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Reviews by Canalboy

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View this member's reviews by tag: Bill Lindsay Surreal Parser Based Birmingam IV - Large Old School Fantasy Puzzlefest castle Curses! Gothic Horror Infocom Jim Aikin Large Large Story Based IF Lydia's Heart Mainframe MS-DOS Mulldoon Legacy Mystery old school parser Puzzle Fest Puzzlefest Quest. Relationship Romance Sequel Treasure Hunt vampire Warp
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Warp, by Rob Lucke and Bill Frolik

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Warp - Enormous Game And Enormous Fun, November 28, 2019
by Canalboy (London, UK.)
Related reviews: Warp, Mainframe, Large, Parser, Treasure Hunt
Infocom's Zork Trilogy cast a long shadow over IF for many years, but one of its more obscure spin-offs was another extremely large mainframe game begun soon after the authors (Rob Lucke and Bill Frolic) had completed the original mainframe Zork in 1979. They decided they would write an even larger game, with a more sophisticated parser. They certainly succeeded in the former as Warp is more than double the size of the original mainframe Zork, but the latter (the game was written in Pascal on an HP3000) is miles behind Infocom's ZIL even after its 4 year and 38 version development.

While Warp understands clever commands like BACKTRACK X, where X is a number of moves and also interprets whole sentences it will often fail to understand many synonyms and objects in the location you are in. Many times I found myself banging my head against the wall looking for a verb / noun combination the game would understand. It also allows for the creation of macros, but this feels more like unnecessary frippery than a clever construct to help the player.

Not until the endgame (yes there is one and it's even more difficult then the main game) is the macro function useful as SAVE GAME is disabled here and I found myself nesting ten macros inside another one to get me back to a point deep in the aforementioned endgame. I would probably have given up otherwise as it would have necessitated several hundred turns to get me back to the position I was in.

The game is set on a contemporary island resort and involves the collection of 46 treasures and 1216 points which are to be stored somewhere, although where is for you to find out. It encompasses many areas, including desert, a massive ocean that needs thorough mapping as it is studded with reefs and atolls as well as a less than friendly galleon, rainforest, mountain, city centre, shopping mall, underground areas and even a nudist beach and French café. That's not including neighbouring islands which you can swim or sail to, although the former option may well see you added to a Great White's dinner menu.

The player will soon recognise the many Zorkian influences as the game has its own versions of Zork's troll and thief as well as several other NPCs who seem rather static compared to many modern games. One in particular would not pass muster at a Labour Party Momentum meeting, but I suppose you have to allow for the rather less politically correct times in which the game was written. A rather racy magazine would get the thumbs down on campus nowadays too.

The game includes the DIAGNOSE command so you can check your health during a fight or the effects of certain toxic substances, both animal and mineral.

A skein of Lewis Carroll style surrealism pervades the whole thing, both grammatically and physically; the title lends itself to a large wonk in the game.

As in much IF of this vintage there is a large and rather difficult maze complete with Beatle's song reference, a lamp timer (although there is a way around this) and an inventory limit. The endgame even includes an homage to Zork III's Royal Puzzle.

It is very easy to put the game in an unwinnable position and unfortunately one of these comes very near the start of the game. Just make sure you map very carefully and keep lots of saved games in reserve. Spoiler below.

(Spoiler - click to show)You need to visit the bank early on the first day to procure a treasure - a clue lies in the President's Office .

The game also includes a large amount of ASCII art, far more than mainframe Zork does and this adds to the immersive feel of the game; circa six thousand lines of ASCII art if you please.

The whole experience took me two months to fully complete, playing along with Jason Dyer and Russell Karlberg via Jason's excellent Renga In Blue blog. We all experienced a few bugs and crashes but nothing a reload didn't seem to cure. There are numerous typos sprinkled amongst the fairly lengthy location descriptions too.

One innovative and enjoyable feature is God mode, which you only achieve upon completion of the end game. This provides you with the ability to take items from anywhere, GOTO any location in the game, check your map using SHOW LINKS, LIST all the puzzles and even walk on water!

