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23rd Place - 14th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2008)
The game has a rather atmospheric horror setting, but boy is it underimplemented. Most actions resulted in an (often very confusing) default response, there are very few objects to manipulate in every location, and the descriptions are ultra-short. Besides, the game seems to not have been beta-tested thoroughly. Those issues are the more a pity, since the writing manages to be quite effective, and the puzzles are mostly OK.
When I first loaded up The Lucubrator, I had no idea what the title meant, though it sounded enticingly pornographic. One visit to dictionary.com later, and I determined it meant "one who engages in laborious work, study, thought, etc., especially at night." This is an apt title in only two ways: 1) Killing people and eating their brains is probably hard work, and 2) It was way too much of a chore playing this game. (by Nate Dovel)
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You wake up dead, in a hospital. You know, like Planescape Torment, but without the talking skull. Can you find out what happened to you? Or will you just go on a bloody rampage?
It's a solid premise, a solid idea, and a solid piece of short fiction. But not *interactive* fiction. I imagine the author taking their pre-written text and, every few lines, inserting "Can you guess what happened next?" and a command prompt. Of course you can't guess, you can't read the author's mind, but this is exactly what is expected of you. Totally unclued actions have to be guessed and entered with the exact syntax at exactly the right moment (one move early and its "violence is not the answer to ths one" - even though it specifically *is* the answer).
Despite this, it's actually a compelling tale with an unusual, interesting ending, so I'd recommend you play it, but with walkthru in hand. Much like the old laserdisc arcade game Dragon's Lair where you had to bash buttons to make the story progress, it's an entertaining romp, so long as you're not actually *playing* it.
The beginning of The Lucubrator is a perfect example of everything that's both great and unfortunate about this game. You start out strapped to a slab in a morgue. Several graphical games have used this gimmick before, probably because it's a sure-fire attention grabber. Straight away, you find yourself in a gripping situation. And straight away, you find yourself having to try and read the author's mind. Because, as I mentioned, you're strapped to a slab in a morgue. So what can you actually do? The restraints aren't described in any detail when you examine them, you can't speak or reach anything... Seriously, what are you supposed to do? The answer is a verb that you probably won't think of unprompted. And sadly, the game doesn't give you any nudges in the right direction.
Lucubrator continues like this: great sequences that are a little rough around the edges but otherwise rather unlike anything you'll have experienced in an IF game before - and which unfortunately can only be solved by doing unusual actions at exactly the right time, not just unprompted, but sometimes in direct contradiction of the game's text. The ideas themselves are brilliant - if gruesome - and I don't want to spoil any of the over-the-top feats of murderous carnage you get up to, but I don't see how anyone could actually come up with them without first resorting to the walkthrough.
Lucubrator reminds me a lot of some of George A. Romero's more obscure films - The Crazies, for example: rough, low-budget, slightly creaky, but also rather inspired and deranged. Whether this kind of B-movie splatterpunk game is your thing is something that only you can know for sure.
This game has descriptive writing and a good story. You wake up on an exam table in a bare room.
This game is short, with 3 total points to earn. However, the sequence of actions necessary to get those points is arbitrary and difficult to come up with on one's one. This is further muddled by implementation bugs (especially the 'violence isn't the answer to this one' me tinned in other reviews).
I recommend playing this one with the walkthrough.
This is version 3 of this page, edited by Nate Dovel on 13 July 2009 at 12:22pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item