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About the Story
Local bigwig Mr. Zee has bulldozed the hilltop to make way for a gated community, O Mountain Estates, leaving everyone else to eke out a living down here in a depressing little village affectionately known as Squalor Holler. Saving the town will mean defeating Zee at his own game, but judging by the lightning bolt he carries around with him everywhere, I don't think butting heads with him is a good idea.
I think this game is off to a good start, but it needs testers, and preferably some hints and/or a walkthrough. (I guess it's possible that someone already tested this game, but the game doesn't mention any testers or any credits, so I assume by this that nobody did test it.) I recommend asking for testers on the intfiction.org forum.
Here's some material I would have sent the author if I were a tester.
The game is missing a bunch of "standard" commands:
* HELP (you can type "?" instead, but it's easy to overlook that, and if you do overlook it, there's no easy way to discover that it's missing)
* RESTART (to start the game over again). In practice, "QUIT" does something similar, but that wasn't obvious.
* X as an abbreviation for EXAMINE
* ABOUT for information about the author and testers
* TALK. The game uses "SAY" as its verb to communicate with NPCs, but "SAY" doesn't appear on the "?" menu (it only appears in the intro screen at the start of the game, which you can't easily get back to, because you can't RESTART). "TALK" could be a synonym for "SAY", or, at the very least, if you try to "TALK" or "ASK" or "TELL", the game could invite the player to use "SAY" instead, and in particular to "SAY HI."
In addition, most of the NPCs are missing most conversation topics. At a minimum, you should be able to SAY any of the items you're carrying, or any of the other NPCs, e.g. "SAY THEENA" to Dion.
I gave up after I died. I examined the payphone and a coin fell out, but "EXAMINE COIN" failed. Stephanie said to "present a coin for passage," but "PRESENT COIN" failed. "GIVE COIN" "PAY COIN" "PAY FERRY-PERSON" all failed.
This is what testers are for: to find the places where the author may think it's obvious what to do/say next, but testers weren't able to guess it, so you can add some synonyms (or at least recognize what the player was trying to do and hint them in the right direction).
Also, I didn't like the "green screen" effect. It's using a monospace font, but the letters don't fill the width of their grid slot, so the letters look like a ransom note, with wildly differing amounts of space between letters. For example, in the word "seem," the letters "se" have more space between than "em," which makes it unnecessarily hard to read.