ISSUE #26 - September 26, 2001

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

                         ISSUE #26

           Edited by Paul O'Brian (obrian SP@G
                     September 26, 2001

           SPAG Website:

SPAG #26 is copyright (c) 2001 by Paul O'Brian.
Authors of reviews and articles retain the rights to their contributions.

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

ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE ----------------------------------------------------

The SPAG Interview with Volker Blasius and David Kinder

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

Alien Abduction?
Hobbit -- The True Story
Lost New York
The Weapon


The timing of this issue makes it a little difficult to write an
editorial. Usually, when editorial time comes, I just decide what IF
topic is uppermost in my mind and write something about that. But with
just over two weeks since the horrifying terrorist attacks of September
11, those attacks and their ramifications are still the One Topic in my
mind, crowding out ordinary considerations and making perfectly good
hobbies like IF seem, well, a bit trivial. Like light bends when it hits
a prism, I find all my orderly thoughts refracting through this theme
and looking rather different when they come out the other side. So when
I sat down to write this editorial, I was aware that some people are
really sick of the One Topic, but I was equally aware that for me, it
was what I needed to write about.

Consequently, instead of fighting it, I want to spend a little time
thinking about the value of IF in the face of overwhelming tragedy.
Certainly, there's the virtue of escapism -- like a Busby Berkeley movie
during the American Depression, IF lets us get away from all the
anxieties of the world for a little while and just have fun. Also,
there's the fact that the IF community is international, and thus can
provide a global perspective on events; I find that perspective
pleasantly bracing from within the tidal wave of hyper-patriotism
that the attacks have unleashed here in the States. But the first of
these points would be true of any art form, and the second true of any
Internet community. What does IF, in particular, offer us?

I think the key is in the idea of control. It's an oft-repeated truism
that successful IF doesn't offer the player complete control over the
story, but rather the *illusion* of such control. Examining how much
control the player does or doesn't possess has been a preoccupation of
much recent IF, and I think that's because issues of control are central
to IF as a medium. Even traditional Infocom-style IF is fundamentally
concerned with communicating the idea that its protagonists can have a
significant, permanent impact on their world. In our world, where it's
easy to feel helplessly, terrifyingly out of control, that illusion is
to be cherished. Even if it's just for a second.

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

There are several things worth noting about the crop of games released
this summer. Alongside the slew of regular games and mini-games
(including the TADS epic First Things First, by last year's XYZZY Best
Game author J. Robinson Wheeler), made with a variety of systems from
Inform to ADRIFT to Alan to SUDS, there are several demos which make
significant inroads into multimedia territory. Adam Cadre's Zeta Space
demo utilizes a windowed interface, graphics, and nifty synthesizer
sounds, while Ladystar: The New Girl employs full-screen,
anime-influenced illustrations combined with a CYOA-type text adventure.
Finally, for authors who want to travel further in this direction,
there's Marnie Parker's Just A Dream demo, which demonstrates how to
achieve various effects using the Glulx runtime.
   * Pick Up The Phone Booth And Aisle by various authors
   * Stranded by Jim Bayers
   * The Long Journey Home by Danny Chabino
   * A Night in Spooksville by Landry Q. Walker
   * The Weapon by Sean T. Barrett
   * First Things First by J. Robinson Wheeler
   * Ladystar: The New Girl by Heavy Cat Multimedia
   * Zeta Space (demo) by Adam Cadre
   * City of Secrets (trailer) by Emily Short
   * Just A Dream (demo) by Marnie Parker
   * On A Horse With No Name by Greg Ewing
   * Large Machine by Gringo G. Scumm
   * Burglar! by Doug Roberts

The big news of the summer is that after nearly nine years at, the IF Archive is moving. In honor of the work that Volker
Blasius and David Kinder have done in maintaining the Archive, they're
the subjects of this issue's SPAG Interview, so I'll let them explain
why this change has come about. The Archive's new home is, and its maintainers are Kinder and Stephen Granade,
with technical maintenance by Paul Asay ("Goob") and Andrew Plotkin

After I released SPAG #25, I realized that there was an important news
item I forgot to include, and what made the error particularly
embarrassing is that I actually served as a judge for the event in
question. I'm referring to the PrologueComp, organized by David Myers
and inviting participants to craft a prologue for a hypothetical game.
The comp got an impressive 23 entrants, which were reviewed by a panel
of judges consisting of myself, Nick Montfort, Dennis Jerz, Robb
Sherwin, Digby McWiggle, and Myers himself. It was great fun, and
generated some excellent discussion of how prologues operate -- check
out the results at

Infocom was always known for the exceedingly fine quality of its
manuals, documentation, and associated "feelies," but in the reissues of
its games during the 90's, that quality declined steadily. The
documentation in the Lost Treasures packages tended to consist of
slapped-together photocopies and sketchy, sometimes-incomplete OCR scans
of the old documentation, and the Masterpieces of Infocom CD just took
most of this material and converted it to PDF format, saving weight on
the package. At its nadir, Activision was selling Masterpieces in a
downloadable format with no documentation whatsoever, despite the fact
that most of those games are copy-protected via their feelies. Into this
sad state of affairs charged Gunther Schmidl and Roger J. Long. Their
Infocom Documentation Project has, with the permission of Activision,
endeavored to recreate (in PDF format) all the Infocom manuals "as close
to their original form as possible," as well as converting them to a
format easily readable by screen readers for the blind. Only a few of
the manuals are complete so far, but the project also offers all copies
of Infocom's newsletter (called The New Zork Times, then The Status
Line) as well as zcode versions of Invisiclues for all the games. This
cornucopia is available at 

You may have noticed that this issue of SPAG is on the slim side, and
there's a reason for that: not many people submitted reviews to me this
summer. Whether SPAG's anorexia continues to worsen is up to you --
without reviews, there is no SPAG. And don't try that old "I don't know
what to review" line; I've got your list right here:

1.  Acheton
2.  Bad Machine
3.  First Things First
4.  Frobozz Magic Support
5.  Heroine's Mantle
6.  Large Machine
7.  The Long Journey Home
8.  On A Horse With No Name
9.  Pick Up The Phone Booth and Aisle
10. Stranded

THE SPAG INTERVIEW---------------------------------------------------------

In 1992, something very special happened in the IF community: it
acquired an archive. Volker Blasius offered a repository at,
and the IF scene underwent a paradigm shift. Where before various
development systems, games, and documents were scattered far and wide,
now they were centrally located, well organized, and easy to find. That
archive acted as a magnet, attracting people to the community and
strengthening those already within it. Now that the archive is moving
from to, the time seems right to speak with its
indefatigable maintainers, Volker Blasius and David Kinder.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Volker Blasius ~~~

   SPAG: Could you tell us a little about yourself? Who are you, what do
   you do for a living, and so forth?

VB: Oompf, who am I - quite a philosophical question.

I was born of poor because honest parents -- no, nonsense, though it
contains some truth. I just love this opening line from Ambrose Bierce's
The City of the Gone Away, and I've always been trying to use it
somewhere. :)

Let's try again. So far my life has been anything but spectacular. Born
in '43, standard childhood for this post-World-War-II time, standard
school career, always living in the same place here in Germany. My home
town didn't have a university then, so I moved to Bonn after military
service to study mathematics - the early computers fascinated me, so I
chose the subject closest to them at the time.

The university had an IBM 7090 and offered programming courses, so I
immediately started on my favorite topic. In my second semester I got a
part-time job in the university computer center; the computer center
developed into GMD, and my student's job developed into a full-time job
when I got my degree (nominally still in mathematics). So I'm more or
less still where I began.

(OK, what I've been doing here changed over time, of course. At first I
was in a department that developed its own time sharing system under
OS/360 MFT (I did some of the hardware programming), later I became head
of system administration for the MVS mainframe until GMD dropped that
line altogether. Since then I've mainly been dabbling in PCs, their
hardware and their operating systems, supporting people running into

Now I just turned 58 and I'm three years into my five-year
old-age-part-time-retirement contract. This is a German specialty: About
five years ago the federal government decided to have another go at
getting rid of old farts sitting on valuable jobs and passed a law that
guaranteed 70% pay for 50% of work. Your company can reclaim the excess
20% from federal administration if it gives the 50% you get free to
someone looking for his/her first job. After two years of negotiations
the unions raised the 70% to 80%, and that's when I signed my contract
to work half-time for five years and then retire.

   SPAG: For those that don't know, just what is GMD?

VB: Early computers were too expensive even for a university to buy, so
our state here created and funded a company that bought and ran a
computer for the university at Bonn. (Computers were then considered as
instruments to be used for mathematics, so the company was called IIM -
Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Instrumentelle Mathematik. Still a
funny name.) In 1968 the federal government took over and converted the
IIM into GMD, the Gesellschaft für Mathematik und Datenverarbeitung,
located in Sankt Augustin near Bonn. Later it was renamed to German
National Research Center for Information Technology (and its German
equivalent), but the well-established acronym GMD was kept.

GMD did much more than just run a mainframe; it grew to 1200+ people who
did all kinds of research in and around mathematics and computers. Most
of it was basic research, and that's what GMD was explicitly founded und
funded for, but now the tide has turned - basic research was declared
useless and GMD was handed off to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG) to
do applied research, i.e. earn short-term money or perish. GMD will be
broken up into many small units fighting for themselves and against each
other. Funding is guaranteed until 2005, but nobody knows will be left
after this date.

   SPAG: Was it difficult to persuade them that an archive of text
   adventures was something worth keeping on their ftp server?

VB: No, it wasn't, because I didn't ask them. Like all the good things
here, the archive began as what we call a submarine - somebody finds a
topic interesting and starts working on it while officially doing
something different. If the idea proves feasible, the submarine surfaces
and becomes an official topic. Access to the ftp server wasn't
difficult, either. I've been in the IT infrastructure department for
quite some time now, so the admins are just the guys next door working
in the same group.

   SPAG: Could you give a little bit of history on how the IF archive
   came about?

VB: I knew text adventures from ADVENT on the IBM mainframe, which
really got me hooked, and later Dungeon on a VAX. The VAX belonged to a
different department, so my access to it was limited and I wasn't able
to finish the game. I bought my first computer in 1989 and wasn't
interested in micro computers until then, so I didn't even know Infocom
and the other companies existed.

This changed when the data center was closed because nobody used the
mainframe for scientific purposes any more, and I had to find a new job.
I joined the department that's responsible for GMD's central server
machines and the network and started working with Unix and the Internet.
I also did some PC/DOS/Windows service, using support BBSes and
CompuServe - all this was new to me, so I looked around everywhere.

I forgot the details, but at some time during this period I must have
found the free and shareware text adventures, the r*if community and the
early TADS games. I soon found that the good things were scattered
everywhere, and being used to data center operations I thought that a
central repository would be a good idea. I asked the only person I knew,
Dave Baggett, co-author of the Unnkulian Unventures, for his opinion,
and he agreed. I asked for space on GMD's central ftp server and started
the archive with stuff Dave Baggett and I downloaded from wherever we
found it. I kept the original date in the README file: 12nov1992.

