Reviews by David Welbourn

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It's a Dog's Life, by Mr. Wigglebutt

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Yes, there is a dog, December 7, 2008
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

Here we have a game that's ready for alpha-testing. You're meant to start the game by obtaining a dog via express delivery (think Wile E. Coyote ordering something from Acme) and then wander about the countryside with your new best friend, and earn points by solving small puzzles, getting "Fido" to do doggy tricks, and uh... well that seems to be it.

The game was never finished.

Of course, there are bugs, too. The game was never tested either, at least as far as I can tell, but that seems to be, well, not quite as important as fixing some of the problems with the overall design.

Here's what the game needs most (in my humble opinion, of course):

1) Show, don't tell. The point of the game was lost. It's not really supposed about getting a few lousy points. It's supposed to be showcasing a particular breed of dog, the Australian Cattle Dog. Currently, you get a HUGE textdump of encyclopedic info when you look at your mutt the first time, which no one's going to read, and the dog in the game acts like any generic IF dog. Instead, incorporate that info into the way the dog behaves in the game. And give the dog some body parts so the player can examine the ears, tail, fur, etc. at his or her own pace. Give it a personality.

2) An endgame. Currently, there's no goal, nothing to strive for. I played for a bit, then quit. That's not a game. Personally, I'd give the PC a snooty neighbour who brags about his own precious puppy. Then add a dog show or some sort of certification challenge so your dog can earn a ribbon or a certificate that you can rub in your neighbour's face -- booyah! -- and thus win the game.

3) Add some direction and hints. This is so easy to fix. Add a brochure or poster at the training school, listing some of the things you can do with your canine companion. Even better, if the neighbour was added, you could show by example what the player is supposed to do with his or her own dog by watching what the neighbour does with his.

So, yeah. It's a Dog's Life isn't much of a game, but it is useful as a design challenge.

Sporkery 1: There Will Be Sporking, by David Hughes

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Blood Sporks, November 5, 2008
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

Let's be frank. This game is just an excuse to slaughter people with sporks. People that piss you off. Sporks with the killing power of chainsaws blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. If mindless mayhem doesn't float your boat, this game isn't for you.

The game begins where you have already murdered some luckless schmuck in a Digimon t-shirt. He was just about to destroy the universe with just his pinkie finger, the game helpfully explains, just in case you have some silly qualms that maybe, just maybe, liking Digimon wasn't quite reason enough to butcher his fat ass with an adjectiveless spork.

Clearly, this game isn't going to be subtle.

Expect violence. Gruesome deaths. Rude language. Weak implementation. Careless grammar and punctuation. Juvenile humour. Occasional bugs. And expressive, over-the-top, ebullient writing. The writing is what sells this game.

Example death message: (Spoiler - click to show)*** The janitor laughs at your feeble escape attempt. An army of flesh-eating bees with tiny chainsaws come out of his nostrils and reduce your body to a bloody mush that smells vaguely of pineapple. Sorry. ***

You're all eager to play, yes? Just lemme add a few more points. First, try to get more than the stated maximum of 180 points. There is a rank for those who achieve more than 180. Second, try to find as many ways to die. Third, um, how to win? (Spoiler - click to show)Don't bother. You can't. There's no winning ending, and that seems to be deliberate. Check out that quote at the start of the game again. Fourth, "spork" isn't implemented as a verb. An oversight, I'm sure.

You're still reading this? Go get sporking!

the virtual human, by Duncan Bowsman

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
lowercase interactive poetry, November 4, 2008
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

How unusual. This isn't a game, but a chatterbox-cum-madlibs exercise where the player answers questions about a virtual human and his/her/its environment by entering arbitrary words and short phrases, and these answers are incorporated into the ongoing poem.

The usual IF commands like "look" and "inventory" are quite meaningless here, so players may not consider this to be "IF" at all. At least, not normal IF. It's not really like Fugue, The Space Under the Window, or On the Other Side, but it's closer to those than most other IF offerings I can think of.

A couple caveats: Note that since there's almost no checking that your inputs are valid, it's best to play it straight. If you insist on typing in nonsense, you'll get nonsense printed back at you. Also, please avoid typing AND or commas in your responses; that gets your input line interpreted as multiple inputs. Type an ampersand, & ,when you want an AND.

This isn't a deep game by any means, and it certainly won't teach you much of anything about yourself, etc. But because the virtual human is so short and so different, I do recommend that players try it out.

A Day at the Iachini House, by Michael Iachini

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A pleasant, if forgetable, diversion, August 25, 2008
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

One of the better games in the "my house" genre. It's somewhat bland but goodnatured throughout, and fine for a lazy Sunday afternoon when you don't want to think too much but want to play a game with more than ten rooms to it.

All you need to do is carry out the chores that Mrs. Puzzle has left with you, then take a shower and watch some TV when you're done. The game is blissfully free of angst, aliens, monsters, and pseudoscience; the most irksome thing is the inventory limit, and even that isn't too bad. Puzzles are fairly lightweight, and you'll probably breeze through most of them faster than you can eat a trayful of lemon meringue tarts. Nom nom nom.

