Reviews by Denk


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1-10 of 10

An Everyday Tale of a Seeker of Gold, by John Wilson and Sean Doran

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Decent "homegrown" first effort from 1986, December 19, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: The Quill, Adventuron, DAAD

(browser version - port made with Adventuron)
This is a fun little spoof of The Hobbit with some nice puzzles and humour. Some of the puzzles are "pun-based". However, the "genre" 'homegrown British text adventures from the 80s' is to some extend something you need to learn how to play, just as you need to learn how to play parser games in general. To some extend you need to be more accurate about which verbs you apply in these homegrown games from the 80s. Still, some verbs and phrases became a sort of standard within that "genre". Also, do not expect a lot of feedback if you try an incorrect command. You will never know if a verb is accepted by the game unless you find that it works.

Add to this, that this was the author's first effort (though the browser port I played was first made in 2018), you must expect a few guess-the-verb/phrase issues here and there. However, there is a sort of indirect limited "hint system" in the game, though it is not clear if it is intended to be used or only if you are really stuck. I used it whenever I could, and still, I needed to consult a walkthrough a few times.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this quite a lot. If you are unfamiliar with British homegrown text adventures from the 80s, I propose that you see it as a learning curve. If you are stuck for a longer time, don't hesitate to consult a walkthrough. You will learn as you go along and you will get the hang of the style and probably solve most puzzles by yourself anyway.

Retarded Creatures and Caverns, by John Wilson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Hard but fun puzzlefest, November 28, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Adventuron, DAAD, PAW, The Quill

(Adventuron version reviewed)
Briefly explained, on behalf of his friend Bulbo, Algernon accepts a challenge in Castle Toidi. He must locate as much treasure as he can and slay as many creatures as possible, including a dragon.

This comedy is the longest game by John Wilson I have played so far (most have been short) and also the most entertaining. It doesn't have a lot of locations, but it is still crammed with puzzles. You score points for most of the puzzles and if you complete the game, you can get up to 250 points, though there is a less optimal ending with fewer points. Out of the 250 points, I only regard two puzzles of 15 point each, as unfair, as they require some hard verb-guessing and phrase guessing: (Spoiler - click to show)The verb "unravel" and the phrase "feel 'direction'" (e.g. "feel south"). And if the player types help, the former is given in a coded message.

I was stuck in a few more situations than the two mentioned above and consulted a walkthrough some more. But looking back, the puzzles were all fair except those two. With more patience, I think most experienced players could solve most of the puzzles. Though I try to avoid looking at walkthroughs, I usually end up consulting a walkthrough a few times (more if the game is really hard) when I play puzzlefests anyway, so to me it wasn't a big deal. What I do find important is, that I get to solve most of the puzzles without hints, which I did.

I enjoyed both the whimsical writing and the varied puzzles, which ranged from easy to harder and more clever. Overall, a fun game, and I am very much looking forward to playing the brand new sequel "Return to the Castle" written with Inform (more specifically PunyInform).

Behind Closed Doors 4: Balrog's Day Out, by George E. Hoyle

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fun despite a few problems, November 23, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: The Quill, Adventuron

(Reviewing Adventuron version - other versions may be different)
This game is bigger (more locations and puzzles) than the first three episodes. There are some fun puzzles but also a few problems. Most puzzles were not problematic and overall I enjoyed it.

Regarding the problems:
* There was a verb I have never seen in a text adventure and I would never have found it without the walkthrough: (Spoiler - click to show)COMPLAIN
* Another situation where I had to guess the phrase: (Spoiler - click to show)INSERT HAND. This one isn't completely unfair but synonyms should have worked too, such as FEEL HOLE, REACH INTO HOLE, SEARCH HOLE.
* The parser is often misleading. It tells you to apply different phrases than it actually understands. Example: If you try to give something without success, the game says: "Give WHAT to WHOM?". But when it finally is the right place and object, it is sufficient to write GIVE 'object'.
* A similar problem with LOOK BEHIND. You will need to look behind objects, but if you do it somewhere it isn't needed, the game says: "Please type either 'LOOK' or 'LOOK INSIDE ..." (Even if you type LOOK INSIDE BIN you get that message) And I never needed to type LOOK INSIDE...

