ISSUE #21 - June 15, 2000

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The  |___/ociety for the |_|romotion of  |_|_|dventure  \___|ames.

                         ISSUE # 21

           Edited by Paul O'Brian (obrian SP@G
                       June 15, 2000

           SPAG Website:

SPAG #21 is copyright (c) 2000 by Paul O'Brian.
Authors of reviews retain the rights to their contributions.

All email addresses are spamblocked -- replace the name of our magazine
with the traditional 'at' sign. 

REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE -----------------------------------------------------

The Boggit
Foggywood Hijinx
The Frenetic Five vs. Mr. Redundancy Man
The Jim MacBrayne games (Frustration, Golden Fleece, Holy Grail, Mission)
Perilous Magic
Worlds Apart


Timing. I was all set to write this editorial about Bedouin, Inc. and
their bid to make text adventures commercially viable again through a
new distribution channel: cell phones, a.k.a. the "Wireless Web." Then,
Stephen Granade posted a long, thoughtful article on that selfsame
subject to his IF website. []
That article not only provides much more depth and detail than my
editorial would have, the opinions it offers basically mirror my own. In
short, it does everything I wanted to do and more -- I urge you to check
it out at

So I won't be writing about Bedouin in this space. Instead, I'd like to
offer a few words on something that means a great deal to me: community.
Specifically, the IF community. The advent of Bedouin and the big-time
commercial interests that may accompany it has gotten me thinking a lot
aobut what defines the IF community, what its strengths are, and how it
might respond to injections of money and popularity.

First off, I think I should take a stab at defining what I mean by "the
IF community." To my mind, a member of the IF community is someone who
takes an active interest in the ongoing development of interactive
fiction. If you read or contribute to SPAG, XYZZYNews, or the int-
fiction newsgroups on Usenet, you're part of it. If you hang out on
ifMUD, you're part of it. If you've written a game, voted for the XYZZY
Awards, or been a judge in the annual IF competition, you're part of it.
If you regularly download and play the games on the IF archive, you're
part of it. Lots of people fall into most or all of these categories,
but all it takes is one. I'm part of it, and if you're reading this,
chances are you're a part of it too. 

We're a fairly loose agglomeration of people, and there are a lot of
differences between us. We cover a wide range of geographical locations,
including Canada, Sweden, the U.K., Germany, and all areas of the U.S.A.
Our ages range from teenager to grandmother. We run the full gamut of
religious beliefs (from PC to Mac to Unix :), and no doubt span the
political spectrum as well. We are one of those highly touted "virtual
communities" that the Internet is said to be creating everywhere, and
because of our particular mode of communicating with each other,
differences that might be an important factor in other communities
(race, ethnicity, appearance, class, background) are mostly invisible
and irrelelvant. We're a diverse group, but we're bound by one
overriding factor: love of interactive fiction.

That dedication has carried us to some rather amazing achievements.
Community efforts have inspired and fed various IF development
languages, including several that are more sophisticated and easier to
use than anything Infocom had in its prime. In turn, these development
tools have made possible some truly outstanding works of IF, most of
which SPAG has reviewed in its six-year history. SPAG itself is an
expression of that community spirit, and so are XYZZYNews, the XYZZY
Awards, the annual IF competition, the IF Book Club, ifMUD, and all the
other myriad undertakings that have advanced the cause of hobbyist IF
since its demise from the commercial arena in the early '90s. In a
sense, Bedouin's interest in modern IF is a tribute to the strength of
the IF community, because the money wouldn't come sniffing if there
weren't signs that something interesting is happening here.

However, that interest could also pose a threat to the IF community. You
may have seen it happen before with something obscure you've taken a deep
interest in, perhaps a favorite musician or artist: the mainstream
notices, popularity rushes in, and suddenly you're having to share your
private passion with a bunch of trendies who don't care so much about
the art as about doing what's hip and hyped at the moment, not to
mention that skyrocketing economics can take your object of interest way
out of your price range and put you in competition for resources which
are suddenly scarce in relation to the demand for them. Let me hasten to
add that with Bedouin, the signs look positive. They've shown every sign
of being good guys, from their consultation with various community
members to their scrupulous respect of authors' intellectual property.
In addition, they're not interested in blocking the traditional channels
of IF distribution, just in adding a new channel and attempting to
profit (alongside the game authors) from those new users. Moreover, the
average cell-phone IF player isn't about to seek out the int-fiction
groups or start crowding into ifMUD. Nonetheless, if IF becomes popular
and lucrative again, you can be sure that the IF community won't feel
like a little club anymore. That's not necessarily a bad thing -- just a
change. And like most changes, it won't last forever. As long as you
still take an active interest in the ongoing development of IF, you'll
still be a member of the IF community. And if we, collectively, remember
that passion and keep it as our foremost priority, we won't go far wrong.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR------------------------------------------------------

From: Neil Bowers 

[Neil sent this letter just after SPAG #20 was released, and the quoted
text is from Nick Montfort's Christminster review.]

I'll probably not be the only person to point this out ...

> FOOTNOTE 1. A major Christ-initial place name and character name
> may sound contrived, but truth is at least as strange as fiction.
> Rees's home page [at
>] reveals
> that he's a fellow of Christ's College at Cambridge, and his
> wife is named Christine.

Unfortunately that's not the right Gareth Rees.

The Christminster Gareth did go to Cambridge, but is no longer there.

[Editor's note: D'OH! Correspondence with the IF author Gareth reveals
that the web page referenced above is for Dr. William Gareth Rees of
Christ's College, Cambridge. According to Gareth, "When I was an
undergraduate at Christ's, we used to get each others' mail fairly
often! So it's not really a surprise to be confused with him again!"
Apologies to both Messrs. Rees for the error. Unfortunately, the email
address provided in Nick's Christminster review was also incorrect. The
raif Gareth Rees' email address is . The error
has been noted in the versions of SPAG 20 stored on the web page and at
the IF Archive. --PO]

NEWS ----------------------------------------------------------------------

As one IF moneymaking venture takes the stage, another gracefully exits.
Cascade Mountain Publishing, the business venture run by former Infocom
Implementor Michael Berlyn, has closed its doors. According to Berlyn, a
big part of the reason for CMP's downfall is that it was a "Hydra: print
books, eBooks, and IF." Encouragingly, he also assures us that "Next
time, it'll be just IF. And there will be a next time."

Some fairly large games came out this Spring, along with some fun
experiments and parodies.
   * Z-Snake by Zach Matley (yet another z-abuse)
   * LASH by Paul O'Brian
   * Life On Gue Street by Chris Charla
   * Augmented Fourth by Brian Uri
   * Chico And I Ran by J.D. Berry
   * Dangerous Curves by Irene Callaci
   * Above and Beyond by Mike Sousa
   * DragonLord by Mark Silcox and Okey Ikeako

The Spring also saw a number of familiar games clothed in a different
   * Ditch Day Drifter was ported to Inform by Neil Cerutti. The
     original (TADS) game by Mike Roberts was reviewed in SPAG #2. 
   * John Kean released Downtown Tokyo. Present Day.: The Director's
     Cut, which apparently is an expanded version of his 1998 competition
     entry. The original version was reviewed in SPAG #17. 
   * Polyadv by David Picton is the 350-, 550-, and 551-point versions of 
     Adventure [a.k.a. Colossal Cave] all rolled into one
   * Mike and Muffy Berlyn's game Dr. Dumont's Wild P.A.R.T.I., formerly
     a commercial product of Cascade Mountain Publishing, has been
     released to the IF Archive as freeware since that company's demise.
   * Countdown to Doom, Return to Doom, and Last Days of Doom, were all
     released by Topologika games in the 80's. Now they've all been ported
     to Inform and uploaded to the IF Archive by their author, Peter

For those of us who wax nostalgic about Infocom, Gunther Schmidl has
finally assembled a complete set of all the newsletters they ever
published. The title of this newsletter was originally The New Zork
Times, but the threat of a lawsuit from a major metropolitan newspaper
forced them to shift the title to The Status Line. There were 24 issues
in all, and they're now all available in .pdf format on the IF Archive.
According to Schmidl, text versions are due in the Very Near Future.

Ah Spring, the time of year when a young newsgroup's fancy turns to
thoughts of mini-comps! There were two notable mini-comps since the last
issue of SPAG, and for some reason they both involved big lizards. Adam
Cadre sponsored the Dino-comp, for games featuring dinosaurs, in honor
of Matthew Amster-Burton's long-ago musing about how cool such a game
would be. David Cornelson ran the Dragon-comp, in his words, "to dispel
the notion that a cool or funny game cannot be written with dragons."
Both comps attracted an impresive number of entrants. Also enjoying
success was Marnie Parker's IF Art Show, the winning entry of which
spurred lots of excited conversation on the IF newsgroups. For unknown
reasons, the most recent Art Show entries have not been uploaded to the
IF Archive, but they're available in a zipped file from The results of the Art Show
were as follows:
   * Best of Show - Galatea by Emily Short
   * Best of Landscape - The Cove by Kathleen M. Fischer
   * Best of Still Life - Statuette by Ian Ball
   * Honorable Mention - Guitar of the Immortal Bard by Jason Burns

It had to happen sometime: Duncan Stevens has graduated and gotten a
full-time job. Consequently, his always-prodigious review output is
bound to dip a bit, and I'm counting on the rest of you to pick up the
slack! SPAG contributions have been a little down this spring, as you
can see from the fact that this issue shows fewer reviews and fewer
contributions to the scoreboard. Another example: the SPAG Specifics
section, which I ballyhooed as hard as I could last issue, received no
submissions. Reviewers, where are you? In case you're wondering what to
review, here for your benefit is this issue's 10 Most Wanted list, all
games that have never been reviewed in SPAG, but really should be:

1.  Above and Beyond
2.  Augmented Fourth
3.  Chico And I Ran
4.  Countdown to Doom
5.  Dangerous Curves
6.  Dr. Dumont's Wild P.A.R.T.I.
7.  DragonLord
8.  Guilty Bastards
9.  The IF Art Show entries (any, some or all!)
10. Westfront PC

KEY TO SCORES AND REVIEWS--------------------------------------------------

Consider the following review header:

NAME: Cutthroats
AUTHOR: Infocom
EMAIL: ???
DATE: September 1984
PARSER: Infocom Standard
SUPPORTS: Z-code (Infocom/Inform) interpreters
URL: Not available.

When submitting reviews:  Try to fill in as much of this info as you can.
If you choose, you may also provide scores for the games you review, as 
explained in the SPAG FAQ. The scores will be used in the ratings 
section.  Authors may not rate or review their own games.

More elaborate descriptions of the rating and scoring systems may be found
in the FAQ and in issue #9 of SPAG, which should be available at:
 and at

REVIEWS -------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Christian Baker 

TITLE: The Boggit
AUTHOR: Fergus McNeill and Judith Child (Delta 4)
DATE: 1986
PARSER: Quill (a bit dodgy)
SUPPORTS: Commodore 64, Spectrum, Amstrad CPC.

