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About the Story
Radio Tower is a brief text-based adventure in which you play the role of Anthony Martin and must try to rescue your friend from a mysterious natural disaster. Uncover multiple endings as you explore a world where time and choices matter.
13th Place - ParserComp 2022
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Number of Reviews: 3
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I played version 1.1. The game has been updated later. This game is more an unfinished demo than a complete game. It ends quickly with a cliff-hanger where only a small portion of the plot is revealed with the message: "To be continued in the next one." The game has what is sometimes called a "limited parser" which means that the game deliberately only understands a few but general verbs. On the other hand, it tells you upfront which verbs are understood.
In most locations the following verbs are understood: "Inspect" (instead of examine), "Take" (get not understood), "Drop", "Go north"(south/east etc. cannot be abbreviated) and "Use". Later on, you can also "attack", "interact" etc. but the parser is not traditional. For instance, you must type ATTACK WEAPON (replace WEAPON with the weapon you want to use).
I managed to get to the cliff-hanger ending mentioned above. You can also arrive at some quick endings but the one mentioned above is probably the main ending. Even though the game is unfinished and some objects etc. are mentioned but not implemented yet, the game was very intriguing.
The user interface + graphics & map was very impressive with rain and lightning in the background. On the other hand, the parser was extremely primitive but well defined so it wasn't a big problem though abbreviations would have been nice. Another drawback is that you cannot save and restore your position.
Having a limited parser is a fair design choice as the understood verbs are revealed. However, even for a limited parser, it is very primitive. You can't just type N but you have to type GO NORTH. Also, you don't have a single letter for examine, you have to write INSPECT OBJECT each time (replace OBJECT with the noun). Several natural combinations of verbs and nouns were not implemented but gave an error message instead of a generic, meaningful response.
The writing was very good and combined with the multimedia (rain and flashes and a status-line where your health is shown), this was highly atmospheric.
Cruelty rating: Tough
You can't save and restore which becomes frustrating if you want to see the other endings. Combined with an inventory limit of four (please increase this in the final game) objects this really needs to be fixed in the final game. But I am not sure if the game can become unwinnable. Probably.
I didn't solve any brilliant puzzles but those I found on my way to the ending were quite standard but not bad.
I would very much like to play the game when it has been completed. For now it was a taste of what can be expected, which was very intriguing. I hope the parser will be improved some.
This game was entered in Parsercomp, and I'll admit I didn't finish it (though I got pretty far!)
You play as someone in a fairly secluded area that sees lightning hit a radiotower, and then strange things happening. I ended up exploring a very large house filled with bizarre tech.
The game is written in Godot, which I think is an open-source alternative to Unity (maybe I'm wrong?). The game loaded quickly and looked nice, with several animations and a map that updated frequently, and also some visual puzzles.
I struggled mightily at first to even see the game, as it was taller and wider than my laptop screen and didn't seem to have dynamic resizing. I tried fullscreening the browser, then I tried shrinking and fullsizing, and only then did I realize there was a 'fullscreen' button at the bottom. One itch option actually lets you make the game fullscreen from the beginning, I think.
Instead of having the player guess the commands or remember a commonly used set, like most traditional parsers, this game has a specific list of commands which can be used, about 6 on average. These commands don't admit any abbreviations, and while there are clickable links for each command, the links don't enter the commands for you; instead they tell you how to use them.
Text is split in three areas: the room description, the outcome of non-important action below that, and your input even further below, similar to Scott Adams games.
The game branches into several endings, some early, some later, and includes a lot of weapons of various efficacy and different monsters that randomly pop out to get you.
I encountered a game crashing bug early on (don't inspect the truck seat!) but I got around it. I got much further, until I found (Spoiler - click to show)a still figure watching the wall in a basement that took 3 weapons.. After I defeated it, with just a sliver of health left, the game said I needed to type NEXT to continue, but NEXT didn't work. Having encountered at least two game-locking bugs, and having heard that it ends on a cliffhanger, and having seem much of the game, I decided not to continue.
I get the impression that the author isn't heavily involved in a lot of current interactive fiction, and so just went with their own direction and imagination on what a parser game should look like, based on old memories (this is all wild assumptions). I find it nice to see what directions people would go in if not constrained by a wider society or community, and this seems pretty neat, kind of reminiscent of Adventuron, which seems to have had a similar development pipeline.
