Reviews by Rovarsson


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Wearing the Claw, by Paul O'Brian

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
(Dis-) Illusions, April 13, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy

This game was a lot better when I played it ten years ago. Or is it I who have come to expect better?

Wearing the Claw is a very traditional fantasy adventure. It's played completely straight. No tongue in cheek, no subtle (or blatant) irony.

I really like traditional fantasy played straight. A lot.

After "The Testing", you are chosen as the worthy young man to find the Pendant of MacGuffin, ahem, Elinor, to lift the curse beset upon your village by an evil wizard. You are to gain entry to the Fortress where it is held and bring it back. No objections from me here. More than half the fantasy stories and games I know start off like this.

But then the game falls short on many points.

Apart from a longish text dump-introduction and a similarly long epilogue, the actual story is hurried. There's not enough attention to tempo to let the player sink into the story or the character. Everything seems to happen one thing after another at the same just-a-bit-too-fast pace.

The view of the magical island across the sea raised expectations that weren't fulfilled. After a literally linear path (one east-west dusty road) I had hoped for the map to open up and become more complex upon entering the fortress. Instead I found one north-south path.

The first puzzle sets a good theme. It's about deception, and one hopes that this will be explored more fully in the rest of the game. The other puzzles do indeed repeat the theme, but they do not widen it. They're similar variations on the theme without becoming more difficult or complicated. As such, they also do not become more rewarding, rather the opposite.

The story itself has the same problem. If only it had broadened in scope to weigh some of the personal or moral implications of deception... Perhaps by adding alternative ways to overcome the obstacles...
Maybe your character could also have become a more three-dimensional person then.

But these are "if"s and "maybe"s that cannot be changed.

The game as it is still has its good qualities. It's competently written. It has a ton of optional responses to unnecessary actions. You can greatly add to the fun in this game by trying many things that are outside of the main quest.
There is a magical gadget that changes the way you view the world, so there's some fun in re-exploring there.

All in all, this is a fine, uncomplicated adventure. It's just that it seems to promise so much more...

Wintervale, by Ethan Erh

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Iterations of a snowy day., April 10, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy

Wintervale starts off as a run-of-the mill story about a fantasy town. This introduction was nicely done, with a history of how the town got its name and a list of the different fantasy races living together in Wintervale, listing their strengths. Apparently, the town is special for having all these races living together, as they are mistrusting towards each other in the neighbouring lands. Unfortunately, this information is of no consequence to the rest of the story.

The innkeeper of the town goes down to his drinking hall to investigate after he was rudely awakened by riotous noises in the streets. During this first investigation he is killed, only to re-awaken on the same day.

From here, the circumstances of the innkeeper's investigations turn darker and more confusing. Through multiple re-awakenings, the player must guide him on a search for what exactly is happening.

The game is written with a lot of enthousiasm, and I felt this pull me along while playing. I was gripped by the mystery of the broken glass in the tavern and the riot outside.

I must add however that the sense of mystery was helped (?) along by the unclear writing. The game is riddled with awkward turns of phrase that present your surroundings as more obscure than the author probably intended.

There are also many misspellings ("environment" is consistently spelled "enviornment" for example). The game definitely needs another round of proofreading by players fluent in English.

I liked Wintervale a lot, but perhaps more for the promise it shows than for the story it is in this iteration...

The Weight of a Soul, by Chin Kee Yong

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Dissection of a city district., April 7, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy

A sick goblin, bleeding from his eyes, is brought into the clinic and dies on the operating table, right before the eyes of Marid, a young doctor in training.

This is how The Weight of a Soul throws you in the middle of the action from the very first scene. Although there are some resting points in the rest of the game, they are few. Most of it is fast, moving from gruesome discovery to action sequence to an impressive and morally challenging finale.

The goblin's death is only the first in a row. Marid is sent out to investigate the cause of the disease and maybe find a way to stop it from spreading. It is the beginning of a journey that will take her deep into the bowels of the Channelworks District.

