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Reviews by End Master

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AI Dungeon, by Nick Walton

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
EndMaster fanfiction generator, January 19, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)
At CYS, weíve long been aware of this little experiment and even more amused that the creator used popular CYS stories at the time as the foundation to create the monster. We even spoke directly with the creator who popped up on our forums and discord, everything was generally civil.

I know some folks were going on about some stuff about monetary compensation for using our works without at least even asking first. Not sure how likely that is to happen, however Iíve never really written ďfor the money.Ē If I did, Iíd surely grow to hate writing altogether. I canít enjoy a hobby if it becomes work. I primarily write for my own enjoyment and if others like it, thatís fine. If they donít well thatís fine too.

However over the years as Iíve done this hobby of mine Iíll be the first to admit, I donít mind my influence being spread to far reaching corners of the internet. Surprising more than one would think considering I virtually use no social media at all and my name or stories still pop up in some of the oddest places on the web.

So what does this exercise in pontificating about my own ego have to do with AI Dungeon? Quite a lot since most of the stories used to help build the foundation were mine. As a result various names of characters, places, monsters and other things pop up enough in AI Dungeon stories that people on its Reddit and Discord have lists of them, asking who they are, what they are and ultimately linking to the original sources of said things, which is as you guessed it, to most of my stories.

Iíve played through AI Dungeon myself on more than one occasion and I feel like Iím playing fan fiction of my own stories at times. Iíve spoken to some of the players of AI Dungeon on their discord given them a bit of background on the origins various names they keep wondering about which was probably more fun than actually playing the game itself since the AI is very ďforgetfulĒ and inconsistent. I know programming something like this probably difficult and I can appreciate the ambition, but it just really doesnít work excessively well as a game. Boredom inevitably ensues as the AI generations get repetitive.

I know theyíve updated and reworked it a bit to try to curb some of the ďCYS referencesĒ but apparently they keep popping up since people still keep mentioning them (or complaining about them). Well maybe you should have thought twice about building your mansion on top of an underground necropolis. Youíre stuck with the undead roaming about now pal.

Other changes I know theyíve made is ďcleaning it upĒ so certain words canít be used or they get altered. Pretty sure thatís drawn complaints too since Iím fairly certain at least more than half of the users are just creating weird sex fetishes on the stuff. Take some of that away and youíre eliminating most of the fanbase right there. I think they recently added a ďpaymentĒ plan too so you can only take so many actions before you have to wait to play some more unless you pay money. I definitely know that is causing some ire from the fans (or soon to be ex-fans) of the game.

Still, this game is basically like a monument to CYS. So even if I feel like it falls short of what it tries to actually accomplish, I canít help but like it on some level since its helped in spreading our glorious influence. (And mine in particular)

To sum up, as a game it has several flaws and isnít that great. As an indirect advertising tool for CYS on a mass scale, itís actually pretty good considering we got someone else to do for us without even asking.

Questionnaire, by Stephen Lavelle

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Missed opportunity, January 19, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)
So now weíve come to the last of the four games and given that the questionnaire ďstoryĒ is the best of the bunch really says it all on how bad the other were.

Now donít get me wrong, this is probably the worst story and worst game of the four since it fails to do either that the other three at least attempted. This one is just a questionnaire which leads me to wonder why the hell itís on here in the first place.

However, there is a certain ďcreepyĒ vibe to this one that I thought MAYBE the author was leading up to midway through it, but that was misplaced hope I suppose.

A few of the questions towards the end start to ask if youíd rather murder people or if you fear being murdered and similar questions like that. I feel like this would have been a good jumping off point for the questionnaire to start going into horror territory. I have seen stories done in ďquizĒ format before and done successfully. Itís difficult to do, but itís possible.

Not saying it would have even been a five star story or even three, but it might have at least gotten a two.

As I said though, if the author was attempting to do this then they failed in such an endeavor. I suppose the whole sudden ďThank you for your submissionĒ at the very end could be considered a little creepy as it may make the reader briefly wonder if the data is actually being collected and what exactly for.

