(none) Quintin Stone - IF Comp 2003 Reviews
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[ IF Comp 2003 Reviews ]

This year, I'm presenting all the reviews in a single page. This is because I tried to keep these short and sweet, giving my overall impressions of the games without getting into too many spoilery details. I've found that big reviews don't really suit me. The reviews are listed in the order that comp03.z5 gave them to me because that's the order in which I wrote them, but I've also put in the option to sort by other categories.

Some of these reviews I have revised, based on discussions with other players on rec.games.int-fiction, or after further playing and reflection. As an author in the 2003 comp, I couldn't vote in the public ranking, so it doesn't really matter if I decide to change my votes after the fact! If I've revised a score, the original score appears after it in parentheses.

(Sort listing by: author | comp placement | name | play order)
(View only results summary)

Sorted by score:
  9Risorgimento Represso
  8Shadows On The Mirror
  8Baluthar
  8Slouching Towards Bedlam
  7The Erudition Chamber
  7The Recruit
  7Gourmet
  7Sardoria
  7The Atomic Heart
  6Cerulean Stowaway
  6A Paper Moon
  6Episode in the Life of an Artist
  5Adoo's Stinky Story
  5Temple of Kaos
  5CaffeiNation
  5Sophie's Adventure
  5Internal Documents
  4Bio
  4little girl in the big world
  3The Adventures of the President of the United States
  3No Room
  3Curse of Manorland
  3Delvyn
  1The Fat Lardo And The Rubber Ducky
  1Hercules First Labor
  1Amnesia
  1Rape, Pillage, Galore!
  -Scavenger
  -Domicile
  -Sweet Dreams


Risorgimento Represso
Author: Michael Coyne
Language: z-code
Genre: Fantasy
Score: 9

A setting perhaps a bit more cliched (magic fantasy) than the one in my own game, though I am of the opinion that implementation is more important than complete originality. And so I was cheerfully able to appreciate this pleasant, light-hearted fantasy game. It made good use of a brief pre-game, though it lacked a symmetrically elegant conclusion (the game ends in an infodump of considerable length, probably my only real complaint against it). The puzzles were good and even the trickier ones had solutions that made sense in hindsight. One I felt was a bit of a guess-the-verb, but I got over it. I give this game a hearty recommendation.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Slouching Towards Bedlam
Author: Anssi Raisanen
Language: z-code
Genre: Surreal
Score: 8

A good intro not only sets up the background, it also establishes a certain mood. Bedlam's introduction certainly fulfills this obligation. It left me feeling somewhat unnerved and wary. Perfectly suited to this unusual game. After some initial discoveries, though, a certain feeling of directionlessness settled on me. The very well-done hints certainly addressed this, though I feel that the game could have done a better job of providing the player with a sense of purpose. Certainly there is a mystery to solve -- there's just little information on how to begin. This isn't helped when important object interfaces (the console's buttons, the pyramid's dial) are somewhat obfuscated. Without the triage's help, there's no mention of the pyramid's dial that I could find. The console's description doesn't give any indication that deeper examination is necessary to discover the vitally important buttons. These things got me in the habit of relying on the hint system and I never recovered. So while I could see that there was some brilliant work put into this game, I found myself unable to truly appreciate it. It can be hard to approach a game like this during a comp, where you are somewhat jaded by the previous games of low quality. And so when you come to one like Slouching Towards Bedlam, with its low-key mystery plot and quite bizarre features, you begin to wonder if the author just made a mistake or if you're using an incompatible interpreter. So my suggestion is to sit and play the game and set aside some time for when you can really devote some serious attention to it.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Baluthar
Author: Chris Molloy Wischer
Language: z-code
Genre: Fantasy
Score: 8