Into the bowels indeed. The great waterworks installation known as the Hydra Aquifera looms over the district and dominates the gameworld, both above and below ground. Its pipes, channels and canals run everywhere. The city's descriptions conjure up images of bodily fluids, purulent boils and Galenic humours. The city has been laid open on a dissection table with its innards bare.

The writing in The Weight of a Soul is excellent. In most locations, it follows a very standard IF-structure, with a short descriptive paragraph for each location, followed by a list of exits and of notable features. The images in those descriptive paragraphs are however of a rarely seen evocativeness:

---"The suspended mansion echoes with a grandiose hollowness."---

There are tense action-scenes, something hard to pull off in IF. Here they are well guided without sacrificing all interactivity.

The overall story arc was mostly satisfying. It's a great adventure story; I was happy to let myself be swept along. As a mystery however, it did not work so well for me. I was surprised at the scale of the villain's evil plan, but the basic plot, the nature of the disease and the identity of the villain were all clear very soon.

Fast-paced as it is, the game eschews traditional puzzles in favour of story-bound obstacles, conversations and examinations (of the city and of bodies alike).
It rewards the exploration with pieces of character backstory, long and well-written cutscenes and insightful dreams.

During the story, there are many conversations. These are handled with choice-menus. The choices of what you say do not alter the path of the story for the most part, but they do serve as an excellent device for the player to colour in the character of the protagonist in her own mind. The NPCs are many, and they have much to talk about. (I personally found Webster the bouncer a fascinating man.)

Throughout the game, I kept noticing the ambiguous player perspective. Although the story is written in the traditional second tense, I experienced it as somewhere between second and third tense. Whereas I normally use "I" or sometimes "you" to refer to my player character in my notes, here I used "Marid" and "she" almost every time. This testifies to how much I read this game as a book. I must note that this didn't take away from my involvement with the story.

The Weight of a Soul is a great technical achievement. The depth and smoothness of implementation are astonishing in places, so well done that they become almost invisible to the player. In one scene, there are multiple dead bodies in the same room while Marid examines them one by one. The game effortlessly tracks which body she is working on, avoiding many, many disambiguation issues with a graceful ease that must have been a pain in the unmentionables to program.

The polish on the player-help features is so bright it's almost blinding. A beautiful map, a nudge-to-explicit hint menu, a list of the characters Marid has met and the locations she has visited. On top of that there's a journal that keeps track of Marid's discoveries and her current objectives. More than enough reasons to feel safe as a player and trust the game.

When I started playing IF, I always had a strong feeling of excitement when opening a new game. The experience of being there, embodying a character in a strange world and determining her actions was my main attraction to IF. In The Weight of a Soul it is exactly this feeling that serves as the basis of the interactivity of the game. Rather than levering up the sofa to find a bolt to screw into a machine, the interactivity here comes from being a collaborator of the protagonist, looking through her eyes and helping her decide. I found this extremely engaging and immersive.

In the finale, you, the player, must really decide which path Marid will take in a grey moral area. Very satisfying.

This all takes place in a beautifully crafted grimy and gritty fictional world. The phrase alchemy-punk came to mind...

The Weight of a Soul is an extraordinary IF-story.

The Lost Islands of Alabaz, by Michael Gentry

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Ten Pearly Isles, March 21, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Puzzler, Fantasy

The Lost Islands of Alabaz is a fun and energetic travel-adventure. It's aimed at children and has the feel of the "boy's adventures"-books I used to eat up by the dozens as a child. (For all I knew then, girls had books about knitting and princes. Except for my cool girlfriends, who also read the boy's books... Sign of the times...?)

At the beginning of the story, you get to choose a name for your protagonist, which was a great draw-in for my son. We decided on his own name. After that, he let me do all the hard work and asked about status-reports on his quest each evening.

There is a detailed tutorial in the game in the form of Trig, your best friend NPC. He breaks the fourth wall to tell the player directly what to TYPE. Children playing their first IF might not notice, but for a veteran with several dozen games under my belt, having read numerous threads and essays about Player-PC-Narrator-Parser-relations this made me feel unbalanced at first. I concluded that the aforementioned essays were taking things much too seriously...)