The archive was a success right from the start. People soon started
uploading games, info and development systems they had written or found
or kept on their private disks, and then it ran all by itself.

The first mirror (wuarchive) was started in January, 1993. When Chris
Myers asked me how big the archive was, I answered, "About 12 MB now;
growing to maybe twice as much." It's 1131 MB today...

Dave Baggett couldn't help any longer when he left MIT. Fortunately
David Kinder volunteered to step in, and gradually the burden has
shifted more and more onto his shoulders - during the last years he has
done practically all of the work alone. I never could have managed
without him.

   SPAG: What have been some of the IF games you've enjoyed most, and

VB: Now this is a somewhat embarrassing topic - I'm probably the person
who knows and has played the fewest games in the community. ADVENT will
never lose the glory of first love, of course. I like science fiction,
so Planetfall was my favorite Infocom game. And there was J. Doug
McDonald's World, another SF game. I started many games, but usually I
get interrupted for a week or two, and I never pick it up again. World
was the only exception to this rule: I played it off and on for about 6
years until I finally solved it.

Another game I enjoyed immensely and have always been planning to resume
(or rather restart after all this time) is Graham Nelson's Curses.
Anchorhead looked very good, too, but it was another victim to some
interruption - vacation without computers, I think. The only recent game
I played was Photopia, and I only managed to complete it because I could
play it on my Palm. Quite a different experience, but a very good game,
I think.

   SPAG: Do you plan to continue contributing to the IF community in the
   future, and if so, how?

VB: Probably not. Apart from the archive and one or two solutions, I
haven't contributed anything, so this won't be much of a loss. The only
important thing is that the archive will be continued, and thanks to
Goob, Zarf, David and Stephen this problem has been solved. I don't know
how to thank them enough.

   SPAG: If not, how do you think you'll spend your newfound free time?

VB: Since David has been doing all the work for the last two or three
years, there is no newfound free time, I'm afraid. I don't really know
where my time is disappearing, but it does. I have a huge pile of games
waiting to be played when I retire, a programming project I've been
planning to do since about 1970 (and which I'm going to begin Real Soon
Now), I have my dog and like to hike with her, I've recently taken up
cycling again after 30 years - no, I've no idea where all that time

But I'll keep lurking. You won't see me, but I'll be watching you. :)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ David Kinder ~~~

   SPAG: Could you tell us a little about yourself? Who are you, what do
   you do for a living, and so forth? 

DK: I'm a computer programmer living in Oxford, England, and working in
London. My firm writes specialized programs for the financial
derivatives market; it always amuses me that the programs I write for
fun have a bigger audience than those I do for work :) I'm also turning
30 this year, though I'm trying to pretend that that's not going to
happen ...

   SPAG: How did you come to be co-maintainer of the IF archive? 

DK: Way back in 1992 I finished my undergraduate course and became a
member of a research group at the university. At the same time, the
university was then getting around to connecting every PC to its network
and the Internet, so about then I discovered Usenet and the
rec.*.int-fiction groups. Along with a lot of others, my interest in
text adventures had been restarted about a year before by the release of
"The Lost Treasures of Infocom", so it wasn't too surprising that I was
soon reading the groups every day.

Now, one of the advantages (or problems, depending on perspective) of
doing physics research is that you can often find yourself spending ages
keeping an eye on experiments. It's not easy to really do anything
involved, as you need to keep watching the experiment, so one night I
found myself wandering around the IF-Archive. At that point the
/unprocessed/ folder had become rather full, so I decided to give Volker
a hand by working out where all these files should go and writing up
Index entries for them. After doing this a few times Volker asked if I'd
like to become a maintainer, and I've been at it ever since ...

   SPAG: What changes do you anticipate now that the archive has moved
   from to Do you plan any innovations for the
   archive's future? 

DK: It's unlikely that the basic structure of the archive will change,
but something will happen with the indexing system. Currently the plain
text "Index" files are okay for people to read, but they're not so
suitable for processing by programs. Zarf is working on an XML
definition that will let us have machine readable indexes from which we
can create human readable Index files.

   SPAG: What have been some of the IF games you've enjoyed most, and

DK: Curses, for the evil puzzles, and the fact that it (along with the
Unkuulia games) really seemed to push the level of amateur text
adventures away from the rather poor efforts of the past. When I first
started reading the newsgroups the consensus view was still that Infocom
had written all the best text adventures; now the community writes the
best ones itself.

Photopia, because I've never read ("played" seems inappropriate)
anything quite like it, especially Alley's dream of meeting the Queen of
the dead world.

Loads of others spring to mind, especially those that have pushed back
the barriers of what is possible: Worlds Apart, Galatea, My Angel,

   SPAG: I know you've made extensive contributions to the archive
   yourself, in the form of ports and technical tools. Is this the only
   role in which you see yourself, or have you ever given any thought to
   authoring a game? 

DK: I like writing ports and implementations of IF engines as it can
throw up some interesting coding problems, such as: How do you write a
Glk implementation that can reformat the text in the window if it
resizes, even if the text is in different sizes, and has pictures
embedded in it?

DK: Writing games calls for something else again: Not just skill but
artistic vision. Having said that, I do have some sketches somewhere for
a game idea I had. I'm not going to jinx it by saying anything though,
but maybe for one competition I'll get around to it.

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: Duncan Stevens 

TITLE: Alien Abduction?
AUTHOR: Charles Gerlach
E-MAIL: cagerlac SP@G
DATE: 1996
PARSER: TADS standard
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive)
VERSION: Release 2

One of the many trends in IF of recent years has been to emphasize
characterization, and in particular the character of the player
character, over puzzles. An early portent of that trend was Charles
Gerlach's Alien Abduction?, a 1996 competition entry that endeavors to
make the PC something other than a cipher. The result isn't a total
triumph, mostly because the game didn't fully emancipate itself from
puzzlefest expectations, but it's an interesting attempt.

It seems you're convinced that aliens are out to abduct you; a similar
conviction landed your father in an asylum, but you know what you know.
Sure enough, aliens do come by and -- after making you play a variant on
Mastermind -- release you again, but the reality you go back to has some
incongruities, notably that your father is back, showing no signs of
having been carted away. Your goal, at that point, is to make sense of
the incongruities.

At least, I think so, and therein lies the difficulty. It's far from
clear to the player at that point what he or she should be doing; that
things seem to be a little off-kilter doesn't point the player in any
particular direction for purposes of addressing the problem, and nothing
that you find as you explore the off-kilter world (which is quite small
as it is) is particularly illuminating. You can talk to your father, and
while he has quite a lot to say, nothing really gives you much of a clue
about what you're supposed to be doing. The solution isn't wholly
illogical, it turns out, but it requires some fairly tortured inferences
about various characters and how they react to certain stimuli.
Considering that this puzzle is the heart of the game -- there are
several subpuzzles, but most of the game is given over to one central
problem -- not having a sense of what you're doing is a major flaw. This
isn't a characterization problem, as such -- there are good reasons for
the PC to do what he does. It's just that the player doesn't know enough
about the PC (and his past) to understand those reasons.

The problem springs in part from the game's attempts at giving the PC a
specific identity and background, since the solution to the central problem
hinges on the player's having a much deeper understanding of that background
than seems likely, given the available evidence. Specifically, the problem
turns on a certain NPC's psychology, for the most part, and the game didn't
provide enough exposition to permit the player to draw the right inferences.
This is good, in a certain respect; NPCs with psychological makeup more
complex than some variant on "feed me" are relatively uncommon. That also
means, however, that the player cannot necessarily be counted on to see what
the author wants him/her to see, unless the author spells everything out in
nice big letters (which defeats the point, to some extent). Here, there are
clues scattered around, but it's a fairly long leap from the clues to the
solution. (A related problem is that the solution requires inferring that a
certain bit of technology has what seems a grave flaw; I certainly didn't
find any suggestions that there was such a flaw.)

Mostly because of those psychological intricacies, Alien Abduction? is a
pretty difficult game -- it's entirely possible that you, the player,
will stumble on the solution by accident, but that's not exactly
satisfying. There are, let me emphasize, internal hints, and those are
handy indeed -- and the game as a whole has a certain twisted logic once
you understand what's going on. It seemed to me, however, that there
wasn't much chance of the player attaining such an understanding without
the hints. There's also one rather artificial puzzle (a.k.a. a "soup
can" puzzle) -- the presence of the aliens supplies an excuse (they're
testing you, you see), but not a great excuse, and the game would have
been better, I think, had that puzzle been omitted.

While Alien Abduction? doesn't quite work as a fusion of puzzle-solving
challenge and character study, it does work as a mood piece and as a
mess-with-your-head game in the tradition of Delusions and Spider and
Web. (Yes, I'm aware that this preceded Spider and Web, but that's the
paradigmatic example.) The discover-what's-going-on process is
thoroughly creepy -- there's no big payoff, but there's a series of
smaller surprises that effectively kept me guessing. The
almost-normality of the setting works nicely (though it might have
worked even better if the game gave the player more of a chance to
explore the layout at the beginning, the better to appreciate the
changes, Wishbringer-style; as it is, the game mostly tells the player
"hey, this and that are different"), and lots of relatively nonessential
objects and conversation topics are implemented, so the player isn't
likely to keep running up against the game's boundaries (never a good
thing in a mood piece). As for the mess-with-your-head factor, the game
does a nice job of raising doubts about the PC's sanity and reliability,
though those doubts are largely tangential to what actually goes on in
the game; you may question whether the PC's perceptions are true, but
you can largely assume that they are for purposes of getting through the
game. That aside, unreliable narrators are a fun device, central to the
progress of the story or not.

How well Alien Abduction? works is a function of the player's
expectations, I suppose -- it's certainly a well-written game with some
suspenseful moments and good deal of atmosphere, and if you're someone
who enjoys IF that emphasizes setting and mood, and who doesn't care
overmuch about being able to solve the puzzles without reliance on
hints, this is definitely for you. (I'm sure I'll hear from people
claiming to have finished the game with no hints in seconds flat, but I
call 'em like I see 'em, and I just don't see enough in the game to
enable the player to understand the logic of the puzzles ex ante.) In
that respect, the intervening years have made the IF audience somewhat
more receptive to this game -- a well-crafted story with
not-entirely-well-crafted puzzles is perhaps more welcome now than it
was in 1996, though the tendency these days, I think, is to omit or
downplay the puzzles. (In other words, the tendency for an author
writing this game now might be to let the PC make some of the trickier
inferences himself, rather than making the player do it; the
interactivity would be thereby reduced, of course, but life is full of
tradeoffs.) To the extent that Alien Abduction? tries to squeeze both
challenging puzzles and some complex personalities and character
interactions into the same game, it's a laudable effort; to the extent
that it doesn't quite succeed, well, not many games can be called a
total success on both those levels, and this was an early shot at it.
It's not a roaring success, but it certainly has its moments.


