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Adventures of Helpfulman

by Philip Dearmore

Superhero
1999

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- Egas, August 4, 2013

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Ambitious but not always successful, June 2, 2008
I wanted to like this one, really I did. It was clearly trying to do some neat things, using the HTML-TADS options, but they didn't work perfectly for me. For instance, there's an option to put a menu in the left as a kind of sidebar, but when I scrolled the menu would vanish from view. It only offered a handful of commands, anyway -- a LOOK command, which I presume is no different from typing LOOK myself, and a COMMANDS that would list all the verbs I could use. The latter might have been useful, since some of the game's commands seemed to be a bit esoteric, except that it happened all at once in a scary single-column infodump to my screen.

There were also some illustrations; I approve of this. On the other hand, some of them reminded me of things I did in Hypercard ca. 1986: dithered black-and-white images of simple objects. Eep.

Another interesting thing the game did was to use an oft-suggested but seldom-implemented approach to conversation. When you spoke to an NPC, certain words were highlighted as links, and clicking on them equated to >ASK NPC ABOUT HIGHLIGHTED TOPIC. This avoids any fishing around for things to talk about, I suppose, without going all the way to having a menu. I thought it was a valuable experiment, though I am not sure I'm totally crazy about the effect.

In atmosphere, the game reminded me a bit of Heroine's Mantle, which I liked despite various drawbacks. Unfortunately, it shared a few of Heroine's problems, as well. The puzzles weren't quite as unfair, but it was still entirely possible -- even easy -- to render the game unwinnable, as far as I could tell. In particular, a certain sequence involving a telescope seemed to give the player too little warning. I did my best with it, but it was this sequence that ultimately caused me to give up on the game without really getting past the prologue: I couldn't figure out how to get past a certain point, I kept ruining my options, and the actions recommended by the hints were not successful. Plotwise, the logic of this sequence also seemed a trifle obscure.

The game otherwise could have used a bit more polish. I noted several places where there were typos or misspellings, or where the author had put in a non-default response but the default response was subsequently printed as well. I would probably have played at least a while longer if I hadn't run into the puzzle difficulties, however.


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