Reviews by turthalion

IF Comp 2003

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Scavenger, by Quintin Stone

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
If it isn't fixed in place, take it., November 7, 2017
by turthalion (Winnipeg)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2003

This was another one that I really enjoyed, in spite of myself. By that I mean, I loaded it up and went "Oh no, post-apocalyptic world...", but it was worth suspending judgement for a few turns, as this is a really well-written, solid puzzle-fest with some good NPC work thrown in.

A lot of the interiors ended up being very reminiscent of Planetfall and Stationfall for me (that's a compliment, I enjoyed those games), and I liked the fact that there were multiple routes through the game. The only complaint I have is with the radiation suit: once I wore it outside, the guard immediately knew I wasn't a member of their faction, as I was no longer wearing the jacket. I had envisioned the radiation suit as one of those all enveloping white things... thus the guard outside would have assumed I was one of his pals from the complex. Obviously a case of an "if jacket not worn" test. Minor though.

The biggest problem with this game is that I was enjoying playing it so much, I didn't take any notes during gameplay, meaning my judging is going mainly from memory.

W: 4.5
Great writing, enjoyable story, if a trifle workmanlike.

A: 4
This game was fun, and really gave me that old-school IF feeling.

B: 4
I did not find any bugs that I can recall.

E: 4.5
Lots of fun, taking me back to the heady days of 80s IF.

WABE score: 8.5

Slouching Towards Bedlam, by Star Foster and Daniel Ravipinto

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
It's madness, I tell you, madness!, November 7, 2017
by turthalion (Winnipeg)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2003

There's not much I can say here, other than that this was one of the most interesting and enjoyable pieces of IF I've ever played.

The only minor (and I mean minor) quibble is the nuisance of listening to the records at the beginning. I understand why it's necessary, and someone whose game has as many long dumps of text as mine did is hardly in a position to quibble.

W: 5
Excellent writing, outstanding story. Nice use of initials for object descriptions as well.

A: 5
This game grabbed me and wouldn't let go. Wow.

B: 5
I did not find any bugs. Seems impeccably tested.

E: 5
Incredible fun, riveting. The moment I finished, I wanted to go back and
play it all again, knowing the outcome.

WABE score: 10

Gourmet, by Aaron A. Reed and Chad Barb

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Gourmet Night--Basil Fawlty should be so lucky, November 7, 2017
by turthalion (Winnipeg)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2003

This was another one I really got a kick out of, and thus, will have a shorter review than some of the others.

Gourmet is an enjoyable little evening in a gourmet restaurant that has you preparing dishes, dealing with customers, and generally having a great time. It's a game that, initially, I thought I wasn't going to enjoy. I thought I would find the tasks mundane, and too much like real work for my liking, but that turned out not to be the case.

There are a few oddities with some actions taking place behind the scenes, as it were, or fairly innocuous actions triggering a whole bunch of other things to happen. That wasn't too bad once I got used to scanning the text carefully to be sure I didn't miss everything that had happened.

Another oddity was the stack of first aid kits in the supply cupboard, which can't be referred to as 'kit' or 'kits' but only as 'bandages' or 'stack'. It led me to believe they were just scenery for quite some time.

And then the syntax for getting the sheet music out of the glass frame in the toilet was a little frustrating, as the game didn't recognise the word 'frame', so I couldn't 'smash frame'.

A few other line break oddities showed up as well, and the endgame looked like it was missing an rtrue to abort a default response, but otherwise, this was an enjoyable little game.

Author Encouragement:
I don't have a lot to say here. I think a little more beta-testing would be good, and would iron out a few of the formatting and synonym irregularities, but overall, a very enjoyable and well-written piece.

W: 4
The writing was great, with a good sense of how to impart the comedy of various situations without being heavy-handed. A nice treatment of the action scenes as well, which seem to fall flat in a lot of IF.

A: 4
I really loved going through the tasks required in this game, and really got the feeling I was running my own restaurant. I could feel the danger of having the whole evening crash down around my lovely chef hat.

