I have a few ideas on how things should be done, and some games really
rubbed me the wrong way. Sometimes it was just that they didn't really
work as competition entries and sometimes I just hated what they
did. My ratings reflect my personal idiosyncratic taste. I primarily
played z-code games, and other easy to use platforms. I have a BSD unix
machine as my workhorse and don't use Windows. Write portable code at
all times, IF or not.
The big hangups:
1. Please take a moment to decide if you want to write novel or a
2. Please give me a reason to play, don't dump me in a wasteland.
I think it's sad that so many have commented on the games in their
blogs, spreading the reviews all over the blogosphere. It means I have
to watch a dozen blog in order to comment and read what others thought
and that's not going to happen. Well. I came in late, so maybe I'll just
have to live with it. Maybe nobody reads these things anyway.
Let's get on with some notes on the games, and my ratings.
OK, this is obviously an interesting concept, with two storylines. I
poke at things, wonder around and the game flows fairly well. A lot of
times there are silly errors to common actions and the game look very
rough but I keep on. Then I get stuck in a cave and the thing I must
do is obvious, but the game wont accept any of my phrases. Is there a
bug? Am I wrong? There is no help or hints so I quit. I would have
given this gave a 6 if it wasn't for the lack of help and
walkthrough. This game gets a 4.
OK, I start the game and after some prodding I get going. I start to
manipulate things and walk around. Soon I realize that you can die
just by entering the wrong room and when conversing with a soul I rack
up point in an unlimited fashion. Sorry, this game just isn't finished
it totally broken and unfair. This game gets a 2.
The Chinese Room
This is interesting. Just like So Far you start in a room, and have to
get out. It's soon obvious that this is not a game like anything
else. I read some of the infodumps and while there is a bit too much
to digest it's all very witty and the game and the philosophical
dilemmas actually work together! I talk to people, chuckle a lot and
even if you have to think a bit there's a delightful pump to use for
inspiration and I suddenly realize that my two hours is up! This game
is original and inventive, fun and quite polished. The only problem
was that there were spelling errors so frequent that even I
noticed. This game gets a 8, and is bordering on nine.
OK, innovative interface, and it actually work quite well. Now, what
am I doing again? After a short while the novelty wears off and I get
annoyed by the fact that if you don't use the new fancy interface the
steps to complete a simple action is tedious. This game tried to damn
hard to be a simulation and a realistic window in to a alternate
reality, with to much damn text as a result. I get bored and when I
enter a room and get to read a long piece of dialogue that "I" just
said (no I didn't!) I get fed up. Now that you have your interface
done, try to write a game that's to the point and well paced! Solid
but not interesting. Technically it's a feat, and very pretty, but
falls into the "write a novel" trap. This game gets a 5.
Across The Stars
This game started well, with a moody and well described space ship. I
at once managed to do what I wanted and even though it might best be
described as dungeon in space I really liked it. It wont win prices
for originality, but it has something else - a clarity of vision. This
is an old school treasure hunt in space. This game get a nostalgic 10.
Fox, Fowl and Feed
One classic logical puzzle, but now with extra annoyances it really
didn't need. I thought a bit and when I had it figured out the extra
garnishing started to show, and it was just cumbersome. I kept sloggin
on though until I realized that I had torn open the sack while it was
sitting in the boat, and since you can only have one thing in the boat
at the time I had rendered the game unwinnable. It wouldn't had been
so bad if it wasn't for the fact that you're only aware of the fact
that you're in the boat if you try to move! No cookie. This was just
irritating. This game gets a 4.
An Act of Murder
Ok, murder mystery. I like that. When I enter the house Deborah opens
the door and I enter and gets a tour of the house. Then I start
investigating. When I start to ask questions some daft person
interrups me and suddenly leads me on a wild goose chase to show where
he found the body. OK, this is still part of the introduction but it's
"interactive", I get it. I follow him around and when he has shown me
what he has to show I do another try to start investigating and try to
ask him about the body. This makes him say "Poor chap" and leave. WTF!
Write a damn novel. This game gets a 2.
Lord Bellwater's Secret
This is interesting as everything seems to happen in one room. I
quickly realize I have Victorian murder mystery at hand, and the
silent and empty room gives a nice feeling for a nightly breaking and
entering game. The safe took me forever to open since there are dozens
of dates on newspapers, diaries and other scraps of paper and I don't
get very far in my investigating before the two hours have
passed. It's polished and to the point. I really liked it. This game
gets a 8.
Beneath: A Transformation
There is no clear indication to what to do so I wandered around and
after witnessing a murder I found myself in a dark cell. After trying
a while to actually do something I just quit. This game is totally
lacking a purpose. This game gets a 1.
