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Notes on IF Competition 2006 games

My notes on most of the IF Comp 06 games, as previously posted to rec.games.int-fiction.

These aren't proper reviews, they're just my notes on the games, edited a little. Basically an unstructured collection of nitpicks, grumbles, swearing and shouting.

I hope any authors rash enough to read further don't take any of my rudeness too personally. One day I'll enter a game and you can get your own back.

Bear in mind that I'm lazy and impatient, so I probably didn't make particularly good attempts to solve some of the puzzles that I complain about below.

Spoiler policy: serious spoilers are done like this: BOO!

(That should look like a black box and the text should appear when you hover your mouse over it. If it doesn't, it means my stylesheet doesn't work on your browser, or you're using your own stylesheet on purpose.)

I do plenty of quoting and mentioning of objects and places and suchlike in clear text, but everything that I think could really affect your enjoyment of the games is hidden. This probably means I'm more careful about not spoiling the games I liked.

Quotes from the games were mostly retyped by me rather than copy-and-pasted, so I'm hoping I haven't introduced too many of my own mistakes or removed too many of the games' mistakes.

Now it's over to me-six-weeks-ago, trembling with anticipation as he embarks on his journey of discovery. Join me-of-the-present at the end for my final thoughts.


(Not played: Fetter's Grim, Simple Adventure, Green Falls, Visocica.)

Game Producer! - jason bergman

Oh dear, an exclamation mark in the title. Still, at least he has a reason for it, such as it is.

Writing "Time: 12:00 am" in the status bar is ugly. Just write "12:00 am".

"miniscule" (but everyone spells that wrong).

"Sally smiles politely as you walk in" all the time, even when I've haven't left, just done "look".

Writing is pretty clunky at times. "Raoul himself is a dark-haired (with spots of gray on the sides) and sour faced man."

NPCs have guess-the-topic puzzles:

Ask/tell raoul about "bob", "artworks", "cacophony artworks", "cacophony" all no good.

"Ask raoul about payment" works. ("Tell" still doesn't.)

Same with Steve. Ask Steve about "game", "games", "reparation", "problem" all no good. Needs to be "testers".

Why the hell is using the disc in my PC going to make it go gold? OK, it's explained after you do it.

It makes me get coffee again. I thought people stopped doing the thirst timer shit in about 1992?

I can't even carry the soda about for later, for no obvious reason.

If I go into the room with the journalist without having the item I need, the game won't let me go back and get it. Have to restore.

Lots of things in the demo room aren't implemented at all - the PC, the chair, the rack, the mouse, the keyboard, the couch - everything except the journalist really. The rest of the game implements most things though.

The bit at the beginning where you choose your sex and the difficulty level by going through doors was annoying. If you really must have these choices, just ask me them as questions, don't make me start trying to work out what's going on in what seems to be a completely different game.

In any case, according to the game guide, your sex only makes a couple of pretty pointless differences. The commands "x me" and "kiss <anyone>", which I would have expected to change, just have the default responses anyway.

The difficulty level apparently just changes the time limit, so that's pretty much pointless too.

Game has few spelling or grammar errors but otherwise boring writing. Puzzles are boring or guess-the-word. No glaring implementation bugs but some things not implemented and NPCs can do virtually nothing except answer to one topic.

The main problem with this game is that you have to go to your office and start work. But then you don't prevent an alien invasion or uncover a vast conspiracy or find true love or watch horrified as your co-workers turn into zombies. No, you just get to do work all day. It's not even an amusing sideways look at the modern workplace and its zany inhabitants. It's just a game where you do boring stuff.

Would have been 4 or 5 out of 10 for basic competence. Knocked down to 3 for tedium.

Xen: The Hunt - Ian Shlasko

Not a promising title.

Apparently it's a sequel to a game I haven't played, which annoys me immediately. Read N pages of flashback material which mentions several characters and so much other stuff that I'm surprised it all fitted into the first game.

If the Aeotians "created all the dimensions and universes", where did they live before they did it?

Spotted a few mistakes in the text fairly quickly: "first thing's first", "A unformed policeman", "Sports Compliex". A spellchecker would have caught that last one.

"The track is to the west" but you can't go that way. Actually it is to the east.

Even though the unformed policeman "doesn't seem to notice" me, it's still insta-death to walk past him. Great.

A drawer is "not something you can open".

If I keep waiting, the same guy gets off every bus that stops here.

(Getting past police at bus stop: do people really remember other people's mobile numbers? I mean with their brains? I don't think I could confidently tell you a single one.

This is just whining though because that puzzle was perfectly well clued and I ought to have solved it without looking at the hints.)

Another exit described as west is actually east. (Suburbia to apartment complex.)

Why can I survive the fire thing in the alley but not in suburbia? Doesn't make sense.

And another unexplained insta-death jumping onto the train, although the game pretty much tells me to do it.

Used the walkthrough to find out how to actually get onto the train. (There are hints too but I'd forgotten about them.) That's an awful "puzzle". One point off just for that.

Why is there room to sit down in the carriage that is described as "packed solid with passengers", but not in others that aren't?

Two hours about up, and I've got 69 out of 180 points, and have only just finished the second of five acts, and that was using hints once or twice. It's all been pretty linear so far.

The writing seems mostly OK, I haven't found any horrific bugs. However, the messed up exits are sloppy and the insta-deaths are annoying. One OK puzzle, the rest either boring or avoid-the-instadeath-by-not-going-the-wrong-way.

There is some plot going on, but it's just been thrown out in lumps of dialogue rather than me discovering anything in interesting ways.

A grudging 3 points for effort.

Polendina - Christopher Lewis

Oh dear, mistake in first room description: "when you were were younger".

  You hear a faint buzzing in your ear.

  > listen
  Well, you listen but you don't hear anything unexpected.

Carriage returns in the game name, seen when you type "verbose". Lots of bad spacing in other places too.

A bathroom! "The sink is currently switched off" as part of the description of the sink. Yuck. Still, well done for having a response to "piss in toilet", although "urinate" should be a synonym. Also:

  > sit on toilet
  That's not something you can sit down on.

Lucky I'm not a girl then.

In the living room: "To the south is in open doorway".

  The dirt is caked on to the ring rendering the writing unreadable.

  > clean ring
  You achieve nothing by this.

Puzzles are nicely logical, but uninspired - e.g. boring darkness puzzle. You need to search everywhere carefully too.

Flying the kite to attract lightning is horribly cliched.

However, loved that the toilet was actually used in a puzzle!

The ending: not bad, but it felt a bit abrupt. Also: I don't like the way that the game doesn't actually end. Although it is explained that this is what's happening, it's impossible for me as a player to be confident that I'm not supposed to do something else.

The parser insulting me: explained by the ending, I suppose. BUT still annoying even then, because you can't distinguish when I'm really trying to do something stupid from when I'm trying to do perfectly sensible things that you didn't implement.

Overall, good if a bit spartan. Mostly well implemented but needed whitespace problems fixing and a few extra responses in places. Reasonable puzzles and story. 6 out of 10.

Aunts and Butlers - Robin Johnson

Seems odd that a browser game is using a fixed-pitch font. I assume it was just easier to implement that way.

It's a bit old-school:

  You can also see a teacup.
  An exit leads west.

Aargh, I have to scroll the browser window down after every command. OK, I'll try IE instead of Opera. Would be nice if I at least knew which browsers you'd tested this on.

Lobby? I don't think I've ever heard of a private house having a lobby. It's an entrance hall, isn't it? Or just a hall.

"It" is not working very well. e.g. "get case", "x it", "x it" refers to the case properly the first time but not the second time.