The Boggit is a parody of the original Melbourne House adventure "The
Hobbit". It starts off in "your round tunnel like hall", although the
only difference seems to be that there's a toilet at the end of it. Then
things really start to change. Grandalf (or rather "Gandalf") crashes
through your window to give you a card and some exploding chocolates,
you find out the only reason the dwarves bring you with them is to be
fed to Maug (Smaug), and that Thorny's (Thorin) father is in a mental
home and thinks Grandalf is his son. 

The whole game is written in the past tense, and it's also written in a
third person perspective. The games writers were about 17 when they
wrote this. The room descriptions are fairly dull and below standard,
but the rest of the writing is really funny, and will make you want to
laugh out loud (Watch out for when Thorny or the dwarves start to sing.
It's fantastic!). The game is littered with IF references (one of the
puzzles involve the cleaning robots from Hitchhikers Guide), although
some objects seem out of place (a credit card on a mountain?). The game
has an 80's "home-made" style, which I say just adds to its charm. 

The characters are very basic, although they do say something funny if
you're lucky, but nearly all the characters are just cardboard cut-outs
put in there to fit in with the game's Tolkien roots. They may be very
funny at times, but most of the time they don't want to talk at all. The
best characters in the game have to be the three trolls: Andre, Bernard
and Matthew (scary!). Bernard has the occasional slip of grammar (which
Matthew promptly corrects), and Andre just grunts. Great fun. 

The parser is very simple, and if you say something like THROW ROPE at a
time when that's not part of the puzzle, the game will give you the
impression that you have a made an unfair suggestion. Some of the
puzzles just require common sense (the exploding chocolate one, and the
Gameshow one), some require knowledge of a subject (a big no-no for
IF), and some are just plain weird. Overall, the game is simple, but
highly entertaining. Oh, and just for you, here's the whole of the
Dwarvish song:

   Being a merry sort of bunch, the dwarves began to sing:

   We're dwarves, we're dwarves, all doomed to die
   We'll probably finish in the dragon's pie
   So we'll take ol' Bimbo Faggins, a real cement head
   Hopefully ol' Daug will eat him instead.

   Sing: Hog the gold!
   Pass the buck!
   Split Bimbo's share between us!

   Across the Wiffy mountains, all through dark Berkwood
   We'll drag ol' lardball with us, he'll do as dragon food
   And afterwards we'll celebrate, in Thornys treasure hold.
   With ale and nosh and diamond rings and imitation gold

   Sing: Hog the gold!
   Pass the buck!
   Split Bimbo's share between us!


From: Duncan Stevens 

TITLE: Break-In
AUTHOR: Jon Ingold
E-MAIL: ji207 SP@G
DATE: 1999
PARSER: Inform standard
SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters
VERSION: Release 7

The line between entertainingly silly and annoyingly silly is a fine
one, and Jon Ingold's Break-In doesn't always stay on the right side of
it: the game strives so relentlessly to be goofy that the whimsy feels a
bit forced, and some serious game design flaws don't help. Still, there
are some funny moments and a few genuinely clever puzzles amid all the

It's not unknown for IF to pull a sort of bait-and-switch with its
genre--i.e., giving the player an initial premise that fits into one
genre, which suddenly gives way to an unexpected development that throws
the story into a different genre entirely. Trinity did it, to some
extent (well, tourism isn't really a genre, but stumbling into a surreal
fantasyesque dimension was a shift), and Once and Future did something
similar (with somewhat peculiar results due to the divergence between
the feelies--which studiously avoided any implication that the game
wasn't all about war--and the manual, which referred, among other
things, to a sword suitable for summoning spirits). Break-In takes those
precedents and runs with them: there are several genres all going on at
once, with no Big Transitional Event to indicate that the initial
premise has yielded to something else. (The end of the game returns to
the original plotline, with no acknowledgment of the wacky stuff that's
gone on.) As in, the game conflates your ostensible mission--as a
freelance burglary artist, to break into a home and retrieve some
plans--with silly surreal stuff--chicken-dragons and such--and also with
conventional fantasy, casually mixing all three together. There are some
explanations provided, but they're not particularly convincing, and
they're largely provided after the fact--i.e., there are no warnings
that the game is about to take a sharp turn. There's nothing inherently
wrong with all this, I suppose, but it does sort of destroy the
immersive aspect of the story--the player constantly saying "okay,
what's going on NOW?" generally is not particularly immersed. Similarly,
while pieces of the setting are well rendered, it's so
incoherent--things are juxtaposed that can't really be logically
juxtaposed--that the player tends to give up trying to picture the

The fluidity of the genre boundaries isn't the main problem here,
though--it's the game design. It's not all that difficult to render the
game unfinishable in unexpected ways--e.g., by failing to properly
manage inventory before a change of scene, or by failing to pick up a
hidden object before leaving an area that, it turns out, you won't be
able to revisit. There's lots more of that than there needs to be, and
it makes it difficult to enjoy the silliness of the game--inventory
management is about a prosaic a task as IF offers. The hint system,
which is helpful in some areas but completely neglects others, doesn't
help much. Worse, there are quite a few bugs-- some fatal, others merely
irritating. Break-In is not especially polished--there are writing
errors here and there along with the bugs--and the rough-edges feel
often distracts from the game. There are some clever puzzles-- oddly,
the one nominated for an XYZZY is far from the game's best; there are
others that are much more creative--but some rely on rather large
logical leaps, and one in particular is hampered by a lack of
alternative solutions.

It's a shame because, taken the right way, the game is actually very
funny--the implicit premise is that spies after the end of the Cold War
are reduced to concocting ridiculous projects to keep themselves busy,
and the notion of espionage artists dealing with things like giant
chickens is, at bottom, pretty amusing. The game may not be particularly
immersive, but it's got a fair measure of wit, as in the following:

   By the doormat lies a brown-paper parcel, tied up with a length of
   string. It's probably just one of the Prof's favourite things. 

Or this:

   >get shoot
   The shoot is attached to some kind of model or pendant, which appears
   to be of an orange alien in a green dress dancing wildly. What a
   weird thing to have buried in your garden! It has several 'arms' of
   different lengths all pointing upwards, and each with the same cone
   shape as the main 'body'. There's nothing in the way of a head, the
   cone just rounds to a blunt point. Maybe something fell off in the

   >examine alien
   No, on second thoughts, its actually just a knobbly carrot. You were
   holding it upside down. 

Here, the burglar/spy persona of the PC comes across well--you ascribe
suspicious or fantastic properties to everything--and it would benefit
the game if that persona were more often in evidence. After all, the
beginning of the story sees the PC pondering the course of his career in
rather weighty terms--"Still, its not petty thieving. It's for national
security, which is different"--and it seems like there's plenty of humor
to be mined from the PC's reaction to all the silliness. E.g. (not from
the game--just my suggestion): "You reflect sourly that none of your
training at M5 prepared you for giant chickens. An oversight, clearly."
As it is, if you don't find the chickens funny, you won't find the game
funny (and those chickens do get tiresome pretty quickly). 

Break-In is a game with considerable potential but not entirely
successful implementation, in other words. Had the author chosen to make
more of the story and PC, and less of the goofiness, the result might
have been both funny and intriguing; as it is, there are some nicely
done bits (intelligent puzzles, well-described settings) and a lot of
mistakes. Try it only if you're in a very peculiar mood.


From: Walter Sandsquish 

NAME: Corruption  
AUTHOR: Robert Steggles and Hugh Steers  
DATE: 1988 
PARSER: Magnetic Scrolls
SUPPORT: Magnetic
AVAILABILITY: Secondhand Retail/Auction (Out of Print)
URL: Possibly
VERSION: Version 1.12

Two schools of thought define adventure games. One school says, "an
adventure game is a story whose conflicts have been translated into
puzzles," while the second believes, "an adventure game is a puzzle
described in terms of a story." 

The difference is significant. 

If you look at "Corruption" through the eyes of the first school, you
will see a vastly unfair and agonizingly difficult work of interactive
fiction. The game cannot be finished, or even understood, without
experience gained through player-character "death." What's more, I can
predict, a little smugly, that everyone will discover, just before he
thinks he is about reach "Corruption's" climax, that he neglected to do
something at the start of the story, and must replay the entire game.
For instance, I found out that I should have thoroughly searched the
toilet sometime before the 15th move. 

If that sounds absurd, this may not be a game for you. Much of the
behavior required of the player character, like breaking into his
partner's office, would seem unmotivated -- even paranoid -- in any
other storytelling medium. 

On the other hand, members of the second school of thought will find a
mesmerizing, Chinese-puzzle-box of a game. "Corruption" is a giant
riddle, and to decipher its meaning, you must play, and replay, each of
its parts. Once the player has mapped out the movements of the
non-player characters, he will recognize a web of deceit and betrayal,
and be able guide his character to paths that lead to a satisfying

In this way, "Corruption" is similar to Infocom's murder mysteries, but
"Corruption" is an English game, published by Magnetic Scrolls, and it
puts the same sort of twist on text-adventure mysteries that the English
director Alfred Hitchcock put on filmed mysteries. Instead of a
professional detective or reporter, the player character is a naive
everyman who becomes caught up in a criminal conspiracy. 

Unfortunately, conspiracies are difficult to uncover, and while a
reporter or detective has an assignment, the everyman in "Corruption"
has no immediate goal and will, most likely, wander around aimlessly
until the player figures out where and when to look for clues. 

Fortunately, Steers and Steggles' prose doesn't ramble. It efficiently
paints effective portraits of characters, events and locations, making
the illustrations redundant. I turned the graphics off when I played.
It's not that there was anything wrong with the illustrations, it's just
that characters like the brusque secretary, who really tries to be
friendly, and the indifferent lawyer, who, nevertheless, offers
comforting platitudes to the law's victims, are vivid and honest enough
to trigger mental images on their own. 

In short, "Corruption" is a well-written, bug-free puzzle fest, and the
puzzles are strongly related to an interesting suspense story. Remember
to save early and save often.


From: Duncan Stevens 

TITLE: Deephome
AUTHOR: Joshua Wise
DATE: 1999
E-MAIL: yesuslave SP@G
PARSER: Inform standard
SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters
VERSION: Release 1

Joshua Wise's Deephome is a rather uneven effort: it's a well-built
world with plenty of attention to detail, and the setting is nicely
done. As a game, however, it doesn't work so well--there are far too
many mimesis-breaking moments and unfair puzzles--and the result, sadly,
is rather unsatisfying.

The objective, as conveniently laid out in a handy letter, is relatively
simple--reopen and bring back to life the lost city of Deephome, which
involves practical things like restoring the power and water as well as
getting rid of some spirits that seem to be hanging around. Herein lies
the first problem, however: you're told that these spirits are terribly
dangerous, but they stand where they are for the entirety of the game
and don't act threatening in any way--or, even, impede you from doing
anything. They seem about as dangerous as paperweights, and it's hard to
get all worked up about getting rid of them. There's an obvious purpose
to restoring the power and water--accomplishing those tasks serves your
purpose in the game, in fact, apart from giving you points--but not the
spirit-banishing stuff. Moreover, in that you get a vital part of the
formula for getting rid of them from the spirits themselves, these don't
seem like particularly savvy spirits.