This seems to be some sort of meta-fiction judging from the
intro. After a while I realize that the whole game, and the "ABOUT"
info is written in a prose so overwroth and purplish I just can't
stand it. The fact that the only NPC present doesn't seem to speak
makes this one of the most dense and unplayable game in the bunch.
If you're this experimental, make sure you actually still have a
game. This game gets a 1.
My Name is Jack Mills
A Noir mystery! With voice over! I'm in love. I walk on rainsoaked
streets, I stalk a husband cheating on his wife and she is one hot
dame. I'm in over my head and I feel like I'm in heaven. Then it's
over! It has multiple endings, style and a *total* clarity of vision
so the only thing that don't gets this game a very solid ten is that
when you're in the car with Violet the game doesn't seem to understand
that I agree to her deal unless it's the very first thing I type. What
a sorry bug. This game gets a 9, and really deserved a ten.
Fun! As everything is described from the viewpoint of a quite
unsophistic orc gave it a very special and funny view of the
world. The amount of questions that could be asked of the alchemist
was a bit tedious and almost drowned those questions that gave out
hints or needed information. Cute game, though. I liked the fact that
it had a nice way of wrapping up the story. Well polished game. It's
bug free, and has its very own voice. This is a total winner! This
game gets a 10!
Eduard the Seminarist
Dull writing and it's not obvious after wandering around what the heck
this is supposed to be about. It gives me no reason to continue so I
quit. This game gets a 1.
A Matter of Importance
I have played games before when you play a thief, but this was the
hardest of them all. It's a very sparse game, and if you get stuck in
one point there is nowhere to go until it's resolved. It's very
clever, though, and well written so I kept trying and the hints and
notes was well done. Well done. This game gets a 7.
Slap That Fish
Fighting fish? A "arena fighting" piece of IF? Nice to be first, I
guessed. It became boring after a minute, though. This is just
dull. This game gets a 2.
A Fine Day For Reaping
OK. Humour. Personally I have never really liked humour adventures,
not even LGoP which everyone seemed to be so enthusiastic about all
those years ago. In this game I found it a bit contrived and sometimes
just annoying. The thing that really did this game in, though, was the
enormous anount of text that appeared when travelling to new spots and
the parser which had limitations. One thing was fun though, when I by
mistake let my fingers type what they most often type (ls) I got the
respone "This isn't Unix you know!" and that was fun. This game is a
solid effort and should get an ok grade even though it wasn't my
cuppa. This game gets a 5.
In The Mind Of The Master
Everything is in the past tense! Odd. The goal of this game is to
find out what is going on. After dying twice I was none the wiser and
quit. It was fun to play, though, and the setting was atmospheric. I
usually hate games where I feel railroaded and lost but this game
somehow gave me pleasure through the small fragments of clues to the
mystery. To bad it was a small bit to dense. This game is solid and it
gets a 5.
My Mind's Mishmash
You're in some kind of futuristic setting and everything is written as
if you already know everything, which you as the player don't. When it
actually say "having seen this before you ..." I feel the author don't
help me get into the setting and being locked in a room with no
obvious exits I quit. This game gets a 2.
This is a neat little DOS game, and with source code supplied we can
see it's written in Basic. While impressive and cool, it does give the
game a far more sparse parser than it would have had if using a IF
writing tool or language. Thus it looks like a game from the days or
yore, and you have your lantern, sword and go out to fight an evil
wizard. After getting killed twice by the Hellhound I wished the
author had included some hints on the relative danger of the monsters
encountered. It does its work well, but could have been even better as
a retro trip if it had had a more forgiving environment. I had fun and
for some reason I can't help myself and actuallt restarted the game a
few times. Why do I enjoy this game that has so many technical
limitations? I don't know. This game gets a 6!
Ghost of The Fireflies
This must be one of the more odd settings for a game in a long
time. The home-grown user interface is very impressive and worked
quite well. I do think the author should try to keep the intro shorter
and use the work "rotting" a bit less, but it's not that much worse
than more modern looking games in Inform and TADS. This game gets a
This is some kind of fantasy game, and already in the first scene
there are people with funny names and things that happens which you
Even though you have a mission it seems you can get points for just
walking around, which I did, exploring the world. I never really
understood how to get on with my quest but since it was about books I
went to the library. There I talked a bit with a librarian and after
"TALK TO LIBRARIAN" a few times I had gotten a long screenful of text
and a mission to go outside and talk to the man sitting outside. When
I did that I got another dump of fantasy prose and I was fed up by odd
spelled names. The author should probably write a novel instead. I
think it's unfocused. This game gets a 4.
Like Suspended this is all about sitting still and manipulating
things. I found it kind of boring and while it's well developed and
has some hints I couldn't get very interested in it.
Doing things in the right order by pressing buttons seems to much like
toys for children when they should try to fit a square piece in a
square hole. Kind of banal. This game gets a 5 since it has no obvious
Press [Escape] to Save
Another one of them games where you have to press "z" in order to see
what happens. Write a damn novel! It's supposed to be "interactive"
fiction! *sigh* This game gets a 3.
