by Matt Wigdahl profile


Web Site

Return to the game's main page

Member Reviews

5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:
1 star:
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 6
Write a review

1-6 of 6

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
I befriended a Dinosaur. His name is Hopper., December 12, 2019
by Rovarsson (Belgium)

Aotearoa has an extremely cool premise: An excursion to a Maori island where Dinos still live. Two things that are smack-dab in the middle of my interest zone.

Unfortunately, my piping hot enthusiasm soon went to lukewarm appreciation. Yes, it's fun to name your dino-friends. The puzzles are good. The game has a great children's adventure story on an unknown island. The confrontation with the poachers is exciting.
A good game, a nice diversion for an hour or so, but not so memorable.

That being said, a ten-year-old me would have given this game a raving review, replayed it to give the dinos all different names, pulled out the books to look up Maori culture (which the now-me should do too!), and would have had dreams about this adventure for at least a week.

Given the target audience, I think ten-year-old me's opinion has more weight, so I'll push my rating up a star.

Play it with a kid, if one of those is available.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Like Jurassic Park with nicer dinosaurs, set in Maori culture. Well-polished, February 3, 2016

Aotearoa won first place both in the 2010 IFComp and later the XYZZY Awards, where it swept Best Game, Best Setting, Best Puzzles, Best NPCs, Best Individual Puzzle, Best Implementation, Best Use of Innovation.

Given all the awards, to me, it was just a very well-thought out mid-length scenario. It was a fun diversion, that gives the feel of a massive world but really being a ride-on-the-rails for the most part. It gives you the feel of having solved a very difficult puzzle on your own.

As you are immediately told, the game is set in an alternate world where dinosaurs survived in New Zealand and were instrumental in New Zealand resisting the British conquest. You are a young visitor to the island, and must explore it while working with and against others. There are numerous NPCs.

To me, the game is excellent, and would make a good introduction for someone new to IF or a good , well-crafted diversion for an experienced player.

But it doesn't have lasting power, in my opinion. For instance, it was voted in the 2012 Best IF of all Time, but not in the 2015. To me, the most memorable part is the exposure to Maori language and culture (although I don't know how much is real and how much is story, but it's beautiful in any case).

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Cute Journey of Empowerment, May 12, 2013
by Andromache (Hawaii)

Being from Hawaii and having read Whale Rider, "Aotearoa" was on my watch list once I was made aware of its existence. It plays much like "Blue Lacuna" in terms of parsing, so I adapted to the keyword system pretty easily. I like it, and definitely appreciated all the scenery and background information implemented. I mean, even down to a guardrail.

This game was so easy I did not need to resort to hints. There was never a case where I wandered around wondering what Iíd missed. I was also told explicitly what to do and why some solution or other wouldnít work. I really appreciate those sorts of feedback responses, so I know at least Iím on the right track and just need to fix whatever the problem is.

Again, being from Hawaii, I am familiar with Maui and some of the stories about him. I also recognized some words, like "tapu" ("kapu" in Hawaiian), mana (same in Hawaiian), and "taro" ("kalo.") Also, "atua" ("akua.") I appreciated the history and backstory implemented into the menus. Helped to flesh out the game world. And naming the animals was lots of fun. (Spoiler - click to show)Riding the Notoceratops and the scene where weíre staring at each other for magical, spiritually connected moments is something I wonít soon forget. Such a mighty, magnificent creature - deadly but also friendly at the same time. I named mine Boga, because it kind of reminded me of Obi-Wanís battle mount in Star Wars Episode III.

Characterizationís not that deep, but whatís there is very engaging. (Spoiler - click to show)I liked looking at Timís backpack and piecing together his backstory and getting to talk to the captain and Eruera about themselves. Speaking of Eruera, I really liked him. He was a great mentor for Tim and I could see him becoming an adopted dad, since heís got his aunt. Having Tim be the one to help Eruera and having Eruera encourage Tim with stories and tidbits of Maori culture really helped me to bond with him and made me feel empowered. It was also comforting to have an adult there who was calm and practical. The nanakia was cute. I confess I was laughing at the poacher when the nanakia was getting the better of him, and the end sequence being chased by poachers is really well done. Thereís not a move to waste, and a fair amount of ways to die. Adds to the urgency that thereís really no time to try to explore, but itís not exactly a timed puzzle that requires a lot of trial and error. Was rather fun to plow into the jeep and kill the poachers inside. I hope that dinosaur got away and destroyed the place. I think itís implied it did, but we donít see it conclusively.

I highly recommend this game. Good writing, enjoyable characters, and I appreciate that while this is a game that reads like juvenile/young adult fiction, I donít feel excluded or patronized. This sort of thing would probably make an entertaining cartoon. A great effort.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Fun. Felt like an old skool CYOA ported to IF, April 14, 2013

(This review is based on the original IF Comp release.)

In many respects, I very much enjoyed Aotearoa. It was perhaps the closest I've ever come to experiencing the comforting old skool feel of a Choose Your Own Adventure ported to interactive fiction. The PC, the plot, the things that happen... it feels like something straight out of a good CYOA by Packard, and I mean that as a high compliment.