The puzzles range from humdrum to rather irritating. Notable is the
adversary you're told is allergic to "certain plants." The one plant
that's prominent in the game isn't effective, however (and the syntax
problems make it far from immediately clear that you need a different
plant rather than different syntax), and the right one is buried in
scenery. It has a lot of company in that respect, in fact--plenty of
vital objects are buried in room descriptions with no hint that they're
takeable. Other problematic puzzles include a bizarre combat sequence in
which the first several attacks elicit both a "cries out in pain"
message and a "your enemy notices you" message. There's also a puzzle
that turns on a property of your body that you don't know about, and has
almost no motivation other than the fact that certain suggestive objects
are in close proximity. Another is made more difficult than it needs to
be by confusion between "on" and "in," and another requires that you go
through a series of steps with no way of fathoming the final result
(i.e., the motivation). The best puzzles are the most straightforward,
the ones that rely entirely on common-sense judgments--the ones that try
to be cleverer than that end up being painfully nonintuitive. (One
strange touch is that you get a point for visiting every location, so
you can finish with less than the optimal number of points merely
because you don't get around to visiting all the nonessential rooms.)

As suggested, part of the reason the puzzles don't work particularly
well is that there are plenty of technical problems, enough that it
usually isn't clear whether a given attempt at solving a puzzle is wrong
or simply not worded properly. Among the problems are objects mentioned
in both the room description and in a separate line, objects so
inadequately described that some of their salient features need to be
inferred, and objects that can be examined but not taken before a search
of another object turns them up. The writing likewise doesn't do the
game many favors: there are lots of misspellings and misused words, and
while certain moments are described well, others are rather underdone.
The following exemplifies the unevenness of the writing:

   The main hall is quite large, and is lit by magical torches that line
   the walls all around, in a pattern that spirals up the grandiose
   room. Elevators hang in mid air, no longer powered. To the northeast
   is a small opening that is usually covered over by a tapestry that
   has long since been removed, to the northwest is a staircase leading
   up to one of the villages where your people lived; to the west you
   see the railway station. A main street runs to the south. 

"Grandiose" room? How does this character know that the opening was
usually covered by a tapestry that has long since removed, or that his
people lived in one of the villages? On the other hand, though, there
are well-done bits in this description--"elevators hang in mid-air, no
longer powered" is vivid and concisely described, and the "pattern" of
torches that "spirals up" the room is nicely conveyed. The writing is
mostly good enough to set the scene, in other words, but shot through
with enough mistakes to make the reading less than fully pleasurable.

The above problems are particularly frustrating because the story is
actually pretty good. For one thing, the plot is refreshingly
small-scale for fantasy--you're not saving the world or acquiring vast
stores of wealth, you're simply exploring one city and performing
certain tasks. That, in itself, suggests restraint, and it helps the
story feel more immediate and less implausible than it might be.
Moreover, much more detail than was strictly necessary went into the
game--there's an encyclopedia lying around that has information on all
sorts of topics, for instance, and there are certain elements of the
game that get developed seemingly just to round out the story, in
particular your religion. There are even some red herrings that point
toward a sequel, and while that's not usually a great design choice
(insofar as it encourages the player to spend time on apparent puzzles
that can't be solved) it does convey the sense that there's more to the
setting than the bare bones required for the puzzles. Likewise, there
are quite a few locations that are there only to make the city feel more
complete--and while some of them feel a little gratuitous, most are well
chosen. The main fly in the ointment is a maze that isn't especially
creative or well-rendered--the game would be better if the maze had been
left out--but on the whole the setting is competently done and serves
the purposes of the story. 

Deephome, in short, is a mixed bag. Enough thought clearly went into its
crafting that the setting feels real, and the story is well thought out.
The game aspect, unfortunately, has serious problems, significant enough
that getting through the puzzles can be a major hassle. If some of the
writing and technical problems get resolved, a sequel or a revised
release of Deephome would be worth checking out.


From: Duncan Stevens 

TITLE: Foggywood Hijinx
AUTHOR: Ivan Cockrum
E-MAIL: ivan SP@G
DATE: 1998
PARSER: TADS standard
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters
VERSION: Release 2

If the recently released Break-In is any indication, the effects of the
1998 chicken comp may be with us for years to come, as games inspired by
the chicken theme but not finished on time appear one by one, covering
the landscape with feathers and...well, best not get into that. At any
rate, Ivan Cockrum's Foggywood Hijinx was one of the first
chicken-themed post-chicken-comp efforts (we also saw Downtown Tokyo,
Present Day not long afterwards), and it's an amusing effort that's
somewhere between a spoof of the inherit-your-uncle's-fortune genre and
a Penn & Teller homage.

Your uncle was fond of practical jokes, it seems, and his last and
greatest joke, now that he's dead, is to turn the whole family into
chickens when they show up to squabble over his estate. The challenge is
to overcome your newfound limitations and find a way out of the problem,
using your uncle's various wacky inventions that litter his study. The
inventions themselves are at least as amusing as the premise, since they
include things like the Hedge Helpers (a pair of hands to extend one's
reach) or the Buffalo-on-a-Spring. There's really only one puzzle, but
it's quite a puzzle--it involves all sorts of clever mechanical
finagling, and the various peculiar devices are described well enough to
make the puzzle solvable. (Well, mostly--there are a few slightly
misleading responses.)

The point of Foggywood Hijinx is the humor, obviously, and there's
enough of it to keep the game going for a while. Notably, a TV features
Julia Child raving dementedly about the joys of killing chickens, e.g.:
"I once killed a chicken just to watch it die." Your various bickering
relatives continue to bicker in chicken form, but in more amusing ways:
"Uncle Orpington pulls a long strand of fiber from the carpet. Cousin
Red jealously tries to snatch it away, and a tug-of-war ensues." This
wouldn't be enough to sustain anything other than a very short game, of
course--and it might not be enough, depending on how long it takes you
to figure out the puzzle, to get through this one without the jokes
getting stale. Still, there are a few chuckles here and there, which is
all that can be asked of a chicken-comp game.

In sum, it's funny enough to be worth the 10-15 minutes, and if you
haven't already seen too much IF involving chickens, it's worth a shot.


From: Duncan Stevens 

TITLE: The Frenetic Five vs. Mr. Redundancy Man
AUTHOR: Neil deMause
E-MAIL: neil SP@G
DATE: 1999
PARSER: TADS standard
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters
VERSION: Release 1.2

The first edition of Neil deMause's Frenetic Five, a 1997 competition
entry, had its problems--the game didn't really have a good sense of
what to do with all your fellow superheroes--but it was also quite
funny; this episode works out the kinks inherent in giving the PC
multiple sidekicks, and it's even funnier than the original. The result,
while not a wildly ambitious effort, is well worth playing.

You are Improv, a MacGyveresque hero with a talent for making tools out
of common objects, and your team consists of Newsboy, who can instantly
provide a news update on any topic, Lexicon, who always knows the right
word, Clapper, who can find any missing object, and Pastiche, who has
assorted random powers (among them the power to sing lines from Top 40
songs relevant to almost any occasion). You can ask your sidekicks for
help at any time; you won't always get a hint from each of them, but
you'll usually get help in some form somewhere. Truth to tell, not
getting anywhere is at least as rewarding as making progress, since your
fellow superheroes have a wide range of amusing sarcastic responses.
Moreover, the ending encounter with the Mr. Redundancy Man of the title
is absolutely hilarious, mainly for the villain's dialogue: "Welcome to
my hideaway lair, my dear friends of mine! Your arrival has come
fortuitously just in time for you to witness the sight of my greatest
and most triumphal achievement!" The way you deal with him is clever,
but it's the premise itself that makes this worth playing--he has such a
wealth of amusingly repetitive dialogue that it's more entertaining to
find all the ways to interact with him than to set to work at solving
the puzzle.

Both the first and second Frenetic Five games draw much of their humor
from humdrum settings and tasks--i.e., you have superheroes riding the
bus and trying to operate a copy machine--and while it's amusing here,
as in the first one, the frustration aspect of wrestling with boring
objectives comes perilously close to being simply irritating.
Contributing to that problem is an unfortunate fellow named the
Validator, who comments on everything you do, as follows:

   >examine validator
   Some superheroes are blessed with a magnificent physique, like
   Backhoe Woman and The Human Hydraulic Press. Some have powers that
   are only dreamt of by regular humans, such as The Defenestrator and
   Microwave-Popcorn Boy. Some have neither, but are at least fun to be
   around and get invited to lots of parties. Then there's the

   The Validator says, "Outstanding! It never would have occurred to me
   to inspect the Validator!"

   >kick validator
   It's not clear how to kick the Validator.

   The Validator says, "Oh, kick the Validator, huh?  Great idea!"

You get the idea. It's not a bad joke, but it's not especially funny for
more than a few turns, and the typical player will end up spending more
than a few turns around this particular irritant. At any rate, the
Validator brings out the basic mundanity of the setting--there's nothing
that makes a setting seem quite so mundane as an irritating person
commenting on everything you do--as well as the ho-hum nature of your
powers, and those of your sidekicks. It's not every writer who could
make mundanity funny, but this one does. E.g.: "The clerk looks
thoughtful, in a manner that makes it clear that thought is not a usual
requirement of the job." 

The puzzles, by and large, are nothing special, with the exception of
the endgame puzzle, whose solution is a real "aha" moment. There's one
earlier puzzle that takes either a major logical leap or better
visualization skills than I have, but it's a relatively minor flaw,
particularly in a game this small. The second episode of this series
corrects the main flaw of the first one, namely that there was no
particular rhyme or reason to when your fellow superheroes would be able
to help you, and no standard way to ask them to intervene; here, "ask x
for help" elicits either action (solving a problem you couldn't solve on
your own) or some sort of response. It's not a perfect solution-- it's
still rarely obvious when you should be addressing a problem with your
own wits, in the manner of standard IF, and when you should be relying
on your team--but at least Episode Two doesn't require you to guess what
the other members of the team would do, which was the major flaw of the
first Frenetic Five. Having a standardized way to kick a puzzle out to
the rest of the gang makes things much easier.

There's not a lot to the second edition of Frenetic Five; it's solvable
in half an hour or so, and it doesn't do anything all that surprising.
But it has several laugh-out-loud moments, and fans of superheroes will
no doubt grin knowingly at the absurdity of it all.


From: Duncan Stevens 

TITLES: The Mission; Holy Grail; Frustration; Golden Fleece
AUTHOR: Jim MacBrayne
E-MAIL: jmacb SP@G
DATES: 1996
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters
VERSIONS: The Mission: Release 1.02
          Holy Grail: Release 1.01
          Frustration: Release 1.02
          Golden Fleece: Release 1.00

Among the most obscure denizens of the IF Archive are four games by one
Jim MacBrayne--all written in 1989 and 1990 (possibly in AGT--I'm not
sure), and ported to TADS and uploaded sometime in 1996. And while there
are technically four games--Holy Grail, The Mission, Golden Fleece, and
Frustration--they're so similar that they're practically
indistinguishable. For that matter, their merits and faults are all
pretty much the same as well: they're quite well put together but not
especially engaging.