B: 3.5
The score is a little lower here, just for a lack of extra synonyms and verbs, as well as the linebreak and formatting issues. I also had a little bit of an issue with the extended actions triggered as a result of some of my actions.

E: 4
I loved this one. Definitely one of the best I've seen so far. I think shadows on the mirror just, and only just, edges Gourmet out because of shadow's more polished feel.

WABE score: 7.75

Delvyn, by William A. Tilli

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Irritating. That's the overwhelming feeling I get from this game., November 7, 2017
by turthalion (Winnipeg)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2003

When the initial location contains point-scoring items that can't be seen unless you 'x bedroom', I get irritated. When the same item continues to be mentioned after you take them, I get more irritated.

When the main character gets achingly hungry some few turns after consuming a huge plate of pancakes, the irritation mounts.

Speaking of the main character, I'm not sure why he's an elf living in Newberry. It doesn't seem to make the slightest bit of difference to the story, other than the elf's infravision resulting in not having to worry about a light source puzzle (and I would gladly have put up with a light source puzzle in exchange for dumping the hunger "puzzle").

Directions are scarce in numerous locations in this game, spelling mistakes abound, plot details are encapsulated in room descriptions (thus repeating themselves every time you "look"), and I ended up quitting after a guess-the-verb puzzle just to get to a certain location landed me in a spot where I could find no way proceed, or go back. As no hints or walkthrough were provided, I was forced to give up.

Oh, and did I mention the annoying music that starts playing when you type "About" ? More irritation.

Author Encouragement:
I'm not sure I really want to take the time to encourage this sort of thing.

Bedroom Notes:
If you insist on starting your game in a bedroom, at least give it a description. Enough said.

W: 2
Passable, except that the story seems weak, and the spelling and grammar are pretty poor.

A: 2
Generally unappealing. Hunger puzzles, spelling mistakes, missing descriptions... bleah.

B: 2
Guess-the-verb parser problems, room descriptions that repeat plot details every time you look (e.g. "You step into the room..."), and a location that left me stranded with no way out. No thanks.

E: 2
Not entertaining for me, but it's not a 1, just because there does seem to be a game there.

WABE score: 4

Bio, by David Linder

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
BIO: struggling to rise from its own mediocrity, November 7, 2017
by turthalion (Winnipeg)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2003

The initial location fills me with foreboding, when it begins "Your standing". There is also a dresser mentioned, but it can't be examined. This serves to further heighten my sense of apprehension.

Oh no! Gas is seeping in under the door. It can't be examined, or otherwise interacted with, but this sure sounds bad! What else can I examine in here in my effort to get out? There's a nightstand, which apparently matches the (non-existent) dresser, and a bandage. Apart from that... ah, a television. Hmmm. Well, the room is starting to fill up with gas, but when I examine the television, I watch for a few minutes. I suppose, if I'm that blasé about the gas entering the room, that it must be a regular occurrence around here.

Hmmm... dead. I restart and try a few more things, including holding the bandage over my mouth, but nothing works. In the end, I resort to the walkthrough, only to discover that there is an invisible armoire in the room, presumably a synonym change or confusion with the dresser. Easy mistake to make, changing the name in one place but not the other, but fatal. A quick run through the walkthrough before submission wouldn't have found it either, as the walkthrough is correct. I can sympathise, but ouch.

The next location is "an ordinary hallway with toupe walls and red carpet." Toupe? Is that like a hairy brownish-grey? Though I guess that would be 'taupee' or 'toupee'. This second location mentions your own room back to the south, and a different room to the north. That's all. North is closed off, as it's someone else's bedroom, but the location gives no indication that the hallway also continues to the east.

In the next hallway location, trying to go south results in "Your to tired to break in to this guy's room right now." This immediately struck me as another typical amateur-IF nonsense reason for disallowing actions. I've seen this "You're too tired ..." silliness in other games. Radical Al's Kingdom of Amphibia does the same thing to prevent you removing your backpack, and that isn't really the sort of association you want to call up in a reviewer's mind.

