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Reviews by Denk

Homebrew parser

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1-4 of 4


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.

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.

Cavern of the Evil Wizard, by MontieMongoose
Great idea, bad parser, June 6, 2020
by Denk
Related reviews: Homebrew parser
If you ever saw the movie Big from 1988, you might remember that the main character was playing an IF game with graphics. This wasn't a real game, just one location made for the movie. Then in 2009, BoMToons created a game with only that location.

Then, in 2020, MontieMongoose created this game, with several locations and original puzzles and the final location is that, which is shown in the movie.

The graphics style matches that of the original movie, which is fine. However, the movie was published in 1988 and there were many games with decent parsers at that time. It couldn't be seen in the movie if the parser was good or bad.

This game has a homebrew parser and the parser is very bad. Still, the game is fun, since you are told to use verbs like GET, THROW, OPEN, EAT, USE. Most of the game you use these verbs, except you also need LOOK (EXAMINE is not understood) and NORTH, SOUTH, EAST and WEST and in the final scene, you need to use a series of commands which I believe no one could guess without seeing the movie (there are videos on Youtube showing how to beat the final scene).

Thus I would recommend the author to implement the game in an IF-engine so the game would have a much better parser. Especially the end scene should accept more commands than it currently does. I am sure that the game would then be more fun to play.

Still I had fun playing it.

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.


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