A: Because it fouls the order in which people normally read text.
Q: Why is top-posting such a bad thing?
Q: What is the most annoying thing on usenet and in e-mail?
There's actually quite a bit more to it. There's a really clever
optimization puzzle that spans the entire game, but it's hiding behind what
*appears* to just be humdrum RPG combat.
I think I liked this one a lot more than most others did.
The big problem with this game is that it's just doing things over and
over again for a few fights before the optimization even becomes
evident. I think it suffered by being to obscure. I absolutely hate when
games don't give me something meaningful to do, and this game didn't
work at all. It doesn't seem to have any obvious problems with bugs or
suchlike so if I wasn't as bored and rushed to play all the games in the
competition I might have raised the score a bit.
I considered writing this much about every game I played, by the way,
but it took longer than I thought so I might expand a bit if anyone else
starts a discussion.
As a past competition author, I can tell you that reading people's
reviews was one of the biggest rewards of writing a game. So, yes, you
can rest assured that people actually do read these things.
Ok, then I might continue. I just hope I don't offend anyone. Some games
really rubbed me the wrong way and I just feel it's easier to just say
what I felt. I intended to only write constructive criticism but it way
harder than I thought. I must write a game of my own so there's
something to complain about for the poor bastards whose work I complain
I didn't get much out of Slap That Fish on a first run-through, but I
did like it a bit better on a replay. For me the issues with the game
were twofold. The first was I didn't actually realize there were other
standard commands besides SLAP. On a replay I noted that KILL or
ATTACK will give an error message letting you know you can use PUNCH,
KICK, and BACKHAND as well, but I didn't run into this on my first
play, so I was pretty much just slapping. Until I got to the later
parts of the game where other commands were required, but I basically
figured those were special commands for that puzzle, not general
The other issue is that there's no reason to optimize. Yeah, you get
points, but (at least for me) this is a pretty weak motivator*. There's
no additional text for efficient play and no impedance of progress for
inefficient play, so I didn't feel any great need to do anything other
than the most basic attack over and over again until I won each
combat, until this became impossible, at which time I started hitting
*Note that even in games with a LLP, the motivator (at least for me)
is not so much getting the extra point, as it is finding the hidden
content or funny message or whatever that the point symbolizes.
So (for me) a more effective design would have been one where you had
a couple commands that were explicitly taught at the beginning of the
game, and gradually working up to more complex combinations and
special attacks (like with the mop, for instance). Then I'd have some
kind of 'overall health' which is slowly ground down by the fishes'
attacks and isn't replenished, or is only very slowly replenished, in
addition to the per-fight exhaustion timer.
This'd provide motivation to finish fights more efficiently, and would
require you be able to hit a certain degree of efficiency to progress
past a certain level in the game (since you'd run out of overall
health if you aren't skillful enough). This would also fix the issue
that (IIRC) the fish never actually do anything to you, they just
print out occasional "rar, I'm attacking" messages which you quickly
realize are meaningless. With a health counter to grind down I think
they'd feel more like active opponents instead of static puzzles.
Dan Shiovitz :: d...@cs.wisc.edu :: http://www.drizzle.com/~dans
"He settled down to dictate a letter to the Consolidated Nailfile and
Eyebrow Tweezer Corporation of Scranton, Pa., which would make them
realize that life is stern and earnest and Nailfile and Eyebrow Tweezer
Corporations are not put in this world for pleasure alone." -PGW
Thanks for all your comments. I'm working on the post-comp release,
which will resolve none of these issues, but will at least not have a
few of those errors that slipped through betta testing. Clearly, my
betta was out to get me. I'm buying another and putting it in the same
> So (for me) a more effective design would have been one where you had
> a couple commands that were explicitly taught at the beginning of the
This is almost certainly true, but I was implementing based on my
memory of arcade fighting games like Street Fighter, in which you've
got a kick button, and a punch button, and a joystick, and not a lick
of instruction to tell you there is anything special you can do with
As an aside, in my head I was picturing a game, maybe on the Commodore
64, with a bright red brick background and fighting guys in front of
it. Screenshots of STREET FIGHTER on the web don't quite look like
that, though. So now I have no idea what game I was thinking of. Could
it be DOUBLE DRAGON?
> This would also fix the issue
> that (IIRC) the fish never actually do anything to you, they just
> print out occasional "rar, I'm attacking" messages which you quickly
> realize are meaningless.