Eventually, I arrive "to the men's bathroom" [sic], where someone has "wrote" [sic] some graffiti on the wall. It also, ominously, contains the body of Carl, a security guard and my buddy. Even more ominously, you cannot 'x carl', which just seems like synonym laziness to me.

And if I'm the janitor, wouldn't I need to be able to go into the women's washroom, regardless of the contents of my pants? Apparently not. I wonder who cleans it?

In another hallway, this time outside the main office, I try to go east into the office, but "run into the door." So naturally, I try 'open door', only to be told "I don't see any door here." Hmmm.

I then try the supplies cupboard, stocked with shelves and supplies, but neither of them can be examined. Is the point of this room solely to cut yourself coming in?

Then, outside the security office, I see "a screws". Upon examining them, I am told they are "Four phillips head screws", no period or other information. I naturally assumed they were lying on the floor of the hallway. It was upon trying to take them that I discovered they were in fact attached to the wall.

I eventually get through the door and talk to Steve, a security guard. Bear in mind, at this point in the game, I have learned nothing about what is going on, other than that there is an atmospheric lockdown, a murder has been committed with an AK-47, and all the scientists are gone. So I ask Steve about the lockdown, but he knows nothing about it. I try asking him about a few more things, but he is oddly reticent. I finally consult the walkthrough to see what the heck I'm supposed to do with Steve, and find that I should ask him about 'terrorists'. What terrorists? I had no idea terrorists were involved until now, except possibly at a meta/player level, certainly not as my janitor persona.

Do security guards really say things like: "those bullies..." when talking about terrorists? It seems doubtful.

And why can't I ask or tell Steve about Carl? I wanted to ask about Carl to find out when Steve last saw him alive... and I wanted to tell Steve about the murder. Presumably, as fellow security guards, they'd know each other.

On a whim, I march back to the bathroom with Steve and run into Dave Lebling's infamous play-testing bug from Suspect when I 'show body to steve' and find that "Steve isn't impressed." Steve is made of sterner stuff than I would have suspected from his earlier comment about "those bullies". On an aside, why doesn't he respond to "Steven"? Is it like me and my refusal to respond to "Mike"?

In the hallway outside of the control room (elegantly described as looking "like an ordinary Hallway outside of control room to me"), there's no mention of which way the control room lies, but when I do eventually stumble in, I run into the "its/it's" problem. I was wondering when it would show up, and I think this is the first occurrence in this piece. It feels like an old friend.

I was stuck once again for a while, until I discovered that, while reading the lockpicking book only produces the same text as examine, trying to take it causes a lockpick to fall out of it. Why doesn't reading it make this happen? Also, I should be able to open the book and find the lockpick, but the game responds with "I don't know how to open the lockpicking book." Hmm, perhaps with a lockpick then?

I wouldn't quibble about the reading thing so much except that reading the chemicals book does actually read it, not just examine it. The lockpicking book should work the same way. Note: this is why classes can be useful.

There is one interesting thing here, which is the pouring of acid on a lock, which was also found in my very own Risorgimento Represso. It's even the same type of acid, though RR refers to it by its older name of "muriatic acid". Still, funny coincidence.

So I get into the main office and, upon looking under the desk, find "a combination", which upon examination is "a piece of paper with a combonation written on it." A combo-nation? Right, like Trinidad and Tobago, I guess. Of course, 'read combonation', as per the walkthrough, doesn't work, but 'read combination' does. This is entirely in keeping with the obvious fact that the author doesn't know how to spell this word. But if you don't know how to spell it, how can you get it right in some places and wrong in others?

Anyway, I've talked far too long about this game in general, so I shall now proceed with the encouragements.

Author Encouragement:
I can't tell whether this game had any beta-testing, as 'help', 'about', 'credits' and so on don't work, and there is no readme file. I suspect that it did not, given the number of gameplay problems.

This game would benefit greatly from a little bit of work by a competent tester.

The writing and spelling could also use some serious work, and the story needs more of a hook to it, or more of an element of uncovering details about the attack as you go, at least to interest me, anyway.

The NPCs need some work as well, to make Steve more than a two-dimensional cut-out figure, whose only real purpose, as far as I can remember, was to open a door or two.

