Reiko's IF 2008 comments and reviews

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Reiko

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Nov 16, 2008, 6:25:59 PM11/16/08
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Thanks to everyone who wrote games. I had a lot of fun this year too.
I didn't get around to all the games in time for judging, but I ended
up with scores for 25 out of 35 games.

A few notes on scoring: I started with a base of 7 for a game that
wasn't broken and added/ subtracted points for notable good/bad
points; a game that couldn't be finished due to bugs or a broken
walkthrough started with a base of 4. A game that isn't even trying
starts with 4 also, like an automatic -3 for lack of anything
worthwhile. I gave no 1's this year, although a couple of games
probably deserved them. I actually gave one 10, which is a very rare
thing for me, although I beta-tested the one other game that might
have received a 10 from me otherwise (Violet). There were a lot of
8's, but none of them had quite enough polish to make it up to the 9
level. It felt like on average, my scores were a little higher than
usual, but looking at my final list, given below, they ended up pretty
balanced. Average score: 5.56.

I don't guarantee lack of spoilers, but in most cases, I'm not very
explicit, except when it comes to obvious bugs. I talk more about
execution than content, in most cases, because that's what I'm
interested in critiquing in comp games. If the execution is done well,
the content mostly doesn't matter (case-in-point: Afflicted).

~Reiko

Final Scores
Nightfall: 10
Everybody Dies: 8
April in Paris: 8
Opening Night: 8
Berrost's Challenge: 8
Afflicted: 8
Cry Wolf: 8
Piracy 2.0: 7
Snack Time!: 7
Grief: 7
Red Moon: 6
Channel Surfing: 6
Magic: 5
Recess at Last: 5
The Hall of the Fount of Artois: 5
The Ngah Angah School of Forbidden Wisdom: 5
Freedom: 5
Trein: 4
The Lucubrator: 4
Search for the Ultimate Weapon: 3
Riverside: 3
A Martian Odyssey: 3
When Machines Attack: 2
Project Delta: 2
The Lighthouse: 2

Beta-tested:
Violet
Buried in Shoes

Not played due to interpreter issues:
Dracula's Underground Crypt (Glulxe)
Lair of the Cybercow (Adrift)
The Missing Piece (Windows)

Not played/Ran out of time:
Escape from the Underworld
Nerd Quest
A Date with Death
The Absolute Worst IF Game in History
Ananachronist


Game reviews/notes in the order played (from a randomized list):

Magic (TADS3)
Play time: 1 hr 15 min

Notes during play:
The prose is plain, but serviceable. There's a good self-description.

Hat? What hat? There's suddenly a message about someone expecting me
to retrieve my hat.

This is rather a gloomy game. I was just wet and cold, now I'm wet,
cold, and bleeding.

The ascetic has nothing to say about the rain, oddly enough.
And the chapel is dedicated to...rabbits? The characters are all
extremely thin though...one person wants me to do something about a
particular location, but then has nothing further to say about the
location. Another character says he doesn't like magic, but then
doesn't have anything to say when asked directly about magic.

Okay, I just got bitten *again*, and now I can't get healed where I
did before.
Hmm, the shelf is described as being the place where the attack was
launched, even before it happens.

Finally decided to check out the hints. I think I can actually get
somewhere now. Who ever needs to knock on doors though? The table in
the pet shop isn't mentioned in the description, either.

Okay, when I'm trying to turn into someone, the response "It
disappears and is replaced by you." doesn't seem quite sensible.

*Insert mega groan here*. Bad pun! Of course, with possessed rabbits,
what else could it be?

Final comments: There are some clever bits here, but the writing needs
more detail, and the implementation needs a lot more polish. A lot of
descriptions are serviceable, but nothing more, and there are several
locations that add little or nothing to the story/puzzles. Some items
seem to be invisible, or at least unmentioned. The meta trick is cool,
but not well-clued. Some of the other puzzles, like the light puzzle,
is rather nice (although the object involved didn't really need to
have every one of its individual pieces modeled).

Scoring: base 7, -1 for plain descriptions, -1 for bizarre
transformation lines, -1 for unmentioned objects and "read the
author's mind" puzzles, +1 for the light puzzle

Final score: 5


Snack Time! (Glulxe)
Play time: 30 min

Notes during play:
Cute cover art.

Hee. It's written from a dog's point of view. One quirk: cats may
think they own their people, but I don't think dogs think that way. Is
this a dog that thinks it's a cat?

Lots of amusing doggy things to do. Yay.

Okay, I should have thought of that, but didn't. Maybe doggy antics
distracted me.

I think "pant" should do something.

Final comments: Very amusing. The writing is great; every understood
action has an appropriate comment. There are multiple ways to do a few
things, and several optional actions possible. Only problem: it's too
short! Even with carrying out all of the amusing options given at the
end, I only spent half an hour with it.

Actually, it reminds me of "Child's Play," the IntroComp game written
from an infant's perspective. And it's about the size of an intro
game, too.

Scoring: base 7, +1 for great doggy antics, -1 for being short

Final score: 7


Afflicted (Zcode)
Play time: ~1 hour

Notes during play:
What a disgusting place. I suppose that's the point, but still. Ew.
Not a place I want to spend much time in.

Final notes:
Really, I think the game can be summed up in one word: disgusting. But
I actually must qualify that by saying that it plays fluidly and the
multiplicity of endings is rather clever (seventeen, according to the
author). Despite the subject matter (which I won't even begin to
describe), the text is well-written and evocative of the environment.
I can't say I really *liked* the game, and I certainly wouldn't want
to play it again (once was plenty), but I have to rate it high because
it was well-done. I had no complaints about the programming or
grammar, and it was actually immersive enough that I didn't make note
of much of anything while I was playing.

For the record, my final rating (score): -109. (Anyone get lower?)

Scoring: base 7, +1 for multiple endings, +1 for the notebook
handling, -1 for the disgusting subject matter

Final score: 8


A Martian Odyssey (Glulxe)
Play time: ~30 min

Notes during play:
Hmm...this game has music. Kind of a nice ambient sound at the moment.

Very thin location descriptions. Mars is kind of empty, but there's
still lots of interesting things that could be described.

Programming error ("Crash site (object number 163337) has no property
distance to read". Not a good sign. I know I've just crashed my
rocket, but that doesn't mean the *game* should crash too. Not that it
completely crashed, but I guess it's the equivalent of a loose wire
throwing sparks around or something.

Typo: "milibars" (shouldn't it be millibars?)

My altitude appears to be fluctuating alarmingly. It was falling to 13
feet at one point, and now it's back up to 85 feet? How does that
work?

The chair isn't something I can sit in?

Typo: "wonder" (should be wander)

Final comments: I ended up just following the walkthrough because I
couldn't understand the point of most of what was going on. Aside from
getting out of the rocket at the beginning, and then later knowing the
right actions to take to avoid dying (how to know these things? read
the author's mind?), there wasn't much in the way of puzzles. One
section of the walkthrough seemed to be more or less optional, even
though it resulted in acquiring a few extra items, because they
weren't used for anything later.

Scoring: base 7, -1 for mathematical inconsistencies, -1 for paper-
thin descriptions, -1 for an incomprehensible story, -1 for the maze-
like area at the end

Final score: 3


Grief (Z-code)
Play time: 45 min

Notes during play:
Should be an apostrophe in "son's first day" and "children's toys".
Looks like the game could have used a proofreader.

The text is way too cheerful.

Okay, that was a shock. I understand why the text is cheerful, because
it's a contrast, but it's still kind of thin.

It isn't obvious that Thomas is visible from the hallway after work is
over. I went back and forth looking for him a couple times before just
following the walkthrough to look at him. I thought he was still in
the broom closet (and theoretically out of scope).

Final comments: So. No happy ending. With the title as it is, that's
not too surprising. The message is a meaningful one, and the multiple
endings do a good job of the progression of the actions one might take
to try to avoid the bad ending. It's an interesting twist on the idea
that in IF, one can always restore and undo a bad result, actually.

It nearly succeeds, too. I say nearly because, while I was shocked at
the initial outcome, and saddened at the final outcome, I just think
there wasn't enough setup. There's not quite enough time to become
familiar with the situation and invested in the characters for the
result to have as much impact as it really should.

I know the setup is supposed to be short so that it can be replayed
several times to try the different possibilities, but at least
initially, more setup would be good. Something that _Pascal's Wager_
used to good effect was an automatic redirect to the beginning of the
scenario when a failed attempt is reached. That same technique could
be used here to redirect to a point following an introductory scene.

Perhaps that scene could be a short puzzle involving putting Thomas to
bed the night before, and hearing him chatter about the things he's
worried or excited about with starting school the next day. That would
simultaneously set the scene and build a connection with the
characters. Once one of the non-ultimate endings is reached, instead
of ending the game in death, it could redirect to waking up in the
morning, so that the player doesn't have to go through the bedtime
scene more than once. It would also strengthen the theme of trying to
make the bad endings just bad dreams.

One more comment: what difference does choosing gender make at the
beginning? I didn't play through the whole game, but I didn't see any
obvious differences in the first several turns.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for multiple endings, +1 for a strong theme, -1
for over-cheerful and nondescript descriptions, -1 for apostrophe
errors

Final score: 7


Cry Wolf (Glulx)
Play time: ~1 hr 30 min

Notes during play:
Hmm...sudden death right off the bat. The result of that particular
action wasn't too surprising, only that the action was allowed. And it
may set the tone of the whole piece as well. I'll have to be careful
of everything from now on.

