by Alexander van Oostenrijk


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Sentimental reasons, June 29, 2019
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

Korenvliet was the first piece of interactive fiction I ever played. Not, to be sure, this 2016 English remake in TADS; but the original Dutch version, written in BASIC and included in an MS-DOS game menu that was, for many years, my main source of computer entertainment. Had I lived in a country like the US or the UK, where games by companies like Infocom or Magnetic Scrolls were widely distributed, I would have certainly fallen in love with IF at a young age. As it was, all I had was Korenvliet. This game still managed to capture my imagination, and indeed it was almost single-handedly responsible for my writing a short text adventure when I had developed some BASIC skills of my own at age, say, 13.

But Korenvliet was bad. It was awful. I'm not just talking about the fact that it was utterly generic, that the descriptions were sparse, or that the implementation was even sparser. No, what primarily frustrated me -- and my maternal grandmother, who spent some time sitting beside me behind the computer in what I think was her only serious engagement with such a machine ever* -- were the terrible guess the verb issues. To give you an example, at one point in the game you have acquired running shoes and need to go for a run. I was never able to do this. Many years later I reverse engineered the BASIC source and found out that the single command accepted by the game was "ga joggen", in English, "go jogging". So we were just stuck and in the absence on any sources of help, I remained stuck. For me, interactive fiction retained the mysterious aura of something that was clearly potentially great, but not actually available in any form worth playing.

I'm glad that Alexander van Oostenrijk has turned Korenvliet into a playable game. He has translated it into English, transposed it to TADS and removed the guess the verb issues. If memory serves me, he has also added much in the way of description, although he also seems to have removed some aspects of the original game, especially the randomly moving but utterly useless NPCs. As I said, I'm glad, that he has taken the trouble to do so. Being able to play and finish Korenvliet is both sentimental -- it reminds me of my youth and of my grandmother -- and provides me with just a little bit of closure.

Of course, Korenvliet is still a weak game, very old-school, with illogical puzzles and an utterly generic setting. It is this genericness that now strikes me as the most surprising. The game is based on a now obscure but once popular series of Dutch books by Leonard Huizinga, the first of which is called "Adriaan en Olivier". I loved them as a youth, since they were funny, bawdy and just a little absurd. I reread one recently, and was now less impressed by the often puerile jokes... but still, they have an unmistakable character and style. Somehow, none of that appears in the game. You are not the na´ve, romantic, alcoholic, sex-obsessed, but deep down decent Olivier; you're just a nameless person. You don't start the game by drunkenly crashing your car into the Rittenburg town hall, even though all of the books start that way. Why would you choose to base a game on a fictional work, and then use nothing from that work, not even the tone? It's just weird.

Anyway, you're not really missing out if you don't play this; but if you want a little taste of early Dutch IF, Van Oostenrijk has made it available for you.

* My maternal grandfather, on the other hand, was one of the two people in charge of the building the first Dutch computers: the ARRA I and II and the ARMAC. Unfortunately, he died three years before I was born.

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Henck, March 5, 2020 - Reply
I'm very glad you played this. For me, as well, Korenvliet was my first adventure game. I don't think I ever got very far in it; the feedback you got from the game wasn't useful, and indeed, "ga joggen" is all but impossible to guess.

I wrote this TADS version by going through the GWBASIC source, of course, and finally found how all the puzzles were supposed to work. They're very basic, but I felt I shouldn't change anything. There were in fact some NPCs, but they were just random descriptions that you couldn't interact with. I think that's why I decided to leave them out.

The game was actually quite a bit bigger than I thought it would be, and I thought some of the (very brief) descriptions quite atmospheric, but that may be because I remember my 11-year-old self playing this game. I hope that my adding descriptions to everything doesn't ruin that, and that they help in making the puzzles more approachable.

Also, yes, this game has little to nothing to do with the books.
Victor Gijsbers, March 13, 2020 - Reply
Thanks again! And indeed, the game was bigger than I had anticipated... which just goes to show how little progress either of us managed to make in the original. :-)
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