Reviews by RadioactiveCrow
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I really wanted to like this game. The idea of playing a large, long and ever-changing text adventure via the web, along with some ability to interact with the other players, is a great one. However, the execution just hasn't grabbed me. I know there are a lot of players that love this game, and I've heard great things about the more traditional video game sequels from this studio (Sunless Sea and Sunless Skies), but I just can't get in to it. The stories just feel shallow, that there isn't a lot to them, nothing to really sink your teeth into, nothing to keep you coming back to see what happens next.
Plus, there is the limited actions mechanic. This is a free-to-play game, but it is the primary source of income for the studio. So one way that they've monetized the game is to limit you to 20 actions before you have to stop and let your action bank recharge, or you can pay a small monthly fee to get unlimited actions. The fee is very reasonable and if I was into this game more I would have no problem paying it to support the studio. Also, you can really accomplish quite a bit without paying. The 20 actions will let you play for about 20 minutes or so, then you can leave the game for a few hours to go about your normal routine or play other games and when you come back to it you will have recharged to 15-20 actions. Really it isn't the limited actions in and of themselves that I don't like, but that it seems like so many of your actions are spent grinding for a myriad of different resources to advance your character. It has a very MMORPG feel to it. And that would be right up my alley if the stories and payoffs for the grinding were better, but I just haven't found that to be the case yet.
The game is very well done though, the interface is clean and easy to use. The atmosphere of the game, from the graphics to the word choice, is incredible as well. This game has a lot of potential, but seeing as how it is already ten years old I don't know if it will ever get there.
I really enjoyed playing through this game again this year (after having played, but not beaten it back in the 1980s). Yes, I understand how the phrase "Zork hates its player" came about, but at least because the tasks are compartmentalized and getting back to where you last were doesn't take more than a few minutes that it doesn't feel like a major setback to blow yourself up when you weren't expecting it. I had fun puzzling through everything (or at least most things, I had to cheat to figure out (Spoiler - click to show)the secrets of the egg) and even making the maps on my own, though I can see how those can become tedious as well.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed myself and look forward to picking up Zork 2 and 3 for the first time ever, soon.
I'm surprised this has gotten the good reviews that it has. I didn't enjoy this one at all. In fairness to the game I think that I'm still a little rusty on thinking (and using verbs) the way Infocom thought when designing these games. However, I managed to get through most of Zork and Deadline alright. In those games I think I figured out 80% of the puzzles without hints, but with Ballyhoo I think I only got 20% without hints. Even finishing it with a walkthrough as I did, I still don't understand some of what was going on or how I would have ever figured it out on my own. The ending in particular is crazy.
So having to use a walkthrough for 80% of the game is a big strike against it, but even beyond that I didn't care much for the story or characters. Most of the characters are unlikable and the story feels thin. I think I finished the last 30% of the game by strictly following a walkthrough because I just wanted it to be over.
Oh well, they can't all be winners.
ADDENDUM: I bumped up my rating on this one star after listening to the Eaten By A Grue podcast episode about the game. I wrote the above review right after finishing the game and while I still hold to it, I think my frustration at the ending in particular made me forget about all the humor earlier in the game. This game is legitimately funny at points, in ways that not many pieces of IF are, and so I think that is worth an extra star.
I had heard and read about this game a lot before I played it, so I was expecting the worst as far as unfair puzzles go. In the end I thought that with a few notable exceptions, the game wasn't that hard, though I say that having played Zork and accepted my fate that any Infocom game would likely take a dozen playthroughs before you got close to beating it.
I loved the NPCs and their interactions with you and the environment. I loved that you couldn't just guess the right person as the murderer, that you had to gather evidence as well or you couldn't reach the ultimate ending. This game is ground breaking in introducing mysteries as an IF genre, and for a maiden voyage I think I did a pretty good job. You will need a few hints, but I think you will enjoy it.
(Spoiler - click to show)
It probably goes without saying, but digging around the holes in the rose garden for evidence, and the timing of catching George with an open safe in the hidden closet are the two puzzles that it would have been extremely difficult to solve without hints. Additionally, I think the final collection of evidence you obtain to "win" the game is a little thin when judged by the standards of modern murder mysteries.
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