Reviews by Andrew Schultz

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Talk to him about love, by Auraes

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
I'm a bit baffled, but I can't hate it, January 31, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: Adventuron 2019 CaveJam

TTHAL has a noble, unusual goal for a Cave Jam setting: awaken a stone troll and bring him back to life! This is where the "love" comes in. There's not a lot of talking, though. However, there is lots of fourth-wall humor, including a memo that keeps flying away when you examine it. Finding it several times helps you progress through the story. There's also a key you have to lose and find again, as well as baby birds you have to kill, but not really.

It's all a bit of a trip to me. The main thing to remember going through the game is that if something disappears, it's probably in a location where nothing has happened yet. Bonus points are dispensed oddly, for finding walls that aren't described and some guess-the-verb that makes moderate sense in retrospect, once you realize what the author was going for.

Still, this game broke me pretty quickly. I had trouble following the story, simple though it was, and there seemed to be a moral message (you become king of the ravens for a bit but worry you are evil). And i learned to expect that even taking an item in front of you is fraught with silly risks. Indeed, just being able to take something and have it, or me, stay as-is was a great surprise.

Later versions seem to have curbed some excesses, such as the deep mine that used to be 1000 levels (you jumped from 20 to 30, then 100 to 200, but still, it's nice they cut it down). This one needs a walkthrough to appreciate the jolly graphics. It seems very good-hearted. But some of the jumps are a bridge too far for me without more in-depth explanation.

Snowhaven, by Tristin Grizel Dean

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Making a meal of reflection, in a good way, January 31, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: ParserComp 2021

Snowhaven takes place in, well, winter. The object is to make a stew for your brother, who is dropping by. It has three modes, and the third is mature and thus password-protected. I played through Pleasant and Emotive, which have the same map but also have slightly different puzzles and scenery. Both were effective and a bit unnerving, and the accomplishments list at the end of the game suggested Sinister mode was very sinister indeed. I think it's what scared me off playing back in ParserComp. I'm sad I missed it now, though, and I'd like to try it some time, though.

The graphics are very attractive, black-and-white ASCII-ish stuff with some animation indicating winds and, thus, extra wind chill. They help give starkness without anything being too imposing. And, indeed, your small home and the forest surrounding it are pretty bleak. Trees and such and even a river are dark.

The one difference between Pleasant and Emotive that I won't spoil is that you need a different meat for the stew. Finding and preparing said meat is trickier and, frankly, more bloody. Again referring to Sinister mode, I'm left a bit fearful of what happens there. So the password may've been effective in unexpected ways by leaving certain bits hidden.

There is a good deal of verb-munging to make the soup (finding several items needs a small leap of logic, but one that makes sense once you figure it,) and I also had some trouble making a snare in the second part, but I think this is part of the slice-of-life experience the author intended. Nevertheless between that and the text pauses, things felt like a bit of a chore. I knew what I needed to do, and perhaps Adventuron's focus on two-word commands may've inhibited the author helping the player as much as they'd have liked. Sometimes this is very on-point--for instance, the game taps you not to leave a food locker open with wild animals around. But other times, the repetition is slightly tiresome, e.g. chopping up the vegetables and placing them in the pot yet again. There is also a bit of odd forcing causality beyond just the game nudging you to avoid a certain area for now, or to go back and dump what you have in the soup--the reason for "Emotive" requires you to do something that fits in the story, but it shouldn't logically help you find the meat you need for your stew.

So there's some mimesis-breaking and a good chunk of repetition of similar actions between the two settings, but these criticisms seem less important than noting the author has managed to create two similar, parallel stories that are effective in different ways. (Probably three. I hope to verify this one day.) So it's a very impressive work, and certainly, once it's on the back burner, it's easier to remember the inventive bits than the parser-wrangling that, at least in part, gave a proper "it's tough in winter" feel. I think people may find Snowhaven tough to get into because it's not as directly cheery as the author's other games, and a few jumps you have to make early on may seem tricky, but that shouldn't stop people from enjoying it.

Hallowe'en: Night of the Misty Manor, by Dee Cooke

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Overwhelming, but funny, game about Halloween curses and camaraderie, January 31, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: Adventuron 2019 Halloween Jam

HNMM starts out as a fetch quest but soon swerves into greater scary-farce. You visit an old folks' home and, finally, the misty manor in the title. Along the way there's a branch based on which mask you choose.

It's good fun if you know what to do, but I can't escape mentioning its biggest weakness, so you're prepared if you've enjoyed the author's other works (as I have) and want to see all of HNMM. This all spilled over, but I hope it's more to provide a buffer than to read a loud laundry list the author, who's a veteran at writing games by now but maybe wasn't then, probably knows and sees.

