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Winner, Best Setting; Winner - The maze, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee - The wumpus, Best Individual NPC; Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 1999 XYZZY Awards
8th Place overall; 2nd Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 5th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1999)
The plot--you're exploring a cave, hunting a mysterious beast called a Wumpus--is derived from the ancient minimalist BASIC game Hunt the Wumpus, but the similarity ends there. This is arguably the most richly described cave in the history of IF, and your experience of it is thoroughly and harrowingly described. In fact, the cave is as much your adversary as the Wumpus itself, and it takes just as great a toll on you. The puzzles are fairly conventional (though the last one is rather elegant), and they include a maze that isn't really a maze. But the story is brilliantly executed--the plot branches and rejoins so seamlessly that you're unlikely to notice that there are multiple ways through the game--and the writing is terrific; Plotkin is adept at using all the senses. Hunter... breathes new life into a very tired genre, no small feat.
-- Duncan Stevens
Hunter... isn't just an in-joke, though; the real joke that it plays on the source material is that it turns one of the most tersely described caves possible ("You are in Room 1. Passages lead to Room 2 and Room 3") into one of the best-described settings imaginable. Not only is the cave vividly rendered, but the PC's experience of it is thoroughly, and harrowingly, done; no "cave crawl" in IF has ever taken such a toll on the PC over the course of the game. As in the source material, you're hunting a Wumpus, but here the player suffers at least as much as the Wumpus over the course of the game, and the cave is just as much an enemy as the Wumpus itself; finding a safe way down a pit and surviving a tight crawl are some of the problems at hand. It's worth noting that the caves of the classic cave crawls were largely innocuous; the danger in Colossal Cave, Zork, and others came largely from sentient enemies scattered around the landscape, not from the geography itself. Here, surviving the cave is most of the challenge.
-- Duncan Stevens
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>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
This is a game that clearly took great care with its design, extending the illusion of freedom a long way while maintaining a fairly specific structure. Also, several rooms have initial descriptions which describe the experience of arriving in the room, and the features that are most salient at first. Once this description has been displayed, further looks at the room will stabilize into a more settled description, one which takes details into account and bears reading multiple times. Attention to detail like this just permeates the game, and makes it one of the most engrossing competition entries I've ever had the good fortune to play.
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Number of Reviews: 9
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Woah. This game takes me back to the first time I played Adventure; I was so terrified when I reached the dark section that I rushed out immediately and refused to explore further until the next day. This game has a similar feel: you don't want to progress for fear of what you might find, but feel compelled to progress nonetheless.
The writing really makes the game; crisp, succinct, vivid and chilling. An interesting touch was the total lack of compass directions; you navigate with commands such as left, right, forward etc. This defiance of genre traditions actually works surprisingly well, adding to the feeling of realism.
The structure of the game is not so much defined by puzzles as by learn-by-dying. Save often and expect to die often. In fact, if you play from a walkthrough and never die, you'll miss some of the best writing in the game. If you really really really need a walkthrough, I'd recommend saving often and trying different ways to die anyway.
Overall, in terms of craft and writing, this is an excellent game. I'm rating it only four stars, however, because of its small scope. Regardless of the small size, Hunter, in Darkness is definitely worth a play.
I've been pot-holing and had a horrendous time. Thankyou Andrew Plotkin for helping relive my nightmare from the safety of my own home.
And he really does describe the claustrophobic surroundings masterfully. It is essentially a cave-crawl, but this time the cave is a cave you really could imagine. It seems like either he's done his research or has had first-hand experience of caving.
There are no compass directions. The player navigates by 'going forward', 'entering left tunnel', etc... I thought I wouldn't like this aspect of the game but it is implemented very well and suits the scenario perfectly, lending the atmosphere a sense of disorientation.
I enjoy puzzles in my games, but I'm often impatient and resort to hints. As soon as I've looked at my first hint I lose interest. I'm pleased to say I only needed to look at a walkthrough after completion, just to check that I had in fact been successful (I had). It gave me a real sense of achievement. The puzzles were fair, but not too easy and well thought out. I would personally recommend this to beginner players and IF veterans.
You will die often, so save often. Dying itself is fun and can help point you towards an eventual solution. The game is well implemented so there are often lots of opportunities to examine your surroundings, not just to complete the game but to enjoy the rich descriptive environments. So don't give up too easily if you get stuck (literally and metaphorically).
There are some great set pieces and surprises round the corners. Yet it is the consistent desperate atmosphere throughout that gives the game 5 stars from me.
I died more times than I can count playing Hunter, in Darkness, but I loved every second of it. In a masochistic sort of way, perhaps. This is one of the most claustrophobic, terror-inducing titles I've encountered - an achievement, considering it's based on (Spoiler - click to show)Hunt The Wumpus. The puzzles all come logically, and even better, the various deaths arrive with a brutal, no-nonsense finality that encourages you to try a different tack, rather than frustrating you with that feeling of being so close and so far. This is a serious story, not of adventure, but of survival, unsympathetic and unadulterated.
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