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SPAG review of "Nothing More, Nothing Less"
Nothing More, Nothing Less (NMNL) was a late entry to the 2001
SmoochieComp by a first-time author who, in his own words, "used the
SmoochieComp as an excuse to learn an IF language", so as you might
expect there were some first time growing pains and perhaps a few
awkward game design choices, and I hope that the author takes the
following review as the constructive criticism that it is intended to
be. To his credit, the author attempts a few novel game design
initiatives and that's what I'll be focusing on for the first part of
NMNL is a fairly small game that takes place in the protagonist's (and
most likely the author's) small apartment, with the usual rooms (i.e.,
bedroom, bathroom, living room) accounted for...
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[Review Conspiracy] Nothing More, Nothing Less
This is a Hugo game by Gilles Duchesne. It was written for SmoochieComp, but unfortunately not quite in time to be an Official(tm) Entry and reviewed with all the rest. Let's right that wrong, shall we?
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Number of Reviews: 1
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I'm having a hard time expressing what I liked about this piece.
You direct the actions of a good-natured, young, domestic everyman, nearly fresh out of college and getting established in the world alongside the "Honey" that has become the center of his universe. Well, maybe "center of the universe" is strong, but certainly she's the bed along which his stream of consciousness runs.
Since Honey's parents (his future in-laws?) are coming to dinner, he has a minor errand to run -- pick up some photos that she wants to show them. Easy enough, right? Only this is IF, so certainly something will stand in the way.
The author stuck to genre here, in that the challenges you face are the very believable everyday challenges of existence.(Spoiler - click to show) There are plugged toilets, lost keys, escape-oriented pets, and the like. Although this sounds like it would be tremendously boring to simulate, it's not, thanks to the continuous characterization of the narrator as he grins his way through these obstacles.
As some of the other reviews I found online mention, the "puzzle" structure is fairly straightforward, with much of the delay resulting from the choice to reveal context-relevant things only as you need them. This was an interesting twist, emulating the way that so much of everyday existence lies beneath your notice, but I agree that it was a bit irksome because of the way it forced you to revisit the all of the rooms again every time you change context. On the other hand, perhaps this device was necessary to accommodate the author's method of characterization, which is grafting context-relevant information on the descriptions of everything.
The hunt for new items was certainly not too burdensome to endure, especially when you recall that you can navigate to any room by name(Spoiler - click to show), and there are only about 10 locations total. It's a technique worth looking at, and there are ways to cut down the irk level when using it.(Spoiler - click to show) (For example, when the narrator realizes his keys are missing, he recalls where he last saw them, eliminating the full apartment search for this item.)
As a first work, it is very well-done -- especially the major NPC, your adorable/terrible cat, Azrael, who is light-weight in coding but has a definite personality. The most noticeable errors I spotted were some lingering action contexts in descriptions and a few glitches in the NPC's idle behavior (doing two different, incompatible things on the same turn).
In the end, I think it was the narrator himself that I liked best about this piece. You'll notice that my description above switches back and forth between the treating the narrator as a third person and the player. This is an artifact of the author's use of the first-person in describing game actions, which creates a strange sensation of both being and not-being the narrator as you direct him through his world. On reflection, what it seems to do most is force you to consider the narrator as a separate person instead of a role you are trying to fulfill, giving it the feel of "hanging out" instead of "let's pretend".
The game experience was just long enough to feel like I'd hung out with him for a while, amiably killing time on a lazy long-weekend morning. It feels like three stars, but I give it two for the coding errors and the lack of puzzle "meat." Still, it's better than average, especially for a first-timer, and anyone considering an in-your-apartment work should review this one to see how the author manages to hold the player's interest in a potentially banal setting.