Ratings & Reviews of the 2004 Interactive Fiction Competition

The Ratings

Game Technical Puzzles Story Overall
Game T P S
Splashdown 8 9 10 9
Blue Chairs 9 8 10 9
Sting of the Wasp 9 8 9 9
Square Circle 9 10 7 9
Luminous Horizon 10 7 9 9
Trading Punches 7 8 10 8
The Orion Agenda 8 8 9 8
Mingsheng 9 7 8 8
Goose, Egg, Badger 9 9 6 8
Magocracy 9 8 6 8
The Great Xavio 7 6 10 8
A Day In The Life Of A Super Hero 6 7 9 7
Bellclap 8 8 6 7
Identity 8 7 6 7
The Big Scoop 7 5 8 7
Order 7 8 5 7
I Must Play 7 8 5 7
The Realm 8 5 6 6
All Things Devours 8 5 6 6
Blue Sky 5 6 8 6
Stack Overflow 6 8 4 6
Zero 7 3 6 5
Gamlet 8 7 1 5
Typo 8 4 3 5
Kurusu City 6 5 4 5
Murder at the Aero Club 4 4 6 5
A Light’s Tale 4 7 3 5
Chronicle Play Torn 3 6 5 5
Redeye 6 3 3 4
Blink 7 1 4 4
Who Created That Monster? 7 2 1 3
Zero One 3 4 2 3
Ruined Robots 3 3 2 3
PTBAD 3 2 2 1 2
Die Vollkommene Masse        

Murder at the Aero Club

Technical: 4
Puzzles: 4
Story: 6

Prosy descriptions.

Can’t open car but you can enter it.

Each time you examine the tools, the wrench is added to your inventory, no matter where it was left.

Lots of scoping problems, hidden by imprecise descriptions. Example:

The pilot, Penny, is sitting in the cockpit, performing some kind of checks.

If you wanted to talk to her, now would be a good time.

yet you cannot talk to her. Some feedback along the lines of “Penny is inside the aircraft and cannot hear you” would have saved me a few minutes of anxious noun-hunting.

Requires some knowledge of cell phone terminology that may not be common worldwide.

Responses to absurd commands, e.g. push body, are the standard library responses. Fleshing out responses makes a game less tedious.

Why would an ancient cell phone battery still hold a charge?

Methinks the author has issues with airplane inspectors…

All right, there seems to be a hidden ordering problem here. Early in the game, I asked Penny about the Pacer, and she volunteered information, which was not recorded in the notebook. Later, asking the same question and getting the same response solved the case.

Hey, violence is the answer. Who knew?

Well, that was… short. 40 minutes to completion. But with eight rooms and only four suspects, the odds were pretty good in my favor. None of the puzzles were very difficult.

This game would be fine as a junior level adventure, along the lines of Seastalker. But the game itself provided too much of a linear plot to be enjoyable for a more sophisticated audience. The magic notebook, keeping track of only vital information, drained any remaining challenge from the game.

Trading Punches

Technical: 7
Puzzles: 8
Story: 10

OK, from the README file I see that this story takes place in a larger world of the author’s invention. That’s a difficult task to accomplish—most successful IF exists in isolation, developing the mythology as the story progresses. The danger of using a preexisting framework is that the author may consider something “obvious” because he is intimately familiar with the customs and physics of that world; others will find such things non-intuitive. We shall see…

All right, I hate the music already. Hope there are no sounds significant to the storyline, because I’m turning it off now.

Visible but obscured. Ouch.

I like the game response Maybe that wasn’t a question he’s able to answer right now as it encourages questions.

No good response to examine me.

OK, the first part was a flashback. Nice prologue.

The watch shows the date and has the time, but will not reveal it. Curious…

The game is a story told as a series of flashbacks. Not the most original of techniques, or the most appropriate as it forces a linear model to the game. I prefer an open story model, but some linearity must be expected in any substantial plot.

Filling the cups is a chore. Fill all cups from punch bowl would have been a nice shortcut, or better yet, fill blue, pink, and teal cups from colada bowl would have been better. This may or may not be a limitation of the Hugo parser.

The giving of drinks seemed unnecessarily complex, although Yarrel gave enough clues for me to muddle through it. Get everyone drunk while remaining sober, effectively.

Seriously, this music is completely unnecessary. Maybe in the interstitial frames, but not during the main portion of the game.

Nice large open area, and decent hints about progression. The “Landing Site” flashback proceeded without frustration. Too many unoccupied spaces, perhaps, but otherwise no problem here.

This is actually pretty well-structured: four short vignettes in the life of our protagonist, each separated by ten “cycles.” Again, the problem I have with this model (also employed in A Mind Forever Voyaging) is that it leads to a very rigid storyline, and increases the possibility of stalling.

The Time of the Kraken, anyone? I had my suspicions.

A few too many find-the-object puzzles in the last vignette, but otherwise a fine game. The only problem I see is that the README contained superfluous information that prejudiced me against the story at first.

Zero One

Technical: 3
Puzzles: 4
Story: 2

Ah, a game made in seven days. Well, if that was enough for God…

The change log is discouraging in itself. But onward…

Examine me is equivalent to diagnose. Not sure if this is a good thing or not.

The game responds to get casings with I can’t see any casings here. Not good.

The response for examine sick is cute.

You can not remove the security guard’s uniform. A missed opportunity, to be sure.

“Gray” is not a synonym for “grey.”

The limitations of the Alan parser are evident when I do a get all in the kitchen. Not a problem with the game, per se, but annoying nevertheless. Things inside other things are in scope, for example.

Great. Entered combat without a weapon, and I couldn’t flee. Back to scratch…

I’m sorry, but this reads like a 1980’s TRS-80 adventure. The writing is lifeless.

You cannot search Terry’s dead body.

There is a handle on the side of the mirror, but the parser does not recognize any possible synonym for it.

Ah, the mirror is a medicine cabinet. This still does not excuse the fact that the handle was not a recognized noun.

Finding the red key does not add it to the room description, nor does it move it to your inventory. Bad design here.

“Gun” is not a suitable synonym for “Beretta.” Sigh…

That’s it?!? How anticlimactic. Here I am bitching about how Trading Punches had too much back-story, and I get a game with barely any back-story at all.

Stack Overflow

Technical: 6
Puzzles: 8
Story: 4

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Stack Overflow! OK, I’ll be good now and actually play the game…

I realize that I’ll never find an introduction that is acceptable. This one came so close, then muddled it by adding “What happens next is up to you.” Obviously…

Ah yes, the ol’ “sudden genre shift” technique.

Ah yes, the ol’ “break the game program itself” technique.

“Death by gravity” has a typo.

My arms and legs are addressable objects, but I cannot dip left arm into the barrel, since I am not “holding” them.

“Boxes” does not refer to the left box and right box as a collective.

Lovely, death by alien ray gun without warning. Isn’t that a cardinal sin against IF, making a puzzle require a death in order to solve it?