Wait a minute did it... OH MY GOD LOL WHAT GRRRRRRRRRRRR I thought it had been generally accepted by all competent system designers that you DON'T MAKE THE PARSER PRETEND TO UNDERSTAND WHEN IT DOESN'T:

  > x asdfasdg
  Nothing special.

  > x dressing table
  You can't see the bottle here.

(Despite the fact that there is a dressing table mentioned in the room description, it ignored the word "table" and assumed I was talking about a bottle of vinaigrette dressing elsewhere in the game.)

In the bedroom there is a mirror:

  > look in mirror
  Sorry, you can't do that.

I can wander into a cell in the police station without anyone complaining?

Finding Virgule puzzle: looking at the walkthrough because I've got absolutely no idea what to do. Oh right, I have to give random things to people for pretty damn non-obvious reasons.

Great, now I'm being killed without warning. And "undo" after you die says "Undone" but then immediately kills you again, at least for this particular death.

Great, I can only have four save games on IE.

Great, a maze.

Bored now. OK, in summary, please write your next game in a proper IF system. Implement more stuff. Keep it properly contained, don't start off with it looking like a nice genre-comedy and then degrade into stupid joke locations, mazes, and magical travelling. I don't mind magical travelling in itself (although it's been done too often now) but it needs to fit in nicely. Probably has to be introduced early.

On the bright side, there were some amusing bits of writing. All the characters are deliberate stereotypes and the author does a good job of pushing this for as much as it's worth. And this is the first game I've got to that didn't have obvious spelling or grammar errors, so thank you for that.

Two and a half points, rounded down to two for the parser being so godawful.

Initial State - Matt Barton

How many decades ago was this written?

It says "Enter your command" every turn.

It says "You can see" before every object.

It doesn't have undo.

"Get all" apparently just tries to take one thing, usually a piece of scenery.

It has broken responses for obvious actions.

It doesn't have save? Fuck that. One point for you.

Requiem - David Whyld

Why does it leave "[MORE]" prompts on the screen once I've pressed a key? Very ugly.

It's in the present tense, mostly, but I found one or two bits of nasty switching between tenses: "If there was a more desirable woman alive today, I've yet to meet her."

Like the way I'm getting some backstory a bit at a time after every move. Works quite well. (Sadly this was only at times, and there were lots of long cutscenes too.)

Another toilet I can't sit on.

It looks like "ask <person> about <something>" is just treated as "talk to <person>". Why don't you tell me that in response to "ask", then?

You can't "show" or "tell" either.

The game is mostly puzzleless but has a lot of plot branches, one of which is the best. For a lot of the time you just have to "talk to" whoever happens to be present.

When you have choices that lead to different endings, sometimes it's clunkily obvious: "I find myself presented with a number of directions: east to where Sophia wishes to meet me, any other direction will take me away from her."

And sometimes the branch is hard to find except by being lucky, such as when you only get onto a different branch if you wander the streets in the right (fairly obliquely clued) directions.

A lot of the time you get conversation menus with one option. Not after using up the other options, but the first time seeing the menu. At first I thought it might be that there would have been other options available in other circumstances, but I don't think that was actually the case.

And, you aren't allowed to say nothing or do something else, you've just got to type "1" to choose that option. This is silly, you might as well just have a "more" prompt.

Ending: I don't really get why everything happened, despite using the walkthrough to see endings. What exactly was I being trapped into doing, apart from getting shot? Couldn't they just have turned up at my flat and shot me to start with, without all that rigmarole?

I don't know, maybe it was all explained somewhere and I wasn't reading the endings carefully enough.

Could almost have been a CYOA. Good attempt at a story, but the characters were pretty dull. Without a walkthrough, I doubt I would have ever bothered getting to the point where things start to be explained. However, I did want to know what was happening, which is good. No spelling mistakes noticed. 5 points.

Star City - Mark Sachs

Amusing sci-fi. Writing is excellent, and funny. No spelling mistakes noticed, although I'm not sure you can say "an insignia".

Story is good too. Game is pretty linear, but that didn't annoy me too much. No NPCs, but that's not unrealistic given the setting.

Implementation is solid. I'm a bit suspicious of Inform 7 games given that the system is still in beta and there hasn't been a huge amount of time for people to learn it in depth, but I didn't find any bugs here.

Puzzles fairly basic. Final puzzle: fun, lots of tension. The timing is a bit tight if you're trying to look at the instruments too much, which I was doing after every turn. Maybe the game should tell me automatically what the instruments are showing, at least after I've looked at them myself once?

Finished it without walkthrough in maybe an hour and a half. Just a nice length.

Good fun. Eight points.

Beam - Madrone Eddy

First time I've tried a Quest game, and I'm not impressed.

  >x me
  I can't see that here.

Popped up in a stupid dialog box:

  Please select which leaves you mean:
  - some leaves
  - some leaves

No undo.

To solve the first puzzle you have to go to the top of a tree, and "look up". For no very good reason except that it's in the list of valid commands that you get when you type "help".

I can open a hatch that's already open. If I try to use the open hatch, I'm told that it's shut.

Now I'm doing guess-the-syntax to work out how to enter an open hatch, for fuck's sake. Oh right, I had to realise that a direction icon on the compass wasn't greyed out any more.


Wumpus Run - Elfindor

This is basically just "Hunt the Wumpus" with some uninspired room descriptions tacked on, and some pointless items for you to carry about. In some ways it's worse than real wumpus, being harder to map because you don't get told what rooms are adjoining, and with a weapon that can only be thrown into one directly adjoining room, not like a proper crooked arrow. And you have to use normal compass directions, which don't map nicely onto the dodecahedron layout.

Given that it's such a simple game, you wouldn't think the implementation could be too badly done. But it is.

The description of the wumpus doesn't change after you kill it.

The bats can put you in a pit, but you don't actually die until you type "look" to see where you are.

Now it keeps saying "Who was the bright spark who let the lantern go out?" when I try to go anywhere, but I can still see things in the room, and the lantern is still described as "shining brightly". Sigh. Restart.

Whenever the game ends the stupid high score table pops up for me to enter my name, even though my score is always 0% whether I killed the wumpus or not.

Complete waste of time. Barely qualifies as IF. Almost a straight lift of an existing game, adding little more than some prose which tries to be funny, but fails. One point.

Labyrinth - Samantha Casanova Preuninger

Unpromising title.

When the man asks you a direct question, neither "yes" nor "man, yes" works. You have to "say yes to man".

Seems that the game of Nim doesn't work on Gargoyle (2006-09-17). It tells me to type "take <n>" to take counters, but neither "take 2" nor "take two" works. Don't know if this is a game bug or an interpreter bug. Reported it to the author. Appears to be OK on Frotz v2.43 so I'm using that.

(Doesn't help that it happens at a special prompt, which won't let me quit or restart either, so now I can't do anything.)

The puzzles are mostly not proper IF-style puzzles, they are just random pencil-and-paper type puzzles. You have to play Nim, solve a substitution cipher, and do a logic problem. I suppose the Nim thing benefits a bit from being interactive, but it's still an old chestnut. (Update - older than I thought. According to "Twisty Little Passages", Nim was done as a computer game in 1951.)

I think the cipher would have taken me a good fraction of the two hour judging period if I hadn't had a programming language handy.

However, the main puzzle is working out how to navigate around the environment. I am in two minds about this. I did enjoy doing it, but in a way it's an ugly kind of a puzzle. The thing is, most of the difficulty in it is in interpreting the game's description and trying to visualize what's going on. It's hard for me as player because I'm not actually there. It would be a lot easier for the protagonist, who would see instantly what was happening without struggling through complicated descriptions.

It would work better in a graphical game, really.

I did wonder if it would have been better to abandon the compass directions entirely and use just the colours for descriptions and for the player's movement commands too.