There's a comment about cooking, and an implication that the main
character should cook (not necessarily within the scope of the story,
just in general). So then the command "cook" should have some
response, however short. Perhaps trying to cook the steaks should have
a more specific response, even.

Err, what? Scissors aren't the right tool for cutting open a package
of meat? Yes, I know they're scissors meant for surgery, but
still...aren't they sharp enough to cut cellophane packaging well
enough to open it?

While I'm looking at the bag...something is a little odd about the
listing used for the bag's contents. It ends up saying "an antibiotics/
antiseptics" and "a syringes". Needs some polishing. Actually, the
article could just be left out in all cases except the bottle of
anesthetics, which could be remedied by simply saying "anesthetics"
the same way as antibiotics and antiseptics. I know it's supposed to
be obvious that the bottle of anesthetics is empty, but perhaps it's
okay if that's not obvious until the player tries to look at or take
it from the bag?

Typo: "trear" in the description of trying to open the package of
steaks without tools (should be "tear").
Typo: "as it" in the second sentence of the description of opening the
porch doors while carrying the meat (should be "at it").

Disambiguation problem: "Who do you mean, the wolf, or the animal?"
Neither response works to resolve the problem. I was holding the meat,
trying to give it to the animal, which of course is a wolf, but
somehow there's something else in the room confusing the issue? When
the animal is out on the porch, both words refer to it without a
problem.

In the second scene, trying to take the James Herriot books still
gives a response referring to the animal outside, which of course it
isn't at that point. And trying to put something that doesn't work on
the woman's arm gives her name without any prior reference to it.

"You can see strange woman here." Need an article.

Duplicate response ("The patient is a golden retriever.") in the
conversation about the patient with Julia.

Final comments: I really liked the story. There was a comment made a
year or two ago that there weren't many IF games about werewolves.
This one is a good addition to the genre. The prose (for the most
part) flows very smoothly, with a few exceptions, mostly having to do
with articles, for some odd reason. That's probably more an issue with
the programming rather than the writing itself.

There were a few oddities here and there, most of which I've noted
above. So the game could use some polishing, maybe an extra round of
beta-testers. But I'd say overall, there's a real gem of a story
there, and once it's polished, it'll be quite strong.

I also thought that the balance between player agency and the writer's
story was handled well. There are several optional actions and
conversation choices which don't seem to have a permanent effect on
the storyline, but they nevertheless have an effect on the way
characters behave in the short term. And by the last scene, there are
certainly multiple exclusive endings as well, which also increase
player agency.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for multiple endings and player choice, +1 for
good prose, +1 for an engaging werewolf story, -1 for typos and
oddities with articles, -1 for the disambiguation and continuity
problems

Final score: 8


Search for the Ultimate Weapon (Windows)
Play time: ~30 min

Notes during play:
Normally I don't really see the point of reinventing the wheel by
making a new windows interface, but this one looks pretty nice at
first glance. I'll have to see how well it handles, of course, but it
has a lot of nice-looking features like a map, available exit diagram
in the corner, hyperlinked pop-up menus for items in the location,
buttons for common commands, etc.

Well, the common shortcut 'x' for 'examine' isn't supported. Not too
much of a problem, considering the previous command is automatically
filled in when I start typing the same thing again.

The background color changes as the time of day changes. That's a cool
effect, although probably some people won't like it. The colors are
kind of vivid, too.

On the other hand, there's no save command, only a save through the
application menu.

Objects are part of the room description and stay there even after
being taken.

I tried to cross the river, and apparently succeeded, but then got
pulled back by the monks. What's the point? Okay, now I talked to the
master monk and apparently that was my second task? What was the
first? I didn't even talk to him before this or anything.

Now that I'm quite confused, I turned to the walkthrough...and am even
more confused. It says to talk to the master several times and
eventually he'll give me some items? But that doesn't seem to work at
all. It then says to take an exit that isn't mentioned in the room
description (and the in-game map doesn't show as an actual link,
either) and use one of the items that I didn't get there.

The final action doesn't seem to work at all. (I don't think I'm
spoiling too much by saying what it is, considering how little work it
took. The phrase bolded in the text is "drive that weapon in" but no
combination of those words seems to work. And, looking at the
walkthrough, it looks like I managed to skip half the supposedly
required steps because I didn't talk to the master monk at the
beginning.

Final comments: The interface is well done and looks quite nice, but
the implementation leaves quite a lot to be desired. It's not just the
command implementation, but the plot implementation, considering I
managed to skip half the steps. I think the shortest path through the
game, if the last command actually worked, that is, ends up being
about 15 turns.

Scoring: 4 base, -1 for unrealistic dialogue, -1 for a broken
walkthrough, -1 for a broken map (hidden map exits for no good
reason), +1 for a nice graphical interface, +1 for night/day cycle
with environmental effects

Final score: 3


April in Paris (TADS3)
Play time: ~30 min

Notes during play:
Cute cafe. Nice movement around the various areas. The people are
still visible even from the other areas.

Final comments: I don't have too much to say about this one. It was a
nice, short story, almost realistic (aside from the normal IF behavior
of taking items that don't belong to you). I didn't see any bugs or
typos or anything, and the prose flowed very well. The locale of a
small French cafe was well presented.

I often couldn't quite follow the author's problem-solving intentions
and resorted to the hints fairly often, but that was mostly because I
think the author did a good job of making the problems immediate. I
just wanted to help people out and get the problem solved - I didn't
want to spend a lot of time flailing about for the solution. The
convincing descriptions of being hungry probably didn't help either.

The one down side of having so many characters was that they mostly
seemed a bit shallow outside of the responses that had been scripted
as part of the story. Several topics were understood, mostly having to
do with the immediate puzzle, but outside of those, the characters
were only minimally responsive. April in particular should have been a
bit more chatty. She's rather emotional right at the beginning, but
after deciding she wants to have lunch with you, she barely says
anything. Maybe I just didn't know what to ask.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for the open, connected multiple-location cafe, +1
for puzzles that felt urgent and real, -1 for lack of enough
conversation topics, particularly with April

Final score: 8


Freedom (Z-code)
Play time: 10 min

Notes during play:
Hmm. When the opening blurb says "Time to get through another ordinary
day," I can't feel too inspired about how much fun this is going to
be. And the first location is an ordinary-looking apartment. And my
description is just the default, although "xyzzy" has a response. No
wait, that's just some sort of default response to an unknown command.

Okay...the supermarket employees hate me for some reason?

Er, why is the road five locations wide? And I don't seem to be able
to cross the road fast enough before the light turns green again. Or
rather, there's no time to do anything other than move across the
road, or you won't make it.

Now I've done my errands and I'm waiting for the meeting to start. The
woman won't say much of anything, either.

Er, okay, the last command (given in the walkthrough) isn't something
most people would think of doing, considering how unresponsive the
girl is.

Final comments: After reading the about text, I can see where the
author was trying to go with this, but it just didn't quite work as
intended. The last action (as mentioned) is completely disconnected
from the rest of the sequence and isn't even hinted at. Fortunately,
the piece isn't buggy or anything, it just needs better atmospheric
prose to create the intended effect.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for educational purpose, -1 for unclued commands,
-1 for mundaneness of setting, -1 for extreme shortness

Final score: 5


When Machines Attack (Z-code)
Play time: 40 min

Notes during play:
Eek. Your/you're errors, typos, etc, already present in the opening
text.

Hm...I was 20 minutes late, but now I'm an hour and a half late?

Strange capitalization. Not just the title ("wHen mAchines aTtack,"
apparently) but also the occasional word (Boss, Lobby) which normally
wouldn't be capitalized has been here.

Typo: "signifance" in the description of the nightstand. Not to
mention more your/you're errors, missing articles, and general
strangeness of prose.

The small cutting area lists south and west exits, but the actual
(coded) exits are south and northwest. Then again, it seems to be a
curved exit, because the return is to the east. Curved exits are fine,
if they're clearly labeled at both ends. The other exit from the south
end of the conveyor belt is curved, too, although it's not mislabeled
at least. Same with the entrance to the dorm room (sw into it, east
out). Why is the map all twisted like this?

"turn dial to [number]" should also be supported, since the correct
syntax is "set dial to [number]".

Disambiguation problem: the rope can apparently also be called a cord,
so the cord on the overalls can't be referred to when the rope is in
scope.

Err...the machine apparently doesn't work properly - following the
walkthrough word for word doesn't even work. I thought perhaps going
around counter clockwise wouldn't work but clockwise (as in the
walkthrough) would, which would be bad enough, but neither one works.
Looking at the sheet should tell you what's actually cut, not just
whether it's ruined or not, and what's left to cut. Otherwise, how can
you tell for sure what's been cut and whether you're cutting properly?
And looking at the yellow button should indicate whether it's toggled
or not.

Since this part doesn't work, I'm done. Effectively unplayable.

Final notes: Broken walkthrough, broken prose, broken map. Looking at
the walkthrough, there's a fair amount of game left, but I can't get
to it.

Scoring: 4 base, -1 for the broken walkthrough, -1 for the invisibly
curved exits, -1 for all the typos and grammatical mistakes, +1 for
the hints of creepiness

Final score: 2


Riverside (Z-code)
Play time: 20 min

Notes during play:
Atmospheric setting, but a default self-description.

The nightstand in the bed can't be examined. The counter in the
kitchen is apparently visible from the living room, but can't be
examined.

How do I look up something specific in the photo album? The syntax
sure isn't obvious.

Sigh. Yet another broken walkthrough. I don't know why "x me" is part
of the walkthrough anyway, considering all it gives is the default
response. And I certainly don't know why you'd want to repeat that
nine times... The phone that's supposed to be used later doesn't seem
to be visible, either.