Though the writing in Baluthar was at times quite verbose, I really did enjoy it. I doubt I would have found so much reading bearable had it not been done so well. Likely I would have ended up skimming the long text and, without the interest to really digest the descriptions, relied on the hints or walkthrough exclusively. I still did need to refer to the hints for a few of the obstacles. The rest seemed fairly straightforward. Probably my biggest gripe of the game was the anticlimactic ending. The characters ended up feeling a tad lifeless to me. I never felt a particular sense of dread or danger from the beasties I encountered. From a detached perspective, I could appreciate that they had very menacing presentations, but I never really *felt* that. Maybe it's because I didn't feel connected to the characters. Rykhard especially came across as a rather hollow NPC, despite (or perhaps because of) his speeches. But I consider this a moderately minor issue that only takes away slightly from an otherwise well-done game.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Shadows On The Mirror
Author: Chrysoula Tzavelas
Language: TADS3
Genre: Conversational
Original score: 5
Revised score: 8

I think I missed the point of this game. After playing and rating it, I checked the hints and read that this "is a game about character interaction." Problem is, there was almost no character interaction in my plays through the game. Wanting to get a firm grip on my situation first, I investigated my surroundings before trying to converse with the key NPC. In doing so, it seems that I completely circumvented the need to talk to him at all. And so I apparently reached one of the "happy" endings in very short order. I suppose I've just played so many games with weak NPC interaction that unless a game practically SCREAMS character interaction as its purpose, I'll hardly even try. Perhaps a better cuing of this idea in order.

Revised: This game can't really be appreciated until you've played through it several times. The number of possible conclusions is quite staggering (the author posted a more-or-less complete list of possible endings). Slouching, on the other hand, tells you, with its appendices, that you've only found one finale out of several. Probably the only issue I can really take with this game is that there's so much more to it than a player might guess.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


The Recruit
Author: Mike Sousa
Language: TADS2
Genre: Puzzles
Score: 7

An unabashed puzzle game. As you soon discover, your entire purpose is to beta-test a "real life" adventure game. Though it's been done before, I found this game did a pretty impressive job of implementing it. The puzzles were certainly original with some clever solutions, and those are major pluses if puzzles are your game's major focus. The most freaky moment was when I restarted the game and it came up with my name for the PC, complete with the uncommon spelling. Mike included a large number of RAIF/RGIF regulars in his list of random PC names and didn't, as I briefly thought, include some kind of telepathic link. So 1 point off for disappointing me there. (Kidding)

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Sardoria
Author: Anssi Raisanen
Language: Alan
Genre: Fantasy
Score: 7

In a nice twist, instead of the backstory being presented in a started introductory infodump, it's shown when you examine yourself. From there, the game proceeds fairly linearly, as a series of puzzle obstacles one right after the other. It's nicely executed, with only a few problems (ham the game tells you isn't edible, a drawer that closes but doesn't, and a whopper of a bug that can make the game unwinnable if you do a certain thing).

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


The Atomic Heart
Author: Stefan Blixt
Language: z-code
Genre: Science fiction
Score: 7

I thought this was a fairly innovative idea: you play as a robot (and unlike some other games, you are well aware of your status from the very beginning). As such, there are some actions you are quite incapable of taking, but other abilities beyond those of normal humans are available to you. The downside is that the implementation felt somewhat clumsy. There are some bugs (being able to pick up a giant robot and some out-of-order lines of text) and a "death" system somewhat reminiscent of Spider and Web, though not nearly as elegant. With some more attention to these problems, this could shift from a decent game to a good one.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Gourmet
Author: Aaron A. Reed
Language: z-code
Genre: Slice of life
Score: 7

I can't emphasize this enough: I like to be given a goal. I believe that the days of fumbling around without a clue as to what you should do faded away with the Golden Age of text adventures. Gourmet, happily, gives me a goal. Even when I'm not sure *how* to achieve that objective, at least I have some direction. This game had some great moments that really made me chuckle, even though quite a few times I had to refer to the walkthrough to get me through some of the more obtuse puzzles (and though I probably never would have guessed the solutions, at least they follow a consistent sort of logic and made sense within that framework).

