Cheeseshop progresses from funny, to tedious, to funny again when you finally get through the insane list of cheeses. Recommended if you are A) a fast typist (typing all those cheeses takes ages) and B) a Monty Python fan. I'm both, fortunately, so I enjoyed it. Three stars.
I first noticed this game on a Recommended List, and played it the afternoon after. What I want to know now is why this game didn't make a bigger splash when it was released -- it's fantastic! (Note: This is an updated version of a review written 30/06/08. When I first wrote the review, I'd only reached one of the endings.)
The plotline is deceptively simple: you, Lieutenant James Corby, RN (who is nicely characterized) are washed up on an island in the Bay of Biscay that technically isn't supposed to exist. As time goes on, things get stranger and stranger until you are forced to make a decision about your loyalties and future. There are multiple endings and many different priorities you can pursue.
I was forced to draw a map, something I usually hate, but somehow I didn't mind. The geography is realistic and easy to visualize once you have it on paper (although it's sometimes a little under-described). Although the geography is expansive, it's logical; and a nice GO TO command quarters the difficulties of navigating it. Not once did I get lost, which is unusual for me.
The NPCs were well-developed, and the conversation system was fantastic (though occasionally unwieldy when trying to say something specific). You may find it helpful to list the characters and their motivations, as the cast is large and almost everyone has a different opinion/agenda. With regards to romance, it was quite sweet.
So far I've only mentioned what I like. What didn't I like? Surprisingly, quite a lot. I seriously disliked (Spoiler - click to show)Meg, one of the possible love interests. I used to dislike Inalda too, but having finished the game with her as my companion she's grown on me. I extra-seriously disliked (Spoiler - click to show)losing all my possessions in the marsh. I know it's supposed to be 'no going back now' and all that, but I still hated it. UPDATE: A related problem I hated was when Julia made me drop all my stuff. Mean girl. I don't know why I forgave her. Most important, the island simply didn't feel 19th century. This may have been intentional ((Spoiler - click to show)end the game by reaching the White Tower and you'll see what I mean) but if it is supposed to feel like it belongs to the wrong time period, then why doesn't the game make it more obvious instead of it simply being my personal gut feeling? Of course, my obsession with historical literature may have made me over-picky in this regard. (And why can't you call the ladies 'Miss'? Eg. >X MISS TRELAWNEY returns the annoying 'You see no miss trelawney here.' If the PC is supposed to be 19th century, let him use the manners of the day!)
Despite the flaws (which I am probably over-dramatizing) I had more fun with this game than I have with any since Jigsaw. It's worth a good go; highly recommended.
Graham Nelson once said that IF is a narrative at war with a crossword. In Masquerade, narrative won. The writing is wonderful, and the PC brilliantly characterized. The conversation style, however, causes a somewhat linear structure. You are pretty much forced to follow the plot, with no choice as to what your player says to the other characters. The puzzles, though not many, are interesting -- I liked the opening puzzle. The compass rose was a nice touch.
Progressing to the next stage of the plot sometimes requires an unobvious action, and I was constantly jerked out of the story with a guess-the-verb problem or being unsure what to do next. (Spoiler - click to show)It is possible to stay in the coach (both of them) forever if you don't stumble upon the right action. Another glaring problem: when Ethan first asks you to dance, you must type >HIGHWAYMAN, YES. Typing >DANCE WITH HIGHWAYMAN won't work. However, when you dance with him later, as well as with Jonathan, you must type >DANCE WITH ETHAN/JONATHAN. (And you can't call Ethan by his name when he is wearing his highwayman costume.) Once I got to the end, I had a great deal of trouble finding a satisfactory ending, let alone the best one (As of June '08, I still haven't found it). Often, at the end, you can make a move which will bring you to an ending without you realizing it will do so.
Despite its weaknesses, I did enjoy Masquerade. I'll admit that I did not like the conversation system as much as I would have had I not played Pytho's Mask the day before; and give this game a deserved four.
It's difficult to write a puzzle game with a strong story. Emily Short manages to accomplish this in Savoir-Faire. The detail of the model world is almost ridiculous: there is enormous amount of takeable items (almost all of which you will need) and the setting itself is detailed. What stands out most is the magic system: you have the ability to link similar objects together, so that what happens to one happens to the other. I can imagine what a nightmare that must have been to program, but it works well.
The story starts simple: you're broke and must plunder the Count's house for anything valuable. As time goes on, however, you begin to find out suspicious things -- (Spoiler - click to show)could your debt to D'Envers be part of a larger plot? The writing is what I've come to expect from Short (brilliant), and the puzzles are logical and sensible. (At least, I think so. Wimp that I am, I picked up a walkthrough early on.) Get used to the logic of the magic system quickly, as almost all the puzzles are solved using it in some way or another. This game is unabashedly unfair: there are a few sudden death situations and it's very easy to lock yourself out of victory. Save early and save often.