Also, try to anticipate reasonable actions with the objects you put into your game. If you're going to tell people that they've run into a door, they're likely to try to open it. Don't just put in support for the steps in the walkthrough, or the things you want people to do. IF players like fiddling around with the scenery, trying to open, break, kiss, touch and otherwise interfere with your carefully constructed backdrop. It's part of the fun.

In any case, in short, it's bad, but not unredeemable. It's better than some of the other entries. Good luck on your next effort.

Bedroom Notes:
Why does this have to start in a bedroom? Why do there have to be all these doorways to other bedrooms we can't enter? Why not have started in the janitor's room, amidst brooms, buckets and so on? Or anywhere else, really? Why couldn't one of the useless empty rooms that abound in the game be instead, say, the infirmary, a reasonable location to find the bandage? Well, never mind

W: 1
This had ubiquitous spelling and grammar mistakes, coupled with a rather weak and simplistic story, of the 'take x to location y' type.

A: 2
Not terribly appealing at all. No clear identification of PC or goals of the game, no clear statement of what was going on. 'x me' produces the zero-information content reply of "You look about the same as always."

There were other unanswered questions such as what is this complex where I work? Why is it under attack by terrorists? What do they want?

B: 2
Walkthrough as written does not get you through the game. Admittedly, the puzzle is fairly easy to solve in any case, but by the point you've gotten tired and turned to the walkthrough, you just want to finish, not figure out in which way the walkthrough is broken. Missing synonyms abound, unimplemented objects are rampant, including the armoire, required to solve the game and completely unmentioned in the opening

E: 1
I had little fun with this one either, due mainly to the writing, spelling and implementation problems.

WABE score: 3

Little girl in the big world, by Peter Wendrich

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Aw, isn't that cute?, November 7, 2017
by turthalion (Winnipeg)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2003

I'm not sure what to make of this one. The dual point of view is a little strange, resulting in being unsure how to proceed in some of the puzzles.

The writing was okay. Its main strength was the depth of description for a lot of the items in the game, albeit with awkward phrasing and some really poor spelling in some spots.

All-in-all, fun without a lot of depth.

Author Encouragement:
It's cute, and the two-character viewpoint is interesting too. I'd be interested to see this done in a more established system, such as Inform or TADS, but really just out of curiosity.

The concept might be worth exploring as a full-length game, where some actions need to be performed by Alice, and the others by... er, whatever that other thing was. Of course, I think you'd need a definitive way to switch viewpoints, so that if you tried something as Alice and it didn't work, you could switch viewpoints and try with the other character.

W: 2.5
Serviceable writing, a few awkward phrases. This score would be higher if the story was a little more compelling, or had more to it. There were also quite a few spelling errors, the "it's/its" problem, spacing issues.

A: 2.5
Cute, in a brief "Zip! Was that it?" kind of way.

B: 2.5
Didn't find any outright bugs, but a lot of the puzzles seemed to have arbitrary solutions, or weren't sufficiently clued (such as pulling the clock).

E: 2.5
Some fun, but nothing special. It was likeable, but not consistently.

WABE score: 5

shadows on the mirror, by Chrysoula Tzavelas

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Fine storytelling in a puzzle-light game, November 7, 2017
by turthalion (Winnipeg)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2003

All right, this review is very brief, as I don't have too much to say about this one that isn't favourable.

It was an interesting little game that I felt could benefit from a bit more information revealed about the back-story. On the plus side, I ended up replaying a number of times as a result, trying to glean all the information.

The game was not terribly difficult except for realising the word I had to use to examine a particular item on the NPC.

Author Encouragement:
What can I say? I really enjoyed this one. You should definitely feel encouraged to write more.

W: 4.5
The writing really drew me into this story, in spite of my not being a fan of character-interaction based IF. I spotted no obvious spelling or grammatical errors, which was a welcome change.

A: 3.5
Interesting and appealing, but as mentioned, this isn't really my type of IF. That being said, it was still very well done. Might be a 4 or 4.5 if I liked this sort of thing better.

