calling the shots. Surely, if I had been there would've been a lot
less flow and a lot more pointless wandering. A very enticing
beginning.


Madrigals of War and Love
by Jason Dyer
(Hugo)

This one hooked me by the end of the first sentence and the author
just kept rolling. Rather than action, you have mostly conversation
menus -- but the conversation hints at so many delicious possibilites
for farce, mayhem and general hijinks -- how can you not want to know
what comes next? Not to mention what appear to be a case of very
eccentric characters sporting upper-class-twit type monikers. Bloody
good show!


Seems like I about broke even with my desire to play these. They
reminded me that there are many ways to "hook" readers/players.
There's always the action that pulls the player in, but also just
hinting at a wealth of interesting ideas, mysteries to be solved, or
presenting appealing characters, can do the trick. And as the IF
Archive keeps filling up with games, the intros might become more and
more important to authors who want their games not just downloaded but
played.

--
Eric Mayer
Web Site: <http://home.epix.net/~maywrite>

"The map is not the territory." -- Alfred Korzybski

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