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Reviews by Ryusui

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The Garlic Cage, Episode I, by Taro for writing , NOM3RCY for programing

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
You smell nothing unexpected., May 23, 2013
by Ryusui (Out in the middle of a field!)
Yet another silly, random, and brutally unpolished game. The story is easy enough to follow - as you eventually discover, you are locked in a Garlic Cage, (Spoiler - click to show)a device that turns its victims into garlic, and presumably you are expected to try and find your way out. Personally, I wouldn't know - the game became unwinnable after 4 out of 10 points, (Spoiler - click to show)when the world turned dark and the only tool I had on hand was a rusty wire bent into the shape of a key. It clearly hasn't been tested, let alone proofread: I spent several turns trying to figure out what to do with a "garlic glove" that I was presented, which the game adamantly insisted didn't exist, until I realized it was supposed to be a garlic clove and typed in the word the game recognized. Considering that eating these cloves (gloves?) is apparently one of the main goals of the game, it's fairly obvious that the creators compiled the game and uploaded it without ever actually playing it to make sure it ran right. And again, I appear to have hit some kind of time limit without any clue as to what I was supposed to do next - was there another clove I missed, one that could've spared me a presumably garlicky fate if eaten? The game seemingly drops them into existence without any fanfare or indication of their number, so I couldn't tell you.

My advice to the creators of this game? Stop making games. At the very least, understand that you are making yourselves look like trolls in the IF community by releasing untested, unpolished, and unfinished games. Get someone to play your games, tear them apart, and tell you each and every last thing that's wrong with them so you can make them at least playable before you even consider uploading another one to the Internet.

(As for the title of this review? That's what you get if you type "smell" all by itself. Yes, even though the game hammers into your head over and over that everything smells like garlic. Given, an overpowering smell of garlic should count as "nothing unexpected" in context, but the default message is still symptomatic of the laziness that pervades this waste of server space.)

You Find Yourself in a Room., by Eli Piilonen

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
I Have No Hands And I Must Play, December 21, 2010
by Ryusui (Out in the middle of a field!)
You Find Yourself in a Room is short, simple, tedious at points, and yet oddly compelling. The parser is a bit on the clunky side, but it's sufficient for this game's needs.

(Spoiler - click to show)The game is somewhat "meta" in that you, the player, are not assuming the role of the person trapped in the room, but of someone sitting at a keyboard interacting with a text adventure created by, for lack of a more appropriate label, the game's antagonist. You Find Yourself in a Room is billed as a "sister game" to the author's previous Viricide, which makes brief mention of an AI that went insane and started tormenting its users through text adventure games - this is one of those games, and after you've solved a few puzzles, the AI will make his presence known and spend the rest of the game taunting you, never passing up an opportunity to remind you of your "human" frailties and how you could never surpass one as "eternal" as him. He's just petty enough overall that the general effect is to push you forward, simply for the opportunity to shut him up, and you finally get to do so in epic fashion.

Again, You Wake Up in a Room is not for everyone: it's not an epic quest or a thoughtful study, but a competently-assembled timewaster that builds up towards a satisfying payoff.

Vigilante, by p0wn3d Games

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Wait. What?, November 11, 2009
by Ryusui (Out in the middle of a field!)
(Warning: This review might contain spoilers. Click to show the full review.)I'd snark, but I'm genuinely too dumbfounded to do anything of the sort.

I never thought I'd see a game worse than Cortes's(sic) Creed or Apollo 11, but here it is, in all its glory. Both of those games at least showed some strange kind of promise on the part of their authors, but this...it's like an eight-year-old with a taste for violent action movies got his hands on Inform 7, hit the ground running and didn't stop (or even bother to look where he was going) until he ran straight off a cliff.

Basically, the flow of the game is this: kill everything that's in the room with you, figure out which of the unmarked exits leads to the next room (optional: read the minimal room description which may, on rare occasions, actually tell you where to go next), rinse and repeat. That's all there is.

