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Paging Dr. Jones, December 7, 2020
Dr. Ego is an old-school, parser-based treasure hunt that wears its influences on its sleeve: the ABOUT text says the idea came to the author while watching Indiana Jones, and one look at the starting inventory, which includes a fedora and a whip, shows we’re not messing about (I know the character is called Dr. Ego, but in my headcanon, an Indy knockoff is always named Tennessee Williams). As I recall, the initial bit of dialogue with the guide character nods a bit at the imperialism of carting off indigenous peoples’ cultural artifacts (I lost my transcript so I might be misremembering), but we’re clearly not meant to take things too seriously.
The classic setup is mirrored by classic gameplay – you wander through a jungle environment solving traditional adventure-game puzzles. The map is relatively small and there aren’t that many objects or barriers to work through, so it definitely doesn’t overstay its welcome (the “two hours” estimate on its entry page is off by at least a factor of two, for those folks considering whether to give Dr. Ego a whirl). For the most part, the puzzles make sense given the environment, and it’s usually clear what you’re meant to be doing next (if anything, the final one, (Spoiler - click to show)which is lifted directly from the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark, is too easy).
Implementation is all right, if unspectacular: scenery is generally there if it’s described in the location, though most of the default responses haven’t been changed and there aren’t a lot of custom reactions to actions not required to solve the game. I also ran into two guess-the-verb issues, or rather two variations of the same one: (Spoiler - click to show) despite having figured out that I needed to go behind the waterfall, repeated attempts to do that were stymied until I used the hint function to discover I needed to LOOK BEHIND WATERFALL. Once in that chamber, it was also hard to examine the object in the hole until, by parallelism, I thought to try LOOK IN HOLE. There are some typos (including in the opening text, unfortunately), and the line breaks felt a bit haphazard, which sometimes made it hard to parse what was happening.
Overall this is an unpretentious game that was good for whiling away a pleasant hour, even though I’m not sure how long it will stick in my mind. One last complaint though – I lost my hat midway through. How can this be an Indy homage if you lose your hat!