But more than likely, the reader is going to just wonder why the hell they wasted their time and not dwell on whatever this was supposed to be as soon as they finish.

Sickness, by Stephen Lavelle

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Stop whining, January 19, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)
Moving on to the third game, this one seems more like a rant about the medical system rather than a game.

Someone also mentioned that it seemed autobiographical which Iíd agree with too given how it comes across. This is also probably why out of the four games recently uploaded from this author, this one was the most annoying despite it having the most plotted out storyline. The last thing I want to do is play as the author whining about whatever isnít going right in their lives.

Even ignoring that potentially being the case, there is no real game here even from a CYOA perspective. Itís mostly linear with a few fake choices here and there that just change the text rather than leading to any different endings. This would have worked better as an angry blog entry than a game considering the lack of branching.

Definitely the worst of the four.

Detective Clean, by Stephen Lavelle

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Tragically dull, January 19, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)
So moving on to the second game, this one is about playing as a detective trying to catch murderer. The beginning claims that itís neither a tragedy or comedy which may depend on how amusing or tragic you find wasting your time.

Though perhaps itís comedy for the author and tragedy for the reader in that case, but even in an ďauthor trolls the readerĒ sort of way it doesnít really do a good job since itís short enough that it wouldnít really annoy a reader that much.

There isnít much here in general, thereís like two choices in a mostly linear game and only one of which changes the ending. The odder thing is the killer changes gender mid way through the story. In the beginning they are referred to as she, then later as he. Not sure if that was intentional or just the author getting so bored with the story that they couldnít be bothered with consistency.

If it hadnít been for the sudden sex changed murderer, the story would have had even less for me to write about in the review.

Place and Time, by Stephen Lavelle

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Success equals sex, but not this game, January 19, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)
So four short twine games suddenly showed up on the IFDB and everyone seemed to be saying how bad they were so I decided to see for myself starting with this one.

Itís not a very promising start.

The ďgameĒ basically boils down to judging how successful your life is based on how much sex youíve had. Have sex in more rooms than you cried in and congrats youíve won! Do the the opposite and youíve lost. Not sure why constantly picking neither is considered the ďworstĒ life of all since Iím fairly certain that would still be way better than crying all the time, but I guess the author had his own world view of things.

In any case there isnít much sense to this one and the title makes even less sense. Could have been called Chad and incel and it would have made just as much sense (And been a little more amusing)

If there was supposed to be any deeper meaning behind it then the author failed in conveying it and Iím not exactly motivated in analyzing it further to discover such a hidden meaning.

The Lurking Horror II: The Lurkening, by Ryan Veeder

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Didnít even know there was a sequel, January 16, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)
So Iíve been starting to look for IFs in this very database that might be of interest to me and to my surprise when I was doing my review of Lurking Horror, I found out there was a sequel. Granted not an official one, but a sequel nevertheless. I made a note to check it out later.

I sort of went in a little skeptical based on the reviews since having played the original, this one just didnít sound like anything like it.

And it isnít, but that turned out to be just fine. Probably the best comparison is how the original Evil Dead movie was played a lot more serious than the second movie, but the second movie was good in its own way. A humor approach probably was the best way to go with a sequel even though humor can be a bit of a roll of the dice on appealing, but it rolled a natural 20 for me.

The ďGroundhog DayĒ death gimmick was also incorporated well, though the time limit is a bit too tight at times since thereís a few places where you have to make every move count before instadeath and you have to start all over again (Donít bother picking up those books/notes/papers just read and wait to die)

I still like the original better, but this was fun to play through and a whole lot quicker to restart when I died. The game has an amusing subtitle too.

Personal Nightmare, by Alan Bridgman, Alan Cox, Michael Woodroffe, Keith Wadhamsa

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Underrated creepy horror game, January 15, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)
This is one of those games that starts straddling the fence of graphic IF, however if something like Tass Times in Tonetown is on here, then this one still qualifies.

I bought this one for the Amiga 500 and saw Elvira on the cover. Now at the time I already had the Elvira Mistress of the Dark adventure game, so I actually thought this would be similar, but unlike that one, the gameplay was severely different. (And Elvira had very little to do with the game, she was just on the cover as eye candy as usual) Also learned that this one actually came out before the first ďofficialĒ Elvira game, so it could potentially be considered a predecessor to the companyís more well known horror based games.

