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About the Story
This is the revised version of Camelot. Published after the end of the 2010 Adrift Summer Competition.
2nd Place - InsideADRIFT Summer Competition 2010
On the whole I really enjoyed this game, and though ALL of the eligible entries were impressive in one way or another this year, for me at least Camelot managed to edge its way out to the head of the pack. The only real criticism I can even think of has to do with the plot--other than a handful of typos that I believe have already been fixed in a newer version, the writing was excellent, with lots of attention to the detail of the setting.
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Every room in this game has a minimum of three mistakes in its writing, except for a room with no use and practically no implementation that only has two. The paragraphing manages to be all over the place and crammed together at the same time, and all dialog is in italics, so it's a mess even to read. Motivation for puzzles and plot is likewise scattershot, with no hints included. Confusing parser responses abound, largely due to a too specific method of task construction and lack of synonyms. Even scenery descriptions can be actively misleading ((Spoiler - click to show)e.g., a corridor where "There is a number of doors along the corridor" (sic), but implemented are only "the left door" and "the right door"-- without obvious synonyms). The small world map is artificially inflated with pauses; 3 second waits when moving from a room makes going east just once feel like moving through 12 rooms. Generally, all of the most potentially interesting items go unimplemented, but you'll see a lot of chairs, shelves, and tables, generally described in some hyperbolic state or another.
On the level of representation and tone, the game doesn't know which Camelot it wants to represent: a glorious, high fantasy kingdom of legend or a cruel world of "the darkest medieval age" (quote from the game). One moment it describes the deplorable condition of the dungeons or kitchen, this-or-that crude furniture, darkness too thick to see through and vomit-inducing stenches. It subjects the player to caste-based bigotry ((Spoiler - click to show)Why exactly the master chef would give the protagonist a loaf of bread with the express instructions to deliver it to King Arthur, only to have the guards look down on him and not let him in or take the bread themselves because of your character's station-- like most of this game's logic-- utterly escapes me. You never even do get the chance to deliver the bread to Arthur.), and even launches a totally uncalled-for ad hominem attack on a respected member of the IF Community. Then this game wants to turn around and fascinate us with images of peacocks strutting "like princesses," beautiful tapestries, and some really tasty (if "luke warn") baked bread. We just can't buy it. If there is an attempt at subverting the image of Camelot, it is quite poorly executed.
One wonders why the author chose Camelot as a location at all. The only character important to Arthurian legend that the player actually interacts with is Merlin, and even then that interaction is not beyond the barest extent of characterization. It's clear the author wanted Merlin to come off as likeable, but he never actually *does* anything likeable. If anything, I don't see why he couldn't be replaced with a generic evil wizard who might also kidnap a random library janitor (through a method of dubious reliability, but whatever, it's magic), make him into a kitchen slave to be somewhat routinely beaten and insulted by the staff of this savage castle, and then force him to do his dirty work. Add to this that there's no particular *reason* the PC can do what must be done that Merlin couldn't himself do... that's some evil wizard sh*t, right there.
The rags to riches story underneath it all is, like most of the other elements of the game, purely lip service. Ultimately, I leave the game feeling like I've been bribed by Muammar Gaddafi. There's nothing likeable in the PC, either-- the writing characterizes him as an almost supernatural klutz and kind of an idiot with no particular redeeming qualities. It might not be Escape from Camelot, but that's just because it's playable. That doesn't mean I won't give it the same rating.
A few errors right there in the intro – general Secretary of the UN? Shouldn't that be Secretary General? Paragraph spacing also seems a little off – why not leave a line between paragraphs or indent the first line so it stands out? As it is, they all seem jumbled together. Item descriptions are poorly written. This is the desk:
IT'S A PLAIN WOODEN DESK, NOT WORTH MUCH.
THE SURFACE IS SCRATCHED AND MARKED FROM MANY YEARS OF USE.
THERE'S A SINGLE DRAWER PLACED AT THE LEFT SIDE OF THE DESK.
STACKS OF BOOKS ARE PLACED ON THE TABLE, AND OTHER BOOKS ARE PILED UP ALONG THE WALL NEARBY.
THESE ARE THE BOOKS YOU NEED TO CLEAR UP AND PUT IN ORDER.
Five sentences split over five paragraphs. Wouldn't it have been better to keep them all together in one paragraph? But the above is typical of the game and makes reading anything longer than a few words quite jarring.
Many other typos – Counsil instead of Council – meant the overall standard of writing fell a long way below what I’d call acceptable. English might not be the writer’s first language, but it’s still hard to recommend a game like this.
The game itself didn't exactly seem enthralling. The intro was poorly written and did a poor job of setting the scene. An intro needs to grip you and make you want to play the game. This intro just had me writing up a veritable shopping list of things that were wrong with it.
Anyway, not expecting much, I persevered. I got myself out of the cellar without too much trouble but then I wandered back and found that the exit had mysteriously disappeared; despite being informed that there was an opening in the wall, I wasn't able to go through it.
There were then more annoyances – a book that can’t be read while standing up but can while you're sat at a desk. The default error message of YOU CAN’T READ THE BOOK! is a little unfortunate here. (Incidentally, ‘read it’ doesn't work when referring to the book.) Here I was plunged into darkness and found myself in an unwinnable situation as I’d already used all the matches and thus had to start again. Probably my own dumb fault for lighting all the matches already for no other reason than they were there but it would have been nice if the game had warned me about this beforehand or at least given me an alternative light source. After a quick restart, I found myself magically transported to the kitchen of Castle Camelot... and a room description, complete with dialogue and an annoying pause and screen clearing, which repeats itself every type you type LOOK. How on Earth was this missed during testing?
At that point, I decided enough was enough. Sorry. While the game might boast no less than five testers, it’s so rough around the edges that it’s hard to believe it was tested at all. The three locations I saw were so buggy I could write an essay on the subject.
When I first saw the title "Camelot" I was prepared for a serious medieval plot and spending hours on end to achieve a crusade-like goal. Reminicent of "Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", I was anticipating a challenge of mythic proportions.
Maybe I’m spoiled on the concept of Camelot, and this game was more of a short spoof – I did find it humorous and enjoyable. A few of the commands eluded me as I am 'old school' and expect to input more detail than less. (Spoiler - click to show)Example, “light torch” – I kept trying to “light torch with matches”. In this type of game I was expecting at least one secret passage and kept examining a wrong location, certain I was missing something as the descriptions were so vivid. The actual secret passage was less described, thus it took a long time for me to find.
One of the frustrations for me was the use of timed delay between rooms. After being kicked out of one of the rooms I wanted to race thru the directions to get back there. That delay prevented that from happening.
The anacronisms seemed a little too out of place, however overall it was a cute short game.
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