Ratings and Reviews by Tracy Poff

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View this member's reviews by tag: ChickenComp IF Competition 1995 IF Competition 2000 IF Competition 2007 IF Competition 2014 IF Competition 2016 Shufflecomp 2014 SmoochieComp Speed-IF 7 Speed-IF 8 Spring Thing 2014 XYZZY Awards 1997 Xyzzy Awards 2001
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Ventilator, by Peregrine Wade

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
The comedy falls flat, November 17, 2016
by Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States)
Related reviews: IF Competition 2016

This game aims for humor through absurdity and exaggeration, and it's hit or miss--mostly miss. The game tells you in the introduction that "There are no flies in the air, but that is only because they have all passed out on the floor.", and indeed when the game starts there are flies on the floor (which "look highly dehydrated")--a nice touch. I was amused, too, that when the cat flies onto your face, your inventory describes it as "a cat (being worn)". On the other hand, the description of the bar as "A minibar. Just a minibar. Not a spaceship. Not a portal to another world. Not... well, you get the idea." falls a bit flat, as do most of the other jokes in the game.

When you leave the room, you encounter a "left-right corridor" (and can, indeed, go left or right) rather than the usual compass directions. That's weird--what other directions would the corridor run? Up and down? I guess it's an objection on the part of the author to the use of compass directions in IF; trying to move south at one point gives "You don't have a compass." It's not consistent on this, though. Sometimes compass directions are accepted, and trying to run gives "You'll have to say which compass direction to go in."

On this point, I don't think it's a problem for IF to use compass directions. They are, after all, descriptions for the player, not the player character. I'd be much less happy if an IF game more 'realistically' forced me to move around by manually turning and walking forward. Tank controls in IF! Is it an idea whose time has come?

The puzzles, such as they are, aren't very hard. There's a timed 'puzzle' at the beginning--you must turn the fan on before you lose consciousness--and some of the later ones are probably timed as well, but the game is basically just railroading you into progressing through the game. There's little enough to see and do, so I don't suppose this really detracts from it.

After I got my bearings I examined myself and my inventory. The description of the shirt ((Spoiler - click to show)"...just like Stephanie, before that stupid argument messed up everything.") made me think of Adam Cadre's 9:05 and I momentarily hoped that the events of the game might belie the tone, but it was not to be.

After beating the game, you're presented with a list of suggested amusing things you can try, and I poked at a couple of them, but didn't have any motivation to try them all.

Ventilator isn't entirely bad. The implementation is generally competent with some attention to detail (e.g. the flies are gone after you turn on the ventilator--blown away, I presume), and there are a number of endings and optional actions. It just didn't entertain me. Not recommended.

This review is based on 2016-10-20 version.

Play time: 18 minutes.

The Price of Freedom: Innocence Lost, by Briar Rose
Tracy Poff's Rating:

Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Greg Hassett

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Of historical interest only, April 13, 2014
by Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States)

Journey to the Center of the Earth Adventure is a 1978 text adventure by Greg Hassett (who was, as I understand it, only 12 years old at the time) for the TRS-80. I played the Commodore PET version, ported by S. Prenzel.

When the game begins, you find yourself in a ship which has crashed. A computer screen informs us that ship's "fribulating gonkulator is burned out." I hate it when that happens.

What follows is a rather standard exercise in exploration and treasure-gathering. The game's map contains about three dozen rooms, including two--thankfully very small--mazes (with a reference to the Colossal Cave Adventure: "I'm in a maze of twisty little passages."). The game uses a two word parser, with only the first three letters of a word being significant.

Wandering randomly around in the game are bugs. If you encounter one before you have found the sword (which is very likely), you'll be killed, and have to load a saved game. Bad luck for you if you saved in a place where you'll inevitably be killed.

The game is completed when you have found both a replacement fribulating gonkulator and the tools with which to install, but there are over a dozen treasure to collect, some of which are necessary to progress, and others which only add to your final score. I managed 170/175 points, and I cannot imagine what I must do to get the last five points.

