(This is an edited version of a review I originally wrote for my blog during Introcomp 2020.)
Pre-Marie was the first Adventuron game I ever tried. The 'pre' refers to the fact that it was entered in IntroComp as a taster for a longer game.
Marie is set in contemporary London. The PC is a woman about to sneak out to investigate some unspecified mystery that she doesn't want her currently sleeping husband to know she's going to investigate. It's a compelling set-up delivered in a generally old school manner. This means: the parser is simple and doesn't understand a lot or too well. The graphics are pixellated pastels that vaguely remind me of some of the early graphic adventure games from the 1980s, and especially the propensity of those games to present different streets in a town in ways that made them seem disorientingly (or deliberately) samey. The font channels both ZX Spectrum adventuring and Sierra's various Quest games.
There's a bit of needless misdirection in the game that seems down to the parser. For instance, reaching for a wet newspaper spied on the ground prompts a 'Leave it alone, it's wet'-type rejection message. But really, the game wants you to READ the newspaper. The prose is also a little misjudged in giving overall direction. Early on it presents the heroine's internal dithering as to whether she should hasten to get on a train or keep exploring her neighbourhood, but the game is really about doing the latter. Her dithering is too dithery re: what's important to the game. And new location descriptions can scroll partly out of view, meaning you have to mouse back up the first time you enter a new area.
It took several plays for me to apprehend all of this, and the first play felt especially open ("What's going on? How does this game work? What does it want? What can it do? What should I do?"). I certainly enjoyed the intrigue of trying to make out the game's aesthetic over those plays, its suburban London setting and the mystery of its plot. I barely dented that plot. I do ultimately find the game curious. There's something non-transparent to me about how this particular story's being delivered – with this old font, with these graphics, with its mystery plot versus its simple parser. It might have become clearer to me were the game to have continued. I also confess I wasn't crazy about the graphics overall, though they have their moments. The pastel colour scheme leads to a kind of non-differentiation that I find hard to interpret at times. I also find the PC's notebook contents, presented via the graphics, visually illegible.
On the excerpt of Marie given, I didn't get it, but my curiosity did prompt me to give the IntroCompish verdict of, yes, I would like to see more of this game.
(This is a review of the 2020 Introcomp version of Navigatio. The review is edited from a blog post I made during the competition.)
Navigatio (The Confession of the Second Man) is a parser-driven IntroComp 2020 entry from P. James Garrett. It's the first chapter of the prospective longer adventure and took me about twenty minutes to complete.
The PC in Navigatio is a monk's assistant at a monastery in the middle ages. The prologue about his rough upbringing and how he got to where he is is catchy and confidently delivered, even if there was one element of it I didn't quite understand. Then comes the first prose of the game proper –
Frozen Northern Bank
It is the third of a series of strange mornings. Lauds was late, but time has been misbehaving. So have the monks of this community.
– which I really like. It conveys a lot, moving through levels of awareness and connecting ideas quickly.
In the vein of 'assistant' games, the PC is tasked with fetching news and objects, communicating between different NPCs and solving environmental puzzles that get in the way of his goals. The monastery environment is compelling, and apparently the product of some research, sporting religious and manuscript-making details that evoke time and place. The implementation of the physical details is light, and probably the area of the game I'd most like to see beefed up in a later release.
The puzzles in this intro are simple and well-cued. I also nabbed some items that I expect will be of use in a subsequent chapter. The transition to chapter two has several elements that are hooky, including the continuation of a mystery thread set up in the first chapter and a suggestion that the metaphysical nature of the world might change as the game continues. I'm keen to see more either way. Some typos aside, Navigatio is well-written and well-directed, with a strong sense of place (including a few random environmental elements for flavour) and effective characterisation between the PC and his mentor. I would like to see stronger implementation of the environment in an expanded version, mostly so that the game would have a means of elaborating on its world's interesting details.