Reviews by WriterBob

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The liberation, by Stephane F.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A Bleak Look at Totalitarianism, March 10, 2020
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

It has been a few years now since I've played, or reviewed any interactive fiction. The game mechanics of "The Liberation" are an example of the current generation of the genre. Gone is the parser where the player types out commands, replaced by what amounts to a "Choose Your Own Adventure," style of interface with limited options. The focus is on the narrative of the story rather than the immersive game play, reducing the interactive nature of interactive fiction.

The strength of this format is that it allows readers to easily explore the consequences of various actions taken during the course of the story. However, the actual branches are few and for much of the game the player is on a tight track, with few options that affect the course of the plot. This story offers a variety of endings, though I'd be hard pressed to say which is the ideal ending for a refugee from a totalitarian regime. I found the tone to be depressing and devoid of hope.

From the point of view of the game mechanics, it was well implemented, but exceptionally brief. There appear to be a few minor idiosyncrasies with the translation from the original French version, but I felt this enhanced the atmosphere of the story.

Overall "The Liberation" succeeds in delivering a tale of dark desperation.

Donkey Kong, by Andrew Plotkin

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Quaint interpretation of an arcade classic, November 30, 2013
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

I came across this game while randomly browsing through the site. My preconception was that this was going to be another example of Z-machine abuse, an implementation of a more action oriented game (e.g. Super Z-Trek, Freefall, etc.). This is a more liberal interpretation where you take on the role of the title character. There isn't much in the way of character development here, but anyone who enjoys the movie Super Mario Brothers won't mind that in the slightest. The game is in the same vein as Zork: A Troll's Eye View, with a similarly tragic and unavoidable outcome.

If you are looking for a cute 2 minute diversion without having to engage yourself in creative puzzle solutions, or understanding bothersome exposition, this might be exactly your cup of tea.

Wait... Could this be the perfect introduction for raw newcomers to IF? The game has limited interaction and keeps the player on a tightly confined role with clear expectations of their task. Sure, it will become boring and tedious for anyone capable of firing a synapse between two brain cells, but at that point they can take on more challenging and intriguing games. Or they'll turn their backs on IF without ever experiencing the wonder and excitement that the genre has to offer. Some days you just can't win... (Spoiler - click to show) you know, like the title character here.

Zork, by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Ongoing review in progress, September 5, 2013
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

I'm going to try something a bit different with this review. Many pieces of modern IF are brief and can be completed in less than hour. Zork (the one and only, the original) is much larger, so large that it was broken into three parts to make the Zork Trilogy. (Yes, yes, most people reading this review are intimately familiar with Infocom and it's history, and those who aren't, well the story of one of the most successful early video game companies makes for interesting reading. Please, pardon the digression.)

Where was I?

Oh, right. Zork. It's big; too big for me to play through and write a review in a reasonable amount of time. Besides, I've never completed the game, and I'd like to.

Here's the deal. I plan on writing a brief review of my gaming sessions with Zork. My hope is that I'll be able to provide an in depth look at this, the father of IF. Of course Colossal Cave/Adventure is the grandfather of IF, another early work that I've barely scratched the surface of. But I don't find Colossal Cave nearly as intriguing as Zork. Perhaps it goes to my fascination with Infocom and the story of that company. Perhaps it's because Zork spawned such a large library of games. In any event, my focus is on Zork. Let's dive in...

I'm playing the Inform port of Dungeon - zdungeon.z5. This is based on a relatively early version, "...from the original MDL sources created at MIT, dated 22-JUL-1981," according to Ethan Dicks (U.S. News & Dungeon Report found in-game.) There are many other releases available on this site ported to a variety of different interpreters, the latest that I've come across is a version 3.2b for TADs.

I chose to go with the Inform version for a couple of reasons. First, Inform was inspired by the Infocom ZIL interpreter and designed initially to play the original Infocom games. Second, being an older version, this is probably the closest I can get to the version I played briefly back in the early '80's. Third, this was the only version I found that would work with IFMapper, an intriguing auto-mapping program which attempts to generate a map from a live transcript file generated during game play.

When it comes to mapping, I find it tedious. For some it may add depth to game play experience. For me, it takes me out of the story. Having access to a full map though can lead to spoilers. IFMapper takes the chore of mapping out of my hands while retaining mystery of the adventure.

So I've got Windows Frotz fired up (v. 1.17) with Dungeon loaded, and IFMapper up and running with automap turned on.

Right from the first location, the original Zork is slightly different from Zork I. The original "West of House," description reads:

This is an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.

In the commercial release of Zork I, the player is emphasized more:

You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.

It's a small difference, but not a minor one. With the commercial release, the player is an active part of the environment versus being an external observer. Sure, it may be semantics, but good IF relies on how something is said as much as what is said.

I won't go into the details of where I have gone in this game. As River Song would coyly say, "Spoilers." This is a review, not a walkthrough.

My experience in playing this so far is akin to the feeling I had in reading the early drafts of The Star Wars, the script that laid out the bones of the story that would become The Star Wars Trilogy. This comparison is more than a little apt. Both the first draft of Star Wars and Zork were too large for a single release. Both Star Wars and Zork were split up into trilogies that expanded upon the ideas of the initial versions. Both were incredibly successful for their time.

