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About the Story
You are the rather famous, but altogether lazy, wizard Zegrothenus. The Council has imprisoned you in your own lair as a last-ditch effort to cure you of procrastination. Can you create a new potion before time runs out?
30th Place - Casual Gameplay Design Competition #7
Zegrothenus was a real learning experience for me -- mostly about how long things actually take, and secondarily about the massive complexity of any IF authoring system, but I6 in particular. I had to fight against my instincts every step of the way. There's not a lot of rooms; there is no epic sweep and only a little bit of symbolism and theme. In retrospect, it's also probably more frustrating than it needs to be. If I had to rate it myself, I'd put it at 3.5 or 4 stars on the basis of the writing quality and the nice touches, and take points off for the frustration factor.
In one sense, the game is a typical "escape the room" setup, although escaping in this case depends upon creating a potion to prove your worth as a wizard. It's a complex affair because you don't remember making the potion and you only have so much time. The timer runs backwards, showing how much time you have left, and the points correspond to your progress on the potion.
There are no hunger puzzles, but several timed puzzles show up. The NPCs can frustrate your progress, and it is possible to lose all your progress in the game via the actions of an NPC. With that said, Zegro provides warnings and clues that should allow most players to avoid the consequences of the timed puzzles, and the timing is generous.
Zegro provides cluing at the macro level as well the micro level, although probably not enough at the micro level. (I really didn't want to hold the player's hand, though. Who knows where it had been?). It also places the characters in a distinctive larger world, and that's something that very few one-room games even attempt. Humor is used throughout, but it is an acquired taste, and one that hinges upon reading the About section. If you miss that, you'll probably feel insulted.
So, black sheep or crazy uncle, this game is probably one that will appreciated by only a few people.
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First of all, to be fair, I played the competition entry at Jay is games .com, and it appears there is a version 4, which MAY have fixed some of the issues with this game.
First of all, I had some issues taking objects (which I assume was bugs, but magic is involved, so who knows). For example, If i try putting something (Which i'm carrying) into something (like the chest), it tells me I need to be holding the object before it put it into something else. (But I am!) I was also able to drop carried objects, but not pick them back up (because they were too large?).
Another frustration was spells. I went some time before I realized I even HAD any (the about section references this- yes, you're a wizard, but it implies throughout the game that wizard's are more like potion-making alchemists than spellcasters).
Next there's the directions. It's a kind of one-room game, with a central area, and a north, west, and east side of the room. It would have been nice if going N from any room took you to the north end. But if you're in the west area, North gives an error about the magical barrier around you, which NE does not.
Frustrated about the chest, I tried putting all in the chest. The ALL list apparently includes everythign i can interact with, including myself, light, shadows, etc. These items don't show up under GET ALL.
Then there's how some verbs are programmed. [spoiler] I tried griniding the cork with the pestle, where it tells me that the cork is too strong to grind. Likewise when you try to smash a wine bottle with a hammer. The walkthrough tells me I'm supposed to both hit and grind rocks with the hammer and the pestle, which was bothersome. Why would I hit rocks if a glass wine bottle was too hard for me to break with a hammer?[/spoiler]
Despite all this, the writing was a saving grace for this. I am a fan of the fantasy genre, and I like the premise, very zorkian style humor: the other wizards will yank your spellcasting license if you don't make some new wizardry advances, and they're timing you to make sure you do it. I think the timer could have gone without (we won't be able to beat the game without making the potion).
I'm giving this 3 stars. The writing is 5 star material, as far as I'm concerned. The implementation was probably 1 star, but I'm granting the author the benefit of the doubt that s/he went back and fixed many of these issues for version 4.