comp 2007 games

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Nov 16, 2007, 7:26:50 PM11/16/07
The competition results matched, to a large extent, my own ratings.
Reviews are themselves a form of spoiler, but I've tried to keep
specific spoilers to a minimum.

"Act of Murder" made the best use of randomization I have ever seen
for enhancing replay value. Rather than just changing the starting
locations of various objects (as is too often the case in randomized
games) the randomization feature in this game actually affects the
outcome of the story. The story is also one of the very best IF who-
done-its ever written. The only unfortunate flaw in the game was a
fatal error in the hints section. I suspect that may have been part
of what prevented it from winning.

slap that fish
Weirdly satisfying, even at the lower levels where one could easily
mistake this for a one joke game. But if you stick with it, it does
actually have some puzzles. Rather difficult ones actually. Had some
trouble figuring out the syntax for speaking to another character, and
there were errors which occurred if the verb "meditate" was used at
the wrong time in the game. The game is kind of like a text version
of the old Street Fighter arcade game. Except with fish.

A richly described one room game, featuring a series of "discover the
combination... open the lock" type puzzles. Its strengths are its
florid descriptions, and the sense of anxiety created during the end-
game. Weaknesses: not enough variation in the puzzles, and a
thoroughly unsatisfying ending. Even after collecting signed letters
from both Bellwater Jr and his attorney, admitting to their conspiracy
to subvert Bellwater's last will, and further implicating Bellwater Jr
in conspiracy to cover up attempted rape and manslaughter, these
bastards go free? I replayed the game a second time, just in case I'd
forgotten to read some important clue that was necessary for the
optimal ending, only to realize... that was the optimal ending.

Easy. a story more than a game. a little bit saccharine. I regret
that "wish" was not one of the recognized verbs. Some other lack of
coding also. Never crashed though, and the kite puzzle must have been
at least a little tricky to code.

I rated "Jealousy Duel X" much higher than most of the competition
judges. I liked it. The game was of a professional quality, it was
fun to play, and the art work contributed effectively to the story.
The only fault I saw was the lack of a natural-language parser, which
is going to dampen its popularity in a competition of this sort.

Jack Mills, A Fine Day for Reaping, and The Chinese Room (which all
placed in the top third of the comp) were part of my top third as
well. These were all terrific games, and thanks to the authors for
writing them.



Nov 17, 2007, 3:50:38 PM11/17/07
In my last message, I listed some of the games that I thought were on
the top of the competition.

Here I'll mention some of the games I played that I felt needed a
little more work. (even so, some of these games were clearly labors
of love for their authors, so I'll try to criticize constructively)

Fox Fish and Fowl. Everyone wants to show off their programming
skills by writing a ropes puzzle. Don't do it! The author of this
puzzle put enough time into their rope so that its not completely
buggy, but the use of the rope is still frustrating as hell, and the
player is repeatedly getting in and out of the boat to tie it to
things. Eventually I gave up.

This is the second time in two years this author of the Conan series
has served as the inspiration for IfComp entry. Very odd. The story
is very odd also, and didn't make a lot of sense. The narative
presents a dark atmosphere. The game suffers from a wickedly
difficult timed puzzle that made me wonder (but only briefly) whether
this was one of Andrew Plotkin's games. Zarf games don't make you
guess the noun. In this game, substituting 'paper' for 'newspaper' or
'fire escape' for the 'railing' across that escape will get you
Beneith creates an effective sense of horror and darkness. However
the plot needs to be more evenly developed. For example, the PC gains
substantial knowledge about "worms" early in the game. However, the
player is told only "Your gained knowledge of worms almost feels like
a physical possession.". I felt like I was in a role playing game,
being told by the Game Master "Your wisdom has gone up by two points."

Eduard Seminarist. This game has a neat title. I was so excited to
play it. And the trampoline puzzle was cleverly done. But then I
notice the game doesn't recognize the command "about", "hint", "help",
or even "examine me". (self inspection yields "as good-looking as
ever", the lamest default response in the entire INFORM library).
I quit after turning to the walk through to figure out what in my
room I could tie a rope to without breaking my neck. As I said
before, ropes are difficult to implement. But this game failed to
correctly implement a second bed!

Dunric's Trilogy. I played one of Dunric's three games. I don't even
remember which one now. His homebrew parser doesn't accept the word
'take' for 'get' (which I notified him of in my comments on last
year's games), so I wasn't able to take a bottle out of the tavern
with me. Outside, I attacked some innocent bystander with my bare
hands, and after a prolonged battle I eventually killed them. I
didn't play for two hours, but it was long enough to make me feel
comfortable rating the game.


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