[Comp00] Craxton's Critiques (with formatting corrected)

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Nov 16, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/16/00
The 200 Interactive Fiction Competition At A Glance

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

Last year the I-F community, still reeling from the impact Photopia had made
in 1998, had a rather tepid reaction to the annual competition. The general
consensus was that while sifting through the mass of mediocrity yielded a
few precious stones, there were none of the true shining jewels we had come
to expect.

Well, the pendulum does indeed swing, for this year we are treated to a
small fistful of jewels, of both the plot-centric and puzzle-centric
varieties, as well as some rather bold experiments with storytelling style
and game design, such that this years Comp games will, I think, satisfy much
more then previous years.

At the same time, however, there is a disturbing surge in the
less-then-mediocre games- works that have rather obviously had little effort
or care put into them, with the effect that the traditional bell-curve
structure of the Comp- a few really good games, a few really bad games, and
a number between those extremes- seemed this year more like a pyramid- a few
good games, a larger number of so-so games, and an equal or larger number of
bad games. One could (and I'm sure some will) interpret this as an omen of
doom, a general fall in the quality of Comp games, but a more careful
analysis suggests that this is not the case, rather the anamoly is due to an
increased number of bad games, which has thrown off the percentages.

Still, it is troublesome... SOMETHING has caused the number of bad games to
increase drastically this year. If this trend continues into later years,
the Comp may soon fall into disrepute as a dumping ground for crappy games,
rather then being the climax of the I-F year. It is inevitable that growth
antiquates everything, and I think the increased interest in Interactive
Fiction over the years has finally caused something in the Comp's structure
to crack under pressure. As you'll see from some of the commentary to
follow, my personal opinion ascribes this to the Comp's prize system, which
virtually guarentees that who enters will recieve *something*. While some
may say this is a good thing, I disagree. It attracts the uncaring and lazy
authors, and on more then one occassion people have dug up old coding
exercises or rushed games out the door, under the logic that they could at
least possibly get something out of it.

I would go as far to propose that next year the prizes be abolished
entirely, so that the primary motivation to participate is for exposure, ego
points, and of course, feedback. When you come right down to it, those who
are most devoted to the text adventure do not do it for material gain, but
rather for the unique challenges and benefits the form presents.

(All of which means nothing, of course, if the anamoly is truly due to my
being overly harsh with the entrants, in which case the entire three
previous paragraphs are just me talking out of my ass.)

A few general observations:
-It seems that the old ASK/TELL system of conversation is growing old. A
good number of authors this year rejected it in favor of a TALK or SPEAK
verb, followed by multiple-choice menus or prewritten dialogue. Wether this
is good or bad is, of course, open to debate.
-It seems also that the idea of I-F being essentially puzzle-based is
declining. The emphasis is shifting from the crossword to the narrative.
-Perhaps related to the influx of bad games, people seems to be trying to
clone the inimitable style of Rybread Celsius. Morever, they're doing it
*badly*. Rybread games are typically unenjoyable, buggy, and dumb, but
usually have some underlying idea or theme buried inside. The wannabes
succeed in being unenjoyable, buggy, and dumb, but also have no
point. -_-;;;;;;

Having decided that I came off a bit negatively in my commentary last Comp,
I have sepearated my critiques this year into three parts- first my general
reaction, then a list of Bugs&Quibbles, small things that were irritating
but didn't really affect my game experience, and then a Suggestions segment,
in which I offer my opinion on how the author might want to try and improve.
I hope this will be more helpful then just a simple paragraph on what's good
and bad.

My method of scoring was as follows: first I would play each game for the
two-hour time period, or until I felt I was ready to make a decision,
usually the former. Then I assigned a tenative score based on that. After
scoring all the games, I ordered the games into a table based on score
recieved, then took a look at each group and asked myself "Do any of these
games not belong with the others?" Based on that, I would move each game up
or down a point on the scale, until I was satisfied the scores accurately
reflected my viewpoints.

Scoring is based on one thing alone: How much I enjoyed the game. Bugs,
extras, feats of coding, and so on, mean little to me except in how they
affect the game experience. I try to be fair, but I am not perfect and make
no attempts to portray myself as such. My prejudices are noted where
applicable. With two games I had such a strong aversion to the subject
matter that I abstained from an official score. With at least one game (it
should be fairly obvious which) subject matter prejudiced me positively. I
think, however, that the largest biasing factor for me is patience. Starting
out with a finite amount of patience, it goes up and down over the course of
the comp depending upon the games played to that point: good games increase
my patience slightly, mediocre ones lower it slightly, bad ones lower it a
lot. Since there were a lot of bad games this year, there were periods where
my patience was very low, and so possibly I didn't give some not-so-bad
games the chance they deserved. For this I apologize. Aside from that, the
only other major bias that I'm conscious of is the fact that I'm a hopeless

I also do not take note of the author's names, unless one catches my eye.
Most observations on the authors are derived from what I deduce from the
games themselves.

Scores are listed in brief below, with critiques following:

Games receiving a 10
My Angel

Games receiving a 9
Ad Verbum

Games receiving a 8
Letters from Home

Games receiving a 7
The Big Mama
Dinner with Andre

Games receiving a 6
Unnkulia X
At Wit's End
Punk Points
Guess The Verb!
Futz Mutz

Games receiving a 5
Being Andrew Plotkin
Threading the Labyrinth
A Crimson Spring
The Djinni Chronicles
Planet of the Infinite Minds

Games receiving a 4
The Masque of the Last Faeries
And the Waves Choke the Wind
Withdrawal Symptoms
Desert Heat
The Trip

Games receiving a 3
The Best Man
The Pickpocket
Return to Zork: Another Story
The Clock
Happy Ever After

Games receiving a 2
Escape from Crulistan
The End Means Escape
Castle Amnos

Games receiving a 1
Comp00ter Game
Prodly the Puffin
Stupid Kittens
Breaking the Code
Little Billy

Games not receiving a rating
Jarod's Journey
Got ID?

1: "My Angel"
Rating: 10
(Minor Spoilers herein)
Whoa. O_O Umm... where to start? Well, let me first say- had I had time to
play this game a second time before locking in my score, My opinion might
not be *quite* so laudatory. (more on this in the "Ignorance is Bliss"
thread) But I stand behind my score- IF, even the best works, has low replay
value for me, and any game that gets me to play it twice (thrice, in fact)
*deserves* a 10.

Now, the game itself, basically, is a love story, with a few twists I won't
divulge. The story is well-written, with all the elements that Corman
ascribed to a good movie: A gripping beginning that draws you in, a powerful
end that leaves you wanting more, and in between a middle, which at the very
least doesn't suck too much. Actually, the middle's suckitude depends on
you, the player. See, two Comps ago, a game called Photopia took home the
gold for being a powerful, emotional story, but drew fire from some critics
for being overly linear. My Angel builds on Photopia's groundwork by being
powerful and emotional, but also gives you multiple successful paths from
scene to scene, even to the point of being able to skip over scenes.
Partially as a result of this, finding a different path produces a story
somewhat different then the author may have intended. For example, the
walkthrough gives several instances where you resort to violence. You can
easily bypass all of these, but doing so critically changes the tone of the
piece. On the other hand, you could say this is the true purpose of
Intreractive Fiction- the author and reader share storytelling duties.

The story, as I said before, is well-written. You have a feel for the
events occurring, and though the two main characters are or aren't well
fleshed out depending on your path through the game, you get a feel for
their personalities and the depth of their love regardless. There are many
memorable moments in this story. The wedding scene is marvelous in it's
simplicity, and the ending is the best last-minute twist I've seen since
Magic Knight Rayearth. The sheer emotional impact of My Angel stayed with me
for days after. The one real complaint I have is the matter of the
Weavingstone and the Gate... the author never even attempts to explain why
the one called you and Angela, or where the other leads. He's perfectly
within his rights to leave this open to interpretation, but personally I'd
like a bit more closure on this point.

One more thing that deserves note is the NOVEL interface, which works very
well, in this context at least. The author has eliminated the room titles,
moved the prompt and "you can't do that" messages to the status bar, and
made the text display in a continuous manner, rather then the structured
RoomDesc, then Items, then PlotEvents style. This has the effect of
de-emphasizing the crossword aspects of I-F. See, since the "game" structure
isn't there, you get a more nebulous feeling of place and action. You're not
in a room, you're in a scene. You're not moving the protagonist like a
marrionette, you're guiding the plotline through him. With good writing and
benign puzzling, this aids immersion quite a bit. It could use to be
improved, though. The canned responses from, for example, EXAMINE or LOOK
commands repeating in the text window is still a bit disconcerting. Plus,
browsing back through the text for the point where you left off can be
annoying. If you added a "you've already done that" or "that won't do any
good" message to the status bar messages, it might help more. Or maybe not.
Let's consider this a stylistic option for future authors, then.

