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Reviews by Spike

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1-4 of 4


The Wizard Sniffer, by Buster Hudson

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Comedic Genius, November 16, 2017
Writing farce is like a figure skater launching into a spin: Itís easy to overdo it or underdo it just a little and spoil the effect. Overdo the comedy in farce, and itís embarrassingly silly. Underdo the comedy in farce, and it comes across as cruel.

The Wizard Sniffer nails it, though, in a spiraling cascade of zaniness that had me laughing out loud several times. Slapstick antic followed slapstic antic, the stakes getting higher each time, and I found myself saying again and again, ďI cannot believe the game just went there!Ē

Part of what makes this work is that the puzzles and pacing are just right. The puzzles are clever and well-integrated into the game but not too difficult; too much player frustration would kill the effect.

Also, the text plays ďstraight manĒ: The writing is strong, but Hudson wisely avoids the temptation to go for laughs within the text itself. Instead, the humor is enhanced by the discrepancy between the crazy action in front of you and the Iím-just-describing-whatís-happening text thatís mediating that craziness.

The Wizard Sniffer is really, truly funny. It reminds me of one of those 1930s screwball comedies - or maybe a classic Looney Tunes cartoon. Iíve never laughed so much playing an IF game.

The Hermit's Secret, by Temple Software
One of the first IF games I ever played, November 4, 2017
The Hermit's Secret is an early 1980s Colossal Cave knockoff: find the treasures, put them in the right place, magic words, someone who chases you, someone who steals your treasures... but without the originality and atmosphere of Colossal Cave.

The parser is limited, in keeping with its 1980s release date. Some of the puzzles aren't too bad, but at least one of the better ones is lifted almost directly from Colossal Cave.

It's also buggy, but in a strange way. I've played two versions of it, and each had a different major bug that wasn't present in the other version.

This game holds my personal record for longest time to win an IF game. I first played it in 1985, and after a few weeks I was close to being finished with it. But with no InvisiClues and no Internet, I had no way to find out how to solve those last few puzzles. I played it on and off again over the years but never won it. Finally, in about 2004, I was playing through it again and stumbled across the solution to the one puzzle I hadn't figured out yet. I suspect I'll never top 19 years between starting and finally winning an IF game.

The Hermit's Secret probably wasn't bad for its time, but it's not anywhere near Infocom quality. While I feel some nostalgia for it, I can't recommend it except for historical reasons.

Mrs. Crabtree's Geography Class, by Andrew Schultz

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
My nine-year-old had a blast with this, August 2, 2017
I recently showed this game to my nine-year-old son. He had a lot of fun with it, spending a couple of hours playing it over a few nights. He even went so far as to ask me to print out some maps of the U.S. so that he could practice finding routes from state to state.

Overall, my son really enjoyed the game, and it increased his knowledge of U.S. geography. A win.

I wouldn't really call this "interactive fiction," although it is parser-based. It's more of a text-based mini-game. Thus I don't feel I should give it a star rating.

GiantKiller, by Peter D. Killworth

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Pleasantly surprised: some clever puzzles, April 10, 2017
I was pleasantly surprised by this game. (I wasn't expecting much: a non-Infocom game from the 80s with an educational focus.) Yes, the parser is weak. Yet this was not a source of frustration: The game was clear enough on what you needed to do at each point that I had no "guess-the-verb" problems. It also comes with a player's guide that lists all verbs recognized by the game.

The puzzles are the game's main strength. Several are quite clever, getting into mathematical topics like tessellations, Eulerian paths, and prime numbers. I never felt like the puzzles were unfair - either for adults or for the intended audience of 8-14-year-olds. In fact, I could easily imagine a class of students bunched around a computer, saying "Try this!" and "What about that?", as they work through the game together.


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