Reviews by jakomo

2021 Text Adventure Literacy Jam

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The Blue Lettuce, by Caleb Wilson

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Lettuce prey, April 12, 2021

You're a hungry groundhog looking for things to eat in a garden. This is Inform, not Adventuron, so the visual presentation is a bit different than other games in the Text Adventure Literacy Jam: (nicely drawn) pictures show up in-line rather than having their own window, for instance. It plays a little like a junior Eat Me: score a point for each thing you take a bite of (although it never acknowledges when your score goes up?): there are eight things to eat, but you can finish the game just by bee-lining straight to the blue lettuce if you want. The game seems to be targeting the youngest age-range of all the games in the competition, with all the anthropomorphic flora and fauna, hence the lack of any tricky challenges. Not sure how horticulturally accurate all these plants are, but perfectly cromulent entertainment all the same.

Barry Basic and the Quick Escape, by Dee Cooke

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Back in the summer of '69, April 12, 2021

The most ambitious game I've encountered so far in the Text Adventure Literacy Jam, Barry Basic and the Quick Escape features 3 playable characters that you can switch between at will: co-ordinating their actions and making use of their individual skills is crucial to success. The titular Barry Basic has got himself stuck in a guarded building, and he needs his two friends to help get him out so they don't miss their tea-time. While Dungeon of Antur had fun RPG combat, and Sentient Beings had its cool day/night cycle, Barry Basic goes furthest in integrating it's central mechanic with almost every aspect of the game, teaching the value of teamwork while delivering a really fun and highly-polished experience. There are even achievements: I finished the game with just over half of them.

The Manor on top of the Hill, by Kalyen

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Manors Maketh Man, April 12, 2021

A very traditional entry in the well-trodden "explore your eccentric relative's mansion" genre. The Manor on top of the Hill (I feel like the "t" of "top" should have been capitalized there) has no graphics unfortunately, but makes up for it with a lot of characterful locations, evoked succinctly in their short descriptions. Some lock-and-key puzzles, a dark room that needs to be lit up, a code to be cracked, and an inventory puzzle or two give text adventure beginners a nice, quick, friction-less tour of the standard puzzle types. The choice of font and colour scheme feels very Commodore 64. Good stuff.

Reflections, by Tristin Grizel Dean

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
I'm starting with the evil queen in the mirror..., April 12, 2021

An entry in the Text Adventure Literacy Jam, a competition for entry-level parser games for kids. Reflections goes out of its way to hold a first-timers hand: simple, bold and colourful images for each location, short MIDI-musical ditties at appropriate moments, a helpful tutorial mode, and a map on-screen at all times (alongside the competition-mandated two word parser).

You're a kid wandering around the house and the back-garden looking for the titular reflections of yourself. A light sprinkling of magical realism adds talking cats and magic mirrors to the mix. Puzzles are suitably basic: mix a recipe, find out a dog's name, distract a rat, play with coloured crystals. All well-clued in the environment if you explore thoroughly.

Would feel perfectly at home on a 1983 primary school's BBC microcomputer, alongside Granny's Garden and Devil's Causeway.

Sandcastle Master, by Chris Hay (a.k.a. Eldritch Renaissance Cake)

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Here comes the sun, April 12, 2021

A really pleasant, relaxing experience. Soothing background music, a calming yellow and blue colour palette, a seaside ambience that is just what the doctor ordered coming out of this season's "long cold lonely winter". You're a kid having a day out on the beach, looking for five treasures to complete your sandcastle. The map is a 9x9 grid, impossible to get lost, and the puzzles are really easy and frustration-free. I would say the target age is two years below that of the equally excellent Reflections from this Text Adventure Literacy Jam competition. But whatever age you are, fire this up for a meditative ten minute break in the sand and sea.

Please do not the cat, by bubez

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Cool for cats, April 12, 2021

A strange cat has entered your home and fallen asleep on top of you. Find a way to wake it up, get it to trust you, then get it back to its rightful owner. This one's a little smaller and more basic than some other entries in the Text Adventure Literacy Jam: no graphics, very little freedom of actions. But it's completable at least; the built-in tutorial is helpful, prompting you for the right actions at the right time; and it doesn't outstay its welcome.

Sentient Beings, by Tristin Grizel Dean

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto, April 12, 2021

Control a friendly robot on alien world collecting specimens. Requires a thorough exploration of everything in the environment to dig out all 24 specimens before you can blast off. The planet has a day/night cycle, with both diurnal and nocturnal species to collect, so you'll be exploring most locations twice. Some specimens are harder to collect than others, requiring some simple inventory puzzles to be solved first.

This is from the author of Reflections and has the same high implementation standards and child-friendly simplicity. There is even some cool optional content: try talking to the robot, or finding the HUMOR option in its settings. I reckon the final launch code puzzle is too difficult for the target audience: I had to resort to the walkthrough there. It also doesn't display too well on a phone (the instructions for the electrical panel puzzle don't show up). Nevertheless, this one's well worth playing.

Adventures Extraordinaire, by ElefantinoDesign

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Mike Hammer's Adventures in Wonderland, April 11, 2021

You play as Mickey Spillane's character Mike Hammer P.I., but the concept is abandoned as soon as you take a taxi to the English countryside. Apparently New York gumshoe Mike Hammer has relocated to England now? Naturally, he ends up meeting the Queen, who for some reason is now also part of the Snow White story, and wants Hammer to check who the fairest of them all is. Never mind that the magic mirror is literally in the next room (remind me why she needs a P.I. for this?), and her guard won't let you visit it, even though the Queen explicitly asked you to, in his presence. So of course you need to start a fire in the castle kitchen to distract the guard, because why wouldn't you? This all makes perfect sense.

Adventure Extraordinaire is so wildly surreal it becomes really charming, and the lovely art further adds to the effect. Unfortunately, it's also virtually unplayable. There is no way a normal human being could make any progress in this game without copious amounts of LSD, or by following the cheat sheet (thankfully available from the game's web page).

Dungeons of Antur, by Ricardo Oyon Rodriguez

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Is it wrong to try to pick up spiders in a dungeon?, April 11, 2021

Graphically impressive D&D-styled dungeon-crawl for beginners. The English is not perfect but understandable. The turn-based combat is straightforward (you can find better weapons and armour and health-restoring food as you explore the dungeon). Puzzles are logical and fun on the whole. I couldn't figure out how to retrieve the thing from the well, nor how to fix the gate lever, and finally the werewolf on the bridge was too much for me. " If you don't understand something, ask an adult" the webpage says. Hm. As long as that adult isn't me, sure, go ahead.

The Rotten Wooden Room, by Cat Galaxy Studio

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
The Rotten Wooden Game, April 11, 2021

In the very first location, the word "wooden" is highlighted in red. Normally you would highlight interactable nouns, not adjectives, so I was already off-kilter. Heading down into some tunnels below the shack, the word "hole" is in blue and "smelly mud" is in red. This time, you can interact with the mud, so that confirms the "wooden" highlight is a bug? The game is very inconsistent throughout in its use of red and blue highlights, which is a big problem for a game with such a thin implementation. It needs a ton of additional verb-synonyms and noun-synonyms to be implemented before it's even close to playable: even then, there is zero story to speak of, and the graphics are straight-up bad: why is a mole drawn as a stick-man?

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