Mortlake Manor

by Ben Chenoweth profile

Exploration and Mystery
2012

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
On the plain side, but , May 15, 2012
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)

Mortlake Manor is very old-school in its approach. It has a generous map, a couple of mazes, and even some randomization. But it is a bit on the plain side. There is a little too much walking and not enough reward. I'd have liked more items and fewer rooms, as I spent a good deal of the game looking at my maps and typing in commands without looking at the screen, especially once I retreated through the mazes, (Spoiler - click to show)with the 15-room nonreflexive-direction garden maze (too long!) causing particular annoyance. I tried dropping items in rooms since I didn't get the gauntlet--which probably needs a description, or a clue it can be loosened, so here's where more is less. I just wasn't expecting anything new, and when a player's staring at a chart of which room goes where, the author has lost him a bit.

It's certainly tempting, once you get the hang of text adventure programming, to start creating more rooms, since the first is the toughest--but here, we have several named "east-west corridor" and even two adjacent ones named "back door." This requires nontrivial technical skill to DO in Inform, but instead of adding to the mysterious feel of a mansion, it leaves me wondering what's so special and upset I'll have a few more rooms to walk through if I leave an item lying about. I was especially nervous about (Spoiler - click to show)the hammer, which never got used but was in the corner of my mind--and the game's map. What was it for?

Another thing that could be explored is: (Spoiler - click to show)the ghost gets you points if you study it passively. Why not have it do something, or be able to follow it?

To the author I would say--publish a second release that is not as faithful to the original as this one. Have fun and ask your testers what they'd add. Maybe you can cut down and describe the rooms more, or take advantage of some Inform-specific stuff, while keeping the original somewhere else. Describe the rooms or cut them down, or both. I have one test I like to do for a game--how does the author's by-move walkthrough look when printed out? And this game is a lot of walking around. The story's relatively sparse.

Things like the help and the (Spoiler - click to show)acronymic maze clues in two places show the author has a strong idea of making the game fair. If there's a way to clue without just leaving a few irregular verbs out there to try, then that allows for more immersion and not picking a verb vs guessing one. It helps the player avoid annoyance, but all the same, if a player is looking to avoid annoyance while playing the game, the game needs to change its tack.

I hope this is not too harsh treatment for a first-time author with the guts to put his work out there for opinions. I'm nearly certain the author can make this review obsolete with a second version. In fact, I look forward to it.

(ps - email for transcript if you want it.)