One morning, you, a young knight, are called by the king to go on a quest. The ten islands of the kingdom have been separated by a cursed mist for dozens of years now and there is no sign that it will lift of its own accord. The people are suffering under the lack of trade, food and communication with friends and relatives.
The king gives you one magic pearl to guide you through the mist to one island. From there, you're on your own. Find the cause of the curse and lift it, and find your way back home.

Not the most innovative of premises, but an engaging one. I did feel an obligation to fulfill this quest for the good of all the island-dwellers of Alabaz. (And to my son...)

The premise of the ten islands makes for a great sense of space. You're a seafaring adventurer exploring the unknown!
The islands themselves all have small maps (five locations or less, except for the mazy one...) At first, I thought the author was using a Gateway-like technique, each island a self-contained puzzle-space in the bigger whole. The first islands of The Lost Islands of Alabaz are like this. The more islands you have encountered and explored though, the more it becomes necessary to revisit previous islands, making for a web of relations between the islands that has to be kept in mind.

The puzzles themselves are easy to medium difficulty.Most of them are simple fetch-quests and/or straightforward use-appropriate-object-here obstacles. To get them right however, the player needs to pay close attention to the information he's given in conversations and in the out-of-game Almanac.

That's right! With your download, you get an Almanac about the islands and how they were before the mist. It's a nice 15-minute read, almost like an historical tourist-brochure. Embedded of course are many clues on how to solve the problems in the game.
Actually, the Almanac is just one of three hint-systems for the game. You also carry a journal, in which your progress is recorded along with reminders of puzzles you have yet to solve. And there is Trig. You can ask Trig about all the puzzles, repeatedly. He will start with giving you a nudge toward the first step of the solution, and give more explicit guidance after that.

There are a whole bunch of NPCs to whom you can talk. I found them to be well-characterized with a few strokes of the pen. They talk about many things, and to avoid confusion the author puts suggested topics that pertain directly to the puzzles between parentheses. All conversations use the syntax TALK ABOUT, although you can use ASK ABOUT too. I didn't find any differences.

The Lost Islands of Alabaz plays very smoothly. There are many synonyms for nouns and verbs. The descriptions change in tune with the actions you perform on other islands, there are nice responses to "failed" attempts. The player can feel at ease that the game will not misbehave.

This game turned out to be a lot longer than I expected from the first play-session where I breezed through the first two islands. I spent a few evenings on this quest for the hidden magic pearls. Very enjoyable evenings.

Light adventurous fun. Go play.

Oh, as an extra incentive: You can compete in the Zeppelipede-racing Derby on the Island of RazzMaTazz! Yes, you can. In fact, you must!

The Adventurers' Museum, by Lee Chapel

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Our favourite generic hero saves cultural heritage!, March 18, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Puzzler, Fantasy

When I entered the first room in The Adventurers' Museum, I almost breathed a sigh of relief. It was a breath of fresh air to learn that the quest at hand was to retrieve all the exhibits that were stolen from the museum by a thievish imp. Through the actions of my anonymous adventurer, I was going to help restore the historical artefacts of the Necromancer-wars to their rightful place, for the good of future generations of schoolchildren and curious adults. My sociopathic and cleptomaniac tendencies would serve a greater cause.
I'm only half joking here. Although the gameplay of The Adventurers' Museum is the same as any old puzzle-&-looting romp, the task given to me by the old and wize curator of the museum had more importance, more weight than just treasure-taking to kill the Big Bad Bully at the end.

In his review for Baf's Guide, David Welbourn says: "Want to play Zork I again for the nostalgia value, but you've already played that one so many times that it's no longer a challenge? Try The Adventurers' Museum."
I haven't played Zork yet, but I have read enough to know that if you are eaten by a Growl in the dark and if your treasure gets randomly stolen by a thieving imp, I might as well view this game as a rehearsal for when I do tackle Zork.

