Akilesh's Comp Notes

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Akilesh Ayyar

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Nov 16, 2002, 8:50:29 PM11/16/02
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Short set of comp '02 notes follows. These were taken immediately
after completing (or not completing) each game.

IF Competition Notes

* Photograph
* Rating: 6
* Impressions
* Intriguing opening
* I like the "consider" verb
* I like the story, but the writing is a little bit too abstract, as
if describing a person from a narrative. The words are too broad, too
flat. I wish the whole tone were a bit sharper and more personalized.
I didn't feel as much empathy for the main character as I should have.

* Jane
* Rating: 7
* Impressions
* Nicely understated opening
* In the first scene, when I "look" at the room, I don't see the
nurse, though I know she's there.
* I enjoyed the different perspectives. They worked well to show how
each character interpreted the world differently, especially when
these perspectives ventured into the same rooms and looked at the same
objects but saw them differently. I also enjoyed the choices Jane
faces in conversation. Overall the game is an elegant use of
interactive fiction to explore the problem of domestic use. It would
be wonderful, however, if it were more detailed, deeper still.

* Tookie's Song
* Rating: 6
* Impressions
* Love the fluffy, cartoonish prose and the self-aware sense of humor.
I liked that responses to violence differ from object to object.
* Leon doesn't appear as a character in his room when you "look."
* All the puzzles were fair and lots of fun. Very relaxed.
* Excellent hint system. Just right, though I was expecting a few of
those lovable red herring hints…

* Augustine
* Rating: 4
* Impressions
* I enjoyed the introduction.
* It would be nice if more dialogue were included and less was
summarized as "he told this story" or the like.
* The story goes through too many events too quickly. The effect is
confusing, rather than moving. The character has supposedly gone
through a lot, but doesn't seem to possess the depth of personality
that would accompany that, and such depth cannot simply be described
away. It must be illustrated, in word and in deed. This is true of the
villain, too. Both hero and villain do this and then do that. It's
just a long series of events which relate only very thinly. I don't
feel much emotional attachment to the character.
* Not many choices here either. The story just sort of pushes you from
one place to the next with large chunks of text.

* MythTale
* Rating: 4
* Impressions
* I enjoyed the introductory scene.
* Should really have a "pet" command for the cats
* Hrmmm… another story where objects transport you to different lands
* Instead of just playing out the myths, it would be nice if the
player had some say in what happened in them.
* Overall, the game was a little too mundane for my tastes. A stronger
story would have been helpful.

* coffee quest II: a day at the office
* Rating: 4
* Impressions
* The plot and characters were a little too dull here to hold my
attention for long. There were also some errors in responses from the
technician to questions, e.g. "ask technician about drive" gave some
kind of garbled response.

* Scary House Amulet
* Rating: 3
* Impressions
* The keywords in bold got old pretty quickly. So did the exclamation
marks. Actually, the whole story got old pretty quickly. The game was
trying to be satirical, but the attempt was too heavy-handed.
* Some objects weren't recognized – "search boxes" upstairs where the
description mentions boxes says there is no such thing.
* Hints would have been very nice

* Sun and Moon
* Rating: 4
* Impressions: Wow, a web game! What a fantastic idea! Or so I thought
at first. Sun and Moon immediately reminded me of EA's now-defunct
Majestic, a program that tried to use email, faxes, and phone calls to
immerse players in a game that seemed really real. Unfortunately, the
prose is a little bit dense. More importantly, I wasn't really able to
grasp the game's structure.. Thus even after beating a puzzle or two,
the epilogue did not make much sense to me.

* Another Earth, Another Sky: Earth and Sky: Episode 2
* Rating: 7
* Impressions: I had totally forgotten about this game's predecessor,
Earth and Sky. I really enjoyed that game, short though it was, and
had hoped for more. I had no idea it was going to take a year! Anyway,
it looks to be well worth it. The atmosphere is loads of fun, and I
love the comic-book "sound effects," diagrams, and other graphics.
Excellent and well-planned hints, too. The ending is a little confused
and sudden, though. I wish a little more were explained, and this
episode had a little more of its own story. Also, though it's better
than last year in this regard, it's really too short. Finally, what is
it about catlike aliens that another game features them?

