Reviews by David Welbourn

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Drama Class, by Arf

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
As You Don't Like It , July 10, 2012
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

The most charitable explanation for why the game's rooms, NPCs, and items are all (with extremely few exceptions) without any descriptions or interactivity of any kind is to hammer home one central idea: SCHOOL SUCKS. In particular, drama class is so unbelievably dull that any attempt of the author to describe it in actual words would be a pointless exercise.

A less charitable explanation -- noting also the misspellings, the portable closet, instant death, and a scoping error -- would be that the author couldn't be bothered to fully write his game, let alone test it, making it a pointless exercise for the player.

One might be tempted to believe that the game is completely broken, but I must report it is not. After unblorbing and disassembling the game, I discovered that it is winnable. You do not need any unusual commands to win; it is not a guess-the-verb puzzle.

It's still not worth your time, though. Play only if you're a masochist.

Dark Continent, by Conrad Knopf

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Dark incontinence, May 23, 2011
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

Dark Continent, frankly, is a bit of a mess. In distant echoes of Infidel, you've been abandoned by your hired help in Tunisia during your quest for a big-ass diamond, but you're an asshole and are determined to get the diamond anyway and take it back to jolly ol' England. During your quest, you'll visit minimalistic versions of Lake Victoria, the Sahara Desert, the Red Sea, and a Ubanghi village.

The first sign of trouble was when I climbed a palm tree (just because) and discovered... motor fuel. Buh-whu? What was that doing there?

When I later found an airplane, I was a quite stymied on how to use the fuel with it. This is one of those old two-word parser games, USE isn't a valid verb, there's no description for the plane, and POUR FUEL only responds with "where?", which made me think (incorrectly) that I needed to rephrase my command. Heck, I didn't even know for sure that the plane needed fuel in the first place. Dear reader, I confess I turned to the walkthrough and discovered (Spoiler - click to show)that that "where?" was a disambiguation prompt and that I should next type IN TANK. Which I thought somewhat unfair, since the tank hadn't been mentioned anywhere at all.

The rest of the game, alas, is little better. Figuring out how to pay for the way home is severely underclued, and one puzzle is a very deliberate guess-the-verb and there's absolutely no justification for it except to make the game harder. Plus, your character has few morals and will need to perform a few despicable acts before success can be claimed.

Winning this game made me feel dirty.

Nebula, by Conrad Knopf

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Goldilocks and the Three Planets, May 23, 2011
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

Once upon a time, NASA sent you off to explore three planets. Your mission: collect an animal, a vegetable (or any plant, really), and a mineral (space metals preferred) from each of them. Oh, and if you could also bag a sentient creature and drag it back to Earth, that would be super. It's a scavenger hunt in outer space!

So, off you head in your StarProbe [SFX: tweedle-eedle-eedle-eep!] and give 'em a looksee. One planet is too hot. Another planet is too cold. But the third planet is just right! It even has a monkey!

Nebula is rated as "Novice" level by the author, and it is an appropriately easy adventure. Some puzzles are even repeated, so what works on one planet may well work again on another.

The overall experience is somewhat childlike. Part of it is the simplicity of the setup, but there's also the odd choice of names that the author gave things. Some names like the backward-y "Yekrut Trid", "Nahtan Fponk", and "Divad Nottub" are obviously some sort of in-joke. The space metals are called Aurum, Ferrum, and Argentum (which are almost like gold, iron, and silver, but not quite since it's like, y'know, outer space and stuff). I won't spoil the names of the various plants and animals, but some had me rolling my eyes.

It's all a bit silly and a harmless way to burn up a Sunday, but I think I'm ready for more adult adventures now.

The Asian Challenge, by Conrad Knopf

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Another trek, another continent., May 23, 2011
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

The Asian Challenge is remarkably similar to the author's South America Trek, except this time your fact-finding mission is about Asia, you're starting in Istanbul, the geography teacher you'll meet is a Mr. Piddlebush, and the submarine you have to signal is in the Indian Ocean.

Once again, make a map. Asia's a big place, even with some countries reduced to one or two locations apiece. Some of the wandering around is a bit more fun this time: you get to ride a magic carpet, a camel, and several types of boat in the course of your "investigations".

What is perhaps more curious is comparing this untroubled minimalistic Asia of yesteryear with the one that makes headlines in the news today. In this game, you wander through Syria, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, etc. and there's not a hint of unrest anywhere. Oh, some places are communist, but that happens sometimes. What's not being said is probably a lot more important than what is said.

