Reviews by Harry Coburn

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View this member's reviews by tag: absurd AIF games one-room shareware demo incomplete Speed-IF
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DOUCHEBAG -- An Existential Adventure, by Unattributed

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Needs a tester, January 18, 2015
by Harry Coburn (Atlanta, GA)

Unfortunately, I could not get very far into this game due to some poor verb implementations. This game could really use some thorough going-over by a beta tester or two. I got stopped cold by the bartender puzzle:

(Spoiler - click to show)I had the crumpled ten-dollar bill from kicking the dog and entered the bar. I knew I couldn't pay for a martini by using my card from previous tries. I sat at the stool and tried "order martini". The bartender ask for payment. The following commands all failed:

pay bartender
pay bartender with bill
pay bartender with ten-dollar bill
show bartender the ten-dollar bill
give bartender the ten-dollar bill
give the ten-dollar bill to bartender
pay for martini
pay for martini with ten-dollar bill
put bill on bar (it gets put on the bar, if you're not carrying the straw, but the bartender ignores it.)


There are also disambiguation errors, door troubles, and missing descriptions. I'm interested in playing more, since it's fun to play villains sometimes. However, the game is getting in the way of the story.


Castle of the Red Prince, by C.E.J. Pacian

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Shade Movement in a Different Direction, January 13, 2015
by Harry Coburn (Atlanta, GA)

I just played this after finishing off Andrew Plotkin's Shade. In most IF, the basic navigational unit is the room. In Castle of the Red Prince and Shade it is the object. The movement system in both games have some similarities. In Castle, players move about a wide spatial area by examining objects. Standard movement functions don't work. This lets the player leap about the game space easily. You can find an object and immediately use it if you can remember the noun you need.

In Shade, the feel is far more claustrophobic, but it has a similar movement structure. Movement within the nooks of the apartment is also done by examining them. Items in the nooks can get examined directly upon discovery after they've been viewed once.

This type of navigation works well for very small IF games. Disambiguation errors would grow rapidly without careful crafting otherwise. Castle does it well, but I also feel that the story could have been stronger without sacrificing the navigation, as noted in other reviews.


Survive, by Baltasar

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Flawed game that could have been more, January 8, 2015
by Harry Coburn (Atlanta, GA)

This game has a writing style that's more like a visual novel than parser-based IF. Looking beyond the typos, (I wonder if English is the writer's first language?) the text is presented in long portions of little snippets with little player interaction.

Most of the choices the player can do don't amount to much, and the walkthrough says as such. The game part is basically one small timed puzzle.

This could have been so much more. I wanted to be the German solider caught behind British lines, rather than just read about him. I wanted to talk more with the NPCs. A few conversations would have sparked this up much more, especially before you get to the section with the puzzle.

I suggest that this author try Photopia to see how linear IF with few puzzles can be done well.


The Absolute Worst IF Game in History, by Dean Menezes

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
As it says on the tin, or is it?, January 8, 2015
by Harry Coburn (Atlanta, GA)
Related reviews: absurd

There's an irony about this game that tickles me, if you can even call it a game. Why is this the absolute worst IF game in history? First, it uses the most tired trope in all adventure games, get Macguffin item X from maze Y. Then when you go into the maze, it has the conceit to use the classic Adventure maze description phrase. It's like the game was designed to tick off IF players.

If this game was just submitted on its own it would be a joke game, and not a particularly funny one, but the fact that it was submitted to the IF Comp as a game for consideration (it got last place out of 35 entries) just touches me in a really funny way.


Runes, by Deane Saunders
Why mazes are bad, January 8, 2015
by Harry Coburn (Atlanta, GA)

It's good to see games in progress, which is what IntroComp games are about. For an aspiring author, it helps to see some of the scaffolding behind the game. The lack of a feature might teach the reason why it's important to add it.

Runes, is an intro to a game about herbalist lost through the forest. The player wanders through a forest finding random herbs in a maze. That's about all that is coded that I could discover.

In my experience, such mazes are more frustrating than they are worth despite their long history of use in early IF. It is especially frustrating when the exit locations are so clearly labeled in the descriptions but they twist mid-way.

That being said, the premise of an herbalist lost in the forest and needing to use their skills to escape it is an intriguing one.


And So It Goes, by Adam Conover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
My first play of Speed-IF, January 8, 2015
by Harry Coburn (Atlanta, GA)

Speed-IF games are a challenge to authors to write IF in 2 hours around a theme. The theme of this competition was on man's conflict with something. Keeping that in mind, I rather enjoyed this tight little vignette on failure.

I'm still trying to figure out whether there is actually any way to get the five points in the game or if it's a clever bit of commentary. To say much more would ruin this game. I recommend taking 5 minutes of your time to play it.

This game does contain sexual themes, but nothing so vulgar as to be considered pornographic. YMMV.


Uh-Oh, by Scott Covert
A shareware nag demo to a game now lost, January 8, 2015
by Harry Coburn (Atlanta, GA)
Related reviews: shareware demo incomplete

Uh-Oh is a Y2K post-apocalyptic game, but that's not really what the game here is about. The game here is a demon to a larger shareware IF game. The demo divides the game up into five phases with 20 turns per phase before being helpfully pushed to the next stage by the demo fairy. Nag screens are sprinkled throughout with full ordering instructions.

It's an interesting way to do a demo. Unfortunately, the site for ordering the game is now offline. Mailing checks to the address in Canada to get a copy of the full game is delightfully old-school but impractical these days. The full game may now be lost to the dustbin of history.

I also felt it was a poor idea to give the player a taste of each phase of the game. Even with only 20 moves, you get enough of a sense of the overall plot to spoil the story without spoiling the puzzles too badly. For puzzlers that's great, but for people more interested in unfolding the story it's not a good way to draw interest.

The only reason to play this now is to see how one author tried to create a shareware demo for an IF game. If the author ever runs across this review, please consider releasing the full game to IFDB.


Slouching Towards Bedlam, by Star Foster and Daniel Ravipinto

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Still excellent, but shows its age, January 8, 2015
by Harry Coburn (Atlanta, GA)

Slouching Toward Bedlam shows up on a lot of top IF lists for good reason. It has a fascinating premise and excellent replay value. The steampunk touches made me keep playing. I especially enjoyed the (Spoiler - click to show)panopticon.

I've also studied my share of occult topics. The 19th century hermetic and kaballistic references were quite excellent and in context. The reveal of (Spoiler - click to show)knowing it's too late for the player character to get rid of the Logos and dealing with the consequences to drive the endings rather reminded me of the movie Pi.

What do I mean by "shows its age" then? The game feels rather unfinished in places. Notably, certain nouns weren't fleshed out that seemed obvious to me. Also, the parser didn't understand some verbs I expected. I had to look at the solution to get the verb for (Spoiler - click to show)wearing the noose, rather than seeing errors for "put on the noose" "put head in noose" or most annoyingly "hang myself". The latter especially got me when I activated the hangman, tried "kill myself", got "How, exactly", and neither "hang" nor "hanging" worked. I dearly wish the author would revisit the game after all this time and go through it with BENT (see Aaron Reed's book) in mind to flesh out the world, and also fix the parser issues.

That being said, this game is still very much worth your time to play. The core of the game is still sound even after all this time, and that's what counts.



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