* Moonbase
* Rating: 5
* Impressions
* It would be nice if the intro were a little catchier—that might help
the game stand out from the masses of other space-rescue-mission type
games.
* I love the responses to the help command.
* The sound effects also add to the atmosphere nicely.
* SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER There was a big bug: when I tried to put the
exoskeleton on after fixing it, the game kept saying that my load was
too heavy—even after I had dropped everything. I played the game over
using the walkthrough (which didn't really go step-by-step as it
should have) and it worked.

* Rent-A-Spy
* Rating: 6
* Impressions
* I enjoyed the story and the puzzles, which were generally quite
logical. However, there were some bugs. Also, it would have been nice
to be able to see the truck move down the road and examine it at each
juncture. Fundamentally, the story and characterization lacked depth.

* Fort Aegea
* Rating: 8
* Impressions: Yay, a fantasy game! And one that centers around a
druid, at that. Strong opening, and the extensive descriptions and
text suggest a vastness and freedom to the world. Excellent. There's
plenty of prose, but some if it is quite awkward (e.g. "…the ensuing
threat to his safety was palpable in its description…"). The game has
the feel and suspense of a good adventure. The plot rushes forward and
you rush to keep up. It was refreshing to have an adversary that
seemed to move and act independently of me. On the other hand, Ft.
Aegea definitely suffers from some of the linearity of a novel or
movie. There really is only one way to go about things. There aren't
adequate substantial strategic choices. In addition, the puzzles tend
to be a little harsh. It's very easy to get into unwinnable states
and, of course, timing in this game is everything. Not all the puzzles
are that intuitive, either. Still, epic fun.
* I was disappointed not to have been able to discover a Solomonic
solution to the arbitration near the beginning of the game.
* There seem to be plenty of loose ends, too—the fate of the baby, for
instance.

* Out of the Study
* Rating: 4
* Impressions
* My first impression of this game was not good: much more careful
attention needs to be paid to grammar and proofreading. Well, I
couldn't get much beyond one small find, and there were no hints or
help or walkthroughs available, so I gave up.

* Hell: A Comedy of Errors
* Rating: 3
* Impressions: Great title…interesting that no one in history's ever
used anything similar before…  Actually, the first few minutes
of this game were wonderful. I was hoping for a fascinating
strategy-oriented IF game. The character creation was quite amusing,
and sets the stage for considerable replay value. But alas, even the
first go-around doesn't work. The souls do not have enough information
in their descriptions to suggest the most logical places, helpers, and
tortures. Indeed, even when by trial and error I discovered one such
proper combination, it appeared to be totally arbitrary. It would be
nice to be able to talk to the souls, too, for the same reason, but
that's not allowed either. So to me the game quickly became a sort of
random try-this try-that exploration of combinations. Also, why aren't
the special rooms fully implemented? In the "lakes of fire," for
instance, "examine lake" gives me nothing!
* There are some annoying bugs in the game. For instance, you can't
drop an empty torture in a room with a soul already there; the game
will tell you that you can't have two souls in one room. Overall, the
game has an excellent premise but shallow execution.

* Constraints: Some Restricted Interactions
* Rating: 5
* Impressions: I was intrigued by the idea of three puzzleless
scenarios in one—it reminded of an anthology of short stories. Indeed,
I'm not sure that interactive fiction was necessarily the appropriate
medium. In the first two scenarios, the character just sort of sits
and watches. I really don't see how the experience would have been
much different if these had simply been written out. Each scenario
could also stand to be more tightly written. I just didn't feel as
affected, or bewildered, as I should have. Also, some of the writing
is a little bit over the top in terms of strained metaphors and the
like – e.g. "a featureless white noise that molests your ears like
tundra." I did really like the idea of exploring philosophical and
psychological ideas through interactive fiction.

* Identity thief
* Rating: 7
* Impressions: I enjoyed this game about a smart thief, one who's
state-of-the-art.
* The driving really needs to be more intuitive. If the player types a
compass direction in the car, the game should direct him to use "drive
to." Similarly if the player steps on a pedal, tries to steer the
wheel, tries to "drive <compass direction>" etc.
* You shouldn't be able to take the palmscanner and drop it into a
hidden pocket and have the game continue normally
* It would be nice if the NPCs responded to a few more conversational
topics. The game does a remarkable job of evoking through description
that lovable cyberpunk world, but the characters are so reticent that
the effect is damaged.
* The game ends just as it starts to get interesting. How frustrating.

