The Adventures of Peter Patzer, Who Sought Masterhood and Returned Not Quite the Same

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Win at chess just once: the text adventure, January 19, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)

I was glad to discover a chess game of sorts. Peter Patzer isn't particularly enlightened, but it has a few good jokes, and it's self-contained enough that certain places where I had to guess ran out of possibilities quickly. It feels like there were opportunities missed, but that's to be expected since AGT was relatively new when the author wrote this. Oh, and the author did a lot of work on AGT himself. It's tough to write both core code and stories at once.

PP isn't a huge game. It has fourteen rooms, ten of which are traps that force you to answer general-knowledge questions. Along the way, you will find the ghost of Alekhine, as well as actual people in Johnnie the janitor and a shady postman/operator and Slimy Harry the Hustler. He will beat you on the board if you play him, and also, he will kill you within nine moves whether or not you play him. The solution to make him disappear is a bit of a stretch, but it got a laugh out of me once I saw what to do. Also, I was amused you lost points if you played him in blitz chess. You can keep playing him for $10 even though you only have $10 on you.

Harry's aggression is one of two deaths--in fact, PP is polite on the Zarfian cruelty scale, as you can undo, for one move at least. (A limitation of AGT.) The other is on the sidewalk outside the chess club. You can walk into traffic, which is very Leisure Suit Larry, but without the theme song you can whistle along to.

PP certainly has its oddities. It's funny, in retrospect, the hidden room where the real people play (away from patzers like you,) even though none of them are implemented, which is a pity, because the room description offers so many possibilities. And certainly the concept of improving in chess does, too--how do you find adequate openings? Can you learn to mate with king and queen, or king and rook? Maybe you can learn a few middlegame tricks, not just so you can catch others, but so you avoid getting caught.

It really just boils down to a few quizzes, though. Get enough right, and the ghost boots you to the next area. Some are covered in a red book you find early on. Another is odd trivia I don't know as a pretty good chess player. And others bowdlerize the concept a bit: for instance, it's cool to know a knight can mate against a pawn, but here it's a yes/no question you can answer again without penalty, and you never see how.

That said, it was entertainment, if more thana bit rickety. The opponent you finally beat brought a chuckle out of me, especially considering the strides in technology since PP was written. Alas, the promised sequel never materialized. At least not with Peter Patzer along. I noticed the author wrote a Chesstopia series in Twine, and perhaps I should look into that. It's been a while since the author wrote PP, so they probably have a clearer vision of what they really want by now.

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Rovarsson, January 19, 2023 - Reply
Thanks for pointing me to this with your review. Even with the flaws and missed opportunities you point out, it sounds like an interesting core concept and a lot of (maybe underimplemented) fun.

Also, the Ghost of Alekhine. How could I pass on that?
Andrew Schultz, January 20, 2023 - Reply
Glad I could help! My walkthrough should be on CASA soon enough, if you do get stuck on one of the puzzles. Yes, there's enough substance that the obvious bugs provide a bit of humor. I enjoyed poking around, even at the extraneous bits.

I am disaapointed there's no direct sequel too.

The ghost of Alekhine would be great. Gotta say it's tough to decide between the ghost of Alekhine or Capablanca, Tartakower or Bogolyubov. The last 2 weren't world champs, but IIRC they sure had some great quotes, and they got opening variations named after them.
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