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About the Story
You're an undergraduate at Caltech, and you wake up to find it's Ditch Day, the traditional event when seniors leave the campus for the day, leaving behind puzzles for the underclassmen to solve in order to break into the seniors' rooms. This is the original TADS sample game, but is also a fully fleshed-out traditional text adventure game.
Yes, it's the game included in the TADS distribution as sample code. At Caltech, the tradition on Ditch Day is for underclassmen to try to get past the obstacles that the seniors put on their doors. In your case, this means a treasure hunt in the Great Undergraduate Excavation. Lightweight in both mood and puzzle content. Includes hunger and sleep. Contains Planetfall references and one grid-mappable maze.
-- Carl Muckenhoupt
The game takes you into a realistic university atmosphere with just a small bit of overstatement to make you smile. Most of the NPCs are cardboard characters, but the insurance robot Lloyd is well-developed. I also like the book store clerk. None of the NPCs are very conversational though. The puzzles are fairly easy, but all logical and well-thought-out.
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Ditch Day Drifter does have its shortcomings as an adventure. The storyline is not particularly strong and many of the puzzles are very easy with the object(s) required for their solution being too close by. It is, though, a good demonstration of what can be achieved with TADS which is, from the player's point of view at least, a truly excellent system I found impossible to fault.
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Number of Reviews: 4
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
Every once in a while, I'm in the mood for an old-fashioned treasure hunt. This game sounded like just the thing to satisfy my craving. Well, it didn't disappoint.
First, the negatives: no hint/help system, and I couldn't figure out how to get the game to tell me when my score went up. Not that I couldn't check the status line, but I'd have felt more accomplishment if I'd been notified. But those are really personal preferences.
The game was put together well. No bugs that I ran into, puzzles were really easy, and the most annoying thing was just the hunger/sleep. Even the maze was easy. I solved it by myself by taking a few notes. I'm very proud of that.
The only reason I give the game three stars instead of four is that I had to play through it twice because I took so long exploring everything. But really, the game is finishable with only one item of food. I liked the game enough to play the sequel. Usually, treasure hunts aren't my first choice, but this game was so straightforward and smooth to play that I'd recommend it.
This game is a demo, showing what TADS can do (back in 1990, before the many updates it has experienced). In that sense, it's somewhat similar to Graham Nelson's Deja Vu and/or Balances, which were meant to show off Inform.
The writing is fairly spare, and most rooms have only one item. Many things are shown off: ability to tie things and thus change exits; chutes leading from one area to another; putting things in an object; NPCs that follow you around; a money system; a funnel; etc.
The storyline was only thinly sketched; you walk around collecting a random series of objects on a college campus for Ditch Day, when seniors pose problems to freshmen.
I haven't played the sequels yet, but I intend to. Deep Space Drifter was an immediate sequel, which had mixed reception. But Return to Ditch Day, written over a decade later to show off TADS 3, was good enough to get a Best Game XYZZY nomination, so I look forward to playing it.
Intended to be an introduction to Text Adventures/Interactive Fiction and that is exactly what you get with Ditch Day Drifter. The author done a very nice job of throwing together a game full of pretty basic, very commonly found situations in the Interactive Fiction world. Yes, there are puzzles in this fairly short treasure hunt, but the puzzles are clearly cued keeping justified-frustration to a minimum which can easily make or break a game for me. I recommend Ditch Day if you're new to Interactive Fiction or just looking for a game that shouldn't take you too long to complete and don't mind dealing with a few obstacles that shouldn't be too difficult for you to figure out how to get around even without hints and walkthroughs.
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