Many thanks to Dan Hallock, guru of the HP3000 who has made the game easy to play for a whole new generation of players via the links above.

All we have to do now is find FisK somewhere.






Recluse, by Stephen Gorrell

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Recluse - Excellent Medium Sized Puzzler In Tads, June 20, 2019
by Canalboy (London, UK.)
Related reviews: Infocom, Puzzle Fest, Parser, Quest.
As a navel gazing IF puzzler of a certain age, I feel that Stephen Gorrell's neat medium sized TADS debut Recluse from 2008 deserves more trumpeting that it has hitherto received. That is, any trumpeting at all judging by a quick search. One review in over a decade doesn't suggest that it has become contemptible through familiarity.

Recluse bucks the modern IF trend, being a set of cleverly choreographed, sequenced puzzles leading to a surprisingly tangential conclusion. Surprising as the hitherto tenebrous plot suddenly takes on solid end game substance via several large screen dumps when you access the mansion. One NPC also displays chameleon like qualities late in the game.

The initial premise involves your efforts to deliver a package to a reclusive billionaire inside his mansion; after being summarily ejected using traditional methods of egress you explore the Infocom like grounds, finding various items to take and manipulate, including one early problem that had me stuck for days (Spoiler - click to show)taking the caterpillar requires a lot of repetition....

I liked the user friendly nature of play; no time or inventory limits, a warning if you have put the game into an unwinnable position (a rare occurrence thanks to its cleverly constructed nature) and built-in hints.

There are a sprinkling of misspellings and a few grammatical errors (again why these things aren't spell checked is beyond me when so much effort is put into other facets of the game) but nothing to really dilute the enjoyment of the game.

The ending of the game suggests a sequel, but as eleven years have now passed without one I imagine that the author has moved on to pastures new, although I can find no more examples of his IF creativity anywhere.

Rather like the only guy still wearing flared jeans on the bus, Recluse may be old fashioned but the denim is of fine quality.

Dracula - Prince of Darkness (formerly "House of the Midnight Sun"), by Paul T. Johnson

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Dracula - Prince Of Darkness formerly House Of The Midnight Sun, June 12, 2019
by Canalboy (London, UK.)
Related reviews: parser, puzzlefest, Gothic, Curses!, Mulldoon Legacy, vampire
This is a rather good, rather large slice of old skool gothic puzzlefest by Paul Johnson. There are nods a plenty towards Curses! and Mulldoon Legacy here (obstinate cat, formal garden, pirate ship, battlements and assorted hidden passages, steps and chambers) but it stops short of outright plagiarism.

Your goal to begin with is unknown, but there is the traditional castle to break into and the story slowly unravels, although the real reason for your determination to enter the castle will not become apparent until near the climax of the game.

You have to collect four items during the course of the game, rather like the rods in Curses! before you can begin to think about your final showdown with the eponymous baddie.

The descriptions of decay, death and ubiquitous grand guignol grate after a while and are sometimes a little too florid and a little too repetitive to prevent the shock value being diluted.

Many of the problems are totally logical and not too difficult, although the final scenes see the difficulty level take a sharp uphill turn; there is one action in particular you need to perform in an area that you have no real reason to visit.

The author has an obvious love of antique furniture and art as a plethora of these objects are lovingly described throughout the game, juxtaposed effectively against the pervading atmosphere of decay. Indeed, the decay of these priceless paintings and other objets d'art is described with far more plangency than the discovery of the dead or dying.

The whole is mercifully free of any inventory or time limit (just as well as you will end up with a considerable variety of items to port around) and contains only a handful of typos and other grammatical errors, none of which really downgrade the game play value.

It is possible to put the game into an unwinnable position but not easily, and where this is the case there is usually a warning hidden away in one of the many inscriptions and messages you will find in charts, above doorways etc. In this game more than most, examine and search everything.

The ending certainly surprised me but that is for the player to discover.

All in all, an excellent parser based distraction which will keep you occupied for some time.


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