You can get stuck in several unwinnable states, and there is some arbitrary stuff you need early on. That's a problem of zany games in general that try to provide a lot of replay value. For instance, there's a sugar packet necessary for one of the five branches, but if you make it through another, there's no clue which branch you need the packet in. There was enough of this that I needed a couple more sessions to work through each alternate path (there are five total, including a no-mask option,) and I did use a walkthrough.

Once you get to a place, you may say "Oh! I wish I had (X) now!") but because the game map is broken into a few distinct parts, you won't be able to go back. So it's tough to see ahead. And it's also tough to figure when you're at or near the final puzzle, and it's easy to worry you may be shut out from a win in other ways. Given that HNMM keeps throwing zany situations at you, it seems like there can always be several more, and the game's score is tracked internally.

So--yes, just save before you choose a mask, and save before you enter the mansion. You'll be able to enjoy HNMM best that way. And there is a lot to enjoy despite the technical unfriendliness of being locked out near the final puzzle.

You are Eilidh, charged with supervising four kids younger than you as you go to an old folks' home to entertain them, but first, you have to find a gift. Nearly everyone at the party refers you to the next person, who says "oh, wait, no, the gift is over THERE instead." Which certainly gives you the feeling of "oh, man, i sort of don't want to deal with these kids." But I didn't want to actually throw anything. The scenes where you'd probably get exasperated in real life are funny in writing, though there is one guess-the-verb situation that's so on the nose I didn't consider it ((Spoiler - click to show)you're told you need to distract someone, and the verb is DISTRACT X</spoiler).) The scene at the old folks' home is sort of sad, and the kids' performances are objectively terrible in a funny way. Then you're given a spooky green rock as a gift.

This is where the manor comes into play. I figured a way in, but it was a one-way affair. Puzzles included sneaking up the stairs silently and giving a creepy girl a gift. There are neat touches such as having to peel an apple and the peel turning into a random letter, which is the first letter of your husband's name. Then there is the random bit based on what mask you wear. It's rather funny if you don't wear one, period.

The author had a lot of wacky humor to dump in, and it didn't all hit for me, but the aggregate on the whole was successful. While you do have to retrace a lot of steps even with strategic restore, HNMM hits all the undead ghoulies and tropes it's always fun to tweak for a laugh. By the first end I had some fear of "oh no am I trapped this time" but they had some really clever ways to let you retreat back to your car, or at least near it, as you explored more weird and spooky places. And so I felt like I could feel may way through well enough with the final mask--though I did have to make sure I had the special item(s) I needed!

HNMM is ambitious, but isn't as focused as the author's latest efforts, and it makes a few unfair demands on the player. However, it was neat to see Eilidh and Deirdre from its sequel Day of the Sleigh again. It felt like the sort of odds-and-ends game we all have in us, and whenever we get it out, we will, and it's more than worth doing. While parts definitely feel a bit arbitrary, it is a good dose of humor that all Halloween jams can use to offset the more serious entries.

Seeker of Magic, by Garry Francis

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A solid, no-frills, linear magic treasure cave jaunt, January 29, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)

It's weird, stumbling on Adventuron late and still having a backlog of stuff I really want to see. I've seen writers' more mature works first, with the earlier ones coming later. All sorts of factors, then, blunt ambition. The new authoring system is tricky to learn, there aren't resources, parts of the syntax may not be ironed out, and maybe there aren't as many great shortcuts or examples yet. People just want to get a nice game out there. And in the case of SoM, Garry Francis did. And went on to even nicer.

Overall I think the only possible point against SoM is that it is relatively unambitious, as a cave exploration game. As a thief armed only with a knife, you get by a gross troll (a highlight of the graphics, both when it is in your way or defeated for good,) make fire, solve a riddle, and pick off a slightly unexpected treasure. Hence the twenty points in the game, with only four actions. The map is linear. You get in and out. There's a quite sensible inventory-capacity (well, sort of) puzzle.

It's all over a bit too soon. I wondered if I'd really earned the treasure I found, but maybe part of this was due to the nature of the treasure and my enjoying the ride.

The Witch's Apprentice, by Garry Francis

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Peak Adventuron, January 29, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: Adventuron 2019 Halloween Jam

I played Santa's Trainee Elf recently before playing WA, so my cynical first reaction was "Wait! Garry's already done this before, but for a different holiday." But of course WA was released in 2019, STE in 2020. And, well, it's a very good thing they're similar. Both have neat graphics and are really sensible and entertaining fetch quests that fit the season. If you forced me to decide, I'd say STE is a bit richer and handles the whole "find stuff to make something special for kids" a bit better. But I liked them both a lot.

