Dave's Reviews [1/4] (intro)

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Dave

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Nov 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/16/99
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Finally!

My favorite part of the annual IF competition is the reviews. Each year
I feel pressured to play all of the games before the deadline not so
that I can vote on them, but so that I can read and understand all of
the reviews and ensuing discussion. I only wish games released outside
the comp could generate this much critique (and am hoping the "IF Book
Club" will help in that regard).

So this year I decided to type up a few of my own reviews. I only made
it through 17 of the games before I reached total burnout, and reviewed
only 14, but since my reviews are longer than they ought to be, I've
broken them up into 3 posts which follow. And, honestly, they're not
really "reviews" either: for some reason I wrote my first review like it
was an overeager blurb on the back of the game box (except, I'm afraid,
much snottier and wordier); and that voice kind of stuck with me
throughout the rest.

As a result, the "reviews" don't really have much to do with the scores
I gave the games, so I also added a brief line or two after each score
giving my general opinion of the game. For what it's worth, my scores
were based solely on how much I enjoyed playing the game: a piece of
drivel that made me laugh could potentially score higher than a
well-crafted piece that just didn't spark my interest.

My thanks to everyone who worked on putting this competition together,
to the authors of the comp games, and to all the authors who provide me
with all these great free games year round. And of course, thanks to
the reviewers for their contributions as well (Cadre's already given me
a good laugh with his Lomalow "security system" remark).

My apologies to the authors I didn't review; and many more apologies to
those I did. If any of the reviewed authors would like clarification on
anything I've said, please feel free to e-mail me and I'll try to
provide some feedback more constructive than what I've done here.

Dave

* * *

For the sake of completeness, my scores for the games I didn't review:

King Arthur's Night Out: 3
Lunatix, The Insanity Circle: 5
Hunter, In Darkness: 8
The HeBGB Horror!: 5

Dave

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Nov 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/16/99
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SNOSAE

The plot of SNOSAE is quite simple: some alien wants you to solve some
puzzles. As such, I can't say that there's another game in this year's
competition that integrated the puzzles into the plot any better than
this one did. And what a lot of puzzles there are! Presumably the game
is finishable in under two hours with the aid of a walkthrough (and a
well-timed switch to Daylight Saving Time), but I was unable to do so,
probably since I was so busy replaying the same moves over and over
because I hadn't saved often enough and frequently reached unwinnable
situations without any warning at all. I love it!

SNOSAE sets the tone early, implementing the always-popular "invisible
clothing" puzzle. I know for me, at least, that there's nothing more
fun than to have the game tell me I'm carrying nothing, and then to find
out that I'm really carrying a pair of nail clippers. Fun for the whole
family! Remarkably, SNOSAE is able to maintain this same level of
commitment to player-friendliness throughout, as it proceeds
methodically through all the lost classics, including save-and-restore,
guess-the-verb, read-the-author's-mind, and
read-the-solution-and-still-not-understand- the-logic. But SNOSAE
hasn't just rehashed the work of its distant predecessors; the author
has somehow managed to forge new frontiers in sadism, adding such "new
classics" as guess-a-verb-that's-not-even-a-verb,
this-is-fair-because-my-son-says-so, and, of course,
the-solution-doesn't-
count-unless-you-do-it-in-the-arbitrary-order-I-want-you-to.

It's nice to encounter a game that so completely demolishes Graham
Nelson's tired and outdated "Player's Bill of Rights". Had it been a
little more circumspect in its intentions, I might have spent more time
actually trying to solve puzzles the old-fashioned way: by entering
commands. But soon enough I learned that SNOSAE rewards a different
technique altogether: think of the commands you *would* enter, then read
the hints to see what *would* have happened. Hey, you're gonna read the
hints anyway, and this way you get all the fun of trying to solve the
puzzles, without all the hassle of restoring after every third turn. A
daring innovation on the part of the author.

In short, I think it's safe to say that your 500 monkeys and 500
typewriters will have finished up Hamlet way before they work their way
through SNOSAE.

My score: 4.

[It's a vicious old-school puzzlefest, but I kind of like those when
they don't pretend to be otherwise, and this one was well-implemented,
with friendly, thorough hints. The "home-made" parser was no detriment
at all -- in fact, the use of color was pretty nice.]