Despite these problems, I enjoyed this as there were some clever puzzles to solve besides the problematic puzzles.

Behind Closed Doors 3: Revenge of the Ants, by John Wilson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Too hard for me and a lot of verb-guessing, November 23, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: The Quill, Adventuron, PAW, DAAD

(Reviewing Adventuron version)
I have enjoyed previous episodes but this game is far too hard for me. I enjoyed it briefly, but I quickly got stuck and took a look at the walkthrough. I got one step further, then I got stuck for a long time again, and looked at the walkthrough again and so on. The solutions to these sub-puzzles (both actions and exact verbs) are way beyond what I would be able to figure out without a walkthrough.

Add to this:
* The game can be unwinnable even if the player does nothing wrong (random element)
* The verb USE is normally not understood but suddenly required in one situation.
* The game has a two-word parser but it turns out that in specific situations, the game accepts a four word sentence to be split into two commands:
(fictive example below is not in the game and doesn't happen when using the verb PUT)
On what?
>ON SHELF (SHELF wouldn't have worked, ON SHELF required)

Some might see these "problems" as challenges. For me, this isn't what I am looking for when I play older text adventures. Still, I intend to try more episodes in the series, since I liked the first episodes.

Behind Closed Doors 2: The Sequel, by John Wilson

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Same humor as episode 1 but with new puzzles, November 21, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Adventuron, The Quill, DAAD, PAW

EDIT: Gareth Pitchford informed me that the important command WORN was given in the instructions with the original game, so my criticism that you are never told what you are wearing isn't really valid. Moreover, if you play several of the games in the series, it will become apparent that the command type LOOK 'direction' (e.g. LOOK SOUTH or LOOK DOWN) is often required. Thus, this might not be a problem if you played another episode in the series first.
Note that this is a review of the original game, not "The Cats Choice-Cuts Edition" which is slightly longer. I played the Adventuron version. The version you choose to play may influence the commands you can use. Here, the game understands both L (redescribe location) and X (examine).

This game has a few gameplay issues:
1. You cannot examine yourself. EDIT: If you are aware of the command WORN, this isn't a problem
2. You are supposed to: (Spoiler - click to show)LOOK UP but as you are not given any reason to do so, it is quite unlikely the player will try that. EDIT: If you have played other games in the series first, You have probably learned that LOOK 'direction' (e.g. LOOK EAST or DOWN) might be a good idea.

At first, I wasn't aware of the points above, so I found the game to be a bit unfair after having looked at the walkthrough. So perhaps the puzzles are perfectly fair (hard to estimate after I completed the game by looking at the walkthrough). Anyway, it has entertaining parts even if you need to look at a walkthrough. With the information given at the top of this review, you will probably be able to enjoy this game.

Behind Closed Doors, by John Wilson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Quick one-room game, episode 1 of 10, November 18, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: The Quill, Adventuron, PAW, DAAD

This is a quick one-room escape game where you are a balrog (who seems to be a fun little fellow) locked inside the loo. It is a comedy with a few mandatory puzzles and a few optional puzzles. I managed to complete it almost without hints except for one guess-the-verb puzzle, so I consulted a walkthrough on CASA Solution Archive for that. Looking back, I should have been able to figure out the verb by paying attention to my inventory: (Spoiler - click to show)The verb "unfold"

There are many versions available, including the ADVENTURON version, which should be playable in most browsers (html-file). There might be a few differences between the versions. In old British games, typing R was the standard for redescribing the location description, not LOOK or L. Besides that, just keep in mind that it is a two-word parser, just as the popular Scott Adams games. And in some versions you might have to type EXAM or EXAMINE instead of just X.

It was a quick but fun little game, so I intend to try the sequel too.

