IFcomp 2003 Thoughts
I generally don't write straight reviews when it comes to the annual IF competition. It would be more appropriate to say that I jot down my thoughts. Furthermore, I always try but never quite succeed in playing every single release each comp; the number of games is rather staggering, and despite any impressions you may get from this web site, I do have a life.Should you be interested in how I assign the numerical ratings for each game, my methods can be found here, though I really didn't stick to that criteria consistently until the 2004 competition.Clicking on a title will download the game. If you're new to interactive fiction, I would recommend a visit to A Beginner's Guide to Playing Interactive Fiction before you download anything.
Adoo's Stinky Story |
The Adventures of the President of the United States
The Atomic Heart |
Curse of Manorland |
Episode in the Life of an Artist
The Erudition Chamber |
The Fat Lardo And The Rubber Ducky |
Hercules First Labor |
Internal Documents |
little girl in the big world |
A Paper Moon |
Rape, Pillage, Galore! |
The Recruit |
Shadows On The Mirror |
Slouching Towards Bedlam
Sophie's Adventure |
Sweet Dreams |
Temple of Kaos
Adoo's Stinky Story:
A Z-Code game by B. Perry
Okay, there's probably some rule that I'm supposed to play a game for a minimum of, say, five minutes, and not allow myself to be turned off by the mere premise. If such a rule exists, I've broken it. My apologies. I'll pretend there were things in there that made it deserve more than a one or a two, if only because the author used complete sentences.
The Adventures of the President of the United States:
An ALAN game by Mikko Vuorinen
Um, right. Riiiight. Completely and utterly not intuitive, so I resorted to the walkthrough, which proved conclusively in my mind that the game wasn't supposed to be intuitive. Brilliant! Sorry, feel free to call me narrow-minded for not enjoying shallow stupid linear pointless stuff like this.
A TADS 2 game by crazydwarf
Hrm. Okay, scary title, but I'm not so mean as to - well, okay, I am mean enough to prejudge a game off of a title, but I won't. Not this time, anyway.And what's this? I'm mildly amused by the author's apologies for the PC knowing who they are despite the game's title, but less amused by the poor writing skills and lack of proof reading.It really is nice to see someone else take up the IF writing bug, but I hope they work on it a great deal more before subjecting us to such pain in a future comp.(And my spirit guide was pretty damn useless, I might add.)
The Atomic Heart:
A Z-Code game by Stefan Blixt
The writing seems a bit awkward, forced, with occasional grammar problems and poor descriptions. "Object x is here, object y is there, and over there is object z. There, I think I've listed everything without too much of an attempt at being interesting."Some crazy little implementation problems exist. >X BOTTLES returns, "You can't use multiple objects with that verb." >X BOTTLE returns, "Which do you mean, the eighteenth century bottle or the eighteenth century bottle?" "18th" is not a recognized synonym for "eighteenth." And, finally, >X EIGHTEENTH CENTURY BOTTLE returns, "Which do you mean, the eighteenth century bottle or the eighteenth century bottle?"While the non-conventional plot and PC were a decent starting point, implementation problems and lack of imaginative writing made me drop the game rather quickly. Also, what kind of a name is Mr. Luvya?
A Z-Code game by Chris Molloy Wischer
Good. Finally some decent writing, and I particularly like the imagery of the forest outside the hut. Unfortunately for me, I read the bit about the ghoul while I was eating; thank goodness I have a rather strong stomach. The game sort of devolved into a bit too much of a puzzlefest for my liking, though others may enjoy being forced to walk all over creation gathering objects.My primary implementation complaint is that much of the objects should have been made into scenery, as >TAKE ALL is quite annoying.
A TADS 2 game by David Linder
BLAM! Um, yeah. Sure. I'd jump up at something that sounds like either a gun shot or a bad Emeril Legasse impression, heart pounding, glance around quickly, then figure it's nothing, investigate no further, and try to go back to sleep. But dammit, it's difficult to sleep with so many typos prowling about, and descriptions that are so half-hearted that they actually come right out and say "room or apartment (whichever you want to call it)." Please.And I'm a janitor! Woo! Not that there's anything inherently wrong with being a janitor - I have a good friend who's a janitor, in fact. It's just that I really don't sit around at night wishing there was another good janitor game out there, despite the fact that several people think such a market exists. When the gas started seeping in under the door, I decided to wait around without taking any precautions, just because I hated my life as a janitor and wanted to end it all. And while I did end it all, I didn't go out with any style. Struggle for breath, collapse, and die. No soliloquy? Damn.Sorry, going to look for something intriguing...
A Z-Code game by Michael Loegering
First off, scary title, but I can't judge a game solely on that (or so I keep telling myself), so I played more... and then I suddenly had really bad flashbacks of last year's comp game Coffee Quest. Now, I'll not write it off immediately, since I actually sort of enjoyed the campiness of CQ, but... hm... okay, this one's just not doing it for me.It's either this or take a break from comp games and do laundry... I think I'm going to do laundry.Also, what kind of a name is Leslie Lovely? . o O (What is this? LoveName Comp?)