From: Duncan Stevens 

TITLE: Bugged
AUTHOR: Anssi Raisanen
E-MAIL: anssi.raisanen SP@G
DATE: 2001
PARSER: Alan (full-sentence)
SUPPORTS: Alan runtimes
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive)
VERSION: Release 1.0

Anyone who's ever tried to slog through a vintage AGT game will get a
chuckle or two out of Bugged, where the bugs are deliberate -- you're
beta-testing a game for a cousin, see, and the cousin needs a lot of
programming help, and the only way to plow through the game is through
exploiting bugs (because the solutions your cousin has attempted to
implement don't work, due to other bugs). It's no more than a chuckle,
but chuckles are important in the IF world too.

The bugs themselves are standard-issue: takeable objects that aren't,
untakeable objects that are, mostly, along with a dash of verbs
defaulting to the wrong noun. Getting into the spirit of things takes a
while -- unless you're a long-standing beta-tester, you're unlikely to
think of getting rid of an obstacle by simply taking it, say -- and
things get difficult toward the end, when you're carrying around all
kinds of immobile objects and it's not clear which one of them is
useful. (The last puzzle, in fact, turns on a bizarre syntax trick that
fits nicely into a buggy game but doesn't exactly spring to mind
otherwise.) In other words, the bugs accumulate over the course of the
game, after a fashion, and the potential for ridiculous interactions
among various unlikely objects becomes considerable. Some of the bugs
strain credulity a bit -- it's not clear what sort of coding error would
make an object both out of reach and takeable. Likewise, it sometimes
seems like every single object that should be takeable isn't and every
one that shouldn't be is, suggesting that the "cousin" simply doesn't
understand the word "static" (or an Alan equivalent) -- but on the whole
it's a plausible buggy game.

The joke, I suppose, is that the buggy game is more interesting than the
non-buggy one would have been; the puzzles that you would have solved
are bog-standard, whereas the buggy version at least requires some
thinking outside the box. True enough, though it's hard to picture
anyone writing a game that's quite as boring as the one your cousin
supposedly tried to write, and in that light it's not hard to come up
with something more interesting. For my part, I found Bugged
entertaining simply because it's loopy in the usual way of a buggy game;
something about picking up apparently huge objects with no comment on
your feat of strength is inherently amusing, though the humor would
probably pall in a game of any length. As it is, Bugged is quite short,
short enough that most players are unlikely to tire of the idea before
reaching the end.

The main problem with Bugged is the lack of a hint system (and in this
case a hint system is even more preferable to a walkthrough than usual,
because the puzzles are well suited for nudges but the solutions are
usually one-move) -- it's frustrating enough to struggle with a game
that's trying to be helpful, but when things are intentionally broken
it's even worse, as there are (naturally) no clues that you're on the
right track. In fact, since some bugs amount to red herrings, it's
possible to get suckered into trying to exploit the wrong bugs
altogether. I ended up poring over the data file to solve a few of the
puzzles, which is appropriate, in a way -- cheat to finish a game whose
premise is cheating to finish a game -- but not especially satisfying.

Bugged is a twenty-minute diversion at most -- if it takes you longer,
resort to the data file -- but it's amusing enough, and perhaps it's a
fitting tribute to/preparation for the upcoming competition. (Shame on
this cynical reviewer.) IF veterans should get a kick out of it.


[As always with Mr. Starkov's reviews, I've heavily edited this prose
(and that in his review of "The Weapon", below) in an attempt to hammer
it into sensible English. Mistakes may have been made in this process;
comprehend at your own risk. --Paul]

From: Stas Starkov 

NAME: Hobbit - The True Story
AUTHOR: Fredrik Ramsberg and Johan Berntsson
EMAIL: d91frera SP@G (Ramsberg -- no address provided for
DATE: Monday 19 April 1993
PARSER: Very strange and not very good
AVAILABILITY: Shareware -- $10, but I think it's a joke

NAME: The Terror of Mecha Godzilla - The True Story
AUTHOR: Fredrik Ramsberg
EMAIL: d91frera SP@G
DATE: Monday 4 October 1993
PARSER: Very strange and not very good
AVAILABILITY: Shareware -- $10, but I think it's a joke

First of all, the reviewed games are written as MS-DOS 5.0 batch files,
and require some fiddling with your computer. (That doesn't mean that
you need to hit the computer with a hammer.) Personally, I was not able
to run these games in a DOS box under Windows 9x. But I have not tried
hard -- for me it's faster to reboot the computer into DOS mode. I think
you'll probably need to do the same. Another problem that I encountered
_before_ I started the game is that the ZIP files are archived with
rather old archiver (I think -- pkzip 1.x) and my archiver (7-ZIP, if
you want to know) was not able to unpack all the files from the
archives. Then I used WinZip and everything was well. But, hell, these
are real puzzles in real life. Sometimes I like to solve these sorts of
puzzles, but not very often. :-)

As the authors claim, these two games were written in 1993, using a very
strange language called Adventure Maker, which compiled the games to
batch files. As a player, I sometimes like to switch from games written
in a good authoring system to games written in another system, one that
is not so good. It's fun to compare old computer technologies with
modern ones.

Well, the games' "parsers" are not very powerful, but it's amazing that
you can type commands at just a DOS command prompt! Yes, after loading a
"restart.bat", you can play in raw DOS. It's so bizarre that you don't
need an interpreter to play these games, and that you can run any
program, then quit from that program and continue to play the game. That
_is_ fun. But quite strange fun. On the other hand, there are no UNDO,
SAVE, or OOPS commands. If you've made a wrong move (as is especially
likely in "Godzilla") you must start from the beginning. But that
doesn't hurt, because the games are so small, and so linear.

The games themselves are not very strong. I think they were probably
written in one or two days each -- they're short and not very polished,
but fun. Why are they fun? Because they use a somewhat offbeat sense of
humor and because their scenery is very familiar. The first game,
"Hobbit", is about the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, and the second, "Godzilla",
is about Godzilla in Tokyo. If you've never heard these words before,
you must have been living on the moon for the last fifty years. Of
course, these games are parodies.

"Hobbit" is a story about a hobbit who wants to kill a dragon and loot
its gold. For the "untrue" story of this hobbit, you can read the book
"The Hobbit" by J. R. R. Tolkien. But even more than it parodies the
book, this game parodies Melbourne House's game with the very familiar
name "The Hobbit". People who have played Melbourne House's game will
notice that the solutions to some of the puzzles in this game are almost
identical. Continuing the list of influences: I think the authors of
this game have probably read the book "Bored Of the Rings" by Henry R.
Berd and Douglas K. Kenny, (excuse me if I somehow changed the names --
I have only a Russian translation) [The authors of "Bored Of The Rings"
are Henry N. Beard and Douglas C. Kenney. --Paul] which is itself a
parody on J. R. R. Tolkien's work. There is nothing groundbreaking in
this book, but there are a lot of funny moments, especially if you only
read a few pages each day. Next -- I do (barely) remember that once I
had read a solution to some game (whose title I don't remember at all)
for the ZX Spectrum, a game that, as far as I can tell from the dull
reflection of its solution, utilized the same approach to humor.

The humor in this game is strange, but I like it. A small example, if
you try to show a map to Thorin when you aren't carrying it:

   Thorin eyes you suspiciously. "Don't try any tricks, boy. We both
   know that there is no map here, now don't we?" he asks. He doesn't
   seem too sure about it himself.

The implementation of the game is bad, but so what! A seasoned
adventurer such as yourself will find a way through the rubble of bad
code. If not, maybe the hints for Melbourne House's "Hobbit" will help.
And if that doesn't work, "disassemble" this game -- it's not very hard.

The NPCs in the game are strange. For example, Thorin:

   Thorin, your old friend, is no longer the proud dwarf he once was.
   All the drugs have turned him into a drooling good-for-nothing idiot.
   The only reason that he has come along is to get more treasures for
   drugs, as always.

Gandalf is a dumb magician who is inventing a new spell of a rather
shady nature (and I recommend you explore that subject). Elrond -- a
megalomaniac who wants to rule the entire world. Smaug -- a fat lazy

If you put yourself in Bilbo's place, you'll notice that the surrounding
world is very cruel and evil. Your good old "friends" despise you. It's
terrible to live as a hobbit in such a world.

"Godzilla" is not as good, nor as funny, as "Hobbit". It is longer, and
has several "guess the word" problems that make it quite difficult. This
game does have some violent moments (for example, a moment with a huge
tank and a poor doggy), but if you remember the Japanese (and one
American) movies about Godzilla, you will understand why the author
includes those moments. (If you still don't understand, I'll tell you --
because those movies are so disgustingly pathetic and simultaneously
have so much aggression that, after viewing them, you yourself want to
kill several monsters or just animals. :-)

"Godzilla" has a more "advanced" version of the parser. Because of that,
the batch files are harder to read (yes, read the source code to get
hints to the game), but that didn't stop me. To tell the truth, I tried
six or seven times to finish this game before starting to read through
the batch files 

Overall, if you have a little extra time to kill, try "Hobbit". If you
like it, try "Godzilla", but do not try them in the reverse order. And
be prepared for bugs, but again, these games are so short that the bugs
should be no problem.

And did you notice that both games were released on a Monday? Odd.


From: Duncan Stevens 

AUTHOR: Eric Mayer
E-MAIL: emayer00 SP@G
DATE: 2001
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive)
VERSION: First release

Making emotional content plausible in IF ain't easy. Getting a player to
feel what the protagonist is supposed to be feeling requires subtlety
(more than "you're feeling angry now"), good writing (at least, good
enough that the player doesn't notice it and get pulled out of the
flow), and, most of all, time -- a story that's long enough for the
player to settle into the protagonist's skin before any serious
emotion-imputing begins. Eric Mayer's Lost is a highly emotional game,
and while it does passably well on the first two counts, it's simply not
long enough, in my book, to achieve the desired effect.

It seems that the protagonist is upset about all manner of things,
primarily the decaying states of his marriage and his job, and he heads
for a walk in the woods. As he wanders and examines things, thoughts run
through his mind (in different colored text lest he miss their
significance), and the forest setting, while nicely rendered, is of
course merely a backdrop for the stuff going on in his head. He solves
one fairly simple puzzle (rendered more complicated only by the
unfriendliness of the ADRIFT parser), and a few sounds and apparitions
later, the protagonist has a choice of sorts. One of two different
endings ensues.

Not to belabor the point, but it must be belabored: the protagonist can
reach this ending point inside of 30 moves if he's pretty direct about
it, and isn't likely to take more than 60-70 even if he stops to smell
all the roses he can find. His ruminations about his past, however,
start right away and come relatively thick and fast. If you, the player,
don't decide to identify with the protagonist right away, you may just
miss your chance entirely. Now, there may be some for whom losing a
marriage and a job simultaneously strikes an instant chord of
recognition, and if you're one of those, I sympathize and recommend Lost
-- but the rest of us need some more prompting before we can identify
with the protagonist. Perhaps, with more exploration of his personality,
we might see ourselves, or someone we know, in this character. But the
protagonist's personality is almost wholly absent from Lost: we know
what he feels, but not who he is. As such, he had my sympathy, but I was
a spectator.

