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Escape from Dinosaur Island

by Richard Pettigrew


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Number of Reviews: 2
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Solid old-school text adventure, February 1, 2019
Escape from Dinosaur Island is exactly what it says it is on its title page: a retro-style text adventure. I enjoyed it, in a nostalgic sort of way. I can't help but compare it to Flowers of Mysteria, the other 1980s-style text adventure in IFComp 2018. Both are somewhat similar in puzzle style, although the plots are quite different. In addition, while Flowers of Mysteria was written with a homebrew parser, the author of Escape from Dinosaur Island apparently wrote the game as a way to learn the Adventuron design system.

In EfDI, your hot-air balloon has crash-landed on an island, and you must figure out a way to escape. This mostly involves gathering items from the island and assembling them in different ways to MAKE new objects. In fact, the use of the MAKE command is one of the more interesting aspects of the game. I'm not used to, in a parser game, using a verb on a noun I can't actually see. But in Escape from Dinosaur Island, there are multiple things you need to MAKE, that you can't currently see, out of components that you're carrying.

Let me take an example that's not actually in the game to illustrate this. Suppose you need to make a leather vest. If you're carrying the bear skin, the awl, and the spool of thread then simply typing MAKE VEST will make the vest for you. There's no need to deal with any guess-the-verb problems as you attempt to POKE HOLES IN BEAR SKIN WITH AWL or something else complicated like that. Also, if you don't have all the right components, then the game will tell you.

Normally the game gave me enough hints at what I needed to make that I didn't have problems with MAKE-ing things. The one exception was (Spoiler - click to show)the fire. I kept trying things like BURN LOGS or LIGHT LOGS, and none of these commands worked. There's no walkthrough for the game, so I eventually went to the game's thread on intfiction.org and discovered the proper command is MAKE FIRE. But this was the only place where I needed a hint.

The help menu says that every item in the game can be examined. I found a few exceptions to this, but only a few. Overall, I found the game's implementation to be solid.

The difficulty level felt just about right for me. I was never seriously stuck (with the one exception that I mentioned), yet the puzzles were more interesting than the fetch-quests that tend to comprise much of the puzzle design in weaker old-school text adventures. I think my favorite was (Spoiler - click to show)getting the objects into the cave, making the soup, and then drinking it so that you're strong enough to push the altar aside. This one hit the sweet spot for me of feeling complex enough to be interesting but well-clued enough to avoid frustration.

If you like 1980s-era text adventures, you'll probably enjoy Escape from Dinosaur Island.