Olethros IFComp 2005 Reviews

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Christos Dimitrakakis

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Nov 17, 2005, 4:23:05 AM11/17/05
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Olethros' Comp 05 Reviews
Scores

An explanation of the scores is in order; this explanation is a
posteriori, as the scores merely reflect my overall impression and
enjoyment of the game. A 1 means an utterly horrible game, with no
redeeming qualities whatsoever. I probably quit such a game in 10 minutes.
In order to earn a 4, a game must be at least playable without any severe
problems, such as major bugs, hard-to-read prose, a seriously incomplete
implentation and so on, Thus a 4 simply represents the minimum acceptable
technical achievement. A 5 can be scored if the game can maintain my
interest sufficiently for me to play for two hours.

Games can score extra points by being interesting, with good pacing,
excellent writing, puzzles and plot. A 10 would place a game among my
all-time favourites.

* Phantom: 1
* Neon Nirvana: 2
* Sabotage: 2
* Off the Trolley: 3
* Gilded: 3
* Beyond: 4
* The Colour Pink: 5
* Chancellor: 5
* Tough Beans: 6
* A New Life: 7
* Distress: 9
* vespers: 10

Phantom

The opening made me cringe. Punctuation, style, logic are absent. Then I
enter a forest. It's a maze, so I go back to the village.

> x shack
The old run down shack, though enterable , is of no use itself.

> enter it
That's not something you can enter.


OK. Enough.

Apparently the game's idea of a puzzle is to enter the shack to get a
lantern, which you will need later. Why wouldn't you have a lantern in
your inventory, I wonder? But these finer points are wasted on this game.

Rating: 1.
Distress

This game opens with somewhat convoluted phrasing and inconsistent grammar
- but give it a chance. Later on the writing is largely free of such
things and in fact some of the descriptions of the action manage to be
pretty exciting. There is a lovely set of puzzles in the game, which tie
in very well with the story and are all solveable in the 2-hour
time-limit. (I was stumped by one of them, but that had only because I
misunderstood what was going on).

Very elegant piece of work, with an interesting story, grippingly told.

Rating: 9
Neon Nirvana

Just another amateurish attempt at a police story. To begin with, I notice
that the author made no effort to provide descriptions for you or your
companions, an indication of which directions you can move in and finally
neglected to include potentially important words in the dictionary.

Throughout the game, many holes in the implementation are evident:

As the wind blows, it shuffles around assorted bits of litter, leaves,
and rubbish that congest the sidewalk. A bit of graffiti is spray
painted on the sidewalk.
...
> x litter
The litter is awful. It's scattered all over, and the graffiti reads
"Type HELP for more information"

>help
That's not a verb I recognise.


Similarly, the descriptions leave a lot to be desired, with multiple
errors and frequent repetitions. But it comes up with some great quotes

* You can almost feel evil lurking in the dark cracks of the pavement.
* This is a high-crime area, and you're cold and lonely. * The
sidewalk stands behind you.
*

Not only the implementation is half-hearted, but the author thought it a
good idea to insert useless and unfunny descriptions such as:

>x padlock
It's a padlock. You put a key in the padlock. You turn the key. The
padlock opens. Or, if that doesn't seem fun enough, you could push the
shackle down into the padlock and do it all again!


Rating: 2 - Not absolutely dreadful, there seems to be a game hidden
somewhere in there, but nothing good about it at all. Tough Beans

A convincing, concise opening. Later on, much backstory. And an unruly
dog.

A couple of things about the game are irksome, such as obvious items that
should be mentioned in the description and minor bugs related to object
implementations.

The puzzles in the first part of the game are a bit of the 'search
everywhere to find required object' variety, but not too irritating.

Later on you arrive at the office. Once more, you have to search for an
object. It seems that the author is desperately looking for ways to
ingeniously hide objects so that then he can say 'Hey, isn't it awesome to
hide useful objects in obvious hiding place?'

The amount of actual work you do is minimal, however, as copious amounts
of explanatory text follows all minor achievements in the game. The
writing is competent, but did not make me very enthusiastic. Although the
character is quite clearly defined, it is perhaps chiseled a bit too
enthusiastically - too sharply - to the point of being almost a
caricature, with altogether far too many flashbacks.

Overall not bad, but not amazing either - But yay, points for
'strawberry-mango explosion'.

Rating: 6
Gilded

Gilded? Fey? Shadows? This seems like an interesting game, indeed... with
a CREATE verb. This is MADNESS, I tell you! But an ambitious kind of
madness nevertheless - the kind of madness that heroically and tragically
comes to its long-foreseen DOOM. An example:

>summon fancy sword
You summon forth a fancy sword which immediately appears at your command.

"We'll be needing some food as well," an old man says as he ticks things
off upon his gnarly fingers.


Everyone seems to ignore your supernatural powers. Oh well.

The whole thing felt quite linear, and the conversations were annoying. I
am not sure what the '...' option meant - Magically Exit The Conversation?
Say Nothing? The hint

Overall, this game looks like something that is promising, but which needs
needs a lot more work before it is actually playable. The number of bugs
is simply too large for the game to offer any kind of enjoyment. Almost
every action I took produced some kind of bug. Even looking at the hints
produces a bug. Not only that, but the overly long introduction makes no
sense in terms of the sequence of actions made by your character - and how
the other characters relate to him. After getting out of the tavern and
wasting 10 minutes trying to figure out what to do and without any reason
why I couldn't just get the hell out of there, I quit.

The score which I give is an optimistic estimate of the expected quality
of the game.

Rating: 3
Beyond

This game opens promisingly. The atmosphere is good and commands work as
expected. It is terse and surreal, though using the extremely cliché
theme of the immortal soul. The extreme naivitée of this piece made me
cringe at places - the writing is alright but needs a bit of polishing.
(Also, I didn't know that the italian police let priests walk around in
crime scenes like that).