The backstory is mostly unrelated to anything you're doing - except at the very end, you could equally well be solving these puzzles to prevent Earth being invaded by aliens or to rescue a princess from a dragon or anything really.

Moderately enjoyable, but a clear nomination for a "Worst Use of Medium" award. I'll give this three points.

MANALIVE - Bill Powell

I've been - not exactly "looking forward to", but at least "anticipating" this one. Adaptation of G.K. Chesterton book, which I've read, which I remember being pretty good but not one of my favourite Chestertons - and which I have no idea how you would sensibly adapt to IF.

Initial thought before playing - why is this two entries? I don't see how half the book is going to work by itself. If it was split for ease of implementation, the two parts should have been a single comp entry. If it was to get them under the two-hour rule, I'll be administering a judicial slapdown in my score, for going against the spirit of the rules.

The game throws large chunks of text at you that are straight out of the book.

The game ends immediately if you pick the wrong entry from conversation menus.

Default responses to "ask...", and "person, topic". You have to use "talk to" but the game doesn't tell you that.

  > open umbrella
  That's not something you can open.

A character refers to me doing something I haven't done yet.

"Dr. Warner doesn't seem interested" in taking back his hat that was just blown off by the wind.

Since this game is a painfully direct adaptation from the book, why did it have to change "parlour" to the American spelling "parlor"?

To progress now, apparently I just have to wait around doing nothing. To progress some more, an utterly crap guess the verb.

"This is no time for a picnic" when we're in the middle of the damn picnic.

Inglewood wasn't interested in my revolver when I showed it to him before, but now the game wants him to talk about it so he suddenly notices it.

Saying "Today is going to be CRAZY" (the game's capitalization) completely breaks with the literary style of the rest.

How is it supper time when I've only just got up?

I've been told to go and fetch two people for supper, but I'm not allowed to talk to either of them.

The last bit of part I is a dozen screens' worth of uninterrupted cutscene.

Part II now.

  > throw paper dart

I'm speechless. How can that not have a response?

Now I have to "touch" the paper dart to progress the plot. Apparently I didn't touch it WHEN I PICKED IT UP.

Now I have to go in a direction that isn't mentioned in the room description.

I'm not convinced that the words "executive" and "bouncer" are right for the period. I'm pretty damn certain you wouldn't have found a bouncer IN A PUBLISHER'S OFFICE.

OK. What was the point of this game? Basically all you do is wander around trying to guess what to do to make the game spit another chunk of the book at you. Usually that means you "talk to" everyone in sight, and hope you don't choose a wrong conversation option which makes the game end. Other times it means read-the-author's-mind type puzzles. At least there are comprehensive hints.

If you've read the book, it's pointless to play this game - in fact it will just annoy you. If you haven't read the book, and you're thinking of playing this game: read the book first, then refer to my advice to people who have read the book.

Despite the fact that this is (slightly) less technically awful than some of the other games I've met with so far, both halves of it are getting one point only, for unnecessary meddling with other people's decent literature.

Come to think of it, this is another good candidate for a "Worst Use Of Medium" award.

Another Goddamn Escape the Locked Room Game - Riff Connor

"A satire of the popular genre of flash-based webgames", apparently. Unfortunately I haven't played any of these, but I'll give this a go anyway.

  > pry boards
  You'll need an appropriate tool to do that with.

  > pry boards with hammer
  I only understood you as far as wanting to pry the heavy wooden boards.

Inform has more than a two word parser, you know.

Third unsittable toilet in this competition! Three out of three!

  You are carrying:
    a twelfth can of beans, an eleventh can of beans, [...]

Etcetera. Why have twelve cans with different names? Oh, it turns out I have to refer to each one individually. And I can't refer to a random one with "can", because that gives me a disambiguation question. And the game doesn't accept "12th", it has to be "twelfth". I know you're trying to be funny with this puzzle, but I think it's a lot funnier for you than it is for me. Five cans would have done.

What is it with this game thinking it should only have a two-word parser? The hints tell you to remove the photograph from it's frame. But "remove photo from frame" doesn't work, you have to "remove photo".

"Turn dial" isn't a synonym for "spin dial"? Oh come on.

I can't refer to a "scrap of paper" as "paper"? Please.

In general, you don't get any help from this game when you try things that are reasonable but not quite right. Mostly you get default responses.

The pigeon is on the windowsill, and I want it to go away. I have to "put pigeon in window", apparently. Poor.

I suppose I'll spoiler this, although innocent players should really be warned about it: to get the key, you have to eat lots of aspirins, sixteen of them. This appears to be completely unclued, and you have to do it despite the fact that the game says "Maybe you should stop eating these things" after the tenth.

And the same goes for this guess-the-verb: you can't "put band-aid on wrist". You can't "bandage wrist". You can't "wear band-aid". You can't "apply band-aid". You can't "stick band-aid to wrist". All of these give you default responses, mostly "That's not a verb I recognize." You were supposed to "use band-aid".

Probably nobody will ever finish this game without the hints. Do everything you can think of for no reason and maybe you'll get somewhere, but I still don't think you'll finish it. It's real read-the-author's-mind stuff.

The writing isn't too bad I suppose.

It is possible to satirise a bad game and have the result be a good game - "MST3K: Detective" springs to mind. But this supposed satire of sucky games is just another sucky game. Two points.

Madam Spider's Web - Sara Dee

Wasn't making notes while I was playing this because I was liking it too much and not finding any problems.

Superbly atmospheric, good story, good NPCs. Everything seems well implemented. Got one Inform runtime error message but it appeared not to affect the gameplay.

At last a response to "sit on toilet".

Recommended. Play this game before reading my spoilers, which will tell you what I didn't like about it:

How the multiple endings worked. My first go I got the ending for killing the bug. Although that ending is "you have died", I wasn't sure if I was supposed to have done something different or if that was the best ending.

Even if I had known then that there were multiple endings, I'm not sure I would have have guessed how to get them. Before reading the walkthrough I wondered if I should have avoided going to sleep somehow. Messing with the sac is only one of various things you do, and it isn't presented as a Big Moral Choice at the time. In hindsight I can see how it relates to the endings, but that's after seeing all the endings.

It seemed a bit unfair too, because I had actually been trying to free the bug the first time. "hit bag with umbrella" was my attempt to do so. When that killed the bug, I just assumed that it was the right thing to have done.

I'd say that the game should tell you at the end that other endings were available, and probably hint that the bug had something to do with it at that point as well.

"Programming error" message was in response to "trade snowglobe for figurine" - "(object number 22) has no property globegiven to write to." There was also an odd space (tab?) somewhere in the text "You give the items in his stack a final perusal..." in the same response, but this might be unrelated.

I give this eight points.

Lawn of Love - Santoonie Corporation

Deliberately bad game, but short enough and implemented just about well enough not to get annoying. Worst bit was that I missed that the jeans were mentioned at the start. You aren't told where they are again unless you search or "look on" the desk (not just examine it).

One or two great lines: "I look up blinded by the sunlight momentarily as my vision clears to see two girls sitting tall in the saddle of two horses." Beautiful.

But how can you not implement "kiss" in a romance? Santoonie Corporation should either sack their QA department or hire one.

I've no idea how to score this really. It's a lot more fun than some of the incompetent attempts at serious games, but it obviously doesn't deserve a great score. OK, four points.

Enter the Dark - Peter R. Shushmaruk

Not a promising title.

Not a promising opening. First sentence is "Darkness, where evil plays with the innocents of its victims." Is that supposed to mean "the innocence of its victims", or "its innocent victims"?

Also an apostrophe error in the opening paragraph: "Its only you and the darkness".

First time I've played an Alan game. Is it Alan's fault or this game's fault that it doesn't implement "x" for "examine"? Ugh.

The first room description doesn't tell me which ways I can go. Even when I try going a wrong direction I just get "You can't go that way."

