If this had been called "Spank the Elderly" or "Slap the Crap Out of My Ex-Wife" I think I would have been able to get into it more.
I mean, this is the guy who took care of the H.P. Lovecraft commonplace book stuff and has written some really great games. In fact, if you have not played any of Mr. Nepstad's games than you really should not let this one keep you from doing so.
As for fish slapping, weird as it may be, it just is not for me.
Hmm...some fish are angry with you over...over...something. They have climbed out of the sea or lake or tank or whatever and are now heading down the boulevard with murderous intent. You duck into an ally and prepare to kick ass.
Well folks...that is about it. What we have next is a "Street Fighter" type of text fighting game. (Perhaps I would have like it better if it were more like "Mortal Kombat."
Slap that Fish is coded very well. I did not encounter a single problem (outside of almost getting bored and quiting before the third fish). To be fair, there are some really neat ideas in here. You have to rest to rebuild your stamina (though I think the fish should get in some free shots while you do that). There is astrategy to getting in the best combination of attacks to efficiently take out the enemy.
Later on, things vary up some. You find some inventory items and the fish get a little tougher. All in all, this felt way to linear for me. Of course, if what Peter wanted to make was a fighting game (which he did) than that is probably what he wanted.
You know...Tads looks good. Always looks good.
Did I have fun?
Not really. I was never able to get into it... but than again I hate fighting games (with rare...rare exceptions. I liked Mortal Kombat, but not for the fighting engine... I just liked killing people).
Let me stress again my point from above. Peter Nepstad writes some great IF and if you have only played Slap that Fish than you are really missing out. You can't blame a guy for trying a little experiment now and then. You just have to remember that some experiments do not work out very well.
If the actions required to complete Beneath: a Transformation were, instead, a brutal murder of a young schoolgirl, than the killer would get away with the crime because not a single clue would have been left behind.
I love the atmosphere of BAT (what an interesting acronym). I have never read any work by Robert E. Howard but after playing this game I think I might have to go and read Worms of the Earth. The idea of horrific physical change has always been the foundation of good horror and in this case reminds me a lot of Lovecraft (hooray).
Unfortunately there is one fundamental flaw that really hurts BAT and it is summed up in my opening statement.
There is a story in here. But is it Graham's or is it Howard's? It seems like I am expected, by psychic powers I presume, to know a lot more about what is going on than I do. Perhaps this is because I have not read the book (which I felt should have had an interesting passage quoted whenever the player reads it instead of just letting them know that they now possesses a greater degree or worm expertise. What would have been really cool is to have quoted page 57 from the actual book when the player reads page 57. In fact, I have decided to buy Worms of the Earth just so I can see what it says on page 57.)
There are many things going on in this tale. We have, amongst other things, police stations with murderous cops, pet stores with dogs and owls, coffee shops, and decayed buildings. What we are missing is the point for having any of these things. Why do I need to go see the police? Why do I need a dog? Why do my feet click on the cement when I try to go up in the air?
Here is a quote from the "help" section of the game:
...Type anything that seems logical. If the game doesn't recognize what you're attempting to do, no harm done...
But there is harm done...to my soul. Besides, logic is a relative thing. What seems logical and natural to a serial rapist suffering from Necrokleptabeastapyraphiliaphobia (the fear of stealing dead, burning animals for impure purposes) would not seem logical at all to a devout Baptist elderly woman.
BAT requires that you type exactly the "magic command" to solve a puzzle. You can come really close, even have the right action but the wrong wording, and fail. This problem is common in many games but it is especially bad in Beneath. The hook and crack scenario in the cell is a perfect example of this.
There are no bugs that I found, only a few cosmetic issues. Hanging the rope from the balcony causes it to be visible all over the place (even places where you would think it would not be so). Implementation is not really an issue in this game so much as design is.
The main problem with the design is the lack of cluing for puzzles and the goals itself. I wandered around the map for quite a while at first, and while I really dug the setting I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. My only goal was trying to get to the end of the game. By that I mean typing a series of commands needed to reach the winning block of text. The puzzle of the game, its main purpose for being, is never stated.
When you finally get stuck (you will) and try to use the walk through (you also will) you will find another of the games design flaws. The walk through itself is a sinister, yet crafty, little puzzle. If you follow it as it is written than you are going to die. Can you figure out what needs to be changed to live? Good Luck.
A z-code game, a z-code look. BAT gives good examples of what I do not like about the look of inform. I liked being chased by the mad cop, I think things like that are great tension builders. I do not enjoy the clunky, awkward way in which that information is presented. Regrettably I can think of nothing that can change this, and I am not faulting the author for it.
Did I have fun?
I did in a way. I liked the creepy setting and I found the text to be engaging. All my problems dealt with my psychic powers having failed me in my early twenties. Of course, there was the rare moments of actually figuring out the right action but not being able to type it in correctly.
There are many things to like in Beneath, but unearthing them is more work than it should be. If the author were to do a re-release with a little bit better cluing as to the main goal and puzzles, and add a little more flexibility to the parser than I think this would be an enjoyable game for more people. It is not a failure, it just needs a little more work. (It is also not a failure for Mr. Howard who has generated a sale for his book from my playing of this game).