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


The Erudition Chamber
Author: Daniel Freas
Language: TADS2
Genre: Fantasy / Puzzles
Score: 7

In the real world, there is rarely one solution for any given problem. In this game, there are four, each adhering to a different principle. Because of this, The Erudition Chamber, nearly a naked puzzle game, was the only game I played to completion multiple times. Some of the solutions are definitely more obvious than others. A few take some definite thought. The great thing about this design: we all approach puzzles differently, and here we have problems with solutions that should be deducible no matter how your brain works. My only complaint is that I never felt particularly immersed or in character. As such, the endings were nice but my victory didn't give me too much of a thrill.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Cerulean Stowaway
Author: Roger Descheneaux
Language: TADS2
Genre: Science fiction
Score: 6

The infodump intro does a good job of presenting the world, but is still way too much text to display at the start of a game. Don't expect to be surprised by the turn of events as you progress through the game. On the other hand, it is quite surprising at how easy it is to get the game stuck in an unwinnable state. Some objects had standard denial responses to some perfectly reasonable actions, but otherwise the world was adequately modeled. The context-sensitive hints mostly worked, though in some cases they failed to provide any help later on in the game.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Episode in the Life of an Artist
Author: Peter Eastman
Language: TADS2
Genre: Slice of life
Score: 6

Starts out with the tedium of dressing, article of clothing by article clothing. A deliberate comment on the tedious life of the player character? Maybe, but at the start of a game it's just irritating. The game, I think, tries to be both funny and creepy at the same time. Doesn't quite achieve either one in my estimation. It will definitely require some knowledge of Infocom and their games to get every reference. The game did have a few good moments that made me smile. It's just a shame they were too few and far between.

Revised: Another reviewer pointed out the play on words between "artist" and "autist". The PC of this game came across to me as simple, yes, not quite autistic. Still, the idea is too compelling to ignore. A pity that the author didn't do more with it (assuming that it's true).

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


A Paper Moon
Author: Andrew Krywaniu
Language: z-code
Genre: Fantasy
Score: 6

Adequate puzzles with an overall lackluster implementation. Yet again, I find a game that gives me no clue as to what I'm supposed to be doing or why I'd do it. Only further into the game do I begin to gain direction, and even then it's a naked treasure hunt with questionable purpose (not dissimilar from the purpose in Risorgimento Represso, oddly enough). The main NPC I meet is somehow immediately known to me, even though the game doesn't imply I've ever met him before. The writing is fairly inconsistent, with one of the rooms being a single line of text, some rooms not listing an exit, and one of the room names being lowercase even though all others are capitalized. The most interesting aspect of the game, the oragami, was fairly well utilized and adequately implemented, however I don't think it quite lived up to its potential.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Internal Documents
Author: Tom Lechner
Language: z-code
Genre: Espionage
Score: 5

The game starts out with the possibility of being something beyond the usual exploration/puzzle-solving. My hopes were not realized. NPC interaction felt constrained, especially when I tried to answer the bartender's question and found there didn't seem to be any way to engage him in conversation. The map seemed overly large for the game's content. There's a whole section of outdoor area which didn't seem to have any relevance to the game (or at least as far as I got in it). When I entered the maze of similar basement passages, neverending doors, and non-reciprocating exits, I decided to call it a day.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Temple of Kaos
Author: Peter Gambles
Language: TADS2
Genre: Fantasy
Score: 5

I've never cared for poetry. Not surprisingly, I don't particularly like the idea of IF done in poetic form. The focus is on form rather than details, style over substance, leaving me unable to properly visualize much of anything I encounter. It was also a minor bother that the game felt inconsistent. Some responses were poetry, some were not. At least the descriptions were brief enough that it was easy to figure out what was important. Still, play felt murky and vague. I found myself relying almost entirely on hints as the game progressed. The idea of contradictory concepts is an intriguing one (an idea I've explored for possible games of my own) and it's a shame that it was eclipsed by the somewhat opaque nature of the writing.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Sophie's Adventure
Author: David Whyld
Language: Adrift
Genre: Fantasy
Score: 5