Mushroom Hunt, by Polyducks

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent graphics, decent game, September 19, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Adventuron

Recently I have experienced the great graphical skills which are present in the Adventuron community, after playing the games in "The Next Adventure Jam", a competition held in summer 2020. Thus I got curious when I heard that this game is a XYZZY awards nominee in the category "Best Use of Multimedia".

The location graphics are really great adding to the atmosphere. The writing and descriptions are also very good. The gameplay is a bit limited though.

There are a few real puzzles, but most of the puzzles are about examining things, and then examining things mentioned in the descriptions etc. There is nothing wrong with this since it can be fun for a while, but once I had found three non-toxic mushrooms, which was the minimum requirement to finish the game, I decided to quit, even though there is a sort of point system counting how many mushrooms you found. I just wasn't motivated enough to continue playing. Perhaps if there had been a little more story, it could have kept my interest. Still, I enjoyed the game until I reached an ending and decided to quit.

Technically, the game is very fine. It tells you upfront that it uses only two words (some Adventuron games allows for more than two words, e.g. "Charlie the Chimp") so that isn't a problem when you know it. It didn't have much of a story, which some Adventuron games have like "Dawn of The Soviet Ladybirds". Still, the game was okay.

I do recommend that you try it, since you can always decide to quit without reaching the maximum of points (i.e. the number of mushrooms you found).

Over Here!, by Auraes

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent minimalistic puzzle fest, July 23, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Adventuron

This is a puzzle fest in the Scott Adams tradition with super-brief location descriptions, a list of objects you can interact with, a list of visible exits and pictures for all locations. However, in this game the pixelated graphics are taken to the extreme: Each picture is 32x10 pixels. Nevertheless, they are quite beautiful and colourful and it is clear what it is supposed to look like (just look at the cover art). The location pictures may change depending on what objects etc. are present and according to the author there are 148 different pictures. In addition, the text is colourful too, which all adds to the atmosphere.

This game is full of puzzles. Your job is to help the ghosts escape before a yellow bulldozer destroys everything. I have played this game for several hours but so far I have only managed to help 8 out of 12 ghosts. In addition, you can get a maximum of 7 trophies. At least some of them (all?) are not needed to complete the game but it is a fun extra challenge.

I don't know why I like this game so much - it is probably a combination of hard and easy puzzles combined with the colourful atmosphere and the extra challenge to obtain the 7 trophies. The parser accepts no more than two words and it is consistent, unlike some Adventuron games that sometimes accept four-word inputs, which can be fine if the player knows this. The author has also provided a list of necessary verbs, so you don't really need to guess any verbs.

In the time of writing, there are 14 hours left of The Next Adventure Jam. I've played all seven entries and I liked them all more or less, but this is my favourite. Recommended.

Last Night in the Office, by Tim Jacobs

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Short and fun with some verb guessing, July 22, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Adventuron

You are the IT manager of Ven-Tec and you have uncovered hints of criminal activity within your company. You only have this night to uncover the evidence. This is a small but fun Adventuron jam game with a few guess-the-verb problems. Location descriptions are pretty short but some decent location graphics add to the atmosphere. It is pretty standard parser puzzles, though for a single puzzle I needed to google something before I could guess the needed verbs.

A few other places a little verb guessing were needed too, but if you are experienced in parser games it isn't a big problem. It does have a tutorial mode for the first few steps of the game, so the beginning is fine for new players. However, they will most likely have problems guessing the right verbs later on.

Still, it was fun.

Charlie the Chimp, by Garry Francis

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Fun with decent parser and nice illustrations, July 14, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Adventuron

This game was part of the jam/competition "The Next Adventure Jam". It is fairly short but it has some nice puzzles and illustrations. Unlike some Adventuron games, this game understands up to four words such as PUT BALL IN BOX. I had no problems with the parser. You might think that Adventuron games require a nostalgic interest in retro-computing, but I don't think so, though they are usually puzzly parser games. The graphics are pixelated and the fonts are retro but otherwise, it is a fun short quality game, which I recommend.

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