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About the StoryAfter crashing your plane at sea, you end up drifting to a small island, with not much to survive. You explore, and find out the island was inhabited, years ago. But why did the people leave? And why is there a fence around the white house at the top of the hill?
TRISTAM ISLAND is a text adventure made from the mold of Infocom; expect a large geography to explore, lots of prose, a rich parser, diverse puzzles, some humor and some darkness. To use Infocom's classification, I'd rate the game's difficulty as "Standard"; however, the game's design is modern and eschews all the frustrations commonly associated with 1980s text adventures. No hunger timers, no frustrating mazes, no blocking situations that force you to restart!
It has 7-10 hours of gameplay, and comes with a digital Invisiclues-style hint book and a digital feelie.
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This puts some pretty extreme constraints on a game, which explains a bit why this is in a .z3 format. It would also suggest that this game would have to be under-implemented or small.
But Labrande has fit quite a lot of game into this small package, and that's what took this from a 4-star game for me to a 5-star game.
You land on an island after a plane crash and have to both survive and investigate the mystery of the island.
Gameplay takes place in several portions, each of which involves increasingly sophisticated objects and devices.
The first, survival-focused, portion was fairly linear, which was odd to me, and then once it opened up more I realized that this was just a very large game so its opening, linear segment was larger than most.
This game is at its best when it presents mysteries. When the game first mentioned Tristam Island by name I was instantly intrigued. That was my driving force in playing.
The feel is more like Infocom in that you have large maps with a few useful items in each area. This map reminded me a bit of Planetfall, which had several empty rooms to serve for realism's sake.
The biggest divergences from Infocom are in NPCs and in 'pizazz'. There are few opportunities to interact with others in this game, lending it a quiter feel. And Infocom games tended to be over-the-top, with wild circuses or exciting spy thrillers or time travel. This game is completely grounded in reality, and in fact seems to have entailed a great deal of research.
There are some troubles here and there in terms of responses or synonyms, which is why I would have given 4 stars. But much or all of that is explained by the oppressive constraints one has to deal with to fit a game this complex into a small package.
If you are a fan of retro gaming, I can't think of anything better than to play this on your platform of choice. For fans of parser games in general, I can give this a positive recommendation as something longer than any game in this year's IFComp, and polished.
(Note: I used the provided hints, messaging the author and even decompiling to complete this game. With all those aids, it still took me several hours).
The game starts as you have arrived on this apparently(?) deserted island after crashing your plane at sea. Since I don't want to spoil anything, I just want to say that the game can roughly be divided into four parts of different lengths, and that the demo only covers the first part.
The genre of this game is "Mystery". In case the exact genre of the game is important to you, you should know (Spoiler - click to show)that the game is not science fiction nor fantasy but purely realistic.
The game comes with some invisiclues and a post card. I am not sure if the post card is intended to be found inside the game, at least I did not find it, and it wasn't mentioned in the walkthrough available form CASA. So I first read it after completing the game.
I needed help with a single puzzle, and was later annoyed that I did not figure it out myself, so that puzzle was fair enough: (Spoiler - click to show)I did not realize that I would get a different response when trying to search the buckets while on the floor, instead of searching them while on the mezzanine.
However, the solution was NOT in the invisiclues. As a consequence, I read the clues for the wrong question by accident. I think the invisiclues could be improved here: (Spoiler - click to show)In the first room in the white house, there is a door to the north. It is not clear what it leads to, but I expected that there was clues for this door. Since there weren't any clues mentioning this door, I thought the door was actually "Major's office door" and read the clues for that, too late realizing that it had to be another door. I think the solution is to make some clues for the "contraption door" appear before "Major's office door", even if only giving vague hints if you don't want to give clues for it.
In the end, I had to look at the walkthrough on CASA to solve that puzzle.
Another problem was the final puzzle which had a (for me) Guess-the-verb/phrase/disambiguation problem: (Spoiler - click to show)X TRANSMITTER SAYS: "The dial of the transmitter...", which made me think that I should TURN DIAL, which works in other parts of the game. Then I tried X DIAL and was told about the geiger counter, so I left the geiger counter outside the COMMS room to avoid that disambiguation. Back in the COMMS room I once again tried TURN DIAL and got: "You'll have to specify if you want to turn it left or right." Thus I tried TURN DIAL LEFT and TURN DIAL RIGHT but that wasn't understood. I tried the same with "transmitter" and "radio". Looking at the walkthrough I realized that the answer was TURN KNOB RIGHT, i.e. the noun KNOB was required. Looking back at the X TRANSMITTER response, I see that the knob is mentioned. Still, I think the misleading responses to TURN DIAL/RADIO/TRANSMITTER should be avoided. I do acknowledge that many players will figure out the right noun as it is mentioned in the text. Still it would be good to get rid of the misleading response.
Despite my few problems, the parser is good and there were no really hard puzzles, so I think most experienced players will solve it without needing help with the puzzles. Some players prefer very challenging puzzles. Perhaps, they will find this game too easy. I can only say that I enjoyed the game a lot and recommend it very much.
Review of Demo:(Spoiler - click to show)
I just completed this free demo. I am not sure, but I think I used about 1.5 hours to complete it without hints(*). The full game should be 2-3 times bigger (I scored 34 out of 100 points). I am very much looking forward to the full game, which should arrive on the 20th of November. I have a feeling that the end of the game is going to be even better. If so, this might be changed to a 5-star review.
About this demo: The game starts as you have arrived on this apparently(?) deserted island after crashing your plane at sea. There are some fair not too hard puzzles, some more original than others, but all entertaining. Of course, the ending is a cliffhanger making you want to play the whole game.
(*):Only once did I feel stuck, and couldn't help looking at some of the screenshots. I got a single "hint" from one screenshot, but I more regard this "puzzle" as a bug. Since the full version hasn't been released yet, perhaps this might be fixed before the release. Except from this, the implementation is very good.
EDIT: This bug in the demo has been fixed.
I played the c64-version and it was surprisingly fast. I guess that is due to PunyInform and Ozmoo. I decided to play using the VICE-emulator and run it at 200% speed. However, you don't need to play around with emulators. You can just download the z3-file and play it with Gargoyle, Frotz etc. The implementation is thorough and the parser felt as good as any other Inform game - I never noticed that I was playing with a reduced Standard Library. So technically, this game is also very good.
The full game will only be $3.99 but try the free demo if you are in doubt. I am very much looking forward to the full game.
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