Well, all the fish from the shark on can kill you. The fish leading up
to the trout do not have any attack messages. And in fact do not
attack at all. I implemented the game this way because I wanted the
player to become complicit in the violence without any actual or
understood risk to your pc. At some point during those early fights, I
wanted the player to pause and think, hmmm...they aren't fighting
back. Then proceed to pummel them anyway. Only then, does
justification for your actions slowly appear. So the game would push
you (the player, not the pc) along a linear path from incomprehension,
to discomfort, to understanding, to acceptance (you "join" your pc in
the fight), to satisfaction/celebration. It is only at the conclusion
that the player might be fully accepting of the "mission", and go back
to play again from the beginning complicit with the actions of the pc,
and start to explore various ways to more completely crush your
Which is not to say that's a very good way to write a game at all, and
clearly lots of players chose to drop out during stage 1/2
(incomprehension/discomfort) and not return, which is a perfectly
Ah. That's way more mundane than what I had pictured. It seemed kinda like a
silly Shadow of the Colossus, where it was just a series of boss battles and
each one took tricks and skill to beat. Like a puzzle.
>> This would also fix the issue
>> that (IIRC) the fish never actually do anything to you, they just
>> print out occasional "rar, I'm attacking" messages which you quickly
>> realize are meaningless.
Ah, you know what. I assumed they *did* attack. I could tell they wouldn't
do anything unless provoked, but when I saw my stamina go down, I assumed
the fish attacked me! In retrospect, it must be a stamina decrease due to my
*own* attack, but I didn't realize this at the time.
> Which is not to say that's a very good way to write a game at all, and
> clearly lots of players chose to drop out during stage 1/2
> (incomprehension/discomfort) and not return, which is a perfectly
> valid response.
Is there any way to do the Piranha battle without taking damage (other than
just great but random luck)? Because taking damage closes you off from full
points. I kept thinking there must be *some* trick to it -- and perhaps this
is where the missing 1 point comes into play -- but I couldn't figure it
out. So I guess what I'm asking is, can this battle be won without
randomness, and *is* that where the extra point is lost?
You might want to read this article and see if it jogs your memory:
On a side note, yes, I did happen to enjoy "Slap That Fish!". Like
many of the Comp entries, I did ultimately resort to the walkthrough,
but the sheer bizarreness of it roped me in. Reminded me a bit of
> Ah. That's way more mundane than what I had pictured. It seemed kinda like a
> silly Shadow of the Colossus, where it was just a series of boss battles and
> each one took tricks and skill to beat. Like a puzzle.
Never played Shadow of the Colossus, but certainly in the conversion
between fighting game and text adventure the fighting ended up being
pretty puzzle centric.
> Is there any way to do the Piranha battle without taking damage (other than
> just great but random luck)? Because taking damage closes you off from full
> points. I kept thinking there must be *some* trick to it -- and perhaps this
> is where the missing 1 point comes into play -- but I couldn't figure it
Right now, there isn't, but I am trying to fix this in the post-comp
> You might want to read this article and see if it jogs your memory:
Thanks! That article is great. None of the screenshots quite match
what I thought I was remembering, but now suspect was simply an
imaginary creation of my own; but the article did jog my memory: I
remember now that I played the hell out of KARATEKA. The motions of
the characters were so smooth, I just loved the way it all looked.
Frustratingly difficult game, though.
Quite a shame; you should go ahead and do it. And if you don't have a
PS2, well, you might as well get one as there are plenty of other
excellent titles for the system. (Note that the recently-released $399
PS3 cannot play PS2 titles; in fact, backwards compatibility on all
PS3 models released after the original 20GB and 60GB versions is
The basic premise is that you are a warrior on a quest to slay 16
great beasts called Colossi in order to bring back your loved one from
the dead. This seems like the setup for a hack-and-slash action game
full of monsters to fight, but in truth the aforementioned Colossi are
the only foes you will fight, and they are not foes you can topple
with brute strength alone. Each beast is unique, ranging from a giant
minotaur of earth and masonry to an animate stone lion to a mile-long
serpent of architecture flying above the desert sands: each is
practically its own environment, its own collection of puzzles to
solve, and even though the ultimate goal of each battle is to find the
foe's weak point - represented by a glowing blue sigil - and stab it
repeatedly with your sword, all of them require quite a deal of
thinking to get that far. This emphasis on puzzle-solving coupled with
an artistic insistence on leaving the player in the dark with regards
to backstory is, in fact, quite reminiscent of some of the better IF
titles out there. The Colossi aren't just standing around near the
Temple waiting to be skewered, either: finding each one is often a
quest in itself, although the trickier parts thereof are more
reminiscent of platforming convention.
You might also want to try Shadow of the Colossus' "prequel" (in
reality its chronological *sequel*), Ico.
Yeah, both are excellent games.
I suspect the next that team creates will be a PS3 title. And at present, I
have no plans to buy a PS3... :(
Unless, perhaps, they *do* release an Ico/Colossus sequel, and Metal Gear
Solid 4 never gets ported to XBox 360.