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Reviews by J. J. Guest

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View this member's reviews by tag: Ectocomp 2014 IF Comp 2018
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Return of the Diamond, by R. McGregor

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A Basic Text Adventure, in BASIC, August 1, 2020
by J. J. Guest (London, England)
I first encountered Return of the Diamond in a book called "Games and other programs for the Acorn Electron", published by Penguin Books.

The game is very simple, with just nine locations. It does, however, contain all the basics of a simple parser game. There is a light source puzzle, basic combat and an inventory limit. It can be quite frustrating to play, and despite its size, it took me two or three tries to beat it.

Return of the Diamond is significant for me as it was the first example I found of how a text adventure could be coded. It became the basis of all the games I would write in BBC Basic, and in time I learned to expand the two-word parser into four, and make many other improvements. I would find better examples in time, mostly in the pages of Electron User magazine, but this was the game that got me into programming and writing IF.

The Dragon Diamond, by Kenneth Pedersen

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A Short, Traditional Adventure With Clever Puzzles, June 30, 2020
by J. J. Guest (London, England)
The Dragon Diamond is the first of a trilogy of games, and thus far the only one to have been ported to Inform. The story and setting are not the most original, but it's enjoyable enough for all that. The game's best feature are its puzzles, which are quite clever. Some items have several different uses, and many of the puzzles have multiple solutions. I did have guess-the-verb type problems with some of the puzzles, however, and though the author has rated The Dragon Diamond as "Merciful" on the Zarfian forgiveness scale, I also found at least one way to get the game into an unwinnable state. These quibbles aside, I would still recommend The Dragon Diamond as a good game for a beginner, as it is quite short and includes a hint system.

fin de sickleburg, by Caleb Wilson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Bite-Sized Gothic Horror, June 21, 2020
by J. J. Guest (London, England)
Fin de Sickleburg is very short one-room game by Caleb Wilson, author of Lime Ergot. It's so short, in fact, that to say anything about the subject matter would be to give too much away. This one has multiple endings and a limited verb set, which means that you have to get quite creative with the way you use the commands to find all three endings. The writing is well-crafted, creepy and atmospheric, and very fitting for the Gothic horror genre. Each of the three endings reveals a little more about the player character and the game world, so it's well worth making the effort to find them all. It took me less than ten minutes. Good fun if you're a fan of Gothic horror and have a few minutes to spare.

Ghost King, by Jason Compton

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Something Not So Rotten, June 20, 2020
by J. J. Guest (London, England)
A game designed to answer the question, what might have resulted had Scott Adams decided to release a series of games based on Shakespeare's plays. Ghost King is written in the same programming language, and within the same tight memory constraints as the original Adventure International titles. The author has tried very hard to capture the essence of those early text adventures, right down to the terse messages, odd use of capitalisation and occasional typo. In this he succeeds magnificently, and at times you could really believe you're playing a game made in 1980. It also succeeds in translating the main story beats of Hamlet into a series of object-based puzzles, retaining some of Shakespeare's best lines, and including a "find the *treasures*" side-quest into the bargain.

If I were to assign an Adventure International difficulty level to this game, I'd have to make it "advanced". You do need to be reasonably familiar with the play to get very far with it, and some of the puzzles are less intuitive than those in the early Scott Adams Adventures. I was a beta tester, but I was unable to solve it without hints from the author, whereas I've solved most of Adams's "moderate" games without hints. Ghost King does a great job of juggling the complex subject matter with the antiquated authoring system and quirky style of an Adams game, but loses something of the latter in translation. If anything, the author could have been a little more irreverent with his source material, thrown in the odd anachronism, perhaps, or a little more low-brow humour. (There is one particular word-play puzzle, though, that made me laugh out loud!)

Overall, this is an excellent pastiche, right down to the cover art, and highly recommended to fans of the Scott Adams Adventures. It does exactly what it sets out to do, and does it well.

For Rent: Haunted House, by Gavin Inglis

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Unreal Estate, September 14, 2019
by J. J. Guest (London, England)
I was recommended this game, and it is one of the most enjoyable Choice Of games I've played. Unlike with many Choice Of games, you are not required to spend time at the beginning customizing you character, which can sometimes feel a bit arbitrary and uninvolving to me. Instead the game launches straight into the story, casting you as a harassed estate agent working for a small company in Edinburgh. You're charged with renting out a house with a mysterious history, and your whole livelihood depends upon making a success of it. The NPCs are both interesting and believable, and the choices you make have a real influence on the course of the story. There is enough branching to give the game plenty of replay value, which is one of the key things I look for in a choice-based story. It is also very funny. Of the Choice Of Games that I've played so far, this is my favourite, and I'll definitely be trying other games by this author.

The Fifth Continent, by Daniel Gunnell

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A Walk Through K, July 20, 2019
by J. J. Guest (London, England)
This is a curious little game set on the Kent coast. It doesn't have any puzzles as such, and I completed it in just 42 moves. It was the setting that captured my interest, as I have been meaning to explore that part of the English coastline for a while. It was quite enjoyable to just wander around and look at the scenery, and there really isn't a lot else to do. Because it's rare to find games set in the real world, I decided to mirror my progress on Google Streetview at the same time. Through doing this I realised that some of the moves you make in the game take you several miles in the real-life geography, but this isn't really apparent from the writing. The writing otherwise does a decent job of describing a place which is obviously very familiar to the author, and there are dashes of humour. The Fifth Continent could have done with an experienced beta tester, though. There are a fair few typos, including "pidgeon" for pigeon, (though it's just possible the author intended to use an archaic spelling) and dozens of unimplemented scenery objects. It feels like an early effort, and I can't really give this game more than two stars, but I did spend an enjoyable few minutes exploring Romney Marsh and I look forward to future games by this author.

