___. .___ _ ___. / _| | \ / \ / ._| \ \ | o_/ | | | |_. .\ \ | | | o | | | | The |___/ociety for the |_|romotion of |_|_|dventure \___|ames ISSUE #28 Edited by Paul O'Brian (obrian SP@G colorado.edu) March 20, 2002 SPAG Website: http://www.sparkynet.com/spag SPAG #28 is copyright (c) 2002 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 Dan Shiovitz REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE ----------------------------------------------------- Akron Depravity Bites Fallacy of Dawn Fine-Tuned Lock & Key The Mulldoon Murders Pytho's Mask Stranded Vacation Gone Awry SPECIFICS ========= Lock & Key EDITORIAL------------------------------------------------------------------ Something's been happening lately on the int-fiction newsgroups, and (to a lesser degree) on ifMUD -- there's been a sudden and sizable infusion of new blood. This happens from time to time in most communities, and the smaller and more insular the community is to begin with, the greater the shock when all those new voices start jumping into the fray. Newbies, as everybody knows, can be a real pain in the neck. They ask questions that have already been answered over and over again. They lack the shared history that makes for convenient shortcuts in conversation, and thus need to have those shortcuts (and their attendant history) explained all over again. Some even come in loudly proclaiming that they've got The Right Way to do things, and that all those old veterans are just so stuck in their ways that they can't hear The Truth. Still, newbies are also what keeps a community living, growing, and thriving. Everybody wants to bring new people into the fold, and having them there reinvigorates topics that still have more mileage in them. In fact, sometimes re-explaining community history and terminology can even help veterans see those things in a new light. Yeah, I know -- all of the above has been repeated so often that by now it's achieved platitude status. We all know it, and in general I've seen newbies get gentler, friendlier handling in r*if than most anywhere else on the Internet. This time, though, something else seems to be happening that has me a little concerned. Somehow, along with our jumbo shipment of newbies, we got a greater-than-usual ratio of trolls, kooks, and plain ol' jerks. The kooks and jerks happen to be new, but that doesn't make them any kookier or jerkier than the ones we already know. They do tend to draw us out more, though, because we haven't learned to blow them off yet. After that, two things tend to happen, both undesirable. The first is that we see massive threads that consist overwhelmingly of arguing, often escalating into a sort of Mutual Assured Destruction of nastiness. This sort of thing drives away newbies and veterans alike -- nobody (aside from trolls) enjoys taking in endless streams of vitriol. The other bad result is that because it's so easy to lump new voices in together (seeing as we don't know them well enough yet to differentiate), innocent and worthwhile newbies can get ignored, or worse yet, blasted with the emotion generated by one of the jerks. It's fairly self-evident how this is a bad thing -- not only does it create and perpetuate bad reputations of elitism and insularity, it also robs us of the contributions those new people might have made, had they not been so rebuffed. All this sounds like I'm winding up to pitch a lot of advice, but I hardly think that I'm the guy with the solution to all these problems. Instead, I'll just share my approach. First, for the trolls and jerks: ignore, ignore, ignore. I think unresponsiveness is like the antibiotic for a troll infection -- ignore for 30 days, and if symptoms persist, ignore for another 30 days. Second, for the rest of the new: I take a deep breath, and if (and only if) I have a productive response to their ideas, I post it in what I hope is a welcoming and gentle manner. More often than not, this means I don't post much, but that's OK -- I'd rather post nothing than get into a fight. All this gets a little stickier when it becomes difficult to tell the difference between a troll and a genuine newbie who may just be confused, a poor communicator, or have a genuinely new take on things. I cringe at some of my early postings, some of which were very clueless and may even have come across as unfriendly. I was given the benefit of the doubt, and I try to extend the same courtesy to the newbies of today. It's something we could all use a reminder on every now and then. Myself included. NEWS ---------------------------------------------------------------------- AND THE XYZZY GOES TO... This year's XYZZY Awards ceremony was punctuated by several hilarious moments, including Nick Montfort's reprise of the amazing alliterative abilities he displayed in last year's ceremony. However, in the end, the XYZZYs are all about the games, and as usual, the crop of winners is quite impressive. Six games and five authors were honored, and for the first time since the awards' 1996 inception, the comp winner and the XYZZY Best game are one and the same. Below is a full list of the winners: * Best game: All Roads, by Jon Ingold * Best writing: Fallacy of Dawn, by Robb Sherwin * Best story: All Roads, by Jon Ingold * Best setting: All Roads, by Jon Ingold * Best puzzles: First Things First, by J. Robinson Wheeler * Best NPCs: Pytho's Mask, by Emily Short * Best individual puzzle: The Gostak (deciphering the language), by Carl Muckenhoupt * Best individual NPC: Yahoweh Porn in Fallacy of Dawn, by Robb Sherwin * Best individual PC: Tale of the Kissing Bandit, by J. Robinson Wheeler * Best use of medium: The Gostak, by Carl Muckenhoupt NEW GAMES Probably the biggest news in this issue's crop of new games is The Mulldoon Murders, Jon Ingold's puzzly sequel to his really REALLY puzzly 1999 game The Mulldoon Legacy. The game is well-timed, coming on the heels of Ingold's Comp and XYZZY wins, and it gets its SPAG reviews in this issue. There were lots of other nifty things as well, both small and... not so small. * Flamel (in Italian) * Photopia 2.0 (converted to Glulx, visual effects greatly enhanced) * Mulldoon II: The Mulldoon Murders by Jon Ingold * Scavenger Hunt by Gilles Duchesne * RomanceNovelComp games * There Was A Certain Man Named Bill by Dinky * House on Haunted Hill by James Wilkinson * IFLibrary Competition games by various authors * The Ritual by Kodrik HANDHELD HUGO -- HOORAY! For several years now, people have been able to enjoy IF on their Palm Pilots (and other handhelds that use the PalmOS.) The only problem has been that only z-code games were playable on a handheld. That situation has been officially remedied by Kent Tessman's release of a Hugo runtime for the Palm Pilot (Note: the program requires PalmOS 3.5); now you can hold games like Spur, Fallacy of Dawn, and Will The Real Marjorie Hopkirk Please Stand Up? in the Palm of your hand. The runtime is at http://www.plover.net/~hugo/palm/hugov30_palm.zip, and pre-converted games are at http://www.plover.net/~hugo/palm/pdb.zip. Now if only somebody would overcome that stack space limitation and create a TADS runtime for the Palm... DANCING ON THE JETTY Until then, however, we have an equally amazing thing: a Java applet that runs TADS games. This technological triumph is called Jetty, and has been created by Dan Shiovitz, the subject of this issue's SPAG Interview. Jetty is available, along with some snazzy demonstrations, at http://www.drizzle.com/~dans/if/jetty/, and will no doubt soon be showing up on the home pages of TADS authors far and wide. BEHIND THE PROMPTS Okay, so just who *were* Thorn's Companions, and what did they do? What happened to Thorn? What does the Dragon Gem have to do with all this? If these questions have been bothering you ever since playing Sean Barrett's excellent comp entry "Heroes", you're about to get your answers. Barrett has posted two documents on his