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Aotearoa

by Matt Wigdahl profile

2010

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Reviews and Ratings

5 star:
(9)
4 star:
(19)
3 star:
(5)
2 star:
(2)
1 star:
(1)
Average Rating:
Number of Ratings: 36
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- kala (Finland), August 4, 2014

- Enrique, July 31, 2013

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Cute Journey of Empowerment, May 11, 2013
by Andromache (Hawaii)
Being from Hawaii and having read Whale Rider, "Aotearoa" was on my watch list once I was made aware of its existence. It plays much like "Blue Lacuna" in terms of parsing, so I adapted to the keyword system pretty easily. I like it, and definitely appreciated all the scenery and background information implemented. I mean, even down to a guardrail.

This game was so easy I did not need to resort to hints. There was never a case where I wandered around wondering what Iíd missed. I was also told explicitly what to do and why some solution or other wouldnít work. I really appreciate those sorts of feedback responses, so I know at least Iím on the right track and just need to fix whatever the problem is.

Again, being from Hawaii, I am familiar with Maui and some of the stories about him. I also recognized some words, like "tapu" ("kapu" in Hawaiian), mana (same in Hawaiian), and "taro" ("kalo.") Also, "atua" ("akua.") I appreciated the history and backstory implemented into the menus. Helped to flesh out the game world. And naming the animals was lots of fun. (Spoiler - click to show)Riding the Notoceratops and the scene where weíre staring at each other for magical, spiritually connected moments is something I wonít soon forget. Such a mighty, magnificent creature - deadly but also friendly at the same time. I named mine Boga, because it kind of reminded me of Obi-Wanís battle mount in Star Wars Episode III.

Characterizationís not that deep, but whatís there is very engaging. (Spoiler - click to show)I liked looking at Timís backpack and piecing together his backstory and getting to talk to the captain and Eruera about themselves. Speaking of Eruera, I really liked him. He was a great mentor for Tim and I could see him becoming an adopted dad, since heís got his aunt. Having Tim be the one to help Eruera and having Eruera encourage Tim with stories and tidbits of Maori culture really helped me to bond with him and made me feel empowered. It was also comforting to have an adult there who was calm and practical. The nanakia was cute. I confess I was laughing at the poacher when the nanakia was getting the better of him, and the end sequence being chased by poachers is really well done. Thereís not a move to waste, and a fair amount of ways to die. Adds to the urgency that thereís really no time to try to explore, but itís not exactly a timed puzzle that requires a lot of trial and error. Was rather fun to plow into the jeep and kill the poachers inside. I hope that dinosaur got away and destroyed the place. I think itís implied it did, but we donít see it conclusively.

I highly recommend this game. Good writing, enjoyable characters, and I appreciate that while this is a game that reads like juvenile/young adult fiction, I donít feel excluded or patronized. This sort of thing would probably make an entertaining cartoon. A great effort.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Fun. Felt like an old skool CYOA ported to IF, April 14, 2013
(This review is based on the original IF Comp release.)

In many respects, I very much enjoyed Aotearoa. It was perhaps the closest I've ever come to experiencing the comforting old skool feel of a Choose Your Own Adventure ported to interactive fiction. The PC, the plot, the things that happen... it feels like something straight out of a good CYOA by Packard, and I mean that as a high compliment.

The game grabs you right away with a strong prologue that is appropriate to the story and gets your mind ready for an adventure set in the land of the Maori. The writing is strong and sure. But once the player is given the volition to move about and do things, some of the gaps start to show. I hate to point out those gaps, because Wigdahl has done some very, very good things here, but I found myself pretty frustrated.

The frustrations varied. One example: items mentioned in scenery descriptions that sounded useful for the current puzzle sometimes weren't actually implemented. In another instance, a very plausible alternate solution was unaddressed; I had everything I needed to solve the puzzle but the game said I didn't have the necessary items ((Spoiler - click to show)I had a straight stick, when what the game thought I needed was a board). There was a lot of rail roading and quite a few triggered events that were very difficult to figure out unless you got lucky and stumbled upon them or went for a hint. The conversation menu topics were pretty limited, and often avoided things that would have been very useful in favor of things I wasn't too curious about.

