Frobozz Magic Comp Reviews

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Nov 20, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/20/00
I've voted in every Comp since the second and I've never successfully
posted reviews to this newsgroup. This has been for a myriad of really
bizarre reasons... but I figured that this year, I'd break the jinx! I was
poised to play and review every game in the Comp! I was blazing through
them like a hot knife through butter!

And then I contracted tendonitis and it all came to a screaming
halt. But, rather than let another year without posting go by, I've
decided to drop in what I had to say and apologize to everyone whose game
I didn't reach.

I mean that. I really wanted to play everyone's games. This year's crop
of Comp was amazing. Incredible. It made me want to roll around in the
games, singing la-la-la-la-la-dee-da. Kudos to *everyone* who wrote a
game, be it a masterpiece or... not quite a masterpiece. And if I pan your
game at all in these reviews, please recall that I do admire your verve in
entering a game and tried to keep my comments constructive.

With all that disclaimering in mind... on with the show!


Ad Verbum

Not a bad little game, all told. I've always liked verbal play (coming
from a very literary background, albeit one that lacks proper spelling
skills ;->). This game had me at once excited and nervous, as waaaay back
(when I'd just purchased Masterpieces of Infocom for my Amiga), I'd
managed to breeze my way through Nord And Bert and yet could never quite
get to the ending...

From what I saw, I liked this game. Sadly, I never quite finished it,
owing to either a bug or my own incomplete understanding of an objective
(as well as the help-system). I did enjoy solving word-based puzzles to
win my way through the game. Though nothing 'new', per se, this game did
explore a reasonably dusty and unused aspect of IF that I'd love to see


- The puzzles often got too repetative for me. I wish that there had been
fewer 'take this object using just the right word within these rules'

- The Georgie puzzle really needed more feedback as it went on. Too easy
to assume that nothing was happening

- I couldn't seem to get the Dust casing, even when I did observe the
proper rules. Perhaps it's a bug, or perhaps I simply didn't understand
what I was meant to do.

Desert Heat

Um, well...
The sexual content doesn't bother me. The narration isn't too bad
either. I'm no expert on desert cultures, but this looks at least halfway
reasonably well-researched. But I honestly can't *stand* the
Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style. It feels like I'm back in grade school,
playing through my Zork Gamebooks.
Also, the narration isn't bad, but it's not great either. And the
dialog breaks character far too often.
I felt very little desire to play through this game enough times to
reach the requisite time limit; I can ascribe this directly to the
Giving the clue you need early on (and it's something you're liable to
forget later) was a nice touch, however.

Withdrawl Symptoms

A fairly enjoyable game... this one suffered a bit from feeling like a
very closed universe with little to do within. The premise was sound and
the puzzles were fun. I did like the flashlight puzzle -- normally those
drive me nutzoids, but this one just felt fresh compared to other 'figure
the sequence' puzzles. I wish that the game would at least give a little
flavour dialog from the customers who were described as being there; not
that you could even examine them (which I think added to my feeling of
being alone in a crowd). It was also a bit too short for my tastes. By the
time I felt myself really into the game, it was over!


- I had trouble finding the red bank. Yes, I should search everything in
sight -- I just didn't know that something sitting on the counter wouldn't
show up in the room desc.

- Why exactly am I setting a clock? Why does a kiddie clock affect the
bank's clock? If the two are wired together, this is a really bad security
implimentation. Did the Toyman build this bank? Should I expect Superman
to drop by?

Breaking the Code

I love coding. I really love coding. I just... hate... decyphering
I played this game. That's about all that I can say about it. I can't
say that I cared for it or even halfway liked it.

Lbh ner n fvpx, fvpx, fvpx onfgneq sbe znxvat zl oenva sel yvxr guvf naq V
jnag nyy zl oenvapryyf onpx sebz jurer lbh frag gurz!


I admit it, I look at walkthroughs first. Not because I want to be
spoiled, but because sometimes the author leaves little introductory texts
at the beginning that help me to figure out what sort of a person s/he
is so that I can start to get to know the person writing this game. Well
guess what... PAYDIRT!
Bonus marks (or rather, kudos, since I'm not upping your score just on
this) for such a great walkthrough. Thank you. I love this kind of thing.
Second... bonus marks (and this time I *am* upping your score) for how
well fleshed out you've made the djinni's world, his perceptions and how
there's just a touch of alien to everything that is
conveyed. Brilliant... wonderful... xamining the emotional and mental
currents of various people is a wonderful, wonderful, glorious, happy
thing for this game!