The backdrop, for what it's worth, is fine -- the woods are well
rendered, with attention to detail. There are some glitches in the
writing (e.g., "A few tough, spikes which used to be limbs, protrude"),
and the style tends toward the choppy ("Here and there grassy hillocks
are interspersed with dead trees. At the edge, cattails rattle in the
breeze. There is a wooden post here. The swamp is impassable."), but
there are some nice spots as well: "The lingering twilight floods the
top of the reentrant with a rusty glow." There are occasional fuzzy
pictures (which feel the need to reappear, necessitating window-closing,
every time you return to the location in question), which don't enhance
things much, but as a walk-in-the-woods game this is okay. (There are
occasional sidelights about orienteering, which could have used some
more explanation -- not everyone knows about orienteering, or even that
the term refers to a sport, if that's the right thing to call it -- but
as with publicity, there's almost no such thing as bad background

When it comes to the internal strife, Lost isn't awful, but the game
doesn't exactly have the lightest touch. The principle of "show, don't
tell" is observed only haphazardly; one example, when examining a pine

   You're reminded of the fragrant, prickly needled Christmas trees you
   used to bring home. How long since you switched to the plastic one?
   You just snap the limbs on and spray it with pine scent. From a
   distance it looks alive. Not unlike you marriage.

Even aside from the "you marriage," the last sentence ruins what was, up
to then, a nice little aside -- it conveys the protagonist's
associations, and that's all it really has to do. The player can draw
the contrasts, given that much: it's not hard to put the "those were
happy times, unlike now" pieces together, nor are the
plastic-instead-of-real-tree dots difficult to connect. The paragraph
could easily have been stopped after four sentences, or three, or
(perhaps best of all) two. As it is, the last sentence seems to assume
the player isn't bright enough to draw any conclusions -- not wholly
unfair, as the player may be no more than five moves into the game at
that point (and no more than 25 moves from the end), but the answer to
that is more game, not signal-flare writing. Similar is this passage:

   Everything here seems still, sheltered from the wind, quiet. It seems
   to you a soothing place, beyond the reach of the world. Ridiculous of
   course, since the highway is a few minutes walk.

The first sentence is really all that's needed -- the second sentence,
setting out what the protagonist feels, can just as well be inferred,
and the player should know that the highway is within a few minutes'
walk if he or she's been paying attention. The author can clearly write
-- the writing here is always passable (typos and such aside) and
sometimes good. It's just that he often seems to write one or two
sentences too many.

Picky and grumpy, that's me, but I'd like to think there's a good reason
here. Writing IF whose success hinges on evoking emotion is a
hit-or-miss matter; if you don't succeed, you're likely to end up
sounding kind of mawkish. The player is tempted to snicker, which is
never a good thing. (A puzzle game that doesn't work may leave the
player frustrated or baffled, but usually not condescendingly amused.)
No one likes feeling manipulated, and the nature of the string-pulling
in Lost is such that it's easy to feel that way. And yet it seems to me
that all that really needs to change here (aside from some writing
stuff) is that the ratio of scenery/exploration to emotionalizing needs
to increase substantially -- there needs to be more going on, such that
the setting feels like a part of the game rather than an stimulus to get
the protagonist's mental wheels turning. Give me enough of it so that it
gets *my* mental wheels turning -- sufficiently so that you can tell the
story without spelling everything out so, er, blatantly -- and you'll
really have something.

Lost has its heart in the right place, but it's trying to accomplish
something very difficult while devoting minimal resources to the job.
Good try, say I, but not quite.


From: Adam Cadre 
[Note: This review first appeared on the IF-Review website, at --Paul]

NAME: Lost New York
AUTHOR: Neil deMause
EMAIL: neil SP@G
DATE: 1996-1997
PARSER: TADS   (Also available in PC format)
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Shareware ($12) (IF Archive)

LOST NEW YORK by Neil deMause sends the player character bouncing around
in time, from 1880 to 1905 to 1954 to 1780 to 2040. But none of these
dates has anywhere near as much effect on the shape of the game as its
year of publication: 1996.

For in 1996, the conventional wisdom asserted that the remaining
audience for text adventures was after just that: text adventures. Games
were essentially just series of puzzles, with the story as a backdrop,
the model world as set decoration. Yes, that backdrop and set decoration
could be and often was masterfully designed, but the idea that one could
create valid IF simply by building a model world for the player to poke
around in, or telling a story in which the player could participate,
only gained widespread acceptance over the subsequent five years, as
increasingly daring games placed less and less emphasis on puzzles and
were rewarded with plaudits from an audience that found it rather liked
that sort of thing. But in 1996, how the audience might respond was an
open question. Given the amount of effort that goes into a full-length
work of IF, most authors elected to go with the proven approach. LOST
NEW YORK is no exception. But while it follows the crowd, it does so
with obvious reluctance.

In the spirit of time travel, let's jump back about 400 years, to the
time of Shakespeare. But not our Shakespeare -- this Shakespeare lives
in an England where theater audiences are mad about juggling acts. Day
after day, the Globe is witness to trio after trio of balls, pins and
torches being flung into the air. But the audiences didn't want to see
*just* juggling; they wanted the juggling folded into a little story.
Enter Shakespeare, who soars to fame on the strength of "Romeo and
Juliet", in which a pair of young people fall in love at a masked ball
(the chief entertainment there: juggling), but then the boy's friend and
the girl's cousin get into a ill-fated juggling contest and it all goes
downhill from there. Now Shakespeare decides he might like to try
writing a history, perhaps something involving King Henry V... yes, a
piece tracing his evolution from carousing prince to the inspirational
leader of his countrymen in a great victory over the French. But he
can't just tell that story -- where's the juggling? If there's no
juggling, it's not a real play! So the first act ends up foregrounding a
bunch of jugglers at the bar while Falstaff and Prince Hal talk in the
background, and proceeds to the point where the jugglers accompanying
the army are told that the English have won the battle... and the
audience response is tepid because while the historical stuff is
interesting, the juggling isn't as accomplished as that in RITO AND
IMITA. Shakespeare is left to mutter to himself about the constraints of
the medium.

Similarly, it's clear that in LOST NEW YORK, deMause's heart is in the
geographical and historical material. Virtually all the prose is
extremely deft, but never is the writing more alive, more joyous, than
when you die and the author gets to tell you another wacky story about a
long-dead mayor; never are the quips funnier than when they're playing
off the geography of the city (try going east from the City Hall area in
1880, or north into Hell's Kitchen later on.) The fact that the game
begins with a slideshow and ends with a bibliography is another
indication of where the author's interests lie. Hint: it's not in
fiddling around with hairpins and stopwatches.

But because this was written in 1996, the author felt obliged to fill it
with juggl-- I mean, puzzles. And these are mostly not very good, being
chiefly of the type where you're wandering around and find a fishing
pole, which you take because, well, it's implemented; later on you find
a stream, and go fishing because, well, that must be what the pole's
for; you catch a fish and, when you cut it open to cook it, a key falls
out. What was the key doing in the fish? Well, one of the conventions of
the genre at the time was that you weren't supposed to ask questions
like that. That's not actually a puzzle from LOST NEW YORK, but many
similar ones abound.

Of course, while the "take everything that's not nailed down, look under
and behind and inside everything that is" ethic works fine in a dungeon,
it gets to be a little absurd when transplanted to the island of
Manhattan. In LOST NEW YORK, Manhattan has like twelve things. And
that's too many. (Bet you thought I was going to go a different way with
that, huh?) Again, to avoid spoilers, I'll disguise the details a bit.
Let's say that the Upper West Side, circa 1965, has been reduced to a
single location with a mailbox in it. Now, the problem is *not* that
each street corner should be a separate location, nor that every item in
every store and every apartment should be implemented. As it stands, the
location works just fine as a representative area of the Upper West
Side, and the mailbox works just fine as a representative mailbox. BUT!
As soon as you fish around in the mailbox and pull out a live monkey
(which you then stuff into your knapsack) you are no longer dealing with
the Platonic Mailbox -- you're dealing with a specific, highly unusual
mailbox. And by extension, this is no longer just a representative
street corner: it's the particular street corner with the strange
monkey-containing mailbox. And once players lose the sense that the
locations they're visiting are representative, they're no longer
wandering around Manhattan; they're navigating a diorama of Manhattan
with twelve things in it.

But it didn't have to be this way. LOST NEW YORK is as much about the
New Yorks that might have been as the ones that actually have, and in
that spirit, I can't help but muse about what might have happened had
Neil deMause had his notes stolen one day in 1995. Disheartened, he puts
off the project for a few years, till his enthusiasm revives -- only now
the IF landscape is different. A MIND FOREVER VOYAGING is no longer a
low-selling oddball; *lots* of games now revolve around exploration
instead of dinking around with inventory. And so this alternate,
post-'96 version of LOST NEW YORK takes on a different shape. Instead of
players getting little more than a glimpse of New York's evolution,
whatever gets mentioned in passing as they're messing around with goats
and baseballs in curiously limited regions of the city, they can now
roam the entirety of the city freely, watching the different
neighborhoods evolve. Perhaps the interaction with figures who clearly
fascinate the author -- Robert Moses, Emma Goldman, the various mayors
-- is more substantial... leading to more New Yorks that might have
been, perhaps? A fully implemented Moses-free New York, say, or one
where Goldman's ideals took root... perhaps even a modern-day New
Amsterdam, if you diverge early enough. And hey, TADS has multimedia
now: why not throw some pictures into the mix?... oh, and...

...and at this point I've got the blueprints for a 21st-century
skyscraper and am waving them at the base of the Empire State Building.
The game has been written, and if deMause is anything like me, the idea
of revisiting a project that was long ago declared done is hardly an
appealing one...

...but hey, it's New York. If it were ever really finished, we wouldn't
have that old story about the visitor from Nebraska.


From: Duncan Stevens 

TITLE: Ribbons
AUTHOR: J.D. Berry
E-MAIL: berryx SP@G
DATE: 2001
PARSER: Inform standard
SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters
AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive)
VERSION: Release 2

A counterpart of sorts to Ian Finley's Exhibition, a 1999 competition
entry, J.D. Berry's Ribbons, the winning entry in Marnie Parker's 2001
IF Art Show, takes the "art show" premise and runs with it. It doesn't
run extremely far, truth be told, but it's a nice concept.

As in Exhibition, you're in an art gallery, checking out a series of
exhibits, and as in Exhibition, you get a series of different
perspectives on each exhibit. Rather than playing the critics, you read
their critiques, which are posted by each exhibit, but the effect is
similar -- you learn something new about each work, and about the
critics, from each critique of it. (At least, that's the hope.) There
aren't as many exhibits here -- only four, whereas Exhibition had twelve
-- so there isn't as much room for development of the critics; their
voices don't develop in the same way that those of Exhibition did.

The twist is that the works themselves have a better chance of coming
across because (a) the critics are a little less obsessed with
themselves than Exhibition's critics were and (b) the works are, to some
extent, interactive. (It also helps that one of the critics' opinions is
that of the artist himself/herself.) You can alter certain aspects of
the works, and the critics' opinions will change (though not their
ultimate judgments) to reflect the alterations. The results in this
respect are sometimes amusing: the same critic praises the same work for
both the presence and absence of an element, or slams an artist's binary
decision no matter which way it goes. As a jab at criticism itself --
portraying critics as applying preconceived opinions regardless of what
they actually find -- this works pretty well.