website, one of which explains some of the backstory behind the game's fictional scenario, while the other is a design journal that provides some nifty insights into the author's creative process. The whole shebang is available at http://nothings.org/games/if/heroes/. UNCLE SPAG WANTS YOU I'm very pleased to see several reviewers making their SPAG debuts in this issue, with some old standbys chipping in too, but it's not the sort of thing that's as reliable as death, taxes, copyright threads, and so forth. If you've enjoyed what SPAG has given you, I urge you to give something back by contributing a review of your own. As always, I've got a list of 10 suggestions ready to spur you on: SPAG 10 MOST WANTED LIST ======================== 1. Bad Machine 2. First Things First 3. Heroine's Mantle 4. Hollywood Hijinx 5. IFLibraryComp games (any, some, or all!) 6. Pick Up The Phone Booth And Aisle 7. The Ritual 8. RomanceNovelComp games (any, some, or all!) 9. Tale of the Kissing Bandit 10. Voices THE SPAG INTERVIEW--------------------------------------------------------- The subject of this issue's SPAG Interview has been a fixture in the IF community for many years now, and his contributions have been many and varied. In addition to providing consistent insight and humor on the newsgroups and ifMUD, he's also authored Lethe Flow Phoenix (reviewed in SPAG #9), Bad Machine, and a number of SpeedIF games, including "You Are A CHEF!", the only SpeedIF game ever to be nominated for an XYZZY Award. On top of this, he's written excellent reviews, contributed TADS library modules, and now has achieved the monumental: a Java TADS applet that also happens to be the first TADS interpreter created from the ground up by someone *other* than Mike Roberts. I'm proud to present The SPAG Interview with Dan Shiovitz. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ SPAG: First off, the usual opening question: Could you tell us a little about yourself? Who are you, what do you do for a living, and so forth? DS: I'm probably a typical r*if person in that I'm in my mid-twenties and work as a programmer. In specific, I live in Seattle and work for Infospace in the search group, which covers metacrawler.com, dogpile.com, and various other search/directory things people may even have heard of (e.g., the AOL white pages). I have been doing IF related things since '92, I blush to admit. Digging around on google, it looks like my first post is here: http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=1992Nov18.020500.15752%40u.washington.edu which says "hey, where can I find ALAN?" SPAG: Looking at some of those early posts, I'm reminded that you used to have "The Grim Reaper" in your .sig. What's the story behind that? DS: Well, the reason I'm no longer using it is partly because I kept getting email saying "Are you the famous phreaker of the same nym?" and I had to embarassedly write back "Uh, no, sorry, I'm just this guy," but mostly because I am no longer cool enough to carry it off. Anyway, I poked around with ALAN for a while and then switched to TADS as the result of a bet with a friend of mine, and a couple years later wrote an actual game. SPAG: Right, "Lethe Flow Phoenix". That game's almost seven years old now. How do you feel about it today? DS: It's not bad. I mean, it's no Galatea, but I'm not unhappy with it. If I had it all to do over again I'd probably make the credits page shorter. And some other things happened after I wrote that and eventually I wrote the thing we are technically talking about. SPAG: I was just getting to that. Okay, so let's talk about Jetty. Why did you decide to undertake such a daunting project? Any anecdotes to share about the adventure of writing a TADS interpreter from scratch? DS: For years when people had said "I see there's txd -- is there a TADS disassembler?" I had always said "no, the source is out there but it's impossible to actually understand it and there's no other spec or documentation of the VM format". So a year ago I was saying that to someone for the umpteenth time, and then later it occurred to me that it was just *practically* impossible, not *theoretically* impossible. And of course from there to doing it is a short step (shades of the invention of the Heart of Gold, I guess). And after I wrote the decompiler, well, that was the undocumented part, and there was plenty of documentation for the parser and so on, and I wanted an applet and if I didn't write it who would? So there you go. I don't have any amusing stories as such, since mostly it was just, you know, coding. The main lesson learned is something I should have known already: no matter how well you think it works, when you actually start testing on real data (or games, in this case) you will discover it is totally broken. Losing Your Grip was the bane of my existence for a couple tense weeks, but without the source code that Stephen thoughtfully uploaded, Jetty would be even farther from being bug-free. SPAG: Speaking of "tt" (that decompiler), there are some TADS games I'd love to crack open, but I don't see tt in the IF Archive. Are you planning to make it available, and if not, why not? DS: Yeah, um, this is one of those things that I've been going back and forth on. Obviously some TADS authors have a certain amount invested in not having a decompiler out there, or at least it's a somewhat different experience playing a game when you can (say) grab the text out whenever you get stuck on a puzzle. In practice I plan on putting it out when I get it cleaned up a little more, as it's not really ready for use by anyone besides me yet. That cleanup's been stalled because there doesn't seem to be much demand for the program, but I do intend to finish eventually. SPAG: While I was on the Jetty web page, I played a bit of Bad Machine, and it freaked out my head all over again. What inspired that game? How do you feel about the way it's been received? DS: I got fairly lucky with this one, in the sense that the idea arrived more or less fully-formed and all that was left was (the tedious part) execution. More specifically I am pretty sure this article in the Onion, "Ask A Worker Bee" (which I would provide a link to, but it seems gone, so you'll just have to trust me) [It's available in the book "The Onion's Finest News Reporting, Volume 1" --Paul], was directly inspirational. Beyond that, well, IF as a medium offers a number of interesting advantages over static fiction. People are always mentioning 'complicity' as one of those but I don't find that very compelling -- the complicity is generally forced because if you don't go along, there's no game. But what you can do without forcing is provide the player a new *perspective*. So this was partly an attempt to give as different a perspective as possible while not making the game unplayable. I hope I found some kind of workable middle ground there. SPAG: You've done a number of SpeedIF pieces, including the only one ever to be nominated for an XYZZY award. What is it about the form that appeals to you? DS: Well, it's short, see. In theory this means that you can get out a solid idea and it's out there and bam you have a game without working on it for months. And this is very satisfying in some ways, particularly when you're thinking "man, I'm totally incapable of writing IF". SPAG: What was it like working on "Pick Up The Phone Booth And Aisle," the game which may have the largest number of co-authors in IF history? DS: Easiest IF I ever wrote part of; I vote next time we do a Curses-sized IF game with two hundred authors. SPAG: As an IF veteran, what's your assessment of the current state of interactive fiction? DS: Pretty cranky, I'm afraid. Or, rather, what it seems to me is that people are breaking new ground and making exciting new kinds of games, and at the same time new people are picking up the hobby, both of which are great individually but in practice what this seems to