Reviews by Denk

Custom system

View this member's profile

Show ratings only | both reviews and ratings
View this member's reviews by tag: ADRIFT 3.8 ADRIFT 4 ADRIFT 5 Adventuron AGT BASIC Browser C64 ChoiceScript Custom system DAAD Dialog Eamon Google Forms Infocom inform Ink Level 9 PAW PunyInform Quest STAC Strand TADS Telarium Text document The Quill Twine Unity ZIL zx spectrum
...or see all reviews by this member
1-10 of 10


The strange case of Walter Donovan, by Antonsimone Donato
Moving "limited parser" game despite a primitive parser, September 12, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: Custom system

This game is a "limited parser" game in that you are given all 11 verbs up front so you don't have to guess any verbs. Well, at one point in the game, you will have to come up with a verb yourself, but it will be obvious when this is. However, the parser is still a bit picky, so you will have to use capital letters when referring to person's names, book titles etc. Also, whenever you want to type words instead of single letters (single letters could be H, N, S etc) you must first type "f". But you will quickly get the hang of it.

The game starts out when you are standing outside Walter Donovan's house because you received a letter. First step is to get inside. There are several puzzles - some easy and some quite clever ones too. You will find notes along the way until you understand Walter much better.

Despite the very simple parser, the game works very well with good puzzles and an interesting story. Another technical issue is that you can only have one save state. However, you can work around this by copying the "file_di_gioco"-folder so you do not overwrite older save states.

Overall recommended if you like puzzly parser games with a moving story.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | View comments (1) - Add comment 

Beyond the Tesseract, by David Lo

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Very original game from 1983, February 20, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: Custom system, inform

This is what you get if you cross a Scott Adams adventure with an abstract math/physics adventure. The parser is primitive but consistent (verb+noun, only 4 letters of each word matters) and fast (running an Atari ST emulator at 32MHz - at 8MHz the text is slightly delayed). However, a z-code version exists.

Most puzzles you don't need to understand 100% to solve, as you will usually have an idea of what to do. For instance, you may come across a Riemann Zeta Integral. If I ever learned about it, I have forgotten about it, but knowing it was an integral was sufficient to have a hunch of what to do so I did manage to solve the corresponding puzzle.

For me, the difficulty level was just right but I think some of the optional puzzles I could never have solved without some knowledge of e.g. superconductors and electromagnetic fields. Luckily, being an electrical engineer helped me a lot here. However, if you allow yourself to google the concepts you come across, you will probably have a chance of solving all puzzles anyway.

Overall, a highly enjoyable and original game.

Parser/Vocabulary (Rating: 7/10)
Primitive but consistent, fast and has several synonyms for verbs. My only caveat on the Atari ST is that there is apparently no LOOK / REDESCRIBE command so if you want to see the location description again, you must leave the room and enter it again.

Atmosphere (Rating: 8/10)
The surreal atmosphere is very convincing. The writing is terse as can be expected from a game which originally was an 8-bit game.

Cruelty (Rating: Merciful)
I don't think you can make the game unwinnable.

Puzzles (Rating: 9/10)
Some fun, fair puzzles, though the perceived difficulty will depend very much on your scientific background, thus it may seem unfair to some people.

Overall (Rating: 9/10)
A surprisingly fun game, considering it was designed in 1983. Some scientific background may be needed to enjoy it fully.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

Radio Tower, by brojman

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Nice cliffhanger in custom engine, January 27, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: Custom system

I played version 1.1. The game has been updated later. This game is more an unfinished demo than a complete game. It ends quickly with a cliff-hanger where only a small portion of the plot is revealed with the message: "To be continued in the next one." The game has what is sometimes called a "limited parser" which means that the game deliberately only understands a few but general verbs. On the other hand, it tells you upfront which verbs are understood.

In most locations the following verbs are understood: "Inspect" (instead of examine), "Take" (get not understood), "Drop", "Go north"(south/east etc. cannot be abbreviated) and "Use". Later on, you can also "attack", "interact" etc. but the parser is not traditional. For instance, you must type ATTACK WEAPON (replace WEAPON with the weapon you want to use).

I managed to get to the cliff-hanger ending mentioned above. You can also arrive at some quick endings but the one mentioned above is probably the main ending. Even though the game is unfinished and some objects etc. are mentioned but not implemented yet, the game was very intriguing.