Unfortunately, not enough of the game leads to those moments; Ribbons is
more interactive than Exhibition, but that's not saying a lot.
Interaction with one exhibit (other than passive interaction like SMELL)
is precluded entirely because someone else has vandalized the work and
you don't want to be held responsible. Another exhibit allows for
interaction, but not in a way that changes any text (of the descriptions
or of the critics' reactions) -- you're told that you're altering
things, but that's about it. The other exhibits allow for a little more
interplay, but I left the game feeling like the most interesting aspect
was barely there. (Perhaps the author and I differ about what the most
interesting aspect was.)

Credit where credit is due, though -- the artworks themselves are well
rendered and intriguing, and the variety of perspectives you get (the
descriptions change slightly after you've read each critic's take) is
impressive. It's pretty clear (at least, to me) that they occupy four
distinct categories -- one strictly aesthetic, one literally
representational, one metaphor/symbol, and one simply abstract -- and I
enjoyed seeing the extent to which each critic managed or failed to
grapple with each work on its own terms; in each case, some of the
reaction amounted to "I don't like this because of the category it's
in." (Sorry, no points for complaining that this critic has been known
to do the same thing.) It's also fun to see the artists gently mocking
the whole critical enterprise. For example, one critic notes that part
of his work wasn't originally planned, but "[t]he curator's (Hi, Mrs.
Washington!) little boy wanted to be part of the show, so he brought me
that part from his trainset. Congratulations, Daniel, you are officially
[sic] an ARTISTE!" The works themselves also bear scrutiny -- in some
cases second- and third-level nouns are available (as in, objects
mentioned in the room description are first-level, objects mentioned in
the descriptions of first-level objects are second-level, etc.),
deepening the level of detail available considerably.

Ribbons is a fifteen-minute game at most, but it's a worthwhile fifteen
minutes. As with Exhibition, reading the critics' thoughts is far and
away the meat of the game, but those thoughts are good enough that
that's not faint praise.


From: Stas Starkov 

NAME: The Weapon
AUTHOR: Sean Barrett
EMAIL: buzzard SP@G
DATE: 2001
PARSER: Inform Standard
SUPPORTS: Z-code (Infocom/Inform) interpreters
VERSION: Release 1

Surprisingly, the game's subtitle, "an Interactive Misdirection", is
true enough. But this game offers additional err... misdirection. Well,
the problem is -- you don't know who you really are until the very end.
But that's the main idea (or call it the feature) of the game.

"The Weapon" is strongly related to the outstanding game "Spider and
Web" by Andrew Plotkin. Both games are heavily puzzle-oriented, but more
than that -- they both have a lot of gadgetry in their puzzles, and you
must work out how to use that gadgetry. I'm happy to add that the
puzzles exist not just for sake of themselves -- they are based on the

In addition, both games' PCs know more than the player; you must explore
not only surrounding world, but also yourself. Or at least you must care
about what PC says. But there is a problem in "The Weapon" -- to follow
the hints that reveal the PC, you must pay close attention to those
hints. Strangely, the puzzles distract you from that, and I personally
was not able to identify myself with the PC, because it was not far
enough from a simple, boring cardboard stereotype. That's OK in most IF
games, those with simple plots or those that are puzzle based (take "The
Mulldoon Legacy" by Jon Ingold for example), but, as I noted above,
after all "The Weapon" is a story with heavy plot, based on puzzles and

"The Weapon" features the "most appropriate" conversation system: you
type "talk" (or just "t") and the PC considers the current situation and
says (in fact, more often just replies) what he/she thinks the most
appropriate answer is. Ian Finley (and before that Adam Cadre in
"Shrapnel") used this very technique in his game "Kaged". I found the
effect weak then, but unlike "Kaged", in "The Weapon" there are several
reasons why the author chose to use this conversation system. First, I
think it's impossible (or very hard) to explain to the player "what's
going on" in the game, since the PC is so far ahead of the player right
from the start. Well, there _are_ alternative ways to show what's going
on, but I don't think that cut-scenes or self-dialogues are more elegant
methods for expressing the PC's thoughts. Second, as the author said,
"you never need to TALK to win the game", but you need to in order to
understand the story. Third, you can ask NPCs for things and order them
to do things in the usual way, i.e. "Cheryl, open the door" or "ask Tom
for a knife". Fourth, the PC's remarks are quite terse and seldom go
very far from the NPC's questions -- and that lessens the "PC commands
player" effect.

Puzzles in the game are logical and mostly fair. But -- you can't solve
some of them without seeing the death messages first. That's not very
good, but with modern "UNDO" techniques you can reach the end of the
game without much trouble. Overall, the majority of the puzzles are
quite easy, because you can't do a lot in any particular moment of time,
and that's good -- I was able to concentrate on the current puzzle for a
long time. But there are no red herrings (well, the scenery "window"
doesn't count), and I think that's bad -- red herrings add not only
challenge for the player, but also a time to think about the situation
aside from its puzzles. On the other hand, all the puzzles are well
thought-out and sufficiently beta-tested. There are a lot of messages
for the wrong moves of puzzle solving, and no technical bugs, as far as
I can tell.

To help you in puzzle solving, the author has added built-in hints. They
consist of many levels (i.e. each puzzle has about 15 hints) and are
well thought-out. But not everyone loves built-in hints -- they are far
too easily accessible (I mean, you don't need even to connect to
Internet) to prevent their use.

There is only one NPC in "The Weapon", I think. But as in "Spider and
Web", she is your enemy and you're trying to outsmart her. The NPC is
fairly well implemented, but has little dynamism. She is not cardboard,
but you can easily confuse her with it.

The writing in the game was not easy for my lame English (I hope you
don't forget that I'm Russian.) -- it was too heavy and had a lot of
specific to science words. I was able to fully understand the story only
after my fourth time reading one particular sentence -- a really rare
situation for me. My English is lame, as I said -- let it not distract
you from the game. But do note that.

Also, the game supplies a newspaper -- the usual newspaper that
describes recent news [events]. It helps to set the mood for the game.

Overall, "The Weapon" is well implemented and has some good puzzles, but
it is not _long_ enough to suck players into the game, I fear. The story
is good and made me think about it after I finished the game.

I almost forgot to say: "The Weapon" is a one room game. It is placed in
the very far future and centers around the space war (or around post war
events) with aliens (there are no laughs, it's serious). Not that this
plot was never implemented before, but it's not bad for such a short
story. This game is worth a look.

Atmosphere: 1.3 (not enough mind sucking)
Game-play: 1.6 (mostly fair, but nothing outstanding)
Writing: 1.2 (good, but not great -- for me)
Plot: 1.3 (quite novel, but short)
Wildcard: 1.4 (for gadgetry oriented puzzles; sci-fi story)
Total: 6.8 (not bad)
Characters: 1.1 (not very deep)
Puzzles: 1.4 (good enough)


From: Duncan Stevens 

I don't think a definitive taxonomy of IF puzzles has been written, but
there have been gestures in that direction, and one of the better ones
is in the recently released fourth edition of the Inform Designer's
Manual. Graham Nelson doesn't so much describe the essence of good
puzzles -- for the sensible reason, I suspect, that there's no unifying
thread that distinguishes good puzzles -- as point out some of the more
tiresome themes in puzzle creation (as well as some underexplored puzzle
models). The themes are instantly recognizable to the seasoned IF
player: Get-X-Use-X, locked-door (including variants involving guardians
who want a particular object), maze, light-source,
capacity-and-exhaustion, etc. It's probably an oversimplification to say
that good puzzles are those that don't fit into the familiar categories,
but I do think it's true that, for a puzzle to be genuinely memorable,
it either needs to be outside the canon altogether or be a truly novel
spin on the usual patterns. The puzzles in The Weapon are of both
varieties, and for that reason they're, for the most part, satisfying to

You're in the middle of a war against an alien race, with a third race
peripherally involved, and you're helping a superior officer figure out
how to use a mysterious weapon -- except "helping" isn't quite the word,
because you're interested in figuring out the weapon but not entirely
interested in enabling the officer to succeed. Accordingly, the task is
both to decipher the gadgetry and to mislead and misdirect the officer
looking over your shoulder. Gadgetry-deciphering is a pretty familiar
puzzle trope, but not with this sort of spin -- and, better, the tricks
you come up with make sense, for the most part, and change to fit the
situation. The gadgetry itself isn't particularly exciting, really, but
the nature of the challenge demands some creative thinking -- how do you
vary the tricks and misdirections to avoid going to the same well too
many times, for instance?

There are a few flies in the ointment. The puzzles aren't easy, and
while for the most part they're logical, they also depend to some extent
on visualization of things that aren't quite as well described as they
could be. In other words, the puzzles make perfect sense if you
visualize some key objects the way the author does -- but you might not,
and the descriptions are a little too sparse to clue you in that you
should be seeing the objects in question another way. There's a
comprehensive hint system, to be sure, which helps fill in the gaps, but
it's something of a drag to wrestle with puzzles and find, when you give
up, that the solution was something that never crossed your mind because
you "saw" the scene the wrong way. Another puzzle, while reasonably
logical, suffers from guess-the-verb problems, and in several cases the
game doesn't acknowledge guesses that are on the right track. These
aren't mortal sins, though, and I'm willing to put up with some design
flaws for the sake of some original ideas.

The main NPC -- the officer -- is also well rendered; most of the
puzzles hinge on observing her behavior or guessing at her reactions,
and for the most part she functions logically. The relationship between
the protagonist and the NPC isn't quite as well described and leaves a
lot of questions unanswered -- why does the officer choose someone whom
she clearly doesn't trust? Why does she seem to trust you at some times
-- letting seemingly interesting developments pass with no comment --
but not at others? Still, most of the problems are relatively minor, and
a little imagination can fill in the gaps, I suppose. There's also an
interesting twist at one point that forces the player to reassess
everything that's come before -- though the twist might have worked
better if another recent game hadn't done something extremely similar.

The best way to describe The Weapon, I think, is that the seams don't
often show: library responses are rare, descriptions and logical
responses are in ample supply, and most aspects of the game appear to
have been thought through, quibbles about visualization aside. The
HTMLized feelies enhance the feeling of professionalism, though there
isn't a lot to them; they're not as slickly done as Infocom's feelies,
but they're well designed and suggest that the author took more than the
usual pains to set the scene. The puzzles may not be everyone's cup of
tea, but on the whole it's likely that the player will be reacting to
the puzzles themselves (and to the concept), not to inadequate
implementation thereof. Admittedly, it's not a long game -- four
puzzles, by my count, and I did find some flaws even in those four
puzzles -- but the flaws aren't fundamental tragic flaws, and many
probably wouldn't consider them flaws at all (or wouldn't encounter the
same problems). The writing, similarly, is unspectacular but effective
-- it's strictly functional, doesn't try for splashy effects or clever
dialogue, and never gets in the way of the game. The experience is
rarely spectacular but almost never outright disappointing.

The Weapon is intelligently done, and done with care; it may not set the
IF world on fire, but it doesn't do much wrong.