* * *

Erehwon
by Patrick Hardlentil

Not since Asteroids was gently birthed on the surface of a torus has a
game designer done so much to further the popularity of topology.
Patrick Hardlentil's "Erehwon" sets you in downtown Erehwon, Aksarben, a
town unremarkable except for the fact that it's connected by a tiny
Klein-bottle shaped desert universe to the oppositely-oriented town of
Nowhere, Nebraska. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to
travel between the two without blowing yourself up, play the Icosian
Game, go fishing for magical trout, and, as is becoming standard in
these types of games, shed your emotional baggage.

The game's writing is terrific throughout, frequently punctuated with a
successfully dry wit, and there are a number of humorous Easter eggs
lying in plain sight. These, plus a variety of nonsensical elements and
the irrepressible Mr. Bird, should keep you amused while you try to
figure out what the heck's going on. And if you run into difficulties
with the game's thornier obstacles, the in-game hints will get you
through, well, some of them. (I was pleasantly surprised to find that
some of the puzzles were only partially hinted, and others were not
mentioned in the hints at all. If not for this fortunate happenstance,
I might have missed out entirely on the humorous comments in the
walkthrough.)

So, if you regularly look for meaning in taxicab numbers, shape your bar
soap into Platonic solids, and keep a poster of Ramanujan on your wall,
then for you Erehwon will be a walk in the park. (A municipal park,
even.) As for everyone else, I'm sure you'll be quite pleased to
discover the Erehwon-inspired thread on rec.games.int-fiction, which
explained everything quite plainly in language a layperson could
understand. For me, it all became clear when Magnus Olsson said:

"Feynman diagrams are a graphical notation for the terms in the
perturbative expansion of the transition amplitude. No more, no less."

That about sums it up.

My score: 6.

[I really enjoyed Erewhon's humor, plot concepts, and some very original
puzzles. I'd like to see the puzzles better clued though. I was
frequently asking myself "What am I supposed to be doing?", and had to
lean heavily on the hints (and eventually, the walkthrough) just to get
some direction.]

* * *

A Day for Soft Food

For years now we've been seeing the same old thread showing up again and
again on rec.arts.int-fiction: "Are there any good IF games for cats?"
Inevitably the newbie's post is responded to with the usual three
replies: (1) "Not really, but there's 'Ralph' for dogs"; (2) "This post
really belongs on rec.games.int-fiction"; and (3) "No, but you could
write one with my awesome IF language, Quest". And there the thread
dies, with no one lifting a finger to rectify this unfortunate
situation. Sure, everyone thinks that an IF game about dinosaurs would
be "really cool", but cats have been sadly relegated to minor supporting
roles.

Until now, that is. Tod Levi has finally taken up the challenge and
written the first IF game specifically for cats. "A Day for Soft Food"
contains some clever puzzles and amusing scenes, and an unofficial
scoring system (see how many ways you can annoy your Provider) that I
particularly enjoyed. And this author certainly knows his audience.
I've heard that many cat lovers feel that their cats can read their
minds, and Levi is clearly part of that contingent -- in fact, if your
cat can't read the author's mind, she'll be lucky to even get as far as
the hard food. Unclued objects, arbitrary goals, even the chance to die
from hunger -- there's enough here to test the limits of any cat's
curiosity.

But enough about my limited human experience with "Soft Food". I
decided to give this game the ultimate workout: I had my cat play it.
She didn't play it for the full two hours -- hampered as she was by her
20-second attention span -- but did take the time to scratch out the
following review:

"This game totally BLOWS. Boring! I wanted to do fun stuff, like look
out the window, lick myself, or maybe curl up and go to sleep on the
flannel shirt; but this PC, he's some kind of sicko. Always messing
with Provider stuff, helping people, accomplishing things -- as a cat, I
find this sort of behavior downright embarrassing. While I must admit
that this cat is marginally more respectable than that pushover Austin,
please -- I'll take Cattus Attrox over this nonsense any day. Take my
advice, and have your Provider print out a transcript. It'll come in
handy when you run short on litter pan liners. My scores: Soft Food:
F. Curses: F. Cattus Attrox: A+."

My score: 5.

[It was cute and interesting, and the unofficial scoring system was
funny. The puzzles were clever, but unfairly difficult (I'd never have
made it without the hints), and I was usually unclear on what I was
supposed to be doing, and why.]