* Bastard Operator From Hell
* Rating: 5
* Impressions: Interesting theme, and good writing, too, but a lot of
the details are missing. First, too few items are implemented. I would
have expected to be able to use my computer, for instance. Of those
items that are implemented, many cannot be referred to by anything but
their full, multiword names.
* Second, there are a lot of annoying little bugs – for instance, you
can show the photos over and over to their intended recipient and keep
getting points. Also, I can't seem to examine or talk to the
traumatized technician at all.
* Third, some of the puzzles are quite illogical. For instance, it's
very odd that a conversational topic becomes a verb when talking to
Stephen. It's also odd that a hotel reservations server can be changed
so easily. All in all this game like others I've already reviewed has
a good heart but needs to be more structured, more detailed, and
tighter. By the way, I enjoyed the description of the Venetian, which
I've visted.

* Evacuate
* Rating: 5
* Impressions: I'm not a deep fan of puzzle-heavy plot-light
adventures where you have to carefully hunt around a lot to figure out
what to do next, so this didn't hold my attention for too long.

* Koan
* Rating: 6
* Impressions: Good title. I was hoping someone might eventually do
something on Buddhism :). I got a bug as soon as the game started up –
"@get_child called with object 0 (PC = 8fb3) (will ignore further
occurrences)". Very appropriate spare writing style. Well, this game
was just too tough for me. I give up. I have only one (very
unsatisfying) suspicion about the answer. Any help here anyone? :)

* Janitor
* Rating: 5
* Impressions: Seems well-written and kind of intriguing, but the idea
that I had to go around this complex geometric structure and
understand all these weird puzzles just seemed too complicated. I
prefer games with a strong propelling story. Sorry. Simple unbridled
bias.

* The Blade Sentinel
* Rating: 2
* Impressions: Problems from the first. The introduction is chock full
of grammatical and spelling mistakes. In the first scene, I am unable
to examine the bed. I cannot open the closet. I cannot "wear" clothes;
I must take them. I turned north into my kitchen and landed in the
police department. Wow. I think I've had enough.

* A Party to Murder
* Rating: 4
* Impressions: I couldn't quite figure out what to do and there were
no hints or walkthroughs, so I gave up. I'm afraid the conversations
with characters do not give you as many hints about what happens next
as they should.

* Four Mile Island
* Rating: 4
* Impressions: My first impression is that this is a nicely written
little game, simple but suspenseful. There's something charming about
playing in such a simple black and white DOS window. The rooms and
characters are few but meaningful. I like the facts that the exits are
clearly delineated with letters in each room. Unfortunately, there are
lot of game crashing bugs. And there's no "save" command. I lost
patience.

* Unraveling God
* Rating: 7
* Impressions: Nice little story, though again I think it ends just
where it starts to get truly interesting. There's some good writing
here, but the philosophy is dealt with in, I think, too shallow a
fashion. There's much more to be explored. Still, it's fun and
thought-provoking.

* Not Much Time
* Rating: 6
* Impressions: Though very simple, it's a fun game, mainly because the
object descriptions are thoughtful and the game has a sense of humor.
It does have some bugs, though. My score wasn't properly updated to
reflect the last item, for instance. Also, my score claimed that I had
somehow visited more locations than existed in the game.

* When Help Collides: The Wreck of the HMS Snark
* Rating: 5
* Impressions: What I discovered when I first examined my in game
persona had me grinning ear to ear. And indeed this game seems full of
potential, frenetic, anarchic, weird. But I couldn't figure it out how
to survive long in it. Either I didn't understand the walkthrough, or
it didn't correspond to the game. I followed its instructions but
still couldn't survive the wagon ride beyond the first couple of
steps.

* The Case of Samuel Gregor
* Rating: 5
* Impressions: Started out interesting enough, but there was a switch
in the middle that was unfairly confusing. The puzzles also tend to be
fairly illogical. There's an area referred to in the walkthrough
that's accidentally called a different area .Could be better debugged,
too.