No "verbose".

  There is an odd crow over-looking you.

  > examine crow
  You can't do that.

It gets worse:

  You notice the edge of the tomb door to have a crack in it. You
  ponder the idea of prying it open with something.

  > pry open door with bar
  I don't know the word 'pry'.

The writing is full of sentence fragments, and there are lots more missing apostrophes.

The walkthrough is wrong - "kill crow" does not work. The actual syntax to do this needs to be exactly right too. "Shoot crow with crossbow" responds with nothing but a blank line. You were supposed to "shoot crossbow at crow".

There's no good reason to think you should kill the crow, by the way. You're just supposed to do it and find out why afterwards.

And some more commands are missed from the walkthrough.

And the walkthrough says "take spray" when it needs to be "take spray-can".

Enough. Might have got two points for at least trying to be a proper game, but if you can't write your own walkthrough without making several mistakes you can forget it. One point.

The Bible Retold - Justin Morgan and "Celestianpower"

I get to play Jesus! Sweet.

Eek, real time messages appear while I'm not doing anything. Not too annoying I suppose. Only seems to be in one location.

Runtime error:

  > ask jacob about ferrets
  Jacob takes <routine 19690> and inspects it. [...]

Solution to one puzzle is to do stuff from some verses in the bible. But you only have to do some of the things in those verses - other things in those verses that you try to do, aren't implemented.

The game does warn you that you'll need a bible handy, but I think that having to look things up out-of-game in this way is pretty immersion-breaking. Especially in this case where the player has to use out-of-game information which the protagonist would not have available, to do something which the protagonist presumably already knows how to do.

Chariot puzzle: maybe I'd have eventually figured it out without the walkthrough, but I don't like it much.

  > get bread
  It's too big!Taken.

Don't think I was supposed to be able to take that.

"get loaves" only gets one of the loaves that are present. I was confused for a while because I thought I had all of them.

Once you've got the food, you don't really have to do much to perform the miracle ("feed crowd", then the miracle just happens). This seems like a bit of a cop-out, although I'm not sure how I would have liked it to work instead.

Well, not bad overall I suppose. I didn't find many things unimplemented, but I did find a few bugs.

Main thing I didn't like was the continual jokiness, because a lot of it wasn't all that funny - a lot of comedy anachronisms and amusingly knowing it's-just-a-game excuses for unrealistic stuff. And of course as Jesus-based humour it compares unfavourably to the bits in "Life of Brian" that it inevitably reminds you of. Still, I think I did laugh out loud once or twice.

Didn't notice any spelling mistakes or bad grammar.

Hmm. I suppose five points.

Unauthorized Termination - Richard Otter

From the introduction: "Your function is that of a senior examiner at the Centre of Examination for the city Upsilon in what is basically a totalitarian state." I would have thought that this could have been stuff you learned in-game. Actually, a lot of the material in the introduction and the "useful information" and the "Morbian facts" you would pick up in-game, and I think it was unnecessary to have it all in the opening menu.

Lots of bad comma usage and poor writing in general.

"... will hopefully give some clues to what happen." Presumably somebody set up us the bomb.

It's weird to have teleporters that only let you go to particular neighbouring locations. Why not allow me to teleport directly to anywhere that I am authorised to go to? I mean even if the teleportation technology has a distance limitation, can't it label me with my destination and forward me through a network of routers?

Descriptions are very repetitive. I think this is largely deliberate - the author is trying to show what it's like to be the protagonist living in this world, but unfortunately it makes the places pretty dull.

It's linear - there's usually only one thing you can do to advance the plot. And it seemed to vary between sometimes telling you rather bluntly what you should be doing next, and other times leaving you to wander around without knowing what to do at all.

The setting has a good amount of depth, and the author obviously enjoyed imagining it, but there wasn't anything about it that really grabbed my attention and kept me interested.

No serious bugs noticed. Most objects were implemented, but there wasn't much to look at a lot of the time.

There's a hunger equivalent, although the time limit is fairly generous. Still annoying though.

Would probably be on three points for technical merit and writing quality. I'll bump it up to four for the detailed and out-of-the-ordinary setting and protagonist, even though they weren't hugely original.

The Traveling Swordsman - Anonymous

What's with the weird dots after location names?

Surely a swordsman is athletic enough to climb a wooden gate. Or at least not get a default response to trying it.

Why can't I tie a rope to perfectly plausible things like a beam or a sword? I don't much mind not being allowed to do it, but give me a better reason than "You can't tie the thick rope to the heavy wooden beam."

I didn't work out that I was supposed to be cornering the girl in the barn. I wasn't sure if wrecking the wagon was a mistake. I had vaguely thought that I might have to barricade myself in the barn, or something.

Why can I use "aft" to go aft, but not "starboard" to go starboard?

"... are momentarily crushed into dust". That word does not mean what you think it means. They are permanently crushed into dust.

I should be allowed to take the broken wing back on board and use it to climb the mast, or at least be given a reason why I can't. The response to trying to climb the sail even seems to suggest that I should do this.

I don't see why I can't put rocks in the net. I suppose a sack is more obvious but I forgot about that because I got it ages ago.

I'm not sure about the final fight - I had managed to "dodge" but hadn't realised that it was actually making a difference. I didn't guess "block".

I think combat is really difficult to do well. The fights in this game were reasonable attempts at improving on the "kill dragon/ok you have killed the dragon" sort of thing without getting into the tedious hit-points-and-dice-rolling sort of thing. But working out what to do felt artificial. I think the game lets you spend as long as you like failing to fight well without killing you. This means the fights lose some tension and become just like any other puzzles. But the alternative of getting killed all the time while struggling to work out what to do would have really pissed me off.

I liked the epilogue.

Longish game - took the whole two hours to get through, and that was with looking at the walkthrough a little bit.

Overall, quite enjoyed this one. The writing was OK but maybe a bit pedestrian sometimes. The story was well told, though. The implementation was solid - don't think I saw any bugs. There were a few too many default responses to reasonable actions though. I give it a respectable seven points.

Pathfinder - Tony Woods

Default response to "x me".

The response to "knock" is the same as for "break door". "knock on door" says "You can't see any such thing."

There are paragraphs which don't have blank lines between them and don't have indented first lines either. Looks ugly.

  > look in sedan
  You find nothing of interest.

That needs a response, given the situation.

I don't get a chance to ask the driver what's happening? Sucks.

It said the driver drove off, but the car is still here.

"open sedan" said I had opened the doors, but then "enter car" says they are locked.

"type 1234 on keypad" doesn't work - have to "type 1234".

What did I just unlock the brown door with? I don't have any keys.

Trying to go out through a door I've just entered:

  > s
  You can't, since the brown door leads nowhere.

OK, I think that was because I wasn't supposed to have been able to get in here at all. I suppose I'll restore and do what the hints say. The phrasing used in the hints doesn't work though, great. Luckily it isn't something complicated.

Steve tells me to "come in", but typing "in" says "You can't go that way." Have to guess a compass direction, or do "enter brown door".

Steve's puzzled about why I'm here, but there's no good response when I try to tell him the explanation, or show him the relevant object. The game just forces you to follow its plot.

Game doesn't understand "armchair", only "chair", even though it uses the word "armchair" itself.

Stuck in fixed-pitch font now. Is this the game's fault or the interpreter's? Don't have another interpreter handy to test.

"The gate is chain-link, like the fencing and sign around it" - what? A chain-link sign?

  > out
  But you aren't in anything at the moment.

...when I very plainly am in something.

Some dude is explaining tons of stuff to me, and I always get the same no-time-to-talk sort of response to asking him anything or telling him anything. Instead I just have to wait for ages until he's finished.

The computer thing is painfully implausible.

