Reviews by Karl Ove Hufthammer

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Save the Cheshire Cat!, by Marco Vallarino

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short and simple, but not very interesting, July 30, 2018
by Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway)

This is a short (playtime: approx. 30 minutes), puzzle-based game. There’s a book fair in town, but the Cheshire Cat, the mascot of the local board and card game club, has gone missing. And apparently, the club can’t organise any future events without its mascot, so you need to find it (I’m not sure why this is supposed to make sense, but according to the game, it’s ‘a matter of life and death’).

To find the mascot, you have to complete a series of simple puzzles. They are typically of the form ‘an NPC has object Y, which you need, but they want an X for it, so you must first find an X’, and would be much more interesting if the objects (X and Y) were better integrated in the story; in this game, it often feels like they could be exchanged for any two random objects.

The game is somewhat beginner-friendly. The game starts with listing some information on how to play IF, including a complete list of verbs needed to play the game. But note that there aren’t any hints or a walkthrough built into the game. Most of the puzzles are logical, but one of them is made (unnecessarily) difficult when an object you need to examine is hidden from the room description after completing a certain (needed) action.

Scoring systems aren’t as popular in IF these days, but can be fun, especially for beginners. In this game, each important action gives you a point or two, for a total of 20 points. There’s also a nice ‘fullscore’ command, giving you a description of all point-scoring actions that you have performed.

‘Save the Cheshire Cat!’ is the author’s first attempt at translating an Italian game (‘Salvate lo Stregatto’) into English. The translation is frequently a bit ‘off’, but is easy to understand, and written in a simple language, suitable for kids. But note that the actions you need to perform include both (poorly motivated) stealing and violence.

According to the blurb, the game is a ‘comedy text adventure’. And while it is a simple, light-hearted game, it is, in my opinion, not a funny one: there’s almost no actual humour (perhaps some was lost in translation?). And while the game is quite well implemented, and can be fun to play, especially for beginners (due to the simple puzzles), neither the story nor the puzzles are very interesting in themselves.

The Day we got a pet, by Marius Müller

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
About par for the series, July 20, 2018
by Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway)

After the previous game’s confusing mess of sci-fi tropes, we’re back at Alex and Paul’s house. Alex has ordered a Neptunian deathhound (!) for Paul’s birthday, and the puzzles involve travelling to several minor locations to fetch the appropriate protection for readying the house for the new, quite ferocious, pet.

The puzzles are a mixed bag. Some of them are simple and well-clued, one has a confusing hint (that I still don’t understand), but is easy to solve by brute force, and one seems almost impossible to solve without a walkthrough or hints (and don’t make much sense in the game world, either).

As we have come to expect, the game has a somewhat spotty implementation and quite a few spelling mistakes (though far fewer than the first games in the series had). But I didn’t find any major bugs.

There’s some humour, making the game more enjoyable. And for the long-time fans, there are also references to earlier ‘Alex and Paul’ games. In my opinion, the series is best when it takes place in a (pseudo-)realistic setting, and I’m glad the game didn’t continue on the prequel’s clichéd sci-fi time-travelling-stuff-that-hardly-makes-sense path.

All in all, this a short and simple, puzzle-based game. Not a particularly good game, mind you, but about par for an ‘Alex and Paul’ game (hence the two stars). I look forward to playing the sequel (hinted at by the game’s ending).

The Day I shot Alex, by Marius Müller

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Mostly for die-hard fans, July 19, 2018
by Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway)

Oh no, it’s ‘The Day I shot Alex’! :O On the upside, this means that we have a new ‘Alex and Paul’ game to play – the tenth in the series. And for the first time, we get to play Alex’s husband, Paul!

After a brief, interactive prologue, we’re in very familar surroundings, a party at Alex and Paul’s house. And everything seems absolutely perfect at first. But then we notice that Alex is missing, and the domestic story quickly takes a darker turn, more towards science fiction (cf. the previous episode, The Day time stood still).

Unfortunately, the game soon starts to feel like a long-running science fiction series – the type that has run out of original ideas several seasons ago. Cue lots scientific-sounding mumbo jumbo, some ‘applied phlebotinum’ and various other tedious plot devices. There are a few puzzles, but the actual story is often conveyed via too long info dumps.

So what about the puzzles? Are they any good? Well, they mostly make sense, but they’re not very original, and the implementation isn’t always fair. For example, one puzzle late in the game involves an action that physically makes perfect sense, but whose solution involve a different world model interaction than what is typically expected in parser-based interactive fiction. Another example can be found quite early in the game, where you can only advance the plot by using an exit that is 1) not listed in the status bar (which now, helpfully, lists rooms exits), 2) isn’t mentioned in the room description and 3) isn’t even one of the cardinal directions!