I say "everything" because the game makes no distinction between animate and inanimate objects. You can kill "Motorcycle" and "Glock" just as easily as you can "A Man Named Sniper" or any one of the various cops who, as the game informs you, are trying to kill you for no apparent reason (despite the game over message telling you you're supposed to be a "criminal mastermind"). You can even kill yourself and suffer no ill effects save for an error message. (Since you get ten points per kill, that makes killing yourself repeatedly a splendid way to rack up a high score. If such a thing matters to you.) The only way I've found that you can actually die is if you don't kill the officer waiting for you on your front lawn; he kills you if you try to go anywhere from "Street". Everywhere else, consequence-free murder and mayhem is the order of the day.

The game starts by prompting you to choose your gender. Naturally, selecting either "male" or "female" will prompt a confirmation followed by a parser error, and the game does not actually pause during this sequence: you can play through the entire game with the gender prompt displayed. This, though, isn't the first visible clue that this game is an utter and complete trainwreck: that would be the fact that the banner prints "Getting started is a room" immediately after the author's name.

It's more playable than either Hors Categorie or Dog Saves Baby, but that's really not saying anything at all. The game ends in a room marked "Cliffhanger" and the victory message promises a sequel; we can only hope that by Vigilante 2, the author has actually played some IF games to base his work on. Attack of the Robot Yeti Zombies or Gun Mute would be ideal.

Flawed Addendum, by Jalbum

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Playable but uninspired, September 13, 2009
by Ryusui (Out in the middle of a field!)
"The story genre is 'Mystery'." A clue in true David Lynch fashion, this game drops you in the middle of a mysterious corridor adjoining on mysterious rooms filled with mysterious items and a mysterious man armed with a mysterious taser and - oh, who am I kidding? The only mystery in this game is the question of why the author thought he had written one.

Flawed Addendum isn't really a title I can skewer like Hors Categorie or Dog Saves Baby (whose author appears to have withdrawn the game from the Internet - thin skinned much?), but neither is it one I can particularly recommend. Unlike these shining examples of how an ambitious concept can suffocate under the weight of its own pretentiousness (both are virtually unplayable due to their hand-rolled libraries), Flawed Addendum is competently assembled, decently implemented...and arguably aspires to absolutely nothing at all.

The world of Flawed Addendum is well-detailed: rooms are furnished as you'd expect, and the machine in the foundry has several layers of description. Unfortunately, 95% of all this is pure decoration. Frustratingly, there are also some details on objects important to their use (Spoiler - click to show)(such as the keyhole on the disc or the battery compartment inside the niche) that aren't actually implemented, rendering some solutions slightly more obtuse than they really ought to be. There is precisely one NPC in the game, whose sole purpose is to vaguely menace the player (Spoiler - click to show)(although somewhat refreshingly, you are intended to attack and incapacitate him); otherwise, he is wholly uninteractive. This said, while the actual puzzle solving is entirely of the "get-x-use-x" variety, the author must be given credit for the lack of the "guess-the-author's-mind" puzzles which drown the two aforementioned games.

Taunting Donut, my only three-star review thus far, is much shorter than this game but received a higher rating. And why is this? Because Taunting Donut showed some imagination. Its puzzles are simple yet clever, its setting well-characterized, and the protagonist himself is actually given some personality through his reactions. It's not a snack-sized game; it's hardly even a nibble-sized game, but it shows a kind of creativity that, sadly, is lacking from Flawed Addendum. This is not to say that Flawed Addendum is bad in the same way that Dog Saves Baby is bad, though: in purely technical terms, Flawed Addendum is a competent work, and unlike The Gallery of Henry Beauchamp, the game can be puzzled through without leaping through arbitrary hoops. It's just disappointingly bland, that's all. It's a promising first showing, but it's spread too thin. It might have been better-served as a one-room game; there's certainly not enough content, however well-made, for the six rooms it takes up.

(Spoiler - click to show)(By the way, has anyone worked out how to get the eastern door open? The ending subtly implies I haven't done everything I could have, and considering the fact that the two keys are bronze and silver, that hints at the presence of a gold key buried somewhere...)

Dog Saves Baby, by Alex Kriss

6 of 6 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.)