Bugs & Quibbles:
-I'm rather certain the physics involved in moving the boat wouldn't work
out. Let me get this straight: You cut the rope, get in the boat, and then
move to the other side of the stream by pulling the rope? I doubt that
would get you anywhere, except maybe spinning in circles.
-"The Sun has turned around to the south of the sky." The sun's ALWAYS in
the south sky. It moves east to west.
-The way the berries are handled is annoying. Unlike other items that go in
your pack immediately, the berries stay in your hands until you drop them or
put them in the bag, producing that message about staining your hands often.
-Typos. Beware the lure of the automatic spellchecker! "This place I have
seen before in screams.", "Some older part of me considers taking her.",
-The ambient effects, such as "A cold gust of wind reaches me", recur too
often. Once or twice is quite sufficient.
-"A pair of dice, both showing sevens." Odd dice...
-The mob, when it finally show up by the river, can't be referred to as

Other then a bit more proofreading, I can't think of a thing.

2: "The Masque of the Last Faeries"
Rating: 4
Well, this game definately takes the award for best opening quote...
unfortunately, it goes downhill from there. The concept is intriguing- an
elaborate interactive masquerade, where you have to both fulfill your role
in the game-within-a-game's plot, and deal with similiar real-world
intrigues. A mystery game, something few people have tried. And the
protagonist's identity is the biggest mystery of all. Very intriguing, Very
original... and unfortunately, very tangled in execution. The plot is, as
the frontispiece implies, fairly railroaded. Following the tasks set for you
by the game yields a score of 60 points and an ending leaving most questions
unanswered. And while you theoretically CAN try a different path, I wasn't
able to. I just couldn't figure out what to do, the sheriff's a dimwit who
doesn't respond to anything I type at any point in the game. Another thing:
the reason whodunit games are uncommon is that the mystery depends on
interaction with the cast, and this is one thing that the text adventure is
noted to do very badly. And the author, I'm afraid, doesn't help things any.
The NPCs are unresponsive, having nothing to say about anything except what
directly affects the plot. If they had more to say, they could have been
fleshed out more and made less cardboard, even be used to guide the player
towards alternate paths. The mansion's layout also feels stilted- there's
not much you can examine or interact with, aside from what has direct
relevance to the plot. And the poetry recited throughout is... ick. I'm
sorry, it's just... bad. >_< "co-exist" should not be a term used in verse.

And as if that isn't enough, the hint system is broken! >_<

Bugs & Quibbles:
-Spacing is wrong. ONE line between paragraphs, not two.
-Rampant typoes, mostly in the form of capitalization errors. Proofread
next time.
-In Act I, the description of the forest room notes "guests", but never
goes into specifics.
-PICK LOCKED DOOR WITH LOCKPICK is the shortest command that works.
-"Arthur" is not a recognized noun.
-The Sigil Robin gives you doesn't appear in the inventory.
-Re-display room descriptions at the start of each act.

Be less spartan with your descriptions. More flair, paint a picture in the
reader's mind. Try and flesh out your NPCs more, especially less canned
"that doesn't work" responses. Bugtest your work- broken hints suck.
Proofread better.

3: "Planet of the Infinite Minds"
Rating: 5
Bleh. I disliked Erehwon in the last Comp. I dislike PoIM for the same
reason- it's a wannabe. It wants to be funny, It wants to be clever, It
wants to be fun, but it's not, it's not, and it's not. Nothing against the
author- chances are he's a newbie to the field, and still learning. But,
sorry, I don't give self-esteem points. He deserves credit at least for his
game's bug-free state, which many rookies have trouble with, and attempted
wit, regardless of whether or not it falls flat. That said, PoIM is at best
an average game in the HHGTTG style of psuedologic and wordplay puzzling.
This style is difficult, even for experienced authors- you have to turn the
phrase and context clues in such a manner that illogical solutions don't
seem illogical. The wearing of time is a good example of this, the puzzle of
Schrodinger's mind is not. Other puzzles follow this same pattern- either
relatively simple or "go directly to hints, do not pass go." A little better
cluing next time. Also, the two major blocks of dialogue in the game- near
the beginning and near the end- are not well written. They feel forced,

Not much else to say here. It's a rather generic puzzle-fest with a little
plot at the beginning and some completely unrelated plot at the end. I added
a point for the imaginatively designed crystal ball areas, and took it away
again for a puzzle involving poop. >_<

-Opening and then looking into the cupboard at your house returns an error
-It's unwise to implement a large area with several puzzles that have no
effect on the rest of the game.

Keep at it. Most people learn IF the same way they learn chess- persistant
failure, each time learning from that failure. Again, a bit more evocative
with the descriptions. Clue your puzzles better. And don't plan for sequels,
they won't show up. Oh, you may THINK they'll show up, but trust me, sooner
or later you'll get bored and scrap the project. What do you think happened
to the full versions of 2044? Stargazer? Collosus? What about the sequels to
Captain Chaos? Glowgrass? Windhall Chronicles? Worlds Apart?

4: "Being Andrew Plotkin"
Rating: 5
Hee. ^_^ Hehe. ^_^ Hehehe, even. ^_^

I normally dislike in-joke games, because I never seem to be "in."
Strangely, though, I liked this game despite the fact that I've never seen
BJM, and ain't too crazy about fusion-parodies either. I guess that says

However, when you come right down to it, it's an in-joke game. Engaging
writing, and I liked the way the prose switches seemlessly between
character perspectives. Zarf percieving his surroundings in Zarf-speak was a
nice touch that got a laugh out of me. And the puzzles, in bold defiance of
Zarfian standards, are relatively tame. Peter's comment about games being
easier to write then to play had a ring of truth (says the critic who's
never written a game in his life... -_-;;;;)

I dunno- just a small, tasty cookie of a game sprinkled with chocolate
chips of goodness. My only problem is that a few of the recommended actions
could have been clued a bit better...

-DROP BLANKET works. PUT BLANKET ON PIT doesn't. Grrrrr... >_<

I like the way perspective switches between protagonists. ^_^

5: "Kaged"
Rating: 8
"Each one a work of art," the woman replies, reciting an advertisement
learned by rote decades ago. "A hat should reflect the invaluable
individuality of the wearer."

Best Ironic Line of the Comp. ^_^

I liked this. But I'm not sure why. The writing is engaging, but the
gameworld feels... grey. Dull. I understand that's kinda the point, that's
the feel of the whole "bureacrat's dystopia" thing, but... I'd like a more
colorful grey. Like Ayanami Rei, looking grey without being grey. Like with
MS&LGS way back when, people criticised the opening for being tedious, even
though the point of the opening scene was to establish tedium. Same here.
Come up with a better approach then just showing dullness, because dullness
is just... well... dull. The plot is pretty dull too, your standard
"you-versus-Big-Brother" deal. Towards the end the twists start flying, and
the endings (four of them, by my count) are quite interesting, leaving you
engagingly confused. Confused in a Perfect Blue sort of way- you can't quite
figure out what was real and unreal. Also near the end, you go through
several fast-paced chase scenes. One chase in a game is good- three or four,
however, can get tedious. By the end it's almost tiresome. Not quite, but
almost. It does, however, quicken the pace of the game and add a sense of
ungency to your actions. And, if the time becomes to tight, TADS supports
multiple UNDOs. ^_^ The pictures and music are nicely done, although the
music occassionally sounds like it was ripped from an old SNES game (not
that that's necessarily a BAD thing), what characters there are are
well-developed, though slightly cliche at times, and...

Hmm... This critique seems to have become schizophrenic. 0_o;;;;

Suffice to say, this is a good game which is missing that elusive
somethingness that makes a great game. Like Chinese take-out, you praise it
warmly and then raid the fridge for something else an hour later.

Also: Aackman? 0_o As in "Go Go Ackman"?

-You can't do anything while sitting in the chair in your office.
-Except for taking the inkpad, the parser reacts as if Pieter's at his
desk, even when the plot takes him into the Vestibule.
-In the courtyard, there's no prompt I can find leading you to inspect the
-The matchbook description doesn't mention matches, even if you try to open
or look inside it. It might be implied, yes, but...
-In a similiar vein, there seems to be a bug with matches burning out as
soon as you light them, after the first one.

As I said, make your grey less literally grey. A few less dummy exits
might be nice, though it's not a big distraction. Keep working with HTML
TADS- you do it well. ^_^ Strive to imbue your games with the aforementioned
somethingness. If you figure out how to do this, tell me. ^_^

6: "Marooned"
Rating: 2
An absolutely minimalist, Scott Adams type game, with sparse room
descriptions, humdrum premise, little of anything implemented, and one
puzzle I can see, which crashes the interpreter when you try to solve it.
*drags game file to the Recycle Bin* Buh-bye!

-An interpreter-crashing bug when trying to move the boulder using the
piece of driftwood.
-The day-night cycle is pretty pointless.
-Inventory limit of two items.
-"Difficult, but not hard"? Nani? 0_o;;;;
-Why didn't whoever was on the second boat take the important items ashore
with him?

Get with the 21st century, dude. And bugtest.