The user interface + graphics & map was very impressive with rain and lightning in the background. On the other hand, the parser was extremely primitive but well defined so it wasn't a big problem though abbreviations would have been nice. Another drawback is that you cannot save and restore your position.

Parser:
Having a limited parser is a fair design choice as the understood verbs are revealed. However, even for a limited parser, it is very primitive. You can't just type N but you have to type GO NORTH. Also, you don't have a single letter for examine, you have to write INSPECT OBJECT each time (replace OBJECT with the noun). Several natural combinations of verbs and nouns were not implemented but gave an error message instead of a generic, meaningful response.

Atmosphere:
The writing was very good and combined with the multimedia (rain and flashes and a status-line where your health is shown), this was highly atmospheric.

Cruelty rating: Tough
You can't save and restore which becomes frustrating if you want to see the other endings. Combined with an inventory limit of four (please increase this in the final game) objects this really needs to be fixed in the final game. But I am not sure if the game can become unwinnable. Probably.

Puzzles:
I didn't solve any brilliant puzzles but those I found on my way to the ending were quite standard but not bad.

Overall:
I would very much like to play the game when it has been completed. For now it was a taste of what can be expected, which was very intriguing. I hope the parser will be improved some.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

Time's Enigma, by Jim MacBrayne

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Time travel with decent homebrew parser, February 3, 2021
by Denk
Related reviews: Custom system

(Played on Windows - can run on Mac using Wine somehow)
This rather new game from 2020 is a very good old-school puzzlefest with minimal story and a good parser (Infocom-like, no undo).

Following a heated discussion with your old college professor, you are pushed into his "Time Manipulator" and sent to another time an place. You are told to find some evidence of where and when you are before you return. The first step is to figure out how to operate the Time Manipulator. After that, you can travel to many known more or less historical places.

All the puzzles are fair, though I needed a single hint from the author to complete the game. And I needed one more hint to get the best ending. However, the game has been updated recently, so that the best ending is better hinted. If you type AUTHOR while playing, you will get his contact information. Jim replied very fast in a friendly manner, so you don't need to worry about that there isn't a Walkthrough available in case you get stuck. Many of the puzzles are about handling different mechanisms, though more traditional puzzles are present too. From a logical point of view, you may sometimes wonder, how a clue for one time period is to be found in another time period. But that isn't really the purpose of this game. The purpose is an entertaining puzzlefest. Some might find some of the puzzles too easy but for me, they were just right.

The game has an inventory limit. As in many games with inventory limits, there is a remedy for that problem, though your inventory limit will not be infinite. While playing this is not a problem at all, as you can have your objects in a central place. Only when you reach the end of the game, which objects you bring might be important. However, in the newest version (February 1st 2021), It is pretty well hinted which objects you should bring (or at least how to figure it out). I encourage you to find the best ending (maximum points) as it is more fun than the easier ending.

Jim's style is such, that most location descriptions mention what was once in the location and that most of it is gone when you arrive. Thus, there will only be a few things necessary to examine in each room. Thus you don't need to examine countless of scenery objects. I like this approach. However, you may sometimes need to look behind or under objects too.

NPC's are extremely rare and it could have been fun with a few more NPCs, which could also be a little more active.

Nevertheless, this was an entertaining game I recommend if you like old-school puzzlefests.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

#VanLife, by Victoria

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Well coded but underlying physics misunderstood, December 10, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Custom system

If you found this game difficult it is understandable. Much of the technical information and questions don't make sense. The author (one of them?) clearly has misunderstood one or more basic concepts, especially watts, which the author seems to think is a unit of energy, which it isn't. It is a unit of power, which is energy per time unit. Joule is a unit of energy and 1 watt means 1 joule per second.

The best example in the game to illustrate this is probably:
"Excess Discharge Error: The amount of energy required by the load, 33600 watts, was more than the batteries and inverter could supply, at 4302.7 watts and 90% inverter efficiency."

Here, it becomes clear that the author (one of them?) thinks that watts are energy ("The amount of energy required by the load, 33600 watts, was..."). That wasn't a big deal if watts did not play a big role in the game, but it does. It is at the core of the game, that you shouldn't run out of energy. Most tech questions concerning energy are completely wrong. This is a problem, since many may walk away thinking they learned something. But they learned something wrong, which will confuse them if they later need to learn about watts, joules, power and energy.