Still, it was interesting in its way. It's not every game that let's me "sail sampan".

South America Trek, by Conrad Knopf

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
It's a trek. In South America., May 23, 2011
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

South America Trek is an educational travelogue through every country in South America. Your character is supposedly tasked with a fact-finding mission for the United States government, but it's just an excuse to try to teach students a little geography.

There is a story, sorta. Starting from Devil's Island, you need to make your way to the southernmost tip of the continent and signal a submarine to take you home. Make a map. En route, you'll meet a geography teacher (Miss Diddlemeyer) who'll join you and occasionally spit out "interesting" dry facts about the country you're currently visiting. And there's a short trivia quiz at the end to make sure you paid attention.

All of which is... not that exciting. Rooms can be entire countries, but with very brief descriptions and little depth. There's no pictures to look at and very few objects to examine. I don't think it's a very effective educational tool unless it nudges you to look at an atlas or Wikipedia afterwards.

There are some puzzles, mostly easy stuff, but sometimes a bit convoluted. For example, at one point you have some gold but want some fish. You can't simply buy the fish with the gold, you have to go through some extra in-between steps that implies an unlikely backstory to me. And there's quite a bit of wandering up and down the continent, just to find something to signal the sub with. You may get a weird sense of scale and start feeling sorry for any smokers in Argentina who have to visit French Guinea to borrow the matches.

Still, it was a bit different from the usual IF game, and now I know that Venezuela has oil fields, so I guess that's something.

Castaway, by Conrad Knopf

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Back to basics, May 23, 2011
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

This is probably one of the easiest of Conrad Button's games, the story of how you were CASTAWAY on a deserted Pacific island and returned with ten treasures. This is a game from the dawn of shareware text adventures, with only a 40-character width DOS screen and the internal speakers to work with. It's gonna be a bit rustic. And calling it a "story" is generous. But Castaway is a good choice if you want to learn how things function in a ButtonWare game. Which I did.

It's an interesting window back to see how far we've come, what we've forgotten about, and what we've doggedly held onto.

It occurred to me how myopic IF treasure hunts can be: those treasures are mine! Who cares who left them there! Backstory of the island's previous inhabitants -- who needs it? Not you, when there's *treasure*.

NPCs stayed put and kept their mouths shut. None of this "conversation" nonsense. Even inanimate items were quieter; only some items got descriptions. I could go on, about the two-word parser, etc. but...

... this is not really the place for an in-depth critique of all of Button's games. Consider Castaway as a training ground for progressing to his other games.

Forty rooms. Ten treasures. One parrot. Kickin' it old-school. Introductory level. I had fun. Maybe you will too.

Mansion, by Derek Barley

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Airing out an old mansion, January 4, 2011
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

Mansion is an initially charming tale of inheritance with an old-school feel and a few modern touches to make your way smoother: no inventory limit, no time limit, the player can't make the game "unwinnable", and there's a NPC that gives teensy hints. I should mention that there is a maze, but it's one of the easiest mazes I've ever seen since it can be solved without mapping it in any way (although you can if you want to).

Unfortunately, the game wasn't quite as well tested as the author probably thought it was, and several problems both major and minor remain. As far as I can tell (using the TXD and Reform decompilers), the game cannot actually be completed because one critical item can never be referred to. Also some puzzles are a bit too difficult to solve either because of coding difficulties or the puzzle designs themselves sometimes rely a little too much on finding new tools mysteriously appearing in places where you've already explored. (One might claim there's some read-author's-mind as well, particularly with the frog, but most of the read-author's-mind problems are minimized if you let the hintful NPC mentioned earlier give you hints.)

Still, I did rather like the parts of the game that I was able to play -- I enjoyed bedeviling the smarmy Mr. Brookes -- and I almost got to the end (58 out of 68 points). If a more bugfree and polished version of the game showed up, I'd like it even more.

[Note on the release date: Although the game itself was obviously written from 2000 to mid-2001, I don't believe it was actually released anywhere until it was uploaded to IF Archive in 2010.]

Cyber Warp, by Robby L.

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Two Sad, June 8, 2009
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

Cyber Warp and Cyber Warp 2 are two attempts to suggest the same story, which the unfortunate player must somehow divine. The author provides very few details about anything.

