comp03 reviews (2/3)

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Andrew Krywaniuk

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Nov 16, 2003, 8:33:18 AM11/16/03
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Sophie's Adventure

First impression: Hmm... intro seems promising. Bedroom has nice
descriptions, right down to the gremlin under the bed. Lovely description of
the TV room as well.

Unfortunately, there are some bugs... just minor ones at first, but as the
game goes on they get worse and worse. Right off the bat, I pick Grolch as
my companion but I somehow end up with Snitch. (Then later when I rendezvous
at the castle, the dwarves are again talking about Grolch.)My favorite bug:

> n
You can't go that way, but you can go north, ...

One of the best parts of this game is the very elaborate conversation
system. There's plenty of detail, and some priceless responses. E.g. ask
Moper about dying: "When I was in the army we used to die on a daily basis
and any bloke what went for a week without dying got a damn good kicking for
being such a girl."

On the other hand, this is one of those games where if you say the wrong
thing then people will shut up and never talk to you again. Usually you can
tell when this has happened, but it took me awhile to realize it was
forever. That means lots of saving and restoring, and it only gets worse
during the later stages of the game (the 6 doors, etc).

> open door
You can't open the doors!

> open door 1
(works)

> put chisel in mouth
You can't put anything in the statue's mouth

Can't I? There are two examples of an inappropriate default response, and
the latter part of this game is full of them. I can't throw the snowball or
ring the bell. I can't press the button (but I can push it). Several of the
most egregious errors had to do with saving the game. At one point, I typed
"save" and the game interpreted it as "south"!?! Then there was the time
when I restored a game and lost all my spells.

Near the end, the game got buggier and buggier. It kept telling me that I
didn't know spells I had learned or that I had already used up spells that I
hadn't. Even the walkthrough didn't work so I couldn't finish the game. What
a letdown; what initially looked to be one of the year's best games turned
out to be a colossal disappointment.

Furthermore, this game is long. (I must have spent 10-12 hours playing it.)
The author mentioned something about this being the first game in a series.
The way I see it, it is a series. Sophie's adventure is like 3 games in one
(gathering crystals, 6-doors, evil fortress). If the author had entered just
the first part as his game, I would have been happy to play part 2 when it
was ready.

The higher they rise, the harder they fall.

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Shadows on the mirror

> The car is large and comfortable, but it's still just a traveling cage

Nice!

First impression: I like it. I originally thought it was going to be about a
rapist/child abductor (which seemed like a rather distasteful subject for a
game), but this works.

Overall, a pretty nice 20 minute game. I won it without really understanding
what was going on (the first time by simply typing xyzzy), but going back
and trying all the topics I missed really fleshed out the story.

My only question is this... if the game is called "Shadows on the Mirror"
and there's a mirror in the car, how come I can't "x shadows" or "a
shadows"?

No regrets from playing this one.

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Episode in the Life of an Artist

"The alarm clock is buzzing loudly."
> listen to alarm
"I listen to it, but don't hear anything interesting."

First impression: Okay, this one is probably going to be a bit lacking in
detail. And what's with that beginning? Getting up and getting dressed...
with an inconsequential choice of clean or dirty clothes. Seems like the
author started coding before thinking of a plot.

On the bus... Took a long time to get here, but now I'm starting to get
intrigued about this game and what is happening at the factory. The quotable
quotes theme is also nice, as is the whole concept of a factory job putting
round pegs in round holes.

This game has some good points and some bad ones. For one thing, it's
probably not possible to win this without the walkthrough. You have to do
some very specific and improbable things. Also, there are some bugs. For
example, the second time I try to put the square peg in the round hole, I
get the same response as the first time (which is very confusing since the
factory is supposedly empty). There were also some bag of bags issues:

"I have a coat (being worn), a wallet, a wristwatch, and a lunchbox. The
coat pocket seems to contain a book of famous quotations, a flashlight, a
uniform, a plastic card, a newspaper, a towel, a clean shirt, worn
underwear, slightly dirty pants, and keys. The lunchbox seems to contain a
pair of shoes, a broom, and clean socks."

And one final bug is that "switch switch" turns on the switch without
turning on the switch, if you know what I mean. The outtakes are cool idea,
but I didn't really laugh that hard.

A nice middle frame that could use a better middle & end.

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Temple of Kaos

First impression: Oh no, another useless two-room adventure, but at least a
poetic one.

No wait, it's something more... a pretty nice game. I needed a hint to get
out of the first temple, but after that I got the hang of how the game
worked and mostly figured the rest out on my own. Original concept, very
polished. What more can I say? This is the kind of game that I like and
admire, but not the kind I can love. (BTW, I have actually read The Left
Hand of Darkness and vaguely remember Shiftgrethor, but I can't say that it
had all that much to do with this game.)