One more example:(Spoiler - click to show)"How many watts are required to run the loads of a kettle that uses 26880W per hour for 3 minutes?
-134.4W 1344W -13440W 8064W"

Again, the author thinks that watt is a unit of energy. If the kettle had used 26880 joules per hour, it would make sense to say it used 26880 joules / 20 = 1344 joules after 3 minutes of operation. Best case, this was a trick question (but it isn't), because, if a kettle uses 26880W, it uses 26880W whether you run it for 3 minutes or 10 hours, simply because watts means joules per second. But according to the game, the "right" answer was 1344W.


Most questions seem to hold this misconception. However, I get the impression that more authors might have been working on this game, as parts of the game seem correct, e.g. when looking into the solar panel: "The batteries currently have 1734.9WH of energy" (though it would normally be written Wh, not WH). Here, the author applies an energy unit for energy as she should.

I hope the author will be able to learn from the mistakes and update the game. I think it has the potential to be a good game for people interested in technical stuff, if all the incorrect technical stuff is corrected and the difficulty level is appropriate. Until then I recommend NOT to play it.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

Alien Research Centre, by Ian Smith and Sean McClure

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
From 1990, worth playing today, November 21, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Custom system

Before you read on, here are a few facts:

1. Location graphics for all rooms (8-bit quality)
2. Brief location descriptions
3. Two-word parser (but fast)
4. Inventory limit (9 objects, hardly a problem)

This game was really fun. You are exploring an abandoned alien research centre which has been taken over by various grotesque creatures. Though the location descriptions are brief, the atmosphere is good due to the graphics and sound effects. And if something significant changes in a location, the location graphics change too. And if there is something you can interact with, it is mentioned in the location descriptions.

The game is a puzzlefest and there isn't much of a story. But the puzzles are good and there are lots of them. You will need to guess a few verbs, but you will most likely get them right either the first or the second time around as they are usually quite obvious. In my opinion, only one puzzle required an unexpected command: (Spoiler - click to show)The command "kick floor" isn't obvious to me, even though we are told that the floor is partly eaten away by some substance. You might kick a wall or door but not a floor. I would have expected Jump, Stomp or Break Floor to work but only "kick floor" seems to work. Anyway, how difficult a game should be is always a matter of taste. I found the difficulty level just right. I did peek at a walkthrough a few times as I was eager to get on with the game, but I usually regretted it as the puzzles are all fair.

Though there are plenty of ways to die, you will rarely die unexpectedly. Whenever you encounter an alien you have one turn to leave if you don't know how to deal with that alien. Still, you should save often. I played with the Fuse emulator and here saving a snapshot was only a click away.

It is my impression that the game can be made unwinnable in at least one way, but then it will be obvious that a part of the game isn't accessible anymore, so if you have been saving often, it isn't a big deal. Only one puzzle seemed to contain a random element, but that made sense for this particular puzzle and didn't prevent me from winning if I didn't get it right the first time.

Everything considered I think this a great game. As I never had a ZX Spectrum, I hadn't heard about this game until recently, but now that I tried it, I wouldn't mind calling it a classic worth playing today. Recommended.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

The Curse of the Scarab, by Nils Fagerburg

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Optimization game with excellent puzzles and implementation, November 15, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Custom system

This game is inspired by the optimization games "Captain Verdeterre's Plunder" and "Sugarlawn". I agree those are good. This is however my favourite optimization game so far. Except for a few locations, this game takes place in an Egyptian tomb. Your task is to find a certain object and then find as many valuables you can. When you complete the game, you will automatically sell everything. The money you earn is your high score. The author encourages you to send him a transcript if you get a high score, which always gives even more incentive to keep playing.

This game is a lot of fun. It has excellent puzzles and thorough implementation. However, it does have some "old school features" but that makes sense for an optimization game: Time limit (read: turn limit) for parts of the game, inventory limit and the game can be put in an unwinnable state. However, these are what makes this game fun and challenging. The game is not very big location-wise and most locations can be reached when the game begins. You will probably have one playthrough to solve puzzle A, then another playthrough to experiment with puzzle B etc. After that, you can try to optimize your playthrough so that you will earn as much as possible.

Regarding the time limit, note that you can exploit the parser, obviously intended, for instance, GET ALL would only take one turn, whereas if you get the objects one by one, it takes more turns. Such parser exploitation is not exactly realistic but I think it adds a positive extra layer to the optimization.