create is a growing gap between people just getting into developing IF and people who have been around for a while. Hence endless debates on topics we've all seen before: which language is better, why don't we do it all in C++, I have a great new authoring system that requires no programming wait where are you all going, etc. And that's fine and is something I expect, but somehow that seems to be a majority of the discussion nowadays, so enh. I guess people are putting that creativity into writing games, which is fine in a sense since we get great games out of it, but I am also interested in theory-as-theory and I'm sorry we don't see more of it. I personally think that a moderated group would encourage more of the kind of discussion I'm interested in, but there doesn't seem to be the broad base of support necessary to make that happen, so we'll just have to wait and see what happens. SPAG: Finally, another nickname question. Last year, Stephen Granade revealed that his ifMUD nickname "Sargent" grew from his initials, SRG. I've already tried that with "DS", though, and I don't get anywhere close to "inky." So out with it: why are you called "inky"? DS: It would be a good closer to the interview if I could reveal that I've been living under an assumed name all this time and my initials are actually "INK" or something, but all I can do is explain that everyone else in my immediate family has a name that ends in -y, and ditto for the dog, the cat, and the turtle, so when I was picking something short and snappy for an IRC nick, "inky" seemed like a reasonable choice. And it stuck so I stuck with it. And there we are. If anyone has read down this far, by the way, I should mention there is a new release of Jetty, version 1.1, on my page, which has a scrollbar and some additional font & color support, so if you downloaded an earlier version you may want to check this one out as an update. http://www.drizzle.com/~dans/if/jetty/ 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 AVAILABILITY: LTOI 2 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: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/magazines/SPAG/ and at http://www.sparkynet.com/spag REVIEWS ------------------------------------------------------------------- FROM: J. Michael Bottorff (pika_163 SP@G yahoo.com) TITLE: Akron AUTHOR: Markus Kolic EMAIL: markusrtk SP@G golden.net DATE: 2000 PARSER: Below Average SUPPORTS/PLATFORM: ADRIFT AVAILABILITY: Freeware, IF Archive URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/adrift/akron.taf VERSION: 0.1 We've all seen it in many games, especially RPGs. Your character wakes up and has no idea who he or she is. Amnesia sets in. In "Akron", this is also true. However, when your character wakes up, he's in -- surprise! -- Akron, Ohio. It's where you live, you remember that much. And so you tromp all over Akron (or a certain part of it at least, because I don't think it's really that small) trying to search for who you are. So far so serious. However, when you stumble onto a cornfield, you get this description: You have blundered into a cornfield. Oh my. It looks like this is another one of those annoying mazes that the programmer loves so much. Well, let me give you a little hint - just go NORTH and you'll be out of the maze! You see, I, the computer, have changed this game JUST FOR YOU! Or, I can - oh no. The programmer's coming. AIEEEEEEEEEEEEE... The rest of the game follows suit, of course. In fact, the rest of the game is even *wackier*. (I would give you an example, but that would be spoiling.) The NPC's in this game are almost lifeless. The only one I could strike up a conversation with, was the cop, and that was because he was a clue to the game. Also, the game bugs are few, but drastic (for example, you can't pick up the library card). Some parts of "Akron" were endearing, others just irritating and mind-boggling. I didn't think this game was very good, but nor very bad. My advice: Pick it up if you are interested. If you like it, good. If not, just get rid of it. It's not going to be everyone's cup of meat. PLOT: A non-structured plot (0.5) ATMOSPHERE: Good, Ohio-ish (1.2) WRITING: Insanity shines through (0.8) GAMEPLAY: A lot of walking (0.9) VARIETY: Lots of variety (1.3) OVERALL: 4.7 CHARACTERS: Few, but lifeless (0.7) PUZZLES: Completed with the right words (0.8) DIFFICULTY: Easy -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- [We've got a few more reviews from Stas Starkov in this issue, but this time around he's enlisted the services of Valentine Kopteltsev to help him edit his English into a bit more understandable form. Consequently, I've changed far less than in previous issues. --Paul] From: Stas Starkov
NAME: Depravity Bites AUTHOR: samjones EMAIL: samanthamisunderstood SP@G hotmail.com DATE: 2002 PARSER: TADS standard SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/tads/depravityBITES.zip VERSION: 1.4 My poor knowledge of English has played an evil joke on me. While searching the IF-archive TADS games directory, I found a file, which was quite large (so, I expected that it wasn't one of those tiny two-room games), and released very recently. Thus, I had the bad luck to download "Depravity Bites". Later, I checked what the word "depravity" meant. Ahem... I wish I hadn't seen the game. In short: this game is about perversity. One of the most decent paragraphs in the game reads: Reaching up gingerly you rub circles around both your nipples, tweaking them slightly to prepare them for the pegs. Then you take a finger full of flesh just over the left nipple and apply the strong peg. At first you don't feel anything but then the sting kicks in. A sudden flash of discomfort strikes and your first reaction is to remove the clip, but that would defeat the object. As the second peg snaps its teeth into the plumped flesh of your right nipple you feel the full sting of both pegs take effect. Not a dull pain, but a constant, high-pitched tingle, making you think to yourself again and again, that you should take these off because they hurt. But you don't. The game explores the darkest corners of homosexuality, sadism, and masochism. If you think that such a mix is just for you, you can try it. *Shudder* Technically, the game is also less than impressive: "guess the verb" problems, bugs, juvenile and very stupid humor, dull room descriptions. And did I mention tons of dirt pouring from the game's lines? How did I find out so much about the game, though I hadn't the nerve to finish it? Well, I had a look at the source file, which was enclosed with the game package. It's amazing how low human beings can demean themselves. I fear that tonight I'll experience horrible sexual nightmares. Damn you, "samjones". I don't want to spend any more of your and my time on this crashing deviancy. Thus, my final word is: if you're not a sadomasochist, don't even try to download the game. "Depravity Bites" shows very clearly why such games like "Stiffy Makane: The Undiscovered Country" -- an evil parody on AIF (Adult IF) games -- are still being written. Compared to "Depravity Bites", "SM: TUC" is a Christmas story. Now I'm going to take a shower, and hope that my review won't be taken as an advertisement for pornography. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Duncan Stevens TITLE: Fallacy of Dawn AUTHOR: Robb Sherwin E-MAIL: beaver SP@G zombieworld.com DATE: 2001 PARSER: Hugo standard SUPPORTS: Hugo interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive) URL: ftp://ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/hugo/dawn.zip VERSION: 1.02 One of the more interesting products of the revolution that has taken place in IF over the past few years is Robb Sherwin. Okay, technically, Robb (presumably) preexisted the revolution, but the style of his games didn't, to my knowledge, and somehow I can't see anything he has written getting created in 1996. What do I mean? Simply, Robb pretty clearly doesn't write his game for the puzzles, and players familiar with Robb, I'm guessing, don't play them for the puzzles either; rather, it's the writing -- the setting, the dialogue, the turns of phrase that he scatters around -- that makes his games worth playing, and everything else is an afterthought at best. Fallacy of Dawn, Robb's latest and longest, devotes more attention to puzzles than had his previous efforts (Chicks Dig Jerks and Crimson Spring), but the effect is still much the same. What's going on in Fallacy of Dawn? Well, it seems you live in a dystopian city gone even worse and work in a retro video arcade -- your life's passion appears to be '80s video games -- but you've been the victim of a mugging that's left you with brain damage of sorts, and you really need to scrape up cash for surgery. From there, the story careers wildly here and there for a while, without much intervention from you; your character has a habit of making important decisions during noninteractive sequences. The upshot, however, is that you eventually find yourself with two companions and a weapon, ready to accumulate some money by any means necessary... ...and that's where things pretty much stop, plot-wise, for most of the game. As in, you wander around performing random tasks that give you money, and eventually you have enough, and the plot picks up again. The middle section is more than half of the game, however, and it amounts to a long meander. Worse, it's easy to run out of things to do and end up wandering hither and yon asking for spare change. Not literally, but close enough; it's not exactly interesting stuff. In that respect, Fallacy of Dawn is a step back from Crimson Spring -- there's more to the plot here than there was there, but there at least the plot kept moving rather than going nowhere for most of the game. It's not even accurate to call the digression a segue into puzzle IF rather than plot IF, as there aren't really any puzzles to speak of; the gameplay usually amounts to doing something extremely obvious, or following someone's instructions very closely, in order to earn money (or, alternatively, engaging in randomized combat, which hasn't been anyone's idea of a good IF puzzle since 1982). Nor, even, is there character development to speak of in this section -- your two companions tag along and say very little. The raison d'etre, as far as I can tell, is to force you to experience the setting in all its grimy glory, and that it does, ad nauseam. But as gameplay, this is roughly on the level of a Towers of Hanoi puzzle. There are more problems. I mentioned above that Fallacy of Dawn devotes more attention to puzzles than did Robb's previous games, but by that I mean "has more of them," not "has more creative ones." There's the puzzle where a vital item is under one of a whole bunch of objects, but of course you have no way of knowing which one, nor even that anything is under anything. (There's one thoroughly oblique hint, as far as I can tell, but that's it.) There's the puzzle that you solve by doing something over and over again, causing a certain NPC to (for reasons that aren't wholly clear) act like a loon. There's the puzzle that you solve when you're entirely incapacitated because the game, for no particular reason, lets you do one thing. There are the "puzzles" that amount to "try randomized combat, then try it again until you happen to kill the bad guy." And don't even get me started on the ending sequence, which requires insanely exact syntax under a tight time limit. Nor are the problems only design-related. There's more unimplemented scenery in Fallacy of Dawn than you can shake a stick at, and fewer synonyms than you can, um, fail to shake a stick at. The graphics regularly encroach on the text, and the gauges that are supposed to represent your health and your need for a drug fix (really) are represented by some strange high-ASCII characters. Toward the end, the game appears to forget about compass directions and require an awful lot of ENTER DOOR and such, for no discernible reason. And it's pretty easy to run out of things to say (via conversation menus) to the various NPCs, even when they really should have more on their minds; to some extent, I suppose, that's par for the course with menus, but when, for example, you have a romantic interlude -- at least, I think that's what it was supposed to be -- you really should be able to say more than one or two things. But the writing -- ah, the writing. It's probably fair to say that Robb's writing is an acquired taste, and it's not one that I've wholly acquired -- the gore, for example, is just a tad too lovingly described -- but I like it enough that I stick around to the end of a game that doesn't have much more to offer than good writing. (Well, okay, there's a plot, and outside sources had given me reason to believe that the story would start up again eventually, but I doubt that would have been enough.) Bizarre digressions abound -- this one, for instance, from the opening text, in the middle of the description of the attack: It wasn't a very good showing for either my face or my TLA, in fact it brought my knowledge of Vegas handicapping factoids up to two: you always bet against the Bills in the Super Bowl, and you always take a vapourizer and a pair of fists against my face and my personal property. Even if you're getting the points, natch. Funny one-liners abound (when you realized you failed to follow up on a romantic opportunity, "How on earth did I mess this up? I need to stop leaving the house without a personal social calendar assistant"), as do memorable images (apartments in a certain complex "feel, when you're in them, as well-crafted and sturdy as a margarine-slathered house of playing cards"). And it's not a matter of an occasional humorous tidbit -- there are amusing or memorably loopy lines in virtually every paragraph. (Pizza that's getting cold "has a half-life of skittish californium.") Fallacy of Dawn won its Best Writing XYZZY for a reason; with a less skilled writer at the controls, this would be a fourth-rate game, and I probably wouldn't have given it more than ten minutes. As it is, well, it's worth experiencing, though I found myself wishing for a text-dump utility more than once. The plot is second-rate sci-fi at best, but even second-rate sci-fi is worth playing along with if it's memorably written. I can't imagine what sort of IF Robb would write if he turned his attention to some of the basic principles of game design, and I wouldn't say that his writing makes up for every sin -- I wouldn't recommend Chicks Dig Jerks to anyone. As much as Fallacy of Dawn does wrong, however, I can't in good conscience refuse to give it a chuckle and a thumbs-up. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Jacqueline A. Lott NAME: Fine-Tuned AUTHOR: Dionysius Porcupine (a.k.a. Dennis Jerz) EMAIL: jerzdg SP@G uwec.edu DATE: 2001-2002 PARSER: Inform Standard SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive) URL: http://www.