7: "Rameses"
Rating: 10
Yeah, go on. Go ahead, say it. I know SOME of you are thinking it... "How
can this be IF? It's not interactive!" Ah, but no. While I can see this
could work well as static fiction, it's very important that this is
interactive, despite the lack of effect the player can have on the story.
See, that's the whole POINT. It can be argued that, throughout the scope of
IF, the player almost universally represents the logical mind of the
protagonist. So too here. But the differance is, you see, while most
protagonists are "men of action", this one is characteristically a man of
inaction. The anti-interactive nature of Rameses is representative of this
character's internal struggle against his... inhibitions? That the word I'm
looking for? 0_o;;;; You get the point. The operative thing here is that
this character always takes the least favorable (one might say most
cowardly) route through a crisis, despite you, the logical mind,constantly
yelling at him "Not THAT way, asshole, the OTHER way!" As someone once said:
"Don't tell them what it's like, SHOW them what it's like!" Good job,
author. ^_^|/

Hmm... only one note on this game: "Freedom." Yeah, the protagonist talks
big about freedom. He's an idiot. I seriously want to slap some sense into
him. He has no freedom. Apparently he's too dumb to realize he's just
exchanging the prisons of liking others for the prison of his own
inhibitions. Dumbass. >_<

None as far as I can see.

Keep writing. ^_^

8: "Unnkulia X"
Rating: 6 (-2 for post-rating-period observations)
(Disclaimer: Unnkulia series is distinctly NOT my thing.)

"Currently, you are lying on the cell floor, tied up like a birthday
present with a rope." OOOOOOOHHH! KINKY! ^_^ Hehehehehe...

Seriously, though. I found this initially appealing due to the quirky
writing and faithfully old-school design. My enthusiasm was dampened
somewhat when the very first puzzle turned out to be guess-the-verb. Those
first few turns basically sums up my entire attitude to the game: moments of
reminiscent awe at the glory days of the commercial text adventure,
interrupted by moments of realization of just why those days are gone.
Unnkulia X is heir to all of the problems of the ZORK era- exhaustable
resources, tightly timed segments, badly clued puzzles, lack of a hint
system, annoying Acme-speak, and the ability to easily lock yourself out of
victory. I eventually found myself walkthroughing most of the way. And, for
all the vivid writing, clever puzzles, quirky humor, and so forth, the game
is seriously bogged down in filler material and overambition. There are red
herrings. MANY red herrings. MANY MANY red herrings. In fact, it seems
almost 70% of the game is cheez-flavored filler, completely irrelevant to
the plot and with a reasonable probablitity of getting you killed or locked
out of victory if tampered with. I say often of Comp games "More
atmosphere!", but here I find myself yelling "LESS atmosphere! The air
pressure is crushing me! >_<" The puzzles get more obscure and less
forgiving as the game goes on, very annoying. Even so, though, the game was
rather entertaining, and those with more patience then I (and perhaps more
of an affinity to the Unnkulia series) may find it more worthwhile.

One thing bothers me especially, though. See, at the end of the two hour
limit, I checked the walkthrough and found myself BARELY A THIRD OF THE WAY
DONE! NANI?! 0_o;;;; I'm slow when tricky puzzles are in the way, but not
THAT slow. A game this long should NEVER have been entered in the Comp. I
thought about how this could have happened, and the only idea I could come
up with was "Someone had written this game for a release by the end of the
year, finished early, and decided that, since it was done, they might as
well enter it in IFComp and try to win something." I'll give the author the
benefit of the doubt, but if this is true, then it's in extremely bad taste,
not to mention a bit unfair to the other authors.

-In the ditch:
">x ground"
"Which ground do you mean, the ground, or the ground?"
-Rope != Ropes. It should.
-Looking under the chair in the surveillance room generates a weird error.
-The puzzle concerning the access code to the matter-mover is WAY too
draconian. You have to account for both capital and lowercase letters, you
have exactly ONE turn to note it correctly, and if you don't note it
correctly, you lock yourself out of victory. (To top it off, after
successfully revealing the secret passage, you are likely to hop through it
and die. >_< )
-The candle does not burn forever in Dhudha's place.
-Maximum score is 300... and yet I finished with 307? 0_o;;;;

If an Unnkulia game was your object, you did well. However, I'd reccomend
less filler material next time. The goals could stand to be better clued at.
Remove the wandering NPCs, I understand they're there to make the park look
busy, but they annoy. The guy from the mountain could stand to be a more
fleshed out character. Oh, and it's sort of an unwritten rule that Comp
games should be written specifically FOR the Comp...

9: "Comp00ter Game"
Rating: 1
See, THIS is why we should stop having enough prizes for everyone in the


*edges away slowly*

10: "Prodly the Puffin"
Rating: 1
Here's another good example...


Stop. Please. You're killing me. Really.

11: "Masquerade"
Rating: 5
I believe it was Zarf who said, in a review of a game for a previous Comp,
"Enh, overall." So too with Masquerade.

I don't know, I just found it... uninspired. Like I'd read this story a
hundred times before. Yes, I know I said I loved romance. ANY story becomes
boring after a hundred tellings, unless the author brings something new to
the essential plot structure, or exhibits exceptional skill. This author...
well... doesn't, unfortunately. Adding to the trouble is the fact that the
implementation is lacking... the action often gets hung up on a game of
"guess-the-right-command", and the author's tendancy early on to drop you
into a new scene with only a vague understanding of what to do (the picnic
being the worst offense) is damaging to immersion. Plus, the gameworld
suffers from a general thinness, and while not at the spartan level of, say,
our other "Masque", it still wants for some scenic text.

In short, there's nothing really WRONG with Masquerade... it's just that
there's very little RIGHT with it...

-Your purse is empty when you enter the coach, yet you pay the driver.
-Was the man in the cab's identity revealed? I think it was Jonathan, but
It was never explicitly stated.

Dress the scene up, give the player something to do just to get a feel for
things. Don't drop the player into a situation with no direction, find some
way to communicate what's happening. Flesh out the writing more, and don't
hamstring the plot on a single command, unless it's hinted VERY well.

12: "Letters from Home"
Rating: 8
Someone actually wrote an entire game based around puns. >_< Sheesh.
Anyway, this game is a good old Nelsonian treasure-hunt. In this case, a
search for the letters of the alphabet in an old priory. Done badly, these
games can be abhorrant, fortunately this game is done well. And the hint
system is comprehensive. Together this makes an amusing, though somewhat
shallow, diversion. You have twenty-six rooms, each hiding a letter. Find
them all, then there's a final puzzle, a crossword. You also have to get
ahold of the clues to the aforementioned crossword. As I mentioned, puns are
the order of the day- a vase of curious flowers, double ewes, a alightly
obscure joke about articles, the bow gag (ripped off shamelessly from ZUU
(where it was done better)), and so on. In the Nelsonian tradition, there
are also some fairly molar-crunching puzzles. The armor puzzle seems
unmotivated- even if you know there's a secret door in the room, how are you
to figure out how to open it without the walkthrough? Many puzzles also
require outside knowledge- the tree, the printing press, the lengths of
cloth, all rather obscure letters. Good luck with the crossword. And there's
a time limit on the game, as well. Good thing the hints cover almost

Letters from Home breaks no new ground for the IF genre, but it is an
engaging way to kill a few hours. My only real complaint is that the ending
seems rather incongruous.

-0_o;;;; Erm... is the author aware that a "g-string" is also the name of a
rather... inadequate piece of underwear?
-You can lock yourself out of victory by taking the tree before getting the
clue from the nest.
-You can also lock yourself out of victory by performing electrolysis
before finding the celler. The parser makes you drop the battery in the
-The hint system doesn't clue the ell puzzle adequately.

None, aside from cleaning up the aforementioned problems.

13: "What-IF?"
Rating: 1
Awarded the Second Annual Craxtonian Middle Finger Award for Outstanding
Achievement in the Field of Half-Assed Game Design. A static history paper
ported into the Inform language to, presumably, get the author a prize.
Always enough prizes to go around in IFComp, right? -_-;;;;

-"It Stinks!" -Jay Sherman

Is this some sort of joke? An HRS-style commentary on something?

14: "The Best Man"
Rating: 3
Heh. Rookie authors are funny. Comp after Comp, we are treated to an
endless parade of them, always making the same mistakes. ^_^ This game has
all the characteristics of a good action-espionage thriller, but it's
hobbled by the author's inexperience. Little newbie mistakes, mostly-
unimplemented items, mild bugs, vague hint system, etc. Also annoying
inventory management, in the form of a coat you have to move things out of
before you can use/drop them, and a bomb that can't reasonably be defused
without a few save/restores. The bomb is a real mimesis-damager, as well as
the game-killer, the puzzle that just finally made me give up. The feelie
newsletter is good, but the author relies on it to convey almost all of the
game background. Not a wise approach. Outside of the Comp, I'd be reluctant
to download Adobe just to play a text adventure game.

-A door "explodes inward" and is then closed. Huh? 0_o
-The acid and hydroxide bottles have the same description.
-Double naming: two items are referrable to as "acid", and "squirt" is both
a noun and a verb.
-I'm not sure how, but the acid somehow managed to get outside the bottle.
-The liquids leaking out of the bottles put the game in an unwinnable

Again, again, agin, I say: ATMOSPHERE! Don't just implement what needs to
be implemented. Better descriptions, more things in the text examinable. Be
a little less draconian with your puzzles. Beta-test, it could have caught
lots of these little things before release. An action that makes the game
unwinnable, such as the vapor solution to the terrorists, should not score
you points. Less tedium: spending 50 turns trying to balence acidities is
not fun.

