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Archive for November 18th, 2015

IFComp 2015 Review: The Sueno

Posted by Reiko on November 18, 2015

This is a review of a game from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

The Sueno
Author: Marshall Tenner Winter
Format: Glulx

First things first. The grammar nazi in me was cringing constantly at the formatting of the dialogue in this piece.

For instance, in this bit:
“Yes,” the doctor shakes your hand, “I’m Dr. Richard Lynch.”
“shakes” is not a type of speech, so the quoted dialogue should be separated from it by periods, not commas, like this:
“Yes.” The doctor shakes your hand. “I’m Dr. Richard Lynch.”

On the other hand, a dialogue descriptor was often capitalized after a piece of dialogue it described and also separated from it by commas. This visually starts a new separate sentence instead of completing the spoken thought. For example:
“You can go in now.” She instructs.
instead of:
“You can go in now,” she instructs.

Anyway, the story involves taking a new drug on a sleep study to examine lucid dreaming. The dream has two sections, a house and a town, but neither one is very interesting, really. Many locations have nothing interesting in them at all, and others exist only to hold an item. The “dream” command is used a few times, but somewhat inconsistently. The ending is rather muted, really. The big reveal arrives through an encyclopedia, for one, and then the ending text doesn’t even show what happens when the PC uses the new information.

It’s all far too low key considering the murderous butcher that shows up near the end of the game and follows the PC around. When he’s in the same room as the PC, he doesn’t even do anything for two or three turns, and even after that, he’s likely to miss the first couple times he attacks. That part is too easy, and then some of the puzzles are read-the-author’s-mind difficult. I used the walkthrough for the second half of the game and discovered that I’d completely bypassed an early puzzle, but this apparently didn’t make any difference later.

Time: 50 min
Scoring: base 7, -1 for dialogue formatting, -1 for thin implementation
Score: 5


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IFComp 2015 Review: Final Exam

Posted by Reiko on November 18, 2015

This is a review of a game from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

Final Exam
Author: Jack Witham
Format: Z-code

This was clever. I liked this one quite a bit, partly for its deft handling of fiddly things like cables. There’s a strange inversion of simulation going on here where I really wasn’t quite sure which layer was reality and which was simulation and maybe that was the point? The first part takes place in what feels like reality but looks like a simulation (human body, but empty administration center), and then the second part takes place in what looks like reality but feels like a simulation (robot body, but real equipment and surface).

The Central Administrator gives instructions on what needs to be done to fix the breach, but given all the talk of responsibility vs stability and political issues and such, I half expected to get to the end and find out that following the instructions was entirely the wrong thing to do, and have to replay to get the optimal ending. No, this one played it entirely straight. I’m not sure there are any other endings, in fact, unless you plug the administrator’s connection into the wrong socket in the bunker or something, which I didn’t try.

The game ended up really being about the cable puzzle more than anything else, which was an oddly mechanical solution to what sounded like it could have turned into an interesting political choice. Minor nitpick right at the beginning: I typed “stand” to stand up from the bed, but I was immediately yanked all the way out of the room and over to the administration building. That’s…disconcerting, and not recommended. Let the player move around on his own unless there’s a really good reason to yank him around somewhere.

Time: 40 min
Scoring: base 7, +1 for excellent cable handling, +1 for simulation ambiguity, -1 for mechanical-only solution
Score: 8

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