Reviews by Bernie

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View this member's reviews by tag: L. Frank Baum Series Puzzle
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Vestiges, by Josephine Wynter

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A poorly implemented game with some interesting features, September 8, 2012
by Bernie (Fredericksburg, VA)

This game certainly feels like the first work of the author, and a first work with little beta-testing. Implementation errors about, from guess-the-verb moments to doors showing up closed even after you've opened them. Most of the game is also guess-the-direction, since the exits aren't mentioned in the room descriptions.

I played this game because it was in someone's recommended list, and I was intensely curious, -- since it had such a low rating -- what made it recommended. While I can't say I'd recommend the game (the implementation errors are just too many) the author does show promise. The appearance of the game's only real NPC, the cat, sparked my imagination. I am, admittedly, a huge cat-lover, so I may have been biased in this regard. However, the cat's actions and dialogue hit just the right note: exactly what I'd expect my own dear cat to sound like, could he speak. The end-puzzle also showed some imagination, and I hope the author will continue her work in the genre.

Dutch Dapper IV: The Final Voyage, by Harry Hol

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A cute, puzzle-filled romp nostalgic of a Douglas Adams game, September 7, 2012
by Bernie (Fredericksburg, VA)

In this jaunty romp, you play a space hero/detective investigating a mysterious letter. You must solve a series of puzzles in order to meet your contact, who will presumably take you to the person who has hired you for the investigation. The author mentions in 'about' that he was heavily influenced by Douglas Adams, and portions of the game are a clear reference to the old infocom Hitchhiker's game. However, the game is far from derivative and the jokes throughout are fresh and entertaining.

Likewise, the puzzles are goofy, but sensible in the context of the game. They are also easily solvable with a bit of patience and exploring, but challenging enough to be interesting. The game does feature an inventory limit. However, the author also includes the command 'objects' which will list where all the moveable objects you have interacted with are currently located, which lessens the frustration of dropping inventory objects as you juggle them.

The only real drawback of the game was a few of the parser responses when I was trying to solve one of the puzzles, which made me wonder whether I was trying the correct solution and just hadn't found the correct verb. (As it turned out, I was attempting the wrong action.) I also got a bit frustrated when the game seemed to disallow a certain logical solution to a puzzle for no reason. (Spoiler - click to show)I really thought I should have been able to stand on the stove, but the game just tells me 'There's no need to refer to that in the course of the game.' Likewise, it tells me that the work-top is not something I can stand on. However, being a vertically challenged soul, I have proved otherwise in my own home on numerous occasions.

Overall, the game is highly recommended. I'm thrilled that I happened to stumble upon it on someone else's recommended list and I hope the author writes the sequel as promised.

Fish-Bot!, by R. N. Dominick

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A speedy game with an absurd sense of humor, September 1, 2012
by Bernie (Fredericksburg, VA)

This piece of speed-IF centers around a fish wearing a robotic human suit. To handle the restricted nature of a speed-IF game, the author restricts the commands to a set of buttons in your suit. This does help ease the frustration present in so many speed-IF games when the game fails to respond to most commands. In this game, the parser explains that you are hyper-focused and directs you to use the controls in your fish-suit.

I added a second star to the game for the game's absurd humor, which I found amusing during the five minutes that it took to play through the game's various endings.

The Magic Isle, by Palmer P. Eldritch

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A game from the era of frustrating parsers, July 27, 2012
by Bernie (Fredericksburg, VA)

This game is a sequel to Legacy of Alaric (by the same author), in which your mission is to save a boy named 'Alaric' who has been captured by dwarves and imprisoned in a castle. Unlike Legacy of Alaric, it is not possible to finish this game without solving all the puzzles. Like many of these older games, there are many places where you can die suddenly and without warning and it is possible to put the game into an unwinnable state without warning.

