Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina

by Jim Aikin profile


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Number of Reviews: 9
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1-6 of 6

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Doll? What doll? Oh right!, November 2, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Related reviews: Puzzler

Just saying, it's pretty easy to lose sight of your ultimate objective in this game.

Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina is a beast, a mountain, a leviathan of a game. There is nothing that would resemble a plot, no matter how vanishingly vague your definition would be. There is naught but the flimsiest of framing story to get you going, but I frequently had to remind myself that my end-goal had something to do with that short intro from way back in the beginning.

This is not a story-oriented game. It is an unapologetically hard and big barrage of puzzles.
There is a large variety of puzzles, and they are all logical/common-sense in hindsight. There are no solutions randomly pulled out of the author's hat that would make you say "No way!" even after finding the solution (or looking it up). This changes nothing about the fact that this game is hard.
There are different reasons for this:
-The pure huge scale of the game-map and the amount of objects, puzzles and clues in it. The sheer amount of information that gets thrown at you is mindboggling. It's a real challenge to keep a list of puzzles and their clues in your mind while playing, even with a notebook. Add to that the objects that are not always used straightforwardly, and the heap of information is very big.
-The author has no scruples about throwing out-of-game anagrammatical and mathematical puzzles at the player. I could almost hear his whispers: "You signed up for this out of your own free will. Now let's see you cope with this."
-Four mazes. In two of them I could use my inventory objects and some real world problem-solving to make sense of the order, the other two bamboozled me into cheating (David Welbourn's walkthrough is excellent).
-There are a good number of more traditional adventure game puzzles. The solutions howeverdepend on non-traditional use of objects, timing/turn-counting and meticulous attention and analysis of the descriptions of locations and their relations to each other.

Without a plot to keep the interest piqued, Ballerina must rely on the internal motivation and curiosity of the player. For me, this worked all through the game (3000+ moves). There is just so much there, and so much just around the corner that I had to tear myself away from the screen on many evenings. Luckily, this often meant that I had found new ways to tackle an obstacle the next day.

Another thing that holds this game together is the excellent descriptions of the setting and the pervasive atmosphere of the abandoned shopping-mall.
Never truly scary, but always consistently creepy.

An excellent classic game. Take your time when you engage this. I spent three weeks on it, with occasional hints. Three weeks of fun.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Vast world with variety of puzzles , July 19, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours

This is a Christmas-themed game with the same gameplay style as Curses or Zork. The character explores a very large shopping mall after hours, trying to get a Christmas present. The feeling of loneliness mixed with wonder gives a nice atmosphere to the game.

The puzzles range in difficulty from very easy to very hard. You should assume you will use the hint system, which is wonderful. Puzzles include mindbenders, find-object-use-object, and some big mazes.

I enjoy games that are too difficult to completely beat on your own, but are large enough and non-linear enough to give even casual players hours of entertainment before turning to hints. This is such a game.

The endgame puzzles are frankly too difficult with too little reward. The game was very fun right up to the time you get (Spoiler - click to show)a ball from Santa. Everything after that felt like work. It may be because I relied so heavily on the walkthrough at this point.

Great game for someone who like Curses and wants a similar experience.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Oh, the trouble we go through to get a gift!, July 19, 2019

