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About the Story
You are having nightmares. Something strange is going on around your college. Only you can do something about it.
8th Place - Ectocomp 2010
(reviews from ECTOCOMP 2010 judges)
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Number of Reviews: 2
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To me, Tenebrae Semper was the horrible disappointment of Ectocomp 2010. This may seem like an outrageously unkind statement with which to open a review, but it comes from a place of love. The reason I was so disappointed is because I liked Seciden Mencarde's Forest House games, all of which were made in similarly constrained speed IF competition circumstances, and which managed to punch above those circumstances at least 70% of the time. However, it was obvious that the third Forest House game was starting to get too ambitious, and it came out buggy, holey and underimplemented. Tenebrae Semper falls further into the same pit by aiming far beyond what anyone could achieve in several hours of programming. The result is an incomplete and particularly frustrating demo for what obviously needs to be a much bigger game. It barely brings the promised horror, either.
The PC is a college student who wakes from a dream (?) of a girl screaming when the game begins. Now it's time to get out of bed and off to class. The player's room is jampacked with furniture, books, a bookshelf, a desk, an alarm clock etc. Anything that can have a drawer in it does, and there's stuff in the drawers as well. But every third item is painted on and every second item is improperly implemented. Try and go out the north door and you'll be informed, "You don’t have all your stuff yet, and you’d better not go to class unprepared." So your goal, should you choose to accept it, is to divine which items constitute all your stuff, locate them amongst the mess and then be holding them all when you try to go through the door. Plus you've got an inventory limit which fights you as soon as you start picking up heavy textbooks. This scene was probably intended to be a breezy, realistic start to the adventure, but comes on more like an agonising puzzle from Hitchhiker's Guide. Suffice to say, it is extremely difficult to leave the room.
If escape is achieved, further problems come thick and fast. It's usually unclear what you're meant to be doing. Characters don't express surprise at surprising stuff, like supernatural shenanigans or teleporting books. The exit lister is broken. Room descriptions don't seem to print automatically.
Ultimately the game doesn't go anywhere, and it has, for the time being, squandered the truly awesome title of Tenebrae Semper.
This began with a frustrating little puzzle that prevented me leaving the start location until I had all my stuff, while quietly remaining silent on exactly what I needed to take with me. It was a puzzle made worse by ADRIFT’s buggy item carrying limits that prevented me picking up certain things – like a pen – because my hands are full. Oh, and if you pick up a pen, then drop it (as I did when experimenting with what items were necessary), you can’t pick the pen up again. Nasty “puzzle”. I ran into the same problem later on in the game when I returned to the room and then was prevented from leaving because one of the required items was no longer in my possession.
There were other annoyances – items listed in the room description not being examinable, typos, misleading exit messages, guess the verb and the like – but it’s easier to forgive these considering the three hour time constraint imposed by the comp. Nicely written, too, which was an added bonus.
Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out most of the time what I was meant to be doing. Even with the Generator open and actively cheating, it was difficult to guess what my next move should be and often I’d be left stranded in one location with no idea of what I was meant to do next. On the occasions when I did manage to make progress, this was usually done after trying every single thing I could think of doing. Not so much solving a puzzle as hitting upon the solution by sheer persistence.
Overall this seemed a little too ambitious for a three hour camp and the rough edges really showed.