COMP97: A few reviews

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Neil Brown

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Jan 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/2/98
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Here are my (very brief) comments on some but not all of the entries. (I
still haven't got round to playing about half of them.) I did originally
put in scores, but changed my mind and removed them. They are, however,
ordered in terms of their original scores, highest first.

A BEAR'S NIGHT OUT (Inform)

Well thought out, with good puzzles and good writing. Has a nice
atmosphere.


DOWN (Hugo)

A well-written and involving short story. The only problem I encountered
was of the 'guess-the-verb' variety when trying to save the little boy -
only one command worked when several should have been implemented.


A GOOD BREAKFAST (Inform)

Good fun. Although the setting isn't new or original, it is well
implemented, with a heavy dose of humour.


SINS AGAINST MIMESIS (Inform)

Probably the funniest entry of the contest, with plenty of in-jokes. Did
Michael Kinyon write this? That's my best guess, anyway.


A NEW DAY (Inform)

Inventive and well written. Perhaps a little too hard in the closing
stages. (Or maybe I'm just a wuss.)


SYLENIUS MYSTERIUM (Inform)

The first text-based half is excellent, featuring some of the most
successfully implemented NPCs I have ever seen. The second half, an
arcade game simulated with text, is interesting as an experiment but a
little dull to play.


PHRED PHONTIOUS AND THE QUEST FOR PIZZA (Inform)

Its lightheartedness makes the fantasy setting bearable. Perhaps it goes
on a bit too much, especially for what should be solvable in two hours
(but then, lots of authors this year seemed to disregard that).
Interesting, nevertheless.


MADAME L'ESTRANGE AND THE TROUBLE SPIRIT (Inform)

Probably my favourite entry, with an intriguing storyline and puzzles
that are fairly easy, leaving you feeling in control while not barring
your progress. (I'm a very lazy player.) Unfortunately, there are a
considerable number of errors that ruin the enjoyment of the game,
ranging from big things that crash interpreters to spelling mistakes and
strange changes from past to present tense. It also appears to be
unfinishable - a location that the walkthrough mentions doesn't appear
to exist, or at least the game doesn't know how to get there.


THE TOWN DRAGON (Inform)

I found this quite entertaining and humorous, although it does seem to
be a little rambling in places, and I wouldn't have got through the maze
without the walkthrough. There are also problems with text formatting,
and a few minor bugs are irritating. The descriptions are a little on
the sparse side as well, but overall a good effort.


FRIDAY AFTERNOON (Inform)

It's a shame that there was no straightforward walkthrough with this
game otherwise I might have ranked it higher. It seems to be a witty and
nicely constructed game, but after getting into difficulties, I tried
the help menu, which is a little infuriating and lacks detail in places.
(It talks of paper which has to be put in the printer. It doesn't
however, say where the paper is, and I certainly couldn't find any.)


THE TEMPEST (Inform)

An interesting experiment, but as an "interactive performance" it
suffers greatly from the 'shout-the-plot-at-the-player' syndrome. I am
of the opinion that it takes great skill to do justice to parts in
Shakespeare's plays, mainly because of the language problem, and this
game places the burden of interpretation of all parts on the player. So,
while I found the interactive version to be dull and a bit of a slog
(well, no I didn't - I simply held down the space bar and ignored most
of the dialogue), that isn't to say that I wouldn't enjoy seeing the
play on stage, performed by professionals. (What I'm trying to say is "I
didn't like it, but that doesn't mean I'm thick or anything.")


SYMETRY (Inform)

Well, the misspelling of symmetry didn't fill me with confidence as I
first loaded the game, but I was surprised by how 'not-bad' it was. The
prose seemed fairly acceptable, and the idea quite good. It's true that
there's only one proper puzzle, but it is interesting nevertheless.
What's with the weird menu options at the end, though?


TEMPLE OF THE ORC MAGE (TADS)

Competent, but not particularly inspired. It could have been better
implemented - I found myself trapped in a location part-way through, and
assumed that I'd somehow made the game unsolvable. Resurfacing to the
desktop, I consulted the walkthrough, only to find that the way out of
that location involved a very obscure command.


CONGRATULATIONS (Inform)

A fair effort, but not much to it. Suffers from a few bugs.


CASK (Inform)

A bit weird, and not terribly satisfying. Why are we locked in the
cellar? What on earth is an elephant doing there at the end?


PINTOWN (Inform)

This game appears to be unfinishable because of a bug that crashes the
interpreter, but even putting that aside, the puzzles are not
particularly brilliant or obvious either. Maybe I'm just biased against
it- I find the idea of being an aging, worn-out rock musician quite
depressing.


COMING HOME (Inform)

I shouldn't be too cruel about this, if it is a first effort, but I
found Coming Home an unrewarding experience. The story is dull,
pointless and even downright silly in places (eg we need to find someone
with a key to let us in the house, despite the fact that there are three
people already inside), and the implementation is weak and sometimes
even obstructive.


AUNT NANCY'S HOUSE (Inform)

Absolutely no plot and nothing to do, except explore, which isn't much
fun seeing as the objects in the house are fairly dull and mostly
inactive.


I haven't played most TADS games properly because of the awkwardness of
getting a TADS game to run on my machine. I *will* try getting round to
them eventually, though.

- NJB

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