* * *

For A Change
by Dan Schmidt

Dan Schmidt's "For A Change" wastes no time in laying out a familiar
plot that has been explored time and again throughout Western
literature; a plot whose intricacies have been arresting artists'
interests since Sophocles and Euripedes first grappled with this
innately human experience. His succinct opening overture is all that is
needed to trigger a knowing smile in every student of the written word:

"The sun is gone. It must be brought. You have a rock."

Yet although the story and setting are familiar to the point of being
hackneyed, Mr. Schmidt (fresh and inspired) presents a pleasingly modern
update of this classic tale of spinsters and toolmen, songlanterns and
handlefish. "For A Change" challenges the bored and cynical adventurer
with a series of novel obstacles and solutions, confronting us with
insinuating stones and lemon-fresh lies that force us to think -- no pun
intended -- "outside the box".

The language of the game is refreshingly obscure, although the delicate
translations of the original Greek are in some cases perhaps too
literal; but this reluctance to tamper with artistic genius, even at the
expense of player comprehension, is nevertheless a noble one, and indeed
the resulting prose is a melodious enigma. Some clarification is
provided by the "guidebook" (here serving the purpose of the chorus), an
elegantly worded device that assists the player in understanding the
nature of the world in which (outside of which?) he exists. Still, the
resulting confusion can lead to some unfortunate puzzle difficulties, as
world-objects, events, and even command verbs are sometimes too much
obscured through the haze of rose-colored language.

However, in-game hints are provided to carry the player through the
obligatory pointless mid-game puzzle padding, and in short order the
end-game returns to the high standard of originality set by the game's
opening explorations. The conclusion is both enlightening and
mystifying, but fully satisfying. Mr. Schmidt's frills and innovations
have brought new life to an old friend, showing that the story we have
all come to love breathes still. Human history has produced many
interpretations of this tale, and Schmidt's is surely only the first of
many more to come; but the fundamental latticework itself is as timeless
and untouchable as the very truths it so aptly explores. No matter the
bard who sings it, "For a Change" is, and remains, what it is.

My score: 7.

[The third game in a row with a great concept and atmosphere, but
unfortunately padded with irrelevant and unmotivated puzzles. Still,
wonderfully original, creating an intriguing universe and language. One
of the truly memorable games from this year's competition.]

Dave

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Nov 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/16/99
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Only After Dark

"HERE BE DRAGONS" trumpets the opening line of Only After Dark, and with
that promising lead-in begins an epic adventure of mysticism, death and
betrayal that spans a mind-blowing three days and 22(*) turns. You play
the brave, rakish and always-lusty Ranil, crewman of the proud ship
Dagon. As you slowly piece together the secrets of the mysterious
natives your crew encounters, you will dodge enemies at nearly every
turn (including the five consecutive turns when you will type "run").
And while the action unfolds slowly at first (some might say too slowly,
as the plots bogs down early on -- for the first turn or two hardly
anything happens), hang in there, as once you type a directional command
it's a roller coaster ride from there to the finish.

(*)May take 33 turns to finish if you choose the alternate ending where
you kill the shaman 12 times in a row before moving on.

At least three of the game's many puzzles appear at first to be quite
difficult, as although the necessary action to be taken in each case is
obvious, the proper command phrasing is not. However, once the player
guesses the author's non-standard usage of IF commands and exacting
syntax requirements, these well-crafted enigmas prove to be a satisfying
solve, undoubtedly accompanied by a hearty laugh, a slap to the forehead
and a cry of "Of course, now why didn't I think of that?"

Naturally, OAD does contain a number of typos and at least one
game-disabling feature, but that's hardly to be avoided in a work of
this length. These are more than outweighed by original and quirky
responses like the following:

-> attack wolf with knife
As you gather up the clothes in a ball, the wolf jumps at you, he mass
of her body knocking you to the floor. The next thing you feel is her
claws tearing your abdomen open, and then unconsciousness kindly takes
you.

Gather up the clothes in a ball? It's ingeniously surreal moments like
this that raise "Only After Dark" from the level of Briefly Amusing
Diversion to that of "Dammit-Where's-The-Walkthrough" High Art.

My score: 3.

[Could use some more fleshing out, and certainly more merciful puzzle
solutions. But despite its parser difficulties, I liked and was
intrigued by the underlying story enough to work my way through it.]

* * *

Lomalow
by BrenBarn

This is one competition game that really draws the player in right from
the start. Lomalow's cryptic opening text keeps the player in suspense
as to what to expect from the game, revealing nothing more than that the
game has one puzzle, what the puzzle is, and how to solve it. Beyond
that, it's up to the player to figure out. And it won't be easy;
although the game promises two NPCs to talk to, I could only find one in
the hour I played (I was too hopelessly stuck to continue for the second
hour).