Apollo 11, by Brooke Heinichen

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
One small step for man, one giant leap into the trash heap, June 24, 2008
by Ryusui (Out in the middle of a field!)
This is the second one of Mr. McCall's student projects I've had the dubious honor of reviewing. I had no illusions of Cortes's Creed(sic) being the worst of the lot; unfortunately, not only is this game worse than Cortes's Creed(sic), it is embarrassingly so. While Creed was written by people unclear on how to write an IF, Apollo 11 was apparently written by someone unclear on the very concept of IF.

The first thing you must do in the game is suit up. No, you don't "x spacesuit", "take spacesuit" and then "wear spacesuit". In fact, there's no actual spacesuit to be seen. You just "suit up". This informs you that you've magically donned your spacesuit, which changes neither your inventory nor your appearance. Next you must "check in", which is accomplished not by talking with any of the nearby NPCs (among which is the legendary Buzz Aldrin) but by simply typing "check in". The game proceeds in this fashion, intercepting the player's commands and shifting the state of the game through flags and variables but not, curiously, through the object model. You can sit in the chair aboard the Columbia but not get up from it, you can enter a door that you're told is closed and locked, and rather than skipping ahead to the moon landing after you hit the launch button, you have to wait repeatedly (mercifully skipping several minutes at a time) until you reach your orbit window (which, as far as I can tell, is not actually enforced by the game). For the grand finale, the shoddy implementation falls apart completely as you must "enter lm door" (yes, the game doesn't recognize "lunar module"), "configure launch", "confirm launch", and somewhere in all that confirm that you want to "land on sea of tranquility" (with that exact phrasing) and not on those nice soft boulders. Detective was better than this.

In conclusion, I have this to say to the author: if you've got it in your head that you're going to be the next Nelson/Plotkin/Short/Cadre, please look at some real Inform 7 source before you attempt another project. Preferably some written by one of the aforementioned authors. In lieu of that, the Inform 7 Manual is there for a purpose, and among other things it describes the built-in mechanisms for keeping track of whether the player is sitting down or not.

Cortes's Creed, by Varun Kejriwal, Utsav Hegde, Adam Karram, and Brad Buechner

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
"Amazon Trail" by way of "Detective", June 24, 2008
by Ryusui (Out in the middle of a field!)
Cortes's Creed(sic) is a "student-designed historical simulation", which in this case means "a bunch of textbook quotes strung together by inappropriately irreverent dialogue, nonexistent implementation and a general sense that nobody involved in the project really knew what they were doing."

Apart from the typo in the game's title, the game begins promisingly enough, starting you off on a well-described beach (probably ripped straight from the textbook) with a letter in hand describing just what you've done to deserve your current situation (also probably ripped straight from the textbook) and "pistol" (whoops). The moment you head west, though, prepare to be disappointed as you encounter Geronimo de Aguilar and his little Ben Gunn-esque shelter (which can't actually be entered, as the game breaks character to inform you). Examining any of the surroundings reveals some mimesis-shattering changes in tone: no doubt at least one of the four people laying claim to this train wreck didn't really care whether the end result even remotely resembled actual events. (I'd like to remind all four of you miscreants that Hernan Cortes never had cause to to talk like a member of the Teen Girl Squad.) History tells us that Señor de Aguilar was Hernan Cortes' translator and thus vital to his success, so we can assume that we are expected to bring him along. Unfortunately, this proves far more difficult for the player than it ever did for the Conquistador, as you must "ask geronimo to join army" or some such; on the upside, reading the source code reveals that there are several valid phrasings for this command, but none of them are even remotely hinted at in the game's text, and there are no help or hint functions to suggest that this distinctly nonstandard request is how you get Cortes his Mayan Rosetta Stone. Things only get worse from here.

Going into a blow-by-blow list of this game's faults would probably require a page roughly as long as Wikipedia's entry on Hernan Cortes, but suffice it to say that most exits are unmarked, objects have a habit of being referred to both in a room description and the usual nondescript objects list, and let's not forget the authors' inability to refer to things in the plural ("You can see a wooden door and a Leaders of Totonac here") or even use proper capitalization most of the time. The two further nonstandard verbs required to finish the game ("slaughter" and "arrest") are surprisingly well-clued, but the game's implementation is so ramshackle that it serves more as a proofreading exercise than a historical "simulation" of any sort. If Cortes' actual conquest of Tenochtitlan was anything like this, he would have given up in frustration shortly after landfall.

