Reviews by Nomad

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The Origin of Madame Time, by Mathbrush

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Nice!, May 8, 2022

You're Justine Thyme, an ordinary schoolgirl with a passion for superheroes. She trips into a war between superheroes and villains and discovers she's got a superpower herself - she can control time. And so she stumbles through an abandoned amusement park to save everyone from a nuclear catastropy.

I personally don't like superheroes, with the exception of "Superhero League of Hoboken"-style ones. "Madame Time"'s wee heroes are cute enough to not repel me. The frozen time scenario makes for some neat puzzles, and the game world, small as it is, is well constructed and cozy. I had a problem with understanding the overall target of the game, but once that is clear it's fun working towards it. Definitely recommended, especially for n00bs (and I myself am always playing like one).

A Week in the Life, by Neil James Brown
Meh., May 6, 2022

Interesting premises: The game "world" is just one room, and it's filled with abstract obstacles, encounters, fears and chances of your everyday life (as the author). Interaction with listed terms drives the story forward. Could probably be turned into an interesting experience.

Problem: Massive underimplementation. Guess the verb. Typing in plenty random thoughts just to get standard library answers. Sometimes you succeed and the story continues, but most of the time it feels like a big...

...waste of time.

Zugzwang, by Magnus Olsson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A snack., May 6, 2022

Zugzwang puts you in the position of a chess piece close to the end of a game. Sounds quirky? It definitely is.

The game is extremely short (10 turns) and extremely linear (two paths). For me that's a classic candidate for 1, max 2 stars. The game is so quirky though - the setting alone is unique, but there's also dialogue between the individual chess pieces, IF-style description of the events, optional examining - it still sucks as a game, but it has so much potential, and as a "proof of concept" it sort of shines. I constantly had to think of a Romeo and Juliet story unfolding through a chess game. Too bad this is just a (term used by game) demo.

The Lesson of the Tortoise, by G. Kevin Wilson
Okay., April 15, 2022

The Lesson of the Tortoise is a short, okay game with an interesting setting. You're a Chinese farmer who finds out his wife has a lover, and those two dump him in the basement of his own home, probably to kill him later. Interesting setup, innit?

Unfortunately the game is very short, linear, and not overly well implemented. The plot takes a few (well, three, it's short after all) sharp bends that are interesting but leave you wondering if that was really necessary. It resembles a fable that's been brought into IF form with a sledgehammer. Also, it's somewhat underimplemented, could need a transcript or two to smooth the crucial scenes.

All in all, I'd bet you start the game because of the promise of an interesting scenario, and then when you're done you're like, "Okay, but that was it?!" Waste of potential, probably.

A Room With A Couch 2: Dino Adventure, by Byron

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Maniraptus parvus stercus, March 5, 2022

You are thrown into a typical slice-of-life situation: You find yourself at the foot of a tree, and your corn dog is somewhere up in the tree. You get choices, and with each choice a usually completely unrelated consequence happens. Like, you decide to climb the tree, and happen to stumble across a family of elves living in the tree. Or you decide to walk to the next gas station, but on the way you meet a troll who's got a problem with the local skateboard kids. Stuff like that, all the time. Chosing the wrong answer results in an end screen. As funny and entertaining as requesting a new passport at the registration office, but less rewarding. Two thumbs up in case it was written, as I suspect, by an ADHD-infected teenager within the scope of a mandatory homework. If you're looking for entertainment as a player, look elsewhere.

Oh, you play as a small dinosaur. Doesn't change a thing.

The Magician's Ball, by Grant Harrison, Kevin Grieve

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Technically interesting. , December 5, 2021

C64 only. A slightly obscure commercial game, didn't get much attention back when it was published, which was in 1985.

The game throws you right into the pit. Probably pardonable, let's assume the original game featured some sort of instructions. You can find some blurb on the web: Free the king's daughter from an evil magician.

Designwise the game is pretty horrible. The rooms are generic and don't even try to form something like a game world. The two-word parser is stubborn. The puzzles are not blended into the action. The typography is one big mess, looks a little like noone ever proofread the (commercial!) game.

On the plus side the game has a few surprises up the sleeves. It's just one file so it's limited to 64k of memory. Probably a tape release. It features graphics and music(!), so there's almost no memory left for the game and parser antics, right? Wrong! The map is rather large, you control two characters (although you can't switch at will), and you can command an NPC (a walking tree, of all sorts). The puzzles, as randomly thrown onto the map as they are, are associative and thus not too difficult, yet somewhat rewarding.

Not recommended for people used to sophisticated parsers of the Inform age. If you have witnessed and enjoyed the 8-bit era, or if you have a weird interest in how adventures looked like before the invention of upright walking, you might want to give this one a brief look.

1958: Dancing With Fear, by Victor Ojuel

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Awesome, November 27, 2021

The 1950's in the Caribbean: A steamy, exotic setting, politically overheated, vivid and emotional. You're a spy, not by conviction but because of events that led to your current situation. A James-Bond-like setting, with a lot of jumping back and forth in the recent history of the fictitious country.

