Not quite COMP 97, but still reviews

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Roger Burton West

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Jan 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/5/98
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I subscribed to this group - having just got back into IF after a couple
of years - just in time to see that Comp97 had closed. Then I found out
what Comp97 was. Oh well. :(

But, based on the reviews I've seen so far, I downloaded some of the
games; and I figured I might as well talk about them here. I should say
that I play mostly for the narrative, and puzzles aren't really of much
interest to me, except as they're relevant to the story.

I've also been playing some non-competition games recently. What's the
newsgroup policy on very belated reviews?

In this post, I'll be talking about:
Babel
VirtuaTech
Glowgrass

Caution: many spoilers ahead.

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Babel

Well. Everyone seemed to think the writing was pretty good, and I have
to grant it was atmospheric, particularly in the outdoor scene. Seemed
rather cliched at times, though; the characters never really seemed to
develop beyond stereotypes. The Mirror Scene was predictable - by then,
there was no-one else you could be - and the final "revelation" was in
keeping with the grim tone.

Just from a narrative point of view, why does he even bother to get away
after that? What does he have to live for? His whole worldview's been
turned upside down. I'd even think that just leaving him stranded in the
waste might have been better... I don't know. I prefer vaguely up-beat
endings; and the ending was very abrupt. I'd have liked, for example, a
sequence of trying to convince Alexis that you were sane...

The puzzles themselves were mostly reasonable. When I see something
described as "a battery", I tend to think of a dry-cell, but this may
just be a blind spot for me. At least I knew, by the time I got to the
cabinet, that I shouldn't have to look for a key. The lighting puzzles
were few and reasonable; the inventory limit seemed a bit pointless, but
not low enough to be annoying. The low-power warnings... well. I don't
like "move limit" puzzles; suggesting that there is one in place isn't
very pleasant. On the other hand, it does generate a sense of urgency.
The exit combination; well, I'd already looked up "Babel" in the bible
just because I expected to find something, but I didn't think the
linkage was obvious. (And why does "search junk" not produce a useful
result in Brett's room, when "examine junk" does?)

Still. For coding and puzzles, pretty good; for atmosphere, good; for
story, I have to say, poor. Somehow, it didn't work for me; it was a
fine technical piece, but the soul didn't feel right. If I'd been
voting, I'd have given it a 6: "Consider collaborating with another
author".


VirtuaTech

Um. I'd expected to enjoy this; I usually prefer SF to fantasy settings,
and the possibilities seemed good. But I kept falling over coding and
scope problems: you can "enter" the VR suit but not "leave" it; you
can't plug the scanner into the phone if you're holding it, but you can
if it's on the desk; to leave the phone interface, you're told to say
"actual", but 'say "actual"' doesn't work; only "actual" does.

And most of the puzzles shouldn't have been puzzles for the character.
You mean I don't know my own phone number? Or how to deal with a problem
in my computer?

Minor niggles: the full description, including background, is given
every time I enter the apartment, including from virtual space. More
things should be takeable. The wiring code is doubtless very nice and
fun to write, but the "which isn't connected to anything" at the end
isn't necessary for non-wire items. The bug in the computer is still
present in the description after it's been fixed.

As for narrative: what narrative? Nice ideas in the scene-setting about
the world, but we never get to see anything of them. The Floydian NPC
doesn't seem to know much of anything, and some fairly obvious words
aren't in its, or the game's, vocabulary.

Oh well. Rating 4: "Initial promise not fulfilled". And I block all mail
from Hotmail addresses automatically, so I shan't be able to discuss
this with the author.


Glowgrass

Now, that's more like it! Solid SF scene-setting. Mechanical puzzles;
they make sense, mostly, though I'm not entirely convinced by the
power-cell interface. "Sitting on" the sculpture rather than entering it
took some thinking about (I confess, I was expecting the power cell to
threaten to run down). "Throw frisbee at glint" doesn't work, but "throw
frisbee" does (and hits the glint). Too many of the items have similar
names, needing disambiguation. A bit of guess-the-noun when trying to
calm down Marie, and I didn't realise that the water vat was supposed to
be movable, but maybe those are just my blind spots.

But narrative: Yes! Good background history, nice touches like the
labels on the shower-head and water vat. Even with just nine locations,
it manages to feel rich in background. (Maybe some windows might have
been a nice touch? :) Marie's diary and its consequences were superb.
I'd like to see more of this; an explanation for the green scratch in
the ending, for example. But at least the ending's happy, without being
saccharine; a welcome relief, after Babel.

I do very much hope that Nate carries on with this. Rating 9:
"Excellent".


Best,

Roger

--
/~~\_/~\ BEWARE ,,, |~) _ _ _ _ |~) __|_ _ _ \ / _ __|_
| #=#======of==# | |~\(_)(_|(/_| |_)|_|| | (_)| | \/\/ (/__\ |
\__/~\_/ FILKER ``` _| ro...@firedrake.demon.co.uk
Vote Chris Bell for TAFF in 1998 http://www.firedrake.demon.co.uk/


Andrew Plotkin

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Jan 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/5/98
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Roger Burton West (ro...@firedrake.avertspam.demon.co.uk) wrote:
> I've also been playing some non-competition games recently. What's the
> newsgroup policy on very belated reviews?

We're all for 'em. One person was posting reviews of Zork 1, 2, and 3 a
few months ago, and there's only one way to get more belated than that. :)

--Z

--

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the
borogoves..."

Christine Simoes Tilden

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Jan 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/5/98
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On Mon, 05 Jan 98 15:00:19 GMT, Roger Burton West
<ro...@firedrake.avertspam.demon.co.uk> wrote:

>VirtuaTech


>
>>
>And most of the puzzles shouldn't have been puzzles for the character.
>You mean I don't know my own phone number? Or how to deal with a problem
>in my computer?

Great comment. I meant to include this in my review but I forgot to
write it down in my notes. Frankly by this point, I was getting a bit
tired of writing notes!

Christine Tilden

Magnus Olsson

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Jan 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/7/98
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In article <erkyrathE...@netcom.com>,

Andrew Plotkin <erky...@netcom.com> wrote:
>Roger Burton West (ro...@firedrake.avertspam.demon.co.uk) wrote:
>> I've also been playing some non-competition games recently. What's the
>> newsgroup policy on very belated reviews?
>
>We're all for 'em. One person was posting reviews of Zork 1, 2, and 3 a
>few months ago, and there's only one way to get more belated than that. :)

You might also consider submitting reviews to SPAG, an e-zine devoted
entirely to reviews of text adventures. See
ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/magazines/SPAG for details.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se, zeb...@pobox.com)
------ http://www.pobox.com/~zebulon ------
Not officially connected to LU or LTH.

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