I think the album is supposed to trigger the right thing automatically
after Amy talks about the wedding, but it's not working. So another
unfinishable game.

Final comments: The prose is good, and there's certainly some mystery
here, but the implementation is a bit thin. Not to mention the part
that doesn't work.

Scoring: 4 base, -1 for invisible or unimplemented objects, -1 for
shortness, +1 for good prose

Final score: 3


Nightfall (Glulxe)
Play time: 2 hrs

Notes during play:
The map is really big. I hope these locations are well-described. But
at the same time, I hope this game fits within the two hours.

It sounds like there are a number of commands available for making
easier use of the large map and for interfacing with what the PC
knows. This should be fun.

Okay, finding that stone was way harder than it should have been. I
didn't see them when I was over where they were, and the hints,
mentioning the railway, made me think I needed to go back to the
platform, so I spent several minutes searching all over where I
started.

"Unknown Enemy" is kind of...cliched? Or at least, pretty generic-
sounding.

Final comments:
It's fascinating piecing together what exactly's going on. Getting to
an unfortunate ending the first time does reveal quite a lot, and it's
much easier to get a better ending the next time around. There seems
to be one main chain of events, but the timing, while sometimes
strict, is usually event-based.

But anyway, none of this conveys the atmosphere and vastness of an
abandoned city the way this game pulls it off. Ambient sounds
(described in text, but still), expert handling of darkness, the
possibility of things lurking in shadows...oh, it's all there, and
polished, too. And there are so many clues around about what's going
on, but takes some time to put them together.

I commented at the beginning of play that I hoped the game fit within
the two hours. It doesn't, really. It's possible to play through to
one ending within an hour, but that won't touch the depth of what's
there to be discovered. I played through to two endings using the full
two hours and didn't even visit every location (the map is quite
huge), let alone find every important object.

The thing I found the most interesting was that while at first, the
scenario seems to be some sci-fi horror construct, it's really nothing
of the sort - it's more psychological than anything else. At the same
time, it was almost a let-down. Without (hopefully) giving anything
away, the dreaded Enemy was much more mundane than it initially
sounded. At least as far as I saw. There are still hints that there
might be more to the story, and as I mentioned, I didn't see
everything. I might give this one another look after the competition.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for multiple endings and good plot handling, +1
for a vast atmospheric city that also had navigation commands, +1 for
a well-clued mysterious story, +1 for excellent handling of dark/semi-
dark locations and action timing, -1 for too much detail for two hours

Final score: 10 (I don't give this score lightly: even being too long,
there was so much polish and so many things this game did right that I
find it hard to imagine another comp game even coming close this
year.)


Trein (Z-code)
Play time: 30 min

Notes during play:
"Playing their taxes"? (typo in intro blurb)

Words are capitalized oddly in places. Actually, every important
object seems to be capitalized.

"Halleay" (typo in Western Hallway description)

The response to "light torch" is "This dangerous act would achieve
little." Considering I'm holding an unlit torch, I think this response
is entirely misleading, unless I'm not supposed to use the torch for
the obvious. Similarly, the torch bracket "seems to be missing a
Torch." But I can't put the torch in the torch bracket.

Sigh. It's "put torch _on_ bracket". Had to go to the walkthrough for
that one. More grammar options need to be supported, as well as a
appropriate response to trying to light the torch.

"concience" (typo in Lord's Letter - should be "conscience")
"deciet" (typo, same place - should be "deceit")

The restore option in the ending menu doesn't work.

The "Evidence" object is rather too obvious.

Final comments: The writing definitely needs an editor/proofreader.
Typos, capitalization oddities, grammar issues, etc are quite common.
The story itself only has about ten critical actions to take, so it's
quite short. There's plot, but a lot of it is introductory or
concluding exposition. Actually, based on the opening blurb and
picture, I thought this was going to be more of a horror story, with
mysterious mist and disappearances and such, but it was entirely
ordinary, generically medieval.

Scoring: 7 base, -1 for grammar/spelling issues, -1 for shortness, -1
for thin descriptions and generic plot

Final Score: 4


The Hall of the Fount of Artois (Windows)
Play time: ~1 hour

Notes during play:
Please, people, if you're going to make a homebrew parser, at least
support common abbreviations like 'x' for examine. It makes it *so*
much easier.

No scenery seems to have been implemented. No verbose option. No
reading books.

How does the torch work? I've tried "turn on torch", "turn torch on",
"light torch", "press button"...

Can't play the piano. Can't ring the bell. Can't talk to people at
all, it seems. Can't get the "bladed agricultural implement".

The command to grease the door doesn't have any reasonable synonyms
implemented either.

Inventory limit. Seems fairly generous, but then there's a strange bug
where I can't seem to take more than one item when I restart the game.

Following the walkthrough now. Without the verbose option, I'm walking
blind through this house, as it takes an extra minute every time I
want the description of the room I'm in.

Bit of a map oddity with the attic. I think going se enters the attic,
but a south or se exit goes back to the room where the attic can be
entered.

Cellar contains a maze. Each maze room contains two exits, but the
exits don't match up at all, as in, they're all one-way.

Okay, there's no way I would think to call that thing a "rammstein"
and no other synonym seems to work. Good thing I'm following the
walkthrough.

Final comments:
Old-school puzzle/object hunt, nothing more. Some awkward things about
the homebrew parser make it much more difficult to play than it should
be, most especially the lack of a verbose mode. I only remember map
connections in an unfamiliar map by reading them in the text, so if
I'm walking blind, I quickly lose my way. Some exits, particularly
those that are created by moving an object, aren't given directions in
the text, so it's somewhat of a crapshoot to figure out which way the
new exit is actually connected. The old-schoolness is completed with
an inventory limit and a maze. Fortunately, there's no hunger daemon,
although there is an overall timer on the game - the curse can't be
lifted after a certain amount of time has passed.

Okay, what was the point of the bell and the binoculars? And opening
the safe? Red herrings?

Scoring: 7 base, -1 for awkward homebrew parser with no verbose mode,
-1 for the old-school inventory limit and maze

Final score: 5


Piracy 2.0 (Z-code)
Play time: ~1 hour

Notes during play:
Default self-description. Hmm, this looks a bit thin.

Actually, maybe it's not so thin. The about information indicates it
supports a fairly wide range of commands, some of them not required.
Now we have to find out how *well* they're supported...

There doesn't seem to be a walkthrough/help file, but so far, the
puzzles haven't been too hard.

Hmm, random pirate attack. Is this going to turn into a sci-fi version
of Adventure, with pirates and lasers instead of dwarves and axes?

I'm not finding a way to avoid the pirate attack. Since there's no
walkthrough, I'm kinda stuck.

Final comments: I didn't finish this, but I liked what I saw, so I'm
giving it a higher score than I usually would for a game I didn't
finish. I'm going to assume that the rest of the game is interesting
too, but I'm just too dumb to get there.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for good computer interface handling, -1 for no
walkthrough

Final score: 7


Project Delta (Windows)
Play time: 10 min

Notes during play:
Hmm...the interface only gives a finite list of choices about what
actions to take, so it's treading rather close to a CYOA. It seems
there are a couple of actions that can be taken at any time via one-
letter commands, mostly meta-actions like saving, although inventory
has been given a letter command as well ('I', naturally). This really
isn't a parser, though.

I tried to go against the way that the story wanted me to go, and I
was immediately shunted back onto it. This is sometimes not a bad
thing, but in this case, why even offer the option if it's essentially
going to do nothing?

The whole intro section is a tutorial that completely shatters
mimesis. This reads more like the beginning of a MMORPG than a work of
IF.

Okay...apparently I'm left-handed. Strange.

Err...okay...apparently the tutorial was the whole game that's
available. Newsflash: this isn't IntroComp. This should have been
entered there.

Scoring: 4 base, -1 for lack of complete game, -1 for railroaded set
options

Final score: 2


The Lucubrator (Z-code)
Play time: 10 min

Notes during play:
Okay, I'm female. That certainly wasn't obvious at first.

Talk and speak don't work, but yell does. Strange.

Odd "we" inserted into one sentence. Probably "you both" would have
been better.

After checking the walkthrough (the first significant action was
rather unclued), it appears that I have to act the monster I appear to
be. No thank you.

Scoring: 7 base, -1 for unclued actions, -1 for abhorrent actions, -1
for generic or absent descriptions and actions

Final score: 4


Red Moon (Z-code)
Play time: 20 min

Interesting...the flavor attempts to be atmospheric and mysterious,
but I think it tries a bit too hard. Seems like the author thinks he's
done something really clever, and maybe he has.

Typo: "pespiration"

I was getting a bit of a werewolf idea from what I've seen so far, but
assuming no magic or anything, that can't be right.

Hm, another game where 'talk' doesn't work. But apparently ask/tell
work, but the sister won't actually respond to anything I've tried so
far.

Weren't vampires the ones that didn't have a reflection?

Hey wait...the photo changed. The dress description changed a little
too. Maybe I'm just insane.

...Or not. Interesting twist.

Final comments: The multiple ways to end the game are mostly
variations on a theme. The whole game is based on a gimmick, really,
and one that's arrived at in a somewhat tedious manner. Things do
change, but not enough to really prompt giving a closer look as many
times as is necessary. The only thing that really was notably odd
initially was the fact that the "in" color in the description of the
dress didn't match the actual color of the dress at the time, but I
thought that was just a mistake and didn't look again until much
later.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for changing descriptions, -1 for shortness, -1
for unresponsive npc

Final score: 6


Berrost's Challenge (TADS2)
Play time: 1 hr 15 min

Notes during play: Oh, nice, a fantasy romp. This could be good.

