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Reviews by Denk

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View this member's reviews by tag: ADRIFT 4 ADRIFT 5 Adventuron ChoiceScript DAAD Dialog Eamon Homebrew parser inform Level 9 PunyInform Quest Telarium The Quill Twine Unity
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Alien Research Centre 3: Footprints In The Snow, by John Wilson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Short but good Inform game with strong parser, November 23, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: PunyInform
This game can be played independently of the first two games. This is the first PunyInform game by John Wilson that I have played. I have tried other games by John Wilson, but this is clearly the game with the strongest parser. You are never in doubt if the game understands commands like LOOK BEHIND or LOOK UNDER 'object' and the game understands commands like GET ALL FROM BIN (fictive example).

This is the second PunyInform game I play, and as the first one (Tristam Island Demo) I rarely notice that I am playing a game with a library optimized for 8-bit machines, except for the detail that if you open a container, you are not told what's inside so you must SEARCH it (unlike Tristam Island). Well, if you go looking for unimplemented verbs you will find them, such as SING, PRAY, BLOW etc. though such verbs can easily be implemented if the author wants to. Fortunately, the game tells you whenever you try to apply a verb not known by the game.

There are a few bugs, but nothing critical. You can pick up a few objects that you shouldn't but you can just put them down again - it is obvious that it is a bug. Also, one exit isn't described in a location.

Here are a few more details about the problems:(Spoiler - click to show)
- In a few places, the author could have implemented a few more synonyms such as TURN KNOB and PUSH/PRESS SWITCH instead of just TURN ON 'object' but I managed to guess the required verb quickly, so it wasn't a big deal.
- The door west in the bedroom is not mentioned in the location description.
- In the bedroom, if you try to e.g. go north, you are told that the only exit is down, which isn't correct.
- When you have been briefed, you don't get your pass back, which seems a bit strange.
- The following objects can be taken though they should not: Transport beam, Nest, Droid.
- It doesn't matter which object you drop in the pump room if you are holding the snax. No matter what you drop, the game will respond as if you dropped the snax.
- Perhaps make characters animate, so you don't get responses like "You can only do that to something animate."

The game is fairly easy and can be completed without maximum points. Thus I played it twice to get the last points. Recommended.

Behind Closed Doors 4: Balrog's Day Out, by George E. Hoyle

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Fun despite a few problems, November 23, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: The Quill, Adventuron
(Reviewing Adventuron version - other versions may be different)
This game is bigger (more locations and puzzles) than the first three episodes. There are some fun puzzles but also a few problems. Most puzzles were not problematic and overall I enjoyed it.

Regarding the problems:
* There was a verb I have never seen in a text adventure and I would never have found it without the walkthrough: (Spoiler - click to show)COMPLAIN
* Another situation where I had to guess the phrase: (Spoiler - click to show)INSERT HAND. This one isn't completely unfair but synonyms should have worked too, such as FEEL HOLE, REACH INTO HOLE, SEARCH HOLE.
* The parser is often misleading. It tells you to apply different phrases than it actually understands. Example: If you try to give something without success, the game says: "Give WHAT to WHOM?". But when it finally is the right place and object, it is sufficient to write GIVE 'object'.
* A similar problem with LOOK BEHIND. You will need to look behind objects, but if you do it somewhere it isn't needed, the game says: "Please type either 'LOOK' or 'LOOK INSIDE ..." (Even if you type LOOK INSIDE BIN you get that message) And I never needed to type LOOK INSIDE...

Despite these problems, I enjoyed this as there were some clever puzzles to solve besides the problematic puzzles.

Behind Closed Doors 3: Revenge of the Ants, by John Wilson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Too hard for me and a lot of verb-guessing, November 23, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Adventuron, The Quill
(Reviewing Adventuron version)
I have enjoyed previous episodes but this game is far too hard for me. I enjoyed it briefly, but I quickly got stuck and took a look at the walkthrough. I got one step further, then I got stuck for a long time again, and looked at the walkthrough again and so on. The solutions to these sub-puzzles (both actions and exact verbs) are way beyond what I would be able to figure out without a walkthrough.

Add to this:
* The game can be unwinnable even if the player does nothing wrong (random element)
* The verb USE is normally not understood but suddenly required in one situation.
* The game has a two-word parser but it turns out that in specific situations, the game accepts a four word sentence to be split into two commands:
(fictive example below is not in the game and doesn't happen when using the verb PUT)
On what?
>ON SHELF (SHELF wouldn't have worked, ON SHELF required)

Some might see these "problems" as challenges. For me, this isn't what I am looking for when I play older text adventures. Still, I intend to try more episodes in the series, since I liked the first episodes.