In WA, you are an apprentice who must find eight ingredients for the witch, for a potion to keep kids safe this Halloween. Some require more creativity than others. One even requires you to remove a cat's bell collar so they can (Spoiler - click to show)catch a rat. It's well-timed and paced, too, with the run-up to entering the Witch's mansion being just a bit spooky. There's no response when you knock, and the author deserves full credit for the joke/minor puzzle therein.

The mansion has a lot of off-limit areas that help it feel big without the game being overwhelming, and pretty much every sort of spooky location is covered. It's a three-story affair with a backyard, too. The ingredients aren't anything too novel. They don't need to be, though I laughed at needing rotten fruit. But there are amusing explanations for alternate names for mustard seed and buttercups. WA has a lot of small subversions of general witch tropes, and I particularly enjoyed poking at the scenery you couldn't use yet, or didn't know how to, as if to reinforce that you're an apprentice without belaboring the point.

WA just feels like the sort of game Adventuron was made for. You couldn't quite write it in Inform, and the parser bits feel like they'd lose something in Twine. I enjoy Garry's Inform games, but his writing seems to have a bit more character in Adventuron. There seems to be some nice synergy with the graphics.

Which leaves just one question. When's that Adventuron Valentine's Day jam coming? I'd love to see a trilogy from the author, if they had the inspiration.

(edited 1/29/23 5 PM, originally posted 1/28/23 5 PM)

The Cave of Hoarding, by Dee Cooke

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The reverse of a treasure hunt, January 29, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)

It's always amusing what authors can come up with when given a theme for a jam. I mean, some of us (like me) will probably play it safe and not take any big risks or even try to shoehorn their own specific knowledge into their effort. But others are better at saying, okay, how can we subvert this meaningfully, in ways the next entrant probably won't, either?

This is what happens in CoH. You'd think, with a title like that, it'd be a romp through a cave with a lot of treasure. But really it's about hiding treasure for later, as in, finding a place it can sit so people won't see it and eventually forget it's missing.

Such is your task from one Mr. Lo Kingdom. You and your not-really-friend Msndy (you're more like a chauffeur) need to find a way to hide things. Mandy's a bit absent-minded and can even get killed, which detracts from your point total even though Lo Kingdom mentions she was a liability if you fail to protect her. She manages to kind of mess things up along the way.

There aren't very many puzzles here. It's pretty obvious who is guarding the item you need and what you need to do with them. So burying the treasure is not too bad. It's turning things back to as they were beforehand that's the tricky bit. This is nowhere near as complicated and intriguing as Sub Rosa, but it's still a bit of fun. There's even a bit where Lo Kingdom gives you money for something special you have, because he's "persuasive" like that, but it's something you wanted to keep. This costs one point at the end. The points aren't displayed in-game, and given the author's later works, I like that she made the switch from points to achievements.

CoH does feel a bit less substantial than the author's later efforts, and I don't think this is general "oh people always get better" revisionism. For instance, Day of the Sleigh may have fewer rooms, but it feels like there's more to do, and the jokes are more focused, and the alternate paths and odd achievements feel more logical. Nevertheless I was glad to see there was a game of Dee Cooke's I'd overlooked, and I enjoyed working through the branches. Maybe it's a bit on the silly side, but given that the game's general intent is to do things backwards, it should have leeway for that.

Century, by Zuuri

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Avoid the bugs, and it's a quick affair. Neat graphics., January 29, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: Adventuron 2019 CaveJam

So, okay, I went to Garry Francis's walkthrough up at CASA/ pretty quickly for this one. Which is sad. The graphics are cheery and colorful. But it hits the "you have amnesia and are not sure what you're doing" a bit too heavily--and unintentionally, in the case of some verb-guessing.

Being stuck in the cave isn't so bad. This part is decently well-contained, though why and how the combination to a safe is scattered in parts about the area is a mystery. The puzzles are sensible. You find a key in the safe. You get out and climb a tree and even hunt for food! (This part is random and frustrating and chases people off. The next puzzles seem like arbitrary guesswork, unless i am missing something.)

You then find some treasure, except ... except ...

Well, the ending had me shaking my head a bit, too. I felt heckled. Not that that's a bad thing, and not that it was particularly abusive, but the shift from "what's going on here, anyway?" felt as helter-skelter as the game itself.

Given the chaos that transpired even with a walkthrough, I recommend you have one close by if you take the plunge with this game. There's a certain eagerness to it, to give you some standard adventure-game locations with weird twists, along with some puzzles that should feel good to solve. But they bounce from perhaps too obvious to "whoah, that was weird" too quickly.

