Merk's Spring Thing 2006 Reviews - The Potter and The Mould

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Mike Snyder

Apr 24, 2006, 11:32:47 AM4/24/06
TITLE: The Potter and the Mould
AUTHOR: Robert Street
DATE: April 2006
PARSER: Adrift
SUPPORTS: Adrift Runner and GLK Adrift
VERSION: Release 1

The superhero genre isn't my favorite. I've never been a big fan of larger-
than-life, hard-to-believe super powers. Sure, I enjoy the comic-based movie
from time to time - Superman with his flying, strength, and x-ray vision;
Spiderman with his spider-sense and web-slinging; Batman with his. super
wealth; X-Men, of course. I've been known to read a superhero comic,
not recently. I've played superhero IF once or twice.

In essence, I'm not the ideal fan for The Potter and the Mould. This is a
story for superhero fans, and it comes complete with all the trappings.
story? Check. Mutant-like powers? Definitely. An imperfect, self-doubting
protagonist? Uh huh. The mentor/student relationship? You bet. An evil but
misunderstood villain? Sure. Motivation by revenge? Of course. It's
you'd expect from a superhero story.

What I like best about The Potter and the Mould is that it keeps moving. It
will appeal most to superhero fans, but it's a frenetic and fast-paced
adventure that kept me enthralled for the four hours it took to complete. It
*feels* more difficult than it really is, which is a credit to the author's
talent. The puzzles aren't hard enough to impede the action, yet they leave
sense of accomplishment in their wake. My longest sticking point involved a
machine-room and a clay dog. After solving it - which was easier than I
to make it - I realized that the puzzles were simple and understated. They
work to keep the story moving, not to work against it, and that's probably
best kind.

In most cases, Robert avoids text-dumps by way of action prompting. This
typically comes as a nudge from an NPC, beginning with the rescue scene at
beginning, through Waterfall's revelations in the mall, to the hurried trip
the Potter's inner sanctuary. It works very well, and keeps things

The story has some surprises and twists. It strays from the predictable
formula particularly near the end. Even though I appreciate the change-up,
victory felt less than satisfying. It was like facing down Dr. Evil, and
getting a back-stabbing Mini-Me instead. What follows is an exciting bit,
not what I expected.

The writing in this, Robert Street's latest game, left me puzzled. Even
I've commented about this in prior reviews, it seemed more noticeable here;
equally hard to pin down, but more prevalent. It could just be his style,
I'm not convinced that's it. Too many sentences (even some in close
ended awkwardly with the word "though". There was a glaring lack of
contractions throughout the text - not always, but in certain passages -
making it more awkward. This alone isn't a sticking point, but coupled with
some awkward phrasings in general, it just didn't always read *right*.

Take the following - just one random example from hundreds of lines of text:

"The shops in this corner seem to be trying to outdo each other with silly

The words "seem to be trying to" are the awkward bit. I might write this as:

"The shops in this corner strive to outdo each other with silly displays."

These kinds of things weave themselves throughout the text. The removed bit
was clunky and passive. The replacement flows better, and it's more active.
usually qualify these kinds of comments with a reminder that I'm no expert.
have to look two or three times to figure out just what it is about a
that bothers me. Even in the example above, I might change "each other" to
"one another". At times, the text in The Potter and the Mould felt like a
first draft, as though it had been written once and then left alone. At
times, the text felt too heavily edited, as if the smooth flow and original
expression had been lost under the weight of so much revision. Which the
may be, I don't know. Like I said, it might just be the author's unique

Robert didn't skimp on details. Even though this is an ever-moving game, the
extra effort shows in the responses, from looking around to trying various
other actions. This isn't always the case in story-heavy works, where the
important thing is doing exactly what advances the plot. I liked that The
Potter and the Mould stood up to some prodding.

The hero's premise, now that I've come to it, is that he can "mould" his
shape into various things. Robert implemented this in a logical,
way. Mould options are task-specific and presented in a list. This maintains
the illusion that you're really able to morph into anything, where free-form
input (John Evans's games come to mind) makes this very difficult. It also
gives the PC some say-so as to how the player proceeds. In other words, the
dreams up these forms so the player doesn't have to. More than that, it
eliminates the "I tried to become a diamond-tipped drill, but it didn't
work" complaints, at the expense of limiting the player's options.
Occasionally, this let me figure out a puzzle where I wouldn't otherwise
had all the facts, but all in all, it was a good design.

Next comes the obligatory Adrift discussion - but I'll keep it short. I'm a
fan of Adrift's auto-mapping, even if I found some necessary exits unmarked
it. It can be a crutch sometimes, and I probably shouldn't have tried to
on the map as much. I'm not a fan, however, of Adrift's pick-apart parsing.
call it that, because I don't know if it has a real name. This is most
problematic when commenting a transcript. If you type something that has the
word "undo" anywhere in it, Adrift believes you intend to undo your last
move. If you comment about "he" or "she", Adrift starts matching pronouns,
leading to some interesting responses. Knowing nothing about its inner
workings, I still get the impression that grammar isn't built the way it is
Hugo and other IF languages. Adrift makes plenty of assumptions, and it
doesn't conform to any grammar rules. If it finds what appears to be a verb,
and what appears to be a noun referencing a known object, it reacts. At
such as when it reacts on an NPC you haven't encountered yet, it can even be
little spoilery.

Even though I'm not a superhero fan, I enjoyed The Potter and the Mould. It
was trippy, but it was fun. It's a solid game, and a credit to the author's

My Spring Thing score: "8"

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