TB's reviews, part II (2/3)

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Tony Baechler

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Nov 17, 2000, 10:25:13 PM11/17/00
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TADS: Kaged (8)

This game was excellent. I really liked it and was very impressed.
If at all possible, I _STRONGLY_ recommend using the HTML TADS
interpreter to enjoy the outstanding music. If you are blind or
otherwise do not want to be bothered by graphics, the Windows
interpreter still works well with speech and graphics can be turned
off. This is the best game I have encountered thus far and I hope it
gets first or second place. Of all the games I have played this year,
I would recommend this one the most.

Ian knows exactly how to use music and writing to create a perfect
atmosphere. He can tell a chilling story without prophanity. I point
this out for those who insist on writing adult games. I liked
"Photopia" but it would have lost a point because of the unnecessary
language in the first scene. Anyway, Ian mixes just a pinch of horror
with a little comedy (old woman) and a lot of paranoia for a perfect
recipe. He has mastered the art of fear and time limited puzzles. In
corresponding with him, he confesses to being a bad programmer. That
may be, but his writing certainly makes up for it.

The music got a 9 out of 10. The only reason for not getting a 10 is
because of it's repetitive nature. Do not misunderstand, the music
itself must be experienced to get the full effect of the story, and an
element is missing without it. However, it only adds to it, and is
not absolutely necessary. I was impressed by his use of multimedia.
I noticed that the music was a little flat or muffled, but I did not
knock points off. It is possible this could be a TADS issue. I
certainly hope he includes more great music like this.

You are probably wondering why, if the game is so wonderful, it only
got an 8 rating. The reason, in part, has to do with the hints.
Although the hints are very good, they are not built-in. For a game
of this size and complexity, built-in hints are a must. I got really
tired of flipping back and forth from Notepad. Also, while the hints
were excellent, the walkthrough was minimal. It would have almost
been better to not include it, which might have helped the rating.
The other reason why it got lowered was the originality. I really
enjoyed playing it and experiencing the writing, but it reminded me
too much of recent games. To reveal more could possibly spoil it.
Again, do not misunderstand, there is a lot of original content here
which should not be missed or looked over. Especially try talking to
anyone whenever you can. This helps add background.

My only serious complaint to the author would be to PLEASE include
built-in hints in the future. I already wrote to him about this. I
realize that TADS does not do this as well as Inform, because there is
not a good menu system for it. However, even an adaptive hint system
would help. Also, although others may object, I do not mind big games
like this and I would like to see more of them.


AGT: void (1)

I could not complete this game and was only able to see the first
three rooms. The walkthrough did not help and only got me killed
every time. The writing was good though. I would suggest to the
author to use a different game writing system and check his
walkthrough for errors. Also try beta testing thoroughly.


Inform: amnos (3)

I did not complete this game. I think there was at least one serious
bug, not being able to eat the powder as described by the hints.
Also, this game was very unoriginal and could have came from Infocom
except that it was not polished. The author does not seem to have
used beta testers, or if he did they were not used enough. A lot of
the room and hallway directions were confusing. The elevator did not
work correctly, requiring me to hit the "four" button twice to work.
This game came with no walkthrough and the hint system had a similar
bug to Dinner, in that quitting one menu would launch me into hints
for another section of the game which I might not have visited yet.

I would have enjoyed this game a lot more if the above problems would
not have been present. I would advise all authors, especially this
one, to please beta test their games first. If it would have been
fixed, I am sure the rating would have been at least a 5. Oh well.


TADS: ttl (5)

I was not really sure how to rate this game. I gave the writing an 8,
enjoyment a 4, originality a 6 and the parser a 4. Averaged, this
gave a score of 5 as listed above. Because of the TADS and Inform
parsers being so advanced, I usually do not rate them, however I made
an exception for this game. I found that sometimes it had a problem
understanding me, and ordinary commands like "score" worked and gave
the default responses. Since so much of this game revolves around the
parser, this caused it to lose a point in this category. Another
problem was it's originality. Yes, this has been done before in
"Space Under The Window," by Andrew Plotkin. True, TTL advances this
concept, but still it is not really original. I still gave it a 6
though because this concept is still fairly new to IF.

