Reviews by explorington

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1-8 of 8

The Bibliophile, by Marshal Tenner Winter

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
The book, the bad and the ugly, April 22, 2014

Ready for another Lovecraftian tale?
As the author says, this one is set in Baltimore. He created an explorable environment, including some monuments and academic places; I am not familiar with real Baltimore, so can't judge how faithful such reconstruction is, although some places, like (Spoiler - click to show)the African bazaar, feel added for plot reasons.

Speaking of the plot, the main character is a librarian who finds a mysterious book in his shop; such book is needed for a rite which, unsurprisingly, would bring Really Ugly things on Earth.
It would be too easy to ignore everything, or better yet to just destroy the book, right? The author knows better, and soon we are forced to try and fight someone powerful who is looking for the book. It is not a hopeless battle, though: during our investigations we will slowly acquire some magic spells, which will prove to be really useful. Just to give an idea, the first spell we will learn may mend any wounds we will receive.
The plot may be simplified in a series of fights intermixed with investigations; the latter are not just a filler, tough: thanks to them we will not just acquire our spells, as said, but also do something even more interesting: (Spoiler - click to show)rescue a few students who have been kidnapped by the Bad Guy, who needs them for the cited rite.

The battle system is "punch/kick/attack foe"-like. Every time a blow is successful, one hit point (HP) will be deducted from the initial amount (two) of the target. When HP reaches zero, death comes. Luckily, any spell may be used in battle.

There are some puzzles; they are not hard, except, maybe, one or two near the end.

Overall, this IF is a typical Lovecraftian tale of a man who fights overwhelming forces who want to destroy humanity and/or Earth; the accent is more on plot and fights, as opposed to puzzles; the execution is good: I found no bugs in the released version, and the spell system gives an interesting twist.

Disclaimer: I betatested the game.

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Dark Carnival, by Marshal Tenner Winter

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Are you afraid of the dark?, September 29, 2013

This game continues the author's "anonymous detective" series.
As the previous instalments, this IF is quite short and based on a Lovecraftian setting. Also, there are some references to those past IFs, like for example (Spoiler - click to show)a picture in one of the stands which recalls a similar item in "The vanishing conjurer".

The puzzles are few and not that difficult, being this a plot-driven IF; those puzzles are hinted well enough if the player speaks to most people and explores throughly, as every sensible player does anyway.

The first plot elements are available since the start, inside a folder in the inventory. After that, the plot is mostly delivered through dialogs, which are organized in a list of topics; such list varies during the game, and is shown when an NPC is speaked to the first time. Later, the "topics" command can be used to recall the available topics that can be discussed with the last NPC we talked with.

A thing I especially liked is a (sort of) easter egg: the (Spoiler - click to show)bandage aid and the (Spoiler - click to show)black book, which can be found in the same room, the (Spoiler - click to show)director's office. The former may help a bit during the end game, and the latter marginally adds to the plot. Although none of them is necessary, they are some kind of (minor) reward and polish anyway.

Reading the help may be useful, although not really needed if the player has gone through at least one of the previous games in the series.

Overall, the execution is good, at about the same level of the rest of the series, perhaps slightly more.

If you are looking for a quite atmospheric although short (with a walkthrough, it can be finished in half an hour or less) game, this one may satisfy you.

Disclaimer: I betatested the game

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Ill Wind, by Marshal Tenner Winter

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
An average IF, with some defects, but some good points also, May 20, 2013

Ill wind is the third IF of the author based on a Call of Cthulu scenario, featuring the same nameless detective present in the other two.

This time, the plot involves Chicago in the '20s; the PC is after a friend of his, who sent him a telegram asking for his help.

The game is quite short (with a walkthrough, it may be finished in about ten minutes or less), and the puzzles are not very hard. There are two or three times the player can die, without the possibility of undoing (which is bad); it is advised to save before entering the (Spoiler - click to show)theatre and after the (Spoiler - click to show)electrified gate.

