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Dog Saves Baby

by Alex Kriss profile

Horror Comedy

(based on 1 rating)
1 review

Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: June 23, 2008
Current Version: 0.4
License: Freeware
Development System: Inform 7
Forgiveness Rating: Polite
IFID: 26F7978C-6A81-49ED-91DC-53C1FDA8C0B5
TUID: y7en6o3t4mxyorfr


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Number of Reviews: 1
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Great idea, questionable execution, June 27, 2008
by Ryusui (Out in the middle of a field!)

Dog Saves Baby puts you in control of an intelligent dog who must save a newborn baby from the Evil brothers (yes, that's their family name). It's just as corny as it sounds, even with some gruesome imagery thrown in for no reason except to quantify this game as "horror", but it's an interesting concept on paper: the salient detail is that the protagonist is non-human, with all the obvious restrictions. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Unfortunately, the author has managed to take this idea and suck all the potential enjoyment out of it.

I don't know where these authors get the idea that if they have a good story to tell, it doesn't matter if the game itself is fundamentally unplayable. While Dog Saves Baby is unquestionably better-implemented than Hors Catégorie, the game's central conceit is that not only are you only limited to what a dog can do, but you must also phrase commands in a way a dog would presumably understand. While this mainly means you have a host of new, dog-appropriate verbs ("sniff" on its own behaves as a radar for nearby locations of interest, a nice touch in my opinion), this means that some ordinarily acceptable verbs and even synonyms are rejected: "look at" something ("examine" and even "x" are rejected) will tell you to try "listen", "sniff" and "lick" instead (and before you ask, you can't use the common "smell" or "taste" verbs as synonyms), you can't "wait" (annoying as the game begins with a sequence of ten turns during which you can't do much of anything except try out your new canine vocabulary) or "take" (the game demands you use "fetch" instead), and most annoyingly, any attempt to move in a direction must be prefaced with "go". Mercifully, the usual abbreviations work, so you can type "go w" instead of "go west", but you must type "go" before any direction. This is arguably enough on its own to make the game unplayable, especially for an experienced player who is used to brevity: denying the player the ability to use the common one-and-two letter abbreviations ("n. x sign. e. g. z. in.") is almost as serious an impediment as chopping off the player's fingers.

The most annoying "feature" is that all the common interaction verbs - "open", "close", "push", "pull", etc. - have been discarded in favor of a catch-all "use" verb. This unintuitive implementation opens up a whole new world of "guess-the-author's-mind": attempting to "use" the (Spoiler - click to show)glove box, for instance, will inspire the dog to try opening it, while trying to "use" (Spoiler - click to show)Terry's pocket in an attempt to search it will simply produce an error message (Spoiler - click to show)(the game expects the player to "bite pocket" instead). The current version puts the (Spoiler - click to show)taser in its originally-intended hiding place, turning it from an insultingly simple "get-X-use-X" puzzle into an exercise in frustration: imagine MacGyver being handed a pile of scraps with the expectation he's going to turn them into a plasma rifle, with the caveat that he is not allowed to have any tools. There are ten rooms to explore in the first chapter, most of which include some detail of note (Spoiler - click to show)(including a patch of earth that you can dig in...of course, true to form, the game rejects "dig" in lieu of "use soil"), but despite the author's claims that there are four ways to solve this introductory region, nothing that doesn't involve the (Spoiler - click to show)taser (which the author has dutifully disposed of) is readily apparent with the objects and verbs you have to work with. The player also starts the game with a time limit: you must "treat your wounds" within a very short time frame, otherwise you die instantly, and only a person who is very used to thinking like a dog will hit upon (Spoiler - click to show)"lick wounds". The rest of us will have to hope for that walkthrough the author promised.

All told, the game suffers from exactly the same problem as Hors Catégorie: it suffocates whatever promise its premise had by gutting the standard interface and replacing it with something frustratingly inferior. New verbs are one thing, but why get rid of the old ones when they worked so well? Especially when you get rid of all the helpful shortcuts and useful alternate phrasings in the process? Not even restore works properly: it works fine in-game, but if you die, guess which one of the classic "Restart/Restore/Quit" options refuses to work (despite being listed)?

So why give it a two, you might ask? Because it's a fun idea. I'd like to see the author go back and hammer out a rewrite: fix the interface so that I don't feel like I'm playing Simon Says every time I enter a command, play down the "horror" and play up the sheer ridiculousness of the game. You play as a heroic superdog who had a traumatic child(puppy?)hood at the hands of an abusive bastard only to be miraculously redeemed by a loving family and their newborn baby; then you watch as said family (Spoiler - click to show)is brutally murdered by The Smurfs by way of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and you set out to bring your bloody revenge down on the Evil brothers (I'll never get tired of typing that) and save the precious baby before she is turned into One Of Them. That's not sarcasm, by the way, that's the game's actual plotline, and it's really a shame that such a hilariously ridiculous plot is imprisoned by a substandard interface and illusions of being an actual horror game.

If you're reading this, Mr. Kriss, I hope you take my criticism as an inspiration to improve rather than quit. And please include a proper hint system next time. (Oh, and "use" is actually not one of the common IF verbs, despite being touted as such in the manual or in-game help. And the manual itself? Using a PDF for what amounts to four pages of plain text is just pretentious, and pretentiousness is one of the things I hammered Hors Catégorie for. Just saying.)

This is version 12 of this page, edited by spacetroll on 30 July 2014 at 10:06am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item