I've found a newspaper and the game refers me to an image file that comes with the story file. But the image is a mock-up of a news website, not a newspaper. Bizarre.

"What once was a beautiful park has now turned into a tundra, literally." Oh really? Is there permafrost? Is this game set during the next ice age?

  > enter maintenance shed
  Which do you mean, the window or the maintenance shed?

According to the walkthrough you have to do stuff with a keypad on the safe, but as far as I can see the game never tells you that the keypad exists. Certainly it isn't in the description of the safe. Glad I'm using the walkthrough.

What you have to do to get the good ending is not fair: if you jump straight away, you die. If you wait twice then jump, you don't. There's nothing to hint that anything has changed.

The plot is extremely far-fetched. The explanation you get is unsatisfying.

The writing is mostly OK, with some weirdnesses as noted above.

Murdering people ought to be a lot more fun than this. I suppose the protagonist is intended to be somewhat mentally disturbed, otherwise I wouldn't be killing someone for such a flimsy reason. Anyway, I really should have gone to the police straight away - I think a good lawyer could have got me off, with the device to implicate Pathfinder, and the Blackberry message which the supposed sender would surely have denied sending. And I could have taken the sedan driver to the police station at knifepoint, of course.

Might have been 4 points for being an honest effort brought down by poor implementation and excessive railroading. The invisible keypad and the unfairness at the ending takes it down to 3.

Delightful Wallpaper - Edgar O. Weyrd

The author's name smells of anagrammatic pseudonym, but if it is one, I can't work it out.

I should be able to refer to the windows in the tower.

There should be a response to "jump" while on the tightrope.

Excellent and original game. Play it.

It's a bit on the long side for the competition. Took me about three hours, without any cheating.

Spoily comments now:

First half - very impressed that so much interesting stuff was done based entirely on moving about and looking at things. Difficulty was spot on for me too - whenever I thought I had run out of things to do, I'd scrutinise my map, read the notepad and something would occur to me.

The description of the legacy intention is hilarious.

I liked the second half, but I found the intentions puzzles a bit harder going. Felt like there could have been one or two more nudges when you get things wrong. I can only remember a couple of specific things though.

It took me a while to get the artistic intention in the right place - the canvas is obvious with hindsight I suppose. I think I tried putting it on the table in the atelier, but when that didn't work I went off and tried giving it to people instead. If you examine the canvases, no blank ones are mentioned, which seems a tiny bit unfair.

Another thing, which might actually be a bug - if you give the berserk intention to Viscount R when you have Cousin J murdering Mr P instead of Madame C (are you following me here?), the game just says "You place the berserk intention on Viscount R_". It ought to be hinted that you are on the right track here.

The motives are a bit confusing, because some people are just murdering each other for amusement (well, the legacy, I suppose), but some of them have other motives. Partly because of this it took me a long time to realise that it was possible for people to be murdering the wrong other people. Still, the poem did its job in putting me on the right track eventually. The poem's a really good feature, actually.

After two hours, eight points. After finishing it, I'm think I'm happy with that rating.

Ballymun Adventure - Brendan Cribbin

"A small adventure written to introduce students to the world of text adventures", according to the blurb. This raises a judging policy question. I don't think I can really start trying to judge how good games are for a particular audience. I mean, I vaguely remember being at school myself, but suppose another game said it was aimed at eighty-seven year old retired pastry chefs with an interest in embroidery - what would I do then?

Really I'm not convinced games for specialist audiences should be in the comp at all. Anyway - I'll be judging based on how enjoyable it is for me.

The formatting is a mess. Some paragraphs have their first lines indented, others don't. There are sometimes extra spaces or no spaces around punctuation.

Missing apostrophe - "potters wheel".

Lots of missing full stops.

Typo "pippettes".

  [...] Situated under the microscope is a slide ready for viewing

  > look in microscope
  There's nothing in the microscope.

(You have to "look through microscope".)

"intennae", "The WoodworkRoom", "seperates".

In "Archway", it says "Southwest leads to the assembly hall", which is not true. Think it should be southeast.

"The runner at the bottom at the bottom seems to be stuck."

  > get pot
  You can't have the large plantpot.

  > push pot
  Pushing the large plantpot doesn't do anything.

  > move pot

...works, and you find a key. Well, that's impressively awful. Lucky I started using the walkthrough early on.

  > plug lead into tape recorder
  You can't plug the power lead into anything.

  > insert connector into tape recorder
  Be more exact.  Put the connector into the tape port.

(Piss off. You know unambiguously what I want to do, so do it.)

  > insert connector into tape port
  I'ts a perfect fit!


You can find a graphical map which you are supposed to be able to click on to move about, but it doesn't work in my interpreter (latest version of the TADS player kit). It enters "transport to <wherever>" at the prompt, then says "I don't know the word 'transport'".

Well, that utterly sucked.

First of all: if this is really going to be used to introduce school pupils to IF, it needs to be run past the English department first. Try and find a very patient English teacher for this purpose.

What I saw of the puzzles (while zipping through with the walkthrough) looked pretty poor. Mostly you would have to search everywhere and everything exhaustively. There's no logic to where you find keys, and it's a fairly large map.

Where did all the other students go, by the way? Where are all the teachers, come to that?

I think if this is inflicted on kids, the best that can be hoped for is that they are instilled with a life-long hatred of IF. If we're unlucky, one of them might swear a hideous revenge on the medium and everyone associated with it.

On the other hand, I suppose we all played some bad games when we were young, and it Never Did Us Any Harm. It may be that it Builds Character.

I suppose this scrapes a grudging two points for being an attempt at a proper game with a proper parser.

Moon-shaped - Jason Ermer

Typo "sicne". Spellcheckers, people.

This is a bit of a long cut-scene. Couldn't it have been split into a few separate turns? Couldn't I have talked to the wolf myself?

If I'm lost in the woods I should be able to climb a tree to see where I am, dammit.

"a thick could of mist"

Didn't see much else wrong with the writing - basically good. Perhaps a bit overblown sometimes and too apt to tell you what you feel about everything.

Some spoily bits:

"move logs" should work as "search logs".

Should be able to sit on stone in cave.

I tried "get candies with stick" and "hit candies with stick", neither of which worked. Luckily I did persist and try "push candies with stick" as well.

"You'll need to put the orange candies in something hard enough to withstand the pressure of the pestle." Look, I'm carrying the mortar, just do it please.

When I first got into the cave, the game seemed to be assuming I had already heard about the witch, but I hadn't.

I don't understand how I was supposed to know that I could go north from the base of the waterfall. Did I miss something somewhere?

I think seven points for this.

After my two hours was up I played through with the walkthrough, and it turns out I missed a huge amount of story (and clues), all because of one thing - a fairly obvious action, but I missed it. I'll spoiler this but you might want to read it, especially if you think you're missing anything. It's not a very bad spoiler really. I didn't put on the locket. Hmmm. The game talks about grandmother wearing it when you first find it, but if you examine it later it isn't even clear that it's wearable - although I suppose lockets usually are. The description doesn't mention a chain or anything though.

Probably would still have been seven points. The puzzles become fairer, but they still aren't hugely interesting. The plot is a lot clearer, but there are an awful lot of big chunks of text to read now.

The Elysium Enigma - Eric Eve

Surely spacefaring civilisations in the year 2980 don't still use paper?

Struggled to work out what I was supposed to ask the elder before I could continue. The topics command gave me the right thing though.

I should be able to hit the cube with the rod.

The pilot tells me there must be a transmitter somewhere when I've already found the transmitter and told her about it.

I predict that spacefaring civilisations in the year 2980 will not suffer from bursts of static interrupting their voice communications. Even if for some reason they stick to boring old radio waves instead of sending messages through hyperspace or wormholes or something, I'm fairly sure their wireless data transfer protocols will be up to the task.