And it is in the fleshing out of that NPC, known simply as "the old
woman", that Lomalow's strength lies. Despite the PC's embarrassingly
awkward conversational skills (which consisted mostly of asking the
woman about the same nouns over and over), the old woman's spirited
nature enabled her to admirably carry the conversational burden
herself. Her batty old yarns will have you itching to uncover the
mysteries of her family, and of the Lomalow which you read about in the
tattered tome you found in the hollow tree.... I only wish I could have
met the other NPC; there were so many nouns I wanted to ask him about
too.

Lomalow employs a wonderfully adaptive hint system, which came in very
handy for some of the more difficult puzzles, such as going west from
the Opaquing. But frequently the clues were so inscrutable as to be of
virtually no use at all (e.g., going south from the Opaquing) whereas in
others they simply gave the puzzle away completely (like going southwest
from the Opaquing). And I don't want to spoil anything for you, but
going east from in front of the cabin was the babel fish puzzle of comp
'99.

Several of the room descriptions are worthy of mention: first off, there
was "Waterfall", which is full of things that end abruptly.

My score: 2.

[The author clearly put solid effort, with some success, into the
settings and NPC, but the story just didn't grab me, and I was
frustrated to not be able to proceed further.]

* * *

Remembrance

Remembrance claims that only recent versions of Netscape or Internet
Explorer are capable of running it. Poppycock! I found that it played
just fine on my extremely dated and java-unfriendly version of Netscape
Navigator. And I must say I am quite lucky that it did, for what I saw
was truly remarkable. Remembrance presents a spectacular mosaic of
evocative text and technological non sequiturs.

At the game's outset, the author's clever setup subtly misleads us into
thinking we are about to navigate through a web-based novel, branching
our way through a myriad of decisions and unexpected dead ends. This
mindset is bolstered by the game's emotionally-charged opening scene,
filled with engaging characters. But just as the player settles into a
comfort zone, wham! The author blindsides us with a nightmarish plot
twist that leaves us breathless. For as we attempt to click on the link
to advance the tale, we find that we cannot; nor can we close the
intrusive window that reads "Netscape Alert: Javascript Error". In
fact, it would appear that our computer has locked up entirely.

At first, this may be rationalized as a poorly-envisioned plot twist,
or, perhaps, a Netscape error. But quickly one dismisses such naive
notions, as the true meaning of this work becomes clear. For the author
-- or, should I say, genius -- of Remembrance has shattered the unseen
shackles that have until now limited the form, creating a masterpiece
that is effective not for what it it *does*, but rather, what it *does
not*. In one bold stroke, the author has turned the very concept of
"Interactive Fiction" inside out, creating a work in which the fiction
is *real*, and yet, paradoxically, one with which the player cannot
interact at all! At once the player's goals are perfectly aligned with
that of the player character -- namely, to end the game -- but he is
utterly, painfully, powerless to pursue that end. The irony speaks
volumes.

The artistic and historic importance of Remembrance certainly makes up
for its sole drawback: its unfortunate brevity. In fact, there is only
one puzzle in the game, but it is one heck of a doozy, requiring the
simultaneous use of three different keys on the keyboard: control, alt,
and delete. [Reviewer's Note: The author later informed me that several
alternate solutions were also implemented, including pressing the power
switch and unplugging the computer.]

My score: didn't vote.

[I understand there was some source or something put on gmd so everyone
could access this game, but I didn't want to judge it based on anything
other than the game as it was intended to be played.]

* * *

Outsided
by Chad Elliott

"Hi, first I would like to say 'sorry.' Good! Now that I have gotten
that out of the way, Please 'enjoy' the game..."

So begins Chad Elliott's "Outsided". I wondered briefly why "enjoy" was
in quotes, but, ah, nevermind -- I would surely find out soon enough.
In any case, I could tell already that I was in for a treat.

"Outsided" is a dark comedy that expertly combines the wordsmithing of
Rybread Celsius, the psychotic sensibility of "Aisle", and the
interactivity of watching a train wreck. All that's missing is a couple
of wisecracking robots and a bag of gnocci. The game opens in "Martins
Resteraunt", and, for the first 20 or so attempts, ends there 8 turns
later. But, with persistence and a little luck, you'll finally get to
move on to the fart and vomit jokes, meet the Bossman and Smiley, and,
in the words of the PC, find out "what the hell was that scene in the
resteraunt all about?"