Err..._flooglemids_? Heh.

The clues don't look too obscure at first glance. Sounds like there
are probably multiple solutions to puzzles, too, if the spells could
be used to get other scrolls but don't have to be.

I really like the status bar. I don't like the possibility of an
inventory limit though.

"fallen into dishevel"? Looks like the text could use an editor. If
the premise is amusing enough, I can overlook a few text oddities
though.

Excellent, a ring of levitation.

Whew, that was a fast-paced puzzle, but fun. I definitely am having
trouble with the inventory limit already though. Not to mention there
are hunger/sleep timers.

Hm, "put" a particular thing on something else doesn't work, but
"pour" is the expected syntax. Not sure why "put" is disallowed.

Final comments: Interesting little puzzle-romp. The only problem is
that the game doesn't actually end. Once the list of wit achievements
has been shown, the prompt returns, and the player can wander out of
the tower and back in again, where Berrost will have mysteriously
returned, and the whole ending conversation can take place again.

The other problem with the fantasy setting is the way that the player
is discouraged from using the spells he has in order to solve the
puzzles. So it becomes a more ordinary puzzle-fest instead of
something where the player could learn the rules of the magic in order
to accomplish his goals. I didn't even bother using any of the spells;
I just used the hints to avoid them, because I didn't think I wanted
to replay later to get the best ending.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for multiple solutions, +1 for excellent status-
bar and self-examination information, -1 for broken ending

Final score: 8


Everybody Dies (Glulx)
Play time: ~30 min

Notes during play:
Huh, I didn't even notice at first that the voice was first-person.
It's done very well.

Nice shift in character. I didn't know that about the daggers. Huh.

This is getting really freaky now. I'm controlling multiple people?
Well...sorta.

Huh. Strangest time/people shift I've ever seen in IF.

Final comments: The writing was very well-clued, except for the very
last important action. For most of the game, I just went along with
the flow, and things got interesting pretty fast.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for managing multiple viewpoints without
confusion, +1 for giving second chances, -1 for a potty-mouthed
character (and other potty things too)

Final score: 8


The Ngah Angah School of Forbidden Wisdom (Alan)
Play time: 20 min

Notes during play:
The examiner told me to wait for the sound of the gong, but then he
sounded it immediately. I think it would have made more sense to delay
it one turn, and then failed the player if he had tried to drink the
tea right away on that turn without waiting.

Er. No walkthrough or hints, and I'm not doing so good at reading the
author's mind. I found the symbols, but they don't seem to spell
anything meaningful.

The notes say that the first room is the only one that will kill the
player. Isn't it usually better to ramp up the difficulty, have the
most difficult and lethal puzzle at the end? Since I can't get past
the first room, I can't even see the rest of what's there.

Scoring: base 7, -1 for no walkthrough, -1 for death trap first

Final Score: 5


Recess At Last (Glulxe)
Play time: 30 min

Notes during play:
Sounds like a perfectly ordinary school so far. (Except they're
learning fractions in fourth grade? That's pretty good. I was ahead
of my class at the time, but my school only taught division in fourth
grade.)

So the keychain is the means by which I find my backpack, but there's
"nothing special" about it?

Why would the door to the next classroom over be locked if there's
another class in there? It just doesn't make sense to have that be an
obstacle in the player's way.

Okay, I understand now; the class is somewhere else, and so is the
teacher, but it sounded like the PC was expected to just go next door
to get the stuff for his brother. As in, because the teacher knew all
along that that class was somewhere else, she should have said so to
begin with, rather than sending him next door to be confused and come
back asking where they were. If it was a case of her forgetting to
tell him, she should have said that too.

Seems like Mr. Bradley wouldn't start moving until I did a wait action
in the room with him. Maybe I just moved off too fast, but he said to
come with him to his classroom, so I moved in the direction of it that
turn, but he didn't go also. I went back, and he was still standing
there. I waited a turn, and *then* he moved on.

Er, I took the pencil, which triggered writing down the explorer and
my name. Then in Mr. Bradley's classroom, I took the crayon, which
triggered it *again*. Is it okay to do homework in crayon in this
school?

And now Mr. Bradley won't give me the homework for my brother. He just
repeats the same message he gave in the main office when I first saw
him.

The worksheet says it's complete when it's only got two of the three
questions answered. I'm not entirely sure whether "complete" is a good
verb for answering the questions, but I looked at the hints and came
across it, so I didn't bang my head against the questions, either.

I guess I don't need my brother's homework after all...

Final comments: Okay, so there was nothing really game-breaking; I was
certainly able to finish the thing. But it could definitely have used
more beta-testing. I noted some of the bugs above, but I didn't even
do any prodding or anything. Also, it was just very...ordinary? Slice-
of-life, I suppose, but suspense or humor or the like usually livens
that sort of thing right up. There was nothing like that here.

Scoring: 7 base, -1 for bugs, -1 for ordinariness and lack of relevant
descriptions

Final score: 5


Opening Night (Z-code)
Play time: ~40 min

Notes during play:
Hmm, the "about" comments say that the work focuses more on story than
puzzles, but I'm already stopped at the front door to the theatre with
a problem that in real life would be practically insurmountable in a
reasonable amount of time, and in this work, doesn't appear to have
any obvious solution at the moment.

Can't I tell anything at all about this white fluid? The description
says nothing. I had to smell it to get any sort of idea. (Without
that, I had a nasty idea about what it *could* have been...)

Okay, seriously, how was I supposed to think of that? (The use for the
peel, I mean.) I've been working from the walkthrough the whole time,
and haven't been able to figure out any of this stuff so far.

Okay, the solution to getting in not only involved an exit I didn't
even see initially (that was my fault), but involved performing an
illegal action to get an item to be used to start something that would
eventually collide with the peel. Totally non-intuitive, at least as
far as I'm concerned. I don't quite believe the story-before-puzzles
claim, at least at this point in the work.

At least I managed to find my seat without help (other than the
usher's, of course).

Er, random hole in the ground? Strange...

Why did the trash can from earlier turn into a dumpster? If the player
isn't supposed to be able to stand on it any more, it would have been
easier to remove the lid from play, wouldn't it?

Out of a chest of tools, the only useful thing is a bottle of water?

Hmm...is this trying to channel _Shade_...? It seems that this has
turned into something quite different than it appeared at the
beginning. Wow, even my inventory changed. I went to use the rose, and
it didn't respond to that term anymore. I had to check inventory to
see what had happened.

The Modern Vestibule has no description at the end.

Final comments: Aside from the hard puzzles that I really didn't get
at the beginning, this was quite good. It did shift, in a way not
unlike Shade, although much less drawn-out and therefore less creepy.
I think if this story concept were done as a movie (which I think
would work really well, actually - just subtract the puzzles), it
could shift from black and white, to sepia, to faded color, to full
color as things change. Such vivid memories...nice. I think the shift
probably could have been drawn out just a bit longer, because I
started noticing a couple of weird things, and then all of a sudden
everything was different, and I wondered if I'd missed something.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for story, +1 for gradual setting shift (including
inventory!), -1 for read-the-author's-mind puzzles at the beginning

Final Score: 8


The Lighthouse (Z-code)
Play time: 3 min

Notes during play:
Already I see a sentence fragment and an its/it's error in the intro
section. This does not bode well for the rest of the piece.

No room descriptions, only "You are now in the [room name]" and a list
of things in the room, including doors. No compass directions listed,
although they do work, once the correct direction is guessed.

I win, the end. Already? Okay then.

Final comments: Waste of time, but it wasn't a waste of much time.

Scoring: 4 base, -1 for lack of descriptions of anything, -1 for lack
of compass directions

Final score: 2


Channel Surfing (Glulxe)
Play time: 30 min

Notes during play:
Second sentence: "You open our eyes, but quickly shut them." I was so
hoping that would lead to some sort of interesting PC, like _Legion_,
but no such luck. Just a typo, apparently.

No self-description.

There don't seem to be any buttons on the remote. I can't 'turn on
tv', 'use remote', 'press remote', 'press button', 'change
channel'...Guess I'm going to the hints already, despite the claim
that this should be an easy game.

Okay, if the syntax is 'change channel to [number]', the response to
'change channel' should *not* be "I didn't understand that sentence."
That's completely misleading.

So Steve left to go to the bathroom, and it didn't say he came back,
but he's still in the description of the room, but he isn't in scope
anymore. Not a contender, I suppose.

Haha, best meta-line: "All the world's a game, and we're merely the
NPCs."

I guess no matter what I do, I can't stop it? Pity, I thought I had a
choice.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for political/psychological analysis, -1 for
pseudo-multiple endings, -1 for misleading responses

Final score: 6


A Date with Death
Adrift

Notes during play:
Hm. I played the Reluctant Resurrectee and didn't manage to finish it,
which only says something about my lack of puzzle-solving ability (to
say nothing of my lack of ability to use the various talents of a
bouncing eyeball...), but a sequel to that can probably be amusing at
worst.

Typos: "posison" in conversing with Bartimony, "archiveds" in the
description of the bureau with the book on it. Trying to take the book
triggers the examine/read dialog, which seems a little odd.

I sat around waiting for my guards to come back for quite a while,
probably half an hour, and then when I got bored of waiting, I looked
around and they were back. I didn't see them return...and the assassin
never showed up anyway. I sat around for an hour wondering what was
going on, because I still couldn't leave the room.

Okay, I restarted, and this time, instead of hiding under the bed, I
hid in the armour, and now the assassin actually showed up.

