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Reviews by Denk

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View this member's reviews by tag: ADRIFT 4 ADRIFT 5 Eamon Homebrew parser inform Telarium
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The Heart of Gold, by Frank Kunze

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Hitchhiker's Guide meets Eamon: No combat and lots of puzzles, January 12, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Eamon
The Heart of Gold (THoG) is highly inspired by the first two books in the “Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” series but twists the story, so that the planet Eamon was in the way of a new 'hyperspace bypass' and would promptly be destroyed. Your friend Ford Prefect helps you escape by hitching a ride with The Heart of Gold spaceship, where you will meet all the familiar characters from the first novel. From here, you will go through four well-known but modified scenes from the series before you reach the end.

Some of the puzzles will be easier if you have read the books and played the Infocom game “Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” but there are still some good original puzzles in it. The puzzles are certainly easier than the Infocom game but the forgiveness rating of THoG is more cruel: If you feel stuck in some of the last three scenes, it is most likely because you didn't find everything there was to find in the first scene. However, the game is quite short once you know what to do, so it isn't that time consuming to start over. There is a built in hint-system. I only needed a couple of hints (which I regretted) but if you haven't played the Infocom game or read the books you might need more. Overall, I regard the puzzles as fair.

The author (Frank Kunze later known as Frank Black) chose to write the game with the Eamon system, which is normally used for combat-heavy IF games, where you can bring character stats, weapons and armor from other Eamon games. However, ThoG doesn't contain combat at all and it is a standalone-game, which means that you cannot bring any stats, weapons or armor into the game.

Furthermore, the game understands seven new verbs compared to a standard Eamon game, whereas commands which doesn't make sense in this game, such as the four standard spells, have been removed. It can be argued that the game is an IF with a restricted verb set, and if you type a word the game doesn't understand, all verbs understood by the game are listed. If you never played an Eamon adventure before, you might want to check out the first option in the HINTS menu (General Help), which doesn't reveal anything about the puzzles in the game. Instead it tells you about how the Eamon parser behaves, which is a little different than modern IF games. Most importantly, you can INVENTORY characters to see what they are carrying and if you want objects inside other objects you must REMOVE them. The parser is primarily a two-word parser, e.g. TALK ARTHUR, though it does also understand phrases like GIVE KNIFE TO ARTHUR etc. However, the Eamon parser has the advantage that you don't need to write whole words, e.g. you may type EX WA instead of EXAMINE WALKIE-TALKIE.

The humor is more or less stolen from the books, which I regard as a good thing since I regard THoG as a tribute game with some original puzzles, and since many authors have attempted to be as funny as Douglas Adams without success.

So if you enjoyed The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in any form, and you don't mind the alternative Eamon parser, you will probably enjoy this small puzzlefest.

Finally, some practical info for Linux, Mac and Windows users:(Spoiler - click to show)Unless you want to run an APPLE II emulator to play, you must download and run PC Eamon Museum for your machine. When it starts up, select "Visit Eamon Deluxe 4.5 (2007)". Then choose 1.Enter the Main Hall. When you are asked if you go over to the desk, hit "D". Then choose any of the predefined characters. It doesn't matter which one, since character stats, weapons and armor are not used in the adventure. After selecting a character, you will see a graphical view of the Main Hall. Your character is placed in the top-middle. All you have to do is go one step up using the arrow keys. You will then be asked whether you want to go on a (A)dventure or (L)eave the universe. Type 'A'. Now you get to choose which adventure set to play. Frank Kunze changed his name to Frank Black, so select "The Frank Black Adventures". Answer the questions, select "Play an adventure" and pick "The Heart of Gold". The game is now running.

Redemption, by Sam Ruby
Forgotten gem, November 29, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: Eamon
First, I should tell you that this game is a standalone Eamon game. If you are familiar with Eamon games, you know that they normally allow the player to bring their own character with improved stats, effective weapons and armour etc. and there will usually be a lot of combat.

However, in this game, you do not bring your own character (if you play the game through Eamon Deluxe, you have to bring a character on this adventure, but the stats, weapons etc. of that character will not be transferred to this game). You start off unarmed without armour and you cannot see your stats. And when you complete the game you do not get to keep your weapons. In that sense, it is similar to the popular "Leadlight".

Some randomized turn-based combat is unavoidable, though there is not a lot of combat, and as usual with Eamon games, it is a very simple combat system, not anything like say "Kerkerkruip". However, combat is quickly executed. Let's say you meet three pirates, it is sufficient to type e.g. "A PIR" (though you may type "ATTACK PIRATE" if you like). Subsequently, you just hit enter, which will repeat your previous command, and so you will quickly see if you have a chance to beat the enemies or if you are currently too injured or if you have too little armour or are in need of a better weapon.

