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About the Story
For some time you have been waiting for the open day of the Vigamus Academy to visit the building that also hosts the game design course taught by Professor Mark M. Etal.
Just arrived, however, you saw a great shape in motion obscuring the sky: an alien spaceship!
Extraterrestrials have started pouring in by the thousands on the streets of the city, spreading panic.
45th Place - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review
Now that itís been pointed out to me that a few works here are the product of short-burn IF workshops, the thought rises unbidden when engaging some of these pieces. It feels super patrician to assume this background for any given game and I am actively resisting it. In my defense though, CI is set AT A SCHOOL WITH AN IF WORKSHOP. Címon, how much do you expect of me? It even implements the IF teacher as a character! IF this was a workshop product and IF there were grades involved, I hope the authorís naked flattery got them an A. There is something bold and admirable to pandering this overt.
As a game it was small, less than two dozen locations and filled with relatively simple puzzles, many of them signposted baldly. ďX tells you to give Y to ZĒ Give. ďZ tells you to get QĒ Get. There was one puzzle with no signposting, whose solution felt pretty arbitrary, but given the relative shortness of the work was well within bounds of trial and error. There were a few paths that led nowhere. There was a mix of feature implementations which felt as much coding exercise as puzzle, but at least implemented with flair. There was a smattering of missing descriptions, and one puzzle where the game blocked you because you were missing information, but didnít provide a narrative reason for the block. Frankly, these were the exceptions though. It was a fairly Mechanical experience, but very competently done.
And here is the part where I make an ungenerous observation that makes you think less of me. Not so fast reader! Fortunately for me, Zenoís Dichotomy paradox famously noted that to get to a destination you must first travel halfway there. Then halfway of that smaller remaining distance. Then halfway again and again, infinitely bisecting smaller distances so you can never actually arrive at zero. The lesser known corollary to this is that to start that journey you must travel halfway. But to get halfway, you must first travel a quarter of the way, after traveling an eighth. Because this distance can also be infinitely subdivided you canít even START your downward journey of contempt for me! I AM IMMUNE TO CRITICISM AND ACCOUNTABILITY!!!
With that armor in place, I can safely note that this appears to be the work of a non-native speaker. The setting and much of the text hint at a joyfully casual, light and snarky tone. But it rarely lands because of awkward phrasing. Early on, even descriptions took effort to parse, though I think I got synched reasonably quickly. Iím not a monster, Iím not going to penalize the work for this, but it also was just intrusive enough that it defused potential Sparks of Joy before they could land. I guess I am a monster. Fortunately, still armored! Look, if I tried to write these reviews in say Spanish, it would be hot garbage word salad. Ensalada de palabras basura caliente. More so, I mean. But I can really only report on the experience I was having, right?
This was a small, good quality exercise, not particularly complicated, with hints of Joy that couldnít quite land. Wait. Does Zeno mean I can only give 1ís and 5ís as scores?
Playtime: 20min, finished.
Artistic/Technical rankings: Mechanical/Seamless
Would Play Again? No, experience seems complete
Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless
Oh no! Aliens have arrived and the fate of the city is now in your hands. Campus Invaders is a comedic sci-fi peril story about a normal citizen tasked with saving the day when aliens from space park a spaceship over Vigamus Academyís campus. And here all you planned to do was attend a seminar!
Campus Invaders has ups and downs. On one hand, this is a great game for newer players because the puzzle logic is not too difficult (Spoiler - click to show) (ex. teacher stuck in a vending machine? Look around to find a coin. And you do. It is laying out on the floor of another room) while also having the player think outside the box, such as dealing with the alien in the bathroom. Objectives are also easy to follow because NPCs tell you want to do and then point you in the next direction after you have fulfilled a task. The downside is that the implementation of the puzzles is not as well-fleshed as the concept behind them.
The main issue is that elements are scarce. Gameplay follows a show/trade pattern of showing or giving something to one NPC in exchange for something that you need to give to another NPC. I think there may be a term for that. Because the setting is a research facility and the protagonist is prospective student, the interactions tend to be about gaining approval or permission to access new locations. Nothing wrong there. What falls flat is that character interactions lack substance which drags the game down since character interaction makes up a chunk of the gameplay.
NPCs have their one moment before retreating into the background as awkward scenery. It feels unnatural. Lack of responsiveness is primary issue. I was a bit surprised at how faculty do not react when you run tearing into their office amid an alien invasion. They just sit there at their desk until you talk to them. When you first speak to them, they have a verbal response, but afterwards you get a pre-recorded message that does not even come from the character, or when you first meet Mica Hela the game says, ďMica Hela welcomes you to her office and tells you that anything (or almost!) she can do for you, she will,Ē rather than her character speaking to you.
Besides character interactions, the other flimsy element in the game is with the scenery. While the room descriptions are interesting, the things inside them are only sparsely implemented. The description for the terrace is:
You went out on the terrace of the upper floor of the Vigamus Academy, on which a beautiful warm sun shines. From here you can clearly see the large alien spaceship that stands out in the sky and the thousand colored lights that turn on and off on the glittering metal hull. To the west, you can go back inside.
You can't see any such thing.
I thought that the spaceship was clearly visible. It was frustrating to be unable to examine key items to learn more about them.
There are no true bugs that keep the player from making progress, but there some superficial ones. The game allowed me to pick up the trolley and carry it around in my inventory like a bookbag. It is ironic that it says, "You could use it to put in the bulky stuff you won't be able to carry by hand." You would still be carrying the bulky stuff anyway when you put it in the trolley. This was weak design.
It is not the most polished game but still decent. While most of this review has been spent analyzing the downsides of Campus Invaders, there is merit. It has spirit and is short enough to keep the storyís enthusiasm from fizzling out. Never does it waver from its atmosphere. Perhaps some testing would have tightened everything to make it more of a finished piece, but it still offers a fun time battling with alien invaders. (Plus, I liked the inclusion of a (Spoiler - click to show) secret section in the game).
Marco Vallarino is an author who has entered several complex and well-regarded games in previous IFComps, including the fun Darkiss series.
So it comes as a surprise that this game is very basic. It has a simple map; each room in the map has a sparse description and one or two items to interact with. The game is a series of fetch quests that tell you what to find next after depositing the most recent item.
I got stuck at one point because I didn't think to (late game spoiler about bypassing robot)(Spoiler - click to show)search the junk in the closet, and there was a key response that misled me: (Spoiler - click to show)Trying to unscrew the mirror when you don't have the screwdriver says 'you need to unscrew the mirror' instead of 'you don't have anything to unscrew it with' or something similar,, so I just assumed it was bugged till I looked at the walkthrough.
+Polish: The game has some missing punctuation and some misleading responses. But it works generally smoothly, with most the problems falling under the next criteria.
-Descriptiveness: The descriptions are very plain.
+Interactivity: Basic fetch quests are more or less the bread and butter of parser games, and this was short.
-Emotional response: I didn't feel a strong reaction to this game.
-Would I play again? No, it was pretty clear the first time through.
2 stars is pretty harsh, but I know this author is capable of making very fun parser games. This one was just not as fun as Darkiss to me.