The technical side of this adventure is more than adequate. There are many synonyms for verbs and nouns. Trying "wrong" things usually gives a response either why you can't do that or just lets you do them and see the funny consequences of your actions (plus it moves the game into unwinnable territory, but hey, save/restore right?)

There are several really oldschool features to this game, but it's as if the author put them in out of respect for past tradition rather than to make gameplay harder.
There's a limited lantern, but there's also an unlimited light source lying right on your path. Your hero gets thirsty, but a river runs right through the cave. You feel hungry, but the curator gave you elvish waybread on your third turn into the game. The imp keeps stealing your stuff, but you can get him off your scent quite easily.
The only thing left that can be annoying to (modern) players is the inventory-juggling, but all that does is make you take a trip back to the museum now and then.
It's probably best to put any frustrations aside and do a few exploratory runthroughs of the cave without worrying about unwinnability or the order of puzzles, just until you get a feel for the place.

Coming back to the Zork-comparison: I have also read enough that I think The Adventurers' Museum really has a special mood of its own. There is a very consistent, almost friendly fairytale-fantasy atmosphere throughout the entire game (except that one room...).

I found the layout and the feel of the map to be brilliant. The cramped cave-crawling of the cave entrance soon gives way to grand vistas of splendid underground halls, a fluorescent flower garden and subterranean pools. A nice big part of the map is accessible from the start, and already in this part the gamespace is layered in three dimensions, with sidepaths leading up and over other areas. Sometimes you get treated to an eagle-eye view of a lower area.

Puzzlewise, there is a wide variety. There's attentive exploring and spelunking, some references to pop-culture, clever time/turn counting,... And yes, sometimes violence is the answer.
Some solutions do require a completely (to me) unmotivated action, and at least one object has a use that was completely unhinted. A bit of let's-try-every-verb and see what happens. That was less fun...

The pacing of the game can be a bit tedious at first. Once you have explored the accessible map though, a nice interaction between puzzles solved, museum-objects in your inventory and bottlenecks opening sets a cascade in motion where you find tunnel after cavern after hall with treasure in rapid succession. Very rewarding.

Conversations are not implemented at all, so you only get to know the few NPCs by their actions and what they choose to say to you. I did find the old curator endearing. (And a bit intimidating. How can he get from his office to the top of the museum stairs to block your way so fast!?)

The Adventurers' Museum may not be innovative or especially creative, but I had a great time playing it.

A Bear's Night Out, by David Dyte

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Fluffy adventure., March 12, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Slice of Life, Fantasy

A Bear's Night Out is a delightful little adventure!

After dark, while your owner is asleep, you climb (or rather bounce) out of bed. You have to make sure everything is ready for the big day tomorrow, and knowing your owner, he'll have forgotten a bunch of stuff.

The map is very small, eleven rooms in total. While exploring these rooms, there are tons of fun stuff to discover and experiment with.(Pssst, the cat is a great playmate...)

Once you have seen all the rooms, experimented to your hearts content with all the funny stuff and start dealing with the puzzles in earnest, you'll see that not everything in this game is fluffy and soft and easygoing. None of the puzzles are fiendish, but they all require thorough examining of the game-space, a good deal of planning and some real-life puzzlesolving strategies. Of course, all of this is made both harder and more fun by the fact that you're about a foot tall...

A warm and fuzzy adventure.

T-Zero, by Dennis Cunningham

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
"Stop the presses! Hold everything!", March 11, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: SF, Puzzler, Fantasy

[A short bespectacled man runs into the printing press hall. He's frantically waving a crumpled piece of yellowish paper above his head, the static electricity making his hair stand on end.]

-"Where's the boss? Where is the one responsible for reviews? Or better, where is the one who writes all those "Top 100"-lists and those "Best 50"-articles and the Recommended-pages? I need to talk to the one in charge!"

[The boy at the huge black press-machine, his hand still on the big red STOP-button, lifts his cap and scratches his head.]