Seems like guards are a way to avoid dying a certain number of times,
but now I have only one, instead of three. Was there a way to avoid
that? Then again, my new guard isn't preventing me from picking things
up...

In the potato theft meeting, I can't seem to ask Stumm any
questions...when I choose a number, it goes back to the list of people
to ask.

I randomly yelled in my chamber (to explore making noise), after the
assassin was killed, and the response was a smart-ass remark from the
assassin, who sounds like he's alive and well beyond the door again.
Of course, going back out to the central chamber shows me that he
indeed has been disposed of. I must conclude that I have found a minor
bug.

I seem to have lost my chance to meet with both the magician. I was
one step away from entering the gardens when the assassin alert
occurred, too. And it sounded like from what Bartimony said that he
would be summoning the explorer, but I figured out later how to summon
him myself. Seemed a bit misleading because I thought I'd lost my
chance to talk to him too after I missed the magician.

I don't know why we have to have a meeting in order for me to read a
report and give a decision. Couldn't I just review the report at my
convenience and write the decision on it and hand it back to a servant
to deliver to the Chancellor? By the way, choice 0: "You're ready to
make your deliver your verdict."

The balanced choice of having them both cease hostilities gives the
initial reply of having the Plodds arrested and their lands given to
the Grimsmores. But the following paragraph seems to do what I
intended. Misplaced reply by the Chancellor, perhaps? I initially
thought I'd typed the wrong number, actually, because it's been known
to happen.

Er...where did my guard go? Now I don't seem to have any at all, and I
didn't notice him disappearing, either. I haven't seen him since the
uff tree grew. He came with me to talk to Bartimony, and he didn't
come with me back out of the archives, and I haven't seen him since.
Maybe he got buried in that pile of scrolls? Or he went to go
investigate the tree and died somehow? Or he deflected some other trap
that I didn't even see, so I have no idea how to avoid next time?

Typo in meeting with Mortenso: "High Chancelle" Verenor

Oh, my guard's back after that meeting now. Where was he?

The hints have a question about what the bell is for...but where *is*
that silly bell? (Edit: Why is the table only visible in the
description of the seat? Seems like I should be able to see the table
by looking at the room. Unless the room really is that big...)

Typo: Description of un-angelic Angel includes "it scythe".

In the fifth meeting, the description just says "people5".

Huh, Thugg was taken away after the incident with the Angel, but after
the fifth meeting, he's back. Can't say I'm not pleased to have a
guard around though. He seems to keep appearing and disappearing
though (as in, he's not always visibly in the room I'm in).

Strange...I was in the gardens, accessed the hints, and found myself
in my quarters.

It's suggested that one could ask for food and drink from Ibben, but
he doesn't seem to understand either food or drink. It's also
suggested that one ask for family, but he doesn't understand Toromin,
although he does understand wife (not that she'll come, of course). He
doesn't understand weapons or weapon or dagger either (weapons was
another suggested thing to ask for). I'm beginning to wonder if, like
the book, not everything in the hints is actually accurate...? And
shouldn't "chancellor" also be a synonym for Verenor where Ibben is
concerned?

I don't think the board has updated for 100 turns now...are there only
five notices?Magic (TADS3)
Play time: 1 hr 15 min

Notes during play:
The prose is plain, but serviceable. There's a good self-description.

Hat? What hat? There's suddenly a message about someone expecting me
to retrieve my hat.

This is rather a gloomy game. I was just wet and cold, now I'm wet,
cold, and bleeding.

The ascetic has nothing to say about the rain, oddly enough.
And the chapel is dedicated to...rabbits? The characters are all
extremely thin though...one person wants me to do something about a
particular location, but then has nothing further to say about the
location. Another character says he doesn't like magic, but then
doesn't have anything to say when asked directly about magic.

Okay, I just got bitten *again*, and now I can't get healed where I
did before.
Hmm, the shelf is described as being the place where the attack was
launched, even before it happens.

Finally decided to check out the hints. I think I can actually get
somewhere now. Who ever needs to knock on doors though? The table in
the pet shop isn't mentioned in the description, either.

Okay, when I'm trying to turn into someone, the response "It
disappears and is replaced by you." doesn't seem quite sensible.

*Insert mega groan here*. Bad pun! Of course, with possessed rabbits,
what else could it be?

Final comments: There are some clever bits here, but the writing needs
more detail, and the implementation needs a lot more polish. A lot of
descriptions are serviceable, but nothing more, and there are several
locations that add little or nothing to the story/puzzles. Some items
seem to be invisible, or at least unmentioned. The meta trick is cool,
but not well-clued. Some of the other puzzles, like the light puzzle,
is rather nice (although the object involved didn't really need to
have every one of its individual pieces modeled).

Scoring: base 7, -1 for plain descriptions, -1 for bizarre
transformation lines, -1 for unmentioned objects and "read the
author's mind" puzzles, +1 for the light puzzle

Final score: 5


Snack Time! (Glulxe)
Play time: 30 min

Notes during play:
Cute cover art.

Hee. It's written from a dog's point of view. One quirk: cats may
think they own their people, but I don't think dogs think that way. Is
this a dog that thinks it's a cat?

Lots of amusing doggy things to do. Yay.

Okay, I should have thought of that, but didn't. Maybe doggy antics
distracted me.

I think "pant" should do something.

Final comments: Very amusing. The writing is great; every understood
action has an appropriate comment. There are multiple ways to do a few
things, and several optional actions possible. Only problem: it's too
short! Even with carrying out all of the amusing options given at the
end, I only spent half an hour with it.

Actually, it reminds me of "Child's Play," the IntroComp game written
from an infant's perspective. And it's about the size of an intro
game, too.

Scoring: base 7, +1 for great doggy antics, -1 for being short

Final score: 7


Afflicted (Zcode)
Play time: ~1 hour

Notes during play:
What a disgusting place. I suppose that's the point, but still. Ew.
Not a place I want to spend much time in.

Final notes:
Really, I think the game can be summed up in one word: disgusting. But
I actually must qualify that by saying that it plays fluidly and the
multiplicity of endings is rather clever (seventeen, according to the
author). Despite the subject matter (which I won't even begin to
describe), the text is well-written and evocative of the environment.
I can't say I really *liked* the game, and I certainly wouldn't want
to play it again (once was plenty), but I have to rate it high because
it was well-done. I had no complaints about the programming or
grammar, and it was actually immersive enough that I didn't make note
of much of anything while I was playing. For the record, my final
rating (score): -109.

Scoring: base 7, +1 for multiple endings, +1 for the notebook
handling, -1 for the disgusting subject matter

Final score: 8


A Martian Odyssey (Glulxe)
Play time: ~30 min

Notes during play:
Hmm...this game has music. Kind of a nice ambient sound at the moment.

Very thin location descriptions. Mars is kind of empty, but there's
still lots of interesting things that could be described.

Programming error ("Crash site (object number 163337) has no property
distance to read". Not a good sign. I know I've just crashed my
rocket, but that doesn't mean the *game* should crash too. Not that it
completely crashed, but I guess it's the equivalent of a loose wire
throwing sparks around or something.

Typo: "milibars" (shouldn't it be millibars?)

My altitude appears to be fluctuating alarmingly. It was falling to 13
feet at one point, and now it's back up to 85 feet? How does that
work?

The chair isn't something I can sit in?

Typo: "wonder" (should be wander)

Final comments: I ended up just following the walkthrough because I
couldn't understand the point of most of what was going on. Aside from
getting out of the rocket at the beginning, and then later knowing the
right actions to take to avoid dying (how to know these things? read
the author's mind?), there wasn't much in the way of puzzles. One
section of the walkthrough seemed to be more or less optional, even
though it resulted in acquiring a few extra items, because they
weren't used for anything later.

Scoring: base 7, -1 for mathematical inconsistencies, -1 for paper-
thin descriptions, -1 for an incomprehensible story, -1 for the maze-
like area at the end

Final score: 3


Grief (Z-code)
Play time: 45 min

Notes during play:
Should be an apostrophe in "son's first day" and "children's toys".
Looks like the game could have used a proofreader.

The text is way too cheerful.

Okay, that was a shock. I understand why the text is cheerful, because
it's a contrast, but it's still kind of thin.

It isn't obvious that Thomas is visible from the hallway after work is
over. I went back and forth looking for him a couple times before just
following the walkthrough to look at him. I thought he was still in
the broom closet (and theoretically out of scope).

Final comments: So. No happy ending. With the title as it is, that's
not too surprising. The message is a meaningful one, and the multiple
endings do a good job of the progression of the actions one might take
to try to avoid the bad ending. It's an interesting twist on the idea
that in IF, one can always restore and undo a bad result, actually.

It nearly succeeds, too. I say nearly because, while I was shocked at
the initial outcome, and saddened at the final outcome, I just think
there wasn't enough setup. There's not quite enough time to become
familiar with the situation and invested in the characters for the
result to have as much impact as it really should.

I know the setup is supposed to be short so that it can be replayed
several times to try the different possibilities, but at least
initially, more setup would be good. Something that _Pascal's Wager_
used to good effect was an automatic redirect to the beginning of the
scenario when a failed attempt is reached. That same technique could
be used here to redirect to a point following an introductory scene.

Perhaps that scene could be a short puzzle involving putting Thomas to
bed the night before, and hearing him chatter about the things he's
worried or excited about with starting school the next day. That would
simultaneously set the scene and build a connection with the
characters. Once one of the non-ultimate endings is reached, instead
of ending the game in death, it could redirect to waking up in the
morning, so that the player doesn't have to go through the bedtime
scene more than once. It would also strengthen the theme of trying to
make the bad endings just bad dreams.