The genre is vaguely fantasy, though the settings go back and forth
between modern-day and otherwise (within the same game-- medieval
castles and mysterious machinery sit virtually side by side). The
premise of Holy Grail involves medieval stuff, as you might imagine, but
it hardly matters, since the plot is all but irrelevant to these games;
the objective amounts to object- collecting. (True, in Frustration, the
idea is to pull together items on your shopping list--but it doesn't
really change the game significantly, since you don't find the relevant
items in places you're looking for them, unless you look for honey by
climbing trees in deserts.) All four games are out-and-out puzzlefests
in the tradition of classic IF--the objective provides a vague excuse
for your being there, and a nice ending message, but doesn't really
affect what comes in between.

The puzzles themselves are at once varied and oddly monotonous. Keys for
doors play a very big part--all four games are simply littered with
keys--and magic potions with various unforeseeable effects are also a
recurring theme. All four of the games feature at least one math problem
and at least one maze, and all of them revolve around singularly bizarre
magical transportation systems which make it annoyingly easy to strand
yourself somewhere and make the game unfinishable. Not many of the
puzzles break out of the apply-object-X-to-obstacle-Y feel, and many of
those that do rely on trial and error and weird intuitive leaps. One
puzzle in Golden Fleece, for example, involves what amounts to a giant
see- saw, and requires lots of tedious object-moving to balance the
seesaw properly; another at the beginning of Holy Grail involves, in
essence, a timing device to open and close a door. Creative puzzles
both, but highly obscure--and the relevant descriptions don't help much.

There are other, stranger similarities. All four games have at least a
few "Broom Cupboard" locations--Jim has a fondness for the things,
whether or not there are brooms around--and three of the four have at
least one long hall that you traipse along, opening doors. All of them
are inordinately fond of buttons or switches that trigger something else
somewhere in the game, no longer a favored approach to IF design;
likewise, all of them have lots and lots of useless rooms. In fact, the
author sometimes gives the impression that someone's requiring him to
have a certain minimum number of locations (perhaps he worked for
Sycamora Tree), because he often seems to make fun of himself for
throwing in useless rooms:

   Small Chamber
      The small chamber you have entered has but two features. One of 
   these is the small doorway inset into the wall to your north, whilst 
   the other is its total lack of interest.

Or, even stranger:

   Almost-featureless Chamber
      An involuntary gasp of recognition issues from your throat as you
   pass into this dead-end chamber. Wonderingly your gaze travels over
   the walls, floor and ceiling, remarking on the total absence of mossy
   growths, damp patches, stalactites or any other remarkable features.
   You are about to come to the the apparently-inescapable conclusion
   that this is a featureless chamber, when your eye comes to rest on a
   knobbly little bit of rock with a texture and colour marginally but
   sufficiently different from that of the surrounding rocks as to make
   the chamber almost-featureless.

Calm down, Jim. There's a balance to be struck, of course, in crafting a
setting--not every location needs to be absolutely crucial--but when a
room has so little purpose that the description consists of a comment
about how useless the room is, it's time to rethink. It's especially odd
because many of the settings are effectively described--granted, some of
them throw too many diverse milieus into too little space, but most of
the subsections and smaller areas within the game are well done. Those
areas include numerous locations that are just there for the atmosphere,
and they work very well. Unfortunately, as shown above, there are other
locations that don't even play a role in providing atmosphere, unless
the desired effect is dullness. Moreover, the volume of useless
locations leads to a lot more traipsing around than seems strictly

As games, all of MacBrayne's works are only somewhat successful.
Certainly, if you're looking for an involving story, these don't have
much to offer--but even on their terms, as collections of puzzles, these
games have some problems. Too many of the puzzles rely on guesswork and
on experimentation rather than on logic as such; it's hard to imagine
that most players actually like pushing a button and then poking around
the landscape to see what, if anything, happened. Much of the
transportation involves going through one-way doors of sorts--and if you
failed to bring something with you, or press a certain button that will
end up opening a certain door, you're stuck. In other words, there's a
lot of unfairness and player-unfriendliness going on. There's one puzzle
in Frustration that turns on a rather silly pun, and another in the same
game that amounts to a stubborn-parser trick, and another in Holy Grail
that's the ultimate in knowledge- obtained-by-screwing-up. There are
moments of creativity, but they're outnumbered by rather mindless
give-object-to-obstacle puzzles.

The shame of it is that Jim MacBrayne's games clearly reflect some real
effort--there are lots and lots of objects in each one, for instance,
and the objects all interact in more or less sensible ways. The writing
is thorough, and though it's a bit overdone in places, it's usually good
enough to convey the scene efficiently. There's some entertaining whimsy
scattered here and there as well--there's a cut scene in Frustration
involving a giant teddy bear (really), and there are numerous jokes of
varying degrees of cleverness scattered through all four games. There's
even a sense of dramatic progression at times-- particularly in The
Mission, where your quest for the toothpick of Quetzlcoatl (really) is
periodically interrupted by scenes out of some old boys' club, where the
potentates who commissioned you with the quest speculate on the chances
of your completing it. It's a cinematic device that I'd never seen in
IF, and it's used to great effect here. The problem is that standards
have changed since MacBrayne wrote these games, and even well-written
puzzle- fests don't elicit much more than a yawn anymore--even when they
don't have the game design flaws that these have. The year when these
were released--1996--saw thoughtful efforts like So Far, Delusions and
Tapestry that integrated story with puzzles in a way that little, if
any, IF had done before; obsolescence, for old-style fantasy/puzzle IF
like MacBrayne's games and Path to Fortune came suddenly. Works on the
wrong side of that divide are treated more like museum pieces than works
of actual interest now--and while the development is a healthy one is
many respects, it left some games that were clearly the product of
considerable labor out in the cold.

It can't fairly be said that these are terrific examples of their kind;
they're flawed in several respects on the design front. But they're
solidly put together, and nostalgic old-style IF buffs just might enjoy
one of them; Holy Grail is probably the best of the lot, but there's not
much to distinguish them. For most of us, though, the main function of
Jim MacBrayne's games is to offer some perspective on where IF has come.


From: Duncan Stevens 

AUTHOR: Paul O'Brian
E-MAIL: obrian SP@G
DATE: 2000
PARSER: Inform standard
SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters
VERSION: Release 10

Paul O'Brian's LASH is a puzzler (and not in the sense that it's full of
puzzles). It's an intriguing story, well told, and technically it all
hangs together well. The writing is strong, and the exploration options
wildly diverse--there are lots and lots of endings and different options
to explore, and any given player is unlikely to see all the text the
game has to offer without the aid of TXD. But for LASH to really work as
interactive fiction, it has to resonate emotionally with the player, and
unfortunately the nature of the story makes significant emotional impact
somewhat unlikely.

The backstory is complicated and intricately done, and the game sets it
up nicely. The Second American Civil War has come and gone, and you're
picking through the rubble, looking for valuables, via satellite link to
your handy robot. The documentation leaves some ambiguity about whether
your ostensible aim is historical knowledge rather than simple lucre,
but the trajectory of the game tends to shape your character into a
looter rather than a historian. (The SCORE function, for instance,
tracks your earnings.) At any rate, you're searching through a mansion
that dates to before the First American Civil War, and your robot acts
as your eyes and ears, to some extent at least. The premise, therefore,
is terrific--at least, I thought so. I love reconstructing stories from
clues and bits of information, and LASH seemed initially to be taking
that path.

It turns out that it doesn't, really; you end up exploring the past, but
not in the way I'd expected, and what does happen, for lack of a better
way to put it, isn't quite as subtle as pure historical reconstruction
might have been. To be sure, the other way might have been unsubtle too,
but my main reaction to the way LASH told its story was, okay, I get it,
don't yell at me. It's certainly not a bad story, nor is it badly told,
and the subject has hardly even been touched on in IF; there's nothing
inherently wrong with any of it. But the game throws you so suddenly
into the scenes that should affect you that it's easy to become detached
from it all--you don't have enough time to get to know the central
character before the relevant events begin. It's also clear that the
distancing is, to some extent, deliberate; it matches a similar
distancing that is going on in the game (arguably, in fact, two of
them)--but as well as it works from a theoretical standpoint, it
undermines the game's effect on the player. Likewise, there's a sequence
toward the end of the game that's cleverly done--subtly, even--and yet,
even when the player recognizes what's going on, it's unlikely to pack
much of an emotional punch. Appreciation of the author's craft, perhaps,
but that's not quite the same.

As noted, LASH offers the player lots to do; some of the puzzles and
problems have a significant effect on the outcome, and some don't,
though there's not really a single way to "win" as such. Solving certain
problems gives your character more money, of course, but it's not really
clear that that's an unequivocal good, or sufficiently so that you
should be striving for it at the expense of other goals. There's an odd
division going on, however, between items and events that are there
purely for historical perspective and those that merely represent more
money, and it isn't even always clear whether solving the few puzzles
there are (most of which are optional) will lead to insight or to
riches. The player who's interested in one more than the others may be
disappointed, in other words, to find that solving a given puzzle won't
advance his chosen goal. To the extent the bifurcation represents a
split between the player and the character, it's an interesting
division, but it also makes for some awkwardness.

And yet LASH also has a lot going for it. It's thoroughly researched,
for one thing; there isn't much IF that could be called historical, but
if other authors put as much thought and effort into historical IF as
this one did, there's plenty that can be done with the genre. The
quality of the research is manifested not so much in the story or
characters, which are a mite on the generic side, as in the details of
the setting--objects, customs, map layout. When, as here, the reality of
the historical scenes depicted is part of the point, it seems all the
more important to get things right, and LASH cannot be faulted in that
regard. It's also possible to screw up in a variety of interesting ways
that shed light on the story; step outside the realistic constraints of
your role and you're in trouble. (It's tempting at several moments to do
rather unwise things, in other words, things that might seem perfectly
appropriate to the generic IF adventurer, and the game reminds you quite
forcefully that you're not the generic IF adventurer.) The writing is
strong throughout, enough so that the historical setting comes across
vividly and the Wishbringer doubled-landscape trick is believable (and
highly atmospheric).

LASH is a well-thought-out, polished work of IF that I wanted to like
more than I did, sadly; I recognized its good intentions, but I didn't
respond as viscerally as I suspect the game wanted me to, and ultimately
my experience became more detached appreciation for the author's skill
in crafting the technical aspects of the game (which is considerable)
than real involvement in what the game was trying to do. In that it's
difficult to say categorically that others will share my reactions, I
recommend that all fans of good IF give it a shot, but I consider it
only a partial success.