A TADS 2 game by Roger Descheneaux
Well, well, well. I'm a janitor again! Huzzah!Okay, I'm a dumbass for not downloading the bug-fixed version of the game the first time, and now I've run into a fairly show-stopping bug. This is, of course, my own damn fault. No matter, I'll download the new one, since it was easy enough to get to this point and after all, they did tell me to download the new version.Downloaded the new version. I've made it past the bug... only to hit a new bug. Unfortunately for Descheneaux, the deadline is looming, and this procrastinator must move on. Had this been a game with some depth to it, instead of just plodding along through nothing interesting with occasional banal attempts at humor, I might have given it more consideration and time.
Curse of Manorland:
An AGT game by James King
Oh, God. Do I need to comment at all? The title was scary enough, but complete lack of punctuation and grammar and plot and ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
A TADS 2 game by Santoonie Corporation
Oooh! My first Santoonie Corp game. I can hardly wait to enjoy the goodness of all that crap that made me leave R*IF so many months ago! But I want to at least glance at every game in this comp, and who knows? Maybe I'll be surprised...Nope, I wasn't.
A Z-Code game by John Evans
The first bit, with the nostalgic reference to Zork, was amusing and kept me intrigued enough to play on a bit, but I quickly ran into unimplemented yet important scenery (the intricate eerie designs scraped into the top of the pedestal, for instance) and found that the game failed to maintain my interest. Unfortunately, with a comp this large, a game must really grab and hold a player's attention or it will get lost in the crowd. Worth returning to later, perhaps.
Episode in the Life of an Artist:
A TADS 2 game by Peter Eastman
Uninspired room descriptions. Apartment setting. Pretentiousness. Stupid, awkward, pointless puzzles. Stupid intro. First person is a nice change, though.
No immediately obvious spelling or grammar problems.
The Erudition Chamber:
A TADS 2 game by Daniel Freas
Okay. I must admit that this one didn't really grab me at first, but I hung in there and really warmed up to it. Though similar to another game in this competition where you're put through a testing ground of sorts, this piece is less linear, has more character, and possesses an old skool charm that I find appealing. My reactions changed each time I played, with interesting results. Overall, a piece with replay value that I very much enjoyed.
The Fat Lardo And The Rubber Ducky:
A Z-Code game by Somebody
Okay. Stupid title but immediately catchy intro. Interest: peaked. Okay, laughed a few times, interest waned.
A Z-Code game by Aaron A. Reed
Fun, solid, enjoyable writing, with some very amusing moments in a mild-chuckle sort of way. After fetching a glass of wine for a patron and exploring a bit, however, the drive in the game seemed to fade and I felt myself feeling a bit lost as to what to do. Oh! Now the restaurant reviewer is here! Now I can't find my tea cup. Now I've restarted a couple times trying to do things faster. Now I've spent too much time on this and really need to move on, but I like it and will return to it. In the meantime, I give it a...
Hercules First Labor:
An HTML game by Bob Brown
[ Note: The link to this game is no longer valid and has been removed. ]
Hm. Well, thanks for making me remember how frustrating non-Infocom games were.
A Z-Code game by Tom Lechner
One big fucking long intro sentence lacking a necessary comma, and then they forget how to string together more than five words to form a phrase. Also, things present aren't... well... present. You can't look at the post office or the bar or any of it. Okay, trying to leave back the way I came was mildly amusing. I've wandered a bit, but none of the scenery is actually, you know, here.Try implementing a couple of objects next time.
little girl in the big world:
A Windows game by Peter Wendrich
Another adventure in programming, this time stepping outside the conventions of Inform, TADS, and others because they for some reason aren't good enough. I will give Peter Wendrich the benefit of the doubt and assume that he doesn't think he's better than the programmers of other IF languages, but that he simply wanted to see what new path he might be able to forge on his own. Okay, fine, but StoryFactory needs a great deal more work (the first thing I read in the manual was an apology for the bugs in the parser) and it really isn't comp-ready.Additionally, before entering a competition, he might have done well to spend as much time writing the game as he did developing StoryFactory to really show off its merits. Unfortunately, the story, the writing, and the grammar all suffer as much as StoryFactory does, and I just haven't the patience for unpolished stuff in a comp, sorry.
A Z-Code game by Ben Heaton
My assumption is that this is someone's first attempt at writing IF, as this has all the various tell-tale signs of a programming exercise. I mean, good for you, taking up a hobby and all, but don't force this upon us in a serious competition.
A Paper Moon:
A Z-Code game by Andrew Krywaniuk
"You awake, sporting a mild hangover and an old pair of underwear that you thought your mom threw away long ago," has got to be one of the worst opening lines in the history of interactive fiction. Just one of the worst, though - not the winner - which leaves this game somewhere in No Man's Land. Nowhere near good, but not bad enough to be distinguished.Totally unimaginative writing; I have written this elsewhere and will reiterate yet again: I hate being in bathrooms with one line descriptions that exist simply because the author knows he's been silly enough to write another damn house game and houses have bathrooms so his game has to have a bathroom, albeit a nondescript one.Furthermore, I don't want to be Sam Haversham, PC who is worthless and lives with his parents and is hungover and needs to lose weight. Bah!Sorry, just not my thing. Too bad the title made me think that the game might have some class.
