| >X SHIRT
| Glittery, sparkly, metallic-looking fabrics are all the rage this
| season. Unfortunately, they're also extremely expensive. To
| compromise, you've glued tinfoil to the front of your tee shirt.
| >ASK LADY ABOUT GRANDCHILDREN
| "My grandkids didn't even bother to show up for my last birthday,"
| the old woman says. "They just mailed me this idiotic shirt. I
| wish everyone were dead."
| >X GIRL
| Sugar and spice and crap like that.
With lines like these, why didn't this game make the A list? Because
it had a bunch of puzzles and weird triggers and stuff that make it
difficult to make a lot of headway, and the help didn't actually help
all that much -- it was disorganized and had enough omissions that
before long my early enjoyment was eclipsed by frustration. Still,
Score: SIX. Yay, six.
Another satirical look at some younguns who could not exactly be
described as overachievers, this one takes a more documentary approach.
All in all, it's pretty much a wash -- substantial gains in
characterization on the one hand, but on the other, there's nothing
here as inspired as the tinfoil t-shirt. And while GOT ID?'s hints
left a lot to be desired, PUNK POINTS omits them altogether, so I ended
up having to experience the latter half of the game through the wonders
of the text dump. Still, the main thing I want out of IF aside from
entertaining responses to the stuff I type in is a chance to wander
around in an interesting world, and this game did indeed supply that
opportunity. There's plenty of fun to be had here, even for those of
us about as punk as Punky Brewster.
Score: a low SIX.
An A for atmosphere -- the writing here is just superb. However,
balancing that out is the fact that the core of this game is an alchemy
puzzle -- assemble the ingredients, apply some energy, the sort of
puzzle that's popped up in everything from TRINITY to PHRED PHONTIOUS --
and that kind of thing isn't really to my taste. And the coca daemon,
while a clever twist on the old hunger routine, is still, at bottom, a
hunger daemon, a step on the path to hop clap and kweepa. Put it all
together and you end up with a game that's fun to read but less fun to
play. Hooray for transcripts.
Quoth the raven, "Here's the score!": a low SIX.
This game I liked pretty much entirely because of the toys. The
story didn't really do a lot for me, but I had loads of fun running
every object through every order of matter, growing and shrinking them
all in turn, turning my dress to chainmail and enlarging my needle to
the length of a sword and running around pretending to be Joan of Arc.
I claim this tetrahedron in the name of France!
One technical note: I had a real problem with the cut-scenes -- not
with the content, but with the way they were coded. See, oftentimes
I'd fail to notice that even though the text had paused, a prompt was
missing, and I'd start to type in a command. When I type, I generally
get in quite a few keystrokes before I'm capable of stopping myself.
So in these cases I'd start typing, the screen would go blank, and
before I could say, "Whoa, cut-scene," I'd have pressed another key and
the cut-scene would vanish. So my tip to those of you out there in
authorland who want to use this sort of device is this: don't just
accept any keypress -- mandate a space or return before clearing the
screen. Your players will thank you.
Score: a low SIX.
PRODLY THE PUFFIN
It's a comedy, so the first question is, is it funny? And yeah, it
pretty much is, with lines like "HOORAY FOR CONSCIOUSNESS!" and, best
of all, "How do I report a bug in the menu system?" (Trust me, it's
funny in context.) But I'm not really convinced that the sort of
anarchic spirit behind the Pokey cartoons really translates to IF --
one thing IF really depends on is a strong sense of cause and effect,
and without it you end up with a game where, as it says in the banner,
you need to go straight to the help to get anywhere.
Oh, and for what it's worth, my favorite Pokey cartoon: "I have a
dream! I have a dream that one day penguins and snowmen will live in
peace!!!" "Mr. Nutty we do live in peace!" "My dream has come true!"
Score: a high FIVE.
So, here's another attempt at uncompromising story IF, not quite as
successful as RAMESES, but still pretty good. It too is pretty much on
rails for a good chunk of the running time (though it does blossom
outward into multiple endings before the story in through), and also
features a curiously passive player-character, though this time the
passivity owes less to the pathology of the individual than to the
pathology of the society being depicted. And to the genre. Which is
where MASQUERADE falls short: no matter how well-executed it is, this
is at bottom a fairly shallow melodrama, complete with a literal
mustache-twirling villain. One nice thing about IF if you're an author
is that you can often do something novel merely by doing an IF version
of an established genre; however, if you're a player, the mere novelty
of seeing a genre you dislike done interactively isn't likely to be
enough to overcome your dislike. So I'm afraid that most of the points
that follow are for competence -- the game was well done, for what it
was -- rather than for actually having liked it overmuch.
GUESS THE VERB!
The opening sequence is great -- not only funny (for some reason,
the reply to >REMOVE BRACELET really made me laugh) but also with a
very cool puzzle involving parts of speech. Then comes the actual
verb-guessing bit. On my first playthrough, I got them all right, so
I had some trouble figuring out what exactly the point of the whole
exercise was. I tried again and this time I discovered that you don't
always win. Problem was, I didn't find the scenario I landed in all
that interesting -- nor, for that matter, did I find any of the
scenarios I ended up playing much to my liking. Them's the breaks.
