Reviews by Victor Gijsbers
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View this member's reviews by tag: bleak brute-force Combat Comedy connect CYOA dungeon crawl fantasy horror IF Comp 2007 infocom innovative joke linguistic logic one-room parody phonebooth Political politics puzzle random death rogue-like short snack SpeedIF time travel unfair win on the first attempt
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(This game was part of BoucherComp. The premise if the Comp was: "No one has ever escaped from Lowell Prison. Why? Because there's only two ways out of here. One is dead in a pine box, and the other is that big wide-open gate over there, which I ask you seriously to please, please stay away from.")
Okay, so this is a SpeedIF game that is based on the infamous Pick up the Phone Booth and Die. It is, therefore, a very short and very sparsely implemented joke. But it is a joke without a twist. It is just PuTPBad plus the premise of the Comp. As far as I could ascertain, nothing else has been done with it.
This game didn't make me laugh, and that is pretty fatal for a one-joke game.
Connect is a solid game, if rather short. There are a couple of fine puzzles, which are mostly quite easy, although one of them was (both from my own experience and from what I read on the newsgroup) somewhat underclued. The writing is okay, and the setting might be interesting if it had been worked out a little bit more. But what is certainly most interesting about Connect is, not quite unexpectedly, the special connect ability.
This ability allows the PC to read the thoughts both of those who are spatially separated from him, and from those who used to be in the location he is in now. The connect mode can be turned on and off throughout play, basically giving you two different sets of 'examine' messages.
I found the result quite interesting: you have both the all-too-standard 'physical' description of objects, and another, more 'mental' description. I would love to see a larger game where the possibilities of this command are really explored (with due consideration of the pitfalls, of course: just having two modes of examine might get old quick). In Connect, this is never really done: you use the special command to find out how you might get past the guards, and that is more or less it.
Still, the idea is good, and worth a look.
Except for one bug in the competition release that allows you to bypass a puzzle, the implementation is well done.
The great bane of IF is games that are too short. This, too, is a game that is too short. A couple of puzzles, the first vague ideas about a setting, an exploration of just the first possibilities of the connect ability, and then the game is finished. The end result is certainly not bad, but it is too forgettable.
The City by Sam Barlow is a short, bleak game. You start out in a bland room, with only a video recorder, a tape, and a remote control. So what do you do? You watch the tape. On it, you see a person just like you, in a bland room.
It won't take you long to realise that this person is you. And then the very boredom of your situation (which is equal for the character and the player) will make you want to break out of the situation that has been set up for you.
The first time I played it, I concluded that this was impossible. It is not--or at least not as impossible as it may seem at first glance. You should persevere: there is more to the story than just the first two location.
But even if you manage to reach the rest of the game and play it through completely, it will not leave you satisfied. There are a number of problems with The City, some of which could have been easily solved, and some of which couldn't. Solving the easy problems would push the game to a 3-star rating, but getting a 4-star rating would involve major extensions.
The easy problems all have to do with guess-the-verb situations, unimplemented objects, and stuff like that. The game was not beta-tested, and it shows. I didn't find any outright bugs, but lack of synonyms and guidance makes the game feel a little rough, and makes some of the puzzles far too difficult. I needed a walkthrough, and I won't be the only one.
The hard problem is that as it is, The City is only a fragment of a successful story. It could be the beginning, it could be the middle, it could even be the end, but we need more background, more action, more identification with the main character, before the situation presented gets the emotional power that Barlow is presumably striving for.
As it is, the game is too inconsequential. Still, it is an interesting experiment, and it could be used to great effect within a more substantial piece.
Rendition is nominally a portrait of Abdul, failed suicide terrorist taken captive by a Western army. However, it is impossible to actually get to know Abdul as a person, since the two of you don't speak the same language and the only way of interacting with him is through violence. This, of course, is exactly what the work is all about.
Although it is hard not to sympathise with the political message behind Rendition, the work suffers somewhat from being too obvious. After the first few moves, the player will have formed a pretty clear idea of what the piece is about and what limits to her own actions are, and there is little left to actually shock the player or make her think about political issues.
I think the piece will be more powerful if it is incorporated into a larger work that poses as a game. It could be the epilogue to a thrilling, puzzle-based chase after Abdul which allows us to understand why both Abdul and the protagonist think their causes are good and righteous; then, the sheer pointlessness of the interrogation and the impossibility of communication might have more shock value. My advice to the author is to think about extending Rendition along those lines.
Suveh Nux is not an ambitious game. Backstory and characterisation are minimal; it is quite short; and all of it takes place in a single, almost bare, room. In this room, the player has to solve a number of puzzles, all of which are based on a linguistic magic system. Figuring out this system is not too hard, though what you can do with it is sometimes less obvious. (I used the hints at one point, though I suppose I might have managed without if I had spent more time on the problem.)
Suveh Nux has a lot going for it. The implementation is impeccable and very polished, making the game a joy to play. The central puzzle is enjoyable, and the progressively harder tasks you are supposed to get done with the magic system are well thought-out. Therefore, I can readily recommend this game.
On the negative side, I can only say that the central puzzle is too easy: I would really have liked to see some more complex grammatical puzzles. Maybe an idea for an extended version?
This gives the game 4 out of 5 stars on an "unambitious IF" scale, which I translate to 3 out of 5 on the scale of all interactive fiction.
It is a good thing that Robert E. Howard is not around to see what happened to his barbarian, Conan. Though his original stories are by no means great literature, neither are they the violent, mindless trash that later generations have associated with Conan the Barbarian.
Conan Kill Everything takes that later tradition to its logical extreme. Conan has found the evil wizard, and in order to exact his revenge, he kills everything. Absolutely everything.
In order to kill everything, Conan must solve a couple of very standard puzzles. There are some humorous elements, including the speeches of the wizard and the final move which you need to make to win the game; but in the end, the game is totally forgettable. The jokes are not brilliant; the puzzles are not themselves interesting; and it parodies something that is already so far beyond the limits of good taste and serious intention that it does not allow for parody.
Since you can play the entire game in 15 minutes, you still might want to give it a try.
You wake up in bed, ready to go to work. Yes, just an another day in the life... but this very short game has an interesting twist at the end. Replaying is a must.
I recommend this piece, mainly because it's going to take less than 9 minutes and 5 second of your time to enjoy it. I give it only 3 stars out of 5: even a funny joke just doesn't ascend to the same heights as a great story.
I have seen people complain that yeti robot zombies cannot exist, because a robot cannot be a zombie. These people were surely joking, since nobody could have missed the over-the-top action movie and shooter game cliche's that pervade Attack of the Yeti Robot Zombies. This is a game that does not take itself seriously. The highly secret base of the evil boss turns out to be a huge skycraper in the middle of a big city, adorned with inverted neon crosses and a statue of a yeti robot zombie.
Attack of the Yeti Robot Zombies is a 'win on the first attempt' game: you are asked not to save/restore, but to try to finish the game on the first attempt. Since (a) the game is quite short, and (b) the game is not too difficult, this doesn't pose any real problems, and it adds an interesting sense of danger. But save and restore are not disabled, so if you are a real wimp, you can use them.
So what do you do, as player? Well, you walk along the linear path set out for you, getting rid of zombies and cultists as well as you can, and finally reach the end. You will probably be tempted to restart at that point and try to find better solutions, because the game is both funny and short.
This is not a 'good' game. There is no storyline to speak of; there is no depth; no character interaction; nothing that makes it stand out. Attack of the Yeti Robot Zombies is an enjoyable snack, and the 'win on the first attempt' clause is a great idea for a game like this. Play it for the quick fun it will give you.
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