One more comment: what difference does choosing gender make at the
beginning? I didn't play through the whole game, but I didn't see any
obvious differences in the first several turns.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for multiple endings, +1 for a strong theme, -1
for over-cheerful and nondescript descriptions, -1 for apostrophe
errors

Final score: 7


Cry Wolf (Glulx)
Play time: ~1 hr 30 min

Notes during play:
Hmm...sudden death right off the bat. The result of that particular
action wasn't too surprising, only that the action was allowed. And it
may set the tone of the whole piece as well. I'll have to be careful
of everything from now on.

There's a comment about cooking, and an implication that the main
character should cook (not necessarily within the scope of the story,
just in general). So then the command "cook" should have some
response, however short. Perhaps trying to cook the steaks should have
a more specific response, even.

Err, what? Scissors aren't the right tool for cutting open a package
of meat? Yes, I know they're scissors meant for surgery, but
still...aren't they sharp enough to cut cellophane packaging well
enough to open it?

While I'm looking at the bag...something is a little odd about the
listing used for the bag's contents. It ends up saying "an antibiotics/
antiseptics" and "a syringes". Needs some polishing. Actually, the
article could just be left out in all cases except the bottle of
anesthetics, which could be remedied by simply saying "anesthetics"
the same way as antibiotics and antiseptics. I know it's supposed to
be obvious that the bottle of anesthetics is empty, but perhaps it's
okay if that's not obvious until the player tries to look at or take
it from the bag?

Typo: "trear" in the description of trying to open the package of
steaks without tools (should be "tear").
Typo: "as it" in the second sentence of the description of opening the
porch doors while carrying the meat (should be "at it").

Disambiguation problem: "Who do you mean, the wolf, or the animal?"
Neither response works to resolve the problem. I was holding the meat,
trying to give it to the animal, which of course is a wolf, but
somehow there's something else in the room confusing the issue? When
the animal is out on the porch, both words refer to it without a
problem.

In the second scene, trying to take the James Herriot books still
gives a response referring to the animal outside, which of course it
isn't at that point. And trying to put something that doesn't work on
the woman's arm gives her name without any prior reference to it.

"You can see strange woman here." Need an article.

Duplicate response ("The patient is a golden retriever.") in the
conversation about the patient with Julia.

Final comments: I really liked the story. There was a comment made a
year or two ago that there weren't many IF games about werewolves.
This one is a good addition to the genre. The prose (for the most
part) flows very smoothly, with a few exceptions, mostly having to do
with articles, for some odd reason. That's probably more an issue with
the programming rather than the writing itself.

There were a few oddities here and there, most of which I've noted
above. So the game could use some polishing, maybe an extra round of
beta-testers. But I'd say overall, there's a real gem of a story
there, and once it's polished, it'll be quite strong.

I also thought that the balance between player agency and the writer's
story was handled well. There are several optional actions and
conversation choices which don't seem to have a permanent effect on
the storyline, but they nevertheless have an effect on the way
characters behave in the short term. And by the last scene, there are
certainly multiple exclusive endings as well, which also increase
player agency.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for multiple endings and player choice, +1 for
good prose, +1 for an engaging werewolf story, -1 for typos and
oddities with articles, -1 for the disambiguation and continuity
problems

Final score: 8


Search for the Ultimate Weapon (Windows)
Play time: ~30 min

Notes during play:
Normally I don't really see the point of reinventing the wheel by
making a new windows interface, but this one looks pretty nice at
first glance. I'll have to see how well it handles, of course, but it
has a lot of nice-looking features like a map, available exit diagram
in the corner, hyperlinked pop-up menus for items in the location,
buttons for common commands, etc.

Well, the common shortcut 'x' for 'examine' isn't supported. Not too
much of a problem, considering the previous command is automatically
filled in when I start typing the same thing again.

The background color changes as the time of day changes. That's a cool
effect, although probably some people won't like it. The colors are
kind of vivid, too.

On the other hand, there's no save command, only a save through the
application menu.

Objects are part of the room description and stay there even after
being taken.

I tried to cross the river, and apparently succeeded, but then got
pulled back by the monks. What's the point? Okay, now I talked to the
master monk and apparently that was my second task? What was the
first? I didn't even talk to him before this or anything.

Now that I'm quite confused, I turned to the walkthrough...and am even
more confused. It says to talk to the master several times and
eventually he'll give me some items? But that doesn't seem to work at
all. It then says to take an exit that isn't mentioned in the room
description (and the in-game map doesn't show as an actual link,
either) and use one of the items that I didn't get there.

The final action doesn't seem to work at all. (I don't think I'm
spoiling too much by saying what it is, considering how little work it
took The phrase bolded in the text is "drive that weapon in" but no
combination of those words seems to work. And, looking at the
walkthrough, it looks like I managed to skip half the supposedly
required steps because I didn't talk to the master monk at the
beginning.

Final comments: The interface is well done and looks quite nice, but
the implementation leaves quite a lot to be desired. It's not just the
command implementation, but the plot implementation, considering I
managed to skip half the steps. I think the shortest path through the
game, if the last command actually worked, that is, ends up being
about 15 turns.

Scoring: 4 base, -1 for unrealistic dialogue, -1 for a broken
walkthrough, -1 for a broken map (hidden map exits for no good
reason), +1 for a nice graphical interface, +1 for night/day cycle
with environmental effects

Final score: 3


April in Paris (TADS3)
Play time: ~30 min

Notes during play:
Cute cafe. Nice movement around the various areas. The people are
still visible even from the other areas.

Final comments: I don't have too much to say about this one. It was a
nice, short story, almost realistic (aside from the normal IF behavior
of taking items that don't belong to you). I didn't see any bugs or
typos or anything, and the prose flowed very well. The locale of a
small French cafe was well presented.

I often couldn't quite follow the author's problem-solving intentions
and resorted to the hints fairly often, but that was mostly because I
think the author did a good job of making the problems immediate. I
just wanted to help people out and get the problem solved - I didn't
want to spend a lot of time flailing about for the solution. The
convincing descriptions of being hungry probably didn't help either.

The one down side of having so many characters was that they mostly
seemed a bit shallow outside of the responses that had been scripted
as part of the story. Several topics were understood, mostly having to
do with the immediate puzzle, but outside of those, the characters
were only minimally responsive. April in particular should have been a
bit more chatty. She's rather emotional right at the beginning, but
after deciding she wants to have lunch with you, she barely says
anything. Maybe I just didn't know what to ask.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for the open, connected multiple-location cafe, +1
for puzzles that felt urgent and real, -1 for lack of enough
conversation topics, particularly with April

Final score: 8


Freedom (Z-code)
Play time: 10 min

Notes during play:
Hmm. When the opening blurb says "Time to get through another ordinary
day," I can't feel too inspired about how much fun this is going to
be. And the first location is an ordinary-looking apartment. And my
description is just the default, although "xyzzy" has a response. No
wait, that's just some sort of default response to an unknown command.

Okay...the supermarket employees hate me for some reason?

Er, why is the road five locations wide? And I don't seem to be able
to cross the road fast enough before the light turns green again. Or
rather, there's no time to do anything other than move across the
road, or you won't make it.

Now I've done my errands and I'm waiting for the meeting to start. The
woman won't say much of anything, either.

Er, okay, the last command (given in the walkthrough) isn't something
most people would think of doing, considering how unresponsive the
girl is.

Final comments: After reading the about text, I can see where the
author was trying to go with this, but it just didn't quite work as
intended. The last action (as mentioned) is completely disconnected
from the rest of the sequence and isn't even hinted at. Fortunately,
the piece isn't buggy or anything, it just needs better atmospheric
prose to create the intended effect.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for educational purpose, -1 for unclued commands,
-1 for mundaneness of setting, -1 for extreme shortness

Final score: 5


When Machines Attack (Z-code)
Play time: 40 min

Notes during play:
Eek. Your/you're errors, typos, etc, already present in the opening
text.

Hm...I was 20 minutes late, but now I'm an hour and a half late?

Strange capitalization. Not just the title ("wHen mAchines aTtack,"
apparently) but also the occasional word (Boss, Lobby) which normally
wouldn't be capitalized has been here.

Typo: "signifance" in the description of the nightstand. Not to
mention more your/you're errors, missing articles, and general
strangeness of prose.

The small cutting area lists south and west exits, but the actual
(coded) exits are south and northwest. Then again, it seems to be a
curved exit, because the return is to the east. Curved exits are fine,
if they're clearly labeled at both ends. The other exit from the south
end of the conveyor belt is curved, too, although it's not mislabeled
at least. Same with the entrance to the dorm room (sw into it, east
out). Why is the map all twisted like this?

"turn dial to [number]" should also be supported, since the correct
syntax is "set dial to [number]".

Disambiguation problem: the rope can apparently also be called a cord,
so the cord on the overalls can't be referred to when the rope is in
scope.

Err...the machine apparently doesn't work properly - following the
walkthrough word for word doesn't even work. I thought perhaps going
around counter clockwise wouldn't work but clockwise (as in the
walkthrough) would, which would be bad enough, but neither one works.
Looking at the sheet should tell you what's actually cut, not just
whether it's ruined or not, and what's left to cut. Otherwise, how can
you tell for sure what's been cut and whether you're cutting properly?
And looking at the yellow button should indicate whether it's toggled
or not.

Since this part doesn't work, I'm done. Effectively unplayable.