The best of the ‘Alex and Paul’ games are the ones that have lots of humour. This one is not one of those.

As usual for the series, the game ends with a sequel hook. Unfortunately, it’s more of the ‘let’s throw yet another villain into the mix’ type, which doesn’t give much promise for interesting story development. But, while I think the present game is mostly for die-hard fans, I always look forward to playing a new ‘Alex and Paul’ game. :)

The Day time stood still, by Marius Müller

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Simple puzzles but not very interesting story, July 18, 2018
by Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway)

This game takes place right after the action-packed ending of The Day of the Queen. And as hinted at in that game, it involves time travel. Time travel games can be fun, if cleverly constructed. Unfortunately, this one is not. Most scenes feel quite random, and the various time periods don’t create an interesting whole; they seem to only exist to provide objects for the game’s puzzles.

And the puzzles themselves don’t advance the story much. But they’re also not very interesting as puzzles; they seem to exist mainly so that there are puzzles in the game. Luckily, they’re all easy to solve, either by logic or by simple trial and error with the objects you have (some actions only make sense after you’ve performed them). There was, however, one puzzle I rather liked, and which was quite clever (but well-hinted, so that it wasn’t too difficult to solve).

This is a relatively short game, compared to the previous two games in the series. Therefore, one might perhaps expect some polish? Unfortunately, this is not a well-polished game. For instance, in one room, all objects mentioned in the room description were unimplemented. And the one object that could be interacted with could only(?) be discovered by exploiting a bug in the parser ((Spoiler - click to show)the response to the command ‘take all’ mentions the object).

One thing I like about the Alex and Paul games is the humour (puerile as it undeniably sometimes may be). In this game there’s less of it, and it often falls flat.

All in all, this a perfectly playable game, with simple puzzles to solve, but it’s not one of the more interesting nor funny games in the series. Play it if you like the series and are curious about what happens in the story; skip it if don’t.

The Day of the Queen, by Marius Müller

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A entertaining and slightly better-than-average ‘Alex and Paul’ game, July 17, 2018
by Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway)

Sharkmen, spirit possession, romance and golf carts – it’s time for a new Alex and Paul game. The Queen of Hurts and Maladies is trying to take over the world, and it’s up to you (and your husband) to stop her. But first, you have to get out of the airplane bathroom!

This is a longish game (compared with the earlier games in the series), with plenty of puzzles. Luckily, they’re simplified by being mostly isolated in separate scenes, so there’s always a limited number of objects to interact with. And for once, I managed so solve all of them on my own, except for some fiddly bits in the end sequence. The difficulty is easy-to-moderate, but it’s easy to overlook clues, or to fail to provide the exact syntax that the game expects.

The Day of the Queen is also a fun game – especially if you have played the earlier games in the series. Several characters from the earlier games make an entertaining reappearance. Much humour is also provided by the absurd situations encountered, and by comments from the narrator.

As usual, there are plenty of spelling and grammar mistakes, various implementation issues and a lack of synonyms. And the final action sequence could have been better implemented. I couldn’t find any serious bugs, though. All in all, an entertaining, slightly better-than-average Alex and Paul game, with mostly reasonable puzzles.

The Day I came back, by Marius Müller

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
One of the better ones in the series, July 16, 2018
by Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway)

After an intriguing intro text, we find Alex where we would expect him to be, given the ending of the previous game in the series. And once again, he needs to save his husband, Paul.

I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but can divulge that we get to experience the world from some very different perspectives. We also get a glimpse into Alex’s childhood, and see (and play) some scenes that have shaped his life and personality. Both from a gameplay and story perspective, this is one of the more original games in the series so far.

It’s also the funniest one. There’s a lot of humour in both the room and object descriptions, in the situations and NPCs encountered (my favourite one, from The Day I stabbed Stalin, returns!) and from comments from the parser. There are also many references to earlier games in the series, so you really need to have played them to get the most enjoyment out of this one.

But like in the rest of the games, there are implementation issues. Most of the objects named in the room descriptions are not implemented. And there are a few cases where more synonyms (for both verbs and nouns) would have been welcome. In general, some more polish would be nice.

But all in all, this is one of the better Alex and Paul games – and it’s my favourite so far.

The Day I died, by Marius Müller

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Longer, buggier, but with a surprise ending, July 15, 2018
by Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway)

This sixth game in the Alex and Paul series continues where the last one left off. You’re (still!) trying to rescue Paul, now imprisoned on a secret base on the planet Mercury.

