Number of Reviews: 4
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Just a Mess, August 18, 2011
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.