From: Duncan Stevens 

TITLE: Perilous Magic
AUTHOR: David Fillmore
E-MAIL: Noslwop SP@G
DATE: 1999
PARSER: Inform standard
SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters
VERSION: Release 4

How great an influence do the games of Infocom still have on today's IF?
Hard to say, but there must be some presence there if an offhand remark
in one of Infocom's manuals can turn into a game in its own right, as is
the case with David Fillmore's Perilous Magic. The joke in question was
a reference to a great fire--which, the manual said, was caused by some
bureaucrat meaning to cast the ZEMDOR spell ("turn original into
triplicate") but slipping up and casting the ZIMBOR spell ("turn one
really big city into lots of tiny, little ashes"). It's a cute joke, and
as long as you know the source, Perilous Magic is a cute game.

There isn't a lot more to it than that: you end up causing the spell
switch, and the whole thing's over in 15 moves. It's not flawless--it's
possible to render the main puzzle unsolvable by doing things in the
wrong order-- but there's not much wrong with it, either. The main
appeal of the game is in the humor: there are Infocom references
sprinkled here and there, and the wonder-what-happens-if-I-try-this
results are suitably amusing. There isn't really enough here to call
this a full-blown homage, but it's enough to capture the feel.

Perilous Magic is a short but reasonably entertaining effort that
suggests that IF authors and players have ridiculously good memories for
throwaway jokes in manuals published in 1984. As a game, it's nothing
special, but it's not a bad way to spend five minutes.


From: Duncan Stevens 

TITLE: Sangraal
AUTHOR: Jonathan Partington, ported to Inform by Adam Atkinson and Graham
E-MAIL: (Adam's) ghira SP@G
DATE: 1987 (ported 1999)
PARSER: Two-word
SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters
VERSION: Release 1.18 of the original, release 1 of the port

Sangraal is one of the three Topologika games recently ported to
Inform--the others are Fyleet and Crobe--and it's an odd experience in
several respects for present-day IFers. While it doesn't meet the
fairness and friendliness standards that latter- day IF has developed,
the overall level of literacy and wit is high enough to make it worth a

The parser represents the biggest adjustment. It's a two-word parser
that simply ignores anything after the first two words, so GIVE X TO Y
will generally work, but PUT X IN Y will not. This requires some fairly
tortured inferences at times--DROP is sometimes taken as the equivalent
of PUT, improbably--and on the whole it's not a major highlight. EXAMINE
is disabled--the "initial" description of each object has everything
that's relevant--and other standbys like ENTER and WEAR aren't on the
scene either, and nor are meta-commands like UNDO and OOPS. (On the
other hand, lots of highly unusual verbs are recognized, and there's no
way of guessing what the game does and doesn't allow as a verb.) There
are other, smaller differences--abbrevations like I and L aren't
provided for--but the parser is the biggest adjustment, and whether it
drives the modern player completely insane depends in large part on
whether the player grew up on Infocom (whose parser was never limited to
two words) or discovered IF only recently (and therefore never
encountered the earlier, cruder days of IF parsing). 

As you might guess from the above, the puzzles don't, by and large,
involve particularly subtle object manipulation--i.e., discovering
subtle hidden properties of objects generally isn't key to solving the
puzzles. They do, however, involve some baffling logical leaps, and it's
possible to solve some of them without figuring out the key, so to
speak. Moreover, a few are simply infuriating--there's a maze that ranks
with the most annoying in the history of IF, which is saying quite a
bit, and an extended one-of-these-three-doors-is-telling-the-truth
sequence. Some are more creative, admittedly--there's a "seven deadly
sins" puzzle that would feel quite original if the idea hadn't been done
several times in recent years (i.e., long after Sangraal was
released)--but few are real highlights. Supposedly, Sangraal is the
easiest of the three ported Topologika games; if so, that should give
IFers pause, because in no sense are the puzzles in Sangraal easy, nor
is the game design particularly forgiving. It's not at all hard to close
off the game without realizing it, and some of the puzzles don't allow
for trial and error. The game itself is fairly wide--lots of puzzles are
available for most of the game--but many of the available puzzles aren't
initially solvable, and solving them in the wrong order can render the
thing unfinishable. 

Sangraal's saving grace is its literacy and cultural acumen. The game is
littered with references to various authors--Keats, Poe, Shelley, Homer,
the Bible several times over, and many, many more. Some of the digs are
rather subtle--there's a Wailing Wall that, initially, you get driven
away from because you don't belong there, and you (minor spoiler) evade
getting driven away by changing your appearance so that you look the
part, a barbed reference to the ongoing controversy in Jerusalem over
Orthodox Jews refusing to allow Reform and Conservative Jews to pray at
the Wailing Wall. Equally subtle is the following:

   There is a five-foot high pillar of salt here, which looks a bit like
   a running woman. But not a lot. 

Sangraal abounds with humor along these lines, and while not all the
jokes work--one sequence involving the "Eleventh Commandment" and a
bunch of computer programmers feels rather forced--most of them are
funny enough to make the game consistently amusing. The drawback,
however, is that much of the humor requires that the player think in the
same bizarre and subversive way as the author does, and Sangraal is
hence best played with the aid of a walkthrough or a helpful friend
who's already finished it. Particularly difficult in this respect are
the puzzles that draw on certain poems by Keats and Shelley--the logical
progression is highly obscure.

Sangraal occupies such an odd niche that it's hard to liken it to any
recent work of IF. There's no plot, really--the initial premise
(retrieving the Holy Grail) is entirely irrelevant, as with most fantasy
quests--and neither is there anything binding the game's world together.
(I.e., the world depicted feels less like a setting than an excuse for a
lot of silly puzzles.) The puzzles have a way of disappearing once
they're solved, and most of them either give the player a treasure-type
object or simply award points; none, as far as I can recall, changed the
game's landscape, and not many even opened up new territory to explore.
No doubt this is a function of the memory limitations of the day, which
made it difficult to code for both a solved and unsolved state of a
puzzle, but the effect is to magnify the random-collection-of-puzzles

While it's an uneven work in several respects, there's plenty of wit in
Sangraal, enough to overcome the clumsier bits, and if you enjoy rather
obscure satire, you may well enjoy this.


From: Walter Sandsquish 

NAME: Toonesia  
AUTHOR: Jacob Weinstein  
DATE: 1995 
VERSION: Version 1.1

Each storytelling medium has its own strengths and weaknesses. Animated
films, for instance, are wonderful at presenting frantic, surreal
absurdities. And text-adventure games are, unfortunately, poor at
creating and maintaining the pace of action in a story. 

Now, why, exactly, would I choose to point out that particular strength
of animation in the same paragraph as that particular weakness of IF? 

Because "Toonesia" is a light, pleasant hodgepodge of Warner Bros.
cartoons. And, while it effectively recreates the environment of a toon,
solving its puzzles will wreck the rabid tempo of the cartoons it's
paying homage to. 

Not that the puzzles are difficult. On the contrary, once you catch on
to their theme, which should be obvious from the game's title, the
conflicts in "Toonesia" are fairly simple, and entertaining, to resolve.

Unfortunately, "Toonesia's" other major flaw is not inherent in the
medium the author chose. While Weinstein did capture the essence of the
Warner Bros. characters, he failed to make any of them very interactive.
In the Warner Bros. world of hyperactive, clever, sarcastic characters,
this just doesn't work. The most interactive one, Dizzy Duck, is also
the most frustrating one. Oddly, Dizzy will react to Elmo's actions, but
to nothing that Elmo, the player character, says to him! 

"Toonesia" is too short to have as many settings as it has. Weinstein
shoveled the desert of Wylie Coyote and the Roadrunner, the woodlands of
Bugs Bunny, and an abandoned jewel mine into this game. 

One of the settings, the mine, complete with a greedy Dizzy Duck, isn't
even directly related to Elmo's goal, which is to kill the rabbit! And
the ending, lifted directly from the Bugs Bunny short with a Wagner
theme, jars the player. While the Wagner episode worked for the toon,
because it was an unusual setting and an odd story-telling method for a
series of shorts that are a little too similar to each other, it only
emphasizes the mismatched environment of this game. 

Although the programming is fairly transparent, you should beware of one
nasty bug. The description of the cliff walls from the Mesa will kill
your player character if you pay attention to it. The east-west
directions are reversed. 

Despite these weaknesses, "Toonesia" is still an agreeable game. The
writing is solid, and, although the author's voice rarely comes out,
when it does, it's funny. Try referring to the characters by their
Warner Bros. counterparts' names and you'll discover a mildly, and
amusingly, paranoid author denying any involvement in copyright


From: Duncan Stevens 

TITLE: Worlds Apart
AUTHOR: Suzanne Britton
E-MAIL: tril SP@G
DATE: 1999
PARSER: TADS standard
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters
VERSION: Release 2

A variety of adjectives could well be applied to Suzanne Britton's
Worlds Apart, but the main one that comes to mind is "rich." Rich in
story, rich in characterization, rich in description, and generally rich
in details of every kind--there's nothing thin or underdone about Worlds
Apart. Whether any given player enjoys the story depends on the player,
of course, perhaps even more so than in most IF: the plot depends on
abstractions to an unusual extent, and keeping up with it requires a
certain openness to unusual ways of information processing. Still, this
is one story that rewards persistence on the player's part, and those
who don't make the effort are missing something special.

What's going on is--well, figuring out what's going on is one of the
game's few real puzzles, so it won't be revealed here, but suffice it to
say that almost no information is given to you initially. The process of
discovering who and where you are and what you're doing there is rather
deliberate; there's a lot of information to glean over the course of the
story, but very little of it is available initially, which makes the
game somewhat less immediately accessible than it might be. Contributing
to this problem is the world you inhabit, which may fairly be described
as alien; there are plenty of unfamiliar names and terms scattered here
and there, and while they all eventually either get explained or become
obvious, a player could be forgiven for finding the learning curve a bit
steep at first.

There's an upside to all the strangeness, however, that comes as the
story develops: the player's imagination is freed to an extent it might
not be if all the quantities were initially known. The flora and fauna
you discover, for example, are given primary characteristics, but mostly
the details are left for the player's mind to fill in. Dan Schmidt's
"For a Change" did something similar (though to a much greater extent,
of course, since the level of abstraction there was much higher), and in
many ways it's a liberating experience to be encouraged to fill in
relevant sensory details for yourself. Paralleling this are the verbs
that you use to interact with other characters and with the environment,
verbs which either aren't standard-IF at all or are used in highly
unusual ways; the player is forced to put together his or her own images
of how those verbs work.

The plot, for its own part, has its own logic, which, like everything
else, may not be initially apparent; themes that seem quite sensible
after they're encountered a few times may simply be baffling the first
time or two they appear. There's an adaptive hint system that fills in
most of the gaps (though not all), and while Worlds Apart is far from
puzzle-oriented, it's likely that most players will end up using the
hints at least once or twice. It's not so much that the puzzles are hard
as that they require being on the author's wavelength. One that
initially stumped me involved applying recently learned knowledge, and
while I recognized immediately what to do, I didn't manage to supply the
proper verb for quite a while. (It wasn't a verb that I, or anyone else,
had ever encountered before, and while the game gave me an obvious clue,
I tried to convey the action through more conventional verbs.) This
isn't, I hasten to add, a bad thing. The world of Worlds Apart is all
the more immersive for its strangeness. But it's not impossible that
some might find it frustrating.