The story is on rails, there's little exploration beyond the location you're currently in. Implementation could be better, from typos to commands not understood. The vibes are awesome though. Infocom always claimed their games would be driven by the player's imagination. 1958 does right that, you feel like you're there. If there were more details, if there were more communication, this would be a gem and the reference title in the segment "early 20th century espionage thriller in the Caribbean". <3 <3 <3

Cutthroats, by Michael Berlyn, Jerry Wolper

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Great premises, problematic execution., October 26, 2021

In the 1980s, you're a fortune seeker (and trained diver) on a small island probably located in the Northern Caribbean. A friend consigns you to a map that bears coordinates of a wreck previously unknown - and gets assassinated moments after he parts ways with you. You have to team up with some locals in order to get a chance to seek for the wreck, but the locals are fortune seekers just as you, and cannot be trusted. Will you get out of this situation alive?

The cons of this game cannot be denied. The pros neither: Besides the pretty unspoiled setting (for 1984, that is), Cutthroats starts like a predecessor of an open world game. NPCs roam about freely, minding their own business, or (less pleasant) yours. The game gives you the feeling of exploring a game world that advances on its own. That, in combination with the realistic Caribbean setting and the fascinating (though stereotype) NPCs, provides for a mindblasting experience.

But then, the cons. Since time trickles away relentlessly, and since time triggers (and disables) events, there's a multitude of situations where being at the wrong place at the wrong time (or rather not being at the right place at the right time) renders the game unwinnable. Sometimes even without telling you so. Sometimes your only fault is to carry the wrong things with you at a certain time and place, or to give a wrong answer to an NPC. This way you'll do a LOT of try & error, which is only acceptable if you're aware of what's happening, which in many cases you aren't. Also, the second part of the game (the actual treasure hunt) is a bit dull.

In summary: Great premises, but full of doubtful design decisions. If you can find the original game package on Ebay, you'll be rewarded with hilarious feelies, as ever so often with Infocom games.

The Arkham Abomination, by catventure

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Could have been better., September 13, 2021

(Regarding the parser, please see my edit at the bottom.)

Home-made parser. Oh well. I fear it for two reasons: 1. The authoring systems available are around for years, or decades in some cases. They have been used and reviewed by hundreds auf authors, they have been constantly improved, they are at the top of the parser evolution ladder. A homebrew parser will never be able to complete. (Iím talking Inform or TADS, not AGT) 2. The author obviously wants to show off his coding skills. Given that few people scintillate in several fields of expertise, how are the chances a good coder is also a good author? But letís see.

The game world is pretty lovecraftian. Room and object descriptions are full of old school adjectives. A pleasant experience, just like in the novels. The grade of detail could be higher tho. The closer you look at stuff the more often you get a generic response. Also, apart from one man whoís important for the story you wonít meet any living person, thatís a bit dull. And the town of Arkham is off limits which is a bit frustrating as the game starts right on the outskirts of it. The map is small, the central village is two houses big. Thereís a large maze which will seriously annoy you if you stumble into it without having found directions upfront. The parser lists objects you can interact with. Except when it doesnít list them. There you go. Home-made parser. My left eyelid twitches.

The development of the story is nice. Step for step you gather clues about what happened. Travelling is quick as the map is so small. The puzzles are easy, and pretty much standard. Romping through the game is a rather quick experience. In my opinion it would be worth the effort to enlarge the game, at least with a bigger village and one or two more NPCs, and with the number of puzzles increasing the maze could removed as itís mainly annoying, and it doesnít even make sense as it consists of outdoor paths leading nowhere in particular.

If you like Lovecraft youíll want to give this game a try. Itís short and cooked to the point, but it lacks sophistication and leaves you somewhat unsatisfied because it could have been great, but unfortunately it isnít. As for the subject of home-made parsers, please allow me to quote Jackass for your own and all our sanity: Donít try this at home.

EDIT: As Gareth Pitchford pointed out, The Arkham Abomination was not created using a homebrew parser, but using the ThinBASIC_Adventure_Builder. This renders all my comments regarding the parser moot. Lack of research on my side. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Winter Wonderland, by Tim Walsha and Simon Lipscomb

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Meh., August 18, 2021

Winter Wonderland was the first GAC adventure ever written, and the second one (after Apache Gold) to be published.

The plot starts off okayish. Stranding in the Himalayas with your plane - that leaves room for discovering an ancient civilization, a lovecraftian scenario, a Tomb-Raider-like treasure hunt in a cave, an educative game about the BŲn religion. Plenty elbowroom.

What do we get? We're supposed to get back to civilization, but after a few steps we stumble across a ridiculous holiday resort where the rest of the game takes place until the sudden end. Rooms and NPCs just serve as vehicles for incoherent, sometimes obscure puzzles, the story stops existing. To spoil one puzzle: (Spoiler - click to show)In room C you need a ski pass to continue, in room B you find a ski pass frozen in the ground(!), and in room A you find "a fluid" that you can pour on the ground in room B to get the ski pass. Once you're in the holiday resort the initial immersion (Lovecraft! Tomb Raider!) starts to wane pretty quickly. The end is unsatisfying.

The implementation is good for a GAC game - the two-word parser is solid, synonyms are understood, the room descriptions are way less sparse than in comparable games. If you know the GAC you know what downside to expect from this: While navigation and picking up objects run fairly quickly, solving actual puzzles allows you to set up a coffee between inputs, and if a three-word input is required (e.g. GIVE X TO Y) you can take a shower between turns. (Disclaimer: Slightly exaggerating here for stylistic reasons. Slightly.) There's a few graphics. Memory shortage was always an issue for GAC games, so don't expect anything photorealistic.

Conclusion: Starts nicely, technically pretty solid for a GAC game, gets boring on the way.

Played on a C64 back in the 19th century, revisited with a C64 emulator now.

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