A nice feature of the game is that you can ask people to repeat evidence
they have given. This is very useful but the choice of phrasing is a bit
unforunate:

"Please, doctor, tell me again where should we move her to?"

"As I told you before, the corpse will be moved to the morgue at the old
military hospital. "


This somehow gave me the impression of a forgetful detective.

The biggest problem with the game is that it just doesn't feel realistic.
Everything seems to be arranged unnaturally, everyone behaves dumbly,
passively, automatically. Also, it is extremely boring. And this is too
bad because it is obvious that a lot of effort went into this. Ultimately,
however, it fails as a game.

Rating: 4
Sabotage on the Century Cauldron

The first sentence made me think office game... in space. This is not the
case, but it seems as though the game is simply full of wanton wackiness
at every level, including the main plot. Still, that doesn't necessarily
mean the game would be bad.

Anyway, the game is a bit bizarre:

> x table
This table has a U-shape and is considerably higher than tables usually
are. It has no chairs around it.


I guess this means it's a bar or bench

I found the NPCs to only provide minimal responses - the recognition of
relevant words was minimal. I just didn't feel like playing through it -
Unfocused, unimpressive, uninteresting, unfinished.

Rating: 2
A new life

This inexplicably has the filename Goblin.

The opening is intriguing. Movement commands elicit wonderful responses
and the initial location seems to have a very real existence.

I particularly enjoyed the sense of backstory both through the use of the
REMEMBER verb and the examination of objects. All scenery objects seem to
be described - and the descriptions are concise and elegant.

The game feels slightly too puzzle-free for my tastes - it appears to be
more of an exploration affair that reveals a story, which in itself is not
particularly interesting, even though the world itself is intriguing.

Overall, a more than competent entry.

Rating: 7
Chancellor

The opening is encumbered with exceedingly weighty epithets, which I must
say fail to have the expected impact - there is a ponderous exaggeration
in such amounts as to make reading the text unbearable. Even though all
sentences are laden with solemn importance, the following paragraph
probably wins the prize for sheer over-dramatisation:

He rises silently from a rocking chair of antique woods, from which his
own father no doubt rose in the same manner countless decades before. The
front door slams open seemingly under its own power.


But on with the game. I have little in way of motivation at the moment -
father says nothing, but evidently I must go out. Then I wander around...
and end up in the second part of the game. Which is completely pointless.
While the game does not seem to suffer from technical problems and the
prose is adequate, but the game is unexciting.

Rating: 5
The Colour Pink

You are some sort of Extreme Investigator, out on a Dangerous
Interplanetary Mission. This is not so Interesting as one might imagine.
Although apparently a Brave and Resourceful Spaceman that has survived
through many Dangerous Interplanetary Missions, you exhibit a fair amount
of Naiveness. Certainly the descriptions are interspersed with Simple
Thoughts of our Plain-Minded Investigator, who does keep his eyes Open in
order to take everything in. Overall, the prose seems quite unfortunate,
but I will give this game half an hour or so just in case there is
something Interesting to do. However, when I actually try and play I
discover some Unfortunate Bugs.

>climb table
You get onto the table.

>x nest
There must have been a bird here at some stage, but not anymore. It is
at least a sign of animal life and maybe the nest is not empty.

>l in it
You find nothing of interest.


The hints do mention that there is something in the nest, so this is quite
misleading. And it's the very first puzzle. But what happens next forces
me to continue. I have to know how Mankind, or maybe just I, will be
Saved.

The prose does not seem to be getting any better now, but it is quite
amusing, perhaps because rather than in spite of this fact. However, I
must say that putting all your descriptions of the room together with its
contents and what they look like and what you are thinking about and what
you remember and what was there before and the list of exists is not a
good idea at all. Example:

Southwest corner of laboratory

It looks like the laboratory's owner is more of a reader than you, as
there is a very large bookcase in this corner. The bookcase is
currently empty, but the library is still here, with a high pile of
books sitting on the floor in front of the bookcase. The books look
like they could be hiding something. Either the owner was careless, or
the disaster caused the books to be knocked off the shelves. The
titles mainly suggest that the contents of the pile are too technical
to be interesting. You suppose finding fictional books would be too
much to ask for in a laboratory. The laboratory continues to the north
and east.

My question here is: Firstly, why not simply say that there is an empty
bookcase in front of which lies a pile of books? Secondly, why add all
these inferences about the owner or what might have happened or that there
might be something hidden underneath? Perhaps the hint should be given
when you X BOOKS. And lastly, why have the chest be hidden at all? Finding
it is not really part of the puzzle.

I thought the game was somewhat interesting, at least story-wise, and the
premise was wacky enough for some amusement. Otherwise it was a
mediocrity.

Rating: 5
Off the Trolley

You are at trolley driver.

>drive
I don't know the word "drive".


OK, perhaps it is not entirely obvious that you have to push buttons to
control the trolley. The main puzzle seems interesting, but the
implementation of the whole thing is irritating. A proper walk-through
would have been nice.

Rating: 3
Vespers

The opening is engaging both due to the interesting subject and to the
well-crafted prose, which is composed of short, crisp sentences laden with
meaning and decorated with the occasional metaphor. Some of the word and
phrase choices are... I would say quaint, but that does not do them
justice. Still, such peculiar uses of the English language are quite
infrequent and not at all offputting though they reduce the otherwise
excellent impact of the prose at times.

The game's implementation seems impeccable - all reasonable actions seem
to work, and when they don't a valid reason is given. Furthermore, a
couple of new very useful commands have been added, making the game
interface very user-friendly.

This game is awesome.

Rating: 10

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