A.P. Hill's Reviews

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A.P. Hill

Nov 17, 2006, 12:04:53 AM11/17/06
I only played a few games, here are my thoughts:

Game: Ballymun Adventure
Author: Brendan Cribbin
System: TADS2

Santoonie benchmarks:
X me: You look about the same as always. (BOO!)
Xyzzy: I don't know the word "xyzzy". (BOO!)
Shit: You may feel like one but this is neither the time nor the place!
Fart: I don't know the word "fart". (BOO!)

I played my fellow terp companion, the only other Tads2 game available
and went in with great admiration. But soon, I discovered this was an
amateur entry. So most of the gameplay was hampered by bugs and common
annoyances, too many to forget. Sometimes you can move past them and
live the story but this was a tough one. I'll start the review
though with pros:
This game seems to have been modeled by a real life location. And in
this sense, I can understand some of the obstacles of mapping. The
author had to implement more than one door on a north wall for
instance. This was handled by the 'enter room 12' exit commands,
rather than simplified movement. This worked fairly well. I was
excited to find a map that was designed to be very interactive. Click
on a room to be 'teleported' there. But, perhaps I didn't have a
working terp but it failed to work on my machine. I enjoyed roaming
the halls of a school and found the layout of the area to be appeasing
to explore. The author's school was quite nice. I can't believe
how nice schools are nowadays. When I was in school it was a metal
biulding filled with asbestos and our playground was just a large
Goodyear Tire.
The author was very motivated by requiring the player to find more than
two or three objects. I think five were required to finish this
exploration. In the rooms, you will find some interactive models that
were done well, like a pottery wheel, copy machines, personal computers
etc. There was a lack of NPC's which seemed to make the world
frozen, but the author does a decent job of faking their appearance
with little notes written in places, like, "This room is closed
(cause I didn't have TIME TO CODE IT! Just kidding)." But the
author failed to tidy up some common first timer mistakes or cons:
>From my notes I noticed that a lot of the room descriptions were very
mundane like: it's a typical desk or it's a typical blackboard,
etc. Almost constantly I ran into this: The classroom is filled with
desks and chairs that line along a blackboard near a window.

>x desks
You don't see any desks here.
>read blackboard
I don't know how to read the blackboard

Etc. It's probably the first common newbie mistake. As an author is
hard enough to describe an environment and when you do catch wind and
get motivated sometimes being overly wordy, you find that now you have
to go back and actually code everything. The TADS basic solution for
this is to just make filler items decorations, so that you get: The
desk isn't important. But you should at least do that than not code
at all. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to interact with
an object that was described but not being able to. Really in IF,
that's really all we have to go on. I always laugh at our
Santoonie.com tshirt we gave out at the 9th interactive fiction
competition which cleverly explained this phenom:

A wall prevents further travel.
>x wall
I don't know the word wall.

Get it? Further travel...wall,.... it really did prevent further
travel, (laugh). Anyway this was common in Ballymun Adventure. Next
and certainly more subjective was the colored fonts for interactive
objects. I just don't like that much 'help'. I like rereading
statements searching for clues, it's almost like an adventure within
an adventure. But maybe this was done for the first time Ifer, but you
can be sure, the IF Comp is not first timers. Maybe the game was
written for somebody else though and just happened to be included in
the comp for the heck of it. Heck, I can live with that.
The score system was bugged. In particular from my notes, if you keep
reading the paper in the study your score goes up in increments of 50.

I played for two hours then at a time when I can decide to go on or
quit, I decided to quit simply due to the room descriptions being very
A typical classroom with typical desks, etc. I started getting rooms
12 mixed up with rooms 25, etc. It just got too tedious with not
enough reward for accomplishments. And the various bugs interferred
with memesis. Again, all common mistakes that have plagued games in
the past, mistakes that by no means are fail all.
I enjoyed the two hours I played it, I enjoyed using TADS tremendously
and I'm confident this game was enjoyable to craft for the author as
well as playtest for his pupils or colleagues. I'll score a 4 out of
10. Thank you for the game.
Score: 4

A.P. Hill


Game: A Broken Man
Author: Geoff Fortytwo
System: TADS3

Santoonie benchmarks:
X me: You're pretty gaunt. Arm wrestling is not your strong suit at the
moment. (YA!)
Xyzzy : The word "xyzzy" is not necessary in this story. (BOO!)
Shit: The word "shit" is not necessary in this story. (BOO!!!)
Fart: The word "fart" is not necessary in this story. (BOO!)