Behind Closed Doors 2: The Sequel, by John Wilson

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Same humor as episode 1 but with new puzzles, November 21, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: The Quill, Adventuron, DAAD
EDIT: Gareth Pitchford informed me that the important command WORN was given in the instructions with the original game, so my criticism that you are never told what you are wearing isn't really valid. Moreover, if you play several of the games in the series, it will become apparent that the command type LOOK 'direction' (e.g. LOOK SOUTH or LOOK DOWN) is often required. Thus, this might not be a problem if you played another episode in the series first.
Note that this is a review of the original game, not "The Cats Choice-Cuts Edition" which is slightly longer. I played the Adventuron version. The version you choose to play may influence the commands you can use. Here, the game understands both L (redescribe location) and X (examine).

This game has a few gameplay issues:
1. You cannot examine yourself. EDIT: If you are aware of the command WORN, this isn't a problem
2. You are supposed to: (Spoiler - click to show)LOOK UP but as you are not given any reason to do so, it is quite unlikely the player will try that. EDIT: If you have played other games in the series first, You have probably learned that LOOK 'direction' (e.g. LOOK EAST or DOWN) might be a good idea.

At first, I wasn't aware of the points above, so I found the game to be a bit unfair after having looked at the walkthrough. So perhaps the puzzles are perfectly fair (hard to estimate after I completed the game by looking at the walkthrough). Anyway, it has entertaining parts even if you need to look at a walkthrough. With the information given at the top of this review, you will probably be able to enjoy this game.

Alien Research Centre, by Ian Smith and Sean McClure

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
From 1990, worth playing today, November 21, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Homebrew parser
Before you read on, here are a few facts:

1. Location graphics for all rooms (8-bit quality)
2. Brief location descriptions
3. Two-word parser (but fast)
4. Inventory limit (9 objects, hardly a problem)

This game was really fun. You are exploring an abandoned alien research centre which has been taken over by various grotesque creatures. Though the location descriptions are brief, the atmosphere is good due to the graphics and sound effects. And if something significant changes in a location, the location graphics change too. And if there is something you can interact with, it is mentioned in the location descriptions.

The game is a puzzlefest and there isn't much of a story. But the puzzles are good and there are lots of them. You will need to guess a few verbs, but you will most likely get them right either the first or the second time around as they are usually quite obvious. In my opinion, only one puzzle required an unexpected command: (Spoiler - click to show)The command "kick floor" isn't obvious to me, even though we are told that the floor is partly eaten away by some substance. You might kick a wall or door but not a floor. I would have expected Jump, Stomp or Break Floor to work but only "kick floor" seems to work. Anyway, how difficult a game should be is always a matter of taste. I found the difficulty level just right. I did peek at a walkthrough a few times as I was eager to get on with the game, but I usually regretted it as the puzzles are all fair.

Though there are plenty of ways to die, you will rarely die unexpectedly. Whenever you encounter an alien you have one turn to leave if you don't know how to deal with that alien. Still, you should save often. I played with the Fuse emulator and here saving a snapshot was only a click away.

It is my impression that the game can be made unwinnable in at least one way, but then it will be obvious that a part of the game isn't accessible anymore, so if you have been saving often, it isn't a big deal. Only one puzzle seemed to contain a random element, but that made sense for this particular puzzle and didn't prevent me from winning if I didn't get it right the first time.

Everything considered I think this a great game. As I never had a ZX Spectrum, I hadn't heard about this game until recently, but now that I tried it, I wouldn't mind calling it a classic worth playing today. Recommended.

Behind Closed Doors, by John Wilson

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Quick one-room game, episode 1 of 10, November 17, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Adventuron, The Quill
This is a quick one-room escape game where you are a balrog (who seems to be a fun little fellow) locked inside the loo. It is a comedy with a few mandatory puzzles and a few optional puzzles. I managed to complete it almost without hints except for one guess-the-verb puzzle, so I consulted a walkthrough on CASA Solution Archive for that. Looking back, I should have been able to figure out the verb by paying attention to my inventory: (Spoiler - click to show)The verb "unfold"

There are many versions available, including the ADVENTURON version, which should be playable in most browsers (html-file). There might be a few differences between the versions. In old British games, typing R was the standard for redescribing the location description, not LOOK or L. Besides that, just keep in mind that it is a two-word parser, just as the popular Scott Adams games. And in some versions you might have to type EXAM or EXAMINE instead of just X.

It was a quick but fun little game, so I intend to try the sequel too.

The Curse of the Scarab, by Nils Fagerburg

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Optimization game with excellent puzzles and implementation, November 15, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Homebrew parser
This game is inspired by the optimization games "Captain Verdeterre's Plunder" and "Sugarlawn". I agree those are good. This is however my favourite optimization game so far. Except for a few locations, this game takes place in an Egyptian tomb. Your task is to find a certain object and then find as many valuables you can. When you complete the game, you will automatically sell everything. The money you earn is your high score. The author encourages you to send him a transcript if you get a high score, which always gives even more incentive to keep playing.