Lots of problems with plurals, involving the manual and its pages.

Serious problem: Long Passageway ends with a no-exit room (there should be an exit east). Have to restart…

Ah, finally a useful application of topology!

The pod is closed but the description still has it open…

OK, the solution to the escape pod launch code is just vile.

The end-game seems disjoint and hackneyed. In fact, the whole game is more of a montage of unrelated sketches than a single cohesive story: the danger of writing around puzzles.

If the author considers ever rewriting this game, my suggestion would be to eliminate everything outside of the space station then come up with more congruent prologue and epilogue.

The Realm

Technical: 8
Puzzles: 5
Story: 6

A classic fantasy game. Didn’t think they made those anymore.

“Bring the head of a dragon to the King.” Seems simple enough, unless the “dragon” turns out to be the King’s mother-in-law or something.

The door in the corridor is listed twice: first in the description, then as an object in itself.

The cat responds to the bugle. Good.

Well, obviously this isn’t an inventory management game. Not too many items to manipulate here.

Lots of “rooms for the sake of rooms.” The map needs to be tightened up a bit.

OK, the cat puzzle. You would think a cat wearing clothes would be distinctive enough to warrant a richer description. As it is, the walk-through didn’t explain why the solution worked, and it required me to undo and examine the cat before understanding the nature of the puzzle. At the risk of over-quoting Graham Nelson, “[a puzzle solved by accident] is unsatisfying for both player and designer” (DM4, §50, p.394).

You cannot pet the hamster, which is odd because you can pet the cat.

“Vorpal” would be a good synonym for the hamster.

The hood of the man is not an object in itself, so you cannot look under the hood, for instance.

All right, this is getting ridiculous. There is no indication on how to solve the problem with the hooded man, and the solution makes absolutely no sense. This is even worse than the problem with the cat, above.

Attack the dragon head returns the library standard response.

D’oh! the end-game made sense, I was just locked into conventional thinking trying to solve it; which is funny in light of my earlier comment.

The game premise was decent (if a bit hackneyed); however, the lack of playtesting is pretty obvious. There were too many rooms with no purpose other than to enlarge the map. The majority of the puzzles were challenging; but I had to knock that score down a few points for the “hooded man” puzzle.

The Orion Agenda

Technical: 8
Puzzles: 8
Story: 9

The game comes with no ancillary files. Take that as you will.

The game is written in first person. This is a difficult tack to take; I hope the author is up to the challenge.

Get up returns the cryptic response I can’t find any purchase on the slippery walls. Sometimes, a thesaurus is not your friend.

Ah, the first game this year to use an über-verb: Think. Works for me.

And whenever I smell asphalt I think of Maureen…

League of Sentient Systems? Either the author is going for comedy here, or someone didn’t do an acronym check.

“Number one rule”? Is that anything like a “prime directive”?

“Rebecca Crusoe”? Geez, if the foreshadowing were any more thick, I’d need a machete to cut my way through.

Good, a game that finally realizes that normal people don’t just go up to strangers and begin talking. I have better things to do than talk to random people.

Ah, the drinks machine from the Designer’s Manual.

It is not obvious that there is a shuttle available to enter immediately.

It is highly unlikely that a captain of the SciCorps would never have flown a shuttle, so the whole landing sequence is implausible.

Is it just me, or does anyone else read “Orionion” as “Onionion”?

Damn, I really really hope this is a long shaggy-dog story…

Geez, maybe I should follow the words of Grahtur the Lightbringer? Or the old man? Or possibly, both?

Trying to climb the ladder is an exercise in frustration.

You can’t close the secret entrance once inside. That conflicts with the goal of secrecy that is repeated throughout the game.

What would a space opera be without a megalomaniacal villain trying to take over the galaxy? Doctor Who, that’s what.

You can read the markings multiple times, and the rope keeps dropping in. It looks like somebody forgot to set a flag.

You cannot drop uniforms in the presence of the uniform pile. That’s a subtle bug that’s difficult but not impossible to work around.

More heavy foreshadowing in the Orionion Bible…

Lovely, an Infidel-esque ending. Oh, wait, hints suggest… Well, I have twenty minutes left in this review period…

Eh, the “alternate” ending isn’t much more satisfying. Maybe there are more endings possible than the three I’ve seen, but time is up. Still, overall the story was well-structured and consistent. Game-play was interrupted by a few cut-scenes, but they were necessary to move the plot forward. All of the puzzles meshed easily with the storyline, and there were no glaring technical errors (except for that one parsing problem). I still think the old man was planned to be more significant than how the story resolved.

The Big Scoop

Technical: 7
Puzzles: 5
Story: 8

Wow, a dual-language game. Oh, wait, it’s available as a separate download. Still, the author admitted up front that this is a translation, so I shan’t be so brutal when it comes to grammar mistakes.

Some interesting game-specific verbs. Of note, topics seems to be coming into vogue.

You can smell the stain and get an appropriate response, but taste the stain only results in the library standard message.

Ah, a quick examination of my inventory reveals that my character is, in fact, female; a detail that has escaped examine me.

The first puzzle is a rather tight timing problem, where a sequence of commands has to be performed exactly, without any errors. I had a similar scene in The Best Man (opening attack on the train) and received more than a few criticisms about it. Granted, it is annoying, but I can fully sympathize with the author trying to impart a sense of urgency to the plot.

Rapid change to a new point-of-view, that of a reporter. The previous player character, Linda, is now an NPC. There should have been some sort of explanation before such a rough transition. Hitchhiker’s made this somewhat bearable by providing the who am I command, but The Big Scoop does not. Examine me provides some details, however.

Curious that the author decided to include “single” in describing the character. I guess all film noir detectives are required to be unattached.

I cannot figure out how to use the computer for research. I suspect that it is just a prop.

Drive to the apartment assumes I want to go home; of course, Brian’s apartment is not considered. Sounds like a minor scoping problem; Drive to Brian’s did work.

The topics command is noticeably slow, as if it is traversing a large tree, or doing a large amount of pattern matching. This information appears to be static, and should have been precomputed.

General Inform rant: Inventory Wide (the default in The Big Scoop) produces some of the most ambiguous grammar possible:

You are carrying a press card, a paper slip, a letter, a mobile phone, a wallet (which is open), inside which is a driving license, a sweater (being worn) and a pair of trousers (being worn).

I have a sweater and trousers in my wallet?!? Shades of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. Anyway, back to the game…

Saying something unparsable to Linda via the cell phone has the game responding Linda looks confused.

I have a suspicion that the window is significant but commands such as look in window, et cetera return only library-standard responses. Reach for lock through window returns a parsing error.

The hints reveal how it is done, but I find the command sequence required very non-intuitive.

Exits did not actually give the possible exits during the endgame (the dangers of relying too much on meta-commands).

The board and hose were so obviously out-of-place that they had to be useful. More “red herring” objects would have made the game more interesting.

