Reviews by jkj

parsercomp 2022

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1-4 of 4

Gent Stickman vs Evil Meat Hand, by AZ / ParserCommander

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A line cartoon caper, July 4, 2022
by jkj
Related reviews: parsercomp 2022

# Gent Stickman vs Evil Meat Hand: A line cartoon caper

by "A-Z"

> Interactive Fiction Parser Game WITHOUT TEXT, just hand drawing graphics.
> Gent Stickman, the drawing in the door of the gentleman toilets must go to save Lady, the drawing in the door of ladies toilet, kidnapped by the Evil Meat Hand.

This game draws line cartoon pictures instead of output text, but uses text input. Also with sound effects.

This is one of the most unusual games I've seen for a long time. It definitely deserves points for originality and style. And it's funny!

(Spoiler - click to show)
The mission to save the lady is made obvious from the start, but how to do it?

Playing the game involves immediate death whenever something is done wrong. This is made worse by the fact you have to start again from the beginning. This quickly becomes annoying and the system desperately needs an "undo" feature. Thankfully the game is quite short once the solution to a problem is known.

The user interface could use up arrow to re-edit last command.

The iterative help is interesting, it's pictorial and incremental. However, the initial hints tend to tell you what you already know. I had to use the hints in some places as the solutions are indeed obscure.

I wasted a lot of time trying to make use of the "death" character. However, it seems he is mostly there just to limit the geography, except obscurely right at the end.

There are a few problems:

* You can look left or look right (nice one), but from the top of the new tree, look left and you fall into the spike pit.

* Getting to the castle, eventually i found "jump to castle", whereas jump left or vault didn't work, i just died.

Some of the reaction pictures are hilarious, and there are many extras for things that aren't the expected input.

"call death" at the end is somewhat bogus. I tried this already to maybe chop the tree to bridge the pit, but that didn't work. Why now?

I really enjoyed playing this game. The cartoon graphics make it work despite any frustrations. If this presentation format were expanded and polished, it could be really quite good.

Conclusion: awesome but frustrating in places.

Of Their Shadows Deep, by Amanda Walker
A poetic word game, July 4, 2022
by jkj
Related reviews: parsercomp 2022

# Of Their Shadows Deep: A poetic word game

By Amanda Walker.

> Special thanks to my wonderful testers: Drew Cook, Dark Star, Jade, Zed Lopez, Mathbrush, Eva Radke, Edo Rajh, and Mike Russo. I could never get anything done without their generous help.

(Spoiler - click to show)
Initially i didn't really want to play this game as it is described to be about dementia. Not especially exciting i thought, but thankfully, playing the game, it is not so much directly about dementia but rather inspired by it.

The writing is excellent, vivid and image provoking. The game claims to have "graphics", but rather than illustrations they are, in fact, _pictures_ of words that you need to collect. Quite original.

The game mechanic is almost entirely solving riddles. Either you're good at riddles or you're not. It's like those cryptic crossword puzzles. Some people just good at them and some are terrible. I'm terrible. But thankfully, the riddles here are not super cryptic and are solvable after a little reasonable thought.

The game doesn't exactly have a story per se, but a sequence of riddle puzzles yielding words and objects that allow the player to proceed to the next stage. As such the gameplay is essentially linear.

Nevertheless, the game is quite novel and interesting, where the words and riddles are also presented in a poetic frame as a kind-of reward.

I didn't use the hints or walkthrough, so the difficulty is nicely balanced and enjoyable to play.

Although this game was for "parser comp", like always, it would have helped to have clickable links and word completion for entry in the user interface.

I didn't find any bugs, although i did get some minor oddities.


>stroke cat
That's not something you want or need to do.

>light candle
This dangerous act would achieve little.

You can see a cat here.
>eat cat
You aren't hungry. Your stomach is knotted with grief.

>look gate
A rusty gate in the barbed wire fence.
>remove it
You aren't wearing the rusty gate.

If you're missing something toward the end, the game gently reminds you, which is neat.

> You have an urge to return to the ravine. You have a nagging feeling there's something there you're missing.

The words you collect, predictably, come together for the end-game puzzle which is also nicely done and presented in an ASCII word picture.

In conclusion, well worth playing for the novel game mechanic and inspired writing, although the puzzle mechanic is essentially all the same, albeit well presented.

Alchemist's Gold, by Garry Francis

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fantastic old-school parser adventure, July 4, 2022
by jkj
Related reviews: parsercomp 2022

# Alchemist's Gold: Fantastic old-school parser adventure

> Concept by Lucian Blebea and Mike Manard.
> Game design and coding by Garry Francis.
> Play testing by Christopher Merriner, Dee Cooke, Edo Rajh, Jade J Aincioa, Phi> l Riley, Rovarsson and Stu Dobbie.

(Spoiler - click to show)
This is an old-school parser adventure where you have to get the alchemist's gold. It features a medium sized map of about 20 locations, not including a forest maze.

I really enjoyed playing this. The game has fantastic attention to detail. Almost everything i tried had descriptions and explanations.

The game mechanic is well thought through and the writing good. There are only a few places where you can go wrong and "die", but "undo" fixes this nicely.

The puzzles work well. I was stuck for a while escaping from the house, thinking it had to do with the log, fireplace, sack or window. But it's not. perhaps these are there deliberately for distraction. But generally the difficulty balance is good as i didn't resort to hints or walkthrough.

The game features a maze, but gives you an ASCII map to navigate it. Thankfully, this made it interesting rather than frustrating. I found the ASCII map diagram a bit weird at first, but it soon made sense.