B: 4
No bugs that I could spot. The only difficulty arose from not knowing the word to use to examine a particular item on the NPC.

E: 4
Pretty entertaining, the story-telling being its biggest strength. Very minimal, and no particularly complicated puzzles or anything.

WABE score: 8
This game may have benefited from being played after a few bad ones.

Hercules First Labor, by Robert Carl Brown

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
I can also see: nothing of interest., November 7, 2017
by turthalion (Winnipeg)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2003

In homage to this game's method of displaying what objects are in the room, let me just say that "I can also see: nothing of interest."

An HTML game, that pays homage to Scott Adams adventures. Well, it begins with the same unspecified plot that most SA games did, too, as far as I can remember.

The first thing I notice is the edit box, prepended with "Tell me what to do?", which is posed as a question, when it is really a command. Never mind. I type 'about' for game information, only to discover that hitting in the edit box does not result in the command getting processed, at least not in Mozilla 1.4. So I continually have to hit <TAB> after typing my commands, and then <ENTER>. Annoying.

I tried it briefly in IE, but that was even more annoying, as IE takes forever to process Javascript. In general, pages that are really long seem to parse very poorly in IE (though Microsoft refuse to admit this is a problem, but that's another story).

It's never a good sign when the initial location contains two objects under the "I can also see" line, and when the first is examined, the game responds "What ?!", and when the second is examined, the game responds "I see nothing unusual." The room description itself is likewise sparse, saying only "I'm in a Hotel Room in Bed". Of course, 'examine bed' results in "What ?!".

Eventually, I get up, to find myself "in a Hotel Room by Bed", where I can also see "TV" and "Bed". By the way, have I mentioned that I dislike odd capitalisations of objects in IF? Well, I do.

I 'examine television' only to receive "What ?!", a message I am rapidly tiring of. 'Examine tv' works, but television is an obvious synonym that should have been foreseen... especially as it's the "correct" name for the device.

I explore the hotel room, which seems to be five or six completely unnecessary locations, all of which mention their exits, but make no mention of what is truly in that direction.

I eventually get to Mycenae, and figure out what I'm supposed to do. Many, many pointless locations follow, with absolutely minimalist descriptions, and pointless, confusing puzzles. In the rare places where items or people are described with more than one word, the writing is pretty insipid or downright confusing.

Consider the following response to 'examine molorchus':

Molorchus looks like you'd expect the poor workman he is.


The puzzles, such as they are, do not make a lot of sense to me, even after the fact. I would never have figured out that I have to talk to Molorchus more than once, because the first time I spoke to him, all he said was "Welcome to Cleonae", leading me to believe that was all he was there for. He then sends you to get the bow from his house. Fine, all well and good, and I moved on, little realising that I needed to speak to him again, so that the arrows would then magically appear at his house. How did he do this, when I was just in the house and didn't see them, and I know he hasn't left his post at the gate?

The kicker came near the end when, after wandering aimlessly around the map trying to find the lion, I consulted the walkthrough and found that I had to refer to an item that I hadn't seen through the whole game, and which wasn't mentioned in my inventory, in order to proceed.

Author Encouragement:
A hotel room is pretty close to a bedroom, but not quite, so you earn a thank you for not starting in a bedroom.

I admire the effort that went into creating your own parser in HTML, but I think you might be better off with one of the established ones, if you want your game to have wide audience appeal.

In addition, the homage to Scott Adams is very nice, but I believe we have moved beyond that era. When I want a two-word parser game with minimal descriptions, I dust off some of the old classics. But in a 2003 IFComp, I'm looking for a little more.

I just feel that by doing the homage, you've really limited yourself. The parameters you've chosen for your entry don't really allow you to properly demonstrate the writing skills you may have.

W: 1
The writing isn't great. Conversations lack any form of quotes, descriptions for rooms are non-existent, and while locations make mention of the available exits, they make no mention of what lies in those directions.

Ultimately, there just isn't enough writing here to make any impression. I will say however, that at least there weren't too many spelling mistakes, compared to some of the other entries in IF Comp 2003. That doesn't make it good writing, but it at least makes it less painful.