As usual for playing games, I prepare by getting out a fresh sheet of
paper to map with. A pen. ( I don't care to erase, I seldom make
mistakes- laugh ) and a small bowl of gold fish crackers, pizza
flavor. I only wrote two notes for this game. First though, I must
say I was proud of myself for using the lantern oil to open the window
right away. Sometimes, I'll backtrack and work on solutions, but I
will say this game 'makes' common sense. I'll give it that. The
parser was well balanced and mistake free and the layout was simple and
well defined, not too boring and not too surreal.
The two notes I wrote were, firstly: Comically, I got the impression
that the mansion was the thieves equivalent to Atlanta's Hartsfield
International Airport. You, yourself are a trespasser who breaks in.
After a bit you run into a thief who is on his way out and somewhere
later you stumble into a maids room with the maid in it! ..who
doesn't scream because, quote: You're not the prettiest thief
I've met. As a matter of fact her dweomer is, turn the light off
when your done. Oh and then there's the social worker in town who
puts out for all the thieves. She waits until they get arrested though
so she can do her BS&M in the cells. Sic! Anyway, the author does put
some comedy into the atmosphere, something that is delicate but can
work if done well. I'll say the author pulls it off, well done.
The other note was a minus, um. Flashbacks. Ugh. If people hate
mazes, which I tend to like then I represent the negative charged
particle. I hate flashbacks. I'm force fed a couple flashbacks
right from the beginning like a lab mouse forced fed arsenic linguini.
You know, I know what's going on here. Too much tv influence. I
mean, you can't watch a television drama like ( and I can't even
name some of these stupid crime shows now - I don't watch tv - I
scan on the way to espn and tvland ) Greys Anatomy, or...anway all
those stupid shows now have flashbacks every fucking two minutes and
it's always with the same stupid sound effect and white wash screen
blank. WhOOOSHHHH, camera shakes to indicate some force travel, a
couple lightning flashes, close up on the head, tilt camera move in.
fade to black and white flashback now! Ghey. And it doesn't work
well in this game either. I would have suggested keeping the tingling
sensation of trespassing by not interrupting it. The stillness of
being in one room, carefully examining each object. Slow movement.
Let the atmosphere do the work for you. Too many times authors feel
that have to be a Dungeon Master. In my opinion, and all this is of
course one opinion, the story didn't need the flashbacks. I
would've kept it going like a Starsky and Hutch episode.
I moved along fairly well and I consider myself a neat assassin, so I
didn't tamper with the girl, I didn't tamper with the baby, I
didn't tamper with the maid, nor the mother. When I found John, it
was time. Well, I rolled a 1 on the percentile dice I reckon and was
I rate the game a 5 for being solidly constructed, adequate plot and
decent character, but glueing someones butt to a toilet seat as a
solution! That's too quirky. Before I peeked at the walkthru, I was
trying to burn the house down, stick knife in door, burn bed with
lantern. Glue toilet is right up there with: get rope, make a noose,
attach rope to ceiling fan, attach string to ceiling fan lightswitch,
line string on floor as tripwire, push NPC over tripwire. You succeed!
John trips the wire , turns the lightswitch on, and walks into the
room, the ceiling fan turns and the noose wraps around his neck, and
John chokes to death in circles!
Score : 5

A.P. Hill


Game: The Elysium Enigma
Author: Eric Eve
System: TADS3

Santoonie benchmarks:
X me: Women seem to find you attractive, and you find no reason to
challenge their opinion. Tall, slender, and athletically built, with
aristocratic features and short blond hair you are just a month over
twenty-eight Earth standard years of age.. (YA!)
Xyzzy: It's a thousand years too late for such nonsense. (YA!)
Shit: You're already sitting down. (BOO!!!)
Fart: The word "fart" is not necessary in this story. (BOO!)

Are you kidding me? Farting not necessary? Boohiss. What a tight
game. You can tell this game was beta tested by a small college. I
didn't find any mistakes whatsoever. Some typos probably aren't
typos , simply words I don't know how to spell. And I also came
across some words I didn't know the meaning of, but I pretend I do.
It's all about how you use it in a sentence anyway right?:

I went grutoshily to the store before dawn.

This is a pretty good game because it allows an element of freedom and
choice to the protagonist. It's much like your standard role playing
game where you decide early on what role you intend to take, you know,
what alignment. You're given specific orders and I chose to follow
them precisely, so precisely the game ended fairly quickly. But you
know, I liked that. I like the fact that I wasn't railroaded into
subsequent scripts one after the other. This is off topic, but
that's why I like Battlefied1942 over games like Call of Duty that
are too scripted. Back to the game, this was a scifi exploring a
strange world posing as a diplomat. Your job is to go in ,hoist your
flag, explain planetary affairs and get out. You are warned not to
spend a lot of time with the inhabitants. And right off the bat, you
are approached by a girl in need of help. I said no, I went into town,
I found the flag, spoke to the elder, ignored his requests or concerns
and headed back to the ship. I was completely surprised that I was
allowed back on and even more so that the ship actually took off.
I played long enough to get a sense of authorship and I like the
author's style. Some good qualities was describing usual objects
with a twist. Your green. You know its human nature to make certain
The conversation system was well layed out and seemed to answer all of
my intents. The game was well crafted at predicting the character
element. All good game referees have a talent of prediction. With a
stronge conversation system, the NPC's were very alive. There were
elements of the map that were not too elegant. The ship was a driver
seat, passenger seat and two seats in the rear. Um, isn't that a
typical car layout. You'd think that far in the future, it
would've been described as, "Your laying on your belly starring out
a small cubical scope. The driver above taps you and say's....".
One day we'll be driving cars in a glob of a jello like substance.
Where you don't even sit..you just ...jump in the vehicle ..in the
glob and suspend there in a strange distortion as the vehicle drives
away. The game, the map as mentioned was not particularly interesting.
Very linear. So, to sum up my experience which I enjoyed: Strong
NPC's, conversation, descriptions and freeform. Modest quest, Subpar
map. Low level of comedy. Just your typical witty responses. I'll
give it a 6..... no a 7. I'm certain one day, I'll fly back into
town and sit down at my desk with a stoagie, maybe by then, I'll give
a sit.
Score : 7

A.P. Hill

I wrote these reviews a month or so ago, if they are too terse, my
apologies, I enjoyed playing the games, thanks for making them. Just
poking fun.

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