I loved Savoir-Faire, and feel it deserves a five-star rating. I look forward to Emily's next game!
You are the traveling swordsman; the strong and silent stranger; the wandering vanquisher of villainy. Damsels swoon for you. Good man respect and envy you. Scoundrels learn to fear you. Even so, you are a rumor throughout the land.
The player's description sums this game up: you, the strong and silent swordsman, must save the helpless inhabitants of a fishing village from a tyrant. The writing is excellent, if a little too poetic, and the plot is straightforward -- until the ending, of course. The puzzles are sensible, with solutions that make perfect sense (although not always as well clued as I would like). I don't recall ever having to guess the verb for anything: almost all possible synonyms were accounted for and implemented.
Despite the brilliant game mechanics, I did not enjoy the game as much as I did more badly coded games. Why, I do not know. Maybe the fact that the plot was to do with a curse got to me, or I disliked the logic of the puzzles. However, it is an excellent game and I recommend it, even though I personally did not enjoy it that much.
Every so often, I play a work of IF and wish it could be made into a movie. This was one of the times. Jigsaw begins at the turn of the millennium and proceeds to whisk you through historical event after historical event with barely a pause for breath -- all the time pursuing a fascinating stranger who seems to think you're on their side.
The writing is superb -- Graham Nelson manages the feat of never using pronouns when referring to Black in order to allow the player to see both themselves and Black as they choose. The historical sections are obviously carefully researched, with careful details -- I loved Orville Wright's mandolin! Black, the main NPC, is a strangely likeable villain (or are they an ally?) with a fiery temper and a well-polished wit. And the plot, if somewhat confusing on the first playthrough, is entertaining.
As for the puzzles, I can't honestly say. I didn't solve them by myself -- I used a walkthrough. The impression I got, however, is that they are generally well-clued but with one or two guess-the-verb problems. There are lots of sudden deaths, most with warning but a few not. It's incredibly easy to lock yourself out of victory without realizing it -- (Spoiler - click to show)at the end of the game it is required to have an item from the prolouge that is none-too-easy to find. If you want to avoid problems with the game being unwinnable, pick up everything not nailed down and keep them in your rucksack in case.
To sum up, this would have to be my favorite game yet in terms of story and writing. I just wish it had been a novel and not IF.
I've always liked a good fantasy romance, but I did dither before playing Pytho's Mask. I wish now that I'd played it earlier. It has all the important (some would say cliche) elements of the genre -- the masked hero, the evil villian, the unsuspecting kingdom needing rescuing. And, of course, the enterprising heroine.
If you like puzzly IF, I'll tell you now -- this game has almost no puzzles. Almost all information to be gathered comes from conversation; and much of the game is spent talking to various NPCs. Conversation is menu-based, but with a topic command -- handy for hiding spoilery options, but it can lead to the occasional game of 'guess-the-noun'. The game doesn't railroad you into any particular attitude towards any of the NPCs -- (Spoiler - click to show)it's even possible to refuse the proposal of the hero at the end.
The fantasy setting was captivating and well-written, but I was let down to earth with a bump once or twice when a interesting-sounding piece of scenery wasn't implemented. It's the setting and connected mythology that saves this game from the realm of predictability, actually. I had no navigation problems, and normally I get lost within the first five minutes of beginning a game.
Overall, I throroughly enjoyed Pytho's Mask, despite one or two guess-the-verb hiccups and getting stuck at the end. If you like swashbuckling romance stories, you'll enjoy this game.
Late at night, two men at a house party find their host lying dead on the beach below the study window. The police are treating it as a murder unless they find reason to believe otherwise. Five suspects, two hours until Inspector Duffy comes back to ask for your verdict. Time to go to work.
I realise, reading back on that paragraph I just wrote, that it sounds rather like one of Infocom's old murder mysteries. But that's the point -- it is. Just, as it's an IF Comp game, a lot shorter and easier. It also manages to avoid one of the main problems of the Infocom murders: you don't have to rely on being in the right place at the right time. Characters stay put and obligingly give their alibis on demand as many times as you ask them, and time passes slowly enough to give you plenty of time to finish your assignment. There's even an automatic notebook that records what you've found out so far. The in-game hints are very helpful, although I did find myself relying on them too much.
An interesting element of the game is the randomisation. There are five suspects; each time you restart the game a new suspect is chosen. The timing, murder method and motives also change to reflect this, making for five games in one ... except it isn't. Once you've played through it two or three times, you'll be able to guess what the motives of the other suspects would be in the other scenarios, and you won't really need to play them. (Plus even the best writing can get stilted on the fifth reading.) The basics stay the same in each variation: names of suspects and the main facts like the musical, (Spoiler - click to show)Cedric's theft from the Trust, and the secret passage.
Overall, I had more fun playing this game then I've had with IF in a long time. Highly recommended. Oh, and don't forget to type XYZZY.