Not a bad game: the plot was very linear, and most of the challenging puzzles were of the “find-the-verb” variety, but overall fun. Might have been more interesting if the POV switched between Linda and the reporter throughout the game.


Technical: 8
Puzzles: 9
Story: 10

More space opera… nice feelies, though.

Pretty much the typical expected opening, as hinted by the feelies. Sort of Suspended meets Planetfall.

Fore and aft are accepted commands, but not their abbreviations, F and A.

Examine cryotube 392. It’s little details like this that make a game worthwhile…

Examine metal scraps returns a library-standard response; this is unusual as the game emphasizes that they are out-of-place.

Everybody together now: FLOYD!

Spider, move girders returns an unexpected (as in mimesis-breaking) response. I can understand why the author chose that response, but it should have been phrased better. After trying myself, the response is now nonsensical.

Oh, I absolutely love the reason why the computer failed. Unfortunately, now I have strong expectations for this game…

Ouch, a runtime error (Computer, activate with the implicit noun not being a system).

Wait, there are 499 colonists and 500 cryotubes? Plot point or storyline error?

Ah, OK. The elevator is part of the mechanical subsystem.

Typo: “ovehead.” I’m nitpicking here, but again with such a good show so far it’s hard not to.

Oh, good. Spider has acknowledged his Floyd-ness.

I’m running out of time here, so I have hit the hints. I may have missed something; I had no idea I had to manually fill the ballast tanks. The computer should have told me something about that.

Huh, never even noticed the possible score…

Overall, a very good game, one of the best so far. Strong attention to detail, good balance between puzzles and story, and a few red herrings added to make the game interesting. There were a couple of places where the author assumed the player would know what to do, but those rough spots (plus the parsing error noted above) can easily be smoothed out.

All Things Devours

Technical: 8
Puzzles: 5
Story: 6

Another single-file game. From the title, I’m expecting Lovecraft-style horror, but who knows?

Nope, it’s raw science fiction.

Ah, a special “competition only” version. Good idea.

The author admits up front that it is easy to put the game in an unwinnable state. Nevermore’s winnable command never came into vogue, unfortunately.

OK, there’s a logical dissociation here: if I have only a few minutes before I get arrested, why would I even be able to go anywhere else but my lab? Going up should have resulted in the message “But your lab is in the basement!” rather than allowing me to waste precious seconds exploring a dead-end.

Whoa, major Crichtonesque infodump! With quantum physics gobbledygook!

Bah, online hints. Not everybody has Internet-on-demand.

OK, doing the “obvious” kills millions. There’s a timer on the bomb but no obvious way to turn it on or off.

Ah, it’s set timer to <seconds>. Not exactly obvious; this should have been included as meta-information in the bomb’s description.

Man. All right, I cannot be in the same place as my prior self or catastrophe results. Which means… I have to track my position at every moment in this game and avoid any possible paradoxes. EVERY DAMN MOMENT. Do I really want to do that much bookkeeping?

This is the mine puzzle in Sorcerer over and over again…

Nope, this is too awkward to be fun. Maybe it has appeal to the anal-retentive D&D types that don’t mind spending an entire evening rolling up a character, but this is too much for me. Mapping and the occasional note is about as far as I would go. It’s a strong concept, and reasonably well-executed as far as I got, but overall the game does not appeal to me. Paradoxically, it gets a decent score on its strong technical, story, and puzzle merit. Puzzles are rated low not because they were lacking, but because of their inherent difficulty.


Technical: 6
Puzzles: 3
Story: 3

OK, the prologue… I am forced into a character name (“Stanley”), the prologue is full-page, and is gravid with purple prose. Then, after the exposition is what I am assuming was to be ASCII art, but on my interpreter looks like line noise.

The ASCII art problem is reminiscent of Yet Another Game With A Dragon, which forced the player to use a specific interpreter lest the title animation cause a fatal error. Granted, this line noise is not fatal, but the point of using TADS or z-code is platform-independence!

This error does not bode well. Trying another interpreter…

Open restroom door is not recognized, because the word “restroom” is not in the game’s vocabulary.

OK, friend is dead. Not sure if this is a good thing or not…

My map is limited, and I cannot walk out of this backwater. I suspect that having Arthur die was not a good thing.

OK, the only way to get the police to show up is to make myself look like a murderer.

Instructing the taxi driver was unnecessarily complicated. The game should have explained how it works, or understood the say command.

I could not shoot the driver. Considering all this game is asking me to do, waving the shotgun around should have had some effect.

The brick cannot be returned to the bag once it has been removed.

The television, scales, et al. in the description of the house are not addressable objects.

I cannot ask the government agents about my wife, despite all of the evidence.

Eh. Technically, it was fine save for the formatting problems at the beginning and a few annoying parser limitations. But there was very little here: few surprises, mediocre story, strongly linear plot.

Sting of the Wasp

Technical: 9
Puzzles: 8
Story: 9

Mmmm… an interesting start, with a parental advisory splash-screen. Still, I’ve heard these promises before, yet few have ever delivered. We shall see.

You wouldn’t “hear” a flash. (You might hear the whine of the strobe recharging, however.) Picky, picky, yes, but that’s my job here.

Heh, a $3,000 chest. Cute.

OK, the opening gives a good idea of who the player character is: a pampered princess currently cuckolding her harried husband. (Next on Alliteration Theatre…)

Personally, I wouldn’t care for trivial women like this, but I almost feel sorry for the character (Julia, her name turns out to be). She’s shallow, but her nemeses are just vicious.

The game might be more interesting if the women moved around.

Heh, Cynthia noticed that I was carrying a bottle of bleach. Good touch there.

There are two purses in the room with Melissa, and the parser prefers the wrong one.

It is very impressive that the author was able to create sympathy for such an unlikable woman. Lots of alternate solutions, consistent writing, excellent NPCs. The map is just the right size for a game of this scale. An superb competition entry.

Ruined Robots

Technical: 3
Puzzles: 3
Story: 2

Why are people insisting on adding hypermedia nowadays? It rarely adds to the experience, and weakens those that would rather read the story on a limited device (like a terminal at work, nudge nudge).

Eh, the introduction needs work. The writing level seems to be that of a junior adventure novel; the instructions on how to play (as they were) only insult my intelligence. If this were targeted at a younger audience, I would appreciate a README file to tell me so.

Hypertext commands embedded in the room description. But not, paradoxically, in the about information.

The problem with hypertext: I clicked on the word “fireplace” to examine it and ended up inside the fireplace, on fire no less. And clicking on “southeast” is the same as northeast. The hypertext seems to putter out rather quickly, fortunately (or not, depending on your point of view).

Huh. Well, the game just announced it is of the “find-the-treasure” genre.

There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to the placement of objects in this house. A glue stick next to cookies? A magician’s top hat?

The vacuum followed me out of the house. Don’t know if this was intentional or not.