I guess that conventions exist for a reason. I wouldn't want all games to be
unconventional.

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Cerulean Stowaway

First impression: I've been hearing a lot about this game because apparently
it has some critical bugs that you need to work around. The story sounds
like it's going to be Soylent green.

Can't look out window, can't sit on chair. Hmm... seems like this game won't
be very polished. And it isn't, really. Lots of unrecognized words in the
text. And missed opportunities for humour. For example, I can't "get in the
cooking pot" and "kick the bucket" doesn't elicit a special response.

But first impressions aside, I'm really starting to get into this game. The
puzzles are fun and well constructed, and they're pretty much all solveable
without the hints. Of course that's what you get with a sparsely decorated
game. The downside of the very dense games that are fashionable these days
is that it's very hard to know when you're on the right track.

The fate of the world depends on your score. Nice... killing one extra
Cerulean (for 10 points) is the difference between saving the world and not.
If there's one major downside to this game, it's that you can get it into an
unwinnable state at the end without fair warning. There's a lot of saving
and restoring involved, and quite often you have to go back and play the
whole game over just to test a theory.

Tons of fun.

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The Recruit

First impression: It seems like it's going to be a tribute to the Al
Pacino/Colin Farrell movie, but it's not. Testing attention to detail...
seems pretty cool.

The game is interesting enough, but I'm having trouble visualizing the
rooms. Like the room with the cage... how big is the room and how big is the
cage? And the puzzles are just kind of aimless. The stealth part makes
sense, but after that it's just kind of random.

One interesting bug... in the machine room, "x button s" doesn't work (but
just that one button). Makes me wonder how the room was implemented.

Not really a standout.

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Atomic Heart

"The viewer can then be used (as you just did) to experience the droid's
"life" in a virtual reality simulation, by wearing the attached spectacles
and placing the left hand on the soft metallic plate on top of the viewer."

> wear spectacles
You can't wear that!

> Place hand on plate
That's not a verb I recognize

First impression: Love the premise, but the game lacks polish.

I really liked the plot of this game, but it could use some serious
playtesting. Specifically, it would have been nice to have removed a lot of
the ambiguous objects. For example, why does the transmitter box have to
respond to "cable". I'm in the valvo, trying to disconnect the cable from
the socket, and there's at least 3 sockets, 2 cables and 2 systems. The
author needs to (at a minimum) learn about the ChooseObjects function.

Also, the commands to control things are really awkward. Some descriptions
can only be viewed once. It's tricky. You always have to manually unplug
things. Once you get out of the valvo, it was very difficult to figure out
how to plug everything back in.

Another thing about this game is that it's really easy to die. Every time
you die, there's a different note you can read (which is kind of like
checking your score). But you can only undo once, so if you read the note
then you can't undo your death. That sucks!

One very odd thing is that the walkthrough contains a lot of commands that
should work but don't. Then it also contains a command that does work. So
you can win the game by following the walkthrough, but you also see a lot of
unexpected responses. Another point... it wasn't immediately clear to me
(before I saw the walkthrough) that the note would be different every time
you died. It would have been nicer if the note was simply displayed
automatically after your death.

Now here's a sci fi game I like.

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Risorgimento Represso - an interactive invigoration

First impression: What a title; I'm already excited to play this one! And it
supports "look <direction>"... nice, but man does that sound like a lot of
work.

Aha! So there's the other mistaken interdimensional teleport. (When I got an
e-mail complaining that A Paper Moon was *yet another* mistaken
interdimensional teleport game, I was like "huh?") What are the chances that
would show up in two different comp games?!

I'm having a bit of trouble with the special features of the games. I'm
given some powders and some chemical formulas, but I can't make anything.
The verb "mix" is not recognized and I can't put one substance into another.
Once you get to a certain part of the game you find out how to do it, but
until then it is frustrating.

I have to say that there's definitely enough content in here to amuse
anybody. Lots of fun subplots, satire, and silly puzzles. There's also
plenty of red herrings. I like it, but it also makes the game tough. To a
certain extent, we gameplayers rely on the law of code economy (i.e. that if
an action elicits a non-standard response then you're probably on the right
track).

In this game, getting into the farm is one of the toughest extended puzzles
that I have seen in quite some time. I got the right idea right away, but
eventually I got stuck. Then I became convinced that I could get there by
shooting myself out of the cannon. I never did figure out the last step, and
I eventually had to resort to the hint menu. (Incidentally, why can't I aim
the cannon at the farm?)

This is the kind of fun, silly game that I like best. Recommended to anyone.


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