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28th Place - 7th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2001)
Mostly competent if uninspiring sci-fi effort in which you're looking for a professor who's disappeared on an alien planet. There's one nicely done sequence with an event that has effects in multiple directions at once, progressing over time, so that you see some of the immediate effects in some places and see the aftermath elsewhere. The rest, though, isn't particularly interesting--there's a maze (though a very easy one), and some puzzles whose logic is apparent only in retrospect. Standard sci-fi with a few good moments.
-- Duncan Stevens
>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction
I'm not sure whether I object more [to] the puzzle whose solution seems impossible based on its object's description, or the one whose solution is just totally illogical. Either way, having them both in the same game is not a good thing. I have sympathy for people who struggle with puzzle design, because I'm one of them. But it's better to have no puzzles at all than puzzles that aren't any fun.
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This game has you visiting a lost world where the builders, an ancient people of great power, had disappeared, and where your supervisor has disappeared.
It has a fairly small map, allowing you to explore much of it in 30 minutes or so, but it has a tricky maze and a propensity for hiding things in scenery objects.
Overall, I found it a mostly interesting story, reminiscent of a Star Trek movie.
BANE OF THE BUILDERS is a quite solidly arranged game with a sci-fi theme. The player explores an alien planet in search of a missing professor and encounters the ancient race of the so-called Builders, getting acquainted with their culture while holding out for the missing academic. The game ranked about in the middle of the 7th annual IF competition.
The game itself is not too bad. A science fiction story that complies with the standards. There are a redundant maze and some arbitrary puzzles, things that could have been more polished. But the writing is decent and the game features in-built hints. There is also a walkthrough available on the database, so the player can find help when he/she gets stuck.
I can recommend the game to fans of science fiction and people who want to get a taste for the sci-fi category, although there are probably better choices for people who wish to check out the genre for the first time.
Some SF short stories can leave you numb and exhilarated at the same time as the repercussions of the twenty- or thirty-something pages you just read reverberate in your head. I'll just namedrop the first three that pop into my reverberating head to show off a bit: Hawksbill Station by Robert Silverberg, Nightfall by Isaac Asimoc, Second Variety by Philip K. Dick.
Now stop to think for a moment. I can't be sure about anyone else, but I must have read hundreds of SF short stories that were less awe-inspiring, brain-shaking or mind-shattering. Less memorable each on its own perhaps, but all of them added up to a pile of more vague or diluted memories of enjoyable evenings and chilling nights and exciting afternoons spent with my nose in this or that SF-collection. Taken together, those less memorable stories have undeniably given me many more pleasant hours than the aforementioned three and their likes.
Bane of the Builders falls squarely in that second category.
It's a competently written and coded adventure. An engaging, if not very original, storyline.
It has a very cool trick where the surroundings shimmer and then things change all around you. (Reminiscent of a glitch in that movie that couldn't decide if it wanted to do magical kung-fu or just shoot everything to smithereens and then proceeded to do both... Not that anything like that happens in Bane of the Builders after the shimmer effect, but... I just got carried a way a bit there, okay.)
I had fun finding my way through the maze. The map is easily visualized, the impression of the alien base hanging in an underground cavern still lingers in my imagination.
The puzzles are not clued well enough, but persistence pays off (or the walkthrough, if you just want to experience the story.)
The end game is challenging but also a bit underclued. I had to fill in some blanks with my own imagination to get a coherent picture of why things did or didn't work.
But, all in all, a well crafted game and a well told story. One to put on the slowly growing pile of enjoyable afternoons playing a SF game while it rained outside.