Reviews by Andrew Schultz
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(NOTE: this is a review of the comp version of the game.)
The author redacted themselves from the competition they created, but The Job wound up making a decent account of itself, as I saw it. You are tasked with bringing back a necklace. It's hidden in a relatively cramped pub. But there's something special about the pub and how you escape it, which makes sense in retrospect--I missed a few good tries that would've clued it, because I recognized the riff on the classic puzzle this game had, and I started bulldozing the solution.
The author has made a few post-comp tweaks, but I'd also suggest (as of release 3) that they give some hint it's a timed puzzle and some idea of how long it might take until that timer expires. That, and a verb to shuffle similar sorts of items ("replace x with y") instead of "get x. (possibly) drop x (due to inventory limits). put y on z." There's a bit too much juggling, though fortunately, the solution isn't randomized. The inventory limits are again slightly confounding--perhaps the game could say "you can't carry too much more" or "your load is way too heavy" or even "you'd have to drop (weight X) to carry that."
These are a lot of quibbles but they were of the "interesting to reflect on" variety. I think they'd help the game get close to how fun the author wants the experience to be. As even with back and forth trips, the game gives enough time, you shouldn't have to save paranoically.
The following observations are big-picture to avoid spoilers. You'll find why the game is timed if you take too long. My first time through, I almost avoided this, so from this one data point, the game seems well-balanced.
It's straightforward but not bare-bones. In the first version, I felt the end puzzle was stronger and more natural and more rewarding than the lead-up.
The Job isn't a deliberate brain-breaker and doesn't need to be. It's a nice enough challenge where nothing's unclear. You may need a knowledge of standard Inform verbs to remove one blocking piece of scenery expeditiously, but I think it's not an obscure action.
Arthur's Day Out isn't the first game to give a tip of the cap to Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's got a bit more humor than average, which is nice, because sometimes it makes a few beginner mistakes. Mistakes worth fixing in a post-comp touch-up, for sure.
You play as Arthur, and quickly you find a dressing gown with analgesic. There's a computer password to unlock, a safe to open and a weird cave at the end. None of the puzzles are too hard, but you do have to remember to (Spoiler - click to show)search instead of look and also TAKE items that appear. That's a bit of busy work, but fortunately the game is only 15 rooms. It still feels a bit sparse for all that, but it's small enough I could keep the map in my head.
It's possible to short-circuit a lot of the puzzles with saving and restoring in the final room, and on replay, you can probably ignore the notes that give you clues. And if the puzzles are a bit random, they require no great unfair leaps. And the homages to H2G2 are nice.
The puzzles are the sort where you saw exactly what people meant to do once they're solved, but on the other hand, there's still a bit of needless fighting with the parser. While it placed 7th of 8 in PunyJam 1, it doesn't really feel like a bottom-feeder. That probably speaks to some talent on the developer's part as well as perhaps the PunyInform community (especially on discord) helping each other out. to do their best.
With a title like Pub Hubbub, you'd expect a few cheap jokes, and they're the good sort of cheap, the ones that give good return for relatively little investment. The game may not be super-ambitious, but it's a well-organized first effort with enough humor to keep you going through any frustrations you might have with the parser or with the time limitation. An ominous note saying your boss, John, owes $2500 "or else" adds to the plot.
You start in a broom closet, as with every PunyJam entry, and have four pub-cleaning tasks to complete in two hours of game time, or 120 moves. And while standard parser peeves (some rejected commands cost you a move), I was actually able to figure what to do even without logging on to my boss John's computer. The execution required some parser-wrangling, and in fact my first time through I just missed completing everything. Fortunately, nothing drastic happened, and the drudge work makes enough sense it was easy to replicate. Basic stuff you need to do so the pub isn't too nasty.
The game does a good job of brushing off parser mistakes with a joke. Nothing demeaning, but advice from older wiser relatives pops up if you forget something. The rejects for cleaning you don't need to do also amused me, and when I browsed the source code, I found other things I'd missed.
Nothing's too gross or out there, and in fact, there is one way to die that's lampshaded nicely. And there's a cigarette machine which contains more humor than cigarette machines generally do, and even a puzzle.
Given the game's general tone, I was able to figure roughly what the note was about before my boss John came back, and you may, too. But the details still made me laugh.
This is a good, promising first game. It has a few small bugs (or I think they're bugs and not my own incompetence) I'm glad to overlook, because the main stuff seems to work.
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