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 Note that starting with this issue, the
GMD code has been replaced with ARC.

Name                   Avg Sc     Chr     Puz # Sc  Issue Notes:
====                   ======     ===     === ====  ===== ======
1-2-3...                  4.1     0.9     0.5    3     23 F_INF_ARC
9:05                      6.4     0.7     0.6    9     20 F_INF_ARC
Aayela                    7.4     1.2     1.5    5     10 F_TAD_ARC
Abbey                     6.8     0.6     1.4    1     24 S10_I_ARC
Above and Beyond          7.3     1.5     1.6    5     24 F_TAD_ARC
Acid Whiplash             5.1     0.6     0.2    4     17 F_INF_ARC
Acorn Court               6.1     0.5     1.5    2     12 F_INF_ARC
Ad Verbum                 7.4     0.9     1.7    3     23 F_INF_ARC
Adv. of Elizabeth Hig     3.1     0.5     0.3    2      5 F_AGT_ARC
Adventure (all varian     6.0     0.5     1.1   13   8,22 F_ETC_ARC
Adventureland             4.4     0.5     1.1    6        F_INF_ARC
Adventures of Helpful     7.0     1.3     0.9    2        F_TAD_ARC
Aftermath                 4.0     0.7     0.7    1        F_TAD_ARC
Afternoon Visit           4.1     1.0     0.8    1        F_AGT
Aisle                     6.8     1.4     0.3   10     18 F_INF_ARC
Alien Abduction?          7.5     1.3     1.4    5 10, 26 F_TAD_ARC
All Alone                 8.2     1.3     0.7    2     22 F_TAD_ARC
All Quiet...Library       5.0     0.9     0.9    6      7 F_INF_ARC
Amnesia                   6.9     1.5     1.3    4      9 C_AP_I_64
Anchorhead                8.7     1.7     1.5   28     18 F_INF_ARC
And The Waves...          7.9     1.5     1.1    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Another...No Beer         2.4     0.2     0.8    2      4 S10_I_ARC
Arrival                   7.9     1.3     1.4    5     17 F_TAD_ARC
Arthur: Excalibur         8.0     1.3     1.6    44,14,22 C_INF
Asendent                  1.7     0.0     0.3    1        F_INF_ARC
At Wit's End              7.1     1.2     1.3    1     23 F_TAD_ARC
Augmented Fourth          7.9     1.2     1.6    7     22 F_INF_ARC
Aunt Nancy's House        1.3     0.1     0.0    2        F_INF_ARC
Awakened                  7.7     1.7     1.6    1
Awakening                 5.6     0.9     1.1    2  15,18 F_INF_ARC
Awe-Chasm                 3.0     0.7     0.7    2      8 S_I_ST_ARC
Babel                     8.4     1.7     1.3   10     13 F_INF_ARC
Balances                  6.6     0.7     1.2    9      6 F_INF_ARC
Ballyhoo                  7.3     1.5     1.5    6      4 C_INF
Bear's Night Out          7.3     1.1     1.3    7     13 F_INF_ARC
Beat The Devil            5.5     1.2     1.1    4     19 F_INF_ARC
Being Andrew Plotkin      7.5     1.5     1.1    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Best Man                  5.2     0.8     1.2    2        F_INF_ARC
Beyond the Tesseract      3.7     0.1     0.6    1      6 F_I_ARC
Beyond Zork               7.7     1.5     1.7   10  5, 14 C_INF
Big Mama                  5.4     1.2     0.6    3     23 F_INF_ARC
BJ Drifter                6.5     1.2     1.2    5     15 F_INF_ARC
Bliss                     6.3     1.1     0.8    4     20 F_TAD_ARC
Bloodline                 7.7     1.4     1.1    2     15 F_INF_ARC
Border Zone               7.2     1.4     1.4    7      4 C_INF
Breakers                  7.5     1.5     1.1    1        C_I_AP_M_64_S
Break-In                  6.1     1.1     1.4    3     21 F_INF_ARC
Breaking The Code         0.4     0.0     0.0    2        F_INF_ARC
Brimstone: The Dream.     6.5     1.4     1.1    1        C_I_AP_M_64_S
Broken String             3.9     0.7     0.4    4        F_TADS_ARC
BSE                       5.7     0.9     1.0    3        F_INF_ARC
Bureaucracy               6.9     1.5     1.4   12      5 C_INF
Busted                    5.1     1.1     0.9    2     25 F_INF_ARC
Calliope                  4.7     0.9     0.8    3        F_INF_ARC
Cask                      1.5     0.0     0.5    2        F_INF_ARC
Castaway                  1.1     0.0     0.4    1      5 F_I_ARC
Castle Amnos              4.6     1.0     0.8    2        F_INF_ARC
Castle Elsinore           4.3     0.7     1.0    2        I_ARC
Cattus Atrox              4.9     1.2     0.8    1     17 F_INF_ARC
CC                        4.2     0.4     1.0    1        F_ALAN_ARC
Change in the Weather     7.5     1.0     1.3   14 7,8,14 F_INF_ARC
Chaos                     5.6     1.3     1.1    2        F_TAD_ARC
Chicken under Window      6.6     0.8     0.3    4        F_INF_ARC
Chicks Dig Jerks          5.2     1.1     0.7    9     19 F_INF_ARC
Chico and I Ran           7.2     1.7     1.1    1        F_INF_ARC
Christminster             8.3     1.6     1.6   21     20 F_INF_ARC
Circus                    3.4     0.5     0.8    1
City                      6.1     0.6     1.3    2     17 F_INF_ARC
Clock                     3.7     0.8     0.6    1        F_TAD_ARC
Coke Is It!               5.6     1.0     0.9    3        F_INF_ARC
Coming Home               0.6     0.1     0.1    1        F_INF_ARC
Common Ground             7.1     1.6     0.3    3     20 F_TAD_ARC
Commute                   1.3     0.2     0.1    1        F_I_ARC
Comp00ter Game            0.9     0.1     0.1    1        F_INF_ARC
Congratulations!          2.6     0.7     0.3    1        F_INF_ARC
Corruption                7.2     1.6     1.0    4 14, 21 C_MAG
Cosmoserve                7.8     1.4     1.4    5      5 F_AGT_ARC
Cove                      6.5     0.8     0.7    4     22 F_INF_ARC
Crimson Spring            6.9     1.5     1.2    1        F_HUG_ARC
Crypt v2.0                5.0     1.0     1.5    1      3 S12_IBM_ARC
Curses                    8.0     1.2     1.7   20  2, 22 F_INF_ARC
Cutthroats                5.7     1.3     1.1    9      1 C_INF
Dampcamp                  5.0     0.8     1.1    3        F_TAD_ARC
Danger! Adventurer...     3.2     0.3     0.7    1        F_INF_ARC
Dangerous Curves          8.6     1.5     1.6    1     24 F_INF_ARC
Day For Soft Food         6.8     1.0     1.3    5     19 F_INF_ARC
Deadline                  6.9     1.3     1.3    9     20 C_INF
Death To My Enemies       4.4     0.9     0.7    4        F_INF_ARC
Deep Space Drifter        5.6     0.4     1.1    3      3 S15_TAD_ARC
Deephome                  4.0     0.5     0.9    2     21 F_INF_ARC
Degeneracy                8.7     1.5     1.3    1     25 F_INF_ARC
Delusions                 7.9     1.5     1.5    5     14 F_INF_ARC
Demon's Tomb              7.4     1.2     1.1    2      9 C_I
Desert Heat               6.0     1.3     0.7    1     23 F_TAD_ARC
Detective                 1.0     0.0     0.0    9 4,5,18 F_AGT_INF_ARC
Detective-MST3K           6.0     1.2     0.2   10 7,8,18 F_INF_ARC
Dinner With Andre         7.2     1.6     1.4    1     23 F_INF_ARC
Ditch Day Drifter         6.3     0.9     1.6    5      2 F_TAD_ARC
Djinni Chronicles         7.1     1.1     1.1    3     23 F_INF_ARC
Down                      6.0     1.0     1.2    1     14 F_HUG_ARC
Downtown Tokyo            6.1     0.9     1.0    6     17 F_INF_ARC
Dungeon                   6.2     1.0     1.6    3        F_ARC
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_ARC
Edifice                   8.0     1.4     1.8   10     13 F_INF_ARC
Electrabot                0.7     0.0     0.0    1      5 F_AGT_ARC
E-Mailbox                 3.1     0.1     0.2    2        F_AGT_ARC
Emy Discovers Life        5.0     1.1     0.8    3        F_AGT
Enchanter                 7.3     1.1     1.5   10   2,15 C_INF
End Means Escape          6.1     1.4     1.1    1     23 F_TAD_ARC
Enhanced                  5.0     1.0     1.3    2      2 S10_TAD_ARC
Enlightenment             6.5     1.1     1.5    3     17 F_INF_ARC
Erehwon                   6.2     1.2     1.5    4     19 F_TAD_ARC
Eric the Unready          7.4     1.4     1.4    6        C_I
Essex                     5.7     1.2     0.9    1        C_I_AP_M_64_ST
Everybody Loves a Par     7.0     1.2     1.2    3     12 F_TAD_ARC
Exhibition                6.2     1.4     0.3    6     19 F_TAD_ARC
Fable                     2.0     0.1     0.1    3      6 F_AGT_ARC
Fable-MST3K               4.0     0.5     0.2    4        F_AGT_INF_ARC
Fear                      6.3     1.2     1.3    3 10, 24 F_INF_ARC
Fifteen                   1.5     0.5     0.4    1     17 F_INF_ARC
Firebird                  7.1     1.5     1.3    4     15 F_TAD_ARC
Fish                      7.5     1.3     1.7    4 12, 14 C_MAG
Foggywood Hijinx          6.2     1.2     1.3    3     21 F_TAD_ARC
Foom                      6.6     1.0     1.0    1        F_TAD_ARC
For A Change              8.0     0.9     1.3    6 19, 22 F_INF_ARC
Forbidden Castle          4.8     0.6     0.5    1        C_AP
Four In One               4.4     1.2     0.5    2        F_TAD_ARC
Four Seconds              6.0     1.2     1.1    2        F_TAD_ARC
Frenetic Five             5.3     1.4     0.5    3     13 F_TAD_ARC
Frenetic Five 2           6.6     1.5     1.0    3 21, 22 F_TAD_ARC
Friday Afternoon          6.3     1.4     1.2    1     13 F_INF_ARC
Frobozz Magic Support     7.2     1.2     1.5    3        F_TAD_ARC
Frozen                    5.5     0.7     1.3    1        F_INF_ARC
Frustration               5.7     1.1     0.9    1     21 F_TAD_ARC
Futz Mutz                 5.3     1.0     1.1    1        F_TAD_ARC
Galatea                   8.1     1.9     0.9    4     22 F_INF_ARC
Gateway                   8.6     1.4     1.8    7     11 C_I
Gateway 2: Homeworld      9.0     1.7     1.9    6     24 C_I
Gerbil Riot of '67        6.3     0.7     1.1    1        F_TAD_ARC
Glowgrass                 6.9     1.3     1.3    5     13 F_INF_ARC