15: "Desert Heat"
Rating: 4
Alright, let's get one thing straight here. This game, it's said in the
introduction, was put together in about a month, meaning it very well could
be a rough draft, to be expanded and expounded on later. But entering it in
IFComp implies that it's finished, prepared to face the wrath of the judges.
So, I suspect this is a first draft, but I'm grading it as a finished work.

The idea here seems to have been: take the cult-followed set of hentai
games, and try to translate it's unique and distinctive flair for highly
linear yet highly engrossing gameplay to TADS. Bold enterprise. A Hentai
game utilizes text and pictures to tell a story, adding music for
atmosphere, and scrapping the traditional typing interface for a menu-based
one. Can a game be made that converts all that to a pure CYOA structure?

Probably... but this isn't that game. Damn.

The structure is railroaded in such a manner that most of the options given
to you are dead-ends or digressions that rejoin the main plot shortly after.
This is a staple of the Hentai genre, true, however another staple is being
able to disguise this effectively, to make the player think he's in control
of a wide, open plot, when really he isn't. Think of Runaway City- you can
get a drink in the coffee house, shop around the department store, hang out
at the park, all of which has no real effect on the gameplay. But you can DO
it. It adds a sense of control, of interaction with the world. It doesn't
have to be irrelevant, either... the same thing is accomplished in SoTS by
giving you frequent and varied opportunities for interaction with your
potential mates, and in True Love by giving you things to do that can
concievably help the plot along. In short, if the player has a lot to do,
they'll FEEL like they're involved in the plotline, even if they are, in
fact, not.

"But what about the sex?" you ask. "Is it any good?"

Well... no. Damn. Again.

The detail level on the sex is really low- you're told what's happening,
but that's it. There's no elaboration, no detail, no flavor in the text.
This, frankly, isn't the right way to portray sex. Intercourse is merely
muscles and bones moving together in a way that is pleasurable. Sex is
emotion, sensation, perception, feeling. Sex is in the mind. Fingers slide
across your flesh, but how do they feel? Like silk, light and whispering?
Like velvet, firm and gentle? Like sandpaper, harsh and rough? Like cotton,
plain and warm? And it takes time, it can't be rushed. The author tries to
skip merrily through the scenes, perhaps trying to avoid being crushed by
judges who might find her too explicit. This doesn't work either. It's like
watching an erotic film to the "good" part, then fast forwarding through it
saying "Yeah, yeah, I know what's happening."

Desert Heat shows potential- while not masterworks, the characters are
fleshed-out enough to do some good scenes with. The problem is... well, it's
not done. The author will probably be able to expand on this considerably
given more then just the month she had to put it together, but I have to
rate it as it is now, not as it may be.

-Typos. Again, the spell-checker ain't enough... It puts in "duck" where
you meant "fuck."
-Why no message on the scroll?
-"uncle-san" is not an address used in an Arabian setting.
-"No wise noblewoman goes without learning some self-defense." Ermm... then
why couldn't you use that trick on the guard? 0_o;;;;

Good idea, now broaden and deepen it. Most especially, go into more detail
with sex. It's the fundamental center of your game, don't just write it off
with nary a word.

16: "The End Means Escape"
Rating: 2
RYBREAD! You promised not to enter anything this year! >_<

Incomprehensible. And the hint system is buggy. Had no idea what to do in
the dictionary. Got a hint on RGIF, stumbled through the rest. It makes
progressively less and less sense. This guy should be arrested for
artisticing with an expired license. >_<

-Incomprehensible and impossible.
-Buggy hints. Repeating the same hint over and over doesn't make it make
more sense.
-"x *" crashes the game. Furthermore, a game crash results in an odd
compulsion not to restart it...

Don't write games while on LSD.

17: "Happy Ever After"
Rating: 3
Interesting story behind this one. I heard it was bugged, didn't feel like
downloading a compiler just to play it, and put it aside until the fixed
file was made available on the Textfire page. That never happened, so after
the other 52 games were played and done, I found myself with a single
unplayed game. Writing up a few lines to explain why I had not rated it, the
excuse seemed a little flimsy, so I decided what the hell, give it a shot.
So I did. After crawling through some reasonably simple puzzles and minor
bugs, I wound up at what I thought was the bug, being unable to get a
certain item (it wasn't, I misread the walkthrough) and said to myself,
"Okay, that's as far as I can go, I'll rate it based on that." I put that
off for the time being, and went to have lunch. While eating, I thought to
myself, "Wait a minute. This version of the game is a beta, not the one the
author intended to release to the Comp. I wonder..." After lunch, I booted
the game back up:


"Success! ^_^" I thought, and continued with the game. It wasn't until the
end that I hit the real bug, a door that didn't open. But by then, I knew
what to do... TREE, then GOTO the appropriate number. Success again. ^_^

Unfortunately, requiring this kind of outside the box thinking to solve
your game doesn't get you many points from me. ^_^;;;; Even if you banish
the game-stopping one, Happy Ever After is riddled with bugs in the writing,
coding, and game logic. The backstory is reasonably interesting- not sure
what the significance is of the hero's ex having the same name as this
game's damsel- but the game itself is incredibly cliche, like a watered-down
version of Muldoon. At least the author took a crack at it... next time,
let's go for a bit more betatesting, hmm? The Comp isn't everything, you

Bugs&Quibbles ("I don't make technical errors", he says. -_-;;;;;):
-The lead bar from the press mysteriously becomes iron when put in the
voltage generator.
-The dial on the generator isn't mentioned- you have to TAKE ALL FROM
GENERATOR to see it's there.
-The exit marked as "Hall of precious gems" leads to the Hall of Science.
-From Description of the Theater's control console: "Below which is a large
green button. which is empty. Below which is a large green button."
-the "gate bars the north exit" even after you've walked through it, into
the next room.
-Mongooses kill snakes, not the other way around. >_<
-According to the description of the diamond, you "twist and turn it in
your hands" while it's still on the pedestal.
-The Employee's Only door is east from the lobby, not west as the room
description says.
-The marble crypt is referrable to as "marble", but not "crypt."
-The doors in the Office don't block you at all... you can just walk
through them, even if they're not open.
-Putting things in the alchemy machine in a way other then the walkthrough
lists results in an item before all the ingrediants are added. Similiar
problem with the dumbwaiter.
-Let me get this straight: you put the FIRST note in the dumbwaiter, but
the SECOND is delivered to Gwen? 0_o;;;;
-GET DIAMOND does that, but with no "Taken" message.
-The control box can be taken from the bench.
-The picture of Gwen in the bedroom isn't listed in the room description. I
didn't even know it was there until I TREEd.

All of us together, now: "BETA-TEST!!" You could have gotten at least a
point or two higher just by cleaning up these trifling things.

18: "And the Waves Choke the Wind"
Rating: 4
This game starts off well. Then it... errr... stops.

See, this is not a game, it's a *preview* for a game. Which explains why it
cuts off right as things are getting interesting. As a result, there's not
much to say about it. Well-written, and engaging, until it cuts off
abruptly, after having explored most of the island and gotten dragged back
to the ship.

It shows potential, though. The atmosphere is good- very dark and brooding.
Most of the rooms, however, serve no purpose other then adding atmosphere
and being in the way. I don't mind, and it gives a sense of scale to the
island, however in other games, walking through a large string of rooms just
to get where you can do something becomes tedious. The dialogue strikes me
as too modern, and the homoeroticism in the script seems... disconcerting.
But maybe that's just me. Also, since most of the plot seems to have been
set out already, I wonder what might the rest of the game be spent on...

None, really, unless you count WinFrotz's weird way of handling colors...

Finish the game. With better dialogue.

19: "Infil-traitor"
Rating: 1
Well, the story behind this game getting from someone's hard drive circa
1982 to IFComp2000 is indeed fairly interesting, but I'm sorry, I can't give
this higher then a 1. Historical value aside, I simply have no patience for
a game with such a limited parser in this day and age. Added to that is the
annoying habit of the author not listing all exits from the room. I'm sorry,
I just lost patience. Perhaps I am weak or spoiled by the more advanced
games of the present, but I just can't take a game like this.

-No save feature
-No verb list- usually not necessary, but with a parser this finickey...
-Exits not listed

Since the author hasn't written a text adventure since, it'd be kinda
pointless, don't you think?

20: "Ad Verbum"
Rating: 9
OMG, this game had me giggling start to finish! ^_^ It's so frickin' funny!
The intro, the duel of words with the boy, the alliterative rooms, it's all
hilarious! ^_^

Well, until later on, at least. Then it gets slightly annoying. A few
puzzles, the feed and the difficult difficult difficult door, require slight
abuse of adventure-gaming conventions. Lighting the attic is a psychic
player puzzle, and cleaning out the library is an exercise in frustration
and use of hint systems.

Still, this game was just such a massive amount of fun...

-Manuevering the pig is a pain.
-"Eat" can be used to get the items in the eatery. This intentional? 0_o
- ">expand estate, enclose ewer"
"You seem to want to talk to someone, but I can't see whom." Gotcha! ~_^
-If there are "a few things left on the shelves", why does "search shelves"
return a canned response?
-Caligula appointed a horse, not a pig, to the Senate.

None, really...