Most of the puzzles aren't too bad, but a few are downright weird and poorly clued, and one absolutely requires reading the author's mind. (Spoiler - click to show)You have to 'say law' on the bank of the moat in order to open a trap door. Apparently this is somehow clued by the sign. Unfortunately, even the simpler puzzles often seem more complex because of parser troubles. For example, "Tie Rope to X" yields a different result than "Tie X to Rope", and both forms of the command must be used to successfully manipulate the rope. Likewise, if you attempt to use an object that is in your sack, you will always get a failure message such as "you cannot do that", which can lead you to believe that a solution doesn't work when, in fact, you simply have to take the object from your sack and attempt the action again.

My original intent was to play the puzzle through without a walkthrough. However, once I reached a puzzle that I was sure I was solving correctly, I finally gave up and consulted the walkthrough. Sure enough, I was correct but the solution had to be attempted three times in order to work. I valiantly re-stashed the walkthrough and attempted to continue, only to be stymied by a locked door that would not let me "unlock door with key". I consulted the walkthough again, which seemed to confirm that I needed to do exactly what I had attempted to do. Just as I was about to wrote the game off as a case of flawed programming, serendipity struck and the command I had been attempting finally worked. After a bit of experimentation, I discovered that one must attempt to "open door" before being able to successfully "unlock door with key". Grrrr. I perused the rest of the walkthrough, determined that the game was not going to be playable without it, and gave up saving poor Alaric.

A Legacy for Alaric, by Palmer P. Eldritch

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Nostalgic, primitive, and playable, July 16, 2012
by Bernie (Fredericksburg, VA)

This game is an old Commodore 64 text adventure. For anyone who is unfamiliar with these old types of text adventures, they're a different breed from today's modern interactive fiction adventures. These old text adventures feature sparse descriptions and clunky parsers. These old games revolve heavily around puzzle-solving, and the stories that underlie the games are usually cliche' excuses to go on a quest.

However, these gems hold a soft spot in my heart, and I imagine that I am not alone in this regard. In an era before graphic computer games, this was the only way to experience epic adventures outside of a good Dungeons & Dragons group. Furthermore, the puzzles in these adventures could be deeply satisfying. Thus, I have gone on a quest to unearth a few of these ancient gems.

Once you get past a few parser problems, this game is cute and playable. It's charm mostly lies in its nostalgia, so I recommend it only if you, like me, crave one of those cute early games. In the game, you play an adventurer who is looking to free a captured heir. The goal of this game is to get to the island where the boy is being held prisoner. (Apparently the game was part of a series, and later games involve rescuing the heir.)

I was delighted to find that I could finish the game without solving all the puzzles and gaining the highest score. I had to resort to a walkthrough a few times, mostly for parser troubles. Most notably, the game requires you to "Take [item] from sack" (I spent 10 minutes attempting to get things out of my bag by "taking" them, taking them "out of", and "emptying" the sack.) Also, the game does allow you to talk to NPCs, but does so through the command 'Say to [NPC] "[Hello]"' Although a few of the puzzles seemed unfair, upon replaying the game I realized that all the necessary puzzles were clued in some strange way. Interestingly, many items go completely unused in the game and several puzzles that contribute to your score seem pointless. I will also warn that there is one occasion of sudden, unclued death; there is also a small maze at the end, but I found it to be easily navigated even without mapping.

I have been playing through many of these old games, and can say with authority that most of them are too frustrating to play for even ten minutes. It was wonderful to find one that I can finally recommend as playable from start to finish. In fact, I plan to play the next installment without the aid of the walkthrough.

A Shadow on Glass, by Andrey Remic

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Pointless, December 29, 2010
by Bernie (Fredericksburg, VA)

As my quest to continue uncovering forgotten IF gems continues, I discover that I must sift through lots of gravel. Sadly, this game falls into the "gravel" category. You begin the game without any purpose or guidance. Even after 20 minutes of playing, I could not discern a goal to the game. The parser doesn't recognize "look at" or "examine", or almost any verb other than "take" and "look". Throw in a few typos and overly verbose snarky responses from the parser and you have a game that is not worth picking up.