Why is there only one other person in this town?

Oh, now I can tell the pilot to fly me across the river. I wanted to do that before, but I don't think there was any way to tell the pilot to do it at that time. Now the game specifically suggests it.

The tarpaulin thing is a bit tricky - I didn't think to examine the spikes separately from the tarpaulin.

"pilot, fly back" doesn't work - had to do "pilot, fly" then say "back" separately. "pilot, fly to town" doesn't work either.

That mirror password was a bit nasty. And I'd guessed the other password before, but hadn't realised it was case-sensitive. That seems unnecessarily cruel.

This game is a bit big for the comp, I think, especially since you tend to have to search everywhere very carefully to solve the puzzles. Even using lots of hints, and eventually the walkthrough too, I only just got it done in two hours.

The puzzles were OK I suppose, but I wasn't interested enough to work hard at them. I don't think there was anything very original in there. It's a bit disappointing to have a far-future science fiction game without lots of fancy technology to play with.

The conversation system is a bit of a weird mix. A lot of the time you use ask/tell, but sometimes you get menu-ish things where the game explicitly says you can say special things (that don't fit the ask/tell pattern). I think this is a TADS 3 feature. It's inelegant but it does seem to work.

No spelling or grammar errors noticed.

This game is well-written, so it's hard to find anything major and specific to complain about, but neither plot nor puzzles nor prose really grabbed me, so I'm only giving it six points.

A Broken Man - Geoff Fortytwo

Surely all the glass panes "serve the function of being a window". Never mind, I know what you mean.

I'm wearing an assassin outfit! How cool is that?

  > break window
  Breaking that would serve no purpose.

...if it wasn't for the fact that I'm trying to get into the house.

Ooh, an interactive flashback. Well, slightly interactive.

  > cut pork with knife
  You can't cut anything with the knife.

It's a "sharp steel knife", by the way, not a plastic butter knife.

Should be able to threaten the maid by showing her the knife. After all, she doesn't know that I can't cut anything with it.

I should be able to look under the mattress.

I don't see why I can't just slit John's throat while he sleeps. How hard can it be? Or I should be able to threaten to kill his baby and make him do what I want.

In actual fact, I have to use a zany madcap scheme relying on stuff I find in my victim's house. Didn't I have a proper plan before I got into this?

You couldn't possibly solve this game without dying, probably quite a lot.

"You cannot reach John through the ."

"John does not appear interested" in the knife I'm showing him.

The maid doesn't comment on the fact that I'm wearing a tutu. She doesn't say anything when I look through her closet, either.

The sword bit is somewhat disturbing. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be funny or not.

The ending is quite nice - explains the bits about the rest of the plot that didn't make sense at the time.

Overall, no critical bugs but poorly implemented. You can't do much except solve the painfully unrealistic puzzles the way the author thought you should. Didn't see any spelling or grammar errors, but the writing is dull.

The ending makes it more interesting than it would otherwise have been, but doesn't lift it beyond three points.

Tentellian Island - Waru

Why a fixed-pitch font? It's not that hard to do proper text in Java, is it?

Hardly anything is examinable.

No undo.

Seems to be no save. Forget it. One point.

Fight or Flight - geelpete

Bad start:

  > look through window 33a
  You find nothing of interest.


Double quote used instead of apostrophe.

"sports field to he south"

Both of the above in room descriptions, by the way.

  > tell sydney about corpse
  This provokes no reaction.

  > ask sydney about corpse.
  There is no reply.


Sometimes there are extra blank lines between paragraphs.

  > turn on tv
  That's not something you can switch.

There must surely be a phone somewhere I can use to contact the police about this damn corpse. The camp office seems likely, but apparently "There's no reason to go there right now."

I ask Katherine to follow me around (using the game's recommended syntax) but she "has better things to do". But now I've wandered off on my own, she's decided she wants to follow me.

Nobody is telling me about the Big Plot Event that's just happened to them while I was out. Nobody is interested in the fact that the police are coming.

If a room description says there is "a lavatory complex to the west", don't tell me I "can't go that way", with no further explanation.

"a narrow ascending path in the northwestgetet"

Schmolar has asked me a question:

  > schmolar, yes
  Colonel Schmolar has better things to do.

  "Who knows?" you shout in reply. [...]


"In that game you scored 0 out of a possible 0"

At the start, all the NPCs talked to each other continually, but now they all stand about silently waiting for me to tell them what to do.

Bored now. This game is badly implemented and I don't trust it enough to bother trying to solve puzzles on my own. I'll have a quick run through with the walkthrough.

Judging from that, it looks to me like it would take a huge amount of trial-and-error to win this game, especially to reach the better of the two main endings.

This game is hugely overambitious. It tries to do too much and gets nowhere near implementing enough of it solidly. There are two PCs and about ten NPCs, six of whom are important and have to move about and talk a lot.

If you don't know how the author thinks the plot should go, it's hard to know what you're supposed to be doing.

There's some good stuff in there. I thought the switching between the two PCs was good. And it's good to have NPCs that talk to each other and you, even if they suddenly become silent later on.

Four points.

The Primrose Path - Nolan Bonvouloir

Oooh, it's in the first person.

Can you give someone "the what-for"? Just "what-for", I'd say.

Should get a better response to "climb hedge".

Description of the living room suggests that the painting is still on the wall, when it isn't.

"the sun goes behind a cloud, darkening the kitchen, then reemerges" - but I'm not in the kitchen, I'm in the hallway.

I stupidly missed an exit. But then I wasn't getting the right bit of walkthrough to help me find what I'd missed, because the walkthrough was context-sensitive and I was in the wrong place. Next time give me a proper walkthrough (as well as a context-sensitive one, if you want).

Chair on the beach isn't implemented. I should be able to refer to it because I want to use it to stand on to get on the roof. Should be able to stand on the desk in the cabin too. "Jump" should get a better response here too.

Should be able to "examine reflective object".

When I first opened the box (by accident when attempting to take it) I wasn't told there was anything in it. Nor when I examined it. So I didn't realise there was anything there. This held me up for a while.

Leo wants to know where the gallery key is, and I know, but I can't find a way to tell him.

  > look on shelf
  I only understood you as far as wanting me to look.

Odd unfinished paragraph - ends abruptly like this: "...little box on the beach. The"

The plot gets kind of complicated towards the end. Good in a way, but I found it tricky to know what I was supposed to be doing to get to the best ending, even after some trial and error. Needed to use hints heavily.

Overall, this was good. Well written. No bugs noticed. A few oddities and missing responses, as mentioned above, bring the quality down a touch. It's mostly solid though.

However: I don't think I really like games that do this sort of breaking-the-fourth-wall thing, if that's the phrase I want for what this game does at the end. It's too gimmicky.

Seven points.

The Sisters - revgiblet

Room name "Sitting in the driving seat of your car." Immediately followed by room description starting "You are sitting in the driving seat of your car." Ick.

  > get out
  You can't leave while the seatbelt keeps you in place.

  > remove seatbelt
  You are not wearing the seatbelt!


  > cut seatbelt with knife

  The blade of your penknife needs to be opened.


Footprints lead into the woods, but you can't "enter woods" or use a compass direction to follow them. You have to "follow footprints".

   [...] And now you are lost in the woods.

   Lost in the woods.  [room title]

   You are lost in the woods. [...]

OK, I think I get the point.

Description says "something large has been buried here recently":

  > dig
  That doesn't make sense...

Blank lines before some responses, but not others.

  > pick lock with coathanger
  You are already carrying the broken wire coathangar.

Hurrah, it's the old get-the-key-from-the-other-side-of-the-door- by-knocking-it-onto-a-newspaper puzzle. Made worse by the fact that the game makes a knowing reference to how many times this has been done before. I should take a point off for that.