Robotic elves in forest? (Also, “elves” is not recognized, yet “elf” is.)

Liffie is introduced via hypertext, even though it is not mentioned by description; also, is reintroduced every time the room is examined.

Damn it, walk-through time…

The vacuum cleaner is empty, yet when you pull a Gallagher on it…

I like the battery-powered flashlight.

Each time I enter the beaver room, the beaver takes another action. About the tenth time I entered, the room description scrolled off the page.

Well, they’ll win the award for the longest and most ridiculous object name.

Nope, this game is too disorganized. You can tell that at some point there was a small, simple story here, but then through agglomeration of puzzles we are left with the jumble it is today.


Technical: 8
Puzzles: 4
Story: 3

I like the format of the hints file; finally a good use for JavaScript!

Looks like another puzzle-fest… I’m confronted by a very complex machine, with an equally complex description. A few paragraph breaks in the description would have been welcomed.

Huh. First unintentional typo, and it was corrected.

Well, that was… short. And I missed a lousy point somewhere. The puzzles were easy, the story oversimplified. A nice diversion, but could have been so much more.


Technical: 9
Puzzles: 8
Story: 6

Whoo! ASCII maps! Happy day! (Actually, any kind of included map is welcome.)

The README has hard-coded line breaks, but is wider than the “official” 80-character-wide terminal.

MUD-like, eh? I’m still waiting for the z-Code version of “Nethack.”

Enough about the packaging, on with the game!

Ah yes, the ever-classic epic introduction. I think I’ve made my opinion of five-hundred-word essays clear.

‘Amputar the Barbarian’?

Okay… somehow I’ve been promoted from audience to participant; but in any fantasy novel the ragamuffin is a sure-bet so I shall carry on.

Oh yeah, I’m a sucker for games in which you can create your allies.

Man, this is taking forever… and the sure-bet is not looking so hot after all.

First glitch: Summon ice returns a TADS error.

Whew. Not bad, not bad at all—but then Beyond Zork was always a favorite of mine. A nice change-of-pace from your typical game.

Who Created That Monster?

Technical: 7
Puzzles: 2
Story: 1

Oh, great. A politically-themed game. After the nightmare of the last three months, do we really need to dredge up this muck once more? The IF Competition judges and miscellaneous players are a rather well-educated lot, are aware of the history of the mess in the Middle East, and have most likely made decisions about it long before the presentation of this game.

In short, this game is starting off on very thin ice…

The name “N. B. Horvath” sounds like a pseudonym.

To simplify the game a lot of common verbs have been disabled, mostly related to “find-the-object” puzzles.

Open the folder is equivalent to read the folder. You cannot close the folder, nor does the open action tell you that the folder is closed after reading it.

Jeez, I wonder who the mysterious XXX is? Hint: it’s not Barbara Bach.

Do we really need these bits of Iraq history injected into the game? It’s jarring.

Hugs? HUGS? God, an AOL chick is moonlighting as a muckraker.

Ah, yes. Let’s insult the Norwegians now. I doubt a resurgence in Norse mythology will occur in the next twenty years.

Hmmm. How does one recognize terrorists so quickly? Are they required to wear name tags? “Hi, I’m Abdul! I’ll be sending you to Allah shortly!” Bloody… now I’m stereotyping.

The terrorist vanishes in a puff of smoke. Direct quote. I’m not kidding…

Hmmm. There’s only one “floor” in the National Oil Company. Granted, it’s not a tough puzzle, but at least the Frobozz Magic Corporation’s Magic Corporate Headquarters allowed you to go to every floor (but 99 of them were filled with locked offices).

I’m surprised that the author didn’t describe G.W. as the last President of the United States.

Why would a bum know about an international conspiracy?

“NFL Eurasia” is cute.

OK, I’m hitting the walk-through, and the solution to the French embassy puzzle makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Nice reference to Rene Magritte.

There’s too much simplification and stereotyping here. Unlike last year’s Adventures of the President of the United States which took parody to such an extreme that it wasn’t insulting, this is a little too close to the truth to be pleasant. If you’re going to do a parody in this style then the main character has to be involved in something incidental to the mock world: e.g., the murder investigation in Jennifer Government.

It is unlikely that such a heavy-handed approach would be able to sway the opinion of an unregenerate neo-conservative (or knee-jerk liberal, for that matter), even in the unlikely case that they would be willing to play an interactive fiction game. Preaching to the choir is both frustrating and ultimately fruitless.

Technically, the game is fine: it has no showstopper bugs nor does it have structural glitches, so I cannot take points off there. The puzzles, however, are mediocre and somewhat confusing; worse, the author completely fails his story objective, whatever it may be. If the game was simply parody, then it was humorless; if the game was meant to be social commentary, it was ineffective.

Kurusu City

Technical: 6
Puzzles: 5
Story: 4

Getting ready to battle that fast-growing vegetable scourge of the South… oh, wait, Kurusu City. My bad.

Seems like we have some bad manga here… Let’s hope it’s tongue-in-cheek.

Open mirror results in the message “I don’t know how to open the .

ROT-13 hints? (Yeah, I’m cheating already.)

OK, the descriptions of women are getting rather… lurid. Plus:

Prolonged proximity to this sort of unbridled femininity leaves you feeling rattled and uncomfortable.

If this is bad manga, we’re looking at hot hot lesbian action sometime soon.

The conversation with the revolutionary seems somewhat stilted.

I’m stuck, and the hints are worthless. I think I may have gotten myself into an unwinnable state.

There’s a robot that randomly catches the player and makes her go to school. None of the hints pertain to math class, so I think this is an unwinnable state. Having a random “bang-you’re-dead” event is the worst possible IF technique.

Too many puzzles where actions need to be done in a specific order.

Bleah, yet another dead-end.

Time’s up. Too many possibilities of dead-ends for this to be enjoyable.


Technical: 8
Puzzles: 7
Story: 6

Yet another story starts in a cryotube…

A “hunt-the-verb” puzzle: Wear belt or close buckle do not work: only insert strap into recepticle does.

Whoo, another short one. Simple, to the point, nothing exceptionally difficult or surprising. A good competition entry, but it would be difficult to extend to a full-length game.

A Light’s Tale

Technical: 4
Puzzles: 7
Story: 3

Well, that was an—interesting—introduction. We start out with a cheesy sci-noir opening, with elements lifted barefacedly out of The Matrix.

OK, darkness is a tangible thing and the flashlight helps me repel it. Got it. Classic surreal anthropomorphization of game elements.

Hmmm. There is a lot of anthropomorphs in this game—gangs of gophers, mouse mechanics… wonder if the alliteration is a clue?

Error: show mirror to George results in [TADS-1014: ‘abort’ statement executed]

Huh, I encountered Bob and fled. Bob still killed me even though he was not in the location where I was. Either I should have been kept from exiting or a timer was accidentally left on.