I'm looking forward to continuing my exploration of the Great Underground Empire. In short, between personal nostalgia and curiosity over how the game unfolds this is one game that I'm eager to keep playing.

baby tree, by Lester Galin

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Sparse is the kindest description of this game, September 2, 2013
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

This piece is minimalist and surreal, and is devoid of meaning. It's difficult to determine what the author's intent is. The description calls it a "short horror game," but the only true word in that description is "short." It's hardly horrific; mildly disturbing perhaps but hardly evocative of any visceral, raw emotion. The absolutely linear plot, with one obvious use for the one object in the game hardly counts as interaction. There are only two locations in this game, and no matter which direction you choose, you end up in the other location. In the end, this feels like a poorly coded attempt at learning how to write text adventures.

Antifascista, by Greg Farough

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Potentially powerful story with minimal interaction, November 27, 2012
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

Antifascista is a game with high aspirations, strong ideals, and limited interaction. The strength of this game lies in the linear story, demonstrating one way to resist fascism. It is a worthy message to deliver, but the interactive part of this fiction isn't implemented in a manner which actively engages the player.

The largest flaw in this game isn't so much a "guess the verb" issue as a "guess the action." Most scenes take place in a single location. The one scene that did allow movement kept the player on rails running along a single path toward a confrontation with a predetermined conclusion. There are no items to use in this game. There is only one instance of verbal communication in this game, and that's menu driven. The story moves forward only when taking actions that are not always understandable from the context of the narrative.

Due to the strict linearity of this story and limited effective actions the IF implementation isn't nearly as successful as a story of this nature deserves. Still, it is a worthy effort, and I do encourage the author to continue writing.

9:05, by Adam Cadre

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Short and doubly-sweet, July 2, 2012
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

There isn't much that I can say about this game that hasn't been said before, at least not without revealing the game. Like this review, it's very brief and far more enjoyable than I'd anticipated. One caveat, if you're new to playing IF, know that this isn't a typical game.

69,105 Keys, by David Welbourn

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A Simple On Puzzle Game, September 14, 2009
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

I'm not a huge fan of one puzzle games. They can be cute enough for a brief diversion, but once the player figures out the puzzle there's little enough left to the imagination. The key to this game (pun intended) is simple enough. After that it is a tedious matter to type in the variations to determine the unique solution.

Despite the utter tedium, which would normally earn a one star rating, I gave this game two stars simply because it was very well executed.

The author deserves credit for putting together such a clean, lean game. However, I really want more fiction in my IF.

Violet, by Jeremy Freese

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful:
Well crafted, demented, and fun, November 17, 2008
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

This game is as rock solid a piece of IF as I've seen in quite a while. It is a single room, single extended puzzle, written clearly. All the objects in the room are capable of being examined and most are, to a great degree capable of being manipulated.

The tone of the game may not appeal to all people. The major conceit of the game is that the narrative is told from the point of view of your girlfriend, Violet. All of the actions you take are commented on by her voice in your head. When you look at the room the game doesn't tell you the description so much as Violet relates the description to you in her own unique voice.

The plot and motivation are developed as the game progresses. There is no need for a lot of background feelies to get the player in the mind-set of the game. As the story developed, the solutions to each situation became increasingly bizarre. Also of note is the status bar in the game which clearly relayed what the next obstacle was in the sequence of this extended puzzle.

Overall, I found this a very satisfying piece of IF.

Hunt the Wumpus, by Gregory Yob, Magnus Olsson, and David Ahl

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
The Great-granddaddy of IF, November 13, 2008
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

Here it is, restored in all its glory, "Hunt the Wumpus." Before Colossal Cave, there was Hunt the Wumpus. By today's standards it wouldn't even place in any IF competition. But, back in '72 it was the only piece of IF available, the first of its kind.

The interface is very limited. You can only shoot an arrow into an adjacent room, or move to an adjacent room.

The prose non-existent, consisting of the coordinates of the room you occupy and whether you sense a pit or a wumpus nearby.

Beyond the lethal pits and wumpus, there is only one other obstacle, the bat. The bat takes you and deposits you in a random location (which may contain either pit or wumpus.)

There is no exploration; there is no twist of plot; there are no revelations into the human condition. It is a simple game, one in which you either kill the wumpus or die. Still, as the great-granddady of IF, it deserves special consideration. All true adventurers should relish this piece of history.

Shrapnel, by Adam Cadre

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Fragments from an explosion, November 11, 2008
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)

"Shrapnel," lives up to its name quite beautifully. This game could not have had any other name. Here is another fine example of a game that stretches traditional IF to its boundaries. Things aren't always as they appear.

There were no instances of "guess-the-verb," nor any traditional puzzles. There are no puzzles in the traditional sense. For the most part, the player/character wanders through the game as an observer (in a very literal sense) until the climax is reached.

And that is why I could not give this game a higher rating. As enjoyable as it was, this game really flowed on rails, taking the player from one scene to the next smoothly and easily with minimal interaction.

All in all, this brief game is a pleasure to play, and was executed skillfully. It would perhaps be a good game for newcomers to IF to understand what the medium has to offer.

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