However, if you're one of those people who can get into playing every game in a comp once you start, take solace in this game having enough heart that any frustration endured because of these puzzles is not lasting. That's how Adventuron rolls.

A Mission in Time, by Soso

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Explore forest, avoid beast, find relics, January 29, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: Adventuron 2019 CaveJam

"Astronauturon" feels like the sort of word a native thinker couldn't figure out, or that we might dismiss as too odd. But it works, a portmanteau of astronaut and Adventuron, presumably. It's far less plain than "A Mission in Time." Though the execution itself isn't especially snazzy, for better or worse: you're in a dark forest with a lot of rooms, but it's not really overwhelming. You're an astronaut coming back down to Earth, which humanity fled when it was irratiated, but after a hundred years, it's relatively safe again.

Well, except for that bear chasing you around the map. I didn't get caught by it, but some red text indicated it was nearby, as I took photos of artifacts with my camera. Then I went back to the ship and uploaded them, which presented the main game puzzle: there's a time capsule hidden outside the initial rooms you can view, and since your inventory capacity is two (three, if you drop the camera,) and there are six items on the photograph which you now recognize, you need to decide what is most practical.

This part is not very taxing, but recovering the time capsule is effective, and of course, when you win, you see what's in it. The ending is a bit cute, maybe too cute for the general mood, but it wrapped things up nicely.

Astronauturon is not a crushing experience, nor an unfriendly one, and the mapping goes quickly. But it feels like there could've been more puzzles with the items you find in the house, and the camera mechanic could have been used more. I feel like I may have missed something during my quick playthrough. I quickly went from being worried the map would be too tangled to wishing there was a bit more to do. But it works, and the black and white graphics are a neat touch that help emphasize the red text without overdoing it.

The Missing Witch, by Dawn Mary Mac

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short semi-spooky game with a funny instadeath, January 28, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: Adventuron 2019 Halloween Jam

I'm really impressed by how unironically good last-place games can be in Adventuron jams, and The Missing Witch is no exception. Perhaps it doesn't soar, but it clearly does more than just make up the numbers, and if you're playing through the whole jam, you won't want to miss it.

You play as a nine-year-old who wants to get into a party and have some adventures. These involve, well, a lost witch. So the beginning is largely reconnaissance. One thing you must find is in your home, and if you dawdle too long, your parents make you stay in. (There's a joke to this. I won't spoil it.) The other things you need are strewn about the scenery, and this might be a pain in Inform with the non-sparse room descriptions, but Adventuron's ability to highlight critical words makes everything easier.

Once you've got a costume for the party, the summoning really starts. I was thrown a bit because I had to remove my costume to reach one semi-hidden room, and I was worried the twins would come after me, but that was relatively trivial. Getting there involves standard item-munging. There's a crypt of sorts to explore at the end, too.

The sorcery involved is decidedly g-rated and, well, it's trivial guess-the-verb. The ending was satisfying. It's a nice balance of kids'-party and minor spoernatural creepiness. So I really recommend playing through. Even if you get stuck, there's only so much to do, and there's one NPC you may forget about that turns out, indeed, to be an obstacle later.

One tip, though: the author added AI art for the 2.0 version now on, but it's in a 1x1 ratio, meaning you can't see it unless you narrow your browser a good deal. This, however, is worth it, since the graphics do add to the experience.

The Mansion, by Manuel Sagra

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short game about skeleton is comfortable in own skin, January 28, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: Adventuron 2019 Halloween Jam

The Mansion definitely recognizes it's close to cliche. It recognizes it probably isn't going to shake you out of your chair. But it's short and tidy for all that and about as light-hearted as a game about an amnesiac skeleton could be, and it's well-focused. You will immediately see what to do at the end, but that's because the author didn't try to do anything crazy.

You wake up unaware of who you are or were in a locked room, and you slowly make your way around spooky grounds. There's a diary filling in the past, along with a shovel for digging, a spooky portrait, and an empty suit of armor. Perhaps you've seen these before in other games. There are a few small jokes if you examine everything, which isn't arduous.

Given there are maybe six rooms, it's not hard to find the way through, and you may guess what one special-seeming item is for. (I never did figure what the hammer and nails were for!) The game's main challenge is navigating the inventory capacity of two, I assume because you have two hands and aren't very strong.

Every comp seems to have that one game that's very competent and says, hey, here's a bit of fun, take it or leave it. I'm not going to be profound, but I am well-constructed, and you're not going to get lost. The Mansion, down to its generic name, is that, and yet it was spooky enough, even as I was pretty sure of what I was supposed to be doing, and the end had just enough of a twist to make me look back in worry.

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