Gameplay is a mix of text based commands and clickable objects and verbs. However, if you wanted to you could play the entire game using nothing but text based commands. In fact in some cases typing in commands is necessary for the sake of precision, but most of the time youíre probably using both.

You do not control a character on the screen, you see everything in a first person view and when you move to a new location, the screen changes to that particular location (No moving camera) There are several NPCs to interact with and they will go about their business and be in different locations at different times. Youíll even see them walking around on screen when theyíre moving to different locations so itís a living world with a day and night cycle.

Okay so now letís get on with the storyline. Youíve returned to the small English town that you grew up in to figure out whatís happened to your father who was the pastor of the church. The opening scene of the game pretty much gives that mystery away, so it isnít really a spoiler, but the Devil has killed your father, replaced him and is trying to take over the town. It isnít really spelled out, but youíve got a time limit of four days to stop the evil from taking over completely.

First off let me say that the game has a creepy mood to it all throughout. Even when itís broad daylight and there are people around, thereís always an underlining sense of danger. Especially since some of the villagers are already under the influence of the Devil or are outright monsters. There arenít too many locations to go to, but most locations are detailed so youíll probably be searching every drawer, cabinet and the like you can.

There are a lot of items you can take (and a lot you can even carry at the same time) but most arenít going to be useful. In fact you somewhat have to be careful with just taking things too. In some cases, people wonít let you in the first place while theyíre present. And in the major case, the local constable WILL arrest you for having stolen items on your person or even in your room at the Inn where you stay. He doesnít know immediately, but linger about a day or so with stolen items and heíll suddenly arrest you if you have them which will lead to a premature ending of you going to jail. (One of the kinder endings) Also keep in mind, that breaking and entering into peopleís homes to snoop around is another great way to getting arrested if they happen to be home. You canít just go around being a normal ďadventurerĒ going everywhere you please taking things!

Youíll definitely be saving and replaying portions of the game a bit, because besides the overall time limit, there are missable events as well. One major event occurs right near the beginning of the game and if you donít investigate immediately, youíll miss out and you wonít be able to complete the game. Certain areas are dangerous at certain times unless you have the right item too.

Which brings me to the wonderful death scenes, if you mess up, youíll be treated to a cool close up of your dead face with various wounds of how you died. (Bite marks, burns, etc). Apparently there was a first run version of this game which had death face of you after being garroted with your eyes bugged out and your tongue hanging out, but this got axed in later versions of the game for being too gruesome. Sort of amusing considering Horror Softís later Elvira games had way more gory death scenes than anything in this game. (Hell, Jack the Ripper had a gory picture of a naked woman in it and that came out two years earlier)

The game is of course firmly in the horror genre, but there is more than a bit of mystery going on as well since you have to uncover which townspeople are evil and either report them to the constable with evidence so he can take care of them, or deal with them yourself. Walking around the town at night can be pretty dangerous, so itís odd that the constable is safe from these same dangers. Oversight on the developers part or is he in on the satanic conspiracy?

Well youíll have to play the game and find out. As far as I know itís available on GoG.

I enjoyed this game a lot and would come back to it again and again. Highly recommended for anyone that likes horror IFs.

Zork III, by Dave Lebling, Marc Blank

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Darker and edgier, January 15, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)
So here we are at the end of the trilogy and honestly Iím glad to be done with writing the reviews of these Zork games as I was when I was playing them.

Pretty sure this one I got out of a sake of completeness (Much like Iím doing this review!) and I hadnít even beaten the second one at the time when I got it. But hey, the 80s had just ended, C64 games were becoming a little harder to find and the games you could find in stores were a lot cheaper so why not right?

Now if the second game has been said to be the more humorous one of the trio, the third one is generally considered to be the serious business one of the three. Iíd definitely agree with that assessment. It also feels like it has more of a storyline as well since it isnít just a simple treasure hunt.