- Past tense works nicely for this game.
- The wishing system rocks. I feel so in control of this
situation. That's sometimes all too rare in IF
- The game gets a little defocused around the time when you're granting
your third wish. A bit more explaination text would have suited me fine,
but I know that some folks don't much care for that.
- The mirror section is fascinating for its world laws.
- Use of poetry and prose in this game give it a highly magical quality.
- Cute ending. The sort I used to kill people with rabid tasmanian devils


Ooookay... this game sets a warning flag in my mind. I'm playing the
games under BeOS, which makes me wonder if YAGWAD's warning applies to
me. If it does, I'll gracefully bow out of rating this game period,
because I don't believe in giving low marks for a failure to work on my
However, it will make me grumpy as all get out. I'll surl all day.
Then I start to see the rest of the warnings... well, we've already had
one other game that warned of risque themes, and I suppose I'm glad that
the warning's right there where people can see it. If you leave such
things in textfiles, people just don't bother to read those until stuck --
but somehow, the warning about adult themes does start to break the
sense-a-wunda that IF tends to provide to me. I used to be a prude about
such things; I understand wanting warning. I just wish there was a more
elegant solution. The Z-chip! Never mind... dragons? I ain't 'fended by no
steenkin' dragons!
Wow. An initial 'look me' returns some very impressive results. I think
*some*one's IF-avatar is impressed with himself...
The woman seems to make an effective hint system. Perhaps there should
be an option to turn off in-game hints; but I can appreciate having an NPC
who's increasingly useful to your character.


- So it was all a dream. Whhhhy... is it foreshadowing? Is it? IS IT?
- I guess so. Are lisping rulers really funny any more? After _Life of
Brian_, I think the joke was milked dry.
- I actually do like having a drunkard as a character, especially as
the text does convey his skewed priorities. It's fresh to me.
- The materia system (sorry. Couldn't resist) is interesting. Very nice
implimentation in an IF game. Maybe could have used a few more clues on
creation and use;, or maybe I missed them...
- And a nice twist at the end. That game was rather tame, given the
introductory warnings. Or maybe I'm getting more jaded. Either way, not a
thing offended me.

Castle Amnos

A very good game. I'm going to play this one after the comp, I
think. Perhaps a bit intricate for a Comp game, but I don't really have
any complaints there.

Masque of the Last Faerie

Geeeez... I am in love... this game absolutely swept me away. My luck
for the past few games has been phenominal. I'm already having a better
time with this Comp than I have ever. I'll be playing this one over and
over, again!


Well this one doesn't seem to be for the faint of heart!
The writing for the opening's not bad, if a tad overdone. I'm not sure
(as I'm writing this as I finish hitting page-down) how this ties in at
all... perhaps it would have fostered more of a sense of urgency had you
had to play the intern for the opening.
The writing in the game itself shows signs of atmosphere, except for an
unfortunate tendency to Tell Not Show. If you want me to want Riessa,
describe her in terms that would make me see her as desirable. I won't
become sexually attracted to the character, but I will be able to see why
my character would become so (likewise, that works with female
characters. I can put myself into my avatar's shoes easily enough to see
what you're driving at). Telling me 'you want her, hukka-hukka' carries
the same emotional resonance with me as 'you change the tire. The tire is
so round... so alluring... so galvanized... you want the tire. Damn those
prudes who would keep you apart! You and this steel-belted radial are
meant for one another! Damn them! DAMN THEM!!!!"
I also had to resort to the walkthrough to figure out what I was doing
with Riessa. Talk to her? This early in the game, do I have anything to
talk about? And take her? TAKE HER? I do many a thing with NPCs, some of
them things of which I am not proud, but take her like an item? This is
(wait for it) objectification of the worst sort! (sorry!) I have *no*
motivation at this point to take home this woman, other than having been
told that I have a real Firestone in my heart for her. I couldn't even
really find anything about which to talk with her. As far as I'm
concerened, I'm sleeping with a puppet. This is a screen-kiss and little
To the author: I'm sorry I'm focusing so heavily on the negatives and
almost glossing over the fact that you are not a bad writer (though your
choice of subject matter isn't of much appeal to me.) I also know you
probably wanted to throw me into this in media res... I'm focusing on a
particular pet peeve of mine in IF, and you sadly are but the trigger for
it. Apologies!


- Right. I said this wasn't for the faint of heart. Apparantly it's not
for the weak of stomach either. Ugh. I suppose this is better than the IF
version of Cannibal: The Musical...

- Oh no... no... don't tell me this is going to be the IF version of The
Watcher! NOOOOOOO! (

- Well, at least Bob will prompt you with subjects. And now I do have
things to talk about.