Having played the author's previous IFs, I noted he puts a crescent amount of care (like more respect for the player, see below) in the newer works, although some rather important design features are, IMHO, not yet interiorized well enough: the major weak points are the dialog system and, arguably, the presence of strong language.
The latter is more abundant than in Castronegro (the author's previous IF), but it's mostly limited to the cabbie NPC; this can be a design choice oriented to a parody of the "gangster talk style" one can imagine was used in the '20s in Chicago, as another reviewer pointed out, so, in a sense, it can be acceptable.
The dialogs are the more evident problem of this IF. They are essentially one-way, from NPC to PC. In itself, this could be ok, especially if one consider that this game is an adaption of a module, not a totally original work, so the author should not invent info, but the presence of the interactive prompt during the dialogs somehow incourages the player to, well, interact with the NPC via "ask" and similar verbs. It would have been a better choice, IMO, to use a press-space-to-continue kind of prompt, if at all. In this regard, the cabbie NPC works well.

As pointed out in a comment, I was wrong in the following paragraph (in italic); I'll keep the paragraph anyway, otherwise the two comments to this review would make no sense for the reader.

Another weak point is the possibility to go in an unwinnable state, if the player does a very specific action in the south part of the theatre: (Spoiler - click to show)x the mirror. The empasse is immediatly recognizable as such, luckily, so the player just needs to reload.
End of edit

OTOH, there are some really good points:
not significant player abuse this time (the worst I encountered is in response to "put the lighter in the trenchcoat", to which the parser reacts with "it's lit, you silly goose"), and, above all, one thing I rarely encountered in other IFs: a NPC who, if you're stuck because you missed a now irrecuperable object, gives it to you, so there is no need to replay part of the game for that. Very useful! In this game, such NPC is the cabbie in the endgame, where the player needs two objects with him in order to pass a gate. If one or both of them are not in the inventory, just go north where our helpful friend is.

Due to the bad points, I'd rate Ill wind 2/5; for the care in the other parts of the implementation, 4/5; overall, considering also, as I said, that this is not a totally original work so the author is forced to a given script (which influences, somehow, how the story has to be told), I rate it 3/5

Disclaimer: I betatested this game

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First Times, by Hero Robb

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Great horror game, April 12, 2013

Considering the features of the quest system, and this being the author's first game, First Times is a very good game. The writing is suggestive, and the presence of a few real time sections, and especially the well-timed sound effects, add some tension.

There are four possible endings, that are selected by doing a couple of choices during the game: one happens at about half game, in one of the real time sequence, when (Spoiler - click to show)in the east-est corridor, the player is hunted by three faceless monsters. There is a boy tied in the east end of the corridor. The player has a few seconds to decide to whether free him; the second one is near the end of the game, and requires to just choose a direction.

The puzzles are generally well hinted (be sure to examine and read everything!).
There are essentially no guess-the-verb situations: the adventure can be completed with just the directions, and the "use", "look at" (or "x" for short), "take", "read", "open", "close" and "say" commands. Most puzzles can be solved with commands like
use <object> on <object>
which, of course, require the player to have the right object to begin with. Just a couple of puzzles (the (Spoiler - click to show)"altar" and (Spoiler - click to show)"build a syringe and fill it" ones) require to combine two or more objects.
The (Spoiler - click to show)"open the janitor's door" puzzle (one of the toughest) is the only place of the game that requires the "say" command. The command to solve it is
say (Spoiler - click to show)metal

This game made me live the scariest moments I ever experienced in an horror IF up to date... however, I took away one star from the maximum score because some of the endings are not up to the rest of the game, at least in my opinion.
Judging by the overall quality of this first attempt, I'm looking forward to more IFs from its author.

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Castronegro Blues, by Marshal Tenner Winter

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A loose, and better playtested, sequel to "The Surprising Case of Brian Timmons", March 19, 2013

Castronegro is a well written plot-driven mystery game with some vague Lovecraftian elements, featuring the same nameless main character of the author's previous IF, "The surprising case of Brian Timmons".
I did not encounter bugs, and there were no guess-the-verb situations. No hint system is implemented, though.

Although it is quite short, to complete this game a lot of exploration and examination is required, and taking notes is higly recommended.
The map may be divided in two sections, corresponding to two towns to be visited. The main one, Castronegro, after which the game is named, is the bigger one. Drawing its map may be useful.
The exits of every room are clearly stated in the description, with a reminder of where each exit leads, helping navigation.

There are a couple more of nice touches: most objects and locations have a customized description, like the PC chair in the initial room, and, still in the same room, the NPC Claudine (who assigns the mission to be accomplished) gives a comment if the phonograph is turned on.