The game engine appears to be made by the author, which was probably a good choice as the implementation is very good and suits the game. Even when you restore a saved game you can undo as many times you like, and after multiple sessions, it accumulates a list of all the treasures you found and the number of undiscovered treasures. Those actions, which shouldn't take time in the game, don't. For instance, examining things only takes time if something happens. My only nitpick with the parser was (Spoiler - click to show)I wasn't sure about the syntax for wishing. E.g. it could have understood [wish that 'something'] but that didn't work. I am now under the impression that the only way to wish is to type [wish for 'something'].

As an Ectocomp game, this is not particularly scary to play, though it does contain violent deaths, unnatural phenomenons etc. Still, I think it is suited for Ectocomp but would probably do very well in other competitions too. Anyway, I think this is an excellent game I highly recommend.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

Cavern of the Evil Wizard, by MontieMongoose
Great idea, bad parser, June 6, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Custom system

If you ever saw the movie Big from 1988, you might remember that the main character was playing an IF game with graphics. This wasn't a real game, just one location made for the movie. Then in 2009, BoMToons created a game with only that location.

Then, in 2020, MontieMongoose created this game, with several locations and original puzzles and the final location is that, which is shown in the movie.

The graphics style matches that of the original movie, which is fine. However, the movie was published in 1988 and there were many games with decent parsers at that time. It couldn't be seen in the movie if the parser was good or bad.

This game has a homebrew parser and the parser is very bad. Still, the game is fun, since you are told to use verbs like GET, THROW, OPEN, EAT, USE. Most of the game you use these verbs, except you also need LOOK (EXAMINE is not understood) and NORTH, SOUTH, EAST and WEST and in the final scene, you need to use a series of commands which I believe no one could guess without seeing the movie (there are videos on Youtube showing how to beat the final scene).

Thus I would recommend the author to implement the game in an IF-engine so the game would have a much better parser. Especially the end scene should accept more commands than it currently does. I am sure that the game would then be more fun to play.

Still I had fun playing it.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

Bradford Mansion, by Lenard Gunda

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Homebrew parser puzzlefest, November 24, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: Custom system

In this game you play the role of a young associate at a law firm. Your task is to find a will in the Bradford Mansion. The story is minimal but sufficient for a good puzzlefest. The homebrew parser was pretty good. However, I think the author should have chosen some different verbs for some of the problems. However, by experimenting I found out that if I couldn't guess a verb, I should often use "USE", e.g. "use hook with fishing rod" (fictive example).

It took me only a little more than two hours to complete the game without hints. However, I did not have maximum points, so if you like to improve your score, there is more entertainment in this game. The ending was a bit disapointing though.

The game is quite classical with some typical NPC's (butler, gardener and maid). Some of the puzzles I had more or less seen before, but that does not necessarily mean that the author didn't come up with the idea himself. It is just hard to think up a puzzle, which hasn't been used before in some form or another. Still this was a very entertaining game. Four stars.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

Amazon, by Michael Crichton

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Good game despite its age, April 16, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: C64, Custom system, Telarium

This game was written by best-selling novelist Michael Crichton in 1983 and published by Telarium in 1984. Luckily the quality of this very old game is high. It is a two-word parser but I never felt that I had to guess-the-verb. However, the manual, which can be found online, contains a verb list which shows what verbs are accepted. It is recommended to read the manual before playing. More over, the game comes with a so-called N.S.R.T.Field map which is required to complete the game. This map can also be found online.

Since there are no modern interpreters for Telariums games, you will need to download an emulator. The game is available for Apple II, Apple Macintosh, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and MS-DOS. I chose to play with a commodore 64 emulator. The other machines are probably faster but I just ran the emulator at approximately 5 times normal speed and so, the game ran at a decent speed.

As the title implies, you are going to the Amazon jungle. The purpose is to find treasure within the lost city of Chak. All puzzles were fair and you quickly stumble upon a humorous sidekick NPC, which helps you on your way. The game has some primitive but still atmospheric graphics and sound effects. Some people may find the game too easy. There are however 3 difficulty levels. I am not the strongest player so I took the easiest difficulty level (novice). As a consequence, I only needed to consult a walkthrough once and I completed the game in about 5-6 hours.

This is the first Telarium game I have played and it was a very positive experience so I am looking forward to try the other seven Telarium games.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 


1-10 of 10