Jesus of Nazareth

by Paul Allen Panks


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Unfortunate, but I can almost understand, somewhat, August 12, 2011
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)

I've read that many other Panks games were real messes. I've even seen people refusing to play his games because they're, well, his. But Ninja's Fate made me curious enough to give the game another look. Based on ratings and comments, this seemed like the safest one, and while it has few positively memorable moments, it's playable, mostly coherent and straightforward. The in-game help is useful and direct. This is no small personal accomplishment in a game built from scratch.

The only problem is that this doesn't translate into much fun for the player. People tell you, as Jesus, what to get, and you get it. JoN is nothing more than a fetch-quest with some RPG elements. You must convert four of six possible disciples(Spoiler - click to show), though you can convert three of them with one fish, and satisfying each one feels like bribery. You start out with a dagger and tunic, then you move up to a spear and helmet and shield. Once you start a fight, it is to the death. Each side has hit points. Hit messages can be grossly inappropriate: "Sweet mercy! You crucified him!" Yet winning is not hard, though you do some iffy things (Spoiler - click to show)like killing Harod and a few centurions--though all those weapons are probably a clue.

JoN shows a certain attention to detail, or a wish to attend to detail. The room and item descriptions show imagination. But then Mary Magdalene is described as a small town and doesn't even take the item she asks for. Also, drop in fig and olive trees you can't climb or examine, or leave a sick boy none of the in-game verbs did much to help. Scattered scrolls, if read, have bible passages galore which are too long to really be interested in, and converted disciples blather interminable platitudes.

It's unfortunate Panks isolated himself and was never really able to ask for or use other people's criticisms by the time he wrote something like this. JoN obviously needs help, but it equally obviously would be worthwhile. Perhaps using an established language, he'd have had time or energy to iron things out better. With a tester or two, he'd have had something more polished.

I know what it feels like to realize I've passed on asking for creative or technical help--especially when learning programming early, by not using or asking for help on a script from someone I disliked--and I remember the reasons I gave to pass it up, and hopefully I've learned somewhat to change course if I get in that trap. It's sadly but memorably ironic that in a game ostensibly about one of the great forgivers, the author did not take advantage of much more earthly graces.

Maybe I'm just rounding up to two stars as a sort of respect for the dead, or for someone more diligent in rejecting criticism than I could be. Or maybe it's a harsh learning experience to see my own mistakes magnified, or it's humbling to see I can empathize or vaguely identify with someone who made such big mistakes, and seeing an honest effort from someone who never really put it together has helps me move on from my own mistakes in the way that a perfect game or even a great tutorial never can.

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