Reviews by Denk

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Barry Basic and the Witch's Cave, by Dee Cooke
Fine introduction to IF (TALP) and quick fun for experienced players, June 2, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: Adventuron, Browser

This is the fourth Barry Basic game and "as always" it is fun with nice puzzles and simple but charming graphics.

You are eleven years old and are going to the beach with the class to find seashells and some more interesting stuff will happen.

As required by the TALP competition, it has an in-game tutorial the first 10 or so turns, which can be turned off if needed. Everything was technically well done.

Parser/Vocabulary (Rating: 7/10)
The game can be completed with two-word commands but understand more than that. The parser was never a problem.

Atmosphere (Rating: 8/10)
The graphics are simple but atmospheric enough. The writing is terse but sufficient.

Cruelty (Rating: Merciful)
I doubt it can become unwinnable.

Puzzles (Rating: 8/10)
Fairly easy but fun, including some spell puzzles.

Overall (Rating: 9/10)
A really good introduction to new IF players (the purpose of the TALP competition) but also fun for more experienced players though it is quite easy.


Loose Ends, by Jonathan Scott and Stephen Boyd
Sequel to "Out of the Limelight" - PAW game for ZX Spectrum, June 1, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: zx spectrum, PAW

This is the sequel to "Out of the Limelight" and just as the first game, it is recommended to find the leaflet with the instructions online to get the backstory. However, the most important is probably the commands VOCAB and INFO. VOCAB tells you the required format for talking to characters.

This game takes place 3 years after the first game. You are still working as an actor and during a play you see Rosenberg on the balcony. But you killed him in the last game(?)!

Part 1 is mostly a detective game where you are looking for clues and travel between locations you discover are important. Part 2 has more the style of a "treasure island"-game where you are trying to bring down a criminal gang who hides in a monastery on an island. So you will have to avoid being killed by thugs etc.

The game has a lot of good, fair puzzles but as always with old PAW games you should expect some guess-the-verb situations and that the game can be unwinnable without telling you.

Parser/Vocabulary (Rating: 6/10)
The PAW parser can handle more than 2 words but mostly 2 are sufficient but not always. Sometimes I wonder why a command did not work but I suppose adding more possible commands would eat up RAM too fast. For instance, the game apparently understand the word POUR. But in a special situation I was going to pour something, the required command was PUT OBJECT1 ON OBJECT2 even though the game often responds to such commands with: You cannot wear object1. When you get used to playing PAW games, you get a better understanding of these problems and can usually figure out the right command within a reasonable amount of time.

Atmosphere (Rating: 8/10)
The descriptions are good considering it is a PAW game with a limited amount or RAM. You don't need a lot more text to get in the right mood.

Cruelty (Rating: Cruel)
As most PAW games from this period, you may overlook an object you will need later and you can't go back and get it. Instead you must load an earlier save or restart.

Puzzles (Rating: 8/10)
Some very nice puzzles, all very fair. Most were of medium difficulty plus the added difficulty of guessing-the-verb sometimes.

Overall (Rating: 8/10)
Certainly one of the better PAW games from when homegrown 8-bit text adventures where at its best.


Curse of the Hellsblade, by John Nelson and Tom Zuchowski

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Classic RPG online, May 28, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: Eamon, BASIC

I played this game online at Eamon Remastered where you can either play with your own character or a demo character.

This RPG is quite original in the sense that you are cursed with the sword Hellsblade, so that you attack all beings on your path with the sword, whether they are friends or foes. First you need to find a way to control the blade and later get rid of it, so that the world will be a safe place once again.

The game is a classic Eamon adventure, so there will be lots of interesting treasures and weapons to pick up, which you can then sell or use in other Eamon adventures. The game is very much about combat and exploring, finding keys, secret rooms and tunnels but there are also a few real puzzles included. Hints are included in case you get stuck.

The writing is good and the game is well designed. I have played a lot of Eamon games lately and this is one of the best I have tried so far. I can certainly recommend this.