Not a game problem, per se, but a problem with the documentation: the NPC names in the game are not the same as the NPC names in the hints file. This means I had to read the hints file to locate a solution to the above problem.

The author seems to be a commaphobe.

Yeah, yeah. C. S. Lewis said it better:

Make your choice, adventurous stranger:
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.

Opted to skip the chair, went exploring, bang-you’re-dead. No warning, no rationale. Granted, surrealism does not require rationale, but it does demand a twisted logic. Undo, undo, undo…


Geez, now it’s straight out of Harry Potter.

Another timer problem: I’m killed in the bar by the owner even though I am engaged in friendly conversation with same. I’m too deep in the game to undo past the error. Restarting…

Nope, even restarting seems to cause problems. Might be an interpreter thing. Ah, the walk-through. There is exactly one question that will save my skin.

Huh. In my first attempt, I was able to get through the door because I failed to read in the description that it was locked. If the door were locked, then I wouldn’t have gotten into that odd state above.

Bodies, bodies everywhere, but you cannot examine a one.

Ah, yes. The danger of mentioning objects in room descriptions: the nightstick and the book remain in the bar even though I pick them up. Detective, here we come!

I cannot drop the book or nightstick without causing a TADS error.

Well, at least the author has finally admitted to ripping off The Matrix.

Yet another pseudophilosophical game, a patchwork of puzzles yearning for a central theme. Like Stack Overflow above, the author performed sudden genre shifts with no explanation or reason, other than a desire to expand the game’s boundaries unnecessarily.

Blue Sky

Technical: 5
Puzzles: 6
Story: 8

Now that’s an introduction: establishes location, character, and mood in one hundred words. Short, concise, to the point.

Ouch. Dangling participle:

Spanish soldiers housed in the presidio to the northwest that is now the Palace of the Governers [sic] once marched on this historic square.

Typo: “souheast.”

Huh. The room description for East Water Street and Shelby list exits to the south and west, yet neither exist. Obviously the author couldn’t implement the entire map of Santa Fe, but routes blocked for design reasons should be given more than the default library response, e.g., “Only uninteresting residences lie in that direction.”

The local geography is slightly non-Euclidean, which is making mapping somewhat difficult. There are more than a few one-way “passageways” in the outside world, which make no sense. A few places the game explains the geometry by adding notes such as (by going northwest) but this is not consistent.

Examine piece of turquoise returns a parsing error: “piece” is not in the vocabulary.

Sell turquoise to tourist earns the response You can only do that to something animate.

OK, I’ve been spinning my wheels for the last half-hour trying to figure out how to get five dollars… and the walk-through tells me that I’ve missed my chance. (Which involves thievery, by the way.) Damn. Restarting…

Hmmm. Interesting (yet abrupt) ending; there’s lots of potential here, but there are significant kinks to work out. I suspect that there were a few puzzles (e.g., the tour guide) that were omitted to make the competition entry short. The geography needs to be organized, the storyline needs to be more fluid, and the blatant typographical errors corrected. Still, in a competition dominated by space opera and surrealism, this was a welcome change.


Technical: 7
Puzzles: 1
Story: 4

OK, so I’m Thomas Welsh. And he is…?

Oh dear, another philosophical submission…

Digits keep appearing in the upper left corner of the screen. I don’t know if it is a bug or significant. (Oh, it’s residue from the menu system.)

OK, not really much of a problem-solving game. One puzzle—at least one puzzle on the path I took. Maybe things will be different if I play a hawk.

Huh. Going hardcore in the opposite direction had little if any effect.

Maybe I’m missing something along the way, or maybe the point of this exercise is that our fate is ultimately not ours to control. In either case, a mediocre entry, buoyed only by a solid (if pedestrian) implementation.

Blue Chairs

Technical: 9
Puzzles: 8
Story: 10

Nice feelies.

Hey, I own that shirt (“There’s no place like”). Whaddaya mean it’s not cool?

Aaaaaand… it crashes my interpreter! Whoo! Switching to the ol’ faithful.

Again, the fancy ASCII graphics tricks are not necessary. Nobody cares about your z-code L337-ness.

I like the “uuuuuuuuh” trick with the keyboard.

Talk about an obscure board game…

“Alice”? Please let this not be another Matrix rip-off…

Whuh? In the bathroom, sit responds with (on top of the bathroom door) and drops you into the hallway.

Stoners and Dr. Who. Two great tastes that go great together.

Seems like I have an unspoken time limit in this game. Try again…

Hmmm. The car… hope this isn’t turning out to be one of those “conversation” games.

Huh. A state-machine maze. Well, that’s different.

Well… interesting. Not sure if I got the “best” ending, or if there is a best ending possible.

Restored, chose a less honest (but kinder) answer, radically different ending…

Superbly written, technically sound. The puzzles were clever and well-integrated into the storyline; most had alternate solutions from what I read in the hints. A bit disturbing of a story, which is of course what the author intended; it could have avoided the political bits which sullied its effectiveness (or am I still smarting over Who Created That Monster?). If you want to do a slice-of-life story, this is the way to do it: show the long-term impact of deceptively trivial decisions. A much more difficult approach than the “adventures-on-rails” that have plagued the competition in previous years.


Technical: 9
Puzzles: 7
Story: 8

OK, cannot open the packaged mingsheng.txt file. This may be the result of someone along the way damaging the Unicode header during repackaging. Seeing that I ♥ Unicode, I’ll let this one pass.

Yep, Zoom is able to do Unicode. Rock on!

I thought the interpreter crashed, but it was just waiting for input. Some sort of prompt would have been appreciated.

Unicode bitmaps are only barely comparable to their brushed counterparts.

Good, the game hasn’t allowed nonsensical repeating actions (e.g., taking the tea twice).

Neither “column” nor “dragon” are recognized nouns at the archway, but that’s a minor point.

I’m wandering around in circles…

Oh, right, I forgot—violence is the answer.

Oh, wait. It isn’t. I guess inanimate objects don’t count.

Nice ending. Wonderfully implemented, but I worry about portability. Thankfully, the author gave the Unicode-impaired an option out. I tried it with terminal-based Frotz and the game survived.

Chronicle Play Torn

Technical: 3
Puzzles: 6
Story: 5

The unholy offspring of Anchorhead and Wishbringer? We shall see…

The game allows the player to forego the ASCII art scenes. Good.

Not to mention the transparent sheet containing half of a secret message is straight from Hollywood Hijinx.

Multiple doors cannot be referenced by direction, e.g., east door.

The nightstand has a single drawer, but cannot be opened. The drawer itself can be opened, however.

You cannot peek through the kitchen keyhole.

You open trapdoor. Not a major typo, but still…

Ouch. Entering the pool without having protected possessions causes the message You should find something to keep your possessions in… repeated infinitely. Might be a Zoom problem. Restarting…

OK, restarting with the venerable Zip ∞ Special 2000 Edition… will try to crash the game again.

Huh. Didn’t notice the splash screen under Zoom. Perhaps this is an interpreter problem.