Another unsittable toilet. How many is that in this competition now? I didn't really mean to get obsessed with this as a judging criterion, but having tried it in one game I might as well keep testing them, for completeness. Although actually I think I missed trying some of the toilets I've seen. Mostly in games I wasn't bored with.

Room description mentions the urn, then says "Also here is a beautiful urn."

  > x urn

  [...] As you tip it you hear something rattling inside.

  > look in urn

  What are you talking about?

"It's a trophy of some sort. You found it in the study on the first floor." Well, thanks for the reminder, but it's a little redundant because I am in the study on the first floor. I entered it and saw the trophy on the previous move.

If you're going to have a pendulum clock which is stopped, I should be able to swing the pendulum.


(The Adrift runner interrupts the final cutscene with its stupid high score table, forcing me to put an entry in it before I can go back to the game to click "more" and actually read the rest of the ending. OK, I've worked out how to disable the stupid high score table now. Does anyone actually want a high score table in their IF interpreter?)

I don't understand some bits of the plot. Maybe I missed something - I didn't do all the optional puzzles which perhaps would have given me more information. Specific major spoilers: I don't know who was buried in the woods, and I don't know why I was bringing Trisha's body back to where she lived as a child. Just a coincidence?

Actually, maybe I missed some mandatory puzzles. I don't know if I was supposed to be able to immediately go down into the cellar from the kitchen. The walkthrough says to unlock the door, but I just walked through it without having a key.

I really can't believe a big Victorian house in Sussex was left empty for twenty years. They're worth too much.

Well, not too bad, only one spelling error noticed, but the prose was repetitive and said painful things like "What is going on here?" and "An inner voice tells you that there is something strange going on in this house, and you want to get to the bottom of it".

I suppose four points.

The Tower of the Elephant - Tor Andersson

Another literary adaptation. Reluctant to try this, in case I ever want to read the book. I'm the same about films of books. I suppose I'll give it a go anyway since I've never heard of the book so will probably never read it. Oh, apparently it's only a short story, that's not as bad.

  > ask thief about heart
  Which do you mean, the heart of the elephant or the elephant's

It makes a change from the usual sort of disambiguation bug, I suppose.

Should be able to "x ceiling" if it's mentioned in the room description. Also "design".

After dying one time, I typed "restore" and I got "Violence isn't the answer to this one." Bizarre. Game bug or Inform bug or interpreter bug?

A chest is "not something you can open".

Should be able to ask about "slaying" or "tavern". I've no idea what he was on about here.

An abrupt death with no real clue about what I should have done to avoid it.

Yag tells me to take the gem I've already got.

Don't think I would have got round to guessing all the necessary conversation topics without a walkthrough.

  "Take your sword, man, and cut out my heart; [...]"

  > cut out yag's heart
  You can't see any such thing.

I only get a default response when I grab some loot before leaving. Surely as a thief (albeit one distracted from everyday thievery by events) I should be somewhat more interested in what valuables I'm taking home. I can't even examine the jewels I've just picked up - "x jewels" gives me "You can't use multiple objects with that verb."

I want to hook the rope onto the balcony, but no obvious phrasing works. Turns out it just happens automatically when I drop the rope. It didn't take long to work that out, but it's still not nice.

Quite a short game (it turns out I took the shorter of two paths). Let down by the implementation details - no bugs except that weird restore thing, but too many missing conversation topics for a game that depends very heavily on you finding out what to do from another character. In conversations and elsewhere there seems to be very little clueing about what you should do or talk about.

I think the game suffered from just implementing the plot of the story and making the player guess what it was. This is why straight literary adaptations are a bad idea. I think if you really want to do a literary adaptation, do a very loose one.

The prose was good. I don't know how much came from the original story. A much lower proportion than in Manalive, though, I'm sure.

I'm a bit uncertain about how to judge this. Arguably I shouldn't penalise it for being based on a story - after all, it could be that half the games in the comp have borrowed their plots and prose and just not admitted to it. And everything's got influences to some extent. However, all other things being equal, I want to give more points to entirely original games.

Therefore, four points.

Floatpoint - Emily Short

Second game where I'm an ambassador to another planet.

Are we really still going to have computer disks when we have interstellar travel? They're practically obsolete already.

Why is fruit fixed in place?

Lots of repeated messages and "The scene change machinery is stuck" when entering room 58, and whenever I try to do anything there. Don't know if this is going to break the game. OK, when I got off the float unit (by accident while trying to go "out") it seems to have stopped it happening. Doesn't seem to have broken anything obvious.

Should be able to "send message" or "send message to ..."

I need to say yes to Liam after showing him the box. "Liam, yes" doesn't work. Neither does "nod" (and it ought to given the situation). Apparently it's just "yes".

This game has tons in it. I got to a couple of endings in two hours, but there are more that I didn't reach. There are large amounts of information you can look up about things, and communications to read, and the occasional flashback. This is what makes the game fun, but it probably comes out a bit too big for the competition.

Except for the things noted above, it's technically good. Didn't find much that wasn't implemented. There are nice features like being able to "go to" places and "find" things, and there's a novice mode (which I didn't bother to try out).

A certain item (the sweater) was not mentioned at all during my first playthrough. (My transcript confirms this.) Perhaps I missed examining something or other - can't remember when it was mentioned first when I used the walkthrough. It seems unfair that this wasn't made more obvious, because it meant I missed some important information and a possible different ending.

I'm starting to think that games with multiple (significant) endings will always annoy me somewhat. Once I do one ending, going back to get to others seems like it doesn't mean much any more. But not going back to get others means there are important bits of the work that I haven't seen, and it feels like I haven't had the complete experience.

Well, I seem to have complained about lots of things there, but this has still been one of the most enjoyable games so far. Eight points.

PTGOOD 8*10^23 - Sartre Malvolio

Apparently a parody of a game I haven't played.

The game file is only 2K. This shouldn't take long then.

Stuck now, unless that's all there is. No walkthrough. One point.

Mobius - J. D. Clemens

Cleverly done single-puzzle, single-room (mostly) game. Hard to say more without spoiling it. Writing is good, one or two good jokes. Worth a go.

I didn't quite solve it myself, because I didn't realise the lab coat was something I could use until I got bored and looked at the walkthrough. Once I knew what I could do with the coat I knew enough to do the rest myself.

Saw one textual oddity - "Your previous self looks closely at Now he." Didn't spot any other bugs or any spelling mistakes.

The problem with this game is that you inevitably end up reading the same text a lot of times. A LOT of times. So I got bored quickly.

Quite fun, but it isn't getting more than six points.

Legion - Ian Anderson

Good game. Original and well-written.

I relied on the hints a lot. I think partly because I was just not in a puzzle-solving mood, but partly because it's hard to know what you can and can't do.

Even after reading the hints I struggled to know how to threaten the people with the laser.

I don't think I like games switching between colour schemes. It looks cheap and nasty to me. You don't see static fiction authors suddenly switching to black text on a red background. That's probably because the printing would be more expensive, but anyway. If they tried it the critics would sneer at them, and rightly so.

It's another damn multiple endings game. (See my comments on Floatpoint.)

My money is on this game for the "Best PC" XYZZY.

Recommended, eight points.

Hedge - Steven Richards

The about text suggests the command "punch <person> in the face". When I try "punch bouncer in face" it doesn't work. Apparently it has to be exactly "in the face". This does not fill me with confidence.

All games should have a custom response to "kiss <person>", in my view. This one doesn't.

"impassible" when "impassable" meant. I did have to look that spelling up myself to be sure it was wrong.

Surely it needs a response to "climb hedge".

I'm stuck on the first puzzle.

OK, if I've got to ask about a specific thing, you shouldn't have so many unimplemented topics.