This game is a lot of fun. It has excellent puzzles and thorough implementation. However, it does have some "old school features" but that makes sense for an optimization game: Time limit (read: turn limit) for parts of the game, inventory limit and the game can be put in an unwinnable state. However, these are what makes this game fun and challenging. The game is not very big location-wise and most locations can be reached when the game begins. You will probably have one playthrough to solve puzzle A, then another playthrough to experiment with puzzle B etc. After that, you can try to optimize your playthrough so that you will earn as much as possible.

Regarding the time limit, note that you can exploit the parser, obviously intended, for instance, GET ALL would only take one turn, whereas if you get the objects one by one, it takes more turns. Such parser exploitation is not exactly realistic but I think it adds a positive extra layer to the optimization.

The game engine appears to be made by the author, which was probably a good choice as the implementation is very good and suits the game. Even when you restore a saved game you can undo as many times you like, and after multiple sessions, it accumulates a list of all the treasures you found and the number of undiscovered treasures. Those actions, which shouldn't take time in the game, don't. For instance, examining things only takes time if something happens. My only nitpick with the parser was (Spoiler - click to show)I wasn't sure about the syntax for wishing. E.g. it could have understood [wish that 'something'] but that didn't work. I am now under the impression that the only way to wish is to type [wish for 'something'].

As an Ectocomp game, this is not particularly scary to play, though it does contain violent deaths, unnatural phenomenons etc. Still, I think it is suited for Ectocomp but would probably do very well in other competitions too. Anyway, I think this is an excellent game I highly recommend.

The Revenge of Moriarty, by Gareth Pitchford

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Fun Sherlock Holmes game with a little bit of guess-the-verb, October 1, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: DAAD
This is a fun little game, which takes place in Sherlock Holmes' apartment. Professor Moriarty is out to get you, Sherlock. The game only has four locations. Still, it took me somewhere between 1 and 2 hours to complete it without hints, including a few guess the verb issues.

In the spirit of Sherlock Holmes, you will have to pay attention to details if you want to complete this game. I played the DAAD version using a c64-emulator. If you like Sherlock Holmes and parser games, I think you will like this. Quite fun!

Tristam Island, by Hugo Labrande

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Review of demo (hopefully the full game soon), September 29, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: PunyInform
(my rating is currently not included in the game's average)
I just completed this free demo. I am not sure, but I think I used about 1.5 hours to complete it without hints(*). The full game should be 2-3 times bigger (I scored 34 out of 100 points). I am very much looking forward to the full game, which should arrive on the 20th of November. I have a feeling that the end of the game is going to be even better. If so, this might be changed to a 5-star review.

About this demo: The game starts as you have arrived on this apparently(?) deserted island after crashing your plane at sea. There are some fair not too hard puzzles, some more original than others, but all entertaining. Of course, the ending is a cliffhanger making you want to play the whole game.

(*):Only once did I feel stuck, and couldn't help looking at some of the screenshots. I got a single "hint" from one screenshot, but I more regard this "puzzle" as a bug: (Spoiler - click to show)When I tried to take a flower in the woods, I was told "The flowers on the trees seems to be part of the sturdy trees." Thus I was under the impression that they could not be taken. Later, I couldn't reproduce this response, but then I realized that you get this response if you are carrying too much and try to take a flower. The response is therefore very misleading.

Since the full version hasn't been released yet, perhaps this might be fixed before the release. Except from this, the implementation is very good.

I played the c64-version and it was surprisingly fast. I guess that is due to PunyInform and Ozmoo. I decided to play using the VICE-emulator and run it at 200% speed. However, you don't need to play around with emulators. You can just download the z3-file and play it with Gargoyle, Frotz etc. The implementation is thorough and the parser felt as good as any other Inform game - I never noticed that I was playing with a reduced Standard Library. So technically, this game is also very good.

The full game will only be $3.99 but try the free demo if you are in doubt. I am very much looking forward to the full game.

The Missing Ring, by Felicity Drake

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A nice "young detective" game, September 28, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Twine
In this Twine game you play the role of Sadie, age 15, who investigates the disappearance of your grandmother's diamond ring during Christmas. You will need to question the entire family to figure out what happened. The pacing is fine. There isn't any "real" puzzles, as you are more or less guided through the game by a very user-friendly interface, which includes the ability to check your notes, which includes several clues on what to do. Still, most things can be done in any order.

The writing is good and I was curious to find the truth behind the mystery. And technically everything worked as expected. There were also some funny moments. To sum up, this is a good game, which I recommend.

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