The writing really shines in this game, which is why it got a high
score. There were no spelling errors at all. I am sure I would have
rated the writing higher except it really did not convey the
atmosphere the author was intending. Although I really tried to get
into this game, I felt a little like I was fighting it since I had to
guess the right word to use to move the story along. In one case, I
had to repeat a word which I had already tried. I was about to give
up until I happened to stumble on the right combination. This is also
why enjoyment was dropped to a 4. I was originally going to give it a
3, but I liked the concept and was starting to enjoy the story
experience when it suddenly ended. If nothing else, I would recommend
playing this for the writing. It can easily be completed in 15-20
minutes or less and is not a bad play.

Here are my comments to the author. I would like to see a greatly
expanded version of this. This is a fine start but needs more. The
writing was excellent. However, I felt the author was trying too hard
with one of the paths to convince the player to like the game. Also I
thought there was some unnecessary ambiguity in some spots, trying to
guess the words to use. I cannot say more without spoilers.


Inform: Transfer (5)
This was a very average game. Without revealing too much of the
story, it had to do with a mad scientist. I did not really dislike
this game, but I did not really enjoy it either. The writing did have
a few small spelling errors which knocked it down a point, but was
mostly very average. The parser also lost a point, not because of a
lack of synonyms but a lack of pronouns. For example, I examine and
push a gurney. I try "push it n" and I get a message about not being
able to move the machine. I just had to type full object names. As
you probably guessed, this was not very original either, having been
done numerous times before. However, it had a twist to the hints and
was not a bad play.

My suggestion to this and any other author who wants to use a hint
system like this is to forget it. First, I turned on free hints as my
first move. Second, all I would have to do is restore a previous
game, get my hints, and go back to my current position and it would
not bother my score. Finally, I ended up using a walkthrough which
did not cost anything. Also, I found his hints too vague and
confusing. Part of the reason for using the walkthrough is that I
wasted a lot of time trying to figure out what I was supposed to do.

I had a problem with the timing puzzles as well. I wish it would have
been clearer that I had a time limit, as I had to replay a few scenes
over multiple times to get the timing correct. In one case, I had to
rely on what I had learned earlier to solve the puzzle, requiring
future knowledge of the game. I much prefer a good story to good
puzzles, so this did not help my enjoyment factor.


Inform: prodly (5)

This is another very average game. I did not really enjoy it, but I
did not dislike it either. It was cute in it's own way, and it was
obvious that it was based on a cartoon. There were some basic
spelling errors and the writing was uneven in spots which is why it
lost a point for writing. It's originality got a 6 because games of
this type have been done before, but it was still unique in it's own
way. The hints were also average, not good or bad. There was only
one area which was vague. The only thing I can suggest to the author
is improve the writing and maybe add a little more to the story.
Sorry for making this review so short, but I really do not have much
to comment on except that this game is very average.


Inform: adverbum (9)

As you can tell from the above rating, I really enjoyed this game. I
thought it was much better than Nick's previous efforts. I really
like language and word puzzles. While "Letters," got close to this,
it did not do as good a job. The parser was exceptional, supporting
most word combinations I tried. The writing was excellent, with only
a couple small errors. The reason why it lost a point was because of
those errors and unnecessary prophanity. While it was not totally
original, it was certainly a refreshing change and was very different
from the Infocom title it was modeled after. The hints were very good
but did not always give an exact or full solution as they should
have. This however was an outstanding game and I hope to see a lot
more from this author. I wonder what his next offering will be.


TADS: uux (6)

As someone wrote in one of their reviews, (I am sorry, I do not
remember who) sometimes you want a snack and sometimes you want a
meal. "Kaged," is definitely a meal, adverbum is a snack, etc. UUX
is more of a light meal. It is definitely bigger than a snack but not
as full and heavy as "Kaged," and the like. It is very true to the
style of previous Unnkulia games, and could have easily been written
by someone from Adventions in disguise. While I am not a real fan of
the UU series, I did not mind it and some parts were enjoyable. The
writing was good and even, however I could see some problems towards
the endgame. I had a couple of fights with the parser because
synonyms were not supported as they should have been and some objects
which could be acted on did not seem to exist when examined. Also,
there was a bug right before the endgame, but this was after two hours
so the rating was not effected. Probably if I would have just
followed the walkthrough I could have finished it in time.