“Bookcase” is not a synonym for “bookshelf”.

Fatal Error: Imminent stack overflow!

OK, that’s just wrong. That should’ve been caught in beta-testing; hell, it should have been caught in internal testing. Unfortunately, that’ll cap the technical score at “5,” no matter how perfect the rest of the game is.

The carrying limitation is unreasonably low, albeit realistic.

Examine ceiling reveals nothing, but examine crack does.

You cannot pet the dog.

Running out of time… glancing at the walk-through… woo, big game.

Hmmm. I can touch the ship and examine the ship but if I try to enter the ship I get the enigmatic You can’t reach it from here (whatever “it” is.)

Ah, a hidden hatch, only accessible from the top. An inadvertent clue; the denial should have been phrased There is no apparent way into the ship.

Methinks the fungus is a red herring, but I cannot be sure.

The door leads to the transitions would be best followed by an ellipsis, so it’s not seen as a typo.

It’s the secret headquarters of the Bavarian Illuminati!

And now Tolkien. This reader questions, where’s the promised Lovecraftian love?

The Oracle fails to use definite articles.

Ah, a convenience über-noun. Well, at least it’s explained rather than expected.

I get one point for every item the Oracle examines? Damn, this is a last-lousy-point puzzle that I do not like.

This game is less like Anchorhead and more like Alien from L.A.

This is the kind of game I hate: not because it is bad, but because there was so much potential wasted. Some games are inherently bad, both in premise and implementation; this had a reasonable premise but such a shoddy implementation that it unfortunately tarnished the experience. I’m not talking just the coding errors, but also the story structure. Red herrings abounded, and the puzzles were non-intuitive and had single solutions. The primary value of this game is to show how important it is to have someone do testing!


Technical: 7
Puzzles: 8
Story: 5

All right, the feelies. Not sure if that is supposed to be splash screen art or a crude map. I’m leaning towards map.

Ugh. The introduction is pure purple prose, heavy on superlatives.

Examine me reveals no useful information.

Create as a verb? Interesting… however, the grammar suggests that create with no object will only give me the help message, rather than allowing me to finish the line. This would be fine if it didn’t charge me a turn for the message.

Hmmm. There seems to be a strict time limit to this game.

Sorry Zork fans: You cannot examine the windows of the small white house.

Nor can you examine the mountain.

On the roof of the castle, there is a large stone dome with a hole. You cannot examine the dome nor can you examine the hole.

The solution to battling the air monster involves a steeple that is not in the room description. If the steeple is the stone dome, then why not give it the synonym “dome”? Bad, bad design.

You can create glue but you cannot glue something to something else.

Bloody find-the-verb puzzle…

Defeating the horde requires a precise order of execution: if you enter the dark room before the horde attacks, that solution is no longer available.

Well, an interesting game, albeit light on plot. Nothing really spectacular in terms of technical work, although all the puzzles had multiple solutions. Your average competition entry, basically.


Technical: 2
Puzzles: 2
Story: 1

Wait, could it be? The long-awaited sequel to Pick up the Phone Booth and Die?

Nope, it looks like another Emily-Short-wannabe psycho-metaphorical Dada-esque time-sucker.

“Rather disgusting dada surealist [sic] foolishness”? Dude, you’re soaking in it.

A biscuit? Now, how do I die? Push the buscuit? Pick (up) the buscuit? No, nothing has killed me yet.

On top of everything else, the geometry is non-Euclidean.

Neither “keeper” nor “woman” are synonyms for the HatKeeper.

Just noticed: the biscuit is, in fact, “a biscuit” leading to wonderful phrases such as You see a a biscuit here. This may or may not be intentional. Damn surrealism.

OK, I get it. A void. Enough puns.

That’s it? Or does the author expect me to replay the game (such that it is) from start? Well, I have time…

OK, found the “rabit.” Still no change in game flow.

Bah, there’s some inside joke here that I cannot discern, nor do I want to. No story, puzzles that are exceptionally weak, bad spelling. Thanks for wasting my time.

A Day In The Life Of A Super Hero

Technical: 6
Puzzles: 7
Story: 9

Good, an option to skip the introduction. Not that the introduction is long, mind you, but having the option is nice.

Uh oh, looks like a charset problem… getting odd characters here and there; could be the game, could be the interpreter.

First death.

Abbreviations are different from acronyms. Acronyms are almost always in full caps.

This is like a low-budget version of The Tick but it works.

“Miscellaneous junk”? Way to go with the descriptions…

Ah, yes. Everyone’s favorite enemy, the Tax Collector.

Read paper returns the insulting You can’t read the newspaper!—either that, or the author was lazy.

The iron is in the fridge. In the fridge! Finally, someone who has captured the true essence of bachelorhood!

Mrs Clean, chronic housekeeper, captured for a mere $18 million. Heh. Reminds me of Angle Grinder Man.

Your jeans is… Ouch.

Well, the game definitely has a British tone, and the introduction of Mrs Muggle clinches it.

Heh. The “Use By” date joke. Love it.

Waiting around in this game is half the fun.

Moving the fridge around multiple times results in a humorous message.

Huh. The interpreter interprets every attempt to examine Smelly the Parrot as smell room.

Damn it, poisoning the vat of milk is a major hunt-the-verb puzzle, and it’s pissing me off. There’s no walk-through, and the hints are only general.

It’s unfortunate that there were so many places in the game that were blocked off because of a lack of vocabulary, since the author had a strong sense of the absurd when writing for the post-modernist super hero. A lack of sophistication has been a criticism of Adrift games in the past and unfortunately the situation has not improved.


Technical: 7
Puzzles: 3
Story: 6

No, no, no… not another Santoonie Corporation submission! Why? WHY?!?

Artwork is nice…

Gotta read the legal notice, if only for the laugh.

Good Lord, from the look of that emblem the evil humans are under the command of Dean Martin!

Ah, yes. Keeping with santoonie tradition, there is no walkthru. And equally, keeping with Wabewalker tradition, he’ll give up on the game when the errors become too annoying. The more things change…

Ah, yes, “its” versus “it’s”; Lynne Truss would be screaming by this point.

“Pregnated” is not a word.

L. Ron Hubbard?

You cannot get the stone sword, which makes sense. The game’s response, however, does not: You find nothing of interest after a thorough inspection of the sword.

excepting it gracefully. Ouch.

Open table is silently accepted, but does nothing. Open drawer actually opens the drawer in the table.

“Fowl humans”? You mean like Hawkman?

Ah, yes, the infamous Santoonie food ’n’ sleep requirements…

One turn away from food, and I die. Sucks to be me. Restoring…

Whoo, a bang-you’re-dead puzzle. Haven’t seen many of those outside of Eamon. Undo.

“You bitch”? Man, this game is more flaming than The Very Secret Diaries.