Since combat is executed quickly, it becomes a sort of a puzzle, which enemies to attack and what weapons and armour you should buy first. You might have to solve some puzzles first to gain money or equipment before you will have a chance against certain enemies. For instance, it may pay off to attack a difficult enemy even though you will get mortally wounded since you might find some treasure you can sell and then you can pay someone to heal you. I personally enjoy such a combination of puzzles and turn-based combat.

The genre is classical fantasy with dragons, magic etc. You will need to talk a lot to people and ask about things to complete this game. I estimate that I used about 4-5 hours to complete the game without hints. However, there are in-game hints if you need that. The parser is a two-word parser with prompts, e.g. if you type "PUT SWORD", you will be asked "Put it in what?", If you type a verb which is not understood, you will get a list of all the verbs, which are understood. If you are to use an object, the command is normally USE <object>. Verbs can usually be abbreviated, e.g. "EX" for "EXAMINE". I had no problems with the parser, but it might be because I have played several Eamon games.

The locations are simple to map, as long as you have a separate map for the wilderness and separate maps for the cities. This you are told when the game begins along with some other information, which is good to keep in mind. So I recommend that you take notes while you play. It is also recommended to save often (you have 5 save slots), especially if you defeat a strong enemy.

The game is well written with typical Eamon quirks, which do not bother me, e.g. if you examine an object you will usually get the same message as you got when the object first appeared. If you don't have a problem with such old fashioned issues and if you don't have a problem with simple randomized combat, you might enjoy this game as much as I did.

Bradford Mansion, by Lenard Gunda

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Homebrew parser puzzlefest, November 24, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: Homebrew parser
In this game you play the role of a young associate at a law firm. Your task is to find a will in the Bradford Mansion. The story is minimal but sufficient for a good puzzlefest. The homebrew parser was pretty good. However, I think the author should have chosen some different verbs for some of the problems. However, by experimenting I found out that if I couldn't guess a verb, I should often use "USE", e.g. "use hook with fishing rod" (fictive example).

It took me only a little more than two hours to complete the game without hints. However, I did not have maximum points, so if you like to improve your score, there is more entertainment in this game. The ending was a bit disapointing though.

The game is quite classical with some typical NPC's (butler, gardener and maid). Some of the puzzles I had more or less seen before, but that does not necessarily mean that the author didn't come up with the idea himself. It is just hard to think up a puzzle, which hasn't been used before in some form or another. Still this was a very entertaining game. Four stars.

City of Secrets, by Emily Short

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Good game, November 23, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: inform
This game is kind of a spy thriller set in a city where magic and technology exist side by side. You, an innocent tourist, is aboard a train when the train suddenly breaks down. You will thus have to stay for a while in this city you never intended to visit. Quickly you will get involved in a plot.

The game starts of very well with some events happening, which makes the story progress smoothly. After this, you get to explore the city, have lots of conversations and you get to solve some puzzles along the way. More events will occur later after you have played for awhile, progressing the story further, even if you haven't solved that many puzzles.

It turns out that you do not need to solve all puzzles to complete the game. At one point I got stuck, so I searched the internet for a walkthrough. Apparently no one has made one, so when I finally managed to complete the game, I decided to write a walkthrough. Some events occur simply after a number of turns after something has happened. As a consequence, following the walkthrough you will at some point have to wait 90(!) turns as you wait for something to happen. However, the first time you play the game you will be using even more turns exploring the city and so it will feel natural that something suddenly happens. Only if you replay the game and you are trying to figure out how to trigger a certain event, you will realize that it will occur simply after many turns have passed.

It is my impression that this game cannot be made unwinnable, though I am not completely sure. It may also have more than one winning ending(?), though I only managed to find one. So, unless you are looking for alternative endings, you shouldn't need to restart the game. Should you die, you can always undo.

To complete this game you do not need to solve a lot of puzzles. However, there will be lots of conversations. The conversation system takes a little getting used to, but then it is quite convenient.

To sum up, this is a very well written story-driven game with a few puzzles and lots of conversation, which I can certainly recommend.

Old Jim's Convenience Store, by Anssi Räisänen
Short but fun puzzlefest, November 20, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: inform
This game is a short puzzlefest set in the present. You inherit a convienience store from your uncle. However, there is more to it than that. I don't want to spoil anything, so I will not say anything more about the plot. The puzzles are quite easy. I did however, have to consult the walkthrough once, which I regretted since the action I needed to do was an action I usually try if I am stuck, but forgot to try here. So the puzzles were certainly fair. The story is not original at all but serves the purpose for a good but fairly easy puzzlefest. Recommended, especially to people new to parser IF.

