[C32 Comp] Dan Shiovitz's reviews

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Dan Shiovitz

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Dec 15, 2004, 10:31:23 PM12/15/04
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Here are my brief reviews of the games in the Commodore 32 comp. I
comment on this in a few of the reviews, but you have to take it as
read that all the games feel sparser and less well-implemented than
other games I've played. Sometimes things like the lack of undo or the
limited command parsing are more of a problem and sometimes they don't
matter as much, but they're always there.

One of the ideas raised at the start of the comp was that the
more-restricted form would force the authors to be more creative and,
while I agree with this in principle (there's a pretty good Frederik
Pohl story based on this theory), I think it didn't really work here.
I think it didn't work because the limitation was put on the wrong
thing -- essentially, what the comp did was limit how the *effort* of
the authors could be applied instead of limiting the endproduct. So
the creativity-bonus from the limitations is going to come in the
form of giving the authors more inventive ways to code stuff -- but
more inventive coding isn't usually visible to the player.

That said, it was interesting to see how people chose to address
the limitations in their game design. Some people did normal-sized
games, just sparsely, others did smaller games in more detail, and one
person did a startlingly-large game -- I'm not quite sure how Algol
pulled it off. But anyway, my reviews:

(As usual, these reviews are archived on my website at
http://www.drizzle.com/~dans/if/reviews.html
and if you're reading this more than a few days after I post, there
may be a more updated version there.)

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Turning Point
by Robert Rafgon (Z-Machine)

I guess this is one of the few entries from this comp that I can
actually recommend to someone playing games outside the comp, but it's
still pretty borderline. Turning Point is a fairly standard sf game
with a semi-serious premise (there's a war and you're the bodyguard of
the captain of the only ship who can win the day for the home team) but
then all the actual bits are pretty silly (the captain regressed to
childhood and put in a slide in place of the stairs; everything has
seemingly randomly-generated names like "Valkon", "jemk", and "trhos";
the monster is defeated by some Red-Dwarf-esque antics), and I'm not
quite sure how to take it. It has a few puzzles which are perfectly
fine for this small a game and is basically unobjectionable, except for
the (common to this comp) limitations imposed by using a much less
powerful Inform library in order to conform to the size limit (so no
undo, no multiple commands per line, etc).

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Amusement Park
by Algol (Z-Machine)

Amusement Park is the largest and most elaborate game in this comp
Commodore 32 comp and it definitely deserves some technical praise for
that, but unfortunately the actual writing and gameplay aren't very
good, even allowing for the limitations of the C32 size. The premise,
you will be surprised to hear, is that you're wandering around an
amusement park, and almost every puzzle consists of getting a ride
working (sometimes all that is required is flipping a switch), riding
it, and having the game tell you how nostalgic it makes you. But it
doesn't, you know, make you *feel* nostalgic, it just tells you that
you are. Repeat ten times. I appreciate the effort the author put into
designing all the different rides, but I think the time would have been
better spent making a few good ones instead of lots of bland ones.

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Downtown Train
by Owen Lockett (Z-Machine)

I can't recommend Downtown Train in general, but in the context of it
being a C32 comp entry I guess I can recommend it. The deal is that it
consists of one big puzzle (a little like the flash game Grow), which
takes a good while to solve due to needing a fair amount of trial and
error. The problem is that the C32 limitations make the gameplay pretty
lousy -- no undo, no referring to items solely by their adjectives --
and the writing in Downtown Train isn't interesting enough to provide
that much reward for the trial and error. But besides that the game is
fine: the puzzle's reasonably good, there's a feeling of accomplishment
when you solve it, and the last bit is a nice touch. As it were.

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Paparazzi
by EV (Z-Machine)

Even for an entry in the Commodore 32 comp Paparazzi is pretty bad.
There's no real clues for the conversation items you need to ask about,
the game doesn't properly handle asking about them multiple times and
so on. As a minor point the author appears to not be a native English
speaker and could probably have stood to have someone proofread
Paparazzi, but, like, that would have involved the game getting
beta-testing, which clearly didn't happen.

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Endgame
by Samuel T. Denton (Z-Machine)

Endgame is the most conventional of the comp entries in the sense that
it disguises its size limitations by going with a premise that allows a
one-room game with few objects. This works pretty well, and it ends up
coming off as the least artificially sparse of any of the games in the
comp. The only time I really bumped into size limitations was one major
parser confusion (an error message saying a command was ambiguous, but
not providing enough details to explain what I had to do to resolve
it). Anyway, the game itself is a fine totally-generic fantasy story
with an ok puzzle or two.

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Zombies!
by Chris Cenotti (Z-Machine)

I'm pretty sure Zombies! is intended partly as some kind of DOOM
parody, given the flaming barrel and all the crates lying around. Toss
in a B-movie zombies-attack premise and awkward writing to produce,
well, an only so-so game. I think one problem is that the PC is given a
pistol and a bat and a chainsaw but the actual opportunities for
violence are pretty minimal. There should be a lot more things to slam
or shoot or slice if you really want to capture the feel of the genre.
The whole experience is made worse by a pretty rough parser: there are
missing synonyms, hard-to-guess phrasings, and so on. In the context of
the comp Zombies! is worth taking a look at, but not really beyond
that.

--
Dan Shiovitz :: d...@cs.wisc.edu :: http://www.drizzle.com/~dans
"He settled down to dictate a letter to the Consolidated Nailfile and
Eyebrow Tweezer Corporation of Scranton, Pa., which would make them
realize that life is stern and earnest and Nailfile and Eyebrow Tweezer
Corporations are not put in this world for pleasure alone." -PGW

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