I give the game 2 stars for descriptiveness and emotional impact but bugs make it harder to give more. If fixed (along with typos and quality of life improvements), this would be a 4 or 5 star game.
A game gains a lot by its setting, especially, perhaps, parser IF – back when dinosaurs ruled the earth in the early aughts, I remember it being a commonplace of newsgroup conventional wisdom that the way parser games allow the player to freely roam a landscape or edifice, subjecting each of its features to minute inspection, is a good thing to lean into in one’s designs. You could argue this is making a virtue of necessity – parser IF, at least out of the box, definitely isn’t best-suited for narrative development proceeding over time, or depth of characterization, so what of fiction are you left with except the boring landscapey bits? – but I think there’s something to it: “immersion” is a fuzzy concept that richly deserves the scare quotes I’ve gifted it, but all the same I undeniably enjoy loping around a well-realized setting and getting to know it.
That sense of place is probably one of the strongest suits of Radio Tower, a custom-parser game written in something called Godot (thankfully the loading times are reasonable). The eponymous tower – and its connected station, since decommissioned and turned into a combined rural retreat slash dimension research lab by the protagonist’s friend – is strikingly realized, with a simple title-screen graphic, moody rain effects, and plausible layout elegantly depicted by a blueprint-aping map system. It’s a creepy place to wander, but also makes for satisfying exploration, as you see how different rooms connect up and anxiously push towards the inevitably-bloody revelations in the depths of the compound.
Notably, however, that vibe is only intermittently communicated by the prose – usually, of course, the main attraction in a piece of IF. It’s atmospheric enough, but it’s riddled with typos that start with the first sentence of the first location’s description and increase in density as time goes one (“This rooms severs as Desi’s art studio,” runs the tagline for a mid-game location). The game itself also feels unpolished, with the second half of the complex feeling much more thinly implemented than the first, lacking much in the way of puzzles or even scenery elements to check out. And the design is reliant on a very random-seeming health mechanic: there are regular fights with monsters hiding under various bits of scenery, which use up the various one-use weapons you can carry around, which is all well and good, but many of them inflict unavoidable damage so even if you’re well-prepared, you still might not make it to the end. Further, almost all of the encounters are avoidable if you don’t poke around the environment or decline to investigate a strange noise that you heard, which seems like a bad approach inasmuch as it teaches the player to avoid content and ignore anything that isn’t obviously a puzzle.
Similarly stripped-down is the parser. The custom system is set up to only accept a very narrowly-defined set of commands – and idiosyncratic ones by IF conventions, with the check-out-an-item verb being INSPECT, not EXAMINE, and not admitting to any abbreviation. Fortunately these are all explicitly listed in a side panel, and all the nouns you can apply them to are highlighted with a particular color in the main screen – gold for scenery, blue for stuff you can interact with, red for exits, green for takeable items. So this makes things transparent enough, though the parser is really unforgiving – it doesn’t understand pronouns, and E won’t substitute for GO EAST, nor will INSPECT CHAIR do for INSPECT CHAIRS or (less justifiably) ATTACK WITH MACHETE for ATTACK MACHETE. And the main interaction verb is USE, but you can only USE inventory items, meaning for example there’s nothing to do with the computer in your home other than INSPECT it. The overall effect winds up not too dissimilar from something like Gruescript, so it’s playable enough but sucks enough of the fun out of using a parser to make me wish it’d been implemented with a point-and-click option.
Add to this slightly sloggy interface an inventory limit and the lack of a save game (I mentioned you can die, right?) There are also some bugs – trying to USE WAND led to “Error – tried to use an item with an invalid type”, and I had a bunch of inventory items on the floor go missing after progressing the plot. Plus there was at least one gold-highlighted scenery object that the game told me wasn’t there when I tried to INSPECT it.
As is my way, I’m carping – I think justifiably, because there are a lot of niggles that make playing Radio Tower less engaging than it deserves to be. But it does have its strengths, and since it ends on a cliffhanger, there’s a possibility the author’s going to be coming back to this story. With some tightening of the system, a little more polish, and either loosening up the parser to allow it to play to its strengths, or eschewing it entirely to allow for a mouse interface, I could see a sequel working well, and even as is, it’s still worth a dip into the game to enjoy wandering around its precincts for a while.
Outstanding Debut of 2022 - Author's Choice by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best game of 2022 by a new author. Voting is anonymous and open only to...
Outstanding Debut of 2022 - Player's Choice by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best game of 2022 by a new author. Voting is open to all IFDB members....