In keeping with the tradition of creative advancements in the annual IF
competition, the author of "Outsided" has introduced a dramatic device
previously underused: that of "the PC who refuses to do what you tell
him to but instead jumps to his death, thereby ending the game."
Playing a PC whom I couldn't control was certainly a novel (and comic)
experience for me, and I look forward to more advancements in this
area. Fortunately for other aspiring authors, Mr. Elliott has
graciously introduced the concept while not using it up completely,
leaving plenty of room for further innovation (for instance, a PC who
*doesn't* kill himself right away).

I must say that I was quite pleased to encounter a game that doesn't try
to stump the player with puzzles. Some games will give the player hints
if he remains stuck for a long period of time; this game waits 5 turns
and then puts you out of your misery. And not only is the author a
master of pacing, he's also handy with a memorable turn of phrase. His
"badly broken engish" was a Nord-and-Bertian success, and I had to admit
that his "Your feel your teeth grinding together" was an incisive
insight into the player's mood (not to mention a self-fulfilling
prophecy). I certainly look forward to this author's next game -- or,
perhaps even, one day, the rest of this one.

I conclude with the following words of wisdom, thoughtfully provided by
the author:

"Also, if you get upset with the game, please don't hurt anyone
important. Thankyou."

My score: 2.

[In desperate need of beta testing, but employed some interesting sci-fi
and certainly had me cracking up at times, sometimes intentionally.]

Dave

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Nov 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/16/99
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Spodgeville Murphy and the Jewelled Eye of Wossname
by David Fillmore

Now here's one game that I'm sure needs no introduction. There's not a
text-breathing creature alive that isn't intimately familiar with the
spine-tingling exploits of everybody's favorite intrepid adventurer,
Spodgeville Murphy. Who among us can suppress a chuckle of delight when
recalling Spodgeville's first breakthrough action-adventure,
"Spodgeville Murphy: Raider of the Great Underground Empire"? And what
true fan hasn't seen "Spodgeville Murphy and the Tempest of Grues" at
least 69,105 times? Most recently, we laughed and cheered as
Spodgeville teamed up with his grizzled old dad for the pulse-pounding
family western, "Oedipus Tex."

And now, the man who never met a treasure he didn't take, the man who
made "xyzzy" a four-letter word, the man who coined the phrase "Grues: I
hate these guys", is back for one final adventure that will top them
all: "Spodgeville Murphy and the Jewelled Eye of Wossname". One of the
most visionary epics ever shot for the 14-inch screen, "Spodge 4: yadda
yadda Wossname" (as it's known to its fans) takes us through minute
after heart-stopping minute of non-stop action as our hero narrowly
averts death at every turn. You'll be on the edge of your seat as
Spodge ricochets from one cliffhanger to the next, a bullwhip in one
hand and a beautiful damsel in the other, vanquishing villains and
dodging disaster while never, ever, losing his trademark fedora.

David Fillmore's textfire teaser gives you a sneak peek at this
episode's thrilling conclusion, wherein Spodge acquires the fabled
Jewel, escapes the crumbling dungeon, and gets paid -- that is, unless
the booby-trapped walls crush him first! You won't get to play the
entire exciting episode -- rumor has it that Fillmore is holding out for
a blockbuster July 4 release -- but there's enough here to assure
purists that the spirit of the classic series remains, albeit with a
90's twist. In particular, the same unique humor that spawned such
memorable Spodgerisms as "We named the *dog* Spodgeville" and "Trolls?
Why did it have to be trolls?" is back in spades, and each one of your
favorite commands -- be it plugh or plover -- is brilliantly executed.
And for the insatiably curious (and who isn't?), the all-knowing "full
score" command is ready to give you a glimpse at the harrowing escapes
to be seen only in the full release, including the much-anticipated
"solving the slimy grey creature's first riddle" and "feeding the bear
to the ravenous gronkle."

You simply can't afford to miss the IF event of the season!
"Spodgeville Murphy: The Jewelled Eye of Wossname" -- it's
Spodge-tastic!

My score: 3.

[It was too limited to garner a higher score, but what it did it did
well, with the exception of some frustrating bugginess. Great sense of
humor. The intro, full score, and zork responses were hilarious.]