Edit: the spelling and grammatical errors have been cleared up since this review was written.

The Kingdom of Klein, by Melvyn E. Wright and Dave M. Johnson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Epic's 'Adventure', July 19, 2019
by J. J. Guest (London, England)
Epic Adventures, a small company operating out of a terrace house in Kibworth Beauchamp, Leicestershire, were nevertheless one of the biggest and best known producers of text adventure games for the Acorn Electron. The Kingdom of Klein was their third release.

Perhaps surprisingly, The Kingdom of Klein shows a stronger influence of Crowther and Woods' 'Adventure' than either of the author's previous two games. It's a cave crawl, the aim being to restore the Klein Bottle to its rightful place on a pedestal in the King's palace. Along the way you'll also have to find the five Platonic solids. It's a big game, boasting 230 locations, and this, along with a superior parser, was a big selling point for Epic's catalogue. In reality, it's one of the game's biggest flaws, and all of Melvyn Wright's games suffer from the same problem. Most of those 230 rooms are there simply to represent distance and scale. To give an example, at one point in the game you find yourself on an open plain. To cross it, you must go west 11 times! Later in the game you find yourself in a ravine which requires you to go east 18 times before you arrive at where you need to be. A mountain takes 10 moves to climb up and down, and so on. This might be acceptable once, but the game requires you to constantly retrace your steps and traverse the same terrain. Needless to say, most of these intermediary locations are empty and have nearly identical descriptions.

The puzzles are very much in the spirit of 'Adventure', but completely original. Wands and magic spells feature heavily and some of the solutions are rather under-clued, though the hint sheet provided makes up for this. For the purposes of this review I played with the help of Dorothy Millard's CASA walkthrough, but when I reached the point where I had given up in the 1980s, I was actually surprised at how close my teenage self had got to the end. There's a fairly generous inventory limit, but it can still be a problem given the size of the map. For a cassette-based game written in 1984, the parser is remarkably robust, and I had no problems making the game understand what I wanted to do. The parser in Epic's later The Lost Crystal is even more impressive.

Returning to The Kingdom of Klein after 35 years, the game, though bug-free and solidly programmed, is definitely showing its age. I'd be hard pressed to recommend it to a modern IF player, but for those interested in IF history it's an interesting artefact, clearly influenced by 'Adventure' but not in any way derivative of it. Three stars.

a short walk in the spring, by Amorphous

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A Walk Through S, May 2, 2019
by J. J. Guest (London, England)
I liked this. Structurally, as well as thematically, I was reminded of the 1978 film "A Walk Through H: The Reincarnation of an Ornithologist" by Peter Greenaway. Stylistically I was reminded by the work of the so-called Spectric School of poetry. It took me a long time to play through it, because I was always tempted to wander. The more I wandered, the more interesting the game became, and the reason for this is given in the afterword, which itself makes for interesting reading. The randomly generated text was well done, benefiting from a diverse vocabulary, but it might have been improved by more variety in terms of sentence structure. All in all, a very interesting literary experiment.

Draculaland, by Robin Johnson

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Great for playing with kids, April 29, 2019
by J. J. Guest (London, England)
I played this engagingly silly game with my 7 year old nephew, and he absolutely loved it. The terse text and clever button interface were an ideal introduction to the medium of IF, and though we went on to play a couple of traditional parser games, he liked this one the best.

We played on a mobile phone, and I hope Robin goes on to release more games for mobiles. I hope, also, that he releases an authoring tool for Versificator so that other authors can use it!

Draculaland riffs on a host of classic monster movie tropes and features (mostly) logical puzzles. We resorted to the hints once or twice. The only really disappointing thing was that (Spoiler - click to show)in spite of the title, you don't get to see a lot of the eponymous vampire. It might have been fun if he'd turned up earlier in the story.

Scout's Honour, by Gareth Pitchford

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Bob-a-job Week, December 12, 2018
by J. J. Guest (London, England)
This is a retro text adventure written using the Adventuron system, a web-based IF language for creating games resembling those of the 8-bit era. Scout's Honour was written by a veteran of Delbert the Hamster and Zenobi, two prolific software houses which specialised in text adventures for the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad computers in the 1990s. This game is very much of that ilk. It has a lively comic voice, daft puzzles and a suburban, Middle England setting reminiscent of the Adrian Mole books. Your task is to complete five 'bob-a-jobs' (simple tasks for a small payment) for a Boy Scout badge, in order to attend a disco and ask out the girl of your dreams. The Adventuron interface, despite its retro styling is a surprisingly slick, and whilst the parser is a long way from the standards of Inform or TADS, I experienced very little guess-the-verb or other problems associated with vintage games. Scout's Honour isn't trying to be modern IF. Adventuron is designed to capture the look and feel of the old Spectrum games, and it does this perfectly. I haven't completed Scout's Honour yet, but it amused me enough make me to want to try.


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