This has to be one of the most challenging puzzlers I have played--and I love puzzly IF games. Especially multi-level games, although NJAOB is not multi-level in the strict sense--the mall in the game actually has 4 levels, which makes it kind of resemble a multi-level IF. You will want to make a map. There are a number of fiddly map connections, where, for example, 'north' won't get you back after going 'south'. And despite there being a capacious bag, there are a number of take-able objects that will not fit into the bag, and there is an inventory limit that may bedevil some who aren't used to the old games. To be fair, this limit is quite high, and if you are not a hoarder like me, and drop items after using them for a score increase, you may never reach the limit. All the same, it's a good idea to keep an object list, next to your maps. Some objects will be needed more than once.
I think the main drawback of this game is that it is so expansive as regards play area--from the very beginning. You will want to make a map for each level. I spent perhaps my first five game sessions--and I have long sessions--mapping the play area, taking notes, and just listing the takeable objects, and only tentatively solving puzzles. At one point, (Spoiler - click to show)suddenly, I was able to unlock all the shop doors, got the lights turned on, and foiled security--MORE MAPPING! Plus, there are no less than FOUR mazes.. While I don't see this as a 'drawback' as far as enjoyment, it kept me wondering 'what objects and clues are available to me now, what things can I do, and what do I need to know now?' because I didn't want to keep struggling with a puzzle over here on the Main Level, when the object/solution/clue is fully available on the Upper Level, or somewhere else that I hadn't mapped yet. So count on spending your first several sessions just taking it all in, mapping, examining and taking notes.
Also, there are about a half-dozen red herrings, in the form of takeable objects and clues. To be fair here, some of them are parts of alternate solutions, but you still wonder if they will be useful somewhere. (Spoiler - click to show)For example, I never found a use for the angel's wings--they were an alternate solution in one of the mazes, but you would still have to find your way back through that maze. And at least one puzzle was just downright abstruse; (Spoiler - click to show)it was a code puzzle, where the clues seemed sprinkled here and there through the mall. You had to unscramble a number of words--for some, the letters of which could have just as easily spelled other words--and then take a letter from each of these words to spell one of the code words. What I didn't understand about this was, why have six words, all of whose letters were known, scramble them, only to have the player find an additional word from one each of these groups of letters? Why not have just one scrambled word? None of these six words had any other meaning or use in the game. And the clues to the scrambled words were placed on the opposite side of the mall, on a different level--those clues were so incredibly obscure and esoteric--and, I felt, were clues to something completely superfluous, as I mentioned before. It just seemed like a lot of verbiage for the sake of a code word to put into a computer in a shop in order to get a couple of things. Also, I think the author put a number of 'stubs'(situations where there might be a puzzle) into the game, but then changed his mind, and just left them in.
But on the whole, I thought the concept, the story, the characters fit together really well. I rated it 4 stars because it is a well-put-together game, the author put a lot of thought into every location--there are no less than 19 shops in the mall--each one had something useful--and that's just the shops! There are plenty of mathematical and code puzzles to keep you busy and thinking outside of the game session. I gave it only 4 because of the problems mentioned above. It took me 11 sessions, and an average of about 5 hours a session. I do agree with some other reviewers, in that the ending was a bit tepid--I think he could have added quite a bit more--maybe even make it more challenging to leave the mall--but it didn't faze me much, because I really did enjoy playing this game. There is plenty of humor, a lot of what I call 'daring ridiculousness'(particularly what the PC does vis--vis the security situation, reminds me of what I often put into my own games), and thematic situations (cultural references, you get to meet a ghost, a homeless man, plenty of toys, Christmas tree, etc). A lot of color.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fun, But Tormentingly Difficult, June 6, 2016

So this is a game where I easily got involved in this for hours at a time exploring the mall, interacting with the scenery, getting stuck, trying to find out if I can get unstuck. For the second time last night, in about two weeks of attempting to solve this, I had to restart the game. So I'm taking a break now. But in general, a few pieces of advice for those of you playing the first time (Spoiler - click to show)if you walk into a room and you realize you've broken a crystal ball, click undo. AND (Spoiler - click to show) don't use up your matches all at once, you will need them later . AND (Spoiler - click to show) make sure you find a way to stop the guard from seeing your activity on the security screens AND (Spoiler - click to show) don't shred the book in the book printing machine . I can promise you that you will need hints and at one point, I caved and peeked at the walk through. I did get stuck and realized that I had to go back to the VERY start of the game, despite my numerous attempts at saving thanks to (Spoiler - click to show) the fact that I used up all my matches and didn't realize I need them for a specific room /SPOILER>.

Fun game, and VERY addictive. But almost too difficult for me, to the point where it wasn't very fun, because I kept needing hints to get through different tasks. But if you are up for a challenge, I'd say take this one on. Good atmospheric game though, and I loved the idea of being ina mall after hours.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Fun game, very challenging, January 17, 2013
by Shadow Fox (Texas)

Not Just An Ordinary Ballerina has a lot of the elements I enjoy in an IF game. It is well-written and atmospheric, and I found myself still thinking about it when I was done playing. The comprehensive hint system and walkthrough built into the game were extremely useful and, for my part, needed.

The puzzles in the game range from fairly simple logic and common-sense - finding and applying appropriate objects to one another, for example - to very challenging. More than once I needed to tap the depths of the hint feature to get through a tight spot, and there was one particular puzzle that I would never have solved without help. Still, gameplay is easy, the descriptions are well done and there is a lot to explore and discover.

There was only one real downside to an otherwise great game. When I finally did resort to the full walkthrough (due to a computer error that kept me from restoring saved games, I had to restart after any mistake that couldn't be fixed by typing UNDO. I gave up after a couple of hours) I discovered that I had already messed up in three different ways over the course of the game. I had been wandering around in ignorant bliss, solving other puzzles, and having no idea that I had already lost. That was probably the most frustrating moment.

Over all, I do recommend the game to anyone who likes a compelling atmosphere, tricky puzzles, and a fair amount of freedom to do as you please. But I would also recommend saving frequently, because you never know when you'll find yourself suddenly stuck because of a common action without any warning.

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Mind Boggling but Great, October 25, 2011

Well unfortunately, I cheated and had to use the walk through. Even though I did I liked the challenges that the game provided once I went through with no walk through. A bit of math here and there, so if you are just plain math stumped then this might not be the game for you and the walk through is no help on the math aspect. I felt that I had to use the walk through because there are a few things that I just wouldn't have known how to go through the game but even with that walk through it was an enlightening and pretty fun.

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