As with the last two installments thereís a timer which will make the game impossible if you donít do something within that limit. In this case a fairly severe one that definitely increases the difficulty since you wonít necessarily realize it. Though this isnít really new in Infocom games in general. Just chalk it up to the game insisting on messing with you. Thereís a maze-puzzle which is probably the worst of the torment, but considering this is the last of the trilogy, it makes sense that everything should be a lot harder.

I canít really add too much more other than itís a solid ending to the trilogy and thereís nothing really wrong with it. The writing is even better in conveying the tone of this one, indeed it probably helped keep my interest longer than if it had been more like the last two games. However, itís just a case that by that point I lost complete interest in Zork!

I wonder if the writing had been like this from the start of the first game, I would have cared more about the series as a whole. Oh well, no use in looking too much into it, since Iím already set in my ways.

Of course as always though, if youíre into these older style IFs and enjoyed the Zork setting up to this point then youíd want to give this one a try.

Zork II, by Dave Lebling, Marc Blank

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Off to see the wizard, January 15, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)
A few years after beating Zork 1, I got Zork 2 figuring I liked the first one well enough to beat it, the second one would probably entertain as well. I suppose it did to some degree, but it really didnít hold my attention like the first one did for some reason.

Itís been suggested that Zork 2 was the more humorous one of the original trilogy, which Iíd agree with since I do remember more amusing bits in it. Even a simple description of the dragon being annoyed by your attempt to kill him were worth a chuckle. Might not have been Hitchhikerís, but there was definitely more personality in this one compared to the first.

One major bit of the game which kept me engaged was the wizard who continues to pop up to troll you. Sometimes resulting in your death if he cast certain spells that really hampered you in a particular location. One example I can think of that happened to me was him causing me to float in the topiary which resulted in the hedge monsters there eventually kill me. It worked in your favor on a rare occasion though as sometimes the wizardís spells would fail and nothing would happen.

The wizard and his actions would probably considered grossly unfair and random nowadays (Actually it was back then too) but it provided more entertainment for me. Another plus was the lack of a huge pointless maze though a few of the more frustrating puzzles probably made up for that.

Itís still a solid game in most ways, but I think this was the one where I started to realize that I wasnít really into the whole Zork setting.

Zork I, by Marc Blank and Dave Lebling

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
The most memorable, January 15, 2021
by End Master (The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind)
Iíve never really been heavily into the Zork series. The lore of it has never particularly captivated me either, but I always enjoyed the concept of the grue. A lot has already been said about Zork so thereís little more I can add, but Iíll add my opinion anyway because thatís what this place is for.

Honestly, thereís no reason why I should even like the first game as much as I did (and still do to some extent). Itís a bare bones treasure hunt with no real direction on what to do, a semi-hidden timer involving the lamp, lots of chances of getting into a walking dead scenario and worst of all thereís a maze.

Still, something about it kept me coming back. I could chalk this up to a simple ďIt was the old days and you just played the games you had no matter what.Ē or the fact that I couldnít get very far in Hitchhikerís at the time, but there was a genuine sense of wonder with the exploration given the different locations you could go to.

While Iím sure some of this is nostalgia, but at the time when I played, it really did feel like playing a dungeon crawler in text form with an emphasis on puzzles. I might have liked it even more if there had been a few more foes to kill other than the troll and the thief. (Not sure if you could ever kill the cyclops, I always got past him by saying the name he feared) The underground complex always felt a bit empty compared to more traditional dungeons, then again most Infocom games were always a bit spartan when it came to NPC interactions.

Other than the god awful maze, I never felt too frustrated by it despite some of the more convoluted puzzles. I think thatís due though to feeling like I had a lot of freedom to move about and explore. So I never felt like I was confined at least.

I would have to agree with a few of the other reviews already here that the Zork ďstyleĒ of IF isnít so much outdated as it was pretty common for its day so naturally people eventually got sick of it. Same with most things that are overdone. Today there are a lot more folks doing IFs so there is more variety of finding what you might be into.

So for those that might not have played this game and are interested in the ďold styleĒ of what IFs used to go for, you canít really go wrong with the first Zork game.

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