comp 2006: the rest


A Broken Man

Badly written, full of absurdly contrived puzzles, and with a big twist that was obvious from before turn one. (Though that the murder victim turns out to be a real person is in rather poor taste.) The symbolism in this game is rather crude and obvious too -- one incredibly unlikely sex scene dissolves away into an "Arthurian" landscape, where the PC must repeatedly plunge his sword into a rock with a pink slit in it. "This place is a metaphor," explains the hint system, helpfully. "If you're under ten then you might have problems with this puzzle." Which is a pity, because if you're over ten you'll find the whole thing too laughably juvenile to spend any time on.

Rating: 1


Hedge

I couldn't get past the first room. The hints were deliberately unhelpful, the condescending prose was annoying me, so I quit.

Rating: 1


The Apocalypse Clock

A tightly timed game with a few highly irritating bugs that get in the way. Print the exits in the room description, please. The various bugs which appeared when I wandered around in darkness convinced me that the game was too incompetent to bother finishing. And the writing wasn't great either.

Rating: 1


The Bible Retold

Jesus F. Christ, if there's one thing I hate, it's "reverent" comedy. Ten years after journalistic bores were lining up to tell us that comedy is the new rock'n'roll, trendy vicars have woken up and decided that comedy is the new CCM. But comedy can never truly be comedy while it's constrained by such holy respect for its subject, and The Bible Retold is no exception. With its condescending tone, its strained slapstick, its piss-weak jokes, and its subtly offensive assumption of shared background knowledge, it most resembles one of those awful, stilted, hack-made Sunday morning cartoons about Jesus, force-fed to defenceless kids in religious households across Christendom.

Heaven spare us from trendy vicars and their acolytes, and their desperate attempts to appeal to youth. Give me fire and brimstone any day. Religion was at its most powerful, and captured the imagination most, when it was terrifying; when priests wove magic spells in their awesome cathedrals, when they summoned divine forces against their enemies, when they told of the wrath and vengeance of Jehovah. Now that religion wants to be your friend, its banality and irrelevance is all too apparent. Now that it wants to make you laugh, it's something less than a joke.

Rating: 1


Carmen Devine: Supernatural Troubleshooter

Actually, while I don't think this is a great title, I've no particular objection to it; the colon is used here quite inoffensively, being preceded by a subject, and followed by a explanation. "Carmen Devine is a Supernatural Troubleshooter", I suppose. I dislike colonic titles most when the colon is used to fuse two apparently unrelated subjects together, as in Xen: The Hunt from this comp. If the sequel is called Carmen Devine: Blue Moon or Carmen Devine: Hairy Palms or something, it might very well join my bad titles list.

That said, it's true that I'm not interested in the game's setting. Nor did I have any interest in much else about the game. There's a lot of infodumping at the start, and yet I still didn't realise the PC was a werewolf until I read the About text. And then the locations are bland and empty, there are bugs, etc.

Rating: 2


Another Goddamn Escape the Locked Room Game

This, on the other hand, is the worst title in the comp, and one of the worst games too. The first rule of parody-writing is surely to make your parody distinguishable at a basic level from its target, but this deliberately unplayable, smug, irritating, pointless piece of crap is in every respect just another goddamn escape the locked room game.

Rating: 1


Fight or Flight

Poorly implemented and poorly written. The characters in this incompetent attempt at teen horror IF are even stupider than the cast of a teen horror movie, wandering mindlessly around the map, repeating themselves continually and failing to respond to the most basic input stimuli. Perhaps the game would have gone on to offer me the dubious pleasure of seeing them all slaughtered, but if so, it took far too long about it. After a few minutes of frustrating non-interaction, I quit.

Rating: 1


Star City

I love the way the opening of this game is structured; taking several turns to fly past Star City is a great way of appreciating the vastness of the place before we enter it. And then the interior of Star City has some striking and memorable imagery. Unfortunately the game is let down by its writing, which is mediocre, and its implementation, which is poor. Pretty much every interaction with the game was unnecessarily fiddly, and as for the flight simulator at the end -- bad idea. Perhaps my greatest disappointment is that having dreamed up such a terrific setting, the author had little idea what to do with it; after the first few rooms, Star City is skimpily implemented, and having found my way in, I get the feeling I'm being rushed out of there. A pity.

Rating: 3


Strange Geometries

First of all, if you're going to set your game in a 2D world, tell me this up front and don't reveal it as a big twist in the middle, forcing me to revisualise everything for no good reason. And don't make me revisualise everything as flatter and crappier. A good twist should make me realise there's a whole extra dimension to what I've been reading, not one less. (Though the characters in this game would still be two-dimensional in any world.)