That’s it? Huh. Not sure if I won or not (even if the game said I did). Maybe there was a better ending, maybe not. More stable than your typical Santoonie fare, but that’s not saying much. Still, it’s certainly not the worst game of the competition.

Square Circle

Technical: 9
Puzzles: 10
Story: 7

Hey, it’s everyone’s favorite substitution strip! Or not…

Huh. Imprisoned for a crime that the character may or may not have committed, given an obscure and vague task to complete.

The scary thing is that there are people who absolutely believe the philosophy of this game’s penal system.

BOOM! Look up square in green book crashes the interpreter.

The red book is the “key” to exercises. So why can’t I unlock the door? Am I thinking too diagonally?

No, I’m not. But it was a tricky puzzle, one that required me to search the book rather than to read it.

Urg. Trying to give the game instructions on how to draw on the sphere is maddening. Precision is one thing; but the author has a specific phrase that he wants us to guess.

Typo: mpre sand.

Ah, “New Enlightenment.” Gotcha…

Huh, HyperTADS started having memory problems. Probably not the game’s fault.

Hmmm. It seems that I’m trapped in the hut. I think I fell for a red herring.

Damn, game crashed again.

Wow, the number of alternate solutions are amazing. It’s unfortunate that I had so many crashes with the game; I expect it is because of the quality of my interpreter (since they were not runtime errors, but actual crashes). A fine game; glad I was able to play it.

I Must Play

Technical: 7
Puzzles: 8
Story: 5

Well, at least this game has an obvious objective: play an arcade game. Here’s hoping that there’s no “video game” embedded in the story itself; that usually is harsh on interpreters, and with my luck lately…

Scoreboard. Cute.

OK, spent ten minutes in the onyx video game and got nowhere. It looks like the games are not independent, but must be played in order. Pity. I was hoping for a set of mini-games like in Nord and Bert.

There seems to be a lot of map-padding here.

There’s an impedance mismatch between adventure games and arcade games. I’m not talking about the real-time dilemma (easily solved, just look at Border Zone), but the actual mindset required to play each. Actually, any time the player is required to work with some complicated virtualized machine (the packaging machine in Typo; the bomb in The Best Man) requires a significant amount of precision in the descriptions. (The most telling example of this difficulty is the mirror room in Zork III: simple, yet the oversaturated description made the puzzle unnecessarily difficult.)

Oh hell, I think I’m in Tetris

Social lessons from Tetris? What drugs is this kid on?

Huh? I kill everyone because I make it illegal to be ugly? I doubt the US Senate would vote in its own suicide.

You cannot sit on the bench.

horrific site. Sigh.

“Body” is not a synonym for “soldier.”

Nice stab at Independence Day (with an insult to Microsoft thrown in for good measure).

There’s a small bug: both the green machine and the aqua machine claim to be “Space Intruders” now.

Rainbow Brite? RAINBOW BRITE?!?

Hell, now I’m in Pong? This is silly. Except for a few fanatics, nobody alive today would want to play Pong. (Disclaimer: I once owned Pong.)

What? No claim that Pong is the ultimate expression of the existentialist movement, or that it has the geopolitical significance of neo-Marxism? I’m disappointed.

Oh, wait. It was delayed. My apologies for being impatient.

If the duck is evil, why is the game called Goose Hunt?

(In his best MST3K voice:) MITCHELL!

This didn’t turn out as badly as I feared: the implementation was stable, no real-time tricks, no bizarre virtual-reality interpretations of the two-dimensional world (with perhaps the exception of Pong). Story was light, but that can be excused for a puzzle-fest.


Technical: 8
Puzzles: 8
Story: 6

Huh. Interesting. I don’t control the player character directly, but must give him instructions through an underling. An interesting concept.

This third-person approach is disconcerting, but that was the author’s intention.

I’m at a complete loss… oh, wait. I’m not thinking religiously. Sacrifices must be made.

Hmmm. The figurine is not good enough for me, yet I have no idea why? Sorta throws the whole omniscience theory out the window, eh?

Oh. OK. Walk-through gave a hint about blood. That’s a bit obscure. I suppose one could argue that the statue glowing red was the hint, but that’s a weak hint at best. Everything else was somewhat obvious.

The game concept is very interesting, and has been explored in a few ways in other games (Splashdown’s sequence with the player controlling Spider immediately pops to mind) but never on a level such as this. Having the player be a god, however, led to some logical incongruencies that were difficult to ignore. It might be more interesting to have the player character be less powerful, e.g., having the player character direct a NPC to land a plane or defuse a bomb.


Technical: 8
Puzzles: 7
Story: 1

What’s a gamlet? A small game? Let’s hope so—I’m cutting it down to the wire with the reviewing. Stupid real life getting in the way…

Memo to self: always sleep in a tuxedo.

Hmmm. Hamlet meets Judaic mythology.

suspended skeleton of Sagittarius? Hey, the application of additional alliteration is my schtick, pal.

OK, pappy was poisoned by a putrid potty. Where am I? When am I? Let’s see the about blurb.

Yowch, that was unpleasant. There’s a lot of rancor here; perhaps a fictionalized autobiography is not the best subject for interactive fiction. I’m sure a good number of people in the credits are cringing at the thought of being associated with such a spleen-venting. Don’t worry, I won’t hold it against you.

Well, at least God is on my side… as the help system.

This is really awkward… I dislike this genre of interactive fiction. Like Jarod’s Journey of years ago, the personal philosophy of the game was in conflict with my own. I respect other people’s beliefs (respect being more open than tolerate, in my opinion) which makes my brand of irreverent acerbic commentary thoroughly inappropriate. The problem with this kind of game is that interactive fiction requires deep immersion into the character; the end result is that no matter the quality of the implementation, the score reflects this conflict: hence the danger of politically-charged games. Doubly dangerous when the author chooses to include blatant angst.

I’m sorry, but a yarmulke will never be considered sexy under any condition.

The status line is not reflecting the available exits. Granted, two of the exits are of the “goes nowhere” variety, but still…

The hamster’s name is “Yorick.” Alas…

The whole sequence with examining the hamster’s cage seems to suggest a troubled and doubting mind.

I wanted to get to the cabinet but ended up falling down the stairs. The description of the landing does not indicate that the cabinet is reachable from that location.

OK, this game is going too slowly, and I really cannot commit myself to finishing it. Technically, it appears perfect if pedestrian; however, my previous unease with the theme still stands.

The Great Xavio

Technical: 7
Puzzles: 6
Story: 10

I’m an unwilling assistant to a skeptic on a mission to unmask a fraudulent thaumaturge. A rough paradigm shift from the previous story, but that’s the way the generator ordered the games.

Ask Todd about hotel returns the same answer as ask Todd about Xavio. There was no state stored, no recognition that the answer had been repeated.

Dr. Todd himself is a prime parody of modern intelligentsia.

Max Zlotzky… name sounds familiar. Nope, Google returns little. Must be a confabulation.

No man should ever be described as “petite.” That’s just wrong.

