by Andreas Hagelin


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Atmospheric but obtuse dungeon-crawling, December 6, 2020
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020

The second RPG/IF hybrid Iíve hit in this yearís Comp, Creatures nails the dark, dour, and dank atmosphere of a grim-and-gritty dungeon crawl, but bugs and custom-engine wonkiness mean I didnít appreciate the game as much as it perhaps deserves (though the second release addressed at least some of the bugs; see the addendum at the bottom of this review).

Letís see, why donít we go last part first. Creatures runs as a Windows executable with a fairly long startup time, and looks like itís trying to shoot the moon in a beauty contest Ė I found the white text on black background too high-contrast to be pleasant, the engine allows words to be broken up between two lines with nary a dash in sight, and there are a fair number of typos (including the first sentence of the walkthrough).

More damning than these superficial considerations, at least to me, the interface is very fiddly. Itís choice-based, though you type a number or letter to enter each command, which in theory should be fine. But the implementation is often aggravating: because the screen updates slowly, and if you mis-type an option youíre taken to a separate screen noting you didnít select a valid choice and which in turn requires an additional keypress to exit, itís easy to start typing a sequence of commands that starts throwing off a series of errors. Options are also often nestled several layers deep Ė each room is divided into four quadrants, for example Ė so doing anything feels like it takes at least twice as many keypresses as it ought to. Oh, and thereís an encumbrance system that Iíd say is an especially irritating example of the type, except every encumbrance system is an especially irritating example of the type.

The bugs run the gamut from small bits of oddness (I was able to heal myself above my theoretical maximum hit points) to hard crashes (trying to equip leg armor when I was already wearing something in that slot reliably broke the game) to a progress-ender involving a lever puzzle in the initial release (later fixed).

In my first go-through I only got about halfway through, which was a shame because I was enjoying Creatures enough to want to see the rest, and thought the prose was actually not bad. It only comes in fits and starts, as you get a couple of paragraphs in between moving to a new room, while taking actions, fighting, or fiddling with puzzles usually doesnít generate much in the way of description. And the premise Ė youíre in a dungeon, have amnesia, and probably thereís a baddie somewhere towards the end you need to stab Ė is barely even there. But these intermittent paragraphs did a reasonable job of creating an atmosphere of decay, age, and unpleasantness which felt like a good tone for a work like this. The puzzles are again nothing to write home about Ė theyíre under-clued and, at least as far as I got, exclusively about opening different locked doors with various kinds of combinations Ė but fine enough to break up the combat, and itís always fun to level up and get new gear.

From skimming the walkthrough, it looks like the remainder of the game involves more number puzzles, more combat Ė and possibly some (Spoiler - click to show)light cannibalism? Ė again, nothing ground-breaking, but solid meat-and-potatoes stuff (Spoiler - click to show)(so to speak). So Iím hoping thereís an update, either mid-Comp or post-Comp, that would let me check it out (like, because of the number puzzles and combat I mean, not the (Spoiler - click to show)cannibalism).

MUCH LATER UPDATE: So I went back to this after the author posted a revised version that fixed the bug that had stopped my progress, and was able to win. It definitely goes on as it began, with the pattern of obscure number puzzles alternated with narrowly-tuned combat continued. The puzzles also continued to be very challenging, though from looking at the walkthrough it looks like one of them didnít fire in my playthrough (Spoiler - click to show)(the text indicated that I was locked into Wilfredís quarters, but I was able to walk right out without inputting anything). And while I was able to get a few critical hits towards the end, which opened up a bit more wiggle room in the combat, in still feels like you need to tackle the enemies in a very specific order to get the right armor, weapons, and healing items you need to win (like, the (Spoiler - click to show)cannibalism does in fact seem mandatory). The writing is still pretty fun, albeit quite bleak, and I found the ending a bit of an anticlimax. I did start to get more used to the interface, though this might be Stockholm Syndrome talking. The authorís got talent but a little more attention to making the game more player-friendly, both in interface and puzzle terms, would go a long way in whatever they do next!

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Includes the good and bad parts of retro games, December 1, 2020

This work is choice-based in the same way that some of the earliest computer games were choice-based ó most of the game is spent choosing numbers from a menu of options. It felt like something I could have enjoyed on my Apple IIe, back when running a Dungeons & Dragons module on the computer was a huge deal.

This game deserves credit for re-creating a nostalgic experience. I would have done terrible things to get my hands on a game like this back when I was in grade school.

Back in grade school, I would also get excited about the story elements in Creatures, which included electric lights, magic altars, knights, and medical experiments. In the present day, it is more difficult for me to identify a clear theme that links them together in a cohesive narrative.

This entry has a simple play loop. Answer a riddle, fight a monster, answer another riddle, start another fight. All of the riddles involve entering sequences of numbers that unlock doors. Only 4 codes are required to complete the game, but the IFcomp details suggest that more than 2 hours may be necessary.

Combat involves stats and random number generation, but enemies should be challenged in a specific order to gain equipment for winning the next battle. It means that the number crunching is narratively pointless.

Unfortunately, Creatures has ignored a lot of advances in game design that have been made over the past three decades. Parts of it feel like something that the author created to see whether it could be done, instead of something that was created to be enjoyed by an audience.

I do not have the programming skills that would allow me to create an entry like this from scratch, and Creatures works as a proof of concept. If the author develops this work, it would be interesting to see something more user-friendly that supported a larger, more intricate story.

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- Spike, November 30, 2020

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A menu-based windows executable with combat and inventory, October 2, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

This is a Windows executable game that I gave two attempts for. The first one I died against the brother, but on reloading (through 2 different saves) the lever puzzle stopped working, so I suppose I should start from the beginning, but I might have to save that for later.

This game reminds me a lot of Eye of the Beholder but without graphics. Itís menu based; in each room, you can look at each of the four directions. When you look at a direction, you might see something like a mural, or you might find items, which you equip. Items can be upgraded through prayer, which gives them special abilities. Combat is turn-based.

Most of the puzzles involve decoding passwords through hints scattered around the map. Itís a fairly compact game, so replay wonít take too long.

The goals of this game seem different from most parser games. Instead of focusing on mimesis or smooth gameplay flow, it focuses on combat and inventory. Worth checking out if you are into TTRPGs with miniatures.

-Polish: I had one crash and a weird bug with the levers. The system had words wrap around lines, being split in the middle instead of moved in discrete chunks.
+Descriptiveness: The scratchings on the walls and the knights you fight were interesting.
-Interactivity: Looking at each room separately and having to use different commands for each menu was kind of a pain.
-Emotional impact: I didn't really get a strong feeling from this game. It seemed more of a system than a compelling story, and that's okay; it just didn't move me.
+Would I play again? I'd like to see the ending sometime!

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