The House on Sycamore Lane, by Paul Michael Winters
Good game with minor issues, November 20, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: inform
This is a quite good game with a few issues here and there but nothing serious. The story is simple but sufficient for a small entertaining puzzlefest. There was one puzzle, which made me look at the walkthrough since I was impatient to get on with the story. I immediately regretted it, since it was a fair puzzle. The rest of the puzzles were fairly easy, despite technical issues here and there and so I managed to complete it within 90 minutes. I enjoyed it.

Skies Above, by Arthur DiBianca
Very original, November 20, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: inform
This game is something I have never seen in interactive fiction before. The only game I can think of being slightly similar is "Superluminal Vagrant Twin", in the sense that you need to save up money and that you gain access to new locations as you progress. However, besides money you must gain "floatrons" in Skies Above, which determines how high up in the sky your airship can go. There are several "mini-games" where you can earn money, floatrons or both.

I must say that when I first started playing the game, one of the first "mini-games" seemed a bit repetitive. However, the game quickly opens up with very varied gameplay and you gain routine so that you can quickly finish the repetitive jobs. So even if the game may not impress you to begin with, carry on. This game is really good!

Even though there is a sort of ending, the game can apparently continue forever it seems with a list of achievements and some mysterious objects you can obtain if you keep playing. You can never die and the the game has a limited parser, so guess-the-verb is never an issue.

I played for about 4 hours before I was satisfied, but I could have continued for a long time without seeing everything there is to see. I highly recommend this game.

Sugarlawn, by Mike Spivey

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Optimization problem with easy and hard puzzles, November 18, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: inform
In this game, you are participating in a reality TV show on the Sugarlawn Plantation. Your objective is to earn as much money you can within 30 minutes. You earn money by finding valuables and return with them to the foyer. Even better, if you can find out what the target location is of a valuable and put it there, you will get a bonus. In addition, you get a bonus if you manage to escape from the house. There is also mentioned a secret bonus. Bonuses will be doubled if you do not bring the sack to carry stuff. In other words, if you accept an inventory limit, your bonuses will be doubled. So this is a rare example of a game, where it makes good sense to have an inventory limit, since it makes the game harder but you earn more points.

This game has a lot of original puzzles it seems. The fundamental gameplay is quite similar to Ryan Veeder's "Captain Verdeterre's Plunder", which isn't a bad thing. This game is however bigger and some of the puzzles are harder. In both games you need to optimize your playthrough to earn as much money you can, which is hard, since there isn't time to get all valuables and bonuses. I like both games very much.

This game has a lot of humor in it, and it is very well implemented. Within the two hour limit I kept increasing my score, and I feel quite addicted. I hope there will be an online high score list at some point, which is the case for "Captain Verdeterre's Plunder". Such competition would give the player an incentive to keep improving. As it is now, you are mainly playing against yourself, which is also fun but could be even more fun with a high score list. Anyway, this is a very fun game I highly recommend.

Jon Doe – Wildcard Nucleus, by Olaf Nowacki

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short but entertaining, November 17, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: inform
This is a little straightforward story-driven parser game. You play the role of Jon Doe, probably the best MI5 agent. You are given an assignment: Investigate the death of an informant employed at a tech company. There are puzzles but they are mostly easy. The game takes place in small areas, which you never return to, so you don't really need to make a map.

I found the writing to be good and sufficient for this kind of game. The implementation was usually good, though a few places, there could have been more responses to the things you can try, especially conversation. However, I managed to complete the game without hints, so it never became a big issue. Overall, I found this to be a very good game.

Amazon, by Michael Crichton

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Good game despite its age, April 16, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: Telarium
This game was written by best-selling novelist Michael Crichton in 1983 and published by Telarium in 1984. Luckily the quality of this very old game is high. It is a two-word parser but I never felt that I had to guess-the-verb. However, the manual, which can be found online, contains a verb list which shows what verbs are accepted. It is recommended to read the manual before playing. More over, the game comes with a so-called N.S.R.T.Field map which is required to complete the game. This map can also be found online.

Since there are no modern interpreters for Telariums games, you will need to download an emulator. The game is available for Apple II, Apple Macintosh, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and MS-DOS. I chose to play with a commodore 64 emulator. The other machines are probably faster but I just ran the emulator at approximately 5 times normal speed and so, the game ran at a decent speed.

As the title implies, you are going to the Amazon jungle. The purpose is to find treasure within the lost city of Chak. All puzzles were fair and you quickly stumble upon a humorous sidekick NPC, which helps you on your way. The game has some primitive but still atmospheric graphics and sound effects. Some people may find the game too easy. There are however 3 difficulty levels. I am not the strongest player so I took the easiest difficulty level (novice). As a consequence, I only needed to consult a walkthrough once and I completed the game in about 5-6 hours.

This is the first Telarium game I have played and it was a very positive experience so I am looking forward to try the other seven Telarium games.


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