My only serious complaint was the hidden prophanity in product
descriptions. Yes, this is part of the UU series, but it was a bit
much even for that. There was nothing really offensive about it, but
I can understand the warning about mature readers. I wish more
authors would realize that "adult" games are really not necessary for
a good score and really do not add much enjoyment. Also, there were
no hints at all, but this is also common for the UU games except
"Legend." The other factor which hurt this game is a lack of
originality. This could have just as easily been UU1 or UU2 with
almost no difference. It has a very rich environment which was a nice
touch, and a lot is to be gained from looking at everything.
Expanding the body of established works seems to be one of the themes
this year, with another game involving Zork. I guess my only
suggestion to the author would be to fix the serious bug and perhaps
not use as much unnecessary swearing. Also, I like the author's
writing style so I would like to see a new work not based on anything.


Inform: guess (5)

This is another snack-sized game, like most of the competition games
usually are. Not bad, but nothing special here either. One feature
of this game is that you can pick how much of a snack you want. There
are five verbs, and a miniature game that goes along with each of
them. I personally liked "undo" the best, although it is, by the
author's own admission, a little misleading. This by itself would
make a good game. I thought "fasten" was just a little too contrived,
and thrown in for good measure. I waited for the dwarf to give up,
but he never did, at least for me. Considering the puzzle and verb
involved, I see no reason why "tie" should not have worked. I finally
gave up because it seemed like there was a bug.

The writing was fair/good. It did not have any serious problems or
spelling errors, but did not totally convey the atmosphere either.
Also, part of the fun of each verb was taken away by that verb showing
up on the status line. Finally, probably what ruined the writing more
than anything was the frequent appearances by the game author. First
when exploring the circus, then in "reconfigure." It finally got to
be a bit too much. The dialog in "reconfigure" was not random enough,
with too many repeated responses. Although it had a built-in
walkthrough, it had no hint system which I thought was a little odd
considering the menu layout. Even when following the walkthrough, I
still could not complete "fasten."

This is something I would not normally do in reviews, but here is one
amusing thing to try. Try "score" in every section of the game. Even
following the walkthrough, "fasten" did not work for me, so have a
saved game ready. There is a certain, seemingly random object you
need to get from each area. Grab everything in true IF fashion.
"Scrutinize" has a time limit. Remember when looking at the status
line that these games are not complete. Here is one last amusing
item. Try "X ME" in all five sections as well as the beginning.

I would suggest to the author to not be as forceful in directing the
player. Give the player more freedom and let them wander around
more. Also, do not put the name of the verb on the status line. Put
in some sort of hints. Fix the "fasten" bug or make it more obvious.
Finally, allow normal commands like "restore" on the first move. I
got tired of typing my sex and name every time. While you are at it,
allow "b" and "g" for abbreviations. For that matter, you could even
expand to allow "m" for male and "f" for female.


Hugo: scourge (1)

Be warned! This game contains an extreme amount of prophanity and is
definitely for adults only. I am offended by this type of game, so it
got an immediate 1 rating from me. Nope, I did not finish it. Yep, I
just read the transcript which the author is calling a walkthrough.
Too bad, because I have really wanted to see this type of game in IF
for a very long time. Oh well. Hey, Rob, why not try writing a
normal game that is not so offensive next time?


TADS: clock (5)

This is another light snack. It is also not particularly outstanding
in any way. It is not good or bad, and the writing is adequate.
There are some annoyances but no serious bugs or problems. The
walkthrough did a good job but left it up to the player to do a lot of
looking around. One nice feature was that the "x all" command
worked. Authors, please do not disable this. It can provide clues
sometimes and certainly does not hurt the game.

Most of the problems were in the writing. There is a cat in the game,
but the word "cat" is not recognized. Also, the score and rank are
always in the past tense, as though the game is over. You may only
ask each NPC about one or two objects, and most of them are not
obvious. Some actions described in the walkthrough did not make sense
to me, and did not appear to affect the story or score.

My advice to the author is this. Fix the bug with getting messages
about the cat in the dream. Give the NPCs more things to talk about.
Make some things like the make-up, screw and sausage clearer. Change
"were" to "are" in the score. Provide some different text when
studying the books besides most of them not being important. Fix the
bug that happens when asking about the sausage.


