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Scavenger Hunt, by Gilles Duchesne
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:Thoughts on an Old School Tutorial Game, December 27, 2010
by BainespalWhen we think of one of the oldest traditions of text adventures, treasure collecting, we probably envision subterranean cave crawls or dungeons, difficult timers, instant death traps, and anachronistic worldbuilding. Scavenger Hunt, which commences with the premise of searching for a few miscellaneous items in order for the player character to win a bet, is not anachronistic, and it certainly isn't a cave crawl. However, the other conventions very much apply.
The experience of playing Gilles Duchesne's Hugo tutorial game is not one of frustration, as might be expected of a game belonging to such an old-fashioned class of interactive fiction that was also written at least partly with the purpose of being a programming example. The game is not ambitious, but it is very well designed within its simple framework. Although its primary value is that of an example and tutorial for people interested in learning the Hugo programming language and authoring system, Scavenger Hunt is far from worthless, even to players. Its value as a game is not divorced from its value as a tutorial, either. I believe that in order for a demonstration program to serve as a good tutorial for teaching an IF authoring system, the example game must be fully-developed (though likely very simple) and enjoyable in its own right.
Many traditional-style IF games contain some amount of wry, sarcastic humor at the player's expense; the smart-aleck parser knows better than the person at the keyboard. The sparing prose of Scavenger Hunt is always colloquial and often witty, but it doesn't seem to make fun of the player at all, except in a couple cases in response to particularly mischievous (or perhaps desperate) commands. There is little to be praised about the writing on a technical level. Explicit narration is glaringly present in the first room description, a pet-peeve of myself and, I imagine, many IF players. However, I don't fault the casual writing too much. It creates a light-hearted tone appropriate for this work. The atmosphere is enhanced by the tasteful cartoon pictures, and to a lesser degree, by the occasional sound effects.
The puzzles are logical and probably fairly easy. Two or three puzzles are built upon each other, but that's as far as the hierarchy of obstructions goes. All of the rooms of the very small map are available for exploration at the beginning of the game. The map and puzzles operate within the framework of a master-puzzle, a restrictive time limit that commences at the very first turn. It's quite likely that players will lose to the time limit at least once, but for some reason this is not so upsetting in practice as it sounds. The game is small enough that retracing your steps is a simple matter. The puzzles are the entire point of gameplay in such a traditional and simple work as this, but solving the puzzles would be less rewarding without the time limit.
There is little background to the game in either story or setting. Typically, for a puzzlefest, the only function of the premise is to send the player off solving puzzles and collecting treasures. Unfortunately, the setting of Scavenger Hunt is not nearly developed enough to make up for the lack of plot. The PC is completely undescribed but assumed to be male. The main NPC is only described as the PC's "friend," as if the PC doesn't even care to think about the name of his best friend with whom he has been "through thick and thin, good and bad." Strangely, there are more injected opinions about a couple of the other NPCs, which are significantly less important to the vague shell of a story. Similarly, the setting of the game is so normal and nondescript as to be universal. Of course, I highly doubt any symbolic universality was intended.
To be honest, I would never have played this game if I hadn't been studying Hugo. I am glad that I played it through before examining its source code, because I found Scavenger Hunt to be mildly satisfying as an easy puzzle game. It could not have taken me much more than half an hour to complete (including reading the author's notes after winning) despite having had to start over twice. Therefore, I feel justified in recommending Scavenger Hunt as a short but reasonably polished text adventure to those who can appreciate traditional puzzlefests. Although the segment of the IF community that could enjoy playing Scavenger Hunt may be fairly small, I think whatever amount of genuine value as a game that this coding tutorial may posses deserves to be recognized.
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