Proper crosswords are rotationally symmetrical. Why not show me the grid, anyway? The protagonist can see it.


Inconsistent blank lines.

I'm trapped by hedges and I have a knife. Give me a response to "cut hedge", please.

Supposedly I picked all the flowers, and supposedly all the bees got killed, but the pillar is still described as being covered in flowers and surrounded by bees.

It's unfair that I have to "climb vines" when "climb hedges" just says "I don't think much is to be achieved by that."

I don't trust this game any more.

Action required to solve puzzle seems to be completely unmotivated.

Continually jokey tone is annoying.

Double quote instead of apostrophe. Is this going to be a common mistake with Inform 7? Well, at least it's an easy way to tell which games haven't been tested properly. Even testers who can't spell should spot these.

Another puzzle apparently requires you to "wait", three times, with no motivation to do so.

Three points or four? Three, because I think every single puzzle is unfair.

Sisyphus - Theo Koutz

"You're not supposed to wonder around"

I really think something more interesting ought to happen if I wait about doing nothing for more than a few turns. Where's the imagination?

These should have had responses:

  > stand on boulder
  That's not something you can stand on.

  > kill myself
  Violence isn't the answer to this one.

Exactly the same message is shown after every turn. This is probably intended to make a point, but that doesn't stop it being annoying.

I don't know if this game is actually solvable or if the whole point is that it can't be won. The single hint seems to suggest that this might be the case. In the absence of useful hints or a walkthrough, I'm giving up.

I can't tell whether or not this is a proper game, and I don't intend to give it the benefit of the doubt. One point.

Carmen Devine: Supernatural Troubleshooter - Rob Myall

Now that's what I call a title.

"At least the provided driver will give you more time to read up on the council's file of the situation." I suppose I know what that means, but it would be better if it was "at least having a driver provided..." or something.

"a file folder" reads oddly to me. Why not just "a file" or "a folder"? (Update - I think this was an Americanism. OK then.)

"Lets hope"

"making your departure an unpleasant contemplation" reads oddly too.

  > x arm
  A man's hand and forearm protrude from the snow here.

  > dig
  What do you want to dig?

  > dig in snow
  I only understood you as far as wanting to dig the inside.

  > dig snow
  You can't see any such thing.

The plinth should be implemented.

Three blank lines in a row after one turn, no blank line after others.

I tried to move the rocks blocking the cave entrance, and got "You'd need a whole pack to move this lot." So naturally when I found the pack I spent ages trying to make them follow me to the cave or tell them about the cave. But I don't think it was possible to do anything about the cave at all - at least, I won the game without getting into it. Probably an accidental red herring, but a nasty one.

If I can get a rake, "rake" should be recognised as a verb.

  You are carrying:
    a leaves

Another object (the knife) is still described as lying about, even after I've taken it.

Synonyms needed: "say prayer" and "pray" should work as "read prayer", once I've got the book.

And a few more spoily comments:

It was weird that the game just suddenly started referring to the girl as a fox spirit, without first saying "You realise the girl is actually a fox spirit!!!" (or some more subtle equivalent).

The game perhaps did too little with the PC's shape-changing abilities. I think I'm right in saying that you could smell the same scents whether you were wolf or human. As a wolf you could howl and see better in the dark, but I think that was it. I suppose I was disappointed that I didn't get to rip anyone's throat out.

The fox spirit doesn't seem very dangerous considering she's killed everyone.

I loved the moment when I tried "howl" and it worked.

Not a bad game. Writing mostly good except for a few oddities as above. Nicely atmospheric descriptions.

Implementation had no critical problems but needs work.

The game seems thin - most of it is just exploring the map (about 27 rooms of it). There are only two or three objects which you actually use, and you basically just do what you're told to with them. I think you have to ask about the right topic at one point as well. There's some story to discover as you go along, but I didn't find it very exciting.

Five points.

The Apocalypse Clock - GlorbWare

Gargoyle displays everything in fixed-pitch font. Don't know if this is a game bug or an interpreter bug.

Three quotations before the game starts is too many.


There's no way of knowing where the exit from the first room is. "Out" doesn't work. You've just got to guess compass directions.

  You bump into your front door.


  >open front door
  You can't see any such thing.


Broken map connection.

There's a door which isn't mentioned in the room description.

Has the word "xyzzy" in the game's text but doesn't implement it as a verb. Very poor.

It said the elevator started moving, but it's still at the same floor.

Guessing exits again.


If you enter one location without having the right item, you're stuck there and can't leave again, as far as I can tell.

That sucked. It might just about have got three points for being an attempt at a proper game and having mostly correct grammar, but failing to do exits properly makes it two. No game so obviously untested really deserves more than two points.

Strange Geometries - Phillip Chambers

Introductory text is too long.

There seem to be a few sentences here that need more punctuation. Example: "It was impossible to bar the door from the outside and there were no other exits making it a challenging mystery." Could really use a comma between "exits" and "making".

"the splattering of old ink that coat..." - should be either "splatterings" or "coats".

I can't use "papers" to refer to newspapers.

"Every once and a while"

Stuck already. No hints. To the walkthrough!

Marvellous, I have to use "search" to find something that "examine" doesn't tell me about, even though it's something that would be very obvious.

A too-big cutscene triggered just by going into a room. It's in the past tense even though it isn't a flashback, which is bizarre because all the descriptions and responses are present tense.

It isn't even consistent within a sentence: "As you enter the market square you passed by the spot ...".

"...creeping in to fill the void left by the lack people." Ah yes, the legendary Lack People, who are said to go from place to place leaving voids lying about.

Another cutscene that's too long and can't decide if it's in the present or the past tense.

"change" should be "chance".

  >touch dot

The game's a bit careless about making it clear which directions you can go, although you can usually guess.

"and returns n few minutes later"

"there's no viscera" should be "there are no viscera", shouldn't it?

You have to search a cabinet even though you've been told that it's empty.

"It's contents"

"you can almost here the echoes"

"alter" for "altar"

"You'll have to get out of the wicked cage first" at the end of a room description, before I've tried to do anything.

Once again, the hallmark of a carefully written game: "you scored 0 out of a possible 0".

What a CRIMINAL WASTE of a good idea for a world (albeit one that I believe has already been done in static fiction).

It's almost like the two dimensional thing was an afterthought, or at least that the author was utterly uninterested in using the idea to make an original game with.

How can something be "lying silently on the ground"? We've already got north/south and east/west as dimensions, so how is there a ground?

What are shelves? Don't shelves imply gravity? Which way does gravity point?

What are the newspapers like? A page would have to be a one-dimensional strip, wouldn't it? A very long one, presumably. And the writing would have to be done in barcodes.

How do I know the metal ring is a ring and not a disc?

How am I walking, even? By jet propulsion, maybe. There's so much that would be cool to work out, and this game did none of it.

On technical+prose+puzzle grounds, I don't know, might just have scraped a four. I'm kicking it down to three for taking a good idea and wasting it.

Final thoughts

"You may vote on 0 more games."

Well, here we are at the end - what have we learned?

We've learned that we quite enjoyed playing through all these games and will try to do the same next year.

We've learned, eventually, that it's handy to keep transcripts when we're judging games.

We've learned that the rot-13 of "PC" is "CP". That's interesting, isn't it?

I didn't give nine or ten points to anything, which might mean I'm scoring too harshly, but I'm not going to try and normalize my scores or otherwise mess about with them.

I seem to have given eight points to Star City, Madam Spider's Web, Delightful Wallpaper, Floatpoint, and Legion.

These are all very different games. If I was forced to pick a winner I think I'd go for Madam Spider. It actually made me shudder at one point.

Final update - I've just read some other people's reviews and WOW you people have some strange tastes.

Thanks to the organizers and authors. See you next year then.