Final notes: Broken walkthrough, broken prose, broken map. Looking at
the walkthrough, there's a fair amount of game left, but I can't get
to it.

Scoring: 4 base, -1 for the broken walkthrough, -1 for the invisibly
curved exits, -1 for all the typos and grammatical mistakes, +1 for
the hints of creepiness

Final score: 2


Riverside (Z-code)
Play time: 20 min

Notes during play:
Atmospheric setting, but a default self-description.

The nightstand in the bed can't be examined. The counter in the
kitchen is apparently visible from the living room, but can't be
examined.

How do I look up something specific in the photo album? The syntax
sure isn't obvious.

Sigh. Yet another broken walkthrough. I don't know why "x me" is part
of the walkthrough anyway, considering all it gives is the default
response. And I certainly don't know why you'd want to repeat that
nine times... The phone that's supposed to be used later doesn't seem
to be visible, either.

I think the album is supposed to trigger the right thing automatically
after Amy talks about the wedding, but it's not working. So another
unfinishable game.

Final comments: The prose is good, and there's certainly some mystery
here, but the implementation is a bit thin. Not to mention the part
that doesn't work.

Scoring: 4 base, -1 for invisible or unimplemented objects, -1 for
shortness, +1 for good prose

Final score: 3


Nightfall (Glulxe)
Play time: 2 hrs

Notes during play:
The map is really big. I hope these locations are well-described. But
at the same time, I hope this game fits within the two hours.

It sounds like there are a number of commands available for making
easier use of the large map and for interfacing with what the PC
knows. This should be fun.

Okay, finding that stone was way harder than it should have been. I
didn't see them when I was over where they were, and the hints,
mentioning the railway, made me think I needed to go back to the
platform, so I spent several minutes searching all over where I
started.

"Unknown Enemy" is kind of...cliched? Or at least, pretty generic-
sounding.

Final comments:
It's fascinating piecing together what exactly's going on. Getting to
an unfortunate ending the first time does reveal quite a lot, and it's
much easier to get a better ending the next time around. There seems
to be one main chain of events, but the timing, while sometimes
strict, is usually event-based.

But anyway, none of this conveys the atmosphere and vastness of an
abandoned city the way this game pulls it off. Ambient sounds
(described in text, but still), expert handling of darkness, the
possibility of things lurking in shadows...oh, it's all there, and
polished, too. And there are so many clues around about what's going
on, but takes some time to put them together.

I commented at the beginning of play that I hoped the game fit within
the two hours. It doesn't, really. It's possible to play through to
one ending within an hour, but that won't touch the depth of what's
there to be discovered. I played through to two endings using the full
two hours and didn't even visit every location (the map is quite
huge), let alone find every important object.

The thing I found the most interesting was that while at first, the
scenario seems to be some sci-fi horror construct, it's really nothing
of the sort - it's more psychological than anything else. At the same
time, it was almost a let-down. Without (hopefully) giving anything
away, the dreaded Enemy was much more mundane than it initially
sounded. At least as far as I saw. There are still hints that there
might be more to the story, and as I mentioned, I didn't see
everything. I might give this one another look after the competition.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for multiple endings and good plot handling, +1
for a vast atmospheric city that also had navigation commands, +1 for
a well-clued mysterious story, +1 for excellent handling of dark/semi-
dark locations and action timing, -1 for too much detail for two hours

Final score: 10 (I don't give this score lightly: even being too long,
there was so much polish and so many things this game did right that I
find it hard to imagine another comp game even coming close this
year.)


Trein (Z-code)
Play time: 30 min

Notes during play:
"Playing their taxes"? (typo in intro blurb)

Words are capitalized oddly in places. Actually, every important
object seems to be capitalized.

"Halleay" (typo in Western Hallway description)

The response to "light torch" is "This dangerous act would achieve
little." Considering I'm holding an unlit torch, I think this response
is entirely misleading, unless I'm not supposed to use the torch for
the obvious. Similarly, the torch bracket "seems to be missing a
Torch." But I can't put the torch in the torch bracket.

Sigh. It's "put torch _on_ bracket". Had to go to the walkthrough for
that one. More grammar options need to be supported, as well as a
appropriate response to trying to light the torch.

"concience" (typo in Lord's Letter - should be "conscience")
"deciet" (typo, same place - should be "deceit")

The restore option in the ending menu doesn't work.

The "Evidence" object is rather too obvious.

Final comments: The writing definitely needs an editor/proofreader.
Typos, capitalization oddities, grammar issues, etc are quite common.
The story itself only has about ten critical actions to take, so it's
quite short. There's plot, but a lot of it is introductory or
concluding exposition. Actually, based on the opening blurb and
picture, I thought this was going to be more of a horror story, with
mysterious mist and disappearances and such, but it was entirely
ordinary, generically medieval.

Scoring: 7 base, -1 for grammar/spelling issues, -1 for shortness, -1
for thin descriptions and generic plot

Final Score: 4


The Hall of the Fount of Artois (Windows)
Play time: ~1 hour

Notes during play:
Please, people, if you're going to make a homebrew parser, at least
support common abbreviations like 'x' for examine. It makes it *so*
much easier.

No scenery seems to have been implemented. No verbose option. No
reading books.

How does the torch work? I've tried "turn on torch", "turn torch on",
"light torch", "press button"...

Can't play the piano. Can't ring the bell. Can't talk to people at
all, it seems. Can't get the "bladed agricultural implement".

The command to grease the door doesn't have any reasonable synonyms
implemented either.

Inventory limit. Seems fairly generous, but then there's a strange bug
where I can't seem to take more than one item when I restart the game.

Following the walkthrough now. Without the verbose option, I'm walking
blind through this house, as it takes an extra minute every time I
want the description of the room I'm in.

Bit of a map oddity with the attic. I think going se enters the attic,
but a south or se exit goes back to the room where the attic can be
entered.

Cellar contains a maze. Each maze room contains two exits, but the
exits don't match up at all, as in, they're all one-way.

Okay, there's no way I would think to call that thing a "rammstein"
and no other synonym seems to work. Good thing I'm following the
walkthrough.

Final comments:
Old-school puzzle/object hunt, nothing more. Some awkward things about
the homebrew parser make it much more difficult to play than it should
be, most especially the lack of a verbose mode. I only remember map
connections in an unfamiliar map by reading them in the text, so if
I'm walking blind, I quickly lose my way. Some exits, particularly
those that are created by moving an object, aren't given directions in
the text, so it's somewhat of a crapshoot to figure out which way the
new exit is actually connected. The old-schoolness is completed with
an inventory limit and a maze. Fortunately, there's no hunger daemon,
although there is an overall timer on the game - the curse can't be
lifted after a certain amount of time has passed.

Okay, what was the point of the bell and the binoculars? And opening
the safe? Red herrings?

Scoring: 7 base, -1 for awkward homebrew parser with no verbose mode,
-1 for the old-school inventory limit and maze

Final score: 5


Piracy 2.0 (Z-code)
Play time: ~1 hour

Notes during play:
Default self-description. Hmm, this looks a bit thin.

Actually, maybe it's not so thin. The about information indicates it
supports a fairly wide range of commands, some of them not required.
Now we have to find out how *well* they're supported...

There doesn't seem to be a walkthrough/help file, but so far, the
puzzles haven't been too hard.

Hmm, random pirate attack. Is this going to turn into a sci-fi version
of Adventure, with pirates and lasers instead of dwarves and axes?

I'm not finding a way to avoid the pirate attack. Since there's no
walkthrough, I'm kinda stuck.

Final comments: I didn't finish this, but I liked what I saw, so I'm
giving it a higher score than I usually would for a game I didn't
finish. I'm going to assume that the rest of the game is interesting
too, but I'm just too dumb to get there.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for good computer interface handling, -1 for no
walkthrough

Final score: 7


Project Delta (Windows)
Play time: 10 min

Notes during play:
Hmm...the interface only gives a finite list of choices about what
actions to take, so it's treading rather close to a CYOA. It seems
there are a couple of actions that can be taken at any time via one-
letter commands, mostly meta-actions like saving, although inventory
has been given a letter command as well ('I', naturally). This really
isn't a parser, though.

I tried to go against the way that the story wanted me to go, and I
was immediately shunted back onto it. This is sometimes not a bad
thing, but in this case, why even offer the option if it's essentially
going to do nothing?

The whole intro section is a tutorial that completely shatters
mimesis. This reads more like the beginning of a MMORPG than a work of
IF.

Okay...apparently I'm left-handed. Strange.

Err...okay...apparently the tutorial was the whole game that's
available. Newsflash: this isn't IntroComp. This should have been
entered there.

Scoring: 4 base, -1 for lack of complete game, -1 for railroaded set
options

Final score: 2


The Lucubrator (Z-code)
Play time: 10 min

Notes during play:
Okay, I'm female. That certainly wasn't obvious at first.

Talk and speak don't work, but yell does. Strange.

Odd "we" inserted into one sentence. Probably "you both" would have
been better.

After checking the walkthrough (the first significant action was
rather unclued), it appears that I have to act the monster I appear to
be. No thank you.

Scoring: 7 base, -1 for unclued actions, -1 for abhorrent actions, -1
for generic or absent descriptions and actions

Final score: 4


Red Moon (Z-code)
Play time: 20 min

Interesting...the flavor attempts to be atmospheric and mysterious,
but I think it tries a bit too hard. Seems like the author thinks he's
done something really clever, and maybe he has.

Typo: "pespiration"

I was getting a bit of a werewolf idea from what I've seen so far, but
assuming no magic or anything, that can't be right.

