Reviews by Rovarsson

Comedy

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1-7 of 7


Max Blaster and Doris de Lightning Against the Parrot Creatures of Venus, by Dan Shiovitz and Emily Short

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
*Squawk!*, August 31, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Comedy, Puzzler

A man swoops down onto a flying pirate ship. He fights off the entire crew singlehandedly, retrieves the stolen briefcase and is off to his next mission.

A woman infiltrates a high-security underground bunker. Through the cunning use of a coffeemaid's uniform, she thwarts the entire assembly of scheming supervillains. She is called in for a briefing on her next mission.

In two short railroaded scenes, we meet our heroes:
-Max Blaster: An action hero, larger than life, with hairdo and ego as big as his muscles.
-Doris deLightning: A stealthy spy, relying on brains over brawn.

Meanwhile,The Venusian Parrot Overlord prepares to conquer Earth. Max and Doris will have to join forces to stop him.

Max Blaster and Doris deLightning Against the Parrot Creatures of Venus is a hilariously over the top action-comedy. It parodies 1950s scifi clichés and any other clichés that may cross its path. The (anti)chemistry between the protagonists is one of these. If they were bottles in a highschool science classroom, they would be labeled "Do Not Mix" in big red letters. Needless to say, snappy conversations full of funny one-liners are the result of them working together, as well as a growing affection for each other...

After the introduction, the player is asked to choose Doris or Max as the player character. Since they have different styles of approaching obstacles and a different set of equipment that fits their styles, and since they will be separated a few times during the mission, the player will experience a different path through the game depending on this choice.
I played as Doris, so this review will be necessarily incomplete and biased towards Doris' skills. (And against that blastery blowhard who just wants to rush every obstacle head-on!)
When Doris and Max are together in the same room, the player can SWITCH TO the other character to tackle a puzzle from a different angle. However, I believe it is possible to complete the game without ever doing so. I encountered one timed puzzle where I switched, but in hindsight I realize that I probably had enough turns to do it in-character.

There's no leisurely exploring the map in the first half of this game. It starts of at a fast pace and doesn't slow down until the very end. Many times, you will be automatically moved to a new area after a scene. Only once you've penetrated the headquarters are you granted a small bit of freedom to look around. Even then, your space is limited to the few rooms immediately connected to the next obstacle.
Small, simple but clever puzzles help to heighten the tension and emphasize the urgency of the mission. Often, the solution relies on noticing a small detail in your surroundings and realizing its importance.

Just before the endgame, Doris and Max need to split up and tackle a different obstacle. The player needs to choose which problem to solve. On the path I chose, I encountered a glorious multi-step problem with a variety of machines to fiddle with. Anyone who has played Metamorphoses or Savoir Faire will recognize the vintage Emily Short-style devices.

Throughout the entire game, I had the impression of a very "full" game-world. Partly, this is because there are so many objects to examine (and take with you) and devices to experiment with. Another reason is that there are constantly things happening around you: the status of the evil plan is announced through speakers, guards are flying up and down and you get updates when Max (or Doris) has achieved a sub-goal when you are separated.

In such a well-written and smoothly playing game, it was very odd to encounter a very weird bug: on two occasions (once when I switched to Max and once at the very end), the parser prompt simply disappeared. I could still type and enter commands, but they showed up right at the end of the previous paragraph and in the same font as the descriptive text. Not a problem for continuing the game, but very disconcerting at first. I was surprised at how much the standard layout of bold commands followed by smaller descriptions was a visual handhold for me.

A hilarious action-packed parody game with an impressively intricate puzzle-engine under the hood.


Guttersnipe: Carnival of Regrets, by Bitter Karella

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Coulrophobia!, August 18, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Horror, Puzzler, Comedy

We join our protagonist Lil' Ragamuffin (Rags to her friends) and her pet rat/best friend Percy while they are preparing an evening feast: a leather shoe roasted to crispy goodness above their small campfire. A man approaches and offers Rags a way out from the streeturchin life: join the carnival! He gives her a free ticket to come and see it for herself. Against Percy's advice, Rags, unafraid, visits the carnival and soon finds herself confronted with some very nasty clowneries indeed.

Rags is a great character. She's small with a big mouth, keen on adventure and very curious about anything that crosses her path. I often chuckled when I read what actually came out of her mouth when I entered a simple ASK ABOUT command.
Percy the rat is her counterbalance in some ways. He's more cautious, more prone to using his common sense and more knowledgeable about the "civilized" world. To the player, Percy functions as an in-game cluegiver, comparable to Crystal from Illuminato Iniziato, though not as deeply realized. The player should treat him as an in-game convenience rather than as a last resort hint-system. Small nitpick: Percy's hints appear to be location-specific. If you forgot to ask him about the blue-striped giraffe ropeskipping on the ballroom balcony, you'll have to return to that location. (note: No blue-striped giraffes were found nor hurt during my playthrough.)