It’s not necessary to have played the earlier games in the series before attempting this one, but I recommend doing so, as there are a number of references to things which have happened in the prequels.

Unfortunately, like in the prequels, implementation issues are rife. As is customary for the series, we have the usual ‘guess the verb’ situations, but, in addition, we now also have plainly buggy behaviour. And I believe it’s possible to unwittingly put the game into an unwinnable state (which logically shouldn’t be unwinnable).

There are several actions which you really need to read the author’s mind to figure out (one of which basically requires you to have played a different, and completely unrelated, game (Spoiler - click to show)Kerkerkruip – though this is hinted at in the object description).

But it’s not all bad! This is a longer game, with a number of puzzles (some of them timed), and several of which make sense – though they are made more difficult by implementation issues. It also takes place in a new (if not wholly original) setting, and, luckily, there are fewer spelling mistakes than in the earlier games. I also very much liked the surprise ending, and look forward to playing the next game(s) in the series.

The Day I saved Elvis , by Marius Müller

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
One of the weaker ones in the series so far, July 14, 2018
by Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway)

‘The Day I hugged Ghandi’ ended with an explicit sequel hook, and here’s the sequel. We follow Alex and Paul on their continuing adventures, this time on Voodoo Island. Paul gets kidnapped, and it’s up to you to rescue him.

As is usual for this series (and for Speed-IFs in general), this game is severely under-implemented. Almost none of the objects mentioned in the location descriptions are actually implemented (‘x object’ typically returns ‘You can’t see any such thing’), and there are lots of ‘guess the verb’ situations. One might have an idea about what to do, but the game only accepts one specific verb/syntax – and typically not the most obvious one. Some synonyms would have made the gameplay much smoother.

Luckily, there are less spelling and grammar mistakes than in the prequels. But still, the text could have used some more proof-reading. For example, at one point it mixes up the two main characters!

Along with The Day I stabbed Stalin, this is one of the weaker games in the serious so far. The puzzles aren’t very clever, too much action takes place in info dumps, and while the humour is still there, the game just isn’t as funny as the previous ones. And some of the humour is based on breaking the fourth wall, which IMHO distracts from the story.

Still, I sort of like the Alex and Paul series. And if you’ve played the previous games, you almost have to play this one too – if only because the previous game ended on such a cliffhanger. And this one too ends with a ‘To be continued…’.

The Day I hugged Ghandi, by Marius Müller

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Not a good game, but still enjoyable, July 13, 2018
by Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway)

This is the fourth instalment in the series of short games about Alex and Paul. Once again, it’s New Year's Eve, but this time we’re not at a party at Paul’s house, but on a yacht off the coast of Florida – next to Voodoo Island …

The good parts first: The humour of the previous games is still present. The new setting is refreshing, and the puzzles make sense and are nicely motivated (but implementation issues make them moderately hard to solve). And it’s just fun to follow the continuing adventures of the (now married) Alex and Paul!

The bad parts: Technically, the game is similar to first three games. That is, there are lots of unimplemented objects, ‘guess the verb’ situations, spelling mistakes and bad grammar and punctuation. It really isn’t a good game (and it would need a lot of QA work to become one).

Even so, I actually had fun playing The Day I hugged Ghandi. But I think you’ll probably appreciate this game the most if you’re familiar with the story and the writing style of the three previous The Day I … games. And if you liked them, you’re probably going to enjoy this one too!

The Day I shot ..., by Marius Müller

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Lacking in logic and lacking in implementation, but with some humour, July 12, 2018
by Karl Ove Hufthammer (Bergen, Norway)

This game was written for a Speed-IF competition, i.e., in a very limited amount of time, yet manages to have several puzzles and a coherent, if somewhat strange, story. But although the objectives of the puzzles are very clear, their solutions are not. The game usually left me feeling clueless about how to achieve the objectives, and finding the objects (and even locations) needed frequently happened by accident. I was stuck a few times, but found the ClubFloyd transcript very useful.

I played the first part of the original competition release, and then finished the second release of the game. The second release has a few more implemented objects (i.e., ‘examine [object]’ is more likely to give a response), but the game still feels extremely underimplemented, with lots of unimplemented verbs and nouns, and plenty of stock responses (even for ‘examine me’). Both versions have their share of grammar mistakes.

Although this is not a good game, it is not all bad. It does have three real puzzles, which is more than one would expect from a Speed-IF. And the game is quite humorous, with much of the humour coming from the absurdity of the various situations. You will probably find it more entertaining reading a transcript from a successful playthrough than trying to solve the puzzles yourself, though.

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