8K Adventure, by Paul Allen Panks
C64 game written in BASIC, May 28, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: BASIC, C64

This game should be played with a C64 emulator, then it is a very short and primitive but charming two-word parser game in the style of early 80s single load text adventures. The use of colors on C64 add to the charm so if you play the TADS port I think you can at least subtract one more star, so the TADS version is not really recommended.

There hardly is any story: "An important scepter has gone missing from the royal throne."

You simply have to find the scepter. There are a bit of randomized combat which is not everyone's cup of tea but works okay and your chances of winning has to do with the weapons you have and armour.

You don't have to solve all puzzles to complete the game and it can be completed in around 40 turns so it is very short. But if you enjoy small, primitive two-word parser games, this is an okay game for a short while.


Cave of Wonders, by Campbell Wild
One of the first Adrift games - too unforgiving but well done, May 23, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: ADRIFT 3.8

This game is an old school treasure hunt written by Campbell Wild, the creator of Adrift. If you expect a lot of verbose, beautiful prose you will be disappointed, as this is primarily a game, not a story. But it is a game with a lot of good puzzles which are (usually) well implemented. I think the main problem of this game is, that it is extremely easy to put the game in an "unwinnable" state and you won't know it until much later. I started over and over again, because I just wanted to beat it, but in the end I had enough of restarting when I reached 620 points out of 1000. Even for 1999 (the publication year), this game is more cruel than most games (for comparison Winter Wonderland (IFComp 1999 winner) could not be put in an "unwinnable" state). With a bit more thought this could have been a really good game. No testers are mentioned, which kind of explains it. Even the technically best authors need testers to find the bugs and design flaws in their games.

Parser/Vocabulary (Rating: 7/10)
ADRIFT 3.8 parser is nothing special but in most cases it wasn't a problem. A few times, I thought I was encountering a guess-the-verb situation but I simply tried an alternative solution which was not accounted for. So this isn't really a parser issue but a design issue.

Atmosphere (Rating: 6/10)
The descriptions are sufficiently detailed for a puzzler like this, but could be improved.

Cruelty (Rating: Cruel)
As mentioned above, it is far too easy to end up in an "unwinnable" situation without knowing it. Many contemporary games did not have this problem in 1999.

Puzzles (Rating: 8/10)
The puzzles are pretty good, with a bit of humour thrown in.

Overall (Rating: 6/10)
I enjoyed it quite a lot for a while, but in the end the constant need to restart or load a very old save became too frustrating.


The Life of a Lone Electron, by Gareth Pitchford and Scott Denyer

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Puzzly comedy in the early 90s UK hobby style (PAW / DAAD), May 19, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: DAAD, PAW, zx spectrum

I was intrigued by the title of this game in the 90s Adventure Probe but couldn't play it because I did not have a ZX Spectrum. Now, many years later, a C64 version is available (made with DAAD) so I finally get to play this one.

In this comedy text adventure you control the electron Edmond as he has crashed his orbital in the city of Electronz. The game is a puzzle fest seen from the perspective of electrons, where protons and neutrons are buildings and a graviton is a dog breed etc. So a lot of funny references to beginner particle physics. I am certainly a beginner in that field. Some of the puzzles are based on light physics or word-play but don't expect the physics to be close to the real world. For instance, Edmond is called an electron and starts out having positive charge, which makes him a positron and therefore antimatter but he explodes if he touches antimatter, not the other way around. But such details are not important as this is a comedy and should not be taken too seriously.

Parser/Vocabulary (Rating: 6/10)
I played the DAAD version, not sure how close it was to the PAW version. Some untraditional choices but the author makes up for it by guiding the player in several situations. For instance, there were sort of "containers" in the game but you couldn't "PUT OBJECT IN OBJECT". Instead you might EMPTY OBJECT IN OBJECT or FILL OBJECT WITH SOMETHING, stuff like that. But the author tells the player upfront about the commands CHARGE and EMPTY and the fact that SEARCH and EXAMINE are not the same. Some guess-the-verb situations along the way, which probably is unavoidable for such a "big" game, considering it is an 8-bit single-load game.

