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Ratings and Reviews by WriterBob

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View this member's reviews by tag: IF Comp 2008
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Ananachronist, by Joseph Strom

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Buggy Contest Entry, November 9, 2008
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)
“Ananachronist,” is unabashedly a puzzle game. From the readme, “Ananachronist is a single puzzle (and pretty much everything else has been sacrificed for its sake).”

If you’ve read my reviews, you know that I prefer IF that is more story oriented. (In fact as I judge the 2008 Competition, I’m sorely tempted to bypass this game. However, that would not be fair to the author of the game.)

Note: This entry is not without bugs. When trying to unlock several doors I received an error.

>unlock door

*** Run-time problem P11: Although the CO door is allowed to have the property "matching key", no value was ever given, so it can't now be used.

[The noun] requires a key]

In another instance, when I typed “open door,” nothing appeared to happen, another command prompt simply came up. When I typed “open door” again, the response was, “That’s already open.”

Even if the game is winnable in this state, it is not worth the time to find out. I appreciate that it takes a great deal of effort to create a game. I would encourage those who cannot make their games reasonably bug free by the release date should withhold their games and publish them when they are in a reasonably playable state.

the virtual human, by Duncan Bowsman

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A Brief Diversion, November 6, 2008
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)
After reading the "About the Story," section of "the virtual human," page, I was intrigued. I've experienced other works of IF that have offered personal insights, but this piece is not one of them. The decisions that the player is expected to make are for the most part superficial.

This work is inspired by a Jorgen Leth film. Since I am not familiar with the film, I can't say to what degree this work mimics the film. However, I suspect that this work has the same issues that IF works inspired by non-interactive media suffer from. This work runs as if it were on rails. The decisions made by the player do not affect the outcome of the work.

Still, even with these issues, this work is smooth and polished. It is interesting to play through once.

Photopia, by Adam Cadre

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A Colorful Tale, November 5, 2008
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)
"Photopia," is an intriguing piece that makes great use of color.

The production value of this game is second to none. Typically I am a fan of the elegant simplicity of the plain text interface. I have gone through this work in black and white and in color with the *.z5 file. But by far the best experience is through the blorb file. The use of color is one of the subtle additions to Interactive Fiction.

Through the years, IF has grown beyond mere text. Even in the '80's, Infocom experimented with sound and graphics. Contemporary IF has available high quality graphics, sounds, music, and even colored text.

Without a compelling story, all of the added effects won't make a mediocre game good. The added effects of "Photopia," take an intriguing game and bring it to the next level.

The skill level needed to enjoy this work is minimal. This would be a perfect introduction to IF, especially for those who are coming into the game from a more literary background.

All in all, this is a fine piece of IF that's a pleasure to play.

The Space Under the Window, by Andrew Plotkin

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Quirky & Mysterious, November 5, 2008
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)
"The Space Under the Window," is a unique piece of Interactive Fiction. It stretches the definition of IF to its very limits.

Is it interactive? Well, yes, it is, but unlike traditional IF in that you do not control the character with actions. The flow of the narrative is triggered by single word input, a word that is already in the narrative on the screen.

Is it fiction? Traditionally fiction is plot oriented, although I am sure there are enough English majors who would argue that there are character driven works. Still, what is lacking in "The Space Under the Window," is a sense of motivation for the central character. What *is* the goal? This is an experimental piece of fiction.

This work is unsettling and surreal. The sense of time seems to fluctuate as certain commands seem to trigger going back in time to previous moments. That is what this piece is, a collection of moments strung together where the player is left to wonder what it was he (used in this context, "he" is meant to be a generic genderless pronoun, which English is sorely lacking) just experienced.

This is a game that is difficult to love, but easy to appreciate for the skill with which it was crafted.

Red Moon, by Jonathan Hay

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Repetitive in the extreme, November 3, 2008
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)
"Red Moon," is a single room game written in Inform. Single room games can be a joy to play. They are more often focused on the psychological aspects of the character than on puzzles or NPC interactions.

The author makes an attempt at this in "Red Moon." The character does glimpse the underlying reality. But with the dawning awareness that all is not as it seems there is no correlated increase in understanding, just a continuous denial of that reality.

The prose in the game is adequate, but fails to draw the reader in. The single room aspect of the game can be used to great effect, adding texture and layering depth to the limited landscape. In this case, the single room is sparsely furnished offering a very limited range of activities.

The hint system in the game doesn't provide any actual clues, but rather offers encouragement for the player to keep doing what he has been doing.

There is a small degree of replayability in the game. If you fail to achieve the optimal ending the first time around, a second quick play through is all that's need to deliver the preferred ending.

In brief, this game leaves a little to be desired. Other than being repetitive there were no significant flaws. However, for a truly excellent one room adventure, I'd recommend "Shade."

Riverside, by Jeremy Crockett and Victor Janmey

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Incomplete Game, November 3, 2008
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)
“Riverside” is a traditional Inform text adventure. I am in favour of games that are written in the more standard text adventure formats: Inform, TADs, Glulx.