- *sigh* I know there's a trend in this day and age to try to disturb
people... push boundaries... move outside of convention... but um... some
of the scene-setting here is really really feeling gratuitous. It's 'that
time of the month'? The note's placement? I know the author's trying very
hard to build up a sense of how dishevelled and frazzled we should see the
main character... and how twisted our mutiliating monster can be... but
I'm hitting a point of no return on this game. This brings up more of my
quandry with warnings... had there been a warning on this game, I might
have just ignored it... it might have broken the mood for me... but I am
half-wishing I hadn't started it (I have some issues which I ain't gettin'
into here, which make this game somewhat hard to get through). Oh the
puzzlement of IF!

- Whoa! The scene break between Aaron and part... three? Four? is rather
abrupt. And I was only just starting to feel patronized too...

- At least x me tells me who I am right now. There should be some better
sense that you've changed characters.

- All right. I see why the 'you must have her' narrational line is
used. We're disturbed, we need help, we have these impulses... had I had
any sense of that back during Reissa, I probably would have understood
better. I'm not going back to erase my earlier rant because a) it still
holds true and b) I had no sense of what was going on with my character
then. Thus, I feel perfectly justified in feeling like I was being told
and not shown. Nyah. ;->

- Okay. So I'm a doctor. I'm... a very... stupid doctor. I'm the sort of
doctor who, when in an old abandoned house, will go off to investigate
that creaking sound (alone). And once more i resort to the walkthrough for
my verbal cues...

- Another scene cut. Who the hell am I this time? Do I care any more? Did
I/he/the NPC I occasionally play kill the doctor?

- Scene change! Head spinning! Too fast! Too many characters! Too little
foreshadowing! Attracted to Bob? Wow! I got no sense of that last
scene! Amazing!

- Now we're bouncing through characters fast as you please! Wheeeee! I'm
at the doctor's office!

- I will admit that the killer's identity was a nice twist. But I will
admit that the ending was about as satisfying as a wet firecracker. A
policewoman... I am a policewoman, right? At least an investigating
one? Someone? Help me out here? ... should be able to do more than
'meekly' push the killer away.

To the author: I'm sorry if I'm really tearing apart your game. Part of
the reason for this is that you have a good deal of talent... which made
me point out the flaws that I saw all the harder. Because gosh darn it, I
dearly, dearly, dearly hope that you'll write more IF. I just find the
almost epillepsy-causing sudden-switch style to really not work. So you
have my apologies for tearing hard at your game, and my hopes that we'll
one day see more from you.

The Trip

Yay! Drug IF! Let's play P_Floyd_The_Wall.gam next!
Well, the characters come off as real... dude... though slightly
boring. Just like real pot-heads. Hey, verisimilitude!
Okay, I'm kidding. The dialogue during the puffing scene is actually
well done, though there are a few errors (s/to/too,
Though I do get the idea that we're smoking from a Bhudda figure,


- The pot-smoking takes a little too long, and the scene transitions are a
bit jumpy.

- The riddle/note puzzle is a cute twist because it's actually got
motivation for being a puzzle. Kudos.

- Wow. After the peyote I feel like I'm hallucinating in Nethack! Kinda
cool in IF.

- Also, having to untether yourself from your worldly belongings makes a
good deal of sense within the context of this game.

- Suddenly, I'm in Changeling: The Dreaming. Seriously... this
metaphysical ending is great payoff to me. It's a surprise twist and at
the same time, foreshadowed from the beginning. It makes a lot of sense to
let the main character find something to replace the dull drudgery of his
life. The way that the other drugheads react also make this ending really
work for me. There isn't a 'You change the world YOU HAVE WON'
message...there isn't a sudden transformation from PC to Messiah... this
tale feels like the beginning of a larger quest, rather than the be all
and end all of the story.
I admit I didn't get all of the points. I'm going to have to play
through this game again to see if there is another ending.
Okay, I read the hints. There isn't. ;-> That said, the doubtful ending
works for me. This isn't a life transformation... this is a gradual
change. From a shaky beginning, this game really came to deliver the

Comp00ter Game

Please... Murphy, let this opening be a joke. Please let it be a
joke. Please, please, please let this be a joke...
If it's a joke, it's really not funny.
If it's not a joke, then the game is really unplayable.
To quote the eponymous Eric Cartman: screw you, I'm goin' home.


We open the game to discover that... the Madness Plague has swept the
town! Only the Matrix of Leadership can save us all!!! Damn, I just dated
Don't turn around... doo doo... the Commissar's in town... whoo hoo...
All right, the opening text is competently written and sets the stage
well enough. Let's see how the game plays...