Blizzard Pass, by Alan Cox

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
One of the cruelest IF games ever, December 28, 2010
by Bernie (Fredericksburg, VA)

This is an old commercial IF game and is easily one of the most cruel IF games of all time. Many of the puzzles are desperately unfair. After spending about 20 minutes freezing to death in the blizzard, I finally opened a walkthrough and discovered the following first two moves: E, DIG (to find a garlic),

Dig? Why? There's absolutely no reason to dig. Nothing in the description indicates a reason to dig, let alone a reason why you might come up with garlic as a result of the digging. Numerous evil puzzles abound in the game. You will die repeatedly while attempting to solve them. Repeatedly.

So why 3 stars then? Because the game's cruelty is almost fair. The puzzles are so difficult to solve that you begin trying *anything* you can think of. And, yes, that will reasonably include digging in random locations. In fact, if I had been able to save my game using my emulator, I would have spent more time playing this game. It's the type of game that inspires true ambivalence: you hate the puzzles, but love them when you solve them. And despite the sinister nature of many of the puzzles, the game is fun to play and most of the puzzles are fun to solve.

The game is long. Even playing all the way through with a walkthrough in hand took me over 30 minutes. (Okay, I didn't make it all the way through even with the walkthrough. I took one extra action at one point that made the game unwinnable. Have I mentioned that the game is cruel?) Solving it completely may take you a year or a lifetime. But you'll gain eternal bragging rights and the assurance that your intellect is truly superior.

Housekey, Part I, by AriŽn Holthuizen

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Three rooms, little to examine, December 28, 2010
by Bernie (Fredericksburg, VA)

This game is clearly meant to be the introduction of a larger game. However, there is no "Housekey, Part 2", and Part 1 contains nothing to make it worth playing. You are instructed from the beginning that you left your key outside and need to retrieve it. However, there is no barrier to getting outside, so the game can be ended almost immediately. Additionally, there are only three rooms in the house, and most of the objects in the rooms are indicated as "unimportant". The game feels like someone's first IF programming experiment. Although it is able to be finished, the under-implementation of the game leaves it unrecommended.

Quest for Flesh, by Daniel Hiebert

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Nothing to it, December 23, 2010
by Bernie (Fredericksburg, VA)

In this game, you wake up as a zombie and look for things to eat. A promising premise, to be sure, but this game was a submission to a one-hour comp and thus is very short. There's one room and three objects, and although the premise is amusing, there's not enough in the game to make it entertaining.

Shadows in the Night, by Dorothy Millard

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Decent Old C64 Game, December 23, 2010
by Bernie (Fredericksburg, VA)

On my quest to play old text adventure games to discover lost gems, I have played several very frustrating games. This game was one of the less-frustrating C64 games that I have found so far. The game has a large vocabulary (by ancient IF standards) and has a parser that allows prepositions. The parser does still manage to be frustrating occasionally, but is much less so than most of its counterparts.

In this game, you are enjoined to spend the night in a supposedly haunted mansion. You arrive with your camera to take pictures of evidence of the haunting. The game has a large but logical map and is full of puzzles, mostly of the locked door variety. Although many of the puzzles were readily solvable, a few were obscure enough to send me scuttling to the internet to google a walkthrough (which I have added to the listing for the game). The game also suffers from a bit of logical trouble. For example, you are given an axe at one point in the game, but can only break one particular door. Thus, the player is forced to run around trying the axe against every available obstacle. Likewise, one puzzle is clearly one of balancing an object on a scale, but there seems to be no clue about what the correct object should be, forcing the player to run through the inventory trying objects. The game has a move limit (presented as a time limit) and does have a few instances of instant and unclued death.

That said, the game is more fair than many other old C64 games. Although there is little to recommend it to players other than the nostalgia of playing an old C64 game, it is one of the better games to turn to for a nostalgic game that won't make you tear your hair out in pure frustration.

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