A: 1
It's hard for a game to have much appeal, or immerse you in the story with such short descriptions of everything.

B: 2
I really lost my enthusiasm for two-word parsers right around the time I first played an Infocom game, in about 1983. I haven't revised my opinion of them in the last thirty years. I don't like them. And having a parser that responds "It's beyond my power to do that." if you attempt to travel the wrong direction from a room is not my idea of fun. At the very least, I want a "You can't go that way" message.

E: 1
I did not really gain any entertainment value from this game. Don't forget, it's up against games with intriguing storylines, impressive puzzles, engrossing NPCs, and engaging writing.

WABE score: 2.5

Sardoria, by Anssi Räisänen

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
You return your cursor to the shell prompt and ascend the directory tree., November 7, 2017
by turthalion (Winnipeg)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2003

What is up with Alan anyway? First APUS has really odd behaviour when I try to restart, and now Sardoria does too, but it's not the same behaviour.

When I type 'restart' in a game, and the game then asks "Are you sure (RETURN confirms) ?", I expect that typing 'y' or 'yes' and enter would cause the game to restart. But no, you have to just hit enter. If you dare respond to the question, the game will not restart.

The initial location seemed decent in terms of the way the location was described. The steps are described as going up to the west, and in a nice touch, both 'w' and 'u' take you there.

After struggling around searching in the basement for some time, I finally resorted to the hints, which didn't help. I had already placed the bottle on the steps, and I was struggling to find some way of attracting someone's attention so that they would unlock the door and come in, thus springing the trap. Knocking on the door, bashing it, screaming, shouting, all to no avail.

Even placing the bottle on the steps is a pain; the game doesn't understand 'put bottle on step', as 'step' is not a recognised word. 'Steps' is, but I envisioned it as putting the bottle on one step, not multiple ones. Oh well.

I finally managed to find the key, after 'search ceiling', and at that point, unlocked the door and was able to get out and have the game progress.

I persevered through a number of puzzles whose solutions seemed arbitrary, or poorly clued. Pushing the tiles in particular was frustrating, as the objects and tiles were all so similar and open to wide interpretation. The lack of varied feedback from pushing the tiles also contributed to this frustration.

I struggled through to the gate on the stairs, where a bug ended up leaving me stranded (details in scoring section below).

Author Encouragement:
Thank you for not starting in a bedroom!

The writing in Sardoria is quite decent, serviceable to the story. I'm continually shamed at these competently written games from non-native English speakers. It makes me flush with embarrassment over some of the things produced by people who've grown up speaking the language.

Better cluing of the puzzles would help. I would especially encourage you to provide responses for things the player is likely to try that aren't the solution. A good example would be when the player tries to get the ham, only to be told "You can't reach the ham." This kind of dismissive answer sounds like a "Don't worry about this item" kind of response, and had me looking elsewhere for a solution to exiting the kitchen. It might be better to indicate that the ham is out of reach, but not by much, thus possibly pushing the player in the right direction of trying a pot.

W: 3
Writing is competent, in terms of lack of spelling mistakes, proper grammar. Story itself is unclear, PC motivation is unknown (though I found out, post-comp, that 'x me' provides a little more detail--though it makes me wonder why the game didn't begin with that blurb).

A: 2
This game was not terribly appealing. Lack of PC motivation resulting in lack of player motivation. May also suffer from being played after Sophie, Curse of Manorland and Apus. I'm tired of games with poor implementation, completely unclued puzzles and items of interest buried in the scenery.

B: 1
There were a few parser quirks, lots of guessing the verb required. One major bug found that rendered the game unfinishable.

After opening the golden box, I messed with a few of the items (taking a couple of them) before figuring out the right thing to do to open the gate. The gate swung open, so I decided to continue up. The game responded with "You return the jewels into the box and ascend the staircase." This continued happening, and I was unable to move on. I also tried 'enter gate', which resulted in "You return the jewels into the box and pass through the gate."

I was never able to get past this point, even after trying to reclose the box, replace the items, verify that I was empty-handed and so on. As I also couldn't go back down, and the game provides no undo, I was very neatly snookered.