- The world is fleshing itself out nicely. It's seeming just slightly
alien and recognizable all at once. cooooooool.

- NPC interaction, while not really interactive here, feels right. I'm not
sure why some games that handle interaction outside of the player's
control seem wrong for doing that, and others don't. This one just does
feel right for handling it outside of the parser.

- Now a distant, strange evil has been introduced into the plotline. It's
mysterious... it's unknown... it's in the shadows. This... *this* is nice
plotting. ;->

- Though I am wondering how Nina knows so much. I hope it'll be revealed
later on...

- Hm. I almost called foul on pulling shennanigans to trick Pieter into
letting you take the ink. But then I realised just how in character it is
to have to get around a troublesome underling who just knows too many of
the rules to be good...

- I am wondering why I'm breaking so many rules for a woman whom I don't
know. Maybe she should have presented a stronger case to sway me. Oh well!

- I'm glad on my second meeting with Nina I'm actually questioning
her... why I should do this for her...

- There haven't been notes in quite a while. Why? I'm utterly immersed in
the story that I haven't tried to make a note for over an hour now. This
game is probably going to run Overtime, sadly... It's a bit long for a
Comp game. I'll vote on it when I hit the two hour mark.

- I finished the game overtime. Just to make my notes complete... the
ending rocks. It works nicely because, like The Trip, it doesn't posit a
total victory condition, but rather the logical beginning of another
tale. Kudos indeed.


This is an odd duck, all right. On the one hand, I'm a sucker for
nostalgia and this game was a very nice blast from the past. On the other,
the parser is a huge hinderance (the two word parser... what I lived with
for many years... is not something I miss ;->). The plot, at least, is
more mature than most of the games of that era.
Oh, and it runs fine under BeBochs, in case anyone cares!


The things that I'll do for the comp...
AGT seems to install just fine on BeBochs. At least the MS-DOS
version... as Bochs is so slow and lazy, I don't dare try to install
anything more than FreeDOS on it. So I'm able to play many more games than
I thought...
Okay, *agility* works just fine. AGT is returning horrible horrible
output. But I'm finally playing this game, after a half hour of work and
And... sadly, not much to say about this game. It's fairly inoffensive
cyberpunk, though it's also very vanilla, very surface-level
cyberpunk... and unfortunately it doesn't fit together very well at
all. Why could I just walk into place that should have been high
security? Why didn't anyone try to stop me? Why are security devices
littering the landscape?
The game itself is... fairly standard too. Not much innovation... much
repetative walking over the landscape...
However. This game is not Bad. Nor is it bad. It's merely unsurprising
and elementary. It shows a good knowledge of how to construct a game. It
also shows a decent degree of writing ability. I hope that this author
will refine his craft... and read a little Bruce Sterling.

Letters From Home

Long introduction, but a well-written one. This doesn't put me off at
all. The premise is a bit stock; but that's something for the author to
play with later on... and after all, there are only so many plotlines in
the world.
I like the concept. Word games and clues appeal... and the setting is
feeling as though it has plenty of personality to be revealed. Plus, the
NPCs are alive enough that it feels this world's in motion and dynamic.
The manipulation of words and phrases and language does feel a little
odd in this setting... but I think it's easily dealable. The game's too
fun to make me worry about every little detail that might break mimesis!


- I've got rhythm! Who could ask for anything more? (Okay, not many notes
this time...)

On the Other Side

Wow. This is incredible. Worth all the trouble it took to set up BeBochs
to run MS-DOS softs. There's not much to say here, except that I hope
people keep improving this system until it's as fun a diversion as those
old Semi-Turing brain files we used to play around with. Now excuse me, I
have to play with some brains...

Futz Mutz

Couldn't play it on 2.5.1, and since that's the only run-time I've got,
I'm not bothering to rate it. If I play this on a Windows machine sometime
in the near future, I'll erase this and rate.

Little Billy

Can't play it without Windows. If I play this on a Windows machine
sometime in the near future, I'll erase this and rate.

Dinner with Andre

Cute title. Kudos at the beginning for it. A little sparse on the
options; I don't feel like rolling with the fact that I hate my date! I
want to stab him with my salad fork! Is that so wrong? IS IT?
Sorry. I don't know how that got out. ;->
Nevertheless, this is a lovely game. Some of the actions required are
beautifully comic, and how often have we all inconvenienced ourselves or
gone to extreme lengths to avoid social embarassement?


- Um... why is my date peeking out of the men's room? I can't think of a
single reason why anyone would do this... well, I can, but they're not

- Oh! That's why! He's cheating on me! Cool! Story of my life!