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/FineTune.z8 VERSION: Release 5 "The life of a daredevil adventurer leaves precious little time for rest. There's always wickedness to thwart, innocence to preserve, and honour to uphold." ...and with that short yet intriguing introduction, you find yourself in the shoes (and goggles) of Troy Sterling, a man well ahead of his time. Fine-Tuned, in my opinion, is one of the better light-hearted games to come along in quite awhile. Though early releases of the game were known for being buggy, release five seems to be free of such distractions, and is well worth setting aside an evening or two to enjoy. If you're familiar with earlier versions of Fine-Tuned, release five has some extra features as well, including enhanced interaction between the characters, different solutions to some of the puzzles, a modified point system, and additional implementation in certain areas of the game. Dennis Jerz, writing as Dionysius Porcupine (a pen name which is explained in the credits of the game), does a fantastic job of creating an enjoyable game world, filled with memorable NPCs. As a player, I normally don't enjoy games which are heavily scripted; I don't feel like I'm playing the game so much as being dragged along through the plot. Fortunately, Fine-Tuned is written in such a playful and imaginative way that the player tends to forget that their fate is pre-determined. Multiple solutions exist for some of the puzzles, and though each solution garners the same number of points, the play differs somewhat, giving the game replay value. Instead of arbitrarily forcing the plot, chapters serve to break up the puzzles, allowing the player to focus on the right objects in the right order, without that terrible "Led By The Hand" feeling. The chapters also give you the opportunity to explore other characters in the game aside from Troy Sterling, which makes for interesting twists on how different characters think, feel, and interact with the situations that are presented to them. I could go on and on about who will enjoy this game. In short, I think anyone with a sense of humor will have a fantastic time. If you've played a variety of other IF titles, or are familiar with some of the current authors of IF, you'll enjoy it a bit more. Beyond that, I found that Jerz pulls in varied bits and pieces of real life from all over the place. I laughed at loud several times because the game hit home on a personal level, and I don't think I'm alone in this respect. It is really little wonder that Fine-Tuned received nominations for Best Setting and Best Player Character for the 2001 Xyzzy Awards. At the time of this writing, the awards have not yet been handed out, and Fine-Tuned's nominations wait alongside other deserving nominees. Regardless of how the awards are distributed, Fine-Tuned is deserving of both honors. Normally, I prefer to imagine that it's me in the game, but for once, I really enjoyed playing the part of a highly developed PC. Troy Sterling is a man of fashion, a hero for the younger generation, defender of the environment and protector of the weak. He has definite flair, and it's just plain fun to imagine yourself in his world - a world with great friends, malicious enemies, fun puzzles, and humor at every turn. All this, combined with Jerz's well-developed story, make playing Fine-Tuned a delight. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Duncan Stevens TITLE: Lock and Key AUTHOR: Adam Cadre E-MAIL: ac SP@G adamcadre.ac DATE: 2002 PARSER: Inform standard SUPPORTS: Glulx interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF archive) URL: ftp://www.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/glulx/lock-key.blb VERSION: 1.12 Say this for Adam Cadre: he doesn't repeat himself. There are darn few substantive themes that tie any two of his games together, and even those are pretty abstract (a dash of misanthropy and cruelty here, a smidgen of mental instability there, etc.). Lock and Key, Adam's latest, is very much a case in point: the gonzo humor and the queasy feeling that you're not entirely aligned with the forces of light are familiar, but the context, namely One Big Puzzle, is new in the Adam oeuvre. It works quite well, though, particularly if you like that sort of thing but even, to some extent, if you don't. You're head of a security company hired to build a better dungeon for a fairly unpleasant king -- the king's portrayal is largely comic with a dash of brutality tossed in now and again. You arrange a series of traps in the dungeon, then stand by and watch as an adventurer overcomes all of them and lose your job and your head as he escapes. So you try it again, and again, and again, eventually noting that different traps have different effects, and at long last, after several dozen repetitions at least, the adventurer's escape is foiled and you brag to the king that no one escapes your dungeon (reminiscent of Varicella, of course, where similar massive repetition was necessary; your character makes a comment at the end about no one having the chance to go back and try it over again). Adam made a comment in his competition reviews this past year about "participatory comedy" in Fine Tuned, and Lock and Key strives for some of the same thing. That is, some of the humor here derives from the player's cluelessness, meaning unfamiliarity with the logistics of the game. It turns out, for example, that you need to make a path into and out of the dungeon in a specific way, but you have no way of knowing what the game has in mind beforehand. Rather than dropping a message in brackets along the lines of "[You need more doors, dummy.]," the puzzle does its correcting through the game itself -- sometimes via a trusty assistant who helpfully points out when you're being stupid, and sometimes by actually letting you try out your defective dungeon (from which the adventurer promptly escapes, of course). This is all very well, and often it is funny, so I shouldn't complain too much -- but I'm not sure I think it's a great concept (particularly when the mistakes are beyond the reach of UNDO). It's actually not intrinsically different from rooms-of-instant-death in Detective and such -- i.e., stumble into comical suboptimal ending because you have no idea what the game has around the corner -- and while the writing here is good enough to make the suboptimal endings amusing rather than simply a drag, not everyone writes as well as Adam does. This is an idea, in short, that worked okay for Adam because he actually got me to laugh along at my own/my character's stupidity (and likewise for Dennis G. Jerz in Fine Tuned) but the chances aren't that good that the next person to try it will carry it off with the same flair. (And even so the figure-out-how-the-world-works section of Lock and Key was not the highlight.) The puzzle -- hmmm. It works well, I suppose; there's a certain element of "why does this work and not that? and why doesn't this affect that?," but some degree of that is inevitable and my logical objections were few. What makes it hard is that the relevant hints are often dropped relatively unobtrusively into the text, so it's easy to miss them -- all the more so when you appear to be getting the same old failure message. This is participatory comedy of another sort, I guess -- you've seen the adventurer escape from your dungeon so many times that you no longer pay attention to the details -- but it's not all that howlingly funny. Still, it's a good puzzle on a lot of levels; it combines resource allocation, logic, and detail-spotting in a way that goes well beyond most IF. There are also a lot of technical tricks that serve the game well -- there's a diagram of the puzzle that helps keep track of what's where, and a record/replay command that lessens the tedium somewhat. There are a lot of good puzzles on the IF archive, though, and I'm not sure I would have kept this one on my hard drive if it hadn't been written by Adam. There are lots of funny snippets, and some priceless ones -- the sequence involving the gladiator whom you install in one of the dungeon rooms to kill the adventurer, and who turns out to be a long-lost friend, is funny enough in itself, but the adventurer's rage at the king ("YOU'LL PAY FOR THIS!") when the gladiator meets an untimely demise is hilarious. A significant chunk of the gameplay is there solely for humor value; for instance, you need to order each trap individually, which means calling the trap's vendor (in a manner of speaking). Think about the comic possibilities of deathtrap vendors (each specializing in a particular kind of deathtrap) -- okay, humor potential, but trust me, Adam appears to have thought about those possibilities a LOT. Lots of familiar fantasy tropes -- evil king, mean guards, etc. -- come in for their share of mockery, of course (vain and impulsive king, bumbling guards), which isn't new in itself, but Adam has given the mockery such breadth -- so many ways the guards can bumble, so many funny lines for the king -- that it goes well beyond the usual fantasy-parody tropes. As in Varicella (along with other Adam efforts, but that one in particular), there's an element of misanthropy to the humor; it's not gentle stuff. And here, as there, your character is hardly an unequivocal force for good -- getting into the game means acclimating to the role of aider-and-abetter of evil tyrant, though it's an evil tyrant with funny one-liners. But for those who can wrap their minds around the game's worldview, there's fun to be had outside the puzzle-solving. Lock and Key works well, in short -- it's not revolutionary, and those who profess themselves unable to solve puzzles may find themselves stumped -- but as a puzzle and as another line in Adam's list of achievements, it's worth experiencing. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: Øyvind Thorsby Score: Atmosphere 1.0 Gameplay 1.7 Writing 1.7 Plot 1.2 Wildcard 1.0 Total: 6.6 Characters 1.0 Puzzles 1.5 Lock & Key is set in a standard comedy fantasy world. You start out without much back-story locked in a cell. However, for the main part of this rather short game you are trying to design a dungeon. You get a generous budget to buy traps and critters with, and a map of the dungeon to place your deadly surprises on. This is pretty cool. You also decide where the door in the dungeon shall be. Designing a dungeon could have been very complicated, but quite some effort has been made to make it easy, like the aforementioned map. There are some problems; after the first time I tried it I found out there are strict rules as to where the doors must be placed, so I had to start over again. Also, some of the functions put into the game to make it easier did not work as they should. So it is not perfect, but it is pretty good. Making the perfect dungeon is difficult, and one is clearly intended to play the game many times and learn from one's mistakes. Playing through the game is lots of fun at first, but gets a bit tedious after a while. There are many hints that you are on the right track, but I think there could have been more of them, or they could have been clearer, otherwise you just have to guess what to do. When a player is supposed to play through a part of a game many times, it might be a good idea to make this part as short as possible. There are parts in Lock & Key where one can not do much, and I think most players would have to play through these parts at least 10 times to complete the game. The parts are not horribly long, and it is not a terrible problem; you can just type z a lot, but still. The game makes fun of clichés of fantasy in general, and specifically fantasy computer games. The humour is OK. All in all this is an original and good, but not great, game. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Stas Starkov NAME: The Mulldoon Murders AUTHOR: Jon Ingold EMAIL: ji207 SP@G cam.ac.uk DATE: 2002 PARSER: Inform standard SUPPORTS: Inform interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/Mulldoon.z8 VERSION: Release 2 The last IF Competition's winner, Jon Ingold, is a very productive author. The Competition has just finished and Jon already has made a new game. And not just an easy short game, but a long, complex one. This game is great. This game is big. This game is puzzle-oriented. This game is detailed. This game is designed tightly. And all this made me happy. Is it worth your time to play the game? If you expect a semi-CYOA game where you don't play but turn pages, then probably not. If you prefer easy puzzles or no puzzles at all, if story is your first priority, and if you are fond of experiments with IF art forms, then I must advise you that this game is not for you. But if you're a puzzle zealot, if you like to exert your brainpower, you'll be delighted in the game. I have been banging my head against the puzzles in MM ("The Mulldoon Murders") for a long time. And it was an enjoyable time for me. (Sounds masochistic, doesn't it?) And the main reason for the enjoyment was: I love to solve good puzzles. I like to play with various forms of gadgets. And I'm fond of puzzles wedded with a good story. As the author of MM says, this game is "an interactive sequel". That means you're going to like the game much more if you've played its predecessor, "The Mulldoon Legacy". I confess, I didn't finish "The Mulldoon Legacy", because its puzzles were too hard for me. So, I'm not an expert here. Nevertheless, I enjoyed "The Mulldoon Murders" _on its own _. If you haven't played "The Mulldoon Legacy", don't worry -- you're not obligated to do that. The game's premise: you, a private eye, are sent to find the protagonist of the previous game ("The Mulldoon Legacy") in a big and spooky museum. But could it be said that the whole game is a big in-joke? No -- while the game's scene of action is the same, the puzzles and the story are totally different. But of course they're related to the old puzzles and, which is even more important, to the old story -- and this adds a lot of fun. In spite of MM being a sequel, its approach to writing is entirely unlike the previous game's. It's sufficient to say that your protagonist thinks he's been sent "to find the idiot" -- the classically cynical point of view of a gumshoe. Is _that_ bad? No, how can classic be bad?! Jon Ingold managed to mix the cynicism with really good atmosphere. Look at this: >go east You crash through the bushes. What a life. West of the River Suddenly you are hemmed in, by bushes on the west side, the museum building to the north, and a tall wall to the south. Your torch light flicks around the space, dragging a lit circle which makes your eyes sting; flecking on the unkempt grass under your feet. Leaning near the river is a metal canister, the side ominously split. To the east is the dagger-blade of a stream, running through a low arch in the wall under the museum itself. It has frozen solid. The atmosphere was great. It was the second reason why I loved the game so much. It was very effective and... gothic(?). Another aspect where the game meets the highest modern standards is the extent to which the author intervenes with the player's actions. On one hand, the game won't allow the player to perform really stupid actions; on the other hand, it doesn't assume too much of what the player really wants to do. This way, you never get messages like "You open the door and shoot at the guardian who appears in the room" in MM. (Well, that's _almost_ true - there is one exception to this rule in the game.) And that's how I like it: limited author appearance in the player's actions gives the game more interactivity and doesn't make it unfairly hard or unfairly easy. And now about how hard this game is. Yes, it is quite hard, especially in the middle part. However, if you've solved "Mulldoon Legacy" on your own (Wow, you're kind of cool!), you'll find this game _easy_. Most of the game puzzles are intuitive and realistic -- if your mind is a bit twisty. And the puzzles don't require you to perform unmotivated (if you believe that solving a puzzle is a sufficient motivation) and strange actions. The puzzle realism -- that's why the game has won a place in my heart. And the realism was deliberate -- you'll see that in the end. To tell the truth, some puzzles could be solved only the hard way, i.e. you couldn't just smash a locked door and move further through the game like a locomotive, using just brute force. But this game is puzzle-based, so puzzles are there to let the player solve it the hard way. If you think that puzzles must be solved in all possible ways, this game is not for you. However, Jon Ingold has limited the manipulation of objects in such a way that you'll meet