I wonder which Berkeley professor Dr. Todd is based upon? He’s too pushy to be Hilfinger, even though he has the same arrogance. Probably a gestalt entity.

Heh. I like the cellphone with the homicide detective’s number programmed in, and the subsequent hand-waving. Even better if it turns out to be a red herring.

Man, the pink pages. Damn game, it’s making me nostalgic.

I am starting to understand how Dr. Watson felt. And Dr. Todd is turning out to be the annoying psychologist from the Museum of Inform.

Huh, a 65-year-old bodyguard. Shouldn’t be too difficult to pass.

There’s no phone in the hotel room. That’s very odd.

This key is getting annoying. Once it becomes obvious how to unlock doors, the process should become automatic.

The towels remain on the table after they are taken (item listed in room description).

Ah, the Jacuzzi isn’t open at this hour. Wonder if the door can be opened at all?

All the hints come through Dr. Todd. When Todd himself is the problem, where do the hints go?

Huh. I accidentally lost the cart, told Todd to get in it (which he did), and now both Todd and the cart are missing! Big bug there.

I want to kill Todd, but the game won’t let me. Damn thesis.

Open south door results in a parsing error.

Yet another person muscling in on my alliteration! Do they have no shame?

The machine is cute, although it seems to be just a larger version of the money press that you could buy from those ads in the backs of comic books. Remember, kids?

On the thousand dollar bill, some currency trivia which I had to look up recently:

Salmon P. Chase is on the $10,000 bill. Wilson is on the $100,000, which was used for inter-bank transfers.

Two dollar bills are still being printed.

The $100 is the largest bill in circulation right now. Any higher denomination bills are exchanged at the Federal Reserve and destroyed.

You cannot close the chest once it has been opened.

Oh, sure. We’ve only burgled a man’s hotel room, but swiping food from the minibar is illegal?

No! Not a murder mystery! Unless I can somehow frame Todd for the crime…

Ha! The exchange with the detective is priceless (“I’m an empiricist”). I am loving this game; a dose of humor is exactly what I need right now.

Hey! Last lousy point! I have the food and champagne… or at least Dr. Todd does. Damn Todd…

Not a bad game; a little weak on puzzles, and the output formatting left much to be desired. But the characterizations of the resident consulting detective were classic, which made up for a lot.

Goose, Egg, Badger

Technical: 9
Puzzles: 9
Story: 6

Badger badger badger badger…

Oh dear, another surreal experimental story…

I’m curious about the tagline: An Eccentric Girl’s Birthday

This is almost like Nord and Bert, but not quite.

Ew. Dead cow. Reminiscent of the whale from HHGTG.

Heh, that definition of “top.”

Heh, pocket knife responds with No, it’s definitely a carving knife.

The egg-with-gosling problem is non-intuitive.

Get down was a pun opportunity that was certainly missed.

Robot? What? When did I become a robot?

Oh, I’m dreaming. I get it.

An interesting little diversion; didn’t get the full score, but got more than the bare minimum. The “noun-as-verb” feature encourages replay, which is good.

Luminous Horizon

Technical: 10
Puzzles: 7
Story: 9

The feelies are magnificent. Absolutely superb. They’re going to set a new apex for the packaging of future competition entries.

Does not require playing the previous episodes? We shall see, since I haven't played the previous games. (I did try out Earth and Sky for five minutes, once.)

Bah, MacOS interpreter does not like game. Not sure if I can play this…

Well, slap me around and call me Susan. The Java-based interpreter works.

The hint system is integrated well, as the first puzzle is rather obscure. Again, without having played the first two parts, I’m probably of the wrong mindset to solve what others would view as a minor hurdle.

Tonight on Adventure Theatre: When Blambot Fonts Go Horribly Awry! (Well, they are comic-book-style superheroes…)

Well, that was an easy first part. As usual, violence is the answer.

The cut-scenes aren’t annoying, a miraculous feat in itself; however, they are gravis with foreshadowing.

Again, the in-line hint system is adequate, but I’m running out of time…

Oh man, he had to go with the four elements…

Fighting Mom & Dad was just this side of being a hunt-the-verb puzzle. I kept trying to duck, but the game wanted me to jump.

Aw, a Hollywood ending. How appropriate.

Good story with some challenging puzzles. It might be worth my while to go get the first two parts to get a more in-depth knowledge of the background story.

And that’s a wrap for IFComp 2004! Finished on the day it was due, a mere fourteen hours before the deadline. A good year; nothing outstanding, but then nothing as reprehensible like a few of last year’s entries. But, since it was yanked after I finished my notes on it, here’s a bonus review…

Die Vollkommene Masse

Technical: -
Puzzles: -
Story: -

Withdrawn by author after I wrote this review, so I’m publishing this anyway. I lost two hours of my life to this; you can afford to lose five minutes.

Right off the bat, I have a problem with this distribution. The documentation and walk-through are in MS Word format. Not everyone has MS Word!

Oh dear Lord, the documentation is written in fanfic style… Not a good sign.

The inclusion of maps is a nice touch (I did the same for The Best Man). The maps are a bit primitive, however; still, they will be useful. Also, they give me an idea of the size of the game.

I hate having my character dictated to me. Any game which contains “You are…” in the introduction is a major turn-off for me. It suggests laziness on the part of the author; rather than letting the player discover who they are, the author regurgitates a prefabricated personality. A story is not a debriefing. If it were, I would be sitting in my hipster ’60s apartment flipping through a binder filled with pictures of supermodels. Mmmmm… Cinnamon Carter.

This is doubly annoying in this case because this game assumes some familiarity with the genre in which it resides. I’m not a big fan of fantasy books, so the whole world of drow elves is lost on me. R. A. Salvatori can keep his litigious novels, thank you very much.

You can’t wear the magic backpack. Not the best use of a default response.

Hm, game locked up when I attempted to talk to Usi. HyperTADS has a problem with some games, so I shall restart in another interpreter and reset the clock… Yes, it was a problem with the interpreter: it did not like the menu-driven conversation.

The description of the man (Usi) is embedded in the description of the room. Not a good idea…

Character descriptions when idle are random and varied. Good.

The purple prose is a bit much. Lots of flowery adjectives, too many for a good description. Graham Nelson warned about the dangers of “mediocre room descriptions” (DM4, §51, p.398). Nothing seems solid; rooms exist primarily as containers for objects.

Bad design: I encountered “Another spiral staircase” before encountering the first.

Some characters speak a language that looks like German. Ah, the dangers of Babelfish…

Ten minutes of trying to figure out why it won’t let me put clothes on the doll. Oh, the clothes must be put on in the right order. No indication from the default response that this is the case… Sounds like another game in need of serious play-testing.

Nope, even in the right order I cannot attach things to the doll. Walk-through time…

Followed the walk-through to the letter; still not working. Sorry, but I will have to score with what I’ve seen, and what I’ve seen has been poor.