21: "The Pickpocket"
Rating: 3
Alright, let me get this straight... You entered in IFComp, without
providing a walkthrough or any kind of hints (blatantly against Comp
precedants, IIRC), a game with obscure puzzles and an admitted way to lock
yourself out of victory, without ever considering that these two things
together could leave the player stranded in the middle of the game with no
idea how to proceed, or even if he CAN proceed in the first place? Blech.
>_< This game also suffers from a severe lack of mimesis- there's a plot,
supposedly, but none of your actions have anything to do with it. You play
the role of the standard kleptomaniacal adventurer, snatching everything
that isn't nailed down and trying to use it to solve puzzles that the author
has put in your way. Amusingly, trying to open the cash register got me told
"You're trying to catch a thief, not embark upon a life of crime." By which
point I had already broken into a hotel room and stolen a briefcase,
blanket, and an alarm clock. Double Blech. >_<

-Many objects are mentioned twice in the room descriptions.
-PUT 200 IN SLOT results in trying to put your entire inventory in the coin
slot. 0_o;;;;

Next time, blow the sense of reality and eliminate the trap. Make sure the
character's actions are at least passably motivated. And polish your
coding-Pickpocket conveys a sense of being buggy.

22: "Threading the Labyrinth"
Rating: 5

Too deep for me, man...

Well, no, that's not exactly true. I think I have a vague idea of what the
author's trying to say but I... ummm... hmmm. Never mind, I couldn't
describe it in a way that wouldn't ruin the experience. Suffice to say, this
is a short experimental piece that slightly resembles SUTW but is really
like nothing we've ever seen before. I'm not sure if it's ingenius or
stupid, but it's certainly well-crafted, so I'll place dead center on the

-One annoying tic in the second section, but the author will probably plead
Zarf's Defense, so forget it.

Out of my league...

23: "Asendent"
Rating: 1
Not again... -_-;;;;;

-Sanifer's Rybread parody was vaguely amusing, but this isn't.
-Rybread's proofreading isn't THIS bad...

Go away.

Rating: 1
WHAT?!?! @_0

-No goal.
-No point.

*shaking head side to side* Stop it! STOP IT! >_< I can't take much more
of this! Get out of my head, GET OUT OF MY @#$%ING HEAD!!

25: "Metamorphoses"
Rating: 10
Ahhhhhhh... that's much better. ^_^

This is a great game on many, many, levels. Where to start? Well, the story
is interesting- your "master" has sent you to an ethereal realm to gather
"elements" for him, which is your goal, but also the backdrop for the story
of YOU, the protagonist. Interesting in the execution is that, while you the
protagonist knows the entire backstory, you the PLAYER has to discover
through flashbacks. Not the sudden, recovering-from-amnesia type flashbacks,
but a more subtle, oh-this-just-occurred-to-me type series of thoughts and

The story is also, as the title implies, about change- you the protagonist
changing, in ways both spiritual and tangible. Mirroring this is the way the
puzzling is accomplished- usually the items to use in the situation are
provided, but they can't be used without first being altered by two
machines- one of which changes size, and the other substance.

The implementation here is VERY thorough- not only is almost everything
implemented for examination, every takable object seems to be implemented
for every state bestowed by the machines, no "that doesn't fit" in the
machines. It's the most seemless gameworld I've seen in a while.

The prose is quietly extrordinary, geared to impress in subtle ways. It has
the vague air of "The Purification Ritual" two years ago, or perhaps last
year's "For a Change" made more accessable. It is engrossing and
fantastical, so much so that I almost missed Sailor Moon to complete it.

Now, here come the "but"s...

There are a few rough spots. The description of the domed room doesn't
mention the exits to the east or west. You have to try and go in an
unpermissible direction before getting the message that there are paths "in
each of the cardianl directions". Sloppy mistake. There's also the matter of
the staircase- PUT <correct item> IN SLOT returns a "success" message, but
PUT <wrong item> IN SLOT doesn't return a "wrong idea" message, instead the
game puts the item in the furnace itself. Bad idea. I spent a while trying
to change the states of various items that I thought fit in the slot- a
"That doesn't fit" message or something similiar WOULD have been helpful
here. And finally, there's the matter of the hole past the grating- you have
to drop something in it, and lose that item, to open a passage elsewhere.
This kinda goes against conventions- typical adventure-game reflex is to
hold on to your items jealously, something might be critical later.
Furthermore, actually dropping something in the hole is a rather unmotivated
action, and, if you drop the right item in the hole in the wrong state,
you're locked out of victory. There's also the fact that the right item
looks extrordinary important in a WRONG state, but not especially important
in the RIGHT state. This entire puzzle, I think, needs some serious

But even with these flaws, Metamorpheses is a top-notch game that is well
worth the time and effort. There's also an interesting forked ending which
will, I think, challenge you to figure out which is the "better" ending. ^_^

-In addition to the three I listed above, typing "LOOK THROUGH GLASS AT
<whatever>" soon gets annoying. (Granted, you don't have to even do it once,
but it provides much useful information.)

You're fine. You're beyond fine. You're beyond beyond fine. YOU GO, GIRL!

26: "Enlisted"
Rating: 2
Well, at least this author made an effort... but the game is just so DULL.
I spent forty-five minutes going through the introduction before the actual
plot got started. After that, I wandered the station aimlessly for a while,
found little, and finally had this dialogue with myself:
"What are we trying to do?"
"I don't know."
"How are we suppossed to get it done?"
"I don't know."
"Are we having fun?"
"No, we feel bored."
"Why are we playing this game?"
And I quit.

-Cut out the entire game up until the part where the protagonist wakes up
from cryo-sleep. It's pointless fluff.
-Condense the station. Too many featureless hallways.
-Make your bridge feel less like a ripoff from Star Trek.

Well, the pointless filler causes some problems, but the real difficulty
here is the writing- it's blank and featureless, bland, drab. Unfortunately,
I don't know how you could fix that other then by becoming a better writer.

27: "Jarod's Journey"
Rating: Abstain (2)
"Welcome to Jarod's Journey, a TADS-based game that will hopefully get you
and Jarod closer to God."

Aw, MAN... >_<

You know you're in for deep hurting when a game (by "GraceWorks
Interactive", no less) starts off with an opening line like that. You know,
I never understood the whole idea behind Pop Christianity. What good does it
do to make your religion look childish and corny? Perhaps it's the work of
Satan trying to make Christians look silly enough that no one will want to
consort with them. If so, it's working splendidly...

Anyway, the game is: You're Jarod. You live in the first century A.D. Your
father was a Roman Centurion. He witnessed the crucifixtion of Christ and
was brought to question his life. Years later, he still has no answers, and
he's dying. So he sends you out in to the world, to find out about Christ
and his people. OK, not too bad so far. A talented author could make
something worthwhile out of this premise. Problem is, the author isn't
talented. The coding bespeaks one that has only a vague understanding of
HTML-TADS, and the game seems to be targeted towards those who have never
played a text adventure before-for example, HELP brings up a list of
commands and how to use them. Moreover, the dialogue is juvenile, composed
almost entirely of Christian sound bites that are unlikely to convert
anyone. After I learned the game contained a CONVERT verb, I couldn't take
any more, and quit on the spot. Does the author realise that he's
trivializing his religion rather then exulting it?

-">talk to sailmaker
Which sailmaker do you mean, the sailmaker, or the fabric?"

Don't write for children. You're not going to reach Ned Flanders' children
with text adventures, and you don't need to either. And learn a bit about
subtlety in writing.

28: "A Crimson Spring"
Rating: 5
What we have here is a VERY dark comic-book adventure. You're a super-hero
called the Holy Avenger your partner and lover got killed recently, and now
you're off to track down the killers. I wanted to like this game. I did like
it, but it was kinda tough...

Let's hit the good points first. The atmosphere and general feel are
spot-on, evoking memories of those dusty old X-men comics I have lying
around the attic somewhere, though considerably darker. In fine superhero
style, a fight is usually preceded by some lengthy diatribes from the
respective parties. And the story has the same gripping pace that kept me
turning pages on those Thurdays I spent sprawled out on my bed, indulging in
fantasy stories. (no, not like THAT, you pervs, that came later...) And I
have to give "propz" to a game that casts a d3Wd5p3@k1Ng villian amongst
it's cast of character. Most of the characters are very well fleshed-out,
in, again, superhero fashion... And.. uhh... the gag about the Konami code
tickled me especially.

Now, the bad...

The story was obviously meant to be static fiction. It could easily be
that, without the player having any input whatsoever, and would lose
nothing. In fact, I think it IS static fiction ported to Hugo. Only the
necessary bits are implemented, and there's little varience except in the
conversations- shutting off Haxor's power, for example, has no effect, and
you can't even examine the stuff listed as being in the various rooms of
your apartment. Mimesis barely holds up in some places... For example, your
main weapon is a lead pipe. Nani? 0_o Give your hero a mace, or a flaming
sword, or SOMETHING that makes sense, otherwise he might as well be "The
Plumber" or something. You're told you can't log into Red Cloud's computer,
but no details are given- someone was there recently, but how did they block
your access? The game doesn't say. You have to type SEARCH ROOM at one
point, a hugely inappropriate bit of guess-the-noun. You can apparently see
stuff while in haxor's lair, despite being blindfolded. The combat system
doesn't work well, either- you can pull a clever move when necessary, but
mainly you're just typing HIT <villian> and reading all the combat messages.
The conversation interface could have used some work, too. There are points
when the order of speech just doens't make sense. And in no comic-book
reality I know of do heroes or villians EVER go CLUBBING in COSTUME! >_< And
there are bugs- mostly small, dumb things, but the endgame was completely
incomprehensible, not to mention unsolvable without the walkthrough. And the
sounds & graphics didn't work on my interpreter either. Finally, there's the
matter of taste. It's poor, in many places. The descriptions of RedCloud's
murder are extremely grotesque and not for the faint of heart. There's a
line about the British that *will* strike a nerve, and a KKK-styled villian.
But worst of all... a villian called the "AIDS Archer" who uses specially
poisoned darts. >_< A tiny bit more maturity, please? We had enough of the
ACC the first time around...

