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Reviews by Juhana

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Treasures of a Slaver's Kingdom, by S. John Ross

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
IF or Nethack?, February 27, 2008
I might not be the best person to review this game since I have no experience of the retro-hack'n'slash RPG scene the game apparently parodies. Some people might enjoy playing this more than I did.

Calling the game interactive fiction could perhaps be questioned. The Z-code parser has been reduced to six commands; gameplay consists mainly of primitive randomized combats and moving around the map; the story is nearly non-existent; items have rarely any descriptions (on the plus side there are many library messages so the items look like they were described). It felt more like playing a low-end Nethack clone than a work of IF.

Humor is absurd, even surreal (try talking to your bag) - mostly I didn't get it but as I said before, people with RPG experience might be laughing their guts out. The accompanying material is extensive and at a glance looks exquisitely made so an additional star for that. One might ask if the material was made to support the game or is it the other way around?

When Beer Isn't Enough, by Matt Dark Baron

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Random, February 26, 2008
You play a kangaroo that has broken its pouch and has to find a new one. The gameplay consists of wandering around a small Australian town. Why the game is called When Beer Isn't Enough is never explained.

The game has many random elements. Not absurd or illogical but... random. There seems to be some model of viewing the world here that quite doesn't fit the norm. At times you have to read the sentences a couple of times through before seeing their intended meaning. The cause is often followed by a non sequitur effect and this is probably unintentional. In gameplay this means you can't have even a short term plan ("if I do X, I can then do Y", or even "I should now do Z") because solving a puzzle results in the game advancing completely unpredictably.

I could probably make a decent guess at what the author's age was when the game was written. The humor relies on urine, fat people and body parts exploding or catching fire. The prose is blunt and conveys a sense that the author has a vivid imagination but lacks the skill to express it in writing.

On the plus side the game has some strange appeal to it that kept me playing until I ended up in a deadlock (but not enough to restart and play again). Maybe it's because every time you do something right the game advances significantly, which makes solving puzzles very rewarding.

Limelight, by Justin Lowmaster

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A good start, February 20, 2008
The game is a good start for a beginning author. That being said, it has its fair share of problems, beginning with the story that resembles a bad fanfic of a B-class action movie. The locations have very shallow implementations and the prose is sloppy. The chase scene finale fails to convey any sense of danger or speed and is broken in quite many ways.

After all these faults, why do I then call the game a good start? The game is released with source code and it contains a section with several paragraphs of author brainstorming and analyzing the game. The final game has very little left from what seems to be the initial plan - with a bit more time and devotion (and beta testing!) the author has the potential do a lot better.

rendition, by nespresso

7 of 19 people found the following review helpful:
Repulsive, January 10, 2008
A repulsive, sadistic game where the only puzzle is to find different methods of torturing a prisoner. A game with similar themes might be succesful, exploring the dark side of human nature and philosophical and ethical side of modern day torture, but this game is as far from that as north pole is from antarctica. On the other hand, for those who take pleasure in snuff and similar "entertainment" this is just the right game.

Marika the Offering, by revgiblet

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Refreshingly different one-room game, January 9, 2008
Contrary to almost all other one-room games, the goal is not to escape but to secure the room so that the bad guy doesn't get in. This is a refreshing new look at the genre and the game handles the setting quite well.

There's a time limit but it serves a purpose: every time when the time runs out and the room is not secure enough the game tells what part of the room you missed. This is infinitely better than getting a general "you died"-message without a clue how to improve the next time. It's not even annoying to die several times because each time you are making progress.

Some minor design and parser problems keep this from being a five-star game. Objects can be examined exactly once, then you get the generic "nothing special"-message. At least in one point the story suggests that an item is essential to solve the game (it is not) but recovering it is not possible and there's no indication later that it's not necessary.

Spodgeville Murphy and the Jewelled Eye of Wossname, by David Fillmore

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Shortness ruins it, December 29, 2007
This game is way too good to be so short. The one puzzle it has is excellent and then - it ends. It's like watching 5 minutes of Indiana Jones or getting a plate of delicious dessert with one spoonful left. The author twists the knife by making the game deliberately look like the last puzzle of a grand adventure.

I like to think that during the last 8 years after the publication of SMatJEoW (yikes!) the author has been expanding it to a full-blown game and just waits for the right moment to publish it. One has to have dreams, right...?

Urban Conflict, by Sam Gordon

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Ambitious project but falls somewhat short, December 26, 2007
Urban Conflict is an ambitious project - the entire game consists of talking to a single NPC. Because of their nature, conversational games with little or no other content require that they are polished to almost perfection or they break the illusion and fall on their faces. Unfortunately this game does not quite reach the former group.

The protagonist is a peacekeeper trapped in a ruined building with an insurgent from one side of the warring parties. "Your challenge is to survive in the company of your companion long enough for the current battle to die down, so that you can leave the building," says the author. This is somewhat controversial, since (Spoiler - click to show)at first I tried to do exactly as the instructions said and got nowhere. Some topics made the insurgent considerably angry and ended the game very quickly so I avoided those and tried to stay on her good side as long as possible, but after a run of about 120 turns I had to resort to the walkthrough. Turns out you have to get her in a good enough mood, then bring up a topic that previously would have gotten the player shot in a matter of turns. That's just about impossible to figure out unless you happen to get the right sequence of questions on the first go.

The insurgent is deeply implemented as a conversational NPC but the character itself remains distant and is hard to relate emotionally. Part of the problem might be that the war itself is never identified. When the insurgent talks about it with vague terms like "the enemy" and "the conflict" and refuses to tell about the warring sides' political and religious motives, it gives the impression of them having a light debate over wars in general at the university café.

Personally I don't think conversation makes a good game or a puzzle by itself. If this NPC were a part of a larger game it would be very impressive but alone it's not enough. I did not enjoy Galatea that much either and this is very similar in comparison so those who liked Galatea will probably get more out of Urban Conflict as well.

Hotel Noir, by Eva Vikström

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Sloppy, underdeveloped game, December 26, 2007
This piece of IF is in Swedish. When non-English IF is as rare as it currently is, it's a shame that quality non-English IF is even rarer.

The game is seriously underimplemented (a bathroom has three items mentioned in the room description, none of them are implemented) and the player is never quite aware what their goal is. The plot advances when the player triggers something through an unrelated action (for example (Spoiler - click to show)to get a room key you must drink a cup of coffee) so the player is left to try everything possible they can think of with no sense of purpose. To be fair I didn't have the endurance to play very far so there's a possibility that the plot picks up later in the game.

The author leads the player on a too tight rope: the commands are interpreted way too far. Examining a television makes the protagonist to turn it on, put a video in, watch it for an hour and then go to sleep - but the player just wanted a description of the television! And commanding watch video, turn tv on, sleep etc. doesn't work so the gameplay is mostly guessing which illogical action advances the game this time.

The City, by Sam Barlow

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A nice philosophical sci-fi story, December 5, 2007
I wouldn't call the game "experimental". It has a peculiar thought-provoking story and very cosmetic changes to the standard look and feel of the parser, but that's about it. UNDO, SAVE and RESTORE are disabled for some reason but they are not needed either.

The puzzles are quite hard and I had to resort to the walkthrough several times, mostly because of guess-the-verb problems or general lack of knowing what the goal was. The game does get better on a replay. The nyances of the story and the depth of implementation are more noticeable on the second go. The story is easily worth 4 stars but guess-the-verb, hard puzzles and shortness drop the rating a notch.


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