Hm, another game where 'talk' doesn't work. But apparently ask/tell
work, but the sister won't actually respond to anything I've tried so
far.

Weren't vampires the ones that didn't have a reflection?

Hey wait...the photo changed. The dress description changed a little
too. Maybe I'm just insane.

...Or not. Interesting twist.

Final comments: The multiple ways to end the game are mostly
variations on a theme. The whole game is based on a gimmick, really,
and one that's arrived at in a somewhat tedious manner. Things do
change, but not enough to really prompt giving a closer look as many
times as is necessary. The only thing that really was notably odd
initially was the fact that the "in" color in the description of the
dress didn't match the actual color of the dress at the time, but I
thought that was just a mistake and didn't look again until much
later.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for changing descriptions, -1 for shortness, -1
for unresponsive npc

Final score: 6


Berrost's Challenge (TADS2)
Play time: 1 hr 15 min

Notes during play: Oh, nice, a fantasy romp. This could be good.

Err..._flooglemids_? Heh.

The clues don't look too obscure at first glance. Sounds like there
are probably multiple solutions to puzzles, too, if the spells could
be used to get other scrolls but don't have to be.

I really like the status bar. I don't like the possibility of an
inventory limit though.

"fallen into dishevel"? Looks like the text could use an editor. If
the premise is amusing enough, I can overlook a few text oddities
though.

Excellent, a ring of levitation.

Whew, that was a fast-paced puzzle, but fun. I definitely am having
trouble with the inventory limit already though. Not to mention there
are hunger/sleep timers.

Hm, "put" a particular thing on something else doesn't work, but
"pour" is the expected syntax. Not sure why "put" is disallowed.

Final comments: Interesting little puzzle-romp. The only problem is
that the game doesn't actually end. Once the list of wit achievements
has been shown, the prompt returns, and the player can wander out of
the tower and back in again, where Berrost will have mysteriously
returned, and the whole ending conversation can take place again.

The other problem with the fantasy setting is the way that the player
is discouraged from using the spells he has in order to solve the
puzzles. So it becomes a more ordinary puzzle-fest instead of
something where the player could learn the rules of the magic in order
to accomplish his goals. I didn't even bother using any of the spells;
I just used the hints to avoid them, because I didn't think I wanted
to replay later to get the best ending.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for multiple solutions, +1 for excellent status-
bar and self-examination information, -1 for broken ending

Final score: 8


Everybody Dies (Glulx)
Play time: ~30 min

Notes during play:
Huh, I didn't even notice at first that the voice was first-person.
It's done very well.

Nice shift in character. I didn't know that about the daggers. Huh.

This is getting really freaky now. I'm controlling multiple people?
Well...sorta.

Huh. Strangest time/people shift I've ever seen in IF.

Final comments: The writing was very well-clued, except for the very
last important action. For most of the game, I just went along with
the flow, and things got interesting pretty fast.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for managing multiple viewpoints without
confusion, +1 for giving second chances, -1 for a potty-mouthed
character (and other potty things too)

Final score: 8


The Ngah Angah School of Forbidden Wisdom (Alan)
Play time: 20 min

Notes during play:
The examiner told me to wait for the sound of the gong, but then he
sounded it immediately. I think it would have made more sense to delay
it one turn, and then failed the player if he had tried to drink the
tea right away on that turn without waiting.

Er. No walkthrough or hints, and I'm not doing so good at reading the
author's mind. I found the symbols, but they don't seem to spell
anything meaningful.

The notes say that the first room is the only one that will kill the
player. Isn't it usually better to ramp up the difficulty, have the
most difficult and lethal puzzle at the end? Since I can't get past
the first room, I can't even see the rest of what's there.

Scoring: base 7, -1 for no walkthrough, -1 for death trap first

Final Score: 5


Recess At Last (Glulxe)
Play time: 30 min

Notes during play:
Sounds like a perfectly ordinary school so far. (Except they're
learning fractions in fourth grade? That's pretty good. I was ahead
of my class at the time, but my school only taught division in fourth
grade.)

So the keychain is the means by which I find my backpack, but there's
"nothing special" about it?

Why would the door to the next classroom over be locked if there's
another class in there? It just doesn't make sense to have that be an
obstacle in the player's way.

Okay, I understand now; the class is somewhere else, and so is the
teacher, but it sounded like the PC was expected to just go next door
to get the stuff for his brother. As in, because the teacher knew all
along that that class was somewhere else, she should have said so to
begin with, rather than sending him next door to be confused and come
back asking where they were. If it was a case of her forgetting to
tell him, she should have said that too.

Seems like Mr. Bradley wouldn't start moving until I did a wait action
in the room with him. Maybe I just moved off too fast, but he said to
come with him to his classroom, so I moved in the direction of it that
turn, but he didn't go also. I went back, and he was still standing
there. I waited a turn, and *then* he moved on.

Er, I took the pencil, which triggered writing down the explorer and
my name. Then in Mr. Bradley's classroom, I took the crayon, which
triggered it *again*. Is it okay to do homework in crayon in this
school?

And now Mr. Bradley won't give me the homework for my brother. He just
repeats the same message he gave in the main office when I first saw
him.

The worksheet says it's complete when it's only got two of the three
questions answered. I'm not entirely sure whether "complete" is a good
verb for answering the questions, but I looked at the hints and came
across it, so I didn't bang my head against the questions, either.

I guess I don't need my brother's homework after all...

Final comments: Okay, so there was nothing really game-breaking; I was
certainly able to finish the thing. But it could definitely have used
more beta-testing. I noted some of the bugs above, but I didn't even
do any prodding or anything. Also, it was just very...ordinary? Slice-
of-life, I suppose, but suspense or humor or the like usually livens
that sort of thing right up. There was nothing like that here.

Scoring: 7 base, -1 for bugs, -1 for ordinariness and lack of relevant
descriptions

Final score: 5


Opening Night (Z-code)
Play time: ~40 min

Notes during play:
Hmm, the "about" comments say that the work focuses more on story than
puzzles, but I'm already stopped at the front door to the theatre with
a problem that in real life would be practically insurmountable in a
reasonable amount of time, and in this work, doesn't appear to have
any obvious solution at the moment.

Can't I tell anything at all about this white fluid? The description
says nothing. I had to smell it to get any sort of idea. (Without
that, I had a nasty idea about what it *could* have been...)

Okay, seriously, how was I supposed to think of that? (The use for the
peel, I mean.) I've been working from the walkthrough the whole time,
and haven't been able to figure out any of this stuff so far.

Okay, the solution to getting in not only involved an exit I didn't
even see initially (that was my fault), but involved performing an
illegal action to get an item to be used to start something that would
eventually collide with the peel. Totally non-intuitive, at least as
far as I'm concerned. I don't quite believe the story-before-puzzles
claim, at least at this point in the work.

At least I managed to find my seat without help (other than the
usher's, of course).

Er, random hole in the ground? Strange...

Why did the trash can from earlier turn into a dumpster? If the player
isn't supposed to be able to stand on it any more, it would have been
easier to remove the lid from play, wouldn't it?

Out of a chest of tools, the only useful thing is a bottle of water?

Hmm...is this trying to channel _Shade_...? It seems that this has
turned into something quite different than it appeared at the
beginning. Wow, even my inventory changed. I went to use the rose, and
it didn't respond to that term anymore. I had to check inventory to
see what had happened.

The Modern Vestibule has no description at the end.

Final comments: Aside from the hard puzzles that I really didn't get
at the beginning, this was quite good. It did shift, in a way not
unlike Shade, although much less drawn-out and therefore less creepy.
I think if this story concept were done as a movie (which I think
would work really well, actually - just subtract the puzzles), it
could shift from black and white, to sepia, to faded color, to full
color as things change. Such vivid memories...nice. I think the shift
probably could have been drawn out just a bit longer, because I
started noticing a couple of weird things, and then all of a sudden
everything was different, and I wondered if I'd missed something.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for story, +1 for gradual setting shift (including
inventory!), -1 for read-the-author's-mind puzzles at the beginning

Final Score: 8


The Lighthouse (Z-code)
Play time: 3 min

Notes during play:
Already I see a sentence fragment and an its/it's error in the intro
section. This does not bode well for the rest of the piece.

No room descriptions, only "You are now in the [room name]" and a list
of things in the room, including doors. No compass directions listed,
although they do work, once the correct direction is guessed.

I win, the end. Already? Okay then.

Final comments: Waste of time, but it wasn't a waste of much time.

Scoring: 4 base, -1 for lack of descriptions of anything, -1 for lack
of compass directions

Final score: 2


Channel Surfing (Glulxe)
Play time: 30 min

Notes during play:
Second sentence: "You open our eyes, but quickly shut them." I was so
hoping that would lead to some sort of interesting PC, like _Legion_,
but no such luck. Just a typo, apparently.

No self-description.

There don't seem to be any buttons on the remote. I can't 'turn on
tv', 'use remote', 'press remote', 'press button', 'change
channel'...Guess I'm going to the hints already, despite the claim
that this should be an easy game.

Okay, if the syntax is 'change channel to [number]', the response to
'change channel' should *not* be "I didn't understand that sentence."
That's completely misleading.

So Steve left to go to the bathroom, and it didn't say he came back,
but he's still in the description of the room, but he isn't in scope
anymore. Not a contender, I suppose.

Haha, best meta-line: "All the world's a game, and we're merely the
NPCs."

I guess no matter what I do, I can't stop it? Pity, I thought I had a
choice.

Scoring: 7 base, +1 for political/psychological analysis, -1 for
pseudo-multiple endings, -1 for misleading responses

Final score: 6

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