I liked Crimson Spring reasonably despite it's flaws, but I doubt others
will be as forgiving.

-ONE line break before the prompt, not two.
-"conscience", not "conscious".
-The bartender is the only NPC that registers as "her", the rest you have
to refer to with "him."

"A" for concept, "D-" for execution. Characters are a strong point, in
fact I bumped the score up a notch because they stuck in my mind so long.
Writing style is also good, but if you're going to make a story Interactive
Fiction rather thanstatic, give it a good reason for being so. Bugtest.
Implement stuff just for atmosphere. Stay within the bounds of reasonable
taste, if nothing else, you'll get smashed by critics for getting too
extreme. Don't make the reader play guessing games or go for the walkthrough
too often. And watch the Mimesis.

29: "Futz Mutz"
Rating: 6
You wake up as a dog, and do doggy things for most of the morning. Heh. ^_^
This one got points for silliness and production value, but I can't really
say I enjoyed it much. I'm more a cat person. =^.^= <--- Like this, see?
Hehehe. ^_^ Anyway, it was amusing, until the music got annoying and I
realized I had no idea at all what to do. Seriously, your goal is clear, but
the means to it are fairly obscure. You also spend far too much time
waiting- waiting for customers, waiting for the turnstyle, waiting for a
seat, waiting for the cook to go away, waiting, waiting, waiting. Bleh. >_<
HTML-TADS is well used, but this just didn't capture my interest. And the
ending is inconclusive. Though, to be fair, I don't know how I could have
concluded it...

None, really, except for the fact that you have to keep scratching

Cut down the waiting time, and clue your puzzles better. I walkthroughed
virtually the entire game.

30: "The Trip"
Rating: 4
I didn't like this. The whole game just felt paper-thin. Only the barest
minimum is implemented- many things made to look interesting in the
descriptions- "horizon", "closet", "sky", and so forth, return a canned
response when examined. I'd like to see a lot more interesting things done
too... if there are optional puzzles, I never even noticed, but I did notice
that I couldn't dance with the fairies or swim in the sea of flowers. The
writing is dull- descriptions of fairies and such supernatural creatures
should elicit wonder, not apathy. For some reason, clensing yourself of evil
involves unmotivated acts of burglery and destruction of other people's
property. Nani? 0_o;;;;;;;

-">x shapes
Which shapes do you mean, the shapes, or the ethereal shapes?
Let's try it again: Which shapes do you mean, the shapes, or the
ethereal shapes?"
You'll have to open the blue trailer door first.
>unlock blue
Which blue do you mean, the blue trailer door, or the blue trailer?
What do you want to unlock it with?
Which key do you mean, the lead key, or the iron key?
It doesn't fit the lock."
-Better proofreading- "hinding-spot", "have e very", etc.
-The weed takes too long to wear off, and doesn't wear off in certain
-Too railroady in the beginning, too much waiting.
-You only need to inform the player about NOTIFY once, thank you.

Flesh out your world more. And don't tell me it's thin because I didn't
solve optional puzzles- because it was thin, I wasn't motivated to go
LOOKING for optional puzzles. Don't railroad the player so much, and think
through the thematic implications of your puzzles. Noting, for example, that
people actually LIVE in the white house you're about to rob dissuedes the
player from robbing it.

31: "Wrecked"
Rating: 2
Minimalist. Bleh. -_-

-GIVE is buggy.
-Little motivation for... um... anything.
-Raining for no reason.
-Learn-by-death is annoying. Learn-by-death on the last move of a game with
no death otherwise, AND no UNDO, is unforgivible.

See my critique of Marooned.

32: "1-2-3..."
Rating: 1
Bleh again. -_- Good opening, but the story is cliche. This sort of stuff
was shocking when Hitchcock did it, but that was decades ago, and you're not
Hitchcock. The implementation is very, very shoddy. Conversations drive the
plot onward, but finding the right topics is more difficult then it should
be. Badly, badly written. The heroine is such a caricature it's almost
funny. Exits aren't mentioned in the text. And there's the brand of the
inexperienced author: "Your score is 0 out of a possible 0". On second
thought, forget Bleh, let's try Ack! >_<

-Line breaks are inconsistant.
-Should probably have implemented a TALK verb.

First off, take a writing course. Don't reuse old Hitchcock plots. Learn
how to characterize strong females better- you come off like a bit of a
cheuvenist here. Don't railroad the player quite so much. Less slogging
through less-then-obvious conversation scenes.

33: "The Big Mama"
Rating: 7
Yeah, I liked this. ^_^ Concept- you get dumped by your girlfriend, and
head to the beach to get over it. Weather you do or not, and how, is the
result of your actions. The structure reminds me of Aisle, in that your
interaction with the gameworld shapes you the protagonist as well as the
plot. However, Big Mama requires slightly more shaping then Aisle until you
have a full story. A story isn't just handed to you- you have to work for
it. I simply love the concept, and the many paths from beginning to end, but
the game gets rather hung up on implementation. The conversations branch a
lot, but ultimately you're funneled into one or two responses to move things
along. This needs work, a conversational path should end with you being
somewhere different then you were at the start. But the most annoying thing
here is the large number of things you CAN'T do. You can't burglerize the
shack, or knock over the sandcastle, swim, lie down and sleep, or a lot of
things I would have liked to tried, just for fun. Sure, they might lead me
somewhere unlikable, but I should have been able to DO them. I've blasted a
lot of gamesfor being unforgiving, but this is the only one I think could
stand to be MORE unforgiving.

But, yeah, I liked this, despite some problems...

BTW, just how many endings *are* there? The highest number I got was 39...

-Too much californian dialect- what IS a "Gee-dunk"?
-The girl being Ginger if you take one path, and Emily if another, is
-Amoebas are unicellular. They don't mate, they divide. -_-;;;;
-"You're not in the mood for a swim in dark, 10-degree water rife with who
knows what kind of sea creatures." Nice way to talk about your Mama. A bit
of consistancy, please? -_-;;;;;

More doable stuff, in general. The writing needs to be polished, too.
Certain parts, the intro especially, are overwritten. Others are
underwritten, or badly described. Dialogue is awkward at times. And the
overlong author's notes at the start are irritating.

34: "Transfer"
Rating: 3
Hands up people, how many thought "Oh no, not ANOTHER conspiracy in an
underground research lab!"

My main problem here is that the characters... aren't. Characters, that is.
More like the author's marionettes. They completely ignore you, even if
you're breaking into someone's quarters, walking around as a character who's
supposed to be unconscious, or trying to smoke them out of the commons. It's
like the player is a ghost. Yet, when the author wants to put a plot twist
in your way, you can't go into the commons because they'll see you, never
mind that they probably already HAVE. -_-;;;; Ingol's GREAT security if he
doesn't even recognize your scheme with the rope before it comes off. The
characters also go on as usual even if something seemingly earth-shaking
HAPPENS... I got the feeling I could blow up the entire lab and they'd keep
trying to walk around, going about their business despite being buried under
tons of rubble.

What else? Well, the game uses some rather questionable "science" to
justify its plot. Clarke's Law nonewithstanding, being able to identify
someone's consciousness from a blood sample, or reverse the procedure by
envisioning pi, places this firmly in the realm of "fantasy".

Also, the climax is pretty damn anticlimactic.

-Hints on the bat should be in the "Twilight" section, since that's where
they're needed.
-Too much "read-my-mind,-player" type puzzling.

More atmosphere. Once again, we have sparse descriptions and
implementation of only what's puzzle-related. Give your characters a reason
for being, they shouldn't just lounge around and ignore things five feet in
front of them until you need them to affect the plot. More science, less

35: "Castle Amnos"
Rating: -10
ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!! >>_<< I played this game for hours, and
every single second was sheer torture! Not because it's a BAD game...
because it's a terrible, horrible, molar-crunchingly torturous game with a
sublime work of art buried inside it screaming "LET ME OUT!! PLEASE, GOD,
LET ME OUT!!!" Not screaming in anger or frustration, or even sadness, but
in pure, unadulturated FEAR, in the mortal dread that it will NOT be let
out, and be left forgotten to rot away under a pile of...

*a mirror image of Craxton jumps out of nowhere, slaps him in the face
repeatedly, then dissappears again.*

@_@ *shakes head* I'm okay... I'm okay... *clears throat* Now, as I said, a
lovely, inventive, and intriguing idea mired in the absolute *WORST*
execution I've ever seen in my life.