I had no real problems with the game system, although it would have been nice to have clickable links and word completion for input. Some illustrations would also be nice to add atmosphere.

Some silly things i tried were amusing because they were handled, such as;

> stand on chair
You've been trudging through the forest all day. If you were to stand on the lounge chair, you would leave muddy footprints all over it. Be a little more respectful.

> hide
This is no time for playing hide and seek.

A few other things came out a bit wrong, probably due to default handlers. Examples:

> remove wire
You're not wearing the fence.

> stroke squirrel
The squirrel is soft and cuddly like a child's teddy bear.
> stroke shepherd
You don't feel anything unexpected.

> x axle
You get down on your hands and knees to look under the cart. Yep, it's certainly got a broken axle. That cart won't be going anywhere any time soon.
> mend it
That's not broken.

> snuff candle
That's not a verb I recognise.
> extinguish candle
You blow out the candle.

> light it
(with the lit candle)
The log is too large to light with a mere candle. You would need to chop it up into smaller pieces or get some kindling to start a fire.
> chop log
You would achieve nothing by this.

Help and hints are boilerplate messages rather than in context. Eg.

> hint
Examine everything you find and draw a map.


There is a `score` command to report progress, which neatly adds to 100% when complete.

In conclusion, a detailed and nicely implemented enjoyable game and well recommended if you like fantasy parser games. Perhaps add some hints or clues and i couldn't find a walkthrough (although there may well be one).

The Impossible Stairs, by Mathbrush

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The Impossible Stairs: A time travel enigma, July 3, 2022
by jkj
Related reviews: ParserComp 2022

> An interactive fiction by Mathbrush.
> Written in Dialog. Authorized sequel to The Impossible Bottle by Linus Åkesson.
> Release 1. Serial number 220621.
> Dialog compiler version 0m/03. Library version 0.46.

WARNING: Review contains spoilers!

(Spoiler - click to show)

This game has so few rooms it feels more like an escape game. It is set in just a handful of locations within a suburban house. Although, because of time travel, the rooms are a lot more interesting as the content and descriptions change with time.

I didn't read any hints nor the walkthrough, so at first I didn't appreciate the mechanic that going up and down the stairs moves the player forward and backward in time. The mechanism is quite neatly done and i was impressed by the slickness.

I must confess to liking time travel games which are often quite difficult to engineer and to pull off smoothly while avoiding paradoxes. In this game, although you travel in time, you cannot meet yourself. Although it _is_ possible to move things around.

The characters are well done, fairly believable, and their dialog fluid. The game clearly sets out the objectives, of which mostly it is to make dinner. A somewhat underwhelming mission for a game where you can time travel. I also found it a bit sad to go forward in time to where people you had just talked to had then passed away.

The user interface is adequate but limited. Clickable text and conversation menu options are not new anymore and the presentation of these should definitely be improved. Clickable text should appear like a web link, while dialog options scroll up the screen after selection rather than disappear, looking quite amateur.

The user interface features a kind-of text-based action bar that floats at the bottom, just above the input line. This displays a handy list of things you can do, which can save a lot of typing. Although i found this sometimes gave away too much and sometimes suggested things that you couldn't, in fact, do. Personally, i would dispense with this altogether (it also looks rather ugly), replacing it with context sensitive input word completion.

The "Dialog" game system needs a bit of work for ambiguous terms. At one point i received the comedy lines:

> get leg
Did you want to take the leg or the drumstick?
> the leg
That's part of yourself.

Otherwise I had no problems with the parser or input system, except some minor keyboard focus issues.

The gameplay involves going forward and backward in time, mostly to collect ingredients from the pantry. There's a sequence where you have to pull up then re-plant a tree sapling so it can grow after a storm, but somehow the corresponding tree house still contains the dinner plates from its previous time line. Well, who knows maybe it does, or did. But, I never figured out what to do with all the cereal boxes. Perhaps they're just there to mark time.

The game won't let you do some things that you could, in reality, clearly do, such as eating the chicken drumstick or the walnuts:

> eat walnuts
You don't want to spoil your appetite!

This would obviously ruin the puzzle, but it's an interesting design question for player agency.

If there were points for potatoes, i would award top marks here. A huge potato fan myself, i was chuffed to read the lines:

> eat potatoes
Did you want to eat the au gratin potatoes, the mashed potatoes, or the french fries?

Regarding points, the game has no `score` command, although this is not needed since the, nicely implemented, "chores list" clearly indicates your goals and those left to achieve.

The "Ada" puzzle is rather long-winded, having to move things around in time in several sessions until it begun to get tedious. The puzzle was nevertheless excellently implemented, but I would have preferred the effort used to instead implement perhaps an additional game puzzle and the Ada puzzle be maybe somewhere around half it's given complexity.

I didn't resort to the walkthrough, which means the game difficulty is well balanced. But I would also say the content didn't really grab me. The Grandma character was rather clichéd. Additionally, even for "parser games", it would be nice to see a few illustrations to add atmosphere, while the cover art was basic and jejune.

The help system seems to be just a boilerplate generic message and list of commands, although a walkthrough is provided for anyone who gets stuck.

In conclusion, I would say this game is nicely done albeit having somewhat pedestrian objectives where the implementation effort could have been used for a much more engaging design.

* Writing 4
* Story 3
* Characters 4
* Implementation 4
* Puzzles 3
* Use of multimedia 1
* Help and Hints 1
* Extras 1

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