- Cute puzzles. The waiter one was a tad sticky given the time limit. I
wish there'd been a bit more time for it.

- Interesting ending. A good one, too. Satisfying for all the tribulations
we've been through.

(Please pardon any typos and brevity in my reviews from this point
on... I'm typing with tendonitis and a wrist brace).

And The Waves Choke the Wind

Mmmmm. Nice interface bar. Very detailed without being too busy.

Prodly the Puffin

Okay... the 'about' command had me laughing for a good full minute.
Oooookay... it's a weird game indeed...
Very... um... weird game.
Amusing in a Lobo sort of way.
Do I mean Loco?
Abrupt ending.
Head hurts.
Lying down.



Geek Code
GFA/IT/PA d-@ s--:+> a- C++ UL+ P++>+++ L+>++ E?
W++ N+ !o !K w++(--) O? M++ V? PS+ PE Y PGP t+
5++ X+ R+++ tv+ b+++ DI+ D++ G e++>+++ h- r* z?

Michael Kinyon

Nov 20, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/20/00
to (Frobozz) wrote in


>- Oh no... no... don't tell me this is going to be the IF version of
>The Watcher! NOOOOOOO! (

Actually, this is the IF version of the 1980 Brian De Palma
film "Dressed To Kill", starring Michael Caine and Angie


Michael Kinyon | email:
Dept of Mathematics & Computer Science |
Indiana University South Bend | phone: 219-237-4240
South Bend, IN 46634 USA | fax: 219-237-6589
"Bonvolu alsendi la pordiston? Lausajne estas rano en mia bideo!
And I think we all know what that means." -- Rimmer

Carl Muckenhoupt

Nov 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/21/00
On 20 Nov 2000 07:51:48 GMT, (Frobozz) wrote:

[about Ad Verbum]

>- The Georgie puzzle really needed more feedback as it went on. Too easy
>to assume that nothing was happening

For me, the crucial feedback came when I named a dinosaur that had
already been mentioned. The kid's response clearly indicates that
he's keeping track and won't accept repetitions. Which means that he
won't repeat anything either. Which means he'll run out.

The dinosaur also had one of those laugh-out-loud moments when I
realized that the kid would accept anything that ended in "-saur".
Once I realized that, the rest of my guesses were things like
"Stupisaur" and "Idiosaur" and "Gullibasaur'.

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J. Robinson Wheeler

Nov 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/21/00
Carl Muckenhoupt wrote:

> Frobozz wrote:
>> - The Georgie puzzle really needed more feedback as it went on. Too easy
>> to assume that nothing was happening

> The dinosaur also had one of those laugh-out-loud moments when I
> realized that the kid would accept anything that ended in "-saur".
> Once I realized that, the rest of my guesses were things like
> "Stupisaur" and "Idiosaur" and "Gullibasaur'.

What went wrong here with me, with the textual clues, is that I typed in the
name of a real dinosaur that didn't end with "-saur" but which Georgie
hadn't been programmed to recognize. He chastised me and said that it wasn't
a real dinosaur, which made me think that making up fake dinosaur names
probably wouldn't cut it, either.

Oh well. Hint system to the rescue.

J. Robinson Wheeler

Chris Piuma, etc.

Nov 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/22/00
In article <>, J. Robinson Wheeler
<> wrote:

> Carl Muckenhoupt wrote:
> > The dinosaur also had one of those laugh-out-loud moments when I
> > realized that the kid would accept anything that ended in "-saur".
> > Once I realized that, the rest of my guesses were things like
> > "Stupisaur" and "Idiosaur" and "Gullibasaur'.
> What went wrong here with me, with the textual clues, is that I typed in the
> name of a real dinosaur that didn't end with "-saur" but which Georgie
> hadn't been programmed to recognize. He chastised me and said that it wasn't
> a real dinosaur, which made me think that making up fake dinosaur names
> probably wouldn't cut it, either.

Hunh. I also tried a dinosaur name that didn't end in "-saur", and when
Georgie didn't recognize it, it made me think that maybe his knowledge
of dinosaurs wasn't so deep after all. So I tried a
plausible-but-fictional "-saur" name next.

I guess our mileage did vary, after all!

Chris Piuma, etc.

Malcolm Beattie

Nov 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM11/23/00
In article <>,

I guessed that fake names might be acceptable but I used "saurus" as
the ending instead of "saur" so it wasn't accepted (despite being just
as realistic). A look at the hints sent me on my way with only mild


Malcolm Beattie <>
Oxford University Computing Services
"I permitted that as a demonstration of futility" --Grey Roger

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