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Reviews by matt w (Matt Weiner)

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1-3 of 3


Hard Puzzle, by Ade McT

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
deliberately bad game design is still bad game design, May 18, 2016
by matt w (Matt Weiner) (Burlington, VT)
First a confession: I did not finish this game. Perhaps when someone reveals the solution to me I will slap my forehead and reconsider this.

However, this is a game that deliberately commits any number of sins against design. A key verb is hidden in the ABOUT text. An action that puts new objects in your inventory doesn't tell you what those objects are, forcing you to type in an extra command and scroll through a long inventory list to see what you've just obtained. Several descriptions are unhelpful. The game has an enormous number of objects in it, most of which appear to be irrelevant, and very few of which give you cues how to use it. A critical action has to be repeated several times before yielding anything. It has at least one thing (Spoiler - click to show)(the tape) which can be interacted with in a way that seems to give you progress... but the interaction is shakily implemented (Spoiler - click to show)you can ATTACH TAPE TO THING but not ATTACH THING TO TAPE, and if there's a way to use it to attach two things together it's not well clued) and doesn't appear to lead to anything significant. And it is full of bugs in the world model--things that can be put in spaces they shouldn't fit in, things that are takeable and shouldn't be, things that mysteriously disappear when you perform an unrelated action (Spoiler - click to show)(when you break or reassemble the stool, anything on/in it gets whisked off-stage with the completed stool or stool base, and can only be retrieved by re-assembling/re-breaking the object).

All, or many, of these effects are deliberate and cued in the game in various ways. But that doesn't make the game any better to play. A game that wastes your time for satirical/parodic reasons by making you examine twenty irrelevant objects is still wasting your time by making you examine twenty irrelevant objects. A game full of deliberate bugs, some of which you must exploit to win the game, is still making it impossible to predict the consequences of your action and forcing you into try-everything-on-everything gameplay; which, given the massive number of things involved, is incredibly tedious.

It's possible to have good game design that simulates bad design. I've played and enjoyed a game (Spoiler - click to show)(9:05) that withholds critical information from the player. I've enjoyed games like Pick Up The Phone Booth And Die and Annoyotron that are shallowly implemented in order to frustrate your expectations deliberately. I've even written a game, "The Coming of the Mirthful Messiahs," that deliberately exploits a bug. But all these games restrict the possibility space enough that it's possible to find out what's being concealed from you, or light upon the solution just by trying a limited number of things, or know that you're progressing (through Annoyotron) even when you're mindlessly repeating actions. Hard Puzzle is more like Pick Up The Phone Booth And Die 2, which includes a lot of systems that are irrelevant to the solution in order to send you down blind paths.

Good game design finds a way to lead the player to be aware of the possibilities of the game, even where those possibilities involve apparent glitches or misdirection. At the very least, it rewards the exploration that the player must do on the way to stumbling across those possibilities. By these criteria, Hard Puzzle is not good game design. It is designed to deliberately waste the player's time.

You Were Here, by Joshua Houk

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
not your average game, but a delightful bit of randomness, January 29, 2015
by matt w (Matt Weiner) (Burlington, VT)
You Were Here doesn't give you any interaction options and doesn't make any attempt at coherence. If you go in expecting some normal sort of IF interaction, you will be confused and disappointed.

What it does is present a mashup of text from the introductions of IF games published in 2014, and I enjoyed seeing the juxtapositions. Here's a nice one:

(Spoiler - click to show)You can go west. Once there was a girl called Catherine Apple-Ninja Denise Yarmilla van Houten. Once upon a time there was an old man, shrouded in mystery venturing across the land living his life. The list for the hundred-year Convent of Evil was published and you were eleventh on the list.

And here's the next one:

(Spoiler - click to show)Congratulations! Laughter tastes bitter in a burnt mouth, and yet that's what you're continuously doing with this girl at the bar. Having murdered his brother-in-law, Orrin Brower of Kentucky was a fugitive from justice.

So, if you like this sort of procedurally generated juxtaposition, enjoy! If you don't, you probably won't enjoy.

(Review applies to Inform 7 version of game.)

The Chronicler, by John Evans

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Less Awful Than You Might Think, November 17, 2013
by matt w (Matt Weiner) (Burlington, VT)
This is a Crap Underimplemented Game. That's pretty much its genre. There's never a description where "You see nothing special about the X" will do, and you're lucky to get that. This isn't a good thing; it necessarily limits immersion, occasionally gets in the way of understanding what's going on, and breaks any trust in the author one might have thought of having.

But "The Chronicler" is not entirely lacking in merit. For one, despite what the author says about its unfinished state, it can be played to an ending. For another, it's actually reasonably possible to get to that ending. The puzzles are fair -- no guess the verb that I can remember -- and, unlike many a better game, they revolve around a consistent central mechanism that's rather clever: (Spoiler - click to show)You can travel back and forth between two moments in time, and changes you make in the past affect what you can do in the future. This isn't the first game to use this mechanism, but it's reasonably well implemented and reveals itself fairly.

In the end, I found the mechanism engaging enough that I played the game all the way through and got a half hour of decent diversion from it. This is more than I can say of some objectively better games. The author ought to spend a lot more time polishing things, implementing scenery, and either finishing the things he's left unfinished (some alternate endings and a hint of plot) or excising them from the game completely. But I didn't find it a complete waste of my time. That exceeded my expectations.


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