Chronicle Play Torn
Author: Penczer Attila (Algol)
The intro reads like a classic Lovecraft beginning: an elderly
relative, reclusive and eccentric, has spent the last few years delving
into Things Man Was Not Meant To Know. Now that he's disappeared, it's
up to find out what happened to him. And while it's not an original
premise, even in IF, the important thing is how it is implemented. In
this case, I wasn't impressed and I wasn't able to finish because of the
two hour limit.
The decent story and good sense of imagery are somewhat spoiled by
halting flow, spelling errors, problems with punctuation, grammar
issues, and some strange word choices. Some actions produced responses
that felt surprisingly superficial (such as reading the herb book and
then later when you find the herbs). And the title simply makes no
sense to me. I chalk most of this up to the author being a non-native
English speaker. So that's the reason and we understand why much of it
happened, but the problem is still there. It also doesn't explain the
disappointing default self-description ("As good-looking as ever").
Still, for all of its faults, I found the writing to be acceptable.
In an accompanying text file, Chronicle Play Torn's author admits that
he didn't have "the time to do proper beta-testing". And though I hate
to say it, you can tell. Not only would testers have helped clean up
the broken prose, they also would have found many of the obvious
technical issues. For example, the terp-crashing stack overflow bug
that I encountered when I entered the pool with a lit lamp. Or the fact
that I was told that the lamp was getting dim even when it was in a
completely different plane of existence than I was. Later in the game,
there is an exit barred by a grating. Though the description mentions
hinges, you cannot examine them separately from the grating itself. The
game recognizes "hinge" and "hinges" as synonyms for the grating.
Unfortunately, the solution to this puzzle requires the player to divine
that there is an "upper" hinge and a "lower hinge"... even though these
are not mentioned in the room description or the description of the
grating. What's worse is that Inform's default response to hitting the
upper hinge ("Violence isn't the answer to this one") is extraordinarily
misleading. Violence is the answer to this one; I was just
attacking the wrong hinge.
I was enjoying the game at the start, even though it's a pretty common
theme. The first chapter flowed pretty well, despite some of the
technical issues. The second chapter felt barren and short, since most
of the rooms you encounter have no purpose except possibly for
atmosphere. Perhaps the air of emptiness was a deliberate effort of the
author. It's hard to say. Even so, if there's a dog in a game, the
player should be able to pet it! Chapter three was good for
exploration, but I found the whole realm rather confusing and it was
here that I started to bump up against the game's inventory limit. This
is also the area where the player encounters buildings that cannot be
entered with compass directions; they are accessible through the "in"
verb. I guess this is a stylistic choice. It's just not one I agree
with. One problem I found was that I was able to enter a house that
"has no door" and it was not clear exactly how I gained entry. The
third chapter is larger than the previous two chapters and I never was
able to explore it all. After roaming the city, watching statues
carried here and there by the wind, I floundered in my lack of
motivation. Supposedly my uncle was there, in that alien landscape, but
only because I guess there was really no where else he could have gone.
I found no clues or evidence that he had actually been in any of the
places I explored. When the time limit hit, I didn't really balk at
closing the game. I hope to go back to this game sometime in the near
future and see if I can make any more progress.
Though the transparent sheet puzzle was fairly obvious, I thought it
was particularly clever and original for an IF game.
When a stack overflow error crashed the interpreter. I can understand
an author not having enough time for a game to be beta-tested before the
competition. However, that doesn't mean it's a good idea to go ahead
and enter it anyway. Even though you might get a lot of useful bug
reports, your game will still be remembered as buggy by the competition
judges and anyone who reads the post-comp reviews. Like someone said in
SPAG #35, "the three most important words in IF creation are Testing,