That said, I enjoyed quite a bit about this game. Some of the puzzles were quite clever and fun, and there were a fun command that allowed you to name the critters you encountered in the game. There was an element of backstory and character development lovingly crafted for this game that you don't often see in this sort of game, giving it an element of depth you wouldn't otherwise expect in this genre. The scenery descriptions were generally quite beautiful, with a definite sense of having been written by someone who spends time in the natural world.

Unfortunately, the greatest frustration of all was that I'm pretty sure I encountered a show stopping bug. My husband was one of the testers, and he took a look at my predicament and agreed. Sad way to end the game, seemingly about three-quarters of the way through, and before what I suspect was an interesting climax.

- DJ (Olalla, Washington), February 5, 2013

- Lubulos, September 10, 2012

- Wade Clarke (Sydney, Australia), July 12, 2012

- Ben Treat (Maine, USA), July 7, 2012

- Andrew Schultz (Chicago), May 14, 2012

- stadtgorilla (Munich, Germany), April 17, 2012

- puzzler (Everett, Washington), January 19, 2012

- katz (Altadena, California), November 26, 2011

- Savaric (Sweden), August 31, 2011

- RichCheng (London, UK), July 28, 2011

- RandomExile, May 19, 2011

- Rotonoto (Albuquerque, New Mexico), May 16, 2011

- Jonathan Blask (Milwaukee, WI, USA), April 4, 2011

- JohnW (Brno, Czech Republic), March 16, 2011

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
Highly polished children's game, February 15, 2011
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)
Aotearoa is a children's game. (I suppose that everything for children of 6 years and older is called "young adult" by now, but as far as I'm concerned a young adult is approximately 20.) It tells the story of Tim, who has been chosen to visit a New Zealand that never was: it is a small continent where the Maori managed to more or less stop the English invaders by riding dinosaurs. O, yes. Dinosaurs. Not huge dinosaurs, but still, even a medium-sized dinosaur is fun.

After an opening scene that could use some tightening, Tim's trip suddenly turns into an even more exciting adventure. We're squarely into adventure stories territory, with Tim exploring a forest full of dinosaurs, befriending the local wildlife, and getting shot at by poachers to boot. All of which is good fun. The puzzles are fine, if perhaps at times a little too difficult for the younger part of the audience. The animals you will meet are very well implemented, with the right combination of being a real animal and being cute, and (as every reviewer has pointed out) you can name them. Every small male dinosaur ought to be called Henk. Believe me.

There is other good stuff as well, such as the keyword interface of Blue Lacuna, lists of conversation topics, and exits listed in the status bar. At times the author may have relied on these a bit too much: exits are badly described in the text, and nouns that are not highlighted are almost invariably not understood. But all in all Aotearoa gives a very smooth experience.

My biggest gripe is that unlike some other children's stories, this one doesn't have much to offer to adults. It's just a simplistic adventure story with dinosaurs, and the references to Maori culture, though intriguing, feel tacked on and fail to give any real depth. This isn't a huge problem, but it limits the appeal of the game.

There has been some discussion about whether the game is (inadvertently) propagating racial stereotypes. These discussions are always sensitive, and I'm not particularly eager to take up a position in them. I just want to state for the record that to me nothing in this game felt inappropriate. (Also: the game has the Maori defeating the English by cultivating a relationship with dinosaurs, and states that the fictional New Zealand conservation policies have been an inspiration to the entire world. So any white-boy-saves-the-natives plot seems to be balanced by a Maori-kick-ass-and-teach-the-world-about-environmentalism backstory.)

- Ben Cressey (Seattle, WA), February 14, 2011

- lobespear, February 2, 2011

- ifwizz (Berlin, Germany), January 2, 2011

- jahilia, December 25, 2010

- Bernie (Fredericksburg, VA), December 19, 2010

- Simon Christiansen (Denmark), December 10, 2010


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