Second of all, if your Lovecraftian horror game is about a town of matchstick men being terrorised by 3D shapes, don't expect me to take it seriously. Especially not if you call the town "Malnoxet", which sounds like something you'd prescribe for irritable bowel syndrome. Much the same complaint could be made of the game's high-fibre prose, which has maximum bulk for minimum content. Each big chunk of description went pretty much straight through me. The prose is full of errors, typos and weird shifts in tense, and the game is full of bugs which make it unplayable if you stray from the walkthrough.

Rating: 2


Labyrinth

This maze is much less interesting than the one in Delightful Wallpaper. To begin with, its fictional justification (abstract puzzles as a metaphor for the trauma of a car crash) is fairly lame and cliched and would be better off left out. And then the maze itself is too abstract, and the writing too sparse, to keep my interest: cubic rooms with coloured walls and autogenerated descriptions. Wandering around this place is exactly as much fun as being stuck inside a Rubik's cube.

Rating: 1


Legion

When I saw the title I knew the phrase "we are legion" would appear somewhere in the text, and lo and behold, it hit me even before the banner. I sighed at the prospect of playing yet another predictable game. But as it happens, Legion is based on a fairly unusual and original idea. It might even be a good idea, but I don't think it was given its best implementation here. I had very poor intuitions about how to interact with this game, and I don't think the possible interactions were well hinted. I know it was meant to be difficult to figure out what was happening at first, but I think it was a little too difficult, unnecessarily difficult, largely because of poor choices of words. For example, it is not clear to me why the PC, a kind of planetary elemental spirit, would refer to humans as the "arms" of the invading mothership. They can separate from the ship entirely, are made of entirely different stuff, and their movement has many more degrees of freedom than arms would. And anyway, why would this being from an apparently lifeless planet choose a biological metaphor?

This game is mostly about its cool conceit; the story of the PC is rudimentary and the story of "John" too much in the background to be of interest. There are multiple endings, but I couldn't reach any of them without the walkthrough.

Rating: 3


Madam Spider's Web

After the promise of Tough Beans last year, I was looking forward to playing this, but found it disappointing. The twist is entirely predictable -- the puzzle world yet again turns out to be the PC's way of battling through the trauma of a car crash. I didn't find much of interest in the puzzle world (and I found the business with the snake particularly unpleasant), though doubtless it's all very symbolic of something or other. The puzzles are poorly hinted in general, and the game ends very suddenly and underwhelmingly. I hope the author does better next time, as I've no doubt she can.

Rating: 3


Sisyphus

Fuck off. Deliberately annoying crap, with far too many default responses for a game this size.

Rating: 1


MANALIVE, A Mystery of Madness - I

It's always a bad sign in adaptations, cover versions, reworkings and the like when the only interest seems to come from the original material. And so it is with Man Alive: the good parts (the witty writing) are all contributed by G.K. Chesterton, and the bad parts (everything else) are contributed by the game author. The original story doesn't seem like a work obviously suited to IF adaptation, at least if this game is anything to go by. The PC is such a bizarre and unpredictable character that getting anywhere depends on having read the story, and it's pretty difficult even then. The bugs and sketchy implementation don't help, either.

Rating: 1


Tower of the Elephant

This is a more successful literary adaptation -- the Conan story at least follows the outline of an adventure game, and like the more famous story it inspired, is a tale of actions, and not reflections on action. Still, I can't say The Tower of the Elephant is a great gameplaying experience; it's short, linear, and there isn't much to do. The author has translated story events into puzzles a bit too diligently; some of the puzzles and solutions (such as the spider) seem to be there purely because Conan did things that way in the story.

Rating: 3


The Sisters

Nah. Bad, illogical puzzles (I die if I fall with my penknife open, but I also die if I fall without my penknife) and poor writing prompted me to quit this one fairly quickly.

Rating: 1


Unauthorised Termination

The most successful achievement of this game is its depiction of a suitably alien android world. The formulaic room descriptions, with their strange obsession with scale, are extremely easy to write but no less effective for that. The game's story was also reasonably interesting, though the means of progress were poorly hinted and I ended up using the walkthrough. It was a good idea to put all the backstory in a menu at the start where I could safely ignore it. None of it is necessary for enjoying or completing the game.

Termination is let down partly by its wobbly prose, which has occasional comma splices, missing periods and other errors, but mostly by the Adrift parser, which made for frustrating interactions at times. The lack of pronoun handling was sorely felt, as was the fiddliness of using the teleporter. Which is not a trivial matter in a game where you have to use a teleporter to get anywhere.

Rating: 4


Wumpus Run

A retarded version of Hunter, in Darkness.

Rating: 1


Comp06 index