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Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 1998 XYZZY Awards
-- Duncan Stevens
>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
The Arrival is the first HTML-TADS game I've ever played, certainly the first competition game ever to include pictures and sound. I was quite curious as to how these elements would be handled, and maybe even a little apprehensive. I wasn't sure that a lone hobbyist could create visual and musical elements that wouldn't detract from a game more than they added to it. But Arrival dispelled those fears, handling both pictures and sound brilliantly...
However, all the funny pictures and sounds in the world couldn't make Arrival a good game if it wasn't, at its core, a well-written text adventure. Luckily for us, it is. The game is full of cleverly written, funny moments, and has layers of detail I didn't even recognize until I read the postscript of amusing things to do... In addition, Arrival is one of the better games I've seen this year at unexpectedly understanding input and giving snarky responses to strange commands, which has been one of my favorite things about text adventures ever since I first played Zork. Even if you can't (or don't want to) run the HTML part of HTML TADS, it would still be well worth your time to seek out The Arrival.
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As long as you're careful to explore everywhere, the puzzles are mostly fairly easy, befitting a game with a child protagonist. There is one puzzle that requires a bit of save-and-restore trial-and-error to time correctly, but in his afterword Granade cops to its unfairness, so props for that.
The game is well-coded in HTML TADS and uses the system's capabilities to good effect, with frequently-appearing graphics and occasional midi tunes composed by Granade himself. Many objects are given interactions with verbs one wouldn't expect, to delightful effect.
One thing that irked me -- and this may simply be a problem with the system, not the game -- is that the world stops entirely with the wait command. It is possible to listen in on several background conversations between the aliens, and not being able to just hit "z" to listen in broke my immersion a little bit.
All in all, though, Arrival is a terrific little romp that shouldn't be missed.
The story and puzzles are simple; aliens land in your backyard and demand some items; you have to investigate them and deal with your parents, too.
Some of the puzzles were a bit obscure, but there aren't too many to go through. The writing was fun.
I was frustrated by the interpreter issues, and so I didn't enjoy it as much as I would have if it worked perfectly. This reinforces my thoughts that pure text without effects is the best for long-term use.
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