Somewhere, Somewhen

by Jim MacBrayne

Fantasy
2021

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Number of Reviews: 5
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A lengthy QBASIC traditional adventure with magic and codes, August 1, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours

This game is a large treasure hunt that, like very early parser games, is a mishmash of fantasy and modern concepts put together for a treasure hunt.

There is a central hub with different 'mini-worlds' you can access. They are interconnected, in that the solution for one world is often found in another.

I played straight through with the walkthrough, as:
-the game is in QBasic, and no scrollback seems to be available, making it harder to keep track of things
-the author stated it may take weeks to accomplish
-I wasn't sure if the game was 'cruel' or not in the Zarfian sense (i.e. can you lock yourself out of victory without knowing it?)

After I won, I went back and tried to explore on my own and look for different paths. I found it 'parcelled out' fairly well.

The parser is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the author describes it (in a forum post) as being the product of 40 years of work, and that it is a 'very powerful parser'. It can understand pronouns and complex commands like 'drop everything except blah and blih and..'

However, it has some issues. Sometimes you can refer to a noun by its first name (like EYE for EYE of NEWT) but not its second (like NEWT); sometimes, it's the opposite (so SCRAP doesn't work for SCRAP of PAPER but PAPER does). Perhaps most oddly, it, as many people have pointed out, can't take items out of container without using the phrase TAKE X FROM Y. Given the 40 years of development and the otherwise complexity of the parser, I can only imagine this is a conscious stylistic choice.

The world is sprawling, with many rooms having multiple exits and the ordinal directions like NW, SW etc. being used extensively. Rooms are almost ideally generic, with most rooms being empty and having names like 'MIDDLE OF CORRIDOR', with most descriptions being 'The room is vaguely lit and hard to make out. There are bare walls and floor and ceiling and several exits, including one going down.'

There is at least one NPC, who is fairly responsive. Puzzles include codes, riddles, leaps of intuition, musical puzzles, etc. with many hint sources in-game as well as built-in hints and a walkthrough.

Every game is written for a purpose. Some purposes are to share your feelings with others, to emulate something you find worthy, to try to become famous, to make money, to fufill a request for others, etc.

Due to the author's desire to keep in the oddities of the parser, the general vagueness of the game and its Zork-like setting, the QBAsic64 environment, etc. my guess is that the game's purposes are to evoke nostalgia and to demonstrate the author's system. Evaluated for those purposes, I'd have to call it a success.

For my own liking, the game is very polished and has some clever puzzles, but I didn't enjoy the interactivity as much as I could have and felt emotionally distanced from the game.