Tristam Island

by Hugo Labrande profile

Mystery
2020

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1-4 of 4


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A technical prodigy, April 3, 2021

A great, old-style (but modern) text adventure with very logical and stimulating puzzles, no dead-ends, credible setting and great prose.

From a technical point of view is a little wonder, with over 60 rooms meticulously described and compressed in the z3 format.

The mention of Brian Moriarty's TRINITY is the icing on the cake!

5 stars.


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Robinson Crusoe for the Atomic Age, March 7, 2021

A bit of fanfare preceded the release of Tristam Island which meant, unusually, that Iíd actually heard of it before playing it (it got a couple of mentions on a well-known community forum; relatively speaking, a blaze of publicity) Ė so advertising does work, a bit. In any case, Iím glad that I was thus induced to play it, as it is pretty good.

The game is made with PunyInform which, my scanty research suggests, is a version of Inform optimised for 8-bit computers that would otherwise struggle to run a full-fat Inform game Ė something that appeals to the nostalgic, the curious and those who believe they are still living in the 1980s (which more or less covers the whole contemporary IF audience, I think). One feature of that is the ability to target lots and lots of different retro computer systems, which the author has exploited to the full: there are dozens of different versions of the game available, so players are free to run it on the obsolete hardware of their choice. I played the Windows version, but even there the retro vibe still shines through in the implementation: more sparse, perhaps, than the average Ďmoderní IF game but richer than a lot of the games of the period to which this harks back. I guess that a general sort of Infocomy feel is what is aimed at here, and I think it succeeds (although I havenít played any Infocom games, I more or less know what theyíre supposed to look like) Ė the parser is very capable, but doesnít require too much of the player in terms of long and complicated commands, the descriptions are just long enough to fit comfortably within memory constraints, etc. There are also some explicit Infocom references in the game too (having done my research, I recognised a couple of them; there are probably more) which indicates quite clearly where the authorís heart lies, in case there was any doubt. Overall, the attempt to present an authentically retro-flavoured text adventure whilst avoiding authentically retro-flavoured frustrations is quite successful: which brings me to the game itself.

The setting is an abandoned island on which the player finds themselves stranded. There is, inevitably, a mystery here which is slowly uncovered during the course of the game through the playerís attempts to escape. The parser is reassuringly understanding and there arenít any real guess-the-verb frustrations. The map is fairly large, with new areas becoming accessible as the game progresses, and there is a lot of exploring and puzzle solving to do in this solitary wilderness. There are no NPCs in the game (well, perhaps there is one Ė but you canít talk to it), which works well to enhance the feeling of loneliness and isolation, while also handily avoiding the memory constraints and other difficulties involved with implementing NPCs effectively. The puzzles are generally well thought out, sensible and just challenging enough to feel satisfying Ė for me, they hit a perfect sweet spot between too easy and too hard that meant (much to my own astonishment) that I managed to complete the entire game without any external help at all (albeit with an imperfect score: I got 135/150). Some of the more complex actions in the game are implicitly handled (by MAKE or REPAIR etc.) which is a good idea for those players who canít be bothered to spend endless turns entering each individual action involved in e.g. sewing a button on a shirt, and for the ones that arenít, a bit of careful interrogation of things (especially the scenery) and lateral thinking is usually enough to put you on the right track. The most complex puzzle comes about halfway through the game and one senses the author struggling adequately to describe exactly what the set-up is here - he almost, but not quite succeeds. But for all that, itís still not too difficult to figure out what to do especially as the required items are relatively close at hand, as with all the puzzles (a design of which I approve: who wants to get to the end of the game only to have to traipse all the way back to get the sea shell that they stumbled across at the start?). A surprising feature is the number of hints scattered throughout: surprising as we are told at the start of the game that help is not available (due to memory constraints). In fact, more often than not, careful examination will yield pointers as to what you need to do, which are generally helpful nudges towards the solutionÖso the help is there, you just need to go hunting for it.

The game strikes a decent balance between open-world and on-rails. There is a reasonable amount of wandering around and exploring to do, but the game is clearly compartmentalised into different sections that need to be traversed in order to progress (literally in one case towards the end of the game, where you pass a point of no return). Thatís fine with me: I much prefer to be moving forward through a narrative to wandering around aimlessly. Each bit of the game is likely to take some time to complete. I never play these things in one sitting, but Iíd estimate that it might have taken me around 3 or 4 hours to get through it all if I had Ė so there is a decent chunk of game here.

Overall, Iíd say the game is a pretty good investment of your time and money Ė but itís not perfect by any means. For one thing, the plot is quite hackneyed: the grand revelation about the mystery of the island towards the end of the game was no revelation at all, and I was left feeling that something more original might have been attempted. There are also several bugs in the game, including a couple of fatal ones, that I would have expected to have been picked up in play-testing especially as the game is being marketed commercially (albeit for pin money). Iíll report them back to the author but itís disappointing to come across them.

Those negatives aside though, this is a very well done an enjoyable game that I would certainly recommend. Iíll be playing more by this author.


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Review of full game: Very good!, December 17, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: PunyInform, Inform

After playing the demo in September, I was very much looking forward to this game. I wasn't disappointed.

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.


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A game that is a treat for retro enthusiasts. Explore a large, mysterious island, December 2, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

This is an unusual parser game in that a lot of its development went into making it accessible on a variety of platforms, including Apple II, Atari, Gameboy, TI-84 and Dreamcast.

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).



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