One of the greatest strengths of Worlds Apart is its cast of characters.
True, you don't interact with them in especially complex ways; many of
the interactions amount to cut-scenes, and much of the rest of it is
ASK/TELL--but these are impressively complex characters. There isn't a
thoroughgoing hero or villain among them; all have their faults and
virtues, and while some are more likeable than others, none are there
merely to be loved or loathed. Better still, their various personalities
aren't merely identifying features ("here comes X, and he's going to
display his character trait so that we don't confuse him with Y")--the
plot depends on those personalities, and understanding the characters
mean understanding why the plot unfolds the way it does. They also have
some fairly complex relationships with each other, and much of what you
learn about them you pick up secondhand, adding to the complexity.
Better still, there's one character whose motivations and true nature
are almost entirely open to interpretation (or so it seemed to me), and
how the player chooses to perceive that character's actions may, or may
not, shape how he or she views the rest of the story. There's no special
technical wizardry that I could discern behind the character
development--just good writing and lots and lots of ASK/TELL topics--but
they come alive, arguably more so than in any work of IF in memory. And
if some remain a bit opaque at the end of the story, well, it adds to
the aura of mystery.

The writing is uniformly excellent: it's full of details, as noted, but
generally the descriptions aren't so long that they become ponderous.
Typical of this economical approach is this passage:

   You have come to a secluded glade, half-sheltered from the elements
   by the many trees extending their branches out over the clearing. One
   of these in particular catches your eye, a gentle giant of a ch'nuka
   whose boughs stretch wide in every direction. Once, it might have
   shaded this place on its own, but now it shows signs of failing
   health--some of the branches are almost bare, and decaying leaves
   surround the trunk in piles and litter the clearing, although it
   feels like summer, and the other vegetation here is thriving.

All the details necessary to set the scene are here--tree, leaves,
vegetation--but the author also manages to convey the feel of the
setting, and the tree that dominates the glade also dominates your
impression of the place. The decay of the ch'nuka is more important than
the continued vitality of the surrounding vegetation, and so it
dominates the description; had the author chosen to give the other
vegetation more attention, the extent to which this particular tree
affects your perception of the scene would be lost. Moreover, the
contrast between the dying tree and the thriving vegetation wouldn't
work as well if it were explicitly pointed out; leaving the reader to
draw the contrast and wonder about it works much better. Here, and
elsewhere, the author eschews a camcorder approach for a more
subjective, intuitive account--the aspect of the scene that draws your
attention not only is described in more detail, but also colors your
overall view of the setting. The author's writing skills are
particularly apparent late in the game, when there's a Wishbringeresque
transformation of your surroundings; not only are the changed features
of the landscape vividly rendered, but every scene is emotionally
charged in ways similar to the above.

Worlds Apart is not a flawless effort (as opposed, of course, to all
those flawless works of IF out there). There are some questionable game
design choices--at one point, for instance, you happen across a book
with a great deal of information that becomes pertinent to a certain
task, or series of tasks. Unfortunately, you can't take the book with
you when you're carrying out the tasks (logically, given the nature of
the assignment), and you may end up having to retrace your steps to
consult the book that you couldn't take with you. The worldbuilding that
the inclusion of the book accomplishes is outstanding--thorough and
plausible--but the frustration aspect threatens to yank the player out
of an otherwise immersive scene. The progress of the story sometimes
depends too much on wandering around and eventually noticing that
something has changed in an unforeseeable way, and while that encourages
frequent re-exploration, it may prove frustrating to the player who
wants the story to keep moving. The hint system fills in the gaps most
of the time, but there are a few gaps. And the end is a bit abrupt;
there's a reference to a possible sequel, but it's disappointing to
leave the game's world with so much unresolved.

There is much to like about Worlds Apart, in the end--in quantity and
quality, the detail that went into the worldbuilding is unmatched in any
work of IF in recent memory, and it's unlikely that any player will
catch all, or even most, of the story on the first try. If it's a little
inaccessible at first, that comes with the territory--i.e., introducing
the player into a highly complex and well-developed world--and it's
hardly a fatal flaw. In its interactivity and in the quality of its
storytelling, Worlds Apart is a remarkable accomplishment.

READERS' SCOREBOARD -------------------------------------------------------

The Readers' Scoreboard is an ongoing feature of SPAG. It charts the
scores that SPAG readers and reviewers have given to various IF games
since SPAG started up. The codes in the Notes column give information as
to a game's availability and the platforms on which it runs. For a
translation of these codes and for more detailed information on the
scoreboard's format, see the SPAG FAQ. This FAQ is available at the IF-archive or on the SPAG web page at

