Long-winded Comp97 Reviews (2/2)

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Michael Straight

Jan 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/9/98


I like the idea for this game and the scale. Implementing a small house
and taking care of a baby seems like a managable first-time IF task. A
baby ought to be a fairly easy NPC, since it doesn't have to talk, and has
a pretty limited set of actions/reactions.

For such a game to be interesting to play, it would need at least enough
description of the baby to make the player care about it, even if the
house itself wasn't very detailed. Unfortunately, Congratulations offers
very little prose to make the player care about the game. What little
there is at the beginning is more a description of your feelings about the
baby than a description of the baby itself--the player is told how to feel
rather than given anything to elicit those feelings.

The author has said that "Baby cries!" was meant to be terse and
annoying, like a baby crying, which might have worked with some longer
descriptions for contrast, but as it was "Baby cries!" seemed almost a
caractature, making it feel more like a video game.

I didn't really play with the game much, but I zipped through the
walkthrough and the level of description was fairly bare bones throughout.
I wouldn't have minded the simplicity of the game if there had been a
little more writing to draw me into the game.


This was the first of several contest games I looked at that model a
normal house, which really doesn't interest me at all. Unless there's a
great plot to suck me in or something really interesting about the house,
I'd much prefer a game that takes me someplace new and exciting. As it
was, I played with ANH a little bit and when I got to the others, I spent
5 minutes looking around, glanced at the walkthru to make sure I wasn't
missing a surprise alien abduction or a wardrobe leading to Quendor, and
went on to something else.

That bias aside, ANH is a managable-sized begining work of IF, and a nice
place to look around for a few minutes. The baseball game on TV was
nifty. Everything seemed to work OK; there were descriptions for most
things I tried to examine. The prose not particularly exciting, but
was clear enough to picture each room and find the exits. I hope the
author can take these skills and go on to write a game.


I enjoyed the jokes in this game, but since it was basically a farce, I
didn't feel like solving the puzzles and used the walkthrough. Committing
the various sins was clever, and the games they were matched up with was
funny. One of the funniest parts was where Andrew Plotkin suddenly
appears and says, in effect, "Making fun of these other games is all fine
and good, but don't you dare give away the ending of MY game!" (And I'm
glad he didn't, 'cause I haven't played So Far yet and I want to.)


After the cool intro, I thought/hoped this would be a creepy horror game,
a hope I held on to when I was outside in the rain peering into a scary
house, on into the kitchen where I found something really creepy and
cryptic, but then when I got to the part where you can talk to Ed, the
tone totally changed into a silly spoof and I lost interest and used the
walkthrough to see the rest of the game.

I thought the puppet was very clever. The measuring cups fit in
surprisingly well for such an old chestnut. The ending text seemed oddly
casual considering the events it described. Others have mentioned the
problem of the inventory limit without much clue of what item is needed,
but other that, and in spite of it not being what I'd hoped, this is a
pretty good game with some good writing (especially in the beginning),
some funny stuff, and a few good puzzles. Better than average.


Um. Huh? [looks at walkthru] What? Er...the protagonist is an alien with
a different anatomical layout?


The intro completely turned me off. I didn't want to play this character.
I glanced at the walkthru and didn't think I'd enjoy the game. Just not
my genre. Too mundane. Sorry.


I like this game. When I realized how big it is, I put it aside to play
when I have more time, but there were several things that made me want to
come back to it. I can't say what they are without spoilers, but at least
twice I did something either self-destructive, unwarantedly violent, or
just plain dumb. Not only did the game give a response, something really
neat happened that led to further adventures! And it's not that the
player had to somehow guess to do these actions, at least two of them have
alternate ways to achieve the same goal, and glancing at the walkthru it
looks like not just some but most of the puzzles have multiple solutions.

At the beginning of the game, there are at least 30 locations you can
visit without even an unlocked door standing in your way. This gives a
great feeling of a big world to explore without artificial limits, and
most of the locations are interesting with well-written descriptions.

One drawback to this approach is that it's easy to get lost or lose track
of whether there are open areas you haven't visited yet. With most IF you
start with a small area and the map opens bit by bit as you solve puzzles,
often making mapping unnecessary unless the geography is convoluted, but I
had to map Erden right away to make sure I wasn't missing anything.
Erden's Zork Zero-style (or is it Beyond Zork?) status line showing
available exits is a really good idea that alleviates this situation
somewhat, and was an impressive technical bonus to this programming-
ignorant player.

Playing Erden, I felt that really neat things were just a little farther
off, and though I wandered around and mapped for at least two hours, I
didn't get to many puzzles or see hardly any of the things mentioned in
the walkthrough. If the rest of the game is as well-written as what I've
seen so far, I think I'll enjoy spening more time with this Erden.


Most of the things I wanted to say about this game have already been said.
The notebook and "go to x" features are nifty. The story is engrossing.
I like the Madame L'Estrange character, and the psychic flashbacks work
for the same reason the flashbacks in Babel do. The constant switch
between third and first person is awful (although I'd really like to see
this done completely in third person and give the authors at least a
little credit for trying something that, to my knowledge, has not been
done in Inform). I didn't mind the larger-than-usual amounts of text,
largerly because (typos aside), the writting was very good. Many
locations and events are very well described (including the bridge, the
seashore, the sewer). The plot is not a big surprise, but had a few good
turns and didn't turn out quite the way I expected.

I liked the fact that lots of the stupid little things that other games
might turn into "puzzles" (like having money to go up the bridge tower)
are handled automatically and more realistically (of course Madame knows
how to get to the bridge, and yes she has money in her purse to buy a
ticket to the top). There aren't very many puzzles in the game, which was
fine with me, but the endgame, involving a timed puzzle, was too tough for
me and I needed the walkthrough. I have a hard time believing anyone
could solve it without dying and retrying several times.

The very end requires much more synthesis than most games and is the sort
of puzzle I would like to see more of. Overall the good parts of this
game outweighed the technical problems and I enjoyed it.

Ack! Michael Straight's reviews have more text than some contest entries!
Ethical Mirth Gas/"I'm chaste alright."/Magic Hitler Hats/"Hath grace limits?"
"Irate clam thighs!"/Chili Hamster Tag/The Gilt Charisma/"I gather this calm."

Heiko Nock

Jan 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM1/10/98

In article <Pine.A41.3.95L.98010...@login3.isis.unc.edu>,
Michael Straight <stra...@email.unc.edu> wrote:

>The author has said that "Baby cries!" was meant to be terse and
>annoying, like a baby crying, which might have worked with some longer
>descriptions for contrast, but as it was "Baby cries!" seemed almost a
>caractature, making it feel more like a video game.

When I played the game, I actually thought for a long time, that it was
supposed to be an imitation of Scott Adam's style :)

Ciao/2, Heiko.....

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