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32nd Place - 19th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2013)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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The implementation left a lot to be desired--there were some interesting & well-done bits, but the actual mechanics were too clunky to proceed without extensive hints.
It was very hard to navigate in this short game.
The writing wasn't great: it wasn't bad, and Brown avoids the worse sin of over-flowing purple prose, but combined with the technical problems I'd avoid this game.
I do hope that he fixes some of the implementation issues and releases an updated version. It isn't a bad game, but it could use a little refinement.
My most frustrating two puzzles below
(Spoiler - click to show)
OK, so you have to open a secret door behind a painting--but you have to slash the painting to get in there, I don't think there was any clue at all to the location of the door.
Now, to get a razor to slash the painting, you have to do something specific to the bath taps--the bath taps which don't really trigger any results on things like "Look at bath" "X bath", which mostly gives you stock error messages, suggesting to me that the bath wasn't implemented even as scenery.
The second issue is an insta-death scenario resulting from not ripping a cupboard off a wall. Ripping the cupboard off doesn't get you something behind the wall--it gets you a piece of the cupboard--which is odd. Who would think to go looking for that? There is no in-game clue that suggested to me that it was important to tear a cupboard off the wall.
In general, I think the implementation needs to be tightened, and some of the actual plot elements need a little more QA.
(This is an edited version of a review I originally wrote for my 2013 IFComp blog.)
The Cardew House is a short parser adventure of typical mechanical puzzling in a haunted house. It could be said to be of Ectocomp style and hasty Ectocomp or slightly-better-than-speed-IF quality, and it doesn't have any surprises up its sleeve that would warrant anyone already uninterested in the basic premise from trying it. As the author's declared first or equal first Inform game, it's simple and rough and wasn't tested, but at least it has focus and a degree of technical soundness.* (* excepting its habit of just killing the interpreter where it stands whenever the game ends, which strikes me as unsound.) If you play, save the game before taking any particularly exciting actions; there's no undo from a game over.
The introduction tells of cruel Old Man Cardew, he who so aggravated all his neighbours and kin that somebody eventually shotgunned him in the head. Cardew's daughter disappeared, too, but nobody really knows the whole story. Enter you, foolhardy explorer of... The Cardew House. Note that I am going to arrogantly say that I've expressed this in a more exciting fashion than the game does.
Something you'll notice once you enter the house, and which you'll be aware of before you enter the house because the author mentions it in his introductory spiel, is that the lights in the rooms randomly turn on and off. I actually found that the reports about the flickering from adjacent rooms, and the business of me turning things back on, was quite atmospheric. I'm still relieved the author set things up so that the PC will turn lights on by default (an option you can deactivate) because, as he correctly anticipated, it would have made the game super fiddly if you had to do it all manually. The lighting atmos, in tandem with other random sounds and moans, makes the game a tiny bit bumps-in-the-night creepy.
One prop has a good attention-drawing schtick but mostly there's a lot of implementation oversight. Some props, like the kitchen cupboard, have fairly classic guess-the-verb issues attached to them. On the plus side, the hint system gives hints for the room you're in, so it tends not to spoil too much, and you can toggle it off again before you move to the next room.
The denouement doesn't really explain all of the implications of the game's introduction. (Spoiler - click to show)So Betty was buried under the house, but who shot Cardew? Did Cardew shoot Cardew? What about all the black magic stuff and the pentagrams? Fortunately this game is short enough that I wasn't tremendously bothered that I didn't find out the answer to all of these things. I enjoyed my 15 minutes or so in this house enough.
This 2013 ifcomp game is a short, small game with about a dozen rooms. The game has some atmospheric effects and a context sensitive help system, as well as some clever details.
However, it has many typos and some programming bugs, as well as being very short. Also, for me at least, it was difficult to guess the necessary actions.