* * *

Four Seconds
by Jason "Trig" Reigstad

A sparse and deserted laboratory complex far from human civilization.
Evidence that a traumatic, even violent, sequence of events has taken
place. But why? Where are the scientists now? And what is your
purpose here?

The details gradually unfold through mysterious medically-induced
flashback. Four scientists -- three men, one woman -- at odds with each
other and themselves. Ghoulish experiments with mysterious biological
toxins that push the boundaries of medical ethics. Hubris that
inevitably leads to disaster, as the observer soon becomes the observed
and what was once all in a day's work suddenly becomes all too personal.

Yes, "Babel" was a great game. But enough nostalgia -- I digress.

Trig Reigstad's "Four Seconds" blazes new territory in the realm of
sci-fi. It features a futuristic detective with his own unique style of
investigation, a way-cool flat screen TV, and, most infamously, a
ceiling fan that, contrary to Arthur-Dentian common sense, is both "on"
and "not on" at the same time. (What's more, this game features more,
ah, shall we say, "features", than your local megaplex. One would think
the entire beta testing team went out to dinner and got food poisoning
or something.) And the ending features a -- well, no, I can't spoil it
for you. (Really, I can't, since I gave up way before reaching it.)

My score: 3.
[Beta testing really does make a difference. Its not just the bugs;
more importantly, it's the general fleshing out of the game. It looked
like there was a good story here, but the draft quality of the work
prevented me from getting drawn in (or even progressing very far). I
hope to try this one again in a post-competition second release.]

* * *

Life on Beal Street
by Anonymous

To press 1, or to press 2? That is the thrilling question it is your
good fortune to answer in "Life on Beal Street". You play the part of a
very impressionable and mercurial PC at something of a crossroads in his
romantic life. As you stroll through the swirling realities of Beal
Street at twilight, you come to some major life decisions by throwing
virtually all rational self-direction to the winds and entrusting your
fate to whatever capricious bumper your vapid pinball of a consciousness
bangs into next.

The major life decision to be made (or "obsession of the moment", take
your pick) in this game is one of the heart. The PC finds himself
(herself?) torn between two eminently eligible love interests, Shawn and
KC. But which to choose? Should it be Shawn, your regal, sensuous
ex-lover who is clearly nothing more than a shallow, self-interested,
cold-hearted bitch/bastard who viciously dumped you, yet for whom you
still carry an obviously unhealthy torch? Or should you choose KC, a
harmless and not overwhelmingly unlikeable stranger with whom you've
gone on one casual date (which was middling at best), whom you know
virtually nothing about, and whom you appear to have no sincere interest
in? Talk about your "win-win" situations! Yep, this is exactly the
type of tough decision which demands painstakingly careful thought and
consideration. This, of course, is where the 1's and the 2's enter the
picture.

Of course, choosing a lover has never been an exact science. Many
arcane and unproven methods have been devised to help the indecisive in
choosing a mate: plucking petals from a daisy; consulting with that
oracle of modern times, the Magic 8 Ball; or, for those truly desperate,
seeking the assistance of Chuck Woollery's "Love Connection". But "Beal
Street" provides a decision-making tool that out-simplifies them all:

"Press 1 to go forward, or 2 to go back."

Oh, sure, it's a tad bit more complicated than that. I mean, there
wouldn't be much of a game if that's all there were to it, now would
there? No; in fact, the game includes up to 4 (count 'em, 4) of these
treacherous decision points. Not only that, but a randomizer also plays
into the equation, generating some wildly varying moods and opinions in
the mind of the protagonist, and even altering the status of KC's love
life in the process. Getting laid has never been such a challenge.

As for me, I was initially a bit hesitant to choose 1, since, as I
figure it, it's the loneliest number that you'll ever do. But then,
upon further reflection, it occurred to me that 2 can be as bad as 1;
after all, it's the loneliest number since the number 1. I won't spoil
the fun for you by telling you what choice I made, but even if I did,
there would still be plenty of play left in this game. For if there's
one thing "Beal Street" makes evident, it's that there must be 780 ways
to choose your lover.

My score: 2.

[The author accomplishes exactly what he or she set out to accomplish,
and if I were scoring based on writing or concept, I'd have to give a
higher score. But I'm scoring solely on how much I enjoyed it, and
unfortunately, this wasn't for me.]

* * *

Death to My Enemies
by Roody Yogurt

"Eeagh! You egg-sucking lil' bastard!"