The game grabs you right away with a strong prologue that is appropriate to the story and gets your mind ready for an adventure set in the land of the Maori. The writing is strong and sure. But once the player is given the volition to move about and do things, some of the gaps start to show. I hate to point out those gaps, because Wigdahl has done some very, very good things here, but I found myself pretty frustrated.

The frustrations varied. One example: items mentioned in scenery descriptions that sounded useful for the current puzzle sometimes weren't actually implemented. In another instance, a very plausible alternate solution was unaddressed; I had everything I needed to solve the puzzle but the game said I didn't have the necessary items ((Spoiler - click to show)I had a straight stick, when what the game thought I needed was a board). There was a lot of rail roading and quite a few triggered events that were very difficult to figure out unless you got lucky and stumbled upon them or went for a hint. The conversation menu topics were pretty limited, and often avoided things that would have been very useful in favor of things I wasn't too curious about.

That said, I enjoyed quite a bit about this game. Some of the puzzles were quite clever and fun, and there were a fun command that allowed you to name the critters you encountered in the game. There was an element of backstory and character development lovingly crafted for this game that you don't often see in this sort of game, giving it an element of depth you wouldn't otherwise expect in this genre. The scenery descriptions were generally quite beautiful, with a definite sense of having been written by someone who spends time in the natural world.

Unfortunately, the greatest frustration of all was that I'm pretty sure I encountered a show stopping bug. My husband was one of the testers, and he took a look at my predicament and agreed. Sad way to end the game, seemingly about three-quarters of the way through, and before what I suspect was an interesting climax.

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful:
Highly polished children's game, February 15, 2011
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

Aotearoa is a children's game. (I suppose that everything for children of 6 years and older is called "young adult" by now, but as far as I'm concerned a young adult is approximately 20.) It tells the story of Tim, who has been chosen to visit a New Zealand that never was: it is a small continent where the Maori managed to more or less stop the English invaders by riding dinosaurs. O, yes. Dinosaurs. Not huge dinosaurs, but still, even a medium-sized dinosaur is fun.

After an opening scene that could use some tightening, Tim's trip suddenly turns into an even more exciting adventure. We're squarely into adventure stories territory, with Tim exploring a forest full of dinosaurs, befriending the local wildlife, and getting shot at by poachers to boot. All of which is good fun. The puzzles are fine, if perhaps at times a little too difficult for the younger part of the audience. The animals you will meet are very well implemented, with the right combination of being a real animal and being cute, and (as every reviewer has pointed out) you can name them. Every small male dinosaur ought to be called Henk. Believe me.

There is other good stuff as well, such as the keyword interface of Blue Lacuna, lists of conversation topics, and exits listed in the status bar. At times the author may have relied on these a bit too much: exits are badly described in the text, and nouns that are not highlighted are almost invariably not understood. But all in all Aotearoa gives a very smooth experience.

My biggest gripe is that unlike some other children's stories, this one doesn't have much to offer to adults. It's just a simplistic adventure story with dinosaurs, and the references to Maori culture, though intriguing, feel tacked on and fail to give any real depth. This isn't a huge problem, but it limits the appeal of the game.

There has been some discussion about whether the game is (inadvertently) propagating racial stereotypes. These discussions are always sensitive, and I'm not particularly eager to take up a position in them. I just want to state for the record that to me nothing in this game felt inappropriate. (Also: the game has the Maori defeating the English by cultivating a relationship with dinosaurs, and states that the fictional New Zealand conservation policies have been an inspiration to the entire world. So any white-boy-saves-the-natives plot seems to be balanced by a Maori-kick-ass-and-teach-the-world-about-environmentalism backstory.)

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
My new go-to game for inducting new players., November 21, 2010
by rach
Related reviews: if comp 2010

Aotearoa is a great game, extremely solid, though not enough of a mystery for me, a little too childish/educational. It clearly hit all the targets it was trying to, a great romp in a solid setting with a few extras (Spoiler - click to show)such as naming of animals. I thoroughly enjoyed how actionous the game was, lots of physical things to do, lots of energy and urgency. As it is, I've docked a point for it not being challenging/mysterious enough, and for some suspension of disbelief problems with the NPC(Spoiler - click to show) Eruera. Is he really happily telling stories whilst lying on the beach with a broken leg awaiting aggressive poachers? Those folklore bits might have been better in cutscenes as it messed with the urgency in places and thus the pacing somewhat.

There is an optional in-game tutorial mode which includes guidance about what commands to try and highlighting of keywords. I think we need some good beginner games, and the helpful nudges don't intrude on the awesomeness of the game itself, that is, it doesn't feel like a tutorial game, just a game with a handy guide in it. It also has a more forgiving and helpful parser than standard and so is going to be the game I recommend to people who want to start playing IF.

I've just learned how to spell it, still don't know how to pronounce it. I'm sure the blorb would stretch to a sound file :o)

Very tight, polished, obviously well-loved, gentle, warm, actionous, DINOSAURS.

[This review is for the competition release, IF comp 2010.]

Was this review helpful to you?   Yes   No   Remove vote  
More Options

 | Add a comment 

1-6 of 6 | Return to game's main page