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About the Story
Who's the best and brightest Gamer of 'em all? Find out by joining the 27th Annual All-Night Diddlebucker Run! You'll compete against hundreds of other teams in the world's most popular scavenger hunt! Find the treasures, find the clues, beat your competitors to the finish line and your team will win one million dollars and a lifetime supply of Diddlebucker popcorn! Even more, you will prove that you and your teammates are the true champions of Diddlebucker '87!
30th Place - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Diddlebucker!'s cover art looks as if it came straight from Infocom, and there's some obvious Infocom-era nostalgia going on here. We are participating in a great puzzlefest, recreating some of the feel of, say, Hollywood Hijinx; and the year is 1987, the last great year for the company that gave interactive fiction its name. But Diddlebucker! is evidently a 21st century game, as can be seen from the nice in-built hint system, the relative fairness of the puzzles and the fact that it is almost merciful on the cruelty scale. (Almost: you can get yourself into an unwinnable situation near the very end of the game, so it's useful to save when things get intense.)
The game consists of several segments, and I found some of them more compelling than others. For me, the stand-out section is the part along the river. Here, all the puzzles made perfect sense to me; I did not need the hint system at all; and I was particularly pleased by the use of geography. (Spoiler - click to show)It is satisfying when you get to explore the roofs and the river that you already know are there but did not expect to be able to traverse. This part of the game was very enjoyable for me.
I found the theme park section more difficult to like. There are many red herrings (e.g., all the shops and games and attractions you don't need); some of the content is arbitrarily restricted or appears only at certain moments (e.g., the white house tour, the employee, the couple); and a few of the puzzles were beyond me. (If anyone solved the song clue without using hints, I'm impressed.) Perhaps the experience was made more difficult for me because I had to look up many of the arcane Americana, although it turned out that none of that was really necessary for solving the game. In this part, I frequently relied on the hints, which of course makes for a less satisfying experience.
I nevertheless persevered, and was happy that I did. There is a nice plot twist near the end, a sudden ramping up of the danger level, and all in all a satisfying ending to a mostly satisfying game. Although if a popcorn king called 'Diddy' invites me to come to his 'seaside mansion'... I'll find a polite way to decline.
In summary: a very competent puzzle-fest, executed with charm, though perhaps a little rough around some of the edges.
Diddlebucker! consists of an all-night scavenger hunt around a city, set in 1987. It's intentionally reaching for a comparison with Infocom - the cover art and the era, for instance, as well as the fact that the scavenger hunt plot is somewhat reminiscent of Hollywood Hijinx. But the comparisons go deeper than that: The terse location descriptions, the level of scenery implementation, the extent of character interaction, the kind of puzzles and their degree of difficulty - they're all a good enough imitation of Infocom's style that, to me, Diddlebucker! plays more like an Infocom game than any non-Infocom game I can right now remember playing. (Thaumistry might be an exception, but of course that game was written by a former Infocom implementer.)
The 1987 nostalgia runs deep. For example, while you don't interact with them, many of the Diddlebucker! teams that you're competing against consist of real people who would have been well-known in 1987. I won't spoil the game by mentioning any of them specifically, but this child of the 1980s enjoyed that aspect of the game. (Why they are all contestants in this scavenger hunt remains unclear, but that's all part of the madcap fun. Also, younger players may not catch some of the references.)
Puzzle-wise, I found Diddlebucker! to be one of the more challenging games in IFComp 2018. It's not quite as difficult as Bullhockey! or Birmingham IV (although it's also not anywhere near as long as those two games are), but I found it harder than just about all the others. Well, the puzzles in Dynamite Powers vs. the Ray of Night! are, strictly speaking, probably more difficult, but Diddlebucker! is so much broader in most places that the search space for potential solutions is a great deal larger. (Diddlebucker! does feature somewhat distinct stages, though, which helps you mentally narrow down the options for potential puzzle solutions.)
One thing I will recommend to potential players: Pay attention to the scenery. That includes what appear to be ephemeral random events; some of these contain clues or can even be interacted with.
Overall, while I do think a few of the puzzles could use more cluing, I found Diddlebucker! to be a solid puzzlefest that I would recommend to puzzle-game fans.
This game took a lot of work, and will provide great enjoyment for many people.
It's a parser game that is (as far as I can tell) bug-free and has creative puzzles, lasting longer than pretty much all the other parser games in IFComp that aren't buggy.
So why am I only giving it 3 points? The interactivity and polish felt off to me.
The game is fairly generic, especially with the standard responses. X ME, JUMP, SING (even at a concert!), DANCE etc. either give the normal response or aren't implemented at all.
And many interactions seem purposelessly fussy, almost like imitating what they think old games were like. Possessing only one object capable of creating fires, the verb LIGHT asks 'with what'? Saying LIGHT WITH [FIRE THING] doesn't fix it; you need to turn on the fire thing. But TURN ON [FIRE THING] isn't implemented. You need to LIGHT [FIRE THING] then LIGHT [THE THING YOU WANT TO BURN].
Similarly, when there's one puzzle that requires you to listen to a loud ambient thing, just LISTEN isn't good enough, you have to say what to listen to. And so on.
It seems a definite stylistic choice, and one that didn't resonate with me. If you're looking for a bug-free game with a big map, creative puzzles, and extensive gameplay, this is your game.
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