Join the amazing adventures of Eduard in this action packed thrill-ride of one mans quest to make it to....to.... a poetry reading?!
Unlike many of the games I have been playing lately, this is the one area where ETS really falls short. There is not even an introduction sequence to set the mood of the tale or establish what you are supposed to be doing.
Things do not improve much as you play along in search of the means to meet up with your buddy Scardanelli. I had hopes upon reading the newspaper that I was about to encounter a cool plot twist (I think it is cool when an author starts you off in a seemingly boring and mundane place only to pull the rug out from under you a little ways in) but I was disappointed. In fact, I'm not sure that the author knew exactly what he wanted to do with Scardanelli, considering the fact that you can refer to him by two different names later, one of them being connected to the newspaper. Unfortunately, that plot line is never explored or explained.
The coding on this is better than the story (probably because there is some code while there is not really a story here). There are a couple of guess the verb problems. "Get onto trampoline" works while "get on trampoline" does not. Several other instances of this had me reaching for the walk-through.
The instant death from the window was lame. I had accidentally typed "s" instead of whatever direction I had meant to type and then...BAM... I'm dead. I went back to see what had happened and this is what I discovered:
you see nothing special about the window
I don't think much is to be achieved by that
climb out window
I only understand you as far as wanting to climb the outside
jump out window
I only understand you as far as wanting to jump
You jump out the window and land most unsoftly on the ground.
Now I know that it is fun to kill the player off, but there should have at least been a warning. Something like, "A fall from this height could kill a man" and then if the player did it again...BAM you're dead. That still does not explain why jump out window did not work, especially when that is exactly what happens when you die.
There were a few other issues, such as missing exits from room descriptions and a general lack of purpose. I also was able to make myself stuck in the Gym by dropping the candle and having it go out. I then had to reload the game because I could no longer move around. (Once again, no warning).
This looks like all the other Inform games I have ever played.
Did I have Fun:
I did not hate this game, but I did not really like it either. So while I did not experience a lack of pleasure (like one might get from obtaining frost bite on the colon), I did not have the time of my life. Doubt I'd ever play this again.
I just can not find the point to this game. There is little to no help from the author. You are probably going to need the walk-through to get all the way to the end of this but then again I can't really think of a reason to do so. There is no resolution other than a "you win" ending of about 2 sentences. I guess this is appropriate considering that there was not much of a story to resolve.
I remember really liking "On A Pale Horse" and "Wielding A Red Sword" by Piers Anthony when I was younger. I also remember thinking that the first "Highlander" movie was pretty cool. "The Immortal" borrows heavily from both these concepts and can only make my ask one question:
What the hell happened?
This story has everything that it needs to be really deep and involved. There were many aspects about it that I thought stood out and would have been great had they been given the attention that they deserved. The idea of the thought bubbles, and how one would collide with them to absorb information was different. Crushing cubes into powder and breathing the dust to create different effects was a nice fantasy touch. But where do these bubbles and cubes come from? Why are they here? I was interested in the story enough to want to know these things, but unfortunately an answer is never really given.
The soul chamber room had a great description. I really could see the flowing floor of sand and a large multitude of baskets by the pillars. But again some problems arose in the design not being fully realized. There is food in the baskets, but why can I not take some to give to the hobgoblin? The game does not even acknowledge the food after it tells you the food is there.
This story could be very interesting but I feel it would need a larger setting to tell properly. Of course, larger settings mean more work to avoid the problems that I am about to discuss. And those problems make playing this game very difficult. It's like trying to convince yourself that it is a good thing to belt sand your face off. Sure you can do it, but the end result is probably not worth the effort.
This game feels like the author was still discovering what was happening in his game's world at the same time he was writing it down. It comes across to me that he was in such a hurry to make sure he told you everything because he was afraid that if he did not he would forget it all. The Immortal suffers from a lack of going back and truly implementing everything short of what is required to beat the game. This means that you are going to use the walk-through. (Unfortunately for you, the walk-through contains a mistake or two itself.)
There are events that will continue to replay even though they should have ended. There is a bug that lets you rack up more points than the game is supposed to allow. One of the most interesting items in the game is not implemented at all. Seriously folks, I have a samurai sword on me. I am the only one that thought of trying to kill anything with it? How about the thief of a hobgoblin, you know the one that is already wounded, why does the game not even understand me wanting to stab that son-of-a-motherless-goat? Did I forget how to swing a stupid sword?
Why give me a sword and then never let me use it? That makes me wish I could disembowel myself (with the samurai sword that I can never use, but inexplicably have) and save some grief over continuing to play this.
This game is in Inform and I am unaware of anything the author can do to really change its overall appearance. So in that case, the presentation is fine.
Did I have fun?
There were parts of this story that could be really, really good under other circumstances. The location that I mentioned earlier really made an impression on me for some reason. But as a whole I did not really enjoy this. The implementation problems and lack of world related detail (why can I not sit on the sofa?) kept me from getting immersed in "The Immortal."
The author would do well to take this concept and perhaps remake this game. I do not think the story should be abandoned, just perhaps retold in a more detailed and stable environment. The surreal, to do well, always seems to take much more work than "the real."