-"Well sir, I don't know of any boss of the top-lists. I doubt there is such a person. It's all rather more the work of the IF-community as a whole."

-"Now, now, youngun! No need for such foul language! So, I.F. Community, eh? Never heard of him. Or her, for that matter. Strange name, if you ask me.
I suspect Mr. or Mrs. Community is not here? Of course not. Well, you'll have to do. Get your leadtype out, boy, I'll dictate the article. And you make sure this gets on the front page of this Text-Game-gazette or whatever it is you're running here!"

[The boy opens his mouth, trying to clear up the misunderstanding, but the bespectacled man already charges ahead, reading loudly from his crumpled paper.]

T-Zero; A text-adventure for the ages!

A young man wakes up in the dry leaves of the forest floor. Former Librarian and Custodian of the Museum, Count Zero has dismissed him of his duties. He had been snooping around in the vicinity of the restricted areas a little too much lately.
Our protagonist is certain he is on to something however, and he will not give up before he has got to the bottom of it. That his curiosity will lead him through the boundaries of time, he did not expect. Still, courageously he presses onward, determined to set things right.

--"They tirelessly twirl in a circular swirl."--

The writing in T-Zero is exquisite. Poetic, evocative, engaging, the descriptions of locations and actions give the game a rhythm that takes the player from the real and concrete to the dream-like and back without breaking the continuity of the story.
Good writing is indeed of the utmost importance to do justice to this quite intricate story. After the initial exploration of the Museum and its surroundings in the Present, the protagonist gains the means and the knowledge to travel to Past and Future to tweak the outcome of events just so to gain victory over Count Zero's plan to enslave humanity. This involves fiddling with the state of the Past to gain access to puzzle solutions in the Present, which in turn set up the Future for your chance of besting Count Zero, the Time Smith.

To keep up the flow of this excellent writing, the author has opted to leave the exits out of the room description. Instead there is an EXITS-command that will drily list available directions. This command does not take a turn, and I did not mind reflexively typing it as I was mapping the game-area.

The map plays a huge part in the enjoyment of the atmosphere of this game. It is big and readily accessible, except for some well-planned bottlenecks with puzzle-locks to help with the story's pacing and to prevent the story from becoming incomprehensibly befuddling.
Many locations will seem inert at first, having no apparent interactive content or even purpose apart form being an expendable room. Most of these will come into play in the other ages you will visit, becoming an influence that moves through time.

It is a joy to re-explore the map in each era, comparing the different times. The locations and their relations will be subtly different each time, giving a fresh and surprising look at known ground.

While the story and writing of T-Zero are mindboggling in the best sense of the word, some of the puzzles are the opposite.
First: many of the puzzles are standard adventure-fare. They can be obvious or more original, but they stay within the comfortable zone of puzzle-design: the commands necessary to influence the game, the mental picture of possibilities and options to tackle an obstacle.
But then there are the perplexing puzzles. Not because they are difficult in a normal adventuring context, but because they draw on a set of knowledge and inspiration that most IF-players will not access in this context. Some of these puzzles are of the satisfying think-outside-the-box variety. bringing great joy to the player. All of them depend on the player's knowledge of a very English language and popular culture. Joyful as they may be to the player who is in-the-know, in general these are just plain unfair.

Many, if not all, default responses are personalized, most times in a beautifully literate one-sentence gem. In case of an ambiguity between nouns in a command, the game lists all the options in a menu, allowing you to choose the one you meant. Practical, but also evidence of how user-friendly the game desires to be, despite the mindblowing puzzles.
Also very practical are the location-specific hints. They helped me on many occassions with a gentle nudge. On the other hand, there were times when the hints just confirmed I had the right idea, but I still needed a walkthrough to find the proper syntax.

As is to be expected; time plays a very big role in T-Zero. It pervades the entire game. Since time is elapsing and day is followed by night, you can expect some solutions to puzzles also being time-dependent. While most of the time this adds to the anticipation, it can also mean a boring few minutes typing WAIT over and over if you were a few moves late to a specific location and you have to wait an entire day without anything else to do. (This happened to me once, but it was all a result of my own bad timing/planning.)
Tricky: you have to revisit some rooms after your first exploration. Some objects just pop up after a while without there being a reason or an obvious notification from the game about this.