Name                  Avg Sc     Chr     Puz # Sc   Issue Notes:
====                  ======     ===     === ====   ===== ======
9:05                      4.9     0.4     0.6    2     20 F_INF_GMD
Aayela                    7.4     1.2     1.5    5     10 F_TAD_GMD
Acid Whiplash             5.3     0.6     0.2    3     17 F_INF_GMD
Acorn Court               6.1     0.5     1.5    2     12 F_INF_GMD
Adv. of Elizabeth Hig     3.1     0.5     0.3    2      5 F_AGT_GMD
Adventure (all varian     6.2     0.6     1.0   10      8 F_INF_TAD_ETC_GMD
Adventureland             3.9     0.5     1.4    3        F_INF_GMD
Adventures of Helpful     9.1     1.6     1.0    1        F_TAD_GMD
Afternoon Visit           4.1     1.0     0.8    1        F_AGT
Aisle                     6.6     1.4     0.2    7     18 F_INF_GMD
Alien Abduction?          7.5     1.3     1.4    5     10 F_TAD_GMD
All Quiet...Library       5.0     0.9     0.9    6      7 F_INF_GMD
Amnesia                   6.9     1.5     1.3    4      9 C_AP_I_64
Anchorhead                8.6     1.7     1.5   18     18 F_INF_GMD
Another...No Beer         2.4     0.2     0.8    2      4 S10_I_GMD
Arrival                   8.1     1.3     1.5    4     17 F_TAD_GMD
Arthur: Excalibur         8.0     1.3     1.6    4  4, 14 C_INF
Augmented Fourth          7.6     1.2     1.4    1        F_INF_GMD
Aunt Nancy's House        1.3     0.1     0.0    2        F_INF_GMD
Awakened                  7.7     1.7     1.6    1
Awakening                 5.6     0.9     1.1    2 15, 18 F_INF_GMD
Awe-Chasm                 3.0     0.7     0.7    2      8 S_I_ST_GMD
Babel                     8.5     1.8     1.3    7     13 F_INF_GMD
Balances                  6.6     0.7     1.2    8      6 F_INF_GMD
Ballyhoo                  7.3     1.5     1.5    6      4 C_INF
Bear's Night Out          7.1     1.2     1.3    5     13 F_INF_GMD
Beat The Devil            6.0     1.2     1.1    3     19 F_INF_GMD
Beyond the Tesseract      3.7     0.1     0.6    1      6 F_I_GMD
Beyond Zork               8.1     1.5     1.8    7  5, 14 C_INF
BJ Drifter                7.3     1.3     1.2    3     15 F_INF_GMD
Bliss                     5.7     1.2     0.6    3     20 F_TAD_GMD
Bloodline                 7.2     1.7     1.2    1     15 F_INF_GMD
Border Zone               7.2     1.4     1.4    7      4 C_INF
Break-In                  6.1     1.1     1.4    3        F_INF_GMD
Broken String             3.9     0.7     0.4    4        F_TADS_GMD
BSE                       5.7     0.9     1.0    3        F_INF_GMD
Bureaucracy               7.0     1.5     1.4   10      5 C_INF
Busted                    5.2     1.0     1.1    1        F_INF_GMD
Calliope                  4.7     0.9     0.8    3        F_INF_GMD
Cask                      1.5     0.0     0.5    2        F_INF_GMD
Castaway                  1.1     0.0     0.4    1      5 F_I_GMD
Castle Elsinore           4.3     0.7     1.0    2        I_GMD
CC                        4.2     0.4     1.0    1        F_ALAN_GMD
Change in the Weather     7.6     1.0     1.4   11 7,8,14 F_INF_GMD
Chaos                     5.6     1.3     1.1    2        F_TAD_GMD
Chicken under Window      6.9     0.6     0.0    3        F_INF_GMD
Chicks Dig Jerks          5.6     1.2     0.6    6     19 F_INF_GMD
Christminster             8.3     1.7     1.6   14     20 F_INF_GMD
City                      6.1     0.6     1.3    2     17 F_INF_GMD
Coke Is It!               6.2     1.0     1.0    2        F_INF_GMD
Coming Home               0.6     0.1     0.1    1        F_INF_GMD
Common Ground             7.4     1.8     0.8    1     20 F_TAD_GMD
Commute                   1.3     0.2     0.1    1        F_I_GMD
Congratulations!          2.6     0.7     0.3    1        F_INF_GMD
Corruption                7.2     1.6     1.0    4     14 C_MAG
Cosmoserve                7.8     1.4     1.4    5      5 F_AGT_GMD
Crypt v2.0                5.0     1.0     1.5    1      3 S12_IBM_GMD
Curses                    8.2     1.2     1.7   16      2 F_INF_GMD
Cutthroats                5.7     1.3     1.1    9      1 C_INF
Dampcamp                  5.0     0.8     1.1    3        F_TAD_GMD
Day For Soft Food         7.1     1.0     1.4    4     19 F_INF_GMD
Deadline                  6.8     1.3     1.3    8     20 C_INF
Death To My Enemies       4.7     1.1     0.7    3        F_INF_GMD
Deep Space Drifter        5.6     0.4     1.1    3      3 S15_TAD_GMD
Deephome                  5.9     0.7     0.9    1        F_INF_GMD
Delusions                 7.9     1.5     1.5    5      14F_INF_GMD
Demon's Tomb              7.4     1.2     1.1    2      9 C_I
Detective                 1.0     0.0     0.0    9 4,5,18 F_AGT_INF_GMD
Detective-MST3K           5.7     1.0     0.1    8 7,8,18 F_INF_GMD
Ditch Day Drifter         6.7     0.9     1.7    4      2 F_TAD_GMD
Down                      6.0     1.0     1.2    1     14 F_HUG_GMD
Downtown Tokyo            5.7     0.8     0.9    4     17 F_INF_GMD
Dungeon                   7.4     1.5     1.6    1        F_GMD
Dungeon Adventure         6.8     1.3     1.6    1      4 F_ETC
Dungeon of Dunjin         6.0     0.7     1.5    5  3, 14 S20_IBM_MAC_GMD
Edifice                   8.1     1.5     1.8    7     13 F_INF_GMD
Electrabot                0.7     0.0     0.0    1      5 F_AGT_GMD
E-Mailbox                 3.1     0.1     0.2    2        F_AGT_GMD
Emy Discovers Life        4.6     1.1     0.7    2        F_AGT
Enchanter                 7.3     1.0     1.4    9   2,15 C_INF
Enhanced                  5.0     1.0     1.3    2      2 S10_TAD_GMD
Enlightenment             7.1     1.3     1.6    2     17 F_INF_GMD
Erehwon                   6.1     1.1     1.4    3     19 F_TAD_GMD
Eric the Unready          7.8     1.5     1.6    4        C_I
Everybody Loves a Par     7.0     1.2     1.2    3     12 F_TAD_GMD
Exhibition                5.6     1.1     0.4    3     19 F_TAD_GMD
Fable                     2.0     0.1     0.1    3      6 F_AGT_GMD
Fable-MST3K               4.1     0.7     0.1    2        F_AGT_INF_GMD
Fear                      6.3     1.2     1.3    3     10 F_INF_GMD
Fifteen                   1.5     0.5     0.4    1     17 F_INF_GMD
Firebird                  7.2     1.6     1.2    3     15 F_TAD_GMD
Fish                      7.5     1.3     1.7    4 12, 14 C_MAG
Foggywood Hijinx          6.2     1.2     1.3    3        F_TAD_GMD
Foom                      6.6     1.0     1.0    1        F_TAD_GMD
For A Change              7.8     1.0     1.5    4     19 F_INF_GMD
Forbidden Castle          4.8     0.6     0.5    1        C_AP
Four In One               4.4     1.2     0.5    2        F_TAD_GMD
Four Seconds              6.0     1.2     1.1    2        F_TAD_GMD
Frenetic Five             5.3     1.4     0.5    3     13 F_TAD_GMD
Frenetic Five 2           6.6     1.5     1.1    2        F_TAD_GMD
Friday Afternoon          6.3     1.4     1.2    1     13 F_INF_GMD
Frobozz Magic Support     7.2     1.2     1.5    3        F_TAD_GMD
Frozen                    5.5     0.7     1.3    1        F_INF_GMD
Frustration               5.7     1.1     0.9    1        F_TAD_GMD
Gateway                   8.3     1.3     1.7    5     11 C_I
Gateway 2: Homeworld      9.0     1.7     1.9    2        C_I
Glowgrass                 6.9     1.4     1.4    4     13 F_INF_GMD
Gnome Ranger              5.8     1.2     1.6    1        C_I
Golden Fleece             6.0     1.0     1.1    1        F_TAD_GMD
Golden Wombat of Dest     6.3     0.7     1.1    1     18 F_I_GMD
Good Breakfast            4.9     0.9     1.2    2     14 F_INF_GMD
Great Archeolog. Race     6.5     1.0     1.5    1      3 S20_TAD_GMD
Guardians of Infinity     8.5             1.3    1      9 C_I
Guild of Thieves          6.9     1.2     1.5    4     14 C_MAG
Guilty Bastards           6.9     1.4     1.2    5        F_HUG_GMD
Gumshoe                   6.2     1.0     1.1    7      9 F_INF_GMD
Halothane                 6.9     1.3     1.3    3     19 F_INF_GMD
HeBGB Horror              5.7     0.9     1.1    2        F_ALAN_GMD
Heist                     6.7     1.4     1.5    2        F_INF_GMD
Hero, Inc.                6.8     1.0     1.5    2        F_TAD_GMD
Hitchhiker's Guide        7.2     1.3     1.5   13      5 C_INF
Hollywood Hijinx          6.5     0.9     1.6   11        C_INF
Holy Grail                6.2     0.9     1.2    1        F_TAD_GMD
Horror of Rylvania        7.2     1.4     1.4    5      1 F_TAD_GMD              3.7     0.3     0.7    2      3 S20_I_GMD
Human Resources Stori     0.9     0.0     0.1    2     17 F_INF_GMD
Humbug                    6.9     1.6     1.4    3     11 F_I_GMD
Hunter, In Darkness       8.1     1.0     1.5    4     19 F_INF_GMD
I didn't know...yodel     4.0     0.7     1.0    5     17 F_I_GMD
I-0: Jailbait on Inte     7.6     1.5     1.3   12     20 F_INF_GMD
Ice Princess              7.5     1.4     1.6    2        A_INF_GMD
In The End                4.9     0.6     0.0    2     10 F_INF_GMD
In The Spotlight          3.2     0.2     1.0    2     17 F_INF_GMD
Infidel                   6.9     0.2     1.4   13      1 C_INF
Informatory               5.5     0.5     1.3    1     17 F_INF_GMD
Ingrid's Back             5.6     1.6     1.2    1        C_I
Inheritance               5.2     0.5     1.0    2     20 F_TAD_GMD
Inhumane                  4.4     0.4     1.0    3  9, 20 F_INF_GMD
Intruder                  6.7     1.3     1.1    4     20 F_INF_GMD
Jacaranda Jim             7.9     0.9     1.0    2        F_GMD
Jacks...Aces To Win       7.6     1.6     1.3    2     19 F_INF_GMD
Jewel of Knowledge        6.3     1.2     1.1    3     18 F_INF_GMD
Jeweled Arena             7.0     1.4     1.3    2        AGT_GMD
Jigsaw                    8.2     1.5     1.6   14    8,9 F_INF_GMD
Jinxter                   6.1     0.9     1.3    3        C_MAG
John's Fire Witch         6.5     1.0     1.5    9  4, 12 S6_TADS_GMD
Jouney Into Xanth         5.0     1.3     1.2    1      8 F_AGT_GMD
Journey                   7.2     1.5     1.3    5      5 C_INF
King Arthur's Night O     5.6     1.0     0.9    3     19 F_ALAN_GMD
Kissing the Buddha's      8.0     1.8     1.4    5     10 F_TAD_GMD
Klaustrophobia            6.4     1.1     1.3    6      1 S15_AGT_GMD
Knight Orc                7.2     1.4     1.1    2     15 C_I
L.U.D.I.T.E.              1.9     0.2     0.0    3        F_INF_GMD
Lancelot                  6.9     1.4     1.2    1        C_I
Land Beyond Picket Fe     4.8     1.2     1.2    1     10 F_I_GMD
Leather Goddesses         6.9     1.3     1.5   10      4 C_INF
Leaves                    3.4     0.2     0.8    1     14 F_ALAN_GMD
Legend Lives!             8.2     1.2     1.4    4      5 F_TAD_GMD
Lesson of the Tortois     7.1     1.4     1.4    4     14 F_TAD_GMD
Lethe Flow Phoenix        6.9     1.4     1.5    5      9 F_TAD_GMD
Life on Beal Street       4.7     1.2     0.0    2        F_TAD_GMD
Light: Shelby's Adden     7.5     1.5     1.3    6      9 S_TAD_GMD
Lightiania                1.9     0.2     0.4    1        F_INF_GMD
Lists and Lists           6.3     1.3     1.1    3     10 F_INF_GMD
Little Blue Men           8.2     1.4     1.5    8     17 F_INF_GMD
Lomalow                   4.8     1.2     0.5    2     19 F_INF_GMD
Losing Your Grip          8.5     1.4     1.4    6      14S20_TAD_GMD
Lost New York             7.9     1.4     1.4    4     20 S12_TAD_GMD
Lost Spellmaker           6.9     1.5     1.3    3     13 F_INF_GMD
Lunatix: Insanity Cir     5.6     1.2     1.0    3        F_I_GMD
Lurking Horror            7.2     1.3     1.3   15    1,3 C_INF
MacWesleyan / PC Univ     4.9     0.6     1.2    2        F_TAD_GMD
Madame L'Estrange...      5.1     1.2     0.7    1     13 F_INF_GMD
Magic Toyshop             5.2     1.1     1.1    5      7 F_INF_GMD                 4.5     0.5     0.5    1      3 S20_IBM_GMD
Maiden of the Moonlig     6.4     1.3     1.5    2     10 F_TAD_GMD
Matter of Time            1.4     0.3     1.4    1      14F_ALAN_GMD
Mercy                     7.3     1.4     1.2    6     12 F_INF_GMD
Meteor...Sherbet          7.9     1.5     1.6    5 10, 12 F_INF_GMD
Mind Electric             5.2     0.6     0.9    4    7,8 F_INF_GMD
Mind Forever Voyaging     8.2     1.3     0.9   12   5,15 C_INF
Mindwheel                 8.5     1.6     1.5    1        C_I
Mission                   6.0     1.2     1.4    1        F_TAD_GMD
Moist                     6.8     1.4     1.2    4        F_TAD_GMD
Moment of Hope            5.0     1.3     0.3    3     19 F_TAD_GMD
Moonmist                  5.9     1.2     1.0   14      1 C_INF
Mop & Murder              5.0     0.9     1.0    2      5 F_AGT_GMD
Mother Loose              7.0     1.5     1.3    2     17 F_INF_GMD
Mulldoon Legacy           7.4     1.2     1.8    1        F_INF_GMD
Multidimen. Thief         5.6     0.5     1.3    6    2,9 S15_AGT_GMD
Muse                      7.5     1.5     1.1    3     17 F_INF_GMD
Music Education           3.7     1.0     0.7    3        F_INF_GMD
Myopia                    6.1     1.3     0.6    2        F_AGT_GMD
Mystery House             4.1     0.3     0.7    1        F_AP_GMD
New Day                   6.6     1.4     1.1    4     13 F_INF_GMD
Night At Computer Cen     5.2     1.0     1.0    2        F_INF_GMD
Night at Museum Forev     4.2     0.3     1.0    4    7,8 F_TAD_GMD
Night of... Bunnies       6.6     1.0     1.4    1        I_INF_GMD
Nord and Bert             5.9     0.6     1.1    8      4 C_INF
Not Just A Game           6.9     1.0     1.3    1     20 F_INF_GMD
Not Just... Ballerina     6.3     1.0     1.1    2     20 F_INF_GMD
Obscene...Aardvarkbar     3.2     0.6     0.6    1        F_TAD_GMD
Odieus...Flingshot        3.3     0.4     0.7    2      5 F_INF_GMD
Of Forms Unknown          4.5     0.7     0.5    1     10 F_INF_GMD
Offensive Probing         4.2     0.6     0.9    1        F_INF_GMD
On The Farm               6.5     1.6     1.2    2     19 F_TAD_GMD
Once and Future           6.9     1.6     1.5    2     16 C30_TAD_CMP
One That Got Away         6.4     1.4     1.1    7    7,8 F_TAD_GMD
Only After Dark           4.6     0.8     0.7    3        F_INF_GMD
Oo-Topos                  5.7     0.2     1.0    1      9 C_AP_I_64
Outsided                  2.5     0.7     0.2    2        F_INF_GMD
Pass the Banana           2.9     0.8     0.5    3     19 F_INF_GMD
Path to Fortune           6.6     1.5     0.9    3      9 S_INF_GMD
Pawn                      6.3     1.1     1.3    2     12 C_MAG
Perilous Magic            4.9     0.9     1.1    1        F_INF_GMD
Perseus & Andromeda       3.4     0.3     1.0    1        64_INF_GMD
Persistence of Memory     6.2     1.2     1.1    1     17 F_HUG_GMD
Phlegm                    5.2     1.2     1.0    2     10 F_INF_GMD
Photopia                  7.3     1.5     0.7   15     17 F_INF_GMD
Phred Phontious...Piz     5.2     0.9     1.3    2     13 F_INF_GMD
Piece of Mind             6.3     1.3     1.4    1     10 F_INF_GMD
Pintown                   1.3     0.3     0.2    1        F_INF_GMD
Planetfall                7.2     1.6     1.4   11      4 C_INF
Plant                     7.3     1.2     1.5    4     17 F_TAD_GMD
Plundered Hearts          7.3     1.4     1.2    8      4 C_INF
Poor Zefron's Almanac     5.6     1.0     1.3    3     13 F_TAD_GMD
Portal                    7.0     1.8     0.0    2        C_I_A_AP_64
Purple                    5.6     0.9     1.0    1     17 F_INF_GMD
Pyramids of Mars          6.0     1.2     1.2    1        AGT_GMD
Quarterstaff              6.1     1.3     0.6    1      9 C_M
Ralph                     7.1     1.6     1.2    3     10 F_INF_GMD
Remembrance               2.8     1.0     0.1    2        F_GMD
Reruns                    5.2     1.2     1.2    1        AGT_GMD
Research Dig              4.8     1.1     0.8    2     17 F_INF_GMD
Reverberations            5.6     1.3     1.1    1     10 F_INF_GMD
Ritual of Purificatio     7.0     1.6     1.1    4     17 F_GMD
Sanity Claus              7.5     0.3     0.6    2      1 S10_AGT_GMD
Save Princeton            5.8     1.1     1.3    4      8 S10_TAD_GMD
Scapeghost                8.1     1.7     1.5    1      6 C_I
Sea Of Night              5.7     1.3     1.1    2        F_TAD_GMD
Seastalker                5.1     1.1     0.8   10      4 C_INF
Shades of Grey            7.8     1.3     1.3    6   2, 8 F_AGT_GMD
Sherlock                  7.0     1.3     1.4    5      4 C_INF
She's Got a Thing...S     7.0     1.7     1.6    3     13 F_INF_GMD
Shogun                    7.0     1.2     0.6    2      4 C_INF
Shrapnel                  8.3     1.5     0.5    2     20 F_INF_GMD
Simple Theft              5.8     1.3     0.8    1     20 F_TAD_GMD
Sins against Mimesis      5.5     1.0     1.2    3     13 F_INF_GMD
Sir Ramic... Gorilla      5.0     1.0     1.5    1      6 F_AGT_GMD
Six Stories               6.2     0.9     1.1    2     19 F_TAD_GMD
Skyranch                  2.8     0.5     0.7    1     20 F_I_GMD
Small World               6.2     1.3     1.1    3     10 F_TAD_GMD
So Far                    8.0     1.2     1.5   11     12 F_INF_GMD
Sorcerer                  7.2     0.6     1.6    7   2,15 C_INF
Sound of... Clapping      7.0     1.2     1.3    7      5 F_ADVSYS_GMD
South American Trek       0.9     0.2     0.5    1      5 F_IBM_GMD
Space Aliens...Cardig     1.5     0.4     0.3    6   3, 4 S60_AGT_GMD
Space under Window        7.2     0.8     0.4    5     12 F_INF_GMD
Spacestation              5.6     0.7     1.1    1        F_INF_GMD
Spellbreaker              8.5     1.2     1.8    8   2,15 C_INF
Spellcasting 101          6.7     1.0     1.3    2        C_I
Spellcasting 201          7.8     1.6     1.7    2        C_I
Spellcasting 301          6.0     1.2     1.2    2        C_I
Spider and Web            8.7     1.6     1.7   13      14F_INF_GMD
SpiritWrak                7.1     1.3     1.3    5        F_INF_GMD
Spodgeville...Wossnam     4.3     0.7     1.2    2        F_INF_GMD
Spur                      7.1     1.3     1.1    2      9 F_HUG_GMD
Spyder and Jeb            6.2     1.1     1.4    1        F_TAD_GMD
Starcross                 6.6     1.0     1.2    7      1 C_INF
Stargazer                 5.4     1.1     1.1    1        F_INF_GMD
Stationfall               7.7     1.7     1.6    6      5 C_INF
Stiffy                    0.6     0.0     0.0    1        F_INF_GMD
Stiffy - MiSTing          4.5     1.0     0.4    4        F_INF_GMD
Stone Cell                6.7     1.3     1.4    2     19 F_TAD_GMD
Strangers In The Nigh     3.2     0.7     0.6    2        F_TAD_GMD
Sunset Over Savannah      8.7     1.7     1.4    6     13 F_TAD_GMD
Suspect                   6.0     1.2     1.1    7      4 C_INF
Suspended                 7.5     1.5     1.4    7      8 C_INF
Sylenius Mysterium        4.7     1.2     1.1    1     13 F_INF_GMD
Symetry                   1.1     0.1     0.1    2        F_INF_GMD
Tapestry                  7.1     1.4     0.9    5 10, 14 F_INF_GMD
Tempest                   5.3     1.4     0.6    3     13 F_INF_GMD
Temple of the Orc Mag     4.5     0.1     0.8    2        F_TAD_GMD
Theatre                   7.0     1.1     1.4   11      6 F_INF_GMD
Thorfinn's Realm          3.5     0.5     0.7    2        F_INF_GMD
Time: All Things...       3.9     1.2     0.9    2 11, 12 F_INF_GMD
TimeQuest                 8.1     1.2     1.7    3        C_I
TimeSquared               4.3     1.1     1.1    1        F_AGT_GMD
Toonesia                  5.8     1.1     1.1    6      7 F_TAD_GMD
Tossed into Space         3.9     0.2     0.6    1      4 F_AGT_GMD
Town Dragon               3.9     0.8     0.3    2     14 F_INF_GMD
Trapped...Dilly           5.1     0.1     1.1    2     17 F_INF_GMD
Travels in Land of Er     6.1     1.2     1.5    2     14 F_INF_GMD
Trinity                   8.7     1.4     1.7   16    1,2 C_INF
Tryst of Fate             7.1     1.4     1.3    1     11 F_INF_GMD
Tube Trouble              4.2     0.8     0.7    2      8 F_INF_GMD
Tyler's Great Cube Ga     5.8     0.0     1.7    1        S_TAD_GMD
Uncle Zebulon's Will      7.3     1.0     1.5   12      8 F_TAD_GMD
Underoos That Ate NY      4.5     0.6     0.8    2        F_TAD_INF_GMD
Undertow                  5.4     1.3     0.9    3      8 F_TAD_GMD
Undo                      2.9     0.5     0.7    4      7 F_TAD_GMD
Unholy Grail              6.0     1.2     1.2    1     13 F_I_GMD
Unnkulian One-Half        6.7     1.2     1.5    9      1 F_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian Unventure 1     6.9     1.2     1.5    8    1,2 F_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian Unventure 2     7.2     1.2     1.5    5      1 F_TAD_GMD
Unnkulian Zero            8.4     0.7     0.8    21,12,14 F_TAD_GMD
Varicella                 8.5     1.6     1.5    8     18 F_INF_GMD
Veritas                   6.9     1.3     1.4    3        S10_TAD_GMD
Vindaloo                  2.9     0.0     0.4    1        F_INF_GMD
VirtuaTech                6.1     0.0     1.2    1        F_INF_GMD
Waystation                5.6     0.6     1.0    3      9 F_TAD_GMD
Wearing the Claw          6.6     1.2     1.2    5 10, 18 F_INF_GMD
Wedding                   7.4     1.6     1.3    3     12 F_INF_GMD
Where Evil Dwells         5.1     0.8     1.1    1        F_INF_GMD
Winter Wonderland         7.9     1.3     1.2    5     19 F_INF_GMD
Wishbringer               7.4     1.3     1.3   13    5,6 C_INF
Witness                   6.5     1.5     1.1    9  1,3,9 C_INF
Wonderland                5.4     1.3     0.9    2        C_MAG
World                     6.5     0.6     1.3    2      4 F_I_ETC_GMD
Worlds Apart              8.3     1.6     1.4    6        F_TAD_GMD
Zanfar                    2.6     0.2     0.4    1      8 F_AGT_GMD
Zero Sum Game             7.2     1.5     1.5    3     13 F_INF_GMD
Zombie!                   5.2     1.2     1.1    2     13 F_TAD_GMD
Zork 0                    6.3     1.1     1.4    9      14C_INF
Zork 1                    6.1     0.8     1.5   19  1, 12 C_INF
Zork 2                    6.5     1.0     1.5   11  1, 12 C_INF
Zork 3                    6.5     0.9     1.4    8  1, 12 C_INF
Zork Undisc. Undergr.     6.5     1.0     1.2    1      14F_INF_GMD
Zork: A Troll's Eye V     4.6     0.9     0.1    2     14 F_INF_GMD
Zuni Doll                 4.0     0.6     0.9    2     14 F_INF_GMD


