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About the StoryRumour has it that a valuable treasure has been hidden somewhere in Mortlake Manor. It is your task to find the treasure. However, you must be careful; rumour also says the place is haunted...
Mortlake Manor is a gentle introduction to Interactive Fiction. It is impossible to die in the game. It is also impossible to get to a point where you cannot win. And the puzzles are not terribly hard. In fact, the main puzzle is simply navigating your way around the game - I highly recommend making a map! There are even two mazes. Now, I know that mazes are not looked upon with favour much any more, but back in 1994 when I programmed the original version of this game in Pascal they seemed essential to any adventure game worth its salt, and I wanted the Inform port to be faithful to the original!
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It's certainly tempting, once you get the hang of text adventure programming, to start creating more rooms, since the first is the toughest--but here, we have several named "east-west corridor" and even two adjacent ones named "back door." This requires nontrivial technical skill to DO in Inform, but instead of adding to the mysterious feel of a mansion, it leaves me wondering what's so special and upset I'll have a few more rooms to walk through if I leave an item lying about. I was especially nervous about (Spoiler - click to show)the hammer, which never got used but was in the corner of my mind--and the game's map. What was it for?
Another thing that could be explored is: (Spoiler - click to show)the ghost gets you points if you study it passively. Why not have it do something, or be able to follow it?
To the author I would say--publish a second release that is not as faithful to the original as this one. Have fun and ask your testers what they'd add. Maybe you can cut down and describe the rooms more, or take advantage of some Inform-specific stuff, while keeping the original somewhere else. Describe the rooms or cut them down, or both. I have one test I like to do for a game--how does the author's by-move walkthrough look when printed out? And this game is a lot of walking around. The story's relatively sparse.
Things like the help and the (Spoiler - click to show)acronymic maze clues in two places show the author has a strong idea of making the game fair. If there's a way to clue without just leaving a few irregular verbs out there to try, then that allows for more immersion and not picking a verb vs guessing one. It helps the player avoid annoyance, but all the same, if a player is looking to avoid annoyance while playing the game, the game needs to change its tack.
I hope this is not too harsh treatment for a first-time author with the guts to put his work out there for opinions. I'm nearly certain the author can make this review obsolete with a second version. In fact, I look forward to it.
(ps - email for transcript if you want it.)
Mortlake Manor on IFDB
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This is version 10 of this page, edited by David Welbourn on 28 June 2019 at 2:43am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item