Lastly, I would like to point your attention to the rag man. While he doesn't have much to say, he is a pretty nifty NPC. Without wanting to give too much away, this character teeters constantly on the edge of the game-world and our own. I spent a lot of time musing about the kind of reality he goes to after I type QUIT.

T-Zero is a mindbogglingly good game. Best enjoyed with a walkthrough on the side.

[The short bespectacled man crumples the now sweaty paper in his hands into a ball and throws it in the nearest bin.]

-"You got all that, boy? Make sure it's on this issue's front page, you hear me!? Or else..."

[Before the boy can say anything more, the man leaves the printing hall, contentedly rubbing his hands together. He even hops a little out of joy over a job well done.]

Muggle Studies, by M. Flourish Klink

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Unmagical Wizardry, March 3, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy

After your worldview has been shaken when the Wizard Dumbledore appeared in your flat and offered you a job, you wake up the next day with a hangover and a signed contract to teach "Muggle Studies" at Hogwarts Academy. When you arrive there, the halls and corridors are abandoned because of a spell gone wrong. You must set things straight without resort to magic.

Muggle Studies is set in Hogwarts Academy, that grand fantasy-medieval castle in a hidden part of England. You start off in Dumbledore's office and must make your way down a tower and back up again after gathering what you need.
Although a tower with its limited room for branching hallways and side-rooms makes for a good setting for a straightforward text-adventure, it is also very narrow and linear. The gamespace feels cramped because of this. It is easy to forget that you are supposedly in this great building with all sorts of corridors , halls and other towers, let alone that it stands in a wide landscape with dark forests. A few windows with lush descriptions of the shingled roofs and the towering walls outside the tower would have pulled the space more open. Maybe even a view of Hagrid's cabin or the living tree in the distance to remind players of the universe they're in. The one window I could look through gave a very generic description of green woods and a glimpse of water outside.

The puzzles in Muggle Studies are good, but nothing too imaginative. This is beginner-level IF, where exploring and TAKE x WITH y suffices for the most part. The puzzles are very well hinted, without too much handholding. The game has one room where you have to figure out the answer to four riddles, a puzzle device rarely seen in modern IF, but which fit very well in this setting. A puzzle that does not work so well is a coded magic book (Spoiler - click to show)where the cipher is a simple ROT13. I decided to decode it manually to get some sense of achievement out of it, but I would have preferred if the author had invented a simple code him/herself (? I can't tell from the name.) and put a deciphering book somewhere hidden in the tower.
There are a good number of books and notes around that give clues and entertainment. I especially liked the Book of Herbs, where you can LOOK UP a large number of magical plants from the index, most of which are of no importance to the game.
Another nice touch like this is the file of misbehaviors and punishments in Mr. Filch's room, where you can read about some of the misschievous plans of Hogwarts students.

The game handles conversations through TALK TO menus, which fits perfectly with the difficulty. There are always some fun options to talk about next to the important topics.

In keeping with the beginner difficulty level, there is a tutorial voice that gives advice on proper syntax for commands. Unfortunately, it sounds very pedantic to anyone who has played IF before.

The best part of the game to me is the slowly unfolding backstory involving your grandmother and your ex-girlfriend. It gives an emotional dimension to your character in this otherwise standard gathering-magical-objects quest.

A nice diversion for a few hours.

The Darkest Road, by Clive Wilson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
"It was lucky that you had the statuette.", February 26, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy

...says the narrator voice in The Darkest Road at a certain point. Lucky indeed, given that there was no clue whatsoever that I would find anything, let alone a magic statuette, in the place the walkthrough eventually told me to look!