Guess the score! Okay, it's a low FIVE.
This game threw me at first because it seemed to be scooping me on
a game idea I'd had a few years back, but luckily for me it turned out
to be up to something considerably different. Whew. Anyway, it's an
okay story, told in a style that's perhaps a bit more spare than I might
have preferred... interesting for a while, but by the time I finished
the mouse segment I was ready to see it wrapped up. And it went on for
a while after that. So I peeked at the ending via text dump and liked
it pretty well. Thanks, TXD!
Score: a high FOUR.
AT WIT'S END
Unremarkable as IF, AT WIT'S END stood out from the pack thanks to
its shaggy-dog-story concept: so one evening this guy gets his team to
the World Series but then gets a spike in the thigh and is loaded into
an ambulance which tumbles off a cliff and he flies out in his stretcher
and frees himself just before the explosion but then gets kidnapped by
thugs and... in short, an interactive tall tale. The little emotion
monitor is pretty nifty and often quite funny, acting as a stand-in for
the expression of disbelief the player-character must be sporting from
about the middle of scene two. But keeping AT WIT'S END from a somewhat
higher score was that, on reflection, it seemed a little pedestrian.
Still, the second-best TADS game in the lot.
LETTERS FROM HOME
This appears to be a very well-done game, and I like the idea of
collecting letters via their homophones and such and using them to
finish a crossword... but still, there's no getting around the fact
that this is a scavenger hunt, and I don't really like scavenger hunts
much at all. Full points for admiration, but I just couldn't get into
Score: a low FOUR.
A CRIMSON SPRING
Now, remember, I was one of the apparently quite few people who
liked CHICKS DIG JERKS last year. And I do read a handful of superhero
comics every month. So you'd think I'd be into this. But...
...for one, the art was awful. The anatomy, the perspective... it's
just painful. Even the choice of medium -- I mean, was this done in
crayon? Colored pencil? It really, really detracts. I'd really
recommend playing this game, if at all, on a text-only interpreter.
Sure, you'd miss out on the music as well, but I couldn't get the music
to play anyway.
Bugs. So I'm at the cemetery, and want to leave. I type >EXIT,
expecting that I'll trudge away from the cemetery or else get asked for
a compass direction. Instead, with no explanation, I teleport to the
outside of some bar, and I can't leave. In the course of questioning
the bouncer, I find myself talking to Johnny, but when I try >TALK TO
JOHNNY, I'm told I can't see him. I try >ENTER BAR and am told I can't.
I try >ENTER, and it asks what I want to enter. I say >BAR and am told
that doesn't make any sense. >IN eventually gets me into the bar, where
Johnny and I get into a fight, despite the fact that Johnny isn't ever
mentioned as being *in* the bar (though at least I can talk to him now.)
The writing also has its share of problems -- not just grammatical
issues, but also weird think-o's, words that don't make sense in
context. (Being a stupidhead, in my notes I just wrote down the words
rather than the contexts, so I have a few lines here reading "'About'?
'Separate'? 'Is'?" Reeeeeal helpful.)
This game isn't *total* dreck -- it's got some amusing conversations,
and it's interesting to see a superhero fight rendered not as some
choreographed pyrotechnical display but merely as a bunch of thugs
beating on each other with pipes. But both the writing and the
programming are in dire need of some serious work, the art needs to be
overhauled or eliminated altogether, and even then, you'd still only
end up with a somewhat interesting game (we're not exactly dealing with
WATCHMEN here.) I think I'll stick with the graverobbing poonhounds.
Score: a low FOUR, and in retrospect, this is striking me as extremely
generous. Minus a couple of good jokes, we're talking about a two here.
After the prologue, I asked myself, "Gah, this looks like it actually
is going to deal with dragons and such... do I really want to delve into
this game or should skimming through it do the trick?" I looked at the
title page. "Ah, Digby McWiggle," I said to myself without irony, "now
there's a name I trust." Only several seconds later did I realize how
silly that sounded.
YAGWAD positions itself as a comedy, but there's not really much
here that's actually all that funny -- so the hero is sort of out of
shape and has a butterfly net instead of a sword? I guess that's on
the amusing side, at least in theory... but... Anyway, this seemed to
be a fairly solid game, and I did like the idea behind the essence
spheres, but at the end of the day, this is just what it says: another
game with a dragon. Not even remotely my sort of milieu, I fear.
Score: a low FOUR.
Adam Cadre, Sammamish, WA
web site: http://adamcadre.ac
Yeah, I've seen that before. Frustrated me to no end. >_< Too bad, too. The
game was pretty good, but didn't support undo, so I wound up skipping the
cut scenes multiple times and having to play through the game from the start
to get it. Too bad, too. The game was good otherwise, but it completely
ruined the experience for me. Hmmm... 0_o What was that game called,
anyway... oh, yeah, I remeber. "shrapnel."