Gnome Ranger              5.8     1.2     1.6    1        C_I
Golden Fleece             6.0     1.0     1.1    1     21 F_TAD_ARC
Golden Wombat of Dest     6.3     0.7     1.1    1     18 F_I_ARC
Good Breakfast            4.9     0.9     1.2    2     14 F_INF_ARC
Got ID?                   6.2     1.4     1.0    1        F_INF_ARC
Great Archeolog. Race     6.5     1.0     1.5    1      3 S20_TAD_ARC
Guardians of Infinity     8.5             1.3    1      9 C_I
Guess The Verb!           6.5     1.2     1.4    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Guild of Thieves          6.9     1.2     1.5    4     14 C_MAG
Guilty Bastards           6.9     1.4     1.2    5     22 F_HUG_ARC
Guitar...Immortal Bar     3.0     0.0     0.0    1        F_INF_ARC
Gumshoe                   6.2     1.0     1.1    7      9 F_INF_ARC
Halothane                 6.6     1.3     1.2    4     19 F_INF_ARC
Happy Ever After          4.6     0.5     1.2    1        F_INF_ARC
HeBGB Horror              5.7     0.9     1.1    2        F_ALAN_ARC
Heist                     6.7     1.4     1.5    2        F_INF_ARC
Hero, Inc.                6.8     1.0     1.5    2        F_TAD_ARC
Hitchhiker's Guide        7.3     1.3     1.5   16      5 C_INF
Hobbit - The True Sto     5.9     1.1     0.8    1     26 S10_I_ARC
Hollywood Hijinx          6.3     0.9     1.5   12        C_INF
Holy Grail                6.2     0.9     1.2    1     21 F_TAD_ARC
Horror of Rylvania        7.2     1.4     1.4    5      1 F_TAD_ARC              3.7     0.3     0.7    2      3 S20_I_ARC
Human Resources Stori     0.9     0.0     0.1    2     17 F_INF_ARC
Humbug                    7.4     1.6     1.3    4 11, 24 F_I_ARC
Hunter, In Darkness       7.3     0.9     1.4    7     19 F_INF_ARC
I didn't know...yodel     4.0     0.7     1.0    5     17 F_I_ARC
I-0: Jailbait on Inte     7.7     1.5     1.2   20     20 F_INF_ARC
Ice Princess              7.5     1.4     1.6    2        A_INF_ARC
In The End                4.8     0.6     0.2    3     10 F_INF_ARC
In The Spotlight          3.2     0.2     1.0    2     17 F_INF_ARC
Infidel                   6.9     0.2     1.4   15      1 C_INF
Infil-Traitor             2.9     0.1     0.7    1        F_I_ARC
Informatory               5.5     0.5     1.3    1     17 F_INF_ARC
Ingrid's Back             7.0     1.6     1.6    2        C_I
Inheritance               5.0     0.3     1.0    3     20 F_TAD_ARC
Inhumane                  4.4     0.3     0.9    4  9, 20 F_INF_ARC
Intruder                  6.7     1.3     1.1    4     20 F_INF_ARC
Jacaranda Jim             7.5     1.0     0.9    3     24 F_ARC
Jacks...Aces To Win       7.1     1.3     1.2    3     19 F_INF_ARC
Jarod's Journey           2.5     0.5     0.3    1        F_TAD_ARC
Jewel of Knowledge        6.3     1.2     1.1    3     18 F_INF_ARC
Jeweled Arena             7.0     1.4     1.3    2        AGT_ARC
Jigsaw                    8.2     1.6     1.6   19    8,9 F_INF_ARC
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_ARC
Jouney Into Xanth         5.0     1.3     1.2    1      8 F_AGT_ARC
Journey                   7.2     1.5     1.3    5      5 C_INF
Kaged                     6.8     1.0     1.0    3 23, 25 F_INF_ARC
King Arthur's Night O     5.9     0.9     1.0    4     19 F_ALAN_ARC
Kissing the Buddha's      7.9     1.8     1.5    6     10 F_TAD_ARC
Klaustrophobia            6.4     1.1     1.3    6      1 S15_AGT_ARC
Knight Orc                7.2     1.4     1.1    2     15 C_I
L.U.D.I.T.E.              2.7     0.2     0.1    4        F_INF_ARC
Lancelot                  6.9     1.4     1.2    1        C_I
Land Beyond Picket Fe     4.8     1.2     1.2    1     10 F_I_ARC
LASH                      7.6     1.3     1.0    5     21 F_INF_ARC
Leather Goddesses         7.2     1.3     1.5   12      4 C_INF
Leaves                    3.4     0.2     0.8    1     14 F_ALAN_ARC
Legend Lives!             8.2     1.2     1.4    4      5 F_TAD_ARC
Lesson of the Tortois     6.9     1.3     1.4    5     14 F_TAD_ARC
Lethe Flow Phoenix        6.9     1.4     1.5    5      9 F_TAD_ARC
Letters From Home         7.0     0.6     1.2    2        F_INF_ARC
Life on Beal Street       5.4     1.3     0.1    3        F_TAD_ARC
Light: Shelby's Adden     7.5     1.5     1.3    6      9 S_TAD_ARC
Lightiania                1.9     0.2     0.4    1        F_INF_ARC
Lists and Lists           6.3     1.3     1.1    3     10 F_INF_ARC
Little Billy              1.1     0.4     0.0    1        F_I_ARC
Little Blue Men           8.2     1.4     1.5   10     17 F_INF_ARC
Lomalow                   4.6     1.0     0.6    3     19 F_INF_ARC
Losing Your Grip          8.5     1.4     1.4    6     14 S20_TAD_ARC
Lost New York             7.9     1.4     1.4    4 20, 26 S12_TAD_ARC
Lost Spellmaker           6.1     1.3     1.1    4     13 F_INF_ARC
Lunatix: Insanity Cir     5.6     1.2     1.0    3        F_I_ARC
Lurking Horror            7.2     1.3     1.4   16    1,3 C_INF
MacWesleyan / PC Univ     5.1     0.7     1.2    3        F_TAD_ARC
Madame L'Estrange...      5.1     1.2     0.7    1     13 F_INF_ARC
Magic Toyshop             5.2     1.1     1.1    5      7 F_INF_ARC                 4.5     0.5     0.5    1      3 S20_IBM_ARC
Maiden of the Moonlig     6.4     1.3     1.5    2     10 F_TAD_ARC
Masque of the Last...     4.7     1.1     0.8    1        F_INF_ARC
Masquerade                7.3     1.6     1.0    1     23 F_INF_ARC
Matter of Time            1.4     0.3     1.4    1     14 F_ALAN_ARC
Mercy                     7.3     1.4     1.2    6     12 F_INF_ARC
Metamorphoses             8.7     1.3     1.6    1     23 F_INF_ARC
Meteor...Sherbet          8.0     1.5     1.6    9 10, 12 F_INF_ARC
Mind Electric             5.2     0.6     0.9    4    7,8 F_INF_ARC
Mind Forever Voyaging     8.4     1.4     1.0   14   5,15 C_INF
Mindwheel                 8.5     1.6     1.5    1        C_I
Mission                   6.0     1.2     1.4    1     21 F_TAD_ARC
Moist                     6.4     1.3     1.1    5        F_TAD_ARC
Moment of Hope            5.0     1.3     0.3    3     19 F_TAD_ARC
Moonmist                  6.2     1.3     1.0   16      1 C_INF
Mop & Murder              5.0     0.9     1.0    2      5 F_AGT_ARC
Mother Loose              7.0     1.5     1.3    2     17 F_INF_ARC
Mulldoon Legacy           7.4     1.2     1.8    1     24 F_INF_ARC
Multidimen. Thief         5.6     0.5     1.3    6    2,9 S15_AGT_ARC
Muse                      7.9     1.5     1.2    4     17 F_INF_ARC
Music Education           3.7     1.0     0.7    3        F_INF_ARC
My Angel                  8.2     1.8     1.4    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Myopia                    6.1     1.3     0.6    2        F_AGT_ARC
Mystery House             4.1     0.3     0.7    1        F_AP_ARC
Nevermore                 7.2     1.5     1.4    1     23 F_INF_ARC
New Day                   6.6     1.4     1.1    4     13 F_INF_ARC
Night At Computer Cen     5.2     1.0     1.0    2        F_INF_ARC
Night at Museum Forev     4.2     0.3     1.0    4    7,8 F_TAD_ARC
Night of... Bunnies       6.6     1.0     1.4    1        I_INF_ARC
Nord and Bert             6.1     0.6     1.2    9      4 C_INF
Not Just A Game           6.9     1.0     1.3    1     20 F_INF_ARC
Not Just... Ballerina     5.3     0.8     0.9    3     20 F_INF_ARC
Obscene...Aardvarkbar     3.2     0.6     0.6    1        F_TAD_ARC
Odieus...Flingshot        3.3     0.4     0.7    2      5 F_INF_ARC
Of Forms Unknown          4.5     0.7     0.5    1     10 F_INF_ARC
Offensive Probing         4.2     0.6     0.9    1        F_INF_ARC
On The Farm               6.5     1.6     1.2    2     19 F_TAD_ARC
On The Other Side         2.2     0.0     0.0    1        F_I_ARC
Once and Future           6.9     1.6     1.5    2     16 F_TAD_ARC
One That Got Away         6.4     1.4     1.1    7    7,8 F_TAD_ARC
Only After Dark           4.6     0.8     0.6    4        F_INF_ARC
Oo-Topos                  5.7     0.2     1.0    1      9 C_AP_I_64
Outsided                  2.5     0.7     0.2    2        F_INF_ARC
Pass the Banana           2.9     0.8     0.5    3     19 F_INF_ARC
Path to Fortune           6.6     1.5     0.9    3      9 S_INF_ARC
Pawn                      6.3     1.1     1.3    2     12 C_MAG
Perilous Magic            6.0     1.1     1.3    2     21 F_INF_ARC
Perseus & Andromeda       3.5     0.4     0.9    2        64_INF_ARC
Persistence of Memory     6.2     1.2     1.1    1     17 F_HUG_ARC
Phlegm                    5.2     1.2     1.0    2     10 F_INF_ARC
Photopia                  7.4     1.5     0.7   27     17 F_INF_ARC
Phred Phontious...Piz     5.2     0.9     1.3    2     13 F_INF_ARC
Pickpocket                4.1     0.6     0.8    1        F_INF_ARC
Piece of Mind             6.3     1.3     1.4    1     10 F_INF_ARC
Pintown                   1.3     0.3     0.2    1        F_INF_ARC
Pirate's Cove             4.8     0.6     0.6    1        F_INF_ARC
Planet of Infinite Mi     6.8     1.1     1.3    1     23 F_TAD_ARC
Planetfall                7.3     1.6     1.4   13      4 C_INF
Plant                     7.3     1.2     1.5    4     17 F_TAD_ARC
Plundered Hearts          7.4     1.4     1.3   11      4 C_INF
Poor Zefron's Almanac     5.6     1.0     1.3    3     13 F_TAD_ARC
Portal                    8.0     1.7     0.2    3        C_I_A_AP_64
Prodly The Puffin         5.8     1.3     1.1    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Punk Points               6.4     1.4     1.3    1        F_INF_ARC
Purple                    5.6     0.9     1.0    1     17 F_INF_ARC
Pyramids of Mars          5.8     1.2     1.1    2     24 AGT_ARC