The plot development of this game is cumbersome. It starts with a bit of a teaser. If you don’t successfully find the correct response that the game is looking for in this teaser, you will lose the game before it even gets going. Like other games this turned into a situation of guessing what the implementer was thinking. This is a difficult line to walk.

There is an instance where a character leaves the room during a conversation. I try to follow the person. The game does not recognize the word, “follow.” I explicitly go the direction the character went. The game then says that I should try talking to the character. I talk to the character and the narrative says that I follow the character into the room I just tried entering. This is very clumsy.

The conversation interface is limited to “Talk to,” a character. There is no real dialogue. This is a step back from the menu driven conversation system. The prose is limp and lifeless, but it is functional.

I feel as if the game is on rails, very linear without much freedom to explore the environment. Even when there are times to explore the environment, the items examined are meaningless to the story line.

If the game is on rails, the train has just crashed. Even using the walk through there is no way to get past a critical step in the plot. The contest version of this game cannot be completed.

In summary, the communication methods are lacking, the plot is painfully linear, the prose is uninspired, and the game itself is unplayable.

Even if it were to be completed and put in a playable state, Riverside is not compelling enough to complete.

Shade, by Andrew Plotkin

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Dark and haunting, November 1, 2008
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)
Shade exemplifies the best aspects of Interactive Fiction. Shade was written in Inform without relying on any graphics or sound effects. Released in 2000, this game demonstrates the true potential of what IF can be. IF is more than tedious mazes and guessing verbs. IF is about exploring ideas and delivering experiences that cannot be presented in any other medium.

Take a look at other media for story telling. Shade could have been written as a traditional short story. However, it would not nearly have the impact that it has when it's an experience you personally participate in. What about a graphical adventure? Hunting around pointing and clicking on items in an attempt to trigger the next stage wouldn't deliver the same understanding. Without the written word, Shade as a graphical adventure would be meaningless. It is the prose and the interaction that makes IF a truly unique form for delivering profound experiences.

Shade delivers. It is the subtle dawning awareness that comes with the unfolding experience that has the biggest impact in this tale.

Project Delta, by Emilian Kowalewski

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Game system demo, October 27, 2008
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2008
First off, I am not fond of home-grown game systems. Typically these systems lack the polish and stability of the off-the shelf systems.

Secondly, I am not fond of “Choose Your Own Adventure,” style IF. I prefer rich environments where objects have a verisimilitude to them. I like to feel that I am a part of the world, not a distant observer. This game in particular feels as if the player is on rails being taken from one section to the next.

This “game” is nothing more than a demo of the first generation of the game system. (At this point you can only hold 2 items at a time, one in your left hand and one in your right.) In learning about the game system a description of additional future functionality is provided. Still, in the end, this is a CYOA adventure system. And as a demo it is unsatisfying in terms of plot or character development.

The prose of the game is unsophisticated. As in most traditional IF games, the player character is a bit of a mystery. Here in the description of the character, the author comments that not knowing more about your player character is part of the mystery. It is ham handed at best.

There is the occasional glitch where an option selection is left blank.

The ending came up quite abruptly and was most unsatisfying.

In the end, if you're actually looking to play a game, and not read an advertisement for future games, look elsewhere.

The Lighthouse, by Eric Hickman and Nathan Chung

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
An exercise in brevity, October 27, 2008
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2008
The Lighthouse, submitted for the 2008 IF Competition, is probably the easiest IF game ever created.

The goal as stated in the introduction is to turn on the light in the lighthouse. Beyond the introduction there is very little description. All the places have names, but there is only the most cursory description of each room. Every object, when examined, returns the stock response, "There is nothing special about X."

Technically there were no flaws in the game. There was however, no challenge either. The old Infocom sampler offered more in the way of interaction.

Perhaps, as a previous reviewer surmised this was an exercise on the part of the authors who were trying to learn Inform. I hope this is the case. If the authors read this review, I would encourage them to continue creating IF after this first rather timid step.

Nerd Quest, by Gabor de Mooij

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Nigh unplayable, October 23, 2008
by WriterBob (Richmond Hill, Ontario)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2008
This game is spectacular in being an exercise in frustration.

The premise is simple enough. Sneak past your manager so you can meet your girlfriend for a date. It is the execution that makes the game unplayable.

Common verbs do not function. "Examine," is not recognized. If you happen to type "Look," with a capital L, the game does not recognize the command. "Inventory," is not recognized, but its abbreviation, "i" works.

There are cases of guess the noun. For example, in one room if you try to "look at the PC," the game fails to understand. However, if you "look at the computer," the game provides a description.

Other fun elements -
You can't save the game.
You can't quit the game.

If the game were playable within the conventions of IF, I would forgive the inability of the game to display an apostrophe correctly. When the game tried to show “eight o’clock,” it came out “eight o ' clock” This was just added salt in the wound.

In the author's defense, he did compose this game using a language that he created himself. However, I suspect the language itself may have a few kinks to be worked out.

The in game puzzles weren't overly complex. Those were overshadowed by the puzzle of trying to guess how the programmer was thinking in order to phrase commands effectively.

I would recommend this game as an example of how not to implement an IF language or game.


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