[comp03] Reviews

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James Glover

Nov 16, 2003, 8:10:21 AM11/16/03
I only rated about six games and reviewed only four of them. This was
mainly because my return to university occured shortly after the release
of the games and free time went to zero. However, here are the reviews I
managed to write. (Okay. I thought I managed to review Bio, but seeminglyt
not.) This is my first attempt at reviewing so hopefuly my technique wont
be as bad as some of the games I played.

Scavenger by Quintin Stone

Quintin's 'Scavenger' was the first piece of IF that I played in the 2003
competition, and also the first competition game I played during the
judging stages.

Scavenger is an enjoyable piece of interactive fiction, with both story
and puzzles playing key parts in the plot, making it neither a pure
puzzle-fest nor puzzleless IF. This middle ground approach is pulled off
with both puzzles and story being well intergrated, into the game world,
neither feeling tacked on, indeed an example of this is the multiple
solutions to various problems, although what wasn't clear was how much
effect the various choices would have as the game progressed.

Although I did not finish the game within the allotted two hours I found
it was begining to conclude itself, and I felt that I was making progress,
and was probably a few moves from the end. This constant feeling of
progress carried itself throughout the game, and the puzzles were well
paced and varied, providing you with a number of barriers at any one time
so that you never felt too boxed in. Unfortunately the constant awareness
of the two hour limit caused me to reffer to the solution a little earlier
than I would have liked and to rush through some sections that I would
otherwise have explored in more depth. It was only furthur into the game
that I discovered the excellent hint system, which was context sensetive
and provided hints of steadily increasing strength. Outside the
competition, and without the time pressures I feel I would have enjoyed
the game more, for it would allow the exploration of various solutions and
well as a more in depth reading of the story.

The story in the game is mainly revealed through the IF tradition of
talking to people and reading various sources revealed as you progress
through the plot. Each piece of information is revealed in fairly small
chunks, thus avoiding the problems of infodumps. Overall the story is
interesting and the game world is well constructed, however I felt a
slightly amature feel laid over the whole adventure. This feeling may have
come from the rushed nature of my playing, which caused me to skimread a
number of the description, or perhapse a personal dislike of writing
styles. Yet overall I felt the writing had a slight feel of fanfiction
about it and didn't have the polished feel of some of the better pieces of
IF. However, you should bear in mind that this comment comes from someone
who has similar feelings about the writing of Steinbeck. Yet despite this
the game is still worthwhile playing, and I will likely go back to it and
play through it at my leisure after the competition.

Overall this game was entertaining and well thought out, with puzzles and
story intergrating well. However the game failed to achive the standard
expected of truely top IF, as overall it had a sligthly unpolished feel,
and failed to introduce any new concepts or techniques to the media. Yet
with a bit of post comp polishing this game could become a game well woth
playing. Quintin stated that this was a return to writing IF after a long
departure and the first piece written using a specialist IF system. I look
forward to seeing some of his future pieces, for as he becomes more
familiar with TADS and develops in the media I expect we should see some
promising titles from him in future.

Comp rating: 7


Hercules First Labour by Robert Carl Brown

This game was written in javascript and based on the style of the Scott
Adama games, a style which I am not too altogether fond of.

The piece is bland and uninteresting, lacking any story or serious
challenge. The descriptions are, in the Scott Adams style, short, and
remain dull and two dimensional. The game world felt very much like the
map I had drawn out on paper, a two dimensional array of little boxes, all
the same with only a couple of words distinguishing them. Both puzzles and
story are non existant, leaving the only real substance to the game being
the navigation of the maze like network of rooms, which gives only a nod
to traditional geometry and ultimately the only two directions of any
significance are north and south.

The game is littered with bugs which at first lead me to believe that the
game had compatibility problems with Opera. However on loading IE6 I found
that the game was filled with missing items and solutions to 'puzzles'
which are impossible without the walkthrough. (The last puzzle requires
you to make use of an item which you never picked up and isn't in your
inventory.) Conventions common to modern IF, such as x for examine, are
completely missing from this game, making the parser cumbersome and

Like plot, description and interest, characterisation is nil, the only
indication to the main characters identity being in the title and a brief
referance to Hercules by one of the characters.

As an exercise in javascript or in emulation of the Scott Adams style this
game may be okay, but as a game in it's own merit it is at best
uninspiring. If it was solely the authors intent to produce a Scott Adams
game in Javascript then they should not have bothered with the
competition. However, if it was their intention to produce a game that was
itself enjoyable and deserving of marks somewhere above five then they
were sadly mistaken, and should perhaps play some more recent titles to
gain a feeling of the modern field.