Let's do this point by point:

1) Atmosphere- There is none. Not only that, there appears to be an effort
to DIMINISH atmosphere. Virtually NOTHING mentioned in the descriptions is
implemented. I lost count of how many times I got told "You can't see any
such thing here." As if to rub this in, the hints constantly tell you
"Explore." I don't WANT to explore, shnook! Exploring when you've long since
figured out there's virtually nothing to find is mind-numbingly *BORING*!

2) Puzzles- Impossible without reading the hints. NPCs are ridiculously
unresponsive, it's possible to lock yourself out of magic, and thus the
majority of the game, by performing two irrevocable actions, and the
sewers... are a maze. >_<

3) Bugs- Here's the coup de grace. The optimum ending is currently
unobtainable due to a bug blocking the acquisition of the boxes spell. Not
only that, but you also can't deal with the goat. And walking out of the
southern room on the first floor lands you in the northern room. Contrary to
the hints, the elevator DOES stop at the second floor. And probably a few
other problems that I didn't go looking for...

Oh, yeah, and the hints are vague, too, and... arrrgh, I can't go on. Stay
AWAY from this game. >_<

-"Further north is another, more ordinary-looking door, northeast of your
position," Just say "There's an ordinary-looking door to the
northeast." -_-;;;;
-On the first floor:
">x door
Which do you mean, the door or the wooden door?
Which do you mean, the door or the wooden door?
>wooden door
Which do you mean, the door or the wooden door?"

BETATEST, DAMMIT!! Your game should at least be winnable. Don't make the
player wait around for dozens of turns if he doesn't want the optimal
ending- put in something to end the game immediately. Fewer useless
locations. Scrap the random-elevator, it doesn't work as you intended
anyway. And clue your puzzles better!

36: "At Wit's End"
Rating: 6
This wasn't great, but I enjoyed it. It reminded me of Change in the
Weather: simple concept (live through the worst weekend of your life), used
to throw some realistic lateral-thought puzzling at the player. Don't expect
to solve it without the walkthrough, 'cause some of these are devious
stinkers, and the timing is extremely tight in some places. ('course,
that's what UNDO is for ^_^) There are also some very small problems with
referring to specific objects- the radio's battery compartment, for example,
must be referred to as "compartment," and I also ran into some trouble
referring to the reciever and bottles. But all in all this is a solid game,
very tightly coded. Good work. ^_^

-">throw rope at window
Which window do you mean, the window, or the window?"
-Hint system isn't very helpful.

The items are a touch complicated, requiring more manipulation then I'd
like. For example, to put gas in the bottles, even if you have all the
items, you have to:
Then do it again for the second bottle. Trim this down a bit.

37: "Punk Points"
Rating: 6
Don't know what's up with 80's Punk and I-F lately, but this game is the
epitome of the punk mystique: Nothing but attitude, but enough of that to
get by. The plot: You just entered Junior High. Your quest: be an asshole.
Though thin and shallow, Punk Points does have enough meat on it to be worth
playing. If you don't mind the content, that is, but that's the point: deep
inside, some part of all of us wants to be a bad boy and break stuff. Though
I can't really identify with the game's nostalgic air (Punk was long gone
and forgotten by the time I hit high school) it's apparent that some
autobiographical material went into this, it echoes with the reminisces of a
youth spent primarily in juvenile hall. Cute little touches abound, such as
the psuedo-Shakespearean introductions to each Act, the description of
suburbia as "a maze of twisty subdivisions, all alike", and the results of
flipping off the jocks.

For all that, though, Punk Points has an air of thinness. There's always
exactly one puzzle to solve, and solving it gets you a cut-scene pointing
towards the next puzzle. Essentially, you're just paving the road from one
scene to the next, taking in the scenery as you go. There's a lot of stuff I
wanted to participate in but didn't get the chance to, such as the marker
war in science lab. You WATCH, and it's interesting to watch, yeah, but you
don't really do anything.

But I'm repeating myself now. As I said, this game has nothing but
attitude, but enough of that to get by.

But attitude only takes you so far, man. One of the hardest things to do in
IFComp is to rise above being "just another game". You don't quite rise
enough. There's lots of interesting stuff here, but nothing that sticks in
the reader's memory, unless he already has an attunement to this particular
kind of nostalgia.

None that I found, though the non-static periodic table is fairly
infamous by now, I think...

Hmmmm... can't really think of anything. You've got a good game here, in
your next I'd recommend shooting for a wider audience. And add some gameplay

38: "The Clock"
Rating: 3
I found myself stuck in this game very early on. I petered around the
house, washed the robe, studied the books, and couldn't find a ding-blasted
thing to do, except get eaten by the cat occassionally. I figured, "Okay,
I've missed something. Probably something obvious." Checked the
walkthrough, sure enough I had missed something- storage room, north of the
living room. Nani? 0_o;;;;;;; I checked the description of the Living Room.
Checked it twice. No mention of a door or passage leading north.

It went downhill very sharply from there. A "Piece of cooking equipment"
that was openable and betrayed no such property under examination. A *pair*
of hunger factors- yours and the cat's, the latter requiring careful
manipulation to solve puzzles. An absurd guess-the-syntax moment (MAKE CALL?
0_o;;;;;;), a puzzle with a very vague hint, and *a* *twisty* *maze*.

I gave up. This game is thoroughly unsolvable without the walkthrough.

-Typos, mostly lack of capital letters.
-You can't use the computer while sitting in the chair.
-"x table" in the living room brings up the description of the table in the

Beta-test, please, that'll help catch those annoying bugs. You need to
clue your puzzles MUCH better. Study your contemporaries, most of these
mistakes are things that have been discussed at length, this'll help you
find out what works and what doesn't work so well.

39: "Stupid Kittens"
Rating: 1
Silly girl. I like kittens. Kittens are cute. =^.^= <--- Like this, see?
Hehehe. ^_^

Seriously, what IS it with all these Rybread clones this year? One of him
is enough, thank you... -_-;;;;;

-In the author's head:
">x brain
You can't see any such thing."

Don't pick on kittens. We like kittens. Kittens are cute. Very cute. =^.^=
<--- Like this, see? ^_^

40: "The Djinni Chronicles"
Rating: 5
Now THIS is a cool idea. Take control of three seperate Djinns, and as each
one, fulfill your purpose by serving or betraying human masters. A good
idea, and I wish it had been executed a little better. The game is too short
to get more then a vague sense of what the author is trying to convey, and
what appears to be the central motif of the work doesn't hold up through the
third segment. The first Djinn thinks himself a bringer of misfortune but
brings great happiness, the second believes himself trecherous but is
faithful, the third, however... I don't know. You could say he believes
himself a master but is merely a servant, but it doesn't quite "feel" right.
And there's the added inconsistancy of the third master being evil, whereas
the others weren't.

The time limits are annoying too, though I'll accept them in this case- the
game is straightforward enough that they're not a big difficulty. The
ending, too, is a big copout.


Too short. Expand it a bit, make each of the three sections a small game
in itself. Maybe each Djinn goes through a succession of three masters or
something. As it is each Djinni's story is ended almost as soon as it began.
Your idea of the third Djinn needs work, too: Sin, Evil, and Age, the third
doesn't belong. The ending needs to be rewritten. Not CHANGED, mind you,
just made to say the same thing in more than two lines.

41: "Nevermore"
Rating: 9


*knocks on never.z5* Hello? Plotkin? You in there? 0_o

Hmm, maybe not. Anyway...

Adapting an existing work to a different medium is risky business. You
expose yourself to fire from critics who don't agree with your take on the
work. Kudos, then, for this author's work captures the gloomy air of Poe to
a T. ^_^ The tale woven around the framework of Edgar's most famous work
also succeeds in capturing it's essence, though the raven itself, except for
two occassions, is rather unimportant to the plot. As for the game portion
of the entry, it's several minor puzzles and one major one. The major one,
involving a complex alchemical ritual, was a bit too complicated for me. In
addition to weeding through texts (the author has deliberately not
implemented a CONSULT command, a minor annoyance) to make sense of the
procedures, you also have to gather components, and it's possible to lock
yourself out of victory entirely, and not know it, by repairing the
lightning rod too soon. Most of the steps are made clear in the text, but
some I can't see having been hinted even knowing what the hints ARE. The
words of power, for example.

That brings to mind another problem- you the player have to discover things
that the protagonist already knows, through rememberances from seeing
various things. This was also done in Metamorpheses, but in Metamorpheses
the memories aren't really relevant to the protagonist's tasks. In
Nevermore they are, and so the effect is somewhat disconcerting. Attempting
to unlock the door, you get a message saying "You have to find the key." Yet
you the protagonist KNOWS where the key is, you threw it off the cliff last
night. Then there's the matter of the visions- why do you need peyote to
dredge up old memories?

Still, Nevermore does deserve a lot of credit for the atmosphere and
unique, if badly clued, central puzzle.

-Having to fight weariness constantly is annoying. Yes, the coca is
unlimited, but it's still irritating.

Less obscure puzzling and better communication of protagonist knowledge to
the player.

42: "Escape from Crulistan"
Rating: 2
If this game is "Ridiculously easy", how come I can't get anywhere? Why on
earth would anyone want to create a new system that works *exactly* like
Inform, but with less verbs?