The map of Carnival of Regrets is very well done. The carnival grounds are clearly subdivided in areas like the Side Show and the Animal Pens. Parts are blocked off by an adversary, almost like a level-boss, ensuring that the map does not become overwhelming and that the player will have (probably) seen everything before crossing to the next area.

The carnival is filled with a diverse and entertaining cast of colourful characters, some helpful (but mostly powerless themselves), some outright dangerous to stray little streeturchins...

It's a true joy to read the adventures of Lil' Ragamuffin as they unfold. The writing is gleefully creepy, with evocative and adjective-rich descriptions of many things grotesque and scary. The enjoyment of the author shines through in reading these passages. In the bigger picture, the action is well-paced, there is lots of freedom to explore, well-placed bottlenecks and a growing sense of urgency as you learn more about the underlying mystery of the carnival.

Sadly, Carnival of Regrets is bogged down by a lack of smooth and trustworthy gameplay.

The world and its contents are seriously underimplemented, and what level of implementation there is is unevenly spread. Sometimes an unimportant scenery-object is vividly described and attempts to interact with it are accounted for, while there are plot-relevant objects that are hastily and too tersely described. This underimplementation means that the game misses many opportunities for funny or helpful responses to "wrong" commands. More importantly, the lack of synonyms for important verbs (for instance: SCREAM works, SHOUT does not) can lead to frustrating attempts at mindreading.

The puzzles are easy-to-medium difficulty. They are well thought out and well clued, some very clever in concept. The lack of smooth implementation hinders the player's enjoyment however. For most puzzles I had the correct solution figured out, but it was still helpful to use David Welbourn's excellent (as always!) walkthrough to get the exact commands when I got stuck.

All criticism aside, Guttersnipe: The Carnival of Regrets is funny, delightfully scary and very well written. Recommended!


Ballyhoo, by Jeff O'Neill

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A lot loafer doing some Johnny Tin Plate-cherry pie on the side., May 7, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Comedy

Yes. That's just one of the great things about Ballyhoo: you get to learn circus-lingo.

After overhearing the circus boss talking to an obviously incompetent private detective about the disappearance of his daughter, you decide to do some investigating yourself. No other motivation than your protagonist's whim. Works for me...

So you start the game and soon find that...

Ballyhoo is pure puzzle and comedy gold.

The comedy comes from many different sources.
There is the persistent atmosphere of a somewhat run-down circus. There are mislaid props and animal odours and filthy rags for banners. One of the trailers is off kilter, an old and warped attraction front serves as part of the fence, one of the lions is skinny and shaggy... This atmosphere doesn't get depressing because it's offset by detailed and colourful descriptions.

The prose is really good. The room and action descriptions are clear but also playful, and there are some hilarious cutscenes (I include deathscenes in the "hilarious cutscene"-category...) A lot of the comedy comes from the protagonist winding up in awkward situations and uncomfortable circumstances ((Spoiler - click to show)trying to navigate a tightrope 20 feet up in the air, finding your way through the crowd searching for your cotton-candy). Many times I laughed at the almost slapstick shenanigans needed to complete one or other task.

During your investigation, you'll meet many outlandish characters. When you (the player) stop and think about it, these NPCs are no more interactive or conversational than a cardboard cutout, but they are so well drawn that their stand-offish behavior and reluctance to answer your questions seems perfectly natural in-game. And they are marvelous just as they are. A collection of wonderful circus-artistes to gawk at.

Other funny features were the many, many instances of wordplay and punnery in the responses to "wrong" commands. My favorite was GET OUT OF LINE when exiting the line in front of a food stand ((Spoiler - click to show)the game describes your character raving and ranting and jumping up and down in anger, i.e. behaving "out of line"...)

As I said above, the puzzles in Ballyhoo are really top shelf. Beautifully hinted and clued. Very rewarding, in the searching for clues as well as in the discoveries after solving them.
When I came across a puzzle, I always could picture a vague general plan to tackle it. And it always turned out that I had missed a necessary step or forgot to bring an important object, throwing me off-balance again. Wonderful! And it always made sense in hindsight.

A small criticism: although I loved solving the puzzles for their own sake, and a joy to solve they were, I rarely had any idea why I was jumping through these hoops.
Of course I'm going to try to get in the lion's cage if I find out it's locked. Why? Because I'm playing an Infocom game. Apart from that, there is little to no motivation in-game to do the weird things that you do. Not even the occasional "You think you see a silvery glint behind the grating"...