"Death to My Enemies" is a tongue-in-cheek six-room romp through the
formulaic world of the spy thriller. You step into the role of the
game's hero just at the hackneyed yet essential moment when your
lifelong buddy and sidekick, Snam, dies with grim dignity in your arms.
Driven onward now not just for the sake of the mission but to exact
revenge for your fallen comrade, you infiltrate the secret lab of your
arch-nemesis, Dr. Nova. Armed with a certain well-known trusty
all-purpose adhesive, you assemble a dizzying variety of weaponry as you
match wits with the evil genius. It's an unoriginal plot, but that's
the point, as "Death" is an Austin-Powers-style parody that pokes fun at
a number of tired spy-thriller cliches (although this plot has now been
parodied so often and so consistently that it does leave one to wonder
which is more cliched: the spy thriller, or the spy thriller parody).

But it is only on the surface that "Death to My Enemies" is a spy
story. Dig a little deeper, and it soon becomes apparent that it is
really a paean to the seemingly unlimited powers of duct tape. In fact,
in the wacky universe of "Death", it would appear that no tool is useful
as anything other than a paperweight unless it is first taped to
something else. Is it a quirk of the parser, of the evil doctor's lab,
or of the laws of physics themselves that the dustbuster has no power
switch, cannot be turned on, and that the game doesn't even recognize
the word "vacuum"? (Nor does it recognize the best-guess vacuuming
synonyms "dust", "suck", or -- a last desperate attempt -- "bust
dust"?) But dare to tape the dustbuster to an eggplant, or better yet,
a rubber chicken, and prepare to submit to the kinetic fury that is sure
to be unleashed.

We may never fully understand the implications of a world wherein duct
tape wields such awesome power; but as the game's hero, we cannot help
but take advantage. How will Dr. Nova counteract a ruthless attack by
the Holy Chicken of Chasby, or defend himself against the blunt force of
the Eggplant-Sucking Rat Bastard Club? With your roll of duct tape and
a few common household items, you too can experiment with these and
other jerry-rigged munitions. It's like a poor man's Junior Science
Kit created by Richard Dean Anderson.

Special effects aside, the game is not terribly lengthy. It has, by my
count, only three quick puzzles, although it still manages to squeeze in
one utterly unclued read-the-author's-mind solution. But that's okay;
while you're loading up the walkthrough, you can pass the time
uncovering a few amusing easter eggs (I feel confident in claiming that
this is the first IF game in history to provide a non-default answer to
the question "What is flan?"). And don't make the mistake of following
the walkthrough to the letter -- you'll want to explore at least a
couple of the game's multiple endings. While I'm sure there's nothing
wrong with finishing the game as an "alchemist mack daddy", this is one
reviewer who would much rather be "the bestestest brother in the world
wide world".

My score: 3.

[Some amusing bits, a bit buggy, needs some fleshing out. Aside from
experimenting with taping different things together, there wasn't much
to do.]

* * *

Pass the Banana
by Admiral Jota

[Warning: This review contains blatant spoilers. Er, I mean, spoiler.]

Pass the banana. Pass the banana to the monkey. Pass the banana to
Melvin the Robot. Pass the banana to the giant flaming head. Pass the
banana, pass the banana, pass the banana.

In the noble tradition of "Silence of the Lambs" and "Pick Up the Phone
Booth and Die", Admiral Jota's "Pass the Banana" is a minimalist
masterpiece that wilfully restricts the player's potentially
game-advancing commands to only one: namely, the game's title. That's
right: the only thing worth doing in this game is passing a banana. Get
rid of all your bananas, and you win! For anyone who's ever wondered if
the children's game of "hot potato" would be more entertaining with a
text interface, this is a wonderful opportunity to find out. And with
some lovely randomized passing elements, "Pass the Banana" offers
excellent replayability, since it's never the same game twice!

But, to ask the question that's on everyone's mind: Why? Specifically,
why a banana, rather than a hot potato? Bananas are delicious, and a
wonderful source of potassium! No one would willingly part with a
banana, not even a giant flaming head. And the banana isn't even hot!
I mean, if it were a hot banana, then yeah, maybe I can see how you'd
want to unload it. But a tepid banana? I'm sorry, but I don't get it.