Comp rating: 2


A Paper Moon by Andrew Krywaniuk

I probably rated this game higher than I should, although for some reason
something about the game appealed to me. However it was perfectly timed to
last the two hours, with the *** You Have Won *** message appearing almost
exactly as the timer clicked round to the two hour mark.

The game is a traditional puzzlefest with very little story tacked on and
is curiously entertaining. The writing style matches the lighthearted
nature of the piece, for descriptions are short yet still manage to allow
visulisation of the surronding environment, and also provide a degree of
characterisation for the central character. However a slightly childish
vein of humour stretches through the game, yet this manages to avoid
grating too much. At the same time the writing manages to be at times too
clichced, comming very close to meeting some of the oft quoted beginers
mistakes, unsurprising considering this claims to be a beginers game.
However there were some generaly funny moments in the games, and although
fairly funny, the response to 'use toilet' clearly failed to take into
account leather goddess. Yet other referances to various games exist
throughout the script although I don't think this was frequently enough to
affect anyone who didn't 'get' the in-jokes.

The puzzles are on the whole logical although some actually require you to
learn through death, although in most cases an undo will allow you to
correct the problem, avoiding the death-restore loop. However a couple of
the puzzles are poorly clued with a character telling you outright what
part of the solution to a puzzle was, wheras another either requires the
knowledge of a particular referance to which I am not partial or is
downright impossible without the solution. In another situation poor
puzzle planning has resulted in a place in which you can easily get
yourself into an unwinnable situation, infact, if you were to follow the
walkthrough you would get yourself into such a situation. However,
strangely a minor bug in the coding actually allows you to proceede in
this case, meaning two wrongs actually do end up making a right.

Overall the game is an enjoyable two hours although fails to achive
anything innovative or even achive something simple extreamly well,
despite making use of two different solutions leading to two different
endings. However this dosn't stop the game from being a bit of fun and
there are certainly worse things to waste two hours on. Perhapse it didn't
deserve a seven, especialy when compared to Scavenger, yet somehow the
game holds a certain charm which managed to raise it from okay to good.

Com Rating: 7

Other Ratings and one line review:
Bio: 1 Clearly had no testing and was no fun to play. The puzzles were
flawed and I wore a grimace from the start.
The Recruit: 8 Enjoyable puzzlefest with some clever ideas.
Temple of Kaos: 6 I wanted to like this more but unfortnately the puzzles
lacked any form of consistant logic.

James Glover
E-mail: ja...@jaspsplace.co.uk
Web: http://www.jaspsplace.co.uk
MSN: ja...@jaspsplace.co.uk
ICQ: 75440795

Jess Knoch

Nov 16, 2003, 11:45:28 PM11/16/03
"James Glover" <jasp...@hotmail.com> wrote...

> Scavenger by Quintin Stone
> --------------------------

> Overall this game was entertaining and well thought out, with puzzles and
> story intergrating well. However the game failed to achive the standard
> expected of truely top IF, as overall it had a sligthly unpolished feel,

I am very curious as to what parts you thought were "unpolished." Personally
I thought it was very well put together. Do you mean parts of gameplay, or
the writing, or were there bugs? Other people have also commented on how
well-implemented the game was, so I'm not sure what you mean, exactly.

Jess K.

James Glover

Nov 17, 2003, 2:12:29 PM11/17/03
On Mon, 17 Nov 2003 04:45:28 GMT, Jess Knoch <jessic...@mindspring.com>

It was more of an impression from the writing than the implemenation,
although, as I said later I feel this may have just arrisn out of a
personal feeling about the writing style. (I am finding that, more and
more regulalry now, that I am not keen on the writing style of a large
number of authors, even those who are very popular elsewhere. I'm not sure
where this has come from but it's rather annoying, especialy as my writing
skills are fairly mediocre.)I think also that I perhapse moved through the
game a bit too quickly to fully appreciate some of the details (Despite
not actually finishing it.) Also, as pointed out in other reviews the
underriding idea is quite a common basis, (ie. post appocolyptic) and
perhapse some of the poorer implementations of this rubbed of on this
game, so not so much a problem with a game but one of the reviewer.
Objectivity is hard to achive when we aren't aware of our subjective
biases. But ultimately, I can't realy say more than it was a general feel
as deconstructing English is not something I feel I could do or would
necessarily be benificial.

Once I get a bit more fee time I am planning to go back to scavenger and
play it through at my leisure.

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