Oh sure, you'll forget about this game a week after you've played it. There's nothing much that stands out about it. But it's fine for what it is: just a pleasant way to waste an hour playing IF.

(p.s. The Puzzle family seems to be based on the author's real family, and I imagine the family's surname was changed just before the game was released.)

FunHouse, by C. A. Gist

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Slap a "Condemned" sign on this funhouse, August 25, 2008
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

This game is so very messed up, I think it's proof that even ADRIFT can be too difficult to use for some authors. The author did manage to come up with an interesting setting and created several suitable rooms and connected them up properly, but then... well, it seems the author had a lot of disjointed ideas and them dropped them into the game without any care or craftsmanship.

I suppose the first failure is the clunky prose. The author definitely needs work on how to write sentences that express ideas clearly.

The second thing that the poor player is likely to notice is the totally pointless money system. There's a wallet and several clumps of bills scattered outside your car instead of, say, in your inventory. The wallet isn't a container. And you don't need to buy anything either. Really.

The third thing: the pointless combat. For no obvious reason, one of the NPCs will start to hit you. And you can hit back. But it means nothing; neither of you can hurt the other, so ignore it.

Frankly, the list of problems is long. One of the NPCs is called "your children 8)". Like, c'mon. The intro tells you you're supposed to meet your kids, but they are completely unresponsive, so you can just ignore them too.

Finally, the goal of the game is, well, completely opaque to the player unless one goes into the debugger and figures out which commands are relevant and which are just in the game for flavour. Very little in the game proper gives the player a clue what is expected of him or her. It's not just guess-the-verb, but guess-the-phrase too.

I'm sorry, but there's barely a game here, let alone any "fun".

Microwave Man!, by Tim Clarke

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Nuke Kid in the Box, August 25, 2008
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

One point for originality: there's not many games that take place inside a microwave oven. Shame it reads like any other "my messy bedroom" game. And it's blatant what you've expected to do -- get out of the oven before you get nuked or suffocate -- but the game is still mostly unplayable without the hints because 1) there's guess-the-verb problems, and 2) neither the door nor the shield are implemented as in-game objects that the player can experiment with. Oh, and the author seems to have an odd idea how microwave ovens actually work, so we also have 3) read-the-author's-mind to see how science works in this reality.

Sadly unexplored are the many questions that would help explain how any of this game is supposed to make a particle of sense. Why are you small enough to fit in a microwave? Why are you living in a microwave if it's so deadly? Where'd you find things in your size?

Ah well. It's a small game and there are in-game hints. Play it if you like wacky speed-ifs, but otherwise, you probably want to play something else.

Inventory, by Christopher Armstrong

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Pick Up Some Stuff and Sigh, July 15, 2008
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

Neither game nor story, Inventory is a reply to Glyph's "inventory meme" blog posting (see where he invited readers to reply with their real-life inventories in an IF style, a potentially interesting discussion of which Inventory is merely a comment or an aside within that discussion.

On its own, Inventory falls into the little examined IF niche between Camping and The Knapsack Problem. You're picking up stuff, and it's quite puzzleless unless you never clue in you're supposed to put some of the stuff into your backpack. Exciting this is not.

The only other comment I might make is that, personally, I'm not keen on seeing tech toys described primarily by brand and model number. Since I'm neither rich nor tech-savvy, I can't picture what the darn things are like. Further, I can't tell if such descriptions mean you're bragging or whining about how good or crappy your electronic whizbangs are. It all just rubs me the wrong way, I guess.

[No rating since it's not really a game.]

30 Minutes, by Anastasia Trombly

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
A shapeless untested first effort, July 1, 2008
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

You know what's cool about spaceships? You know, flying through outer space, visiting planets, rockets and comets and stars, oh my? Robots, aliens, space-age tech? Well, forget about seeing any of that in this game. In fact, for the majority of this game, I didn't know I was on a spaceship. Room and object descriptions are so vague and the rooms are so poorly furnished, I thought it was entirely possible the game was set on a conventional ocean-going vessel.

That's really the major problem with the game. The slideshow of my trip would be a series of white rectangles on the screen, conveying nothing.

There are, of course, other problems. The time limit. The portable fire. The general lack of synonyms. Hiding what little scenery there is by either making it inexplicably invisible or a victim of gnostogenesis (it only exists after the PC knows it exists). However, the runner-up for worst problem is the inexplicable decision to code a specific three-word "verb the noun" command instead of coding "verb [something]" instead.

Any pluses? Well, yes. One. It is a game with a beginning, an end, and two puzzles inbetween, which I believe is all the author wanted to accomplish with this effort, minimal as that effort was. I can't recommend this game, but at least it actually is one.

A Day in Life, by John Goettle

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A broken and buggy coding exercise., June 8, 2008
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

There's not really a game in this one, although you can "win" and win very easily. It's probably only of interest to players to see how many bugs they can find in it. My favourite bug is (Spoiler - click to show)"buy me", which if you have at least $2 in your inventory, will put the PC into his own inventory, which crashes your interpreter.

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