-Unless I miss my guess, you have to spend the majority of your time
waiting around in the cell before doing anything.
-A lot of commands are disabled- search, again, break, hit, all fail to
work, and Undo is buggy.
-Unable to go back for important items you missed previously.

Learn to use Inform or TADS, it's just much fewer headaches for the

43: "Got ID?"
Rating: Abstain (1)
I shut this down after fifteen minutes poking around. I just can't stomach
this kind of juvenile toilet humor. >_<

Although, the clerk's reaction to your fake ID *IS* humorous, I'll give it
that much...

-The hint system sucks.
-Once you've figured out you can't get to your goal in the most
straightforward way, there's no direction.

Grow up. >_<

44: "Breaking the Code"
Rating: 1
What the hell is this? 0_o;;;;;

Beats me, I couldn't get any farther then the first room. I can't even
make sense of the code on the sheets...

"C'mon... you're not even trying anymore. If you want a can of Ass-Kicking
Peanuts, just buy one." -Adam Cadre

45: "Aftermath"
Rating: 5
I don't know what it is with stories about the atrocities of war, but their
seems to be one in every Comp. And I can never really relate, somehow. Here
you have to dig yourself out of a pile of corpses, then build a monument to
the dead, then leave it all behind, and I don't really care. It's just
another game for me. I don't know, the loss of a lover or a dear friend,
that affects me on an emotional level. A pile of faceless corpses? No
reaction. Maybe I'm weird like that.

Anyway, Aftermath isn't anything too special as a game. Though the concept
has appeal, the writing doesn't make the most of it... you get glimpses of
the character's state of mind, but there's always a distancing effect. The
inclusion of standard adventure-game fare, such as points and puzzles like
impersonating an officer to procure a chisel, seems incongruous and
inappropriate- like spraypainting grafitti on the enterance to a graveyard.
And the puzzles are slightly vague. One involves a property of an object
which is easy to miss, and another the verb HOOK. (isn't that verb
antiquated these days?)

-MOVE is disabled, or at least doesn't have the same affect as PUSH or
PULL. It should,the latter two are, I think, mainly used for interacting
with levers and buttons and such. The former is for moving things around.
-The game doesn't end correctly. You see the ending, then get another

You've got a good idea here, but the writing is distancing. Bring things
closer to home, more personal.

46: "Shade"
Rating: 5
Damn... This is a weird one, kiddies. A mostly linear narrative where
you... it's just completely surreal. I can't make heads or tails of it.
Kinda creepy, too... all in all, not my cup of tea. It's interesting though,
that the gameworld changes around you without you noticing until you take
another look at it. That's pretty cool. It's unfortunately the only benefit
this work gains in the interactive format. I can't help thinking it would
have worked just as well as static fiction.

None, really...

A touch more accessable, if you don't mind? Being utterly confused by your
game doesn't leave me wanting to score it very highly.

47: "Withdrawal Symptoms"
Rating: 4
This is a short and relatively uninteresting adventure game. I have very
little to say about it.

-"impatient." Not "Unpatient." >_<

Not bad, but not particularly noteworthy either. I forgot about it in less
time then it took to beat it. A bit more development of the game may have
improved your score substantially.

Rating: 1
An AGT game, circa 1998. Ugh. >_< The cyberpunk atmosphere is vaguely
appealing, but the game itself is paper-thin. And AGT sucks... I thought we
had established that fact well before 1998? Important items are found lying
around for no real game reason.

-"SHOOT <whatever>" attempts to attack it with your bare hands.
-"SHOOT <whatever> with <weapon>" kills it, but makes you drop the weapon.
-The exit up from the FMI lobby isn't listed.
-The usual AGT ills...

Don't submit to the Comp a shallow, pointless little game you made on a
shallow, pointless little system two years ago. It's in bad taste. The point
of the Comp is to encourage new authors and provide authors of small stature
with feedback and exposure, not to win you a can of peanuts for a coding
exercise you did years ago.

49: "Little Billy"
Rating: 1
The author says in the introduction that he has no writing talent. He
couldn't be more right. This game reads like a three year old wrote it. And
it's not interactive, it's static fiction where you click to continue
constantly. Bleh. Runner-up for the CMFAFOAITFOHAGD.


Learn to write. Learn to code. Learn not to embarrass yourself by entering
stuff like this in the Comp. >_<

50: "YAGWAD"
Rating: 7
A solid game with not a lot of originality, but plenty of humor to make up
for it. I enjoyed virtually all of this, from the kawaii ASCII intro to the
laugh-riot of an endgame, and even the occassional bug. So why am I rating
it only a 7? Hmm... well, some of the puzzles are perhaps slightly less
obvious then they should be, finding the directions to open the cave,
opening the cottage door, finding the cave, and so forth, but fortunately
the hint system works very well. Also, the bugs DO give the game a slightly
amatuerish air to it, and the endgame, despite being funny, turns on a
rather obvious joke, not to mention being slightly obscure if you didn't
look up dragons in the encyclopedia. And admittedly, satirizing the
dungeon-crawl adventure game is something of an old concept, dating back at
least to Unkuulia I.

But come on... the entry on "troll" in the encyclopedia? The entries in the
monk's journal? The unbelievably cheesy opening scene? The response to
trying to catch the teeth using the net? The rival adventurers who charge
headlong into crocodiles and trolls? How can I *NOT* give this game a thumbs
up? ^_^

-The Villagers keep going south to the castle, even after the King's speech
is ended.
-The exits from some areas are a bit un-obvious.
-Non-cardinal directions are not hypenated.
-You can take the nest. In fact, objects snatched by the bird continue to
appear in the nest even after you've taken it with you. Also, you can hide
the hilt from the bird by putting it in the net.
-The mud dissolves if you try and throw it with a full inventory.

Like many games, this could stand to be fleshed out a bit better-
descriptions are rather un-evocative. Finding my way around the forest was
somewhat annoying, as well, but I'm not sure why.

51: "Return to Zork: Another Story"
Rating: 3
This game left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I'm sorry, an unfinished
game so chock full of bugs, typos, and blatant self-promotion, not to
mention a dumb ending that screws you over despite having completed your
quest, simply does not do justice to the Zork mythos. And what is up with
this continual self-promotion? Not to mention obscure puzzles and a severe
lack of good text formatting. Ugh. >_<

-Typos: "died plants", "main of law," "mummificated," "berry high," and so
-The orb provides light, but this is not consistant. In some places it will
save you from the grues, in others not.
-If the lamp runs out, the problem is solved merely by turning it off then
on again.
-The maze solution doesn't work until you read the walkthrough.

Use a spell-checker. And don't release half-finished games for the Comp.
Don't try and produce a direct Zork spinoff either, if you're a new author,
you won't be able to compete.

52: "Dinner with Andre"
Rating: 7
An odd case of life mirroring art, this. The makings of a good game,
ultimately, make a good game, but not without first dodging a few annoying
monkeywrenches. How on earth did someone manage to break the LOOK command
and not notice? 0_o;;;;;;;;; Other problems: You're not allowed to use
information from previous game sessions, you have to find out where
something is before refering to it. This is annoying at the beginning. Also
annoying, HIDE UNDER TABLE doesn't work, yet HIDE (and the parser assumes
"under the table") does. o_0;;;;;;;; after that, it's a room with no exits,
and then a tightly timed sequence of slightly obscure puzzles between you
and the endgame.

I hope all that doesn't imply that this is a bad game, because it isn't. I
loved the lunatic machinery of it all, the sheer amount of things that go
wrong for this protagonist, the chaos she has to cause disentangling
herself, and the incredible swerve at the end. A good job, too bad about the
tiny bugs.

See above.

A bit solider beta-testing is necessary, methinks. But the writing is
excellent, and the pacing moreso. Why, however, are the solutions
time-limited? We've had indefinately ongoing events in I-F before, it's not
a terrible sin...

53: "Guess The Verb!"
Rating: 6
Heh. Well, we began with the sublime. Fitting that we should end with the
ridiculous. ^_^ This game falls quite neatly between the "pastiche" and
"parody" catagories, and was probably the only game I managed to finish
without hints. So it's short and easy, though you do have to play through at
least twice to see everything. The underlying joke isn't all that funny, but
that's okay, the gags that get thrown at you along the way tickled me
enough. The description of the midway, the AMUSING text, the McGuffin
(anyone else get that?), and so on.

While not a great work of art, Guess The Verb is an amusing way to kill a
few hours.

But for some reason, the author missed out on the traditional FULLSCORE
gag. Wuss. ~_^


Keep writing, we need more legitimately humorous games. ^_^

Lelah Conrad

Nov 18, 2000, 11:11:22 PM11/18/00
On Thu, 16 Nov 2000 03:23:12 -0500, "Craxton" <cra...@erols.com>

>I never understood the whole idea behind Pop Christianity. What good does it
>do to make your religion look childish and corny? Perhaps it's the work of
>Satan trying to make Christians look silly enough that no one will want to
>consort with them. If so, it's working splendidly...

I chuckled, nodded, and giggled my way through some of the wittier
reviews, yours among them, but this comment wins my "guffaw of the
week" award.

:) Lelah

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