Quarterstaff              6.1     1.3     0.6    1      9 C_M
Ralph                     7.1     1.6     1.2    3 10, 25 F_INF_ARC
Rameses                   8.0     1.6     0.4    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Rematch                   7.9     1.5     1.6    1     22 F_TAD_ARC
Remembrance               2.7     0.8     0.2    3        F_ARC
Reruns                    5.2     1.2     1.2    1        AGT_ARC
Research Dig              4.8     1.1     0.8    2     17 F_INF_ARC
Revenger                  4.2     0.8     0.5    1        F_INF_ARC
Reverberations            5.6     1.3     1.1    1     10 F_INF_ARC
Ritual of Purificatio     7.0     1.6     1.1    4     17 F_ARC
Saied                     4.6     1.0     0.2    1     15 F_INF_ARC
Sanity Claus              7.5     0.3     0.6    2      1 S10_AGT_ARC
Save Princeton            5.6     1.0     1.3    5      8 S10_TAD_ARC
Scapeghost                8.1     1.7     1.5    1      6 C_I
Sea Of Night              5.7     1.3     1.1    2        F_TAD_ARC
Seastalker                5.2     1.1     0.8   11      4 C_INF
Shade                     8.5     0.7     1.0    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Shades of Grey            7.8     1.3     1.3    6   2, 8 F_AGT_ARC
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_ARC
Shogun                    7.0     1.2     0.6    2      4 C_INF
Shrapnel                  7.1     1.3     0.5    6     20 F_INF_ARC
Simple Theft              5.8     1.3     0.8    1     20 F_TAD_ARC
Sins against Mimesis      5.5     1.0     1.2    3     13 F_INF_ARC
Sir Ramic... Gorilla      6.0     1.2     1.2    2      6 F_AGT_ARC
Six Stories               6.3     1.0     1.2    4     19 F_TAD_ARC
Skyranch                  2.8     0.5     0.7    1     20 F_I_ARC
Small World               6.2     1.3     1.1    3 10, 24 F_TAD_ARC
So Far                    8.0     1.1     1.4   13 12, 25 F_INF_ARC
Sorcerer                  7.2     0.6     1.6    7   2,15 C_INF
Sound of... Clapping      7.1     1.3     1.3    8      5 F_ADVSYS_ARC
South American Trek       0.9     0.2     0.5    1      5 F_IBM_ARC
Space Aliens...Cardig     1.5     0.4     0.3    6   3, 4 S60_AGT_ARC
Space under Window        7.1     0.9     0.4    6     12 F_INF_ARC
Spacestation              5.6     0.7     1.1    1        F_INF_ARC
Spellbreaker              8.5     1.2     1.8    8   2,15 C_INF
Spellcasting 101          7.4     1.1     1.5    4        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            8.6     1.7     1.7   18     14 F_INF_ARC
SpiritWrak                6.7     1.2     1.3    6     22 F_INF_ARC
Spodgeville...Wossnam     4.3     0.7     1.2    2        F_INF_ARC
Spur                      7.1     1.3     1.1    2      9 F_HUG_ARC
Spyder and Jeb            6.2     1.1     1.4    1        F_TAD_ARC
Starcross                 6.6     1.0     1.2    7      1 C_INF
Stargazer                 5.4     1.1     1.1    1        F_INF_ARC
Stationfall               7.7     1.6     1.5    7      5 C_INF
Statuette                 3.7     0.0     0.1    1        F_INF_ARC
Stiffy                    0.6     0.0     0.0    1        F_INF_ARC
Stiffy - MiSTing          4.4     1.0     0.4    6        F_INF_ARC
Stone Cell                6.0     1.1     1.0    3     19 F_TAD_ARC
Stranded                  6.4     1.4     1.5    1        F_TAD_ARC
Strange Odyssey           4.0     0.0     1.0    1
Strangers In The Nigh     3.2     0.7     0.6    2        F_TAD_ARC
Stupid Kittens            2.9     0.6     0.4    2        F_INF_ARC
Sunset Over Savannah      8.7     1.7     1.4    6     13 F_TAD_ARC
Suspect                   6.2     1.3     1.1    8      4 C_INF
Suspended                 7.7     1.5     1.4    8      8 C_INF
Sylenius Mysterium        4.7     1.2     1.1    1     13 F_INF_ARC
Symetry                   1.1     0.1     0.1    2        F_INF_ARC
Tapestry                  7.1     1.4     0.9    5 10, 14 F_INF_ARC
Tempest                   5.3     1.4     0.6    3     13 F_INF_ARC
Temple of the Orc Mag     4.5     0.1     0.8    2        F_TAD_ARC
Terror of Mecha Godzi     4.6     0.8     0.6    1     26 S10_I_ARC
Textfire Golf             7.1     1.3     0.4    2     25 F_INF_ARC
Theatre                   7.0     1.1     1.3   13      6 F_INF_ARC
Thorfinn's Realm          3.5     0.5     0.7    2        F_INF_ARC
Threading the Labyrin     1.9     0.0     0.0    1        F_TAD_ARC
Time: All Things...       3.9     1.2     0.9    2 11, 12 F_INF_ARC
TimeQuest                 8.0     1.2     1.6    4        C_I
TimeSquared               4.3     1.1     1.1    1        F_AGT_ARC
Toonesia                  5.8     1.1     1.1    6  7, 21 F_TAD_ARC
Tossed into Space         3.9     0.2     0.6    1      4 F_AGT_ARC
Town Dragon               3.9     0.8     0.3    2 14, 22 F_INF_ARC
Transfer                  7.6     1.0     1.6    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Trapped...Dilly           5.1     0.1     1.1    2     17 F_INF_ARC
Travels in Land of Er     6.1     1.2     1.5    2     14 F_INF_ARC
Trinity                   8.7     1.4     1.7   18    1,2 C_INF
Trip                      5.4     1.2     1.1    2        F_TAD_ARC
Tryst of Fate             7.1     1.4     1.3    1     11 F_INF_ARC
Tube Trouble              4.2     0.8     0.7    2      8 F_INF_ARC
Tyler's Great Cube Ga     5.8     0.0     1.7    1        S_TAD_ARC
Uncle Zebulon's Will      7.3     1.0     1.5   12      8 F_TAD_ARC
Underoos That Ate NY      4.5     0.6     0.9    3        F_TAD_INF_ARC
Undertow                  5.4     1.3     0.9    3      8 F_TAD_ARC
Undo                      2.9     0.5     0.7    4      7 F_TAD_ARC
Unholy Grail              6.0     1.2     1.2    1     13 F_I_ARC
Unnkulian One-Half        6.7     1.2     1.5    9      1 F_TAD_ARC
Unnkulian Unventure 1     6.9     1.2     1.5    8    1,2 F_TAD_ARC
Unnkulian Unventure 2     7.2     1.2     1.5    5      1 F_TAD_ARC
Unnkulian Zero            8.4     0.7     0.8    21,12,14 F_TAD_ARC
Varicella                 8.2     1.6     1.5    9     18 F_INF_ARC
Veritas                   6.6     1.3     1.4    4        S10_TAD_ARC
Vindaloo                  2.9     0.0     0.4    1        F_INF_ARC
VirtuaTech                6.1     0.0     1.2    1        F_TAD_ARC
VOID: Corporation         3.2     0.4     0.8    1        F_AGT_ARC
Water Bird                5.0     1.1     0.8    1        F_TAD_ARC
Waystation                5.5     0.7     1.0    4      9 F_TAD_ARC
Weapon                    6.8     1.1     1.4    1     26 F_INF_ARC
Wearing the Claw          6.5     1.2     1.2    7 10, 18 F_INF_ARC
Wedding                   7.4     1.6     1.3    3     12 F_INF_ARC
What-IF?                  1.6     0.0     0.0    2        F_INF_ARC
Where Evil Dwells         5.1     0.8     1.1    1        F_INF_ARC
Winchester's Nightmar     6.9     1.5     0.5    1     22 F_INF_ARC
Winter Wonderland         7.6     1.3     1.2    7     19 F_INF_ARC
Wishbringer               7.6     1.3     1.3   16    5,6 C_INF
Withdrawal Symptoms       4.4     0.5     0.7    1        F_INF_ARC
Witness                   6.7     1.5     1.2   10  1,3,9 C_INF
Wizard of Akyrz           3.2     0.3     0.8    1
Wonderland                6.4     1.4     1.1    3        C_MAG
World                     6.5     0.6     1.3    2      4 F_I_ETC_ARC
Worlds Apart              7.8     1.7     1.4    9     21 F_TAD_ARC
YAGWAD                    6.7     1.1     1.3    2     23 F_INF_ARC
Your Choice               5.5     0.0     1.1    1        F_TAD_ARC
Zanfar                    2.6     0.2     0.4    1      8 F_AGT_ARC
Zero Sum Game             7.2     1.5     1.5    3     13 F_INF_ARC
Zombie!                   5.2     1.2     1.1    2     13 F_TAD_ARC
Zork 0                    6.3     1.0     1.5   10     14 C_INF
Zork 1                    6.1     0.8     1.4   24  1, 12 C_INF
Zork 2                    6.4     1.0     1.5   13  1, 12 C_INF
Zork 3                    6.5     0.9     1.4    8  1, 12 C_INF
Zork Undisc. Undergr.     5.9     0.9     1.1    3     14 F_INF_ARC
Zork: A Troll's Eye V     4.4     0.6     0.1    3     14 F_INF_ARC
Zuni Doll                 4.0     0.6     0.9    2     14 F_INF_ARC


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.

A less-than-impressive 32 ratings have been submitted since the last
issue, leaving me to wonder aloud whether the scoreboard has outlived
its usefulness. Movement in the top ten has been subtle, but extant:
Anchorhead slips two slots to number 4, while Spider and Web has gotten
a leg up on Gateway and Losing Your Grip. 

1.  Gateway 2: Homeworld  9.0   6 votes
2.  Sunset over Savannah  8.7   6 votes
3.  Trinity               8.7   18 votes
4.  Anchorhead            8.7   28 votes
5.  Spider and Web        8.6   18 votes
6.  Gateway               8.6   7 votes
7.  Losing Your Grip      8.5   6 votes
8.  Spellbreaker          8.5   8 votes
9.  Babel                 8.4   10 votes
10. Mind Forever Voyaging 8.4   14 votes

As always, please remember that the scoreboard is only as good as the
contributions it receives. 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 the IF Archive and from
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. Any and all text-based
games are eligible for review, though if a game has been reviewed three
times in SPAG, no further reviews of it will be accepted unless they are
extraordinarily original and/or insightful. SPAG reviews should be free
of spoilers.

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.

For a more detailed version of this policy, see the SPAG FAQ at


           Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!

Click here for a printable, plain text version of this issue.