The Top Ten:

A game is not eligible for the Top Ten unless it has received at least 
three ratings from different readers. This is to ensure a more 
democratic and accurate depiction of the best games.

Well, I'm sad to say I've only received a measly 34 votes in the three
months that have passed since the last issue of SPAG. Thus, predictably,
the Top Ten hasn't changed much. The only significant movement is that
Worlds Apart has finally broken into the top 10 after hovering just
below it for months. Suzanne Britton's speculative epic bumps Little
Blue Men out of the number 9 spot.

1.  Sunset over Savannah  8.7   6 votes
2.  Trinity               8.7   16 votes
3.  Spider and Web        8.7   13 votes
4.  Anchorhead            8.6   18 votes
5.  Varicella             8.5   8 votes
6.  Babel                 8.5   7 votes
6.  Losing Your Grip      8.5   6 votes
8.  Spellbreaker          8.5   8 votes
9.  Worlds Apart          8.3   6 votes
10. Christminster         8.3   14 votes

As always, please remember that the scoreboard is only as good as the
contributions it receives. I'm not sure why voting has taken such a dive
in recent months, but it's a trend I'm really hoping to reverse. I
strongly encourage all SPAG readers to submit votes for all the IF games
they play... and I know that the group of you has played more than 34
games in the last three months! To make your mark on this vast morass of
statistics, rate some games on our website
( You can also, if you like, send ratings
directly to me at obrian SP@G Instructions for how the rating
system works are in the SPAG FAQ, available from GMD and our website.
Please read the FAQ before submitting scores, so that you understand how
the scoring system works. After that, submit away!

SUBMISSION POLICY ---------------------------------------------------------

SPAG is a non-paying fanzine specializing in reviews of text adventure
games, a.k.a. Interactive Fiction. This includes the classic Infocom
games and similar games, but also some graphic adventures where the
primary player-game communication is text based.

Authors retain the rights to use their reviews in other contexts. We
accept submissions that have been previously published elsewhere,
although original reviews are preferred. 


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