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About the Story
Theatre of Spud
Entrant, Back Garden - Spring Thing 2021
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Number of Reviews: 2
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Theatre of Spud is another Python game requiring a bit of elbow-grease to get working on a PC. Unlike Space Diner, though, I found the installation process to be a pain, and the payoff not really worth it. I wonít belabor the former point, though will note that there appears to be an error in the setup files in the version I played, which required some manual tweaking to correct Ė see this post for details. The blurb on the festival page is good, though, seeming to indicate backstage amateur-theatre hijinks to come, so once Iíd jumped through the requisite hoops I was excited to dig in.
Sadly, those hopes were frustrated and I found the game itself pretty unengaging. Largely this is because of excessively slow timed text that makes the simplest action take 10 or more seconds Ė timed text is enough of a pain in choice-based games, but when used in a parser game like this, with highly-granular actions and a medium-sized map, it gets excruciating.
But even putting aside this major technical issue, Theatre of Spud has problems with motivation and interactivity. First of all, it starts out confusingly: the blurb sets up a young boy named Spud as the protagonist and then the game asks for your characterís first name, so when the opening scene kept referring to someone named Alan I figured he was an important side-character, but it turns out heís the protagonist. I was able to get Alan into the theatre/er, at which point thereís a monologue from the playís director where he asks you to make sure the lights in the parking lot stay on to prevent the local hooligans from getting up to any mischief, so I guess Alan is a sort of dogsbody for the theater?
This seemed like the first task to take on, except the lights sure seemed to be doing fine on their own so I wasnít sure what else needed to be done to harden them against chav-related misadventure. Compounding this aimlessness, the custom parser doesnít have many actions implemented, including the ability to examine objects so far as I could tell. So my experience of Theatre of Spud was of wandering around a reasonably large map with not much in it and minimal ability to interact with whatís there Ė while the timed-text issue made everything treacle-slow. Itís a shame because again, Iím here for the premise, but Iím putting this one back on the shelf until a hopefully-refined final version comes around.
I rarely review a game without playing it to completion. To explain my omission in this case, I'd like to describe my play experience.
This was the second python game I played in this competition, so I had a better idea of how to get it running than I did on that one.
There are two ways to compile it: command prompt or web version.
I first tried command prompt and found it very slow, so then I tried the web version.
The web version has a several seconds pause between each line of text. This is somewhat frustrating, but not too bad. But the web version also blanks the screen frequently, and on a timer, so important text gets overriden by incidental 'flavor' text, making the text sometimes too slow and sometimes too fast.
The slow text, while a drawback, would have been manageable if not for the fact that:
-the same text pause happens when you make an error
-the game doesn't recognize most standard parser commands
For instance, you can't LOOK AT, W means WAIT instead of WEST and N means NEXT instead of NORTH. TALK TO is also not recognized. There is a HELP command, which lists helpful things to do, but in the web version sometimes typing HELP just gave me the environmental text, and HINT never worked.
So, much of my gameplay consisted of trying commands, getting errors, trying other commands, getting errors, all at a fairly slow pace.
The main game concept seems like it could work, but I can't proceed right now.