Mr. McCall, I strongly suggest you review your students' work before you publish it. This is not an alpha, it is not even remotely polished, and it is an insult to both the educational and literary potential of the Interactive Fiction medium.

Alien Extraction, by Michael Rubino, Karissa Kilgore

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Offensive, June 24, 2008
by Ryusui (Out in the middle of a field!)
Alien Extraction puts you in the boots of a man sent in to find Elian Gonzalez - yes, the Elian Gonzalez - and "shove him in a box and send him home" (the game's exact wording). In addition to its one-dimensional treatment of its subject matter, the implementation is an absolute joke: just about the only exercise of intelligence the game requires is that you must (Spoiler - click to show)knock on the door before you're allowed to enter. The NPCs are cardboard, spouting the exact same canned response regardless of what you ask them about ("talk to" is rejected)...even the "dangerous" fire truck on the floor only responds to "firetruck" (one word). The rest is simply exploring squalid rooms until you find Elian, which prompts an inane victory message (most of which is quoted above) and no further exposition.

About the only good thing that can be said is that the game never forces the player to randomly guess what must be done next; unfortunately, the game is mind-numbingly shallow to the point that simply opening every door (all three of them) and examining every hiding place (all two of them) is enough to win. A minimal solution is only six moves; it would be four, but the game doesn't implicitly attempt to open closed doors when you try to pass through them.

Rather than presenting a thoughtful criticism of an issue, Alien Extraction insults the player's intelligence by running him through an embarrassingly simple maze under the pretense of being a jackbooted thug intent on sending an innocent child back into Castro's clutches...or maybe you're a soldier for freedom, rooting out the foreign parasite and returning him to his backwards nation? It's hard to tell where the authors stand on the issue; perhaps this game was intended to lampoon both sides, but the presentation of its argument, for, against or neither, is overshadowed by its heavy-handed treatment and weak implementation. Satire is meant to offend people into action; unfortunately, the only action this game is likely to prompt is closing the window.

The Gallery of Henri Beauchamp, by Mike Vollmer

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A story adaptation with all the usual quibbles, June 23, 2008
by Ryusui (Out in the middle of a field!)
If you've never heard of the story which this is based on, don't feel ashamed. The Gallery of Henri Beauchamp is one of a myriad of so-called "creepypasta" stories brewed up in the depths of 4chan: these are basically bite-sized bits of horror, usually of the Lovecraftian variety, wrapped in the premise of an urban legend.

This is a short game. This is no surprise, as The Gallery of Henri Beauchamp is a short story. A complete walkthrough of the game is only ten lines long. But it remains an adaptation of a story, and as such falls into the same pitfall that most previous attempts at adaptation such as the two MANALIVE games fall into: it assumes an understanding of the source material. So you can't really play the game (without resorting to the in-game help, anyway) unless you're familiar with the source material, but at the same time, if you've read the source material, there's really no impetus to play the game.

The game is implemented well enough to be playable from beginning to end without any awkward responses or guessing games, but then the scope of the game is very narrow: the whole purpose of this exercise is to let the player live through the story on which it is based without any noteworthy deviations or side trips or, truth be told, any incidental detail whatsoever. That said, what detail there is happens to be quite well-written: reading the original story reveals that almost the entire text is drawn from it verbatim (the text written by the game's author tends to falter in comparison).

All told, it's a better first showing than many. The story is itself basically a copy-and-paste job, but the implementation is sound, if shallow. It's not an excellent or even a terribly good game, but it's a decent start for a new author.

Taunting Donut, by Kalev Tait

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
An incredibly short game, good for beginners, June 19, 2008
by Ryusui (Out in the middle of a field!)
This is a one-room game with two simple, but very logical, puzzles. It doesn't aim very high, but it hits its target. The sparse implementation is well-excused by the premise that the protagonist has been abducted by aliens who are not all that sure of what constitutes ideal living conditions for a human being: literally everything plays into one of the game's puzzles in some capacity, and subtle details give the protagonist himself a nice bit of characterization. Taunting Donut is nothing earth-shattering, but the author definitely shows promise with this first effort.

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