Reviews by mstahl

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View this member's reviews by tag: Author Ramble Author Review Blurb Home-Brew Homebrew IF Comp 2015 Nostalgia Old School Ramble Retrospective
1-6 of 6

New England Gothic, by Simba

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A Beautifully Frustrating Adventure, October 20, 2018

I'm really conflicted about this game, so I've decided to defer rating it at this time. I first discovered this game as a young teen back in the mid 90's. On one hand, the writing is quite evocative and creates an amazing atmosphere that has stuck with me for over 20 years, but on the other hand, the implementation is so horrendously bad that it inspired me at the age of 15 to create my own game completely from scratch (which currently holds a higher rating than this game, incidentally). I've always wanted to complete this game but I can't say that I've ever gotten very far with it due to its lack of playability. In the spirit of Zork, this game is enormous and a nightmare to map. There are several locations where you will be insta-killed simply by going in a certain direction. When you die in this game, you don't just die; you get completely kicked out of the program, as if to say "You suck! Go home!". Not the strongest design decision. I feel like this could be a 3 star or even a 4 star game if it were to be ported to a modern development system, properly implemented, and redesigned with a bit of conventional wisdom. I feel like there might be a lot of value buried here, but I've yet to find a way to tap into it fully.

Cactus Blue Motel, by Astrid Dalmady

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A Very High Recommendation From A Die-Hard Parser Guy, July 12, 2018

I'm a parser guy. I once believed that I'd never be able to give five stars to a Twine game for various parser-bias reasons. Then I played Cactus Blue Motel. And then I subsequently redefined my IF schema. Intriguing, Engaging, Inspiring, Thought Provoking. Life-Changing? Perhaps. This is an interactive story; this is a game; this is literature; this is art. Do yourself a favor and experience it for yourself.

John's Fire Witch, by John Baker

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
What An Awesome Game!, July 12, 2018

This is most definitely one of my all time favorites. It also really inspired me in my early IF endeavors. I didn't actually get too far in this one as a kid when I stumbled upon it back in the 90's, but I came back and beat it as an adult just a few years ago; and without any hints, which is somewhat rare for me. It just captured my imagination and sucked me in, sticking with me through the many years. I won't lie; the puzzles in this one might prove pretty tough for some, but they are very clever and logical, and they are actually really well hinted. The hints are extremely subtle though, so you really have to keep your eyes open for them, and then you have to actually realize that they're hints (exactly how hints should be, in my opinion). The final puzzle is so clever and painfully logical, that I remember slapping myself on the leg and shouting when I finally got it.

I'm still searching for John so that I can "buy him lunch". I'll probably have to adjust for inflation though, don't you think? It would be a dream if John came back to the IF community and gave us a follow up, even if it has nothing to do with the Fire Witch. Actually, a sequel would be pretty darn awesome too. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, if memory serves.

You gotta try this one out! It took me several days to beat this one, despite the fact that it's considered to be a relatively short game. It was so engaging though, that I just kept chipping away at it. It's uncommon for me to be so driven and determined to beat a game of this difficulty.
Bottom line; it's a very fair game, and it's guaranteed to satisfy if you put in the time and effort. It's a true classic, but it needs a revival.

Grandma Bethlinda's Variety Box, by Arthur DiBianca

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A Puzzle Box Well Worth Solving!, February 24, 2018

Arthur DiBianca; quirky, imaginative, witty, innovative, minimalistic (in the sense of the interactiveness if not of the writing). The philosophy presented here, as far as IF design is concerned, seems to be "less is more"; and he makes a strong case for it. As streamlined as ever, his three verb interface (x,u,z) makes for a straightforward, frustration-less experience (aside from forgetting and actually trying to use a traditional verb). This is DiBianca merely hinting at the scope of his design space and world-building capabilities. While a few of his signature puzzles are sure to delight most IF fans, solving this puzzle box does provide a bit of tedium towards the end. Even still, I was able to solve the box without a considerable amount of trouble, and without needing to consult the walkthrough (that's always a good thing).
With that said, I'd be torn between giving this a 6 or a 7 in the Comp, so 3.5 stars here would be nice if it were possible. I guess my bias toward his inventive, unique style will have to dictate a four then, even though DiBianca's more recent entries are sure to impress to an even greater extent!

Toiletworld, by Chet Rocketfrak

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Exactly What You'd Expect, November 18, 2016

I realized from the get-go that this was likely to go straight down the tubes, but I was vaguely intrigued by the promise of sophomoric triviality. I moved around a bit from toilet to toilet, came to the conclusion that there was nothing more to see here, and slapped a score on it. I was slightly amused so I gave it a 2/10. I don't even know how to use Inform 7 and I'm pretty sure I could have tossed this together in about 15 minutes. On the other hand, it appeared that the author continued to develop the game long after I had finished playing it. I think I could say that playing this game kind of made me feel like crap; so I guess in that respect, it was quite effective, even genius perhaps. Nah...

