Reviews by Denk
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(Spectrum version reviewed - legally available from http://www.zenobi.co.uk/ )
Jack Lockerby was one of the most prolific homegrown authors on the ZX Spectrum and c64. Luckily the ZX Spectrum versions have been made available by John Wilson, who owned Zenobi Software and the right to distribute these games.
The Mines of Lithiad is definitely one of the better ones. As it is made with PAW, it is often possible to use 4 words, similar to e.g. PUT BALL IN BOX or GET PEN FROM BASKET. However, whenever two words are sufficient to describe the action, you should stick to two words.
The plot: Cavilan, the last surviving dragon, has chosen you to rescue her egg from the clutches of the Master and his band of Orcs.
Once you are past the introduction location, the game starts out with a large area with mostly empty locations. Though several of these have the same location description, it is not at all a maze, as the map is very logically laid out. I guess the main purpose of this map layout is to make it a bit challenging to solve a specific puzzle within a time limit. Here, I should add, that there are a few real time elements. These real time elements are very rarely a problem, especially as you can save as often as you like quite quickly with a free ZX Spectrum emulator like Fuse. So even if you don't like real time elements in IF, I recommend that you try this one.
And if you dislike inventory limits, you should know, that you can find a solution to that quite early in the game, so that isn't a problem either.
Once you are past the big opening area, the map becomes more standard with lots of fun puzzles, some original as well as a few classic puzzles.
I never had serious guess-the-verb problems but I needed a hint for two puzzles. They weren't unfair, so with more patience, you might be able to solve it without hints.
Very entertaining, certainly one I can recommend.
(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.
(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).
(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.
(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 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.
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.
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.
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