A large game I found more notable for its bugs than anything else. Each is minor, but taken together they really bring down the quality. (For example, the second room proclaims an exit that doesn't exist, I repeatedly got dropped out of conversation menus with no explanations, my score once "increased" from 2 to... 2, the walkthrough doesn't match the map, and the game performed an action I typed right after telling me it was impossible.) It definitely could have done with a lot more beta testing. After a while I tried to turn to the walkthrough, but since I couldn't get that to work and I didn't get the impression I had advanced very far, I gave up.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


CaffeiNation
Author: Michael Loegering
Language: z-code
Genre: Office humor
Score: 5

Starts off with a clever and humorous (in my opinion, of course) introduction, but slowly grinds downwards from there. A real pity, because it had potential. A lot of the problems seemed to come from the rough, unpolished implementation. Little things that, taken together, spoil the atmosphere and enjoyability. There's a couple of disambiguation problems, an exit uncovered that you are never told about, major scenery objects not implemented, a room with no description, and even a section of the walkthrough that didn't seem to work for me. It's nice that there are alternate solutions to several of the obstacles. Just a shame that even most of these are so obtuse I would never have gotten them without the walkthrough.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Adoo's Stinky Story
Author: B. Perry
Language: z-code
Genre: Slice of life
Score: 5

Well, at least I start with a goal. Unfortunately, it's a pretty juvenile one. This is another game where the introduction gives you a fairly good feel for the rest of the game. The main problem with this game is that the implementation just feels downright unpolished. For some reason, the author decided to make doors available in the room's content list, rather than the room description itself. The result is room after room containing a "wooden door". The NPCs, while possessing a reasonable degree of interaction, are still little more than two-dimensional paper cut-outs. In the end, I felt more relief than satisfaction upon completing the game.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


little girl in the big world
Author: Peter Wendrich
Language: custom
Genre: Children's
Score: 4

With a simplistic parser, this game's greatest contribution is probably to the author's programming experience. It's interesting in that the game alternates between having you perform the actions yourself and telling the title character to perform them, but that's about it. There's not that much to the game itself, and if the parser doesn't recognize an action, you get a very default "That didn't work" in response.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Bio
Author: David Linder
Language: TADS2
Genre: Science fiction
Score: 4

This isn't a completely awful game. It's easy to think that it is, because you'll die in the first 15 moves. And you will die. There's no avoiding it... unless you look at the walkthrough. And the reason you'll die is because the author absentmindedly changed the name of a piece of scenery in the start room description, but didn't rename the actual scenery object that you need to open in order to live (or possibly vice versa). If you can make it past the first 15 moves, you'll encounter what would seem to be a first attempt at IF. Not a particularly stellar one either. Some rooms even lack descriptions, few scenery objects are implemented. But there is a cohesive story, at least.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Curse of Manorland
Author: James King
Language: AGT
Genre: Fantasy
Score: 3

The introduction, most notable for its lack of proper punctuation or capitalization, pretty much sets the stage. I found the game frustrating for nonexistant synonyms and character motivation. After a little walkthrough-related progress, I abandoned the game in the midst of constant reminders of how cold I was.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Delvyn
Author: William A. Tilli (writing as Santoonie Corporation)
Language: TADS2
Genre: Fantasy
Score: 3

At first, I thought this game required multimedia support to play. I mean, it was pretty inconceivable that the start room would be missing a description. So after a few minutes in Linux, I shelved it until I could give it a go on a Windows machine. That was when I discovered that, even though there are some graphics and sounds in the game, the start room's missing description remained inexplicably AWOL. A frustrated "x all" revealed that you can examine the bedroom explicitly to see it. Ugh. Oddly enough, this is the only room I found this to be a problem with. The start room. I mean, come on! It's the very first room you see. How could this get by the testers? It's inconceivable. When I died from hunger in my own kitchen, in front of my mother, I decided that I'd had enough of this game.

Revised: The author took issue with some of the statements in my review. Apparently the lack of a start room description was because "you had been living there for quite some time, to view any changes, would take x bedroom." This assertion, of course, is ridiculous on its face. The rest of the house rooms had descriptions. Wasn't my character just as familiar with them? Besides, room descriptions are for the player, not the player character. I haven't lived there for any amount of time. That's why I need a room description. Also, my character's death was apparently due to "the ineptitude of the puppetmaster". In other words, yours truly is a dullard. Silly me for believing that a person (even a "Grey Elf") could survive 10 minutes after gulping down a stack of pancakes without needing to eat anything else. "Delvyn is a Grey Elf, and the humidity factor in South Carolina created a very dangerous health risk for the albino elf.... You learn to excell [sic] or go home early."