Atmosphere (Rating: 7/10)
Funny writing which fits the game theme.

Cruelty (Rating: Tough)
I noticed a few places where the game can become unwinnable but it will in most cases be obvious that what you did was irreversible.

Puzzles (Rating: 8/10)
The game is crammed with puzzles, and there were several good, fun puzzles. A few of them involved word-play but they were solvable to me except for on one, despite that English is not my mother tongue. As with most old text adventures, finding the objects are part of the game so remember to search and examine everything.

Overall (Rating: 8/10)
Everything considered, this is a good old-fashioned puzzle fest with good puzzles and some funny writing.


The Magic Circle, by Patrick Crosmun

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Very short with 1.5 puzzles, May 18, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

This surreal sci-fi game is very short and straight forward except the main puzzle but it would be a spoiler to say more.

Fine for a 5 minutes diversion.


Elftor and the Quest of the Screaming King, by Damon L. Wakes

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Being funny is an art, April 15, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: Twine

Ok, so this was hilarious. Sometimes I am impressed with some people's ability to be funny. This was also the case here. Sure, not all jokes were funny but even those that weren't, still fitted well into the story.

This is a choice based game which keeps track of your endings. There appear to be 10 endings. I think I encountered a single bug as it seemed that I reached a natural ending but I wasn't told and couldn't restart. No big deal though I had to refresh my browser which meant the "ending tracker" was reset.

The best ending was also particularly well hidden. Not extremely well but enough so I first found it after several tries. The game is quite short so it is no big deal to start over and try something else.

I give this game 5 stars as it is mostly hilarious and I kept on playing as I wanted to see the end.


The Kuolema, by Ben Jackson

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent use of a primitive system, April 12, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: Google Forms

Brief description: Awesome story in a primitive system - done very well!

From an IF viewpoint Google Forms is very primitive as it apparently can't store information in variables - at least that is my understanding from the author's design choices. Nor can you save your progress except for the text you have entered along the way is remembered by Google if you ever logged in. To account for this, the game is designed such that if you note down keycard codes, objects found etc. you can skip big parts of the game when you restart. In addition you can go to part II and III with links near the beginning in case you have already played part I and maybe part II. In practice this works very well.

The game is a sort of thriller mystery and starts out well with perhaps a common theme (well, it is very hard nowadays to come up with something completely new): An abandoned ship is found adrift and you will land on the deck to investigate...

Parser/Vocabulary (Rating: N/A)
No parser. However, several puzzles are parser-like as you have to type the right keyword so that the solution is not given away through visible choices.

Atmosphere (Rating: 9/10)
The game starts out good but the atmosphere and tension increases in part III. Really good! First parts 8/10 in atmosphere, last part 10/10.

Cruelty (Rating: Merciful)
You can never ruin you chance of success and if you die there is a sort of "undo" (often named "rewind")

Puzzles (Rating: 8/10)
Interesting and fun puzzles, some easy and a lot medium. There were a few I wasn't very fond of: Solving a complete crossword was too hard for me as English is not my mother tongue. Luckily, the embedded walkthrough provides the full solution to it. Also, a couple of puzzles required knowledge which many would probably need to solve via the internet, which is not in line with the plot as there is no internet connection available. (Spoiler - click to show)I am thinking of translating Russian and the city in the picture I could not recognize.

Overall (Rating: 9/10)
Starts out good and the final part is just excellent with some psychological themes that fits well into the story.


Pick Up the Cookie and Sigh, by P.B. Parjeter

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Very short Douglas Adams inspired game, April 2, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: Inform

This very short game was inspired by a true story experienced by Douglas Adams. First when I reached the end did I remember having read about it long time ago. Great idea to make such small funny anecdotes into games. Would be fun to see more of this type of super brief games.



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