The Arkham Abomination

by catventure

2021

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Could have been better., September 13, 2021

(Regarding the parser, please see my edit at the bottom.)

Home-made parser. Oh well. I fear it for two reasons: 1. The authoring systems available are around for years, or decades in some cases. They have been used and reviewed by hundreds auf authors, they have been constantly improved, they are at the top of the parser evolution ladder. A homebrew parser will never be able to complete. (Iím talking Inform or TADS, not AGT) 2. The author obviously wants to show off his coding skills. Given that few people scintillate in several fields of expertise, how are the chances a good coder is also a good author? But letís see.

The game world is pretty lovecraftian. Room and object descriptions are full of old school adjectives. A pleasant experience, just like in the novels. The grade of detail could be higher tho. The closer you look at stuff the more often you get a generic response. Also, apart from one man whoís important for the story you wonít meet any living person, thatís a bit dull. And the town of Arkham is off limits which is a bit frustrating as the game starts right on the outskirts of it. The map is small, the central village is two houses big. Thereís a large maze which will seriously annoy you if you stumble into it without having found directions upfront. The parser lists objects you can interact with. Except when it doesnít list them. There you go. Home-made parser. My left eyelid twitches.

The development of the story is nice. Step for step you gather clues about what happened. Travelling is quick as the map is so small. The puzzles are easy, and pretty much standard. Romping through the game is a rather quick experience. In my opinion it would be worth the effort to enlarge the game, at least with a bigger village and one or two more NPCs, and with the number of puzzles increasing the maze could removed as itís mainly annoying, and it doesnít even make sense as it consists of outdoor paths leading nowhere in particular.

If you like Lovecraft youíll want to give this game a try. Itís short and cooked to the point, but it lacks sophistication and leaves you somewhat unsatisfied because it could have been great, but unfortunately it isnít. As for the subject of home-made parsers, please allow me to quote Jackass for your own and all our sanity: Donít try this at home.

EDIT: As Gareth Pitchford pointed out, The Arkham Abomination was not created using a homebrew parser, but using the ThinBASIC_Adventure_Builder. This renders all my comments regarding the parser moot. Lack of research on my side. Sorry for any inconvenience.


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Gareth Pitchford, September 13, 2021 - Reply
TAB might be a "home-made" parser, but it *has* been around for years... almost thirty years if you trace its origins back to its predecessor CAT.
Nomad, September 13, 2021 - Reply
Thanks for pointing that out. I shall add to the review accordingly.
Gareth Pitchford, September 13, 2021 - Reply
The author of the game has been writing text adventures since the mid-1980s and *is* the programmer of the parser, but his adventure system has been used by other people (particularly in its initial form, CAT, which was popular with the UK *text adventure* community in the 1990s). I think it's great to see other systems being used, outside the same old favourites, especially in a competition like ParserComp; even if doing so inevitably opens a game up to technical criticism.
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