The puzzles are quite easy till the PC arrives in Castronegro. The "tough" rating seems due mainly to how to get rid of monsters (or better, to how not to die by them), especially the final confrontation, where a (Spoiler - click to show)hide-and-burn approach is suggested. If the wrong way is chosen in these encounters, it's game over, so you should save before trying: the 'undo' command is disabled.
The final puzzle was satisfying, although I was expecting a slightly different solution: (Spoiler - click to show)one of the pictures in the mansion represents the main foe and its ring, which seems to keep a vague light even after the flashlight is off. So, I was expecting that after all the lights are off, the ring would be still visible, which would allow to locate him and therefore to attack him.

Overall this game is enjoyable, without really bad points. Apparently there was more playtesting this time with respect to the author's two previous IFs.
In my opinion, the only evident defect of the game lies in the interaction with the (friendly) NPCs, which is essentially limited to conversations which start almost always automatically. The game is a bit rough here, some more interactivity with the NPCs, being this a mystery game, would be wellcome, and would have gained it an higher initial rating. There are a few typos also, I spotted four or five I think, limited to punctuation.

I would rate it 3.5, considering the low NPC development, but to encourage the author, I round it up to 4 stars.

Note: I played the version released in this post on the forum where it is available for public download during the upload process here on ifdb.

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I'm Gonna Take You To The Video Bar!, by James Mitchelhill

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A proof of concept, rather than a game, February 18, 2013 don't expect much.

The only goal of I'm Gonna Take You To The Video Bar! is to show that the TADS framework allows a video to be embedded in a game. Said video is shown after a brief interactive session.

I don't rate it, because it is not really a game; it may be of interest as a showcase of the capabilities of the TADS language, in the same way that e.g. toyshop, one of the inform examples, is for the latter.
As such, I felt this title deserves at least a small review, as respect for the author's divulgative effort.

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Castle of Mydor, by Anonymous

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A typical treasure hunt from the '80, February 17, 2013

This game has some fantasy elements like (Spoiler - click to show)a ghost, an ogre, a troll, a wizard and also a lamp genie.
The story is not developed much; it basically is the (Spoiler - click to show)retrieve a magical object to lift a curse type.
The puzzles are of the "find and use the right object to proceed" kind.
Note that it IS possibile to go in a impossible-to-win state: (Spoiler - click to show)the lamp genie can be used only twice, and both times are critical: first, to (Spoiler - click to show)make a ladder appear, and the second time near the end, to (Spoiler - click to show)convince a pesky armour to let us pass. Moreover, sudden deaths are quite common.
The NPCs are very few, only 5, and 3 of them are enemies; the only interaction possible with the latter is to kill them, although with the right weapon, which at least introduces a minimal variety. The non-hostile NPC limit themselves to (Spoiler - click to show)a scripted action and then disappear.
The parser is not very sophisticated, in line with the non-infocom ones available at time.

So, basically, this game belongs to the old school of IF, and may not be of much appeal today.

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Zorkian Stories 1: G.U.E., by Marshal Tenner Winter

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Quite short, but not bad for a first attempt, February 17, 2013

This is the author's first IF, and it shows. There are some missing synonyms (notably (Spoiler - click to show) "kill" and "break", only "attack" and at certain times "throw" can be used ), and at least one read-the-author's mind situation: in the lounge (Spoiler - click to show) you must "sit on table" to break it in order to retrieve its sturdy leg.
It is suggested to take care when in the machinery room, because if the wrong object is used (Spoiler - click to show)on the fan, then it will be destroyed by the latter. However, a simple "undo" can fix that.
It has been reported that there are two (Spoiler - click to show)dusty keys in the temple, which may causes disambiguation problems. In my run, however, I immediatly took one when I first entered the room, and even if the second one appeared after a "look", it did not create any problems, because one of those objects were already in the inventory, so, effectively, they were distinct.

On the bright side, it is reasonably well written, the puzzles (with the exception, perhaps, of the one in the lounge, see a spoiler above) are fair, and although another reviewer noted a missing room connection, this is not important in order to finish the game.

Overall, considering this is the author's first IF, it is a quite nice one...I have seen much worse first works.

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1-8 of 8