Rape, Pillage, Galore!:
A Windows game by Kristian Kirsfeldt
Sorry. Doesn't seem interactive. Maybe it's just me, and if so, sorry.
A TADS 2 game by Mike Sousa
Sound writing and programming (I would expect nothing less from Sousa), such that I could picture myself and my surroundings fairly well, though not at a level that really interested me. A fun enough piece, with puzzles I was able to handle (which pleased me), but ... I don't know, it just overall didn't capture me the way it should have.
A Z-Code game by Michael Coyne
Hm. 'Repressed Renaissance.' Okay, possibly intriguing title. Seemingly slice of life, reminiscent of my own past, in fact, with decent writing. Let's give it a shot, as so few games in this comp have deserved such...Huh... The sudden existence of a green glowing portal was rather unexpected and the ambivalence of the prof amusing. Perhaps this ain't slice of life after all.Good; it's immersive... I feel like I'm really here, despite the fantastic events and setting, because things have been implemented extremely well. Long blocks of text about which many players will no doubt complain, but they're well-written and do an excellent job of setting the scene. Hooray! Something truly worth playing!Glancing at the clock to note the time, since I might actually play this for the full two hours, I continue exploring the caer. Okay, the first task I've been given is admittedly a bit lame, but yay cheese injokes, old skool feel, and witty responses to silly actions like trying to go the bathroom with the door to the garderobe open. I wasn't able to complete this in the two hour time limit, and was having so much fun that I refused to speed things along with the hint system. Looking forward to spending much more time with this piece.
An ALAN game by Anssi Raisanen
I can appreciate the intrigue that the writer was trying to achieve here, but the piece just seemed woefully under implemented, and rather than being a mere puzzlefest, guess-the-obscurity was a better way to describe Sardoria. Hints were vague and few, forcing rather quick use of the walkthrough, and then you'd find things like 'push drawer.' Honestly, who does anything to a closed drawer aside from pull it or open it? I simply got frustrated too often and too much. Nice opportunities for depth of setting and plot development, but they were missed.
A TADS 2 game by Quintin Stone
Hm. Strangely interesting introduction, and I'm glad to see a game with some meat to it, an actual story with feeling of purpose. Average writing, though there are moments where the prose is quite good, and I did actually get the feeling of wandering through a post-apocalyptic landscape, so points for that. I had to resort to the walkthrough, though this is no doubt a reflection of my complete lack of ability when engaged in a puzzlefest (which this sort of was... not that there's anything wrong with that). Anyway, an enjoyable enough experience, though not a favorite of mine this comp.
Shadows On The Mirror:
A TADS 3 game by Chrysoula Tzavelas
I saved this one until last based on the title alone in the hope that I could end the comp on a positive note, and I was not disappointed.The start is engaging, the setting immediately real. Perhaps the most telling part of my experience here is that my mood changed as I became the interactor, falling easily into the melancholy and resignation that is immediately apparent in this piece.Though there could definitely have been more implementation to polish things off, this is a very sound work with quality writing. It gracefully gave to me what I desire most out of interactive fiction, that being a worthwhile experience.Thank you, Chrysoula.
Slouching Towards Bedlam:
A Z-Code game by Star Foster and Daniel Ravipinto
Fantastic way to set backstory. I feel like I'm really listening to the phonograph while rifling through the desk and office, absorbing information bit by bit as I listen, rather than being thrown so much prose in one assault as is often typical of complex IF stories. This is one of the best introductions I've played in recent memory.Wandering away from the office, however, things begin to seem less immersive, more terse. There's some intrigue with regard to the story, why I'm speaking in tongues, and it seems the author has gone to great lengths to develop a plot and storyline that work with the amnesiac pc, but it just isn't the sort of story that ropes me in. I'd say, however, that this will be different for a great many people and that others will no doubt enjoy it tremendously.
An ADRIFT game by David Whyld
Hrm. I'm either the most mature eight year old ever, with a psychotic interest in interior design and all the parental angst of someone seven years older, or the writer isn't doing a good job of making me feel like an eight year old protagonist.Hm, 'mom' and 'mum' aren't synonyms for 'mother,' which I found interesting, nor is 'dad' a synonym for 'father,' despite being written as such in the dialogue of the game.The plot is a different sort from what I expected, and some of the conversation is amusing for a moment or so, but the characters can't remember what they've discussed and what they haven't. The whole thing just seems to lack any depth, and the humor became less funny very quickly, unfortunately.Moving on...
A Windows game by Papillon
I don't mean to be a spoiled sport, but this feels like Commander Keen's Night Time Panty Raid, with cutesy graphics and wandering about in pajamas with a bit of text thrown in to provide an excuse for submitting a video game to the IFcomp. Pardon me for being a close-minded meanie.
Temple of Kaos:
A TADS 2 game by Peter Gambles
At first glance, the format of the text suggests poetry, but then when I take time to actually read the words... hoo, boy. I guess it's poetry, but not the sort worth struggling through for room details. Perhaps, had it been .... no, I'm not making excuses for it.
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