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Curiously off-putting, June 13, 2013
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)Related reviews: craig dutton
Play it if: you'd like to witness an instructive example of how to alienate a player in the first thirty seconds of play.
Don't play it if: you want a game that makes much of any effort to engage the player.
I like Robin Hood. He's a character with a long and rich tradition in history, politics and artistry; like King Arthur, he combines elements of real folk heroes, poetic exaggeration, outright falsification, and Jungian archetype into something timeless. The point is, Robin Hood is cool, and in the expansive and variegated world of adaptation there's room for more Robin Hood stories in IF (we already have Robin of Sherlock as a good entry).
That being said, this is a rather disappointing effort. Craig Dutton seems not to have beta-tested the game, or even particularly proofread it: grammatical errors and puzzling capitalization abound. The lack of a hint system or walkthrough, coupled with the extremely open-ended nature of the game's beginning, means that I have no way to understand whether or not I've made the game unwinnable or missed anything of importance when I come up against a seemingly insoluble situation (being locked in a cell).
The gameplay itself is poor. I can understand the fascination with mazes even though it's difficult to make them novel or interesting, so to some degree a maze that seems to run on nothing but trial and error is forgivable. That being said, I fail to understand what choice motivated the author to actually start the game with the PC in a maze and no reference points. As a hunter, the main character presumably has some ability to track his quarry, or at least some familiarity with the forest. None of this is translated into the gameplay experience, though, leaving the player to basically wander around a region of single-sentence rooms until stumbling across the deer. And I think the player is supposed to find a couple of items in the process, but these appear to be almost randomly scattered in the forest. I'm looking for a deer. It doesn't make sense to find the deer then go back into the woods to more thoroughly search it for useless objects. Yet that is what the game apparently requires of me.
I mentioned that the forest is a series of one-sentence room descriptions. That isn't limited to the forest. A boring maze is followed up with a locked-room puzzle whose terse implementation verges on the hilarious:
You can go west.
That way is locked.
A strong iron-bound oak door.
A very narrow window. Impossible for anyone to squeeze through.
>speak to much
He grins back at you.
Pervading the game is a sense that the author didn't think much about verb implementation either:
I don't understand your command
>kill deer with bow
That doesn't work.(Spoiler - click to show)
("Use bow on deer" is the required command.)
>knock on door
I can't see that. (on door)
You can't knock it.
It's not my habit to review a game without having completed it. I felt the need to do it in this case because, while the game afforded me neither the support nor the inclination to progress beyond about five minutes' worth of play, it failed to do so in a rather fascinating way. I've always thought that bad art is as instructive as good art when it comes to learning the craft. As a learning exercise in failed gameplay, this one may actually be worth the time of a novice writer.