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Rome: a two room stroll from the market to the Tomb of the Scipios, February 3, 2015
by LaFey (Porto, Portugal)The adventure is set in Rome, 52 BC, during the First Triumvirate. You're a roman citizen who has to perform several tasks, mostly out of your goodwill, towards other denizens in order to advance the time of the day. The game starts with the player-having-a-dream-and-then-waking-up cliché and starting the first period, then involves solving puzzles to advance it to the second and third (final) period.
-Setting. Who doesn't like a Roman themed adventure? If you bother reading this perhaps you do too.
-Room description. Well written and true to the spirit of the time.
-Random events. Well written and mood setters.
-Few locations. The game has only a few - 15 or so by my count.
-Puzzle complexity. These involve taking something from X to Y and going A to B. While this form is perfectly acceptable in one introductory puzzle (which is nearly the case) making all the puzzles solvable thus is detrimental on the enjoyment of the game.
-Pre-written dialogue. The dialogue in itself is well written, but I feel it ends up patronizing the player too much and making too many choices it shouldn't. You just type "Talk to X" and a single reply text paragraph scrolls by, answering how the author thought the player should.
-Patronizing. There are some moral issues to be dealt with in the game - involving modern conceptions that weren't applied at the time. Even though I'm no expert in Roman history I'm pretty sure the author missed the point when it comes to death and pedophilia.
-Puzzle themes. I enjoyed the first puzzle has an opener - but the others were either ridiculous (Spoiler - click to show)(fresh corpse), blatant easy (Spoiler - click to show)(rabbit to priestess) or far-fetched (Spoiler - click to show)(package from Cicero's wife). Since I read this adventure was awarded a prize for the best single puzzle I have been thinking, as I write these lines what exactly this could have been: (Spoiler - click to show)the Archimedes lever when doing the delivery of the package to the messenger in Via Appia but even so, if this was it - it's frankly too bland since it is poorly parsed.
To illustrate the bad points here are a couple puzzles in the game:
(Spoiler - click to show)
Since you are staying in a laundry house you first task involves peeing in a vat where the urine is contained and used to whiten tunics. But first you'll have to drink enough water from the local square fountain.
Afterwards the laundry house lady owner asks you to find a physician in the Forum - which you do, but he only agrees to follow you if you find him a fresh corpse for study. It is only a matter of heading to the fountain square by the laundry house and heading towards a side alley - where you'll meet up the infamous Deimos, a child molester, of whom the district guard has told you about. Here you can try to wrestle him alone and die - or you can call up the district guardsman which helps you kill him.
The game has a built-in hint and help system and includes a commentary from the author as well as curiosities. It sports a nice page and Facebook page, which is more than the regular adventure - and certainly a plus. If the game is aimed at the non-If crowd - then for a first time player the pros might surpass the cons, otherwise while the theme is good and the rooms are well written - the quality of the puzzles and the imposed choices make it a bland experience. Even so I enjoyed it, being a Roman history buff and a long time Spanish adventure player (from the PAW days).
With more rooms, a few more thoughtful puzzles and some dialogue choices this game would be far better.
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<blank>, January 5, 2015 - Reply
I should add, for fairness' sake, that the Deimos puzzle - that you allude to as a "bad" point - has a remarkable gamut of different solutions, more than just the ones you bring up (though they end in the same way, naturally).
Similarly, in my playthrough, I happened not to need the rabbit - I nourished myself another way before even entering the temple. The ensuing conversation with the priestess was therefore different and I skipped the rabbit puzzle entirely.
My overall point is that your review misses a certain solidity in implementation that is actually quite remarkable.
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