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38th Place - 20th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2014)
Dropbox links right now. I'm not sure if I can/should submit this to ifarchive, or where it'd go. Maybe I'll try CASA too.
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Number of Reviews: 4
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(This is an edited version of a review I originally blogged during the 2014 IFComp.)
As much as I hate dwelling on the concept of tropes, Slasher Swamp is an old school (i.e. all puzzling for puzzling sake, sparse prose, several schtick mazes, scores of instant deaths, no UNDO) adventure in which you find yourself a witness to a nonsensical mishmash of slasher film tropes after your truck breaks down in the middle of nowhere. It’s a Windows application with the TADS engine under the hood, and the author proffers a small command set which can be used to clear the whole thing. I mapped the game and played to completion in about an hour, but I have to admit I achieved this by brute-forcing the content of locations. And there are a lot of locations.
The prose is a mixture of the atmospheric, the overdone atmospheric, the jokey and the juvenile. It's a tone that will be recognised by anyone who’s played any old school games which indulged their authors.
I mildly enjoyed ticking off the scores of discrete images and moments I recognised from horror films I’ve seen, but they're assembled in this game with no overriding design and no consequence, and thus to little effect. Most objects go unused, including conspicuously important-looking ones. The player has no direction or purpose other than to keep throwing themselves at everything until they can win by a kind of exhaustive attrition of props and puzzles, though there are few puzzles in light of the size of the map. The forest mazes are small but tedious, and the random deaths are numerous, and truly, deeply random.
The worst symptom of the disabling of UNDO is that from any of the scores of rooms with teleport-like one-way exits, you can’t go back. I would often save the game just so that I could try each of the four exits from a room without having to circle the entire map after each teleport.
In the end, Slasher Swamp has all the shortcomings of both old school senselessness and aimless design. The world is the base for something decent, but the hodge podge of blood'n'excrement scenes aren't woven into any specific gameplay content. They’re just there, usually described to you and then gone again all in the space of one move, unrelated to each other, unrelated to progress in the game.
In spite of Slasher's shortcomings, I still got moderate amounts of fun out of throwing myself at it for an hour.
This is a gory game set in a swamp. It's mostly empty rooms with little scenery (with exactly one or two of those in the whole map being something you need to search or look under). It's punctuated with instant-death combat unless you find items in the right order.
It has an interesting concept, but the execution needed a lot more work and a lot less mazes.
Good writing trying to escape a creaky game, October 14, 2017
I didn't have a great feeling about SS. It tells me that I can’t use an item if it’s in a bag. Curses! Was able to silently (take key from rucksack) when the player demanded it, and that was in 1993. This game is twenty-one years behind the times already. (EDIT: turns out the parser does deal fine with objects in containers!)
You're stranded in a grim, swampy backwater with almost nothing, and everything wants to kill you.
The parser is surprisingly OK and the writing is reasonably detailed. Most items are described. The atmosphere is great. The descriptions of nature as revolting are unusual and immersive.
I wish there were more clues about the people that lived here. Some locations – the rose and wasp garden – look interesting, but don't have a purpose.
I was wandering about, finding stuff and exploring, when — suddenly — this game kills me without warning and in silly ways and doesn’t let me undo. I shouldn’t need the experience of past lives to win a game.
I am not a fan of insta-death merely for searching or opening an item. One or two insta-deaths are well clued – the (Spoiler - click to show)dark patch in the swamp that the frogs are avoiding is a decent one. But death just for opening a container? Phooey.
It's got a lot of promise and the writing is engaging. The gameplay, though, is frustrating.
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This is version 6 of this page, edited by Jason McIntosh on 23 November 2014 at 12:01am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item