Seastalker

by Stu Galley and Jim Lawrence

Thriller/Children's
1984

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Number of Reviews: 3
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Okay introduction marred by bland writing and irritating feelies, September 5, 2010
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

Once again the urge to play the Infocom games came over me. In the past, this mostly led to me being frustrated, so I decided to play the easiest Infocom game this time. How much trouble could I have with a game explicitly aimed at young people?

Well, still some, because there is a time limit, which can surprise the unwary interactor. But in general the puzzles will not be much trouble for the veteran IF player, and most of them are clearly hinted by either the game or the documentation. Additionally, I hit a show stopping bug once; but it turned out that I was playing version 86, which is apparently a beta version. (What is that doing in the wild?) I will assume for this review that the real game is bug free.

The plot of the game is functional: you are a young inventor who is into submarines, and you have to save an underwater research station from a huge fish. There are some twists, and the story does manage to keep one's attention and put one into perilous situations of different kinds. Unfortunately, the characterisation and writing are very bland. I would have preferred even the cruel humour of Zork to this nondescriptness.

In terms of gameplay, some good things are done here: the submarine scenes are novel and fun (though probably long enough); the freedom in the Aquadome is also refreshing. On the bad side, some of the "puzzles" are so obviously hinted, with characters simply telling you what to do, that you don't feel in charge. This would seem to underestimate the children for whom the game is meant: surely one should design appropriate puzzles, rather than design puzzles that are too difficult and then remove the puzzle-element?

But the worst thing about the game, apart from the bland writing, is its use of feelies. In a design choice that is either incredibly stupid or a copy-protection scheme gone horribly wrong, you constantly have to read descriptions, commands, and maps from the feelies. This is very irritating. It works for the map of Frobton Bay, where having to consult a map is diegetic and even fun, but it doesn't work in the rest of the game. Examining a person and then having to read the description in the manual is simply stupid.

So -- not really recommended. Unless you wish to finish your first Infocom game, in which case I can tell you that with this game, it is possible!