What would one do if one were a simple farmhand in a fantasy setting and one saw a prophecy coming over the horizon? Run like hell, of course, because prophecies tend to lead to gruesome death and other inconveniences in these circumstances...
But not you. You have elvenblood trickling somewhere in your bloodline, so you heed the call. You take in the old prophecy-bearing wizard who stumbled into your care, nurse him back to health and let him teach you of the "Silent Song", a rare magic talent that lurks in you because of said elvenblood.

So off you go on an oldschool quest to vanquish the Dark Lord.

The Darkest Road has very good atmosphere. On your quest, you move from your familiar homestead to the wide grasslands, then through the dark forest, then sharp and windy mountainpeaks until finally you arrive in Evil's Lair. With each new area you explore, the surroundings feel more hostile and oppressive. Here and there is a resting point, a beautiful location that breaks the gloom and dread for a moment.
The descriptions are very good. Even though you encounter standard dark fantasy stuff, there are many details that lighten up the clichés.

Unfortunately, the gameplay is not so good. There are many non-interactive locations. Well-described as they may be, they don't offer enough reward to the player for the effort she has made to reach them.

And quite an effort it is! The game is full of unintuitive and underclued puzzles.
Many solutions are dependent on whether you are carrying or wearing a sparsely described and unhinted object, not on the player figuring out what she could do with said object.
When you do have to manipulate objects, often you get into try-everything-on-everything-else territory, like in a bad point'n'click escape game.
Also, there are quite a few one-use-only commands that only work in one situation. Try the same verb in any other situation and you get a default dismissive response. Not strong motivation to keep trying.
Add to the list that obvious synonyms or alternative verbs are not implemented (I could MOVE but not PUSH some heavy object), and I believe I am to be forgiven for playing this one largely by walkthrough. I gave it a fair chance, really I did.

To end on a more positive note, the unforeseeable sudden gruesome deaths are quite amusing, as the narrator offers to resurrect you. Which translates as "Would you like to restart?"

Sir Ramic Hobbs and the High Level Gorilla, by Gil Williamson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Suicide by vitamin C, February 7, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Fantasy

Wow! This game sure doesn't beat around the bush. You, as Sir Ramic Hobbs, an out-of-shape and severely hung-over knight, are dropped in a bear cave. An agreement which you do not remember signing says you swear to save the damsel from the High Level Gorilla. Now on your way, start adventuring!

Sir Ramic Hobbs and the High Level Gorilla is a text-adventure from the old ages. Within the first few turns, a ton of anachronisms and wildly differing rooms have flown by. Each on its own, these are pretty funny. As a whole however ... uhm, they don't make a whole.

The gameworld is totally off its rockers. The locations and the mood are wildly inconsistent. The only thing holding this game together is whatever the author's impulses thought was funny at the time. This incoherent setting and atmosphere may get a few laughs, but it sure is not engaging or immersive.

Fortunately, this setting is home to some good puzzles. Apart from getting the right objects to use in the right spot, you also have to watch out that you move from room to room at the right time. If not, some invincible adversary will stop you from progressing further or just kill you on the spot. There are lots of opportunities to forget an object or an action in a room that you cannot get back to later. This means that the metacommands SAVE, RESTORE and UNDO are completely legitimate adventuring commands. Go explore the neighboring rooms and restore when you are confident that you have the lay of the land memorized.

There are two in-game help-resources: an overly humble "Bloodcurdling Owl", whose responses are so selfdeprecating they sound insulting to you, and the disembodied voice of Wizard Prang, your narrator (who doesn't seem to think very highly of your knightly skills... Up to you to decide whether to trust the advice this odd pair gives.

The absolute zaniness of this game amused me enough to keep looking just a bit further, and I'm glad I did. About three quarters into the game I encountered a Great Puzzle. The kind of puzzle that would be so obvious in real life, but that somehow manages to keep evading your wits in an adventure game. When I finally found the solution, I smiled. Nay, I grinned. Ear to ear. You know what I mean...

The High Level Gorilla is an uneven mix of dumb jokes, funny juxtapositions and non-sequiturs, frustrating deaths and at least one glorious puzzle moment.
Worth playing.

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