The world is a bit incoherent. You're apparently deep underground, so rooms like the ice cavern or cobblestone hallway make sense, but others, like the Arabian Room or Al's diner (!) just don't fit. In addition, the game is very poorly written, with many spelling and usage errors ("I can here chirping nearby.", "and fall into the lava ??? Fat chanche !"). On the positive side, the game does include some unique responses for flavor. For example, attempting to eat ruby results in "I think that a large ruby would give me indigestion, and I don't have any Pepto-Bismol."

Journey to the Center of the Earth Adventure doesn't measure up to many of its contemporaries, and it certainly can't compare to modern interactive fiction, but it's still an interesting part of the history of interactive fiction.

All Quiet on the Library Front, by Michael S. Phillips

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Unmemorable, April 12, 2014
by Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States)
Related reviews: IF Competition 1995

All Quiet on the Library Front by Michael S. Phillips is a 1995 interactive fiction game, entered in the first annual interactive fiction competition. The premise is that the PC is a student enrolled in CS 441 - Interactive Fiction who has been slacking off for the entire term. To save his grade, the PC must navigate the university library to acquire a biography of Graham Nelson, to use as a source for a term paper.

Phillips's first (and, to date, only) contribution to interactive fiction, Library has the hallmarks of a first game: it is set in a fictionalized version of the author's workplace; it contains many references to the IF community; it has a rather thin premise. That said, it's competently implemented and reasonably well written.

Library's main sin is that it's too simple. Its puzzles are very straightforward, its NPCs don't seem to do anything but serve their very limited purposes, and there's little else to do but what's required. I only finished with 26/30 points, and I have no idea what the other points could be for, but I don't have any particular urge to get the rest.

Most of Library's scenery is implemented, though some actions, like x me, give default responses. On the other hand, you can (Spoiler - click to show)kiss alan for a response that's both humorous and useful as a hint--well done.

Overall, Library is just mediocre, and there are too many better works of interactive fiction for me to recommend it. If I were rating it for the ifcomp, I'd give it about a 4/10.

Play time: 30 minutes to win, plus about 10 more of exploration.

This review is based on Release 2.

East Grove Hills, by XYZ
Tracy Poff's Rating:

The Chronicler, by John Evans
Tracy Poff's Rating:

Under, In Erebus, by Brian Rapp
Tracy Poff's Rating:

Alabaster, by John Cater, Rob Dubbin, Eric Eve, Elizabeth Heller, Jayzee, Kazuki Mishima, Sarah Morayati, Mark Musante, Emily Short, Adam Thornton, Ziv Wities
Tracy Poff's Rating:

Pick Up The Phone Booth And Die, by Rob Noyes

8 of 15 people found the following review helpful:
Disappointing, April 21, 2008
by Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States)
Related reviews: XYZZY Awards 1997

There's just not enough here to satisfy. One does not expect a joke game to be a great work of art, but does expect (or rather hope) that it should be funny. PUTPBAD isn't very funny to begin with, and I don't particularly like the style of 'humour' that relies on insulting the player, as PUTPBAD does when you lose. Winning, too, is unsatisfying, and the humour is similarly unamusing, though not abusive.

In short, the only thing this game has to recommend it is that it is well-known. It is not worth playing for its own sake.

You are a Chef!, by Dan Shiovitz

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Zany, November 27, 2007
by Tracy Poff (Hamlin, West Virginia, United States)
Related reviews: Speed-IF 8

This is a pleasant and zany little piece of SpeedIF. It's positively nonsensical, but so enthusiastically so as to be quite amusing. There's no real puzzle--walking about typing 'take all' would be sufficient to solve it--but it's brief enough that it's oddness alone is enough to sustain it. How can one not love a game that opens with "HELLO CHEF!!!!!1 You must make FOOD! You have a list! First to food wins!"?

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