The premise is difficult to piece together. In one version, you're a teenage fire warrior nicknamed "Flame". In the other, you're merely a sad fire fighter. But since there's no fire in the game, and you have no obvious fire-related abilities or equipment, it's all strangely irrelevant. Learning that your partner "Lightning" likes to "practice his electricity" (whatever the heck that means) does little to clarify the situation. It's like a half-remembered anime cartoon told second-hand.

Anyway, Lightning sorta disappears and I think you're meant to go rescue him. A cyber warp is mentioned, but like everything else, it isn't described or explained. It just is. (Well, not as a game object.) And after a strange, vague, short, and (yawn) linear journey...

...the game peters out. As far as I can tell, neither version of the game can be finished because of coding errors. So disappointing.

Matt's House, by Matt Mancini

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Meh., June 5, 2009
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

What's worse: having nothing to say or not knowing how to say it? I start up the game and see only a title. The almost blank screen is an omen of things not to come.

Matt's House is very much like Aunt Nancy's House. There's no goal and there's nothing much to do except flit about and fiddle around with whatever fixtures and furnishings that the author could be bothered to implement. The closest thing to a puzzle is following up on what one finds in the mailbox.

There's a dreary monotony to this house. Almost every room description is a variation of the arthritic formula "This is the [room name]. There's [a list of things] here. The exits are [list of directions]." Apart from a "wow, look at all the appliances" comment in the kitchen, the rooms have no personality at all.

NPCs fare even worse. Forget about conversation, can we get a better description than "Your sister." for Rachel? She's, y'know, family. Presumably important to you. But is she older or younger than you? Is she pleasant or bratty? Is she into dolls or boys? The author probably knows, but we don't. We learn nothing at all about Rachel.

So that leaves stuff. Have fun changing channels on the TV, playing Nintendo, using the computer, playing CDs, and flushing the toilet, because that's the gameplay. Apparently, the value of a home can be determined by how many things it contains that use electricity. Somehow, I'm underwhelmed by the lukewarm expressions of excitement -- "Wow, that was a great show/game/song." -- that these activities provoke. If they were truly that great, you'd be able to tell me why they're great. Elaborate, please!

Okay. This was probably the author's first game. I assume he had no idea what to write about, so he just implemented his parents' house. So, fine. It's not going to be original or exciting or particularly special. I'm okay with that. But this is just so damn generic. It's not Matt's House. This is anybody's house. Gimme some passion, some memories, some stories about the place. Show me what's important to Matt. Let me see his home through his eyes. If the game was called Rachel's House, I should get a different experience, shouldn't I?

And please, let's not do Hallway2 or Kitchen2 in Ben's house next door. You don't need me to tell you that was wrong.

The book of Fistandantalus, by Andrew Wilson

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
The book of Forget-about-it: Magic not included., December 9, 2008
by David Welbourn (Waterloo, Ontario)

ADRIFT 3.8 games tend to be forgotten and unreviewed, so I thought I'd give this one a try. Unfortunately, this game should probably remain forgotten. Let's run through a quick checklist:

Story? You're looking for a book of magic, but who you are or why you want it isn't explained. It was owned by the great mage Fistandantalus, but you learn almost nothing about him either except that he died of a curse about 1000 years ago. What kind of guy he was, what kind of magic he did, who knows?

Writing? Pretty poor with lots of misspellings. "There are many butiful tapastrys lineing the walls." Nuff said.

Setting? Well, the prologue said you were entering a tower, but there's no going up or down in this game. The rooms are connected end-to-end like a winding snake, so you have to go through a secret passage and several bedrooms before you can reach the kitchen. Almost no furnishings except old beds, trunks, and notes. Nothing whatsoever to suggest a magic user lived here.

NPCs? One. You can ask him about the book, but that seems to be it. Although he's the descendant of the mage and caretaker of the "tower", he seems to have no objection to adventurers walking through the place.

Puzzles? One half-a-puzzle, I guess, since it can be solved by NOT doing something, so you might solve it without even noticing.

Anything else? Winning doesn't end the game. The author apologizes that he didn't know how to code some things that he wanted to do. Yeah, I kinda noticed that, thanks.

In sum: it's a vague, nearly-illiterate, boring, linear, uneventful, unchallenging, poorly coded game. But at least someone's played and reviewed it now, so you don't have to!

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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