Inform: asendent (3)

I got the idea of the game from the beginning. Judging by the opening
quotes, the authors were purposely trying to write the way they did.
I guess they were trying to get a message across but I am not really
sure what. Maybe it is to stay away from drugs. Anyway, do not
bother trying to find the blue raspberry because it is not there. I
see no problem with spoilers since the debug flag is on. Doing a
"tree" reveals only a few objects, and it looks like the game was not
finished. I guess the only "ending" you can get is entering the bored
room. Not satisfying, but there does not seem to be much else to do.
Oh, there might be offensive content here because you have to seduce
the receptionist to get the key.


This is the end of part 2. If you are missing parts, you may get all
of them for a limited time from:

ftp://baechler.net/rev.zip


Robb Sherwin

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Nov 18, 2000, 2:16:11 AM11/18/00
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On Sat, 18 Nov 2000 03:25:13 GMT, "Tony Baechler"
<tony@baechler.<nospam>net> wrote:
>Hugo: scourge (1)
>Be warned! This game contains an extreme amount of prophanity and is
>definitely for adults only. I am offended by this type of game, so it
>got an immediate 1 rating from me. Nope, I did not finish it.

Oy. Well... be sure to grab a helmet before starting 'Rameses,' bud.

> Hey, Rob, why not try writing a normal game that is not so
>offensive next time?

That's two "b"s, dammit! =)

>This is the end of my reviews for this year. If I have offended
>anyone, sorry. Also, I would probably be considered hypersensitive by
>some because of my very low opinion of prophanity. However, as the
>voting results indicate, "Kaged" did very well this year but had no
>prophanity that I encountered.

Yeah, but that's an invalid argument-- unless there are people out
there also giving 10s solely *because* a game has a few blue words.


Robb

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Robb Sherwin, Fort Collins CO
Reviews From Trotting Krips: http://ifiction.tsx.org
Knight Orc Home Page: www.geocities.com/~knightorc

Joe Mason

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Nov 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/18/00
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In article <tEmR5.1032$Cg.6...@news1.rdc1.sdca.home.com>, Tony Baechler wrote:
>see no problem with spoilers since the debug flag is on. Doing a
>"tree" reveals only a few objects, and it looks like the game was not
>finished. I guess the only "ending" you can get is entering the bored
>room. Not satisfying, but there does not seem to be much else to do.
>Oh, there might be offensive content here because you have to seduce
>the receptionist to get the key.

Well, no, the Blue Raspberry doesn't exist as an object - it's only described
in the ending text. But it is possible to finish the game - there's something
you missed in the boardroom (an exit, to be precise).

Joe

Craxton

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Nov 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/18/00
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> Hugo: scourge (1)
>
> Be warned! This game contains an extreme amount of prophanity and is
> definitely for adults only. I am offended by this type of game, so it
> got an immediate 1 rating from me. Nope, I did not finish it. Yep, I
> just read the transcript which the author is calling a walkthrough.
> Too bad, because I have really wanted to see this type of game in IF
> for a very long time. Oh well. Hey, Rob, why not try writing a
> normal game that is not so offensive next time?
>

That's "profanity."

And frankly, I don't think that giving a game a 1 because it disgusted you
so much you didn't finish it is a good idea... It could very well be that
it's a good game to which you had an aversion. The same thing happened to me
with "Got ID?". After wandering around a little, I was so flunking disgusted
that I couldn't play anymore. I wanted to give it a , but instead I decided,
I hadn't gotten the full experience of the game in fifteen minutes, so I
couldn't really judge it. So I didn't file a vote.

As for a "normal game", that doesn't seem to be Robb's style...

-Craxton

OKB

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Nov 18, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/18/00
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"Craxton" cra...@erols.com wrote:
>As for a "normal game", that doesn't seem to be Robb's style...

Thank the Dude for that. Normalcy is overrated. :-)

--OKB (Bren...@aol.com)

"Do not follow where the path may lead;
go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail."
--Author Unknown

Kaia Vintr

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Nov 18, 2000, 7:11:01 PM11/18/00
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> Be warned! This game contains an extreme amount of prophanity and is
> definitely for adults only. I am offended by this type of game, so it
> got an immediate 1 rating from me.

The reviewer should note that in many of the other games the characters
were frequently thinking dirty thoughts. The authors just neglected to
mention it.

Kaia

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