Nevertheless, if this competition has taught me one thing, it's not to
mess with genius. If the author wants to pass tepid bananas, hey, I'm
sure he has his reasons. As for me, I'll just let it go, move on to the
next game, and thank all that is good and decent that we still -- knock
on wood -- haven't seen a single comp entry entitled "Pass the Kidney
Stone".

My score: 2.

[A mildly amusing three-minute diversion. Cuteness keeps it out of the
cellar.]

Joe Mason

unread,
Nov 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/16/99
to
Dave <dgat...@bigfoot.com> wrote:
>filled with engaging characters. But just as the player settles into a
>comfort zone, wham! The author blindsides us with a nightmarish plot
>twist that leaves us breathless. For as we attempt to click on the link
>to advance the tale, we find that we cannot; nor can we close the
>intrusive window that reads "Netscape Alert: Javascript Error". In
>fact, it would appear that our computer has locked up entirely.

You're channeling Mr. Cranky, aren't you? Admit it!

Joe

Joe Mason

unread,
Nov 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/16/99
to
Dave <dgat...@bigfoot.com> wrote:
>read-the-solution-and-still-not-understand- the-logic. But SNOSAE
>hasn't just rehashed the work of its distant predecessors; the author
>has somehow managed to forge new frontiers in sadism, adding such "new
>classics" as guess-a-verb-that's-not-even-a-verb,
>this-is-fair-because-my-son-says-so, and, of course,
>the-solution-doesn't-
>count-unless-you-do-it-in-the-arbitrary-order-I-want-you-to.

I should clarify my last post: I hate Mr. Cranky. The self-righteous
bastard pisses me off. This, however, is hilarious. Maybe Mr. Cranky is
channelling YOU, and the signal is being degraded?

Joe

Adam Cadre

unread,
Nov 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/16/99
to
Dave Gatewood wrote:
> In keeping with the tradition of creative advancements in the annual
> IF competition, the author of "Outsided" has introduced a dramatic
> device previously underused: that of "the PC who refuses to do what
> you tell him to but instead jumps to his death, thereby ending the
> game."

See, the thing is, I genuinely did think this was really cool.

-----
Adam Cadre, Sammamish, WA
http://adamcadre.ac

Neil Brown

unread,
Nov 16, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/16/99
to
In article <3830FC...@bigfoot.com>, Dave
<URL:mailto:dgat...@bigfoot.com> wrote:

> So this year I decided to type up a few of my own reviews. I only
made
> it through 17 of the games before I reached total burnout, and
reviewed
> only 14, but since my reviews are longer than they ought to be, I've
> broken them up into 3 posts which follow. And, honestly, they're
not
> really "reviews" either: for some reason I wrote my first review
like it
> was an overeager blurb on the back of the game box (except, I'm
afraid,
> much snottier and wordier); and that voice kind of stuck with me
> throughout the rest.

Loved your reviews - haven't laughed out loud so much for ages!
Incredibly I found them funnier that Adam Cadre's, and he's a tough
act to follow.

(I'm also very grateful that I didn't enter this year...)

--
Neil Brown
ne...@highmount.demon.co.uk
http://www.highmount.demon.co.uk


Eric Mayer

unread,
Nov 19, 1999, 3:00:00 AM11/19/99
to
On Tue, 16 Nov 1999 20:44:30 +0000, Neil Brown
<ne...@highmount.demon.co.uk> wrote:

>> So this year I decided to type up a few of my own reviews. I only
>made
>> it through 17 of the games before I reached total burnout, and
>reviewed
>> only 14, but since my reviews are longer than they ought to be, I've
>> broken them up into 3 posts which follow. And, honestly, they're
>not
>> really "reviews" either: for some reason I wrote my first review
>like it
>> was an overeager blurb on the back of the game box (except, I'm
>afraid,
>> much snottier and wordier); and that voice kind of stuck with me
>> throughout the rest.
>
>Loved your reviews - haven't laughed out loud so much for ages!
>Incredibly I found them funnier that Adam Cadre's, and he's a tough
>act to follow.
>
>(I'm also very grateful that I didn't enter this year...)
>


I did enter and I have to say these reviews may be cranky but they are
so hilarious I am actually dissappointed my game didn't get reviewed.

--
Eric Mayer
Web Site: <http://home.epix.net/~maywrite>
=====================================================
co-author of ONE FOR SORROW
A "John the Eunuch" mystery from Poisoned Pen Press
<http://www.poisonedpenpress.com/html/sorrow.html>
=====================================================
"The map is not the territory." -- Alfred Korzybski

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