E: 2
Puzzles make little or no sense to me. Again, it's hard to figure out what items in the environment should be interacted with, objects are buried in scenery, etc. In extreme cases, you don't even see certain items until you examine other items. For example, examining the bed reveals that there is a nightstand beside it.

If you try to go 's' from the kitchen, you get a warning message not to do so. Who's to know that, once you're holding the lid, you are allowed to proceed in that direction? Puzzles should be better clued, e.g. looking at the ham hanging from the ceiling should give a clue that it could be used as an offensive weapon, e.g. "The ham looms overhead, large and dangerous. You feel a little apprehensive standing underneath it."

WABE score: 4

Episode in the Life of an Artist, by Peter Eastman

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
After the first two, I expected the third widget to be green... widget wasn't., November 7, 2017
by turthalion (Winnipeg)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2003

This game begins in a bedroom, and has you get up, get dressed, make breakfast... lest there be any doubt, let me emphasise: I do not want to do this in a game.

I find getting up, showered, finding clothes to wear, making breakfast and so on a pain in real life. I do not want to spend the first 20 moves doing all that. Especially when, after struggling with the pain of making the breakfast, the game renders all my struggles pointless by having me grab a heretofore invisible pop-tart and leaping out the door.

I don't have a whole lot to say about this game. The writing was competent, and I didn't spot any errors that I can recall.

The use of first person perspective took some getting used to, especially as, when I died, the game still printed the "You have died..." message.

Overall, the game was enjoyable, with a quirky little story. I thought the end-game portion was a little out of tune with the spirit of the rest of the piece, lending a somewhat incongruous dark tone to what had been very light-hearted until then.

One problem with the game was that, right at the end, after going up the stairs, a paragraph of text was printed, and then cleared off the screen by the start of the letter, not even making it into the scrollback buffer. I had to turn on scripting and then check the text file to see the paragraph in question. This was with HTML TADS version 3.0B on WinXP. I didn't check it on the Linux box or with another interpreter.

One other minor annoyance was the circuit breaker. I grew up with the knowledge that circuit breakers can be open or closed, thus was a little frustrated upon trying to close, open, pull, push and flip the breaker. I soon figured it out, after examining the breaker and finding it was described as "off". I have no objection to this terminology, but it would have been nice if some of the other verbs had worked as well.

The outtakes were a neat idea, but they shared the problem of the final letter, in that they printed agonisingly slowly. I'm a fast reader, and I don't like slow-paced reading where I... feel... I... have... to... actively... wait... for... the... next... word. Oh well. I ended up giving up on the outtakes, due to the printing speed.

All in all though, I think this (along with shadows on the mirror) is the best of what I've seen so far.

Author Encouragement:
I don't think there's really much to say here. It was a well-written little story that I got a kick out of. In some locations, the writing seemed more simply workmanlike, but well, how much can you do with hallways and the like? Still, there's some room for improvement, which isn't always a bad thing.

The biggest suggestion I can make is not to start in the bedroom.

And on that note, on we go to the...

Bedroom Notes:
This game didn't really need to start in a bedroom, did it? Much less one which required me to perform all the associated tasks.

You might be better served by starting the story "in medias res", or in the middle of the action or events.

Would the story suffer at all if it opened on the bus, with the main character excited about being off to another day of work? Okay, you'd miss the little jokes about hygiene and leaving the stove on, but it's a better hook... the player immediately wants to know what this exciting job is, and sticks around to find out. Better than having to slog through showering and getting dressed, something which most of us do every day, some of my relatives excepted

W: 4
The writing is clean and well-presented. No jarring awkwardness to the phrasing or conversation to lift me out of the story.

A: 3
This game appealed to me in a neat little way, but the appeal category suffers from the initial bedroom and kitchen chores.

B: 4
A few missing synonyms and verbs that would have made the whole thing a little more complete, but a commendable coding effort.

E: 3
I had fun with this one, and it would have been a 4 for entertainment value, but for the opening "getting dressed and doing the cooking" scene.

WABE score: 7

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