This is in keeping with the characterization of the PC. Sure, the game-world is a late 1800s circus setting, but if you look at the bare bones of Ballyhoo, you're still a nameless cleptomaniac adventurer solving puzzles because they're there. There are a lot of instances where you find the solution before you see the puzzle. So you wind up taking everything with you "just in case". To be clear, I don't mind that. I actually like it. Just pointing out that we're not far removed from ZORK-gameplay.

There is however a bigger and more compelling story woven around the puzzle-solving hoop-jumping. This becomes evident int the finale. Excellent building of tension, beautifully tying together the narrative strands (in a hilariously off-kilter way, but hey...). The player's expectations are abruptly shaken a few times before finally solving the bigger puzzle that is the disappearance of the boss's daughter.

Really, play Ballyhoo. It's a hoot.


Mean Mother Trucker, by Bitter Karella

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
I love the smell of armadillo in the mornin', April 14, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Comedy

You're a big trucker with a soft spot for the waitress in a rundown truckstop. You'll have to prove to her you can safely take her accross the mountains to take her away.

Looking for ways to accomplish this, you meet a bunch of colourful characters, each with their weaknesses you can exploit to get a step further to your goal. (I was intrigued by Ranbir the shop owner.)

This could have been a fun comedy game, were it not that it's badly executed.

There are a bunch of typos and missing spaces, not enough synonyms, and often there is a blank line missing above the parser prompt, gluing the response to the previous command onto the next command line.

The game suffers from shoddy implementation. OPEN DOOR gets a response that refers to an obstacle that you just got rid of for example.

And I cringed when I saw this:

(In Convenience Store)

>BUY SODA

"Nothing is on sale."

Not only is it an unforgivable oversight not to implement BUY in a store, the author also managed to use the wrong expression.

[Edit: the expression "on sale" has different meanings in American and British English. Only in American English does it mean "being sold at a lower than usual price". I was wrong, the author was right to use "Nothing is on sale." in this way. Since this was the most grating flaw I experienced, I upped my rating by one]

Two or three more sendbacks to the testers and a lot of attention to detail could make this game a fun little comedy. As it is now however, the lack of careful finish got in the way of my enjoyment.

I look forward to a post-comp release of Mean Mother Trucker, where I might dive right into the comedy.


Take the Dog Out, by ell

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Exactly what it says on the tin., April 8, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Comedy

This was FUN!

There's really nothing to the "game"-part of this game, but my-oh-my the fun there is to be had by trying to do all the things you can think of in this limited setting.

Actually, this entire game is one big list of AMUSING.

Really, play it. Ten minutes of laughing, out loud or otherwise.


Wishbringer, by Brian Moriarty

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Boot patrol!, December 17, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy, Comedy

I have officially finished my first Infocom game!

And I liked it a lot. Wishbringer brought me a lot of moments of joy and laughter. Once you complete the introductory task, it seems the game-world turns dark and sinister. Once the boot patrol turns up though, it turns out to be whimsical and funny. The little town of Festeron (Witchville in the dark) is full of surprises, secret passages and absurd characters. When I found my way to Misty Island I laughed out loud. Phineas and Ferb is one of my favorite cartoons, and here I saw an island full of Agent Ps...

The puzzles are fun and on the easy side. I would recommend that you look at the official feelies and the original game-booklet before playing though. (Widespread on the web.)

Then why only three stars? Because it's possible to make the game unwinnable when you are at the doorstep of victory by not reading a certain note before it becomes forever inaccesible to you. And because the Magick Stone that this game is supposedly about is hidden without clues, like an inside joke from the makers. And because things like that are extra frustrating in an easy-going whimsical adventure such as this one.

But do play it. It's fun.


Brain Guzzlers from Beyond!, by Steph Cherrywell

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Good Golly Miss Molly!, September 27, 2020
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: SF, Comedy

A good story-driven game with easy puzzles and a menu-based conversation system, so nothing gets in the way of defeating the Brainguzzlers and saving your 1950s American Smalltown.

I really liked the game for the first half hour of play. After that the caricature of 1950s scifi horror, and of 1950s American society began to wear me down. I began half expecting The Jetsons coming down in a UFO of their own to drop off the Fonz who would then save the day.
I also doubt that "Jeepers!" would last long as the swearword of choice during an alien attack.

Technically, the game is very well put together. The scripted conversations are perfect for an uptempo story like this. Intro, middle and endgame are well paced. I would have liked some more implementation of scenery, but that would have slowed the game down, so it's understandable. What did bug me, and slowed the game down is the lack of synonyms available. A fast-paced story-game like this would have benefited from a wide choice of different names for your items so you didn't have to stop to remember how something was called in the description. I hated that in a scifi setting such as this, "blaster" was not recognized.

Probably best played in one go, straight through to the (slimy) ending.



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