Some people believe that A. P. Hill and the rest of the "Santoonie Corporation" are little more than elaborate trolls. I don't believe that. My own personal belief is that A. P. Hill lives in a different reality from the rest of us. In other words, he's crazy. The rest of the Santoonie Corporation are probably his multiple personalities or something. There's just too much work and effort here, flawed or not, to chalk it up to a person (or people) playing some kind of grandiose prank on the IF community over all this time.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


The Adventures of the President of the United States
Author: Mikko Vuorinen
Language: Alan
Original score: 2
Revised score: 3

With a single step, I traverse continents. I'm the President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world! Which isn't saying much, since there are only around 10 people on the whole planet (which I can easily circumnavigate in a matter of minutes). This is definitely one of the more unusual games I've played. It's both extremely abstract and detail-oriented at the same time. Even so, I just didn't care for it. I guess it was meant to be funny and some people might find it so. I didn't.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


No Room
Author: Ben Heaton
Language: z-code
Genre: Single puzzle
Score: 3

The idea was to defy even the one-room game: this is a no room game. In reality, this simply means that you interact only with the objects in your inventory. Like Koan from 2002, this game has only a single puzzle. This solution, on the other hand, is pretty obvious and doesn't try to disguise itself as some kind of deep philosophical insight.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Hercules First Labor
Author: Bob Brown
Language: JavaScript
Genre: Mythological
Score: 1

It would have required a Herculean effort for me to play beyond the 10 minutes I devoted to this game. Unfortunately there is no immortal blood running through my veins. I'm sure a lot of work went into this JavaScript game. That doesn't make up for the lack of basic IF functionality we've come to expect. Like, for instance, room descriptions.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Amnesia
Author: Dustin Rhodes (writing as crazydwarf)
Language: TADS2
Genre: Parody? Homage?
Score: 1

Probably the only game that has ever made me cry. Well, not so much cry as just tear up at the utter awfulness of it. Apparently the author recognized that the game was poor but, rather than try to improve it, simply accepted its inadequacies, announced his acceptance, and felt that this would make up for it. It doesn't.

Revised: At least one fellow reviewer on rec.games.int-fiction has suggested that Amnesia is a parody of bad first-time games. That's the tricky part of writing a parody. If it's not well done, no one can distinguish it from the subject you're lampooning. Scary House Amulet, from the 2002 IF Comp, did a slightly better job of it (if it is, indeed, also a parody), but even SHA straddled the line for me.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Rape, Pillage, Galore!
Author: Kristian Kirsfeldt
Language: Windows
Genre: Random text generator
Score: 1

Is this even interactive? There are only two commands, and all they do is produce what appears to be randomized text of either violent or sexual conquest. And it just goes on and on like that, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


The Fat Lardo And The Rubber Ducky
Author: "Somebody"
Language: z-code
Genre: Insulting
Score: 1

An exercise in implementing every verb for a single object. While insulting the player in every conceivable manner. I don't see the point.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Scavenger
Author: Quintin Stone
Language: TADS2
Genre: Science fiction
Score: Not Rated

This was my game. So no, I didn't review it. Everyone should play it.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Sweet Dreams
Author: Papillon
Language: Windows
Genre: Graphical
Score: Not Rated

I didn't play this one enough to feel comfortable rating it. Walked around some, went to sleep, appeared in a strange room with no explanation, wandered around, then gave up. It simply didn't interest me.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)


Domicile
Author: John Evans
Language: z-code
Genre: Fantasy
Score: Not Rated

Played some, got to the point where the game referred to a non-existant image file, and decided that maybe I'd try this again some other time.

(View this game on Baf's Guide to IF or The IF Ratings Site)

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