a possibility of alternative solutions quite rarely. Yes, puzzles are deliberately hard, but that's why the game is puzzle-based. But as some games have shown, easy puzzles can be made hard when designed badly. If the player needs to apply twenty objects in his/her inventory to hundred objects scattered across the map in hundred rooms, he/she will lose interest pretty soon. Each object in a game should be thought over carefully -- concerning both the way it works, and its relevance to the game. If the game has too few complex objects, it's a Scott Adams adventure. On the other hand, if a puzzle-based game has too many objects, not only will it turn the author's work into a nightmare, it also will bore the player to death because he/she hardly will be able to solve a single puzzle, let alone the whole game. And Jon has shown that he is a master at creating puzzles -- they are solvable but not easily. So the game design was well thought-out. Of course, the game's puzzles were not as trivial as "move the rug", or "collect four parts of the obscure key". You may ask now, of what type were the puzzles, then? To answer in short -- Jon Ingold has created puzzles that lie _a bit_ out of the player's first reaction to a puzzle. To me, some puzzles were easy, some not. For example, I ran through the second half of the game quite fast. But before... I asked the author for hints and Jon gave them to me. I don't think that I'd be able to finish the game without his help. But I think that soon someone will upload a hint file to the IF archive. Recommended for all puzzle lovers. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: Francesco Bova The Mulldoon Legacy is a big game, in fact the biggest I've ever played. In spite of its expansive and interesting scope however, it's a game that is seldom if ever analyzed or discussed. Taking a look at the annals of IF review you see a lot of great games being mulled over like Photopia and Spider And Web, but nary a mention of the Mulldoon Legacy. In fact, finding a Mulldoon review is next to impossible (barring, of course, Duncan's review in SPAG). So the question remains: why is a game as dense and interesting as the Mulldoon Legacy not being discussed? One reason might be that with so cavernous a game to review, it's hard to know where to start. The Mulldoon Legacy has 100+ rooms, many set-piece puzzles, and countless little subplots that all form threads in an overall pattern, but deciding which thread to start with is daunting to say the least. Another problem might be effectively summarizing what all the threads put together really mean. This was my biggest problem, because when I'd finally finished the Mulldoon Legacy, although duly impressed, I found myself unable to articulate my gaming experience. Well, I'm now glad I didn't hypothesize as to what it all meant because it appears I wasn't on the right track all along. The Mulldoon Murders, Jon Ingold's sequel to his mammoth epic of a masterpiece goes a long way in capping off the Mulldoon Legacy and bringing closure to some unanswered questions from the original, while opening the doors to a few others. There's a great story in there somewhere, but I'll take a look at that a bit later. For now, let's focus on the gameplay. More an epilogue that takes place a few weeks after the original Mulldoon than a true sequel, the Mulldoon Murders focuses on the same weirdly constructed museum we loved plodding through in the original. This time however, instead of giving us 100+ rooms to explore, the game focuses primarily on one corner of the museum. A smaller amount of rooms also means a smaller amount of items to interact with, which is significant because the original game in the series was often bogged down by the combinatorial explosion that comes with a lot of rooms and hundreds of items. Most of the scenery and room structures are very familiar with slight twists in the geography; That is to say, it's not the exact same layout as the original but the grounds, principal NPCs and some items have taken on mutated, often darker, characteristics from the original. Considering the landscape by and large is the same, I found it impressive that there was very little duplication of puzzles. By my count, prior knowledge from the original game only helped me in one or two areas, as Jon implemented some novel and interesting ways to traverse the same hurdles. The puzzles tended to be multi-faceted, which is to say you'll need to do a fair bit of lateral thinking. Almost all the puzzles are satisfying, and there is plenty of reuse of apparently single-use items (an Ingold hallmark) in creative and initially unforeseen ways. The puzzles are mostly fair, with only one or two relying on a blind faith that rewards you without really knowing why. Having said that though, the game play is tight enough and the landscape small enough that even if you get stumped, fiddling around with different objects should help you find your way quite quickly. Other nice features include not being able to put the game into an unwinnable state, and absolutely beautifully drawn out scenery descriptions. Ingold's descriptions are stark and rarely verbose, with the odd grammatical or spelling mistake. Interestingly enough I thought the odd mistake added to the raw feel of the prose. Here's an example: Strange Sculptures Room This is the western end of a long hallway, and where the rubble of your explosion stops, strange sculptures start. But these sculptures aren't stone - they're blocks of plastic, bits of cloth, squares of foil. The most striking is the large celery stick reaching up to the ceiling. A few stairs lead down to the southwest, out of this particular exhibit. So all in all, a great little puzzle game with great scenery. To my surprise however, it didn't end there. As with the original in the series, I found myself getting so caught up in the prose and the puzzles that I rarely noticed the fact that there were Weighty Issues Afoot. It's interesting that in both Mulldoon games I found myself discounting Jon's storytelling ability by focusing on the games more as puzzlefests, only to be ultimately surprised by the endings. At the beginning of this review, I had mentioned being glad that I had not hypothesized as to what was really going on in the original, and here's why: My initial feelings after finishing the original Mulldoon were that the final outcome in that game had been mostly *a good thing* for the PC. The sequel left me with a much more malevolent taste in my mouth, which in turn made me think differently about the original in the series and its many threads and subplots. This shifting of assumptions was in fact the piece of Mulldoon II that appealed most to me because, like a fine wine that takes on new characteristics with the right cheese, it left a completely different taste on my palate. The ending has sparked some good debate on r.g.i-f, and has turned on a whole new group of players to the Mulldoon series which is great for Jon Ingold and ultimately good for IF. As for myself, I think I've got a better inkling as to what's going on but I'm still not sure I have enough to hypothesize as to what it all means (fortunately, I didn't let that stop me from reviewing this time). Here's hoping Mulldoon III sorts out a few more of my quandaries (yes Jon, this is a request). Finally, in some of the game notes, Jon mentions that Mulldoon II works as a stand-alone game. Although I agree that prior knowledge of the original won't necessarily help you complete the game any faster, it will certainly enhance your playing experience as a whole. As a result, playing Mulldoon II without giving the original a shot first is not recommended. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Thomas Smith TITLE: Pytho's Mask AUTHOR: Emily Short E-MAIL: emshort SP@G mindspring.com DATE: 2001 PARSER: Inform standard SUPPORTS: Z-code (Infocom/Inform) interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD) URL: ftp://ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/pytho.z8 VERSION: Release 2 I want to marry Galatea. This is something that should be got out in the open, to avoid any later confusion. Galatea is stimulating, engaging, fun, not to mention one of the greatest -- probably the single greatest -- technical achievements in IF. And I want to marry her. Sadly, there is nobody in Pytho's Mask who I want to marry. This is probably a good thing. On the other hand, I do want to buy the palace and live in it. These strange desires should probably be a cause for concern and -- eventually -- expensive therapy; however, they do serve to point one thing out: the tremendous talent of Emily Short. There are other things that could point this out, of course. Things like the bravura opening: a few lines of cryptic dialogue are followed by an immediate scene-change, at which point you are engaged in conversation. This is impressive. Not necessarily because of the technical difficulty -- anyone can script an NPC to say a line -- but because of the sheer cheek of it: how many IF authors are there who even encourage you to converse with their NPCs, let alone draw your attention to them? Of course, this is done not out of cheek, but rather because this author -- almost uniquely in IF -- can get away with it; Emily Short's NPCs are far ahead of anyone else's, both technically and in terms of character. In fact, that could be said to be the only problem with Pytho's Mask: the technical aspects of this game represent such a leap ahead that the other parts of the game seem occasionally to struggle to keep up. The idea of combining ask/tell and menu-based conversation systems so as to keep the fluidity of the first but the sense of the second was utterly brilliant -- but there are many places where either so much has been implemented that it is possible to simply get lost in conversation, or others where the crucial topic is mysteriously lacking. Is it unfair to judge Pytho's Mask like this? By any other author's standards, the conversations in it are a hell of an achievement -- it's just that this isn't any other author, this is the author responsible for Galatea, and indeed the author responsible for this system. Not only that, but everything else about the game is superb. What seems like a slightly bizarre fantasy story rapidly settles into a whodunit -- or rather, whos-going-to-do-it -- with added love interest, both of which are beautifully written and paced. The writing is good; the implementation is deep (although with some gaps). The game is shortish, but that isn't in itself a problem -- there's plenty packed in. Generally, then, this is not quite a perfect game, but it's getting pretty close. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Stas Starkov NAME: Stranded AUTHOR: Jim Bayers EMAIL: bayers SP@G honors.arizona.edu DATE: 2001 PARSER: TADS standard SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GNU General Public License Version 2) URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/tads/stranded.gam VERSION: 1.0 What would you say if you saw a room description like this: Main Street This is Odduck's main street which is also Highway 13. Huge elms grow to each side, their leaves casting mottled shade on the pavement. It's safe to cross as there are few cars. Set in the center of the street is a manhole cover. From here, Main Street stretches east and west. To your north is the Odduck Diner, home of world famous jerked chicken. South of you is a park filled with trees. What was your first thought after reading the paragraph above? Let me guess -- you thought, "The author can't write at all". Yes, it's obvious that the writing is icky, that the sentences are put in the wrong order, that the sentences themselves are very short and unamusing, that ... but that's enough. And what would you say if you saw a whole game consisting of such passages? I can imagine your answer being short -- a four-letter word. :-) But I haven't told you all the truth. Those stylistic lapses were done deliberately! Why do I think so? Hmmm... Because it looks _too_ babyish, _too_ art brut, _too_ simple-hearted. But: "Stranded is an interactive game for educational use," the game author says. (Have you noticed the absence of the word "fiction"?) And believe me, he doesn't lie -- the game was _intended_ for a young, very young player. But the mere intention is not enough to make a good game, I think. I don't know much about nurturing children, but when I was a child, I read well-written books; they were true literature by true authors. And I've never read a book written by a child for children, but I'm aware that there can be other approaches to literature for children. Apparently, the author of "Stranded" took one of those other approaches. I think, during game creation, he was under the impression a child's book should express itself in baby-like language. Was he right? Do children enjoy the same lowbrow language that they talk themselves? Maybe -- I can't judge: I'm neither a child, nor a schoolmaster. Nevertheless, I can't disregard the game's language, because it's _me_ who has to express my opinion of it (and the game in general), and it's _you_ who have to make a decision whether to play the game, or not, on the basis of that opinion. However, it's not as easy as you probably think. The game also contains graphics, which look as if made by a child. The pictures were not drawn by hand and then scanned -- rather, they were created with the aid of a vector graphic editor ("CorelDraw", I suspect). They are not ugly, but they are _intended_ to look like a kid's work: unrealistic perspectives, askew lines, flat two-dimensional depictions of 3D-objects. But wait -- there is a style of art that uses this very approach. It is called "primitivism". The disciples of the style think that art must be uncomplicated and jolly. Primitivism is mainly a pictorial art, but when I look at the writing of the game I notice it's primitivistic, as well. Thus, "Stranded" is a work of primitivism. See -- the game is a work of art! But not everybody is ready to enjoy that art style. I wasn't, for instance -- to me, the writing seemed just ... umm ... not good. But I'm sure somebody will like the style, at least because it's so unusual. But let's go into further detail of the game. As I said, "Stranded" is intended for novice players, so there are not many puzzles or other challenges. The game is quite straightforward and easy: your protagonist -- a young pupil -- missed a bus in a small town called Odduck. Now he/she wants to leave the town to go home, or get back on his/her bus. And to do that, he/she needs money for a ticket. In such a situation, the only possibility is ... to find a job. To be more specific, he/she runs errands. All the errands are easy, and not very interesting. From a hardcore IF-player's point of view, the game's dialogue system is not done very well. It's menu-based, so you can choose one of its options at a time, but it also lets the player have the same dialogue again and again and again. Well, the usual graphic adventure features exactly this type of dialogue system, and children might find it more convenient; but again, I'm not a child, so I didn't like it. Some of the puzzles are purely educational, some didactic. That's good for a young player. The number of locations in the game is quite large, but the locations can be accessed easily and they look ... uhm ... bright. And the whole game is lighthearted. The town the PC gets stuck in is a big, sunny, and almost trouble-free place, inhabited exclusively by kind people. The town residents, who are speaking a funny vernacular, lead a peaceful, happy life. But the PC needs to get home. Like in real life. Unfortunately, I've found a bug in the game; it wasn't terrible, but it let me win the game without solving all the puzzles. I