* Terrible Lizards
* Rating: 4
* Impressions: Another hunt without a story, without compelling
descriptions or conversations. Too much mapping required. Didn't hold
my attention.

* Color and Number
* Rating: 5
* Impressions: If I were a puzzle person, I would be more
appreciative. I don't enjoy mathematical puzzles that much, though, so
this game didn't really appeal. I like the adaptive hint system,
though.

* Eric's Gift: An Interactive Tale About the Future
* Rating: 6
* Impressions: A nice little story. I enjoyed it. Not much room for
interactivity, though.

* The Granite Book
* Rating: 6
* Impressions: The prose gives the story a keen intensity. The puzzles
are not so graceful. Neither is the implementation. For example,
certain people don't show up when you "look" at a room even when they
are there. This is an annoyance. Also, I ended the game with a feeling
of vague dissatisfaction. Is
that all there is?

* Concrete Paradise: An Interactive Jailbreak
* Rating: 5
* Impressions: The story is pretty incoherent. What's worse, the
puzzles are simple, but they are implemented in little enough detail
that they seem tough. For example, in one part of the game you must
move something to reveal something behind it. But only the "move x"
command works. Neither pushing nor pulling nor taking it works. And
looking behind it reveals nothing. Another example is an area where
you must enter something. But "enter x" doesn't work; only "enter"
alone works.

* The PK Girl
* Rating: 7
* Impressions: Whew! This is an epic game. More than a dozen important
characters, a vast world, interesting dialogue, and a multitude of
side stories—this game has plenty of replay in it. The main plot is a
bit underdeveloped, in the sense that it serves more as a vehicle for
exploring the world than as a thoughtful and meaningful set of events
around a theme. It was a fast and fun adventure, though, and, given
the 7 special endings which I missed, I felt there was much I left
unseen.

* The Moonlit Tower
* Rating: 7
* Impressions: Piercing description and evocative mythology pervade
this piece. Enjoyable, but short. The story is hinted at, but I'm one
of those philistines who would prefer a little clearer explanation :).
It would also be nice if the hint system could be a little more
explicit, instead of restricting itself to just one hint per topic.
* Screen
* Rating: 5
* Impressions: Incompetent puzzle-solver that I am, I couldn't figure
this game out. And there were no hints or walkthroughs. Oh, and
another reminder that spellcheckers only go so far: "She looked so
sweat."

* Til Death Makes a Monk-Fish Out of Me
* Rating: 7
* Impressions: It doesn't surprise me that this game was co-written by
Jon Ingold, author of last year's mind-bending All Roads. In addition
to being twisty little devils to figure out, the two games share in
common the theme of minds in different foreign bodies, bodies hosting
foreign minds, and all kinds of messes along those lines. This would
have made for a pleasantly confusing trip through a moebius strip
world, except that I found this game a tad too confusing. The scenes
don't hang well together. I couldn't really relate to anyone; I didn't
know what was happening. Confusion is good, but only to a point. I
liked the adaptive hint system, although it gave inadequate
information in one instance, a problem kindly resolved by Mike when I
emailed him. The game also portrays an extremely intriguing concept,
one which I wish were sewn together in greater depth, so I could
explore its implications more thoroughly. Finally, I really liked the
review command and the other signs of attention to detail and care
that are evident in the game.

* The Temple
* Rating: 5
* Impressions: This piece has some nice atmosphere, especially at the
beginning, but the story elements overall were too disjointed. What's
the meaning of the whole? What's the context and background of the
protagonist's discoveries? Not enough of this information is given, so
one is left with a confused feeling at the end, and it's not a good
kind of confused. The puzzles, too, are not intuitive. They seem to
require a roundabout mode of thinking that doesn't have logically
follow from the story.

* Ramon and Jonathan
* Rating: 4
* Impressions: Like so many others this year, this game has an
interesting hook but it fails to deliver on the promise. There is
really too little story given. We don't, for instance, even know the
crimes for which Ramon and Jonathan are accused. When we make certain
moral choices, we are told off for them, but are given no serious
explanation.

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