Questor's Quest, by Mark Stahl

From the Author

Related reviews: IF Comp 2015, Author Review, Author Ramble, Ramble, Blurb, Retrospective, Nostalgia, Old School, Home-Brew, Homebrew

I wanted to say a few things about my game. Questor's Quest has a reputation for having an "old-school", "retro" style. The reason for this, despite being released in 2015, is that it is in fact a very old game. I first designed this game back in 1996 as a high school freshman, and did most of the initial programming my sophomore year. At the time, I had only ever played a couple of old Infocom games on our old Apple IIe, and a couple of amateur games that I had found on the web. I found that there were a lot of IF conventions, even then, that I didnít care for. I decided that I would make my game from scratch, and that I would create it in such a way as I saw fit. That said, I always intended for the game to be unconventional. I was completely self-taught in QBASIC, the language I programmed the game in, and I embarked on a quest of my own, overcoming many program design problems and interpreter limitations. My coding was pretty sloppy, and my spelling was even worse (and still is), but working on the game has always been an absolute joy, never tedious. There was something incredibly satisfying about creating the game completely from scratch, and doing it in exactly my way, seeing it come to life on the screen.

I finished the basic skeleton of the game by the end of my sophomore year, and it lay dormant for many years afterward. It was little more than responses to the correct actions, phrased in very limited ways, and very limited implementation of anything else what-so-ever. In other words, entirely unplayable! If thatís not bad enough, the original game was actually IN ALL CAPS!!! (I dunnoÖ seemed like a good idea at the the timeÖ). I picked it up some twelve years later and started fiddling with it again, enhancing previously simplistic puzzles and fleshing out character interactions. I decided that there needed to be an entire series of hints regarding the pearl in order to make the puzzle fair. I pecked away at the game for the next several years while I was in music school.

Essentially, Questorís Quest had become a pet project that spanned almost 20 years of my life. I donít know if I actually believed that I would ever really finish the game and release it, as I was unaware at the time of the vibrant IF renaissance that had been going on for years and years. In any event, I eventually became aware of the IF Comp, and with the encouragement of friends and family that had enjoyed the game, I worked feverishly to get the game into a somewhat polished state in time for the 2015 fall competition. Yes, this included REMOVING CAPS FROM THE ENTIRE TEXT OF THE GAME!!! I figured Iíve got this old, old game sitting here, and it needs to get released, for better or for worse. And so, here it is, in all of its innocent, teenaged, enthusiastic, and optimistic glory.

I intended the game to be intuitive, particularly for people who had never played IF before. As a result, Iíve actually found that while seasoned IF players have struggled with the puzzle designs that have been described as ďtoo hardĒ and ďuncuedĒ, complete newbies have managed to complete the game almost entirely on their own, and without the aid of a walkthrough. I think it is absolutely essential to leave your expectations and preconceptions about IF at the door if youíre going to play this game. I think youíll find the game to be at least 95% fair if you take the time to learn the rules of a game that is insistent upon making its own rules. That said, Iíll tell you right now that the powder is (Spoiler - click to show)underneath another object that you have to MOVE (and you donít have to use caps).

There is actually a lot of subtlety in the puzzle designs that has been lost on a majority of the people who have played and reviewed this game. I experimented with an object that is only noticed the first time you enter a screen. If you missed it the first time, you have to return to the location to search based on a hint from another character. The point of the puzzle is remembering or mapping what you saw in a particular location, even though it has changed. I also explored an idea I had never seen before; directional verbs. There are a few puzzles that may seem illogical, but they actually make a lot of sense if youíve found the clues necessary to dissect them. Some puzzles simply require a very close attention to detail, such as the last major puzzle of the game. I think a lot of the value of this game comes from interacting with characters and gathering clues. Itís really important to ASK ABOUT certain items and characters, specifically the pearl, lamp, witch, titan, and powder. For the people who gave up quickly and resorted to the walkthrough without really delving into the game, yeah, Iíll bet the puzzles didnít make a lot of sense and seemed unfair and uncued.

In any event, it is what it is. Some people really liked the game. A lot of people didnít think much of it. A lot of those people were either unwilling or did not have the time (understandably) to really explore it fully. I still believe that there is value in this if youíre willing to dig into it. Would I ever choose to develop another game in this manner? Of course not (Inform 7, here I come). Do I have any regrets about designing, developing, and releasing this game in this manner? Of course not. I love the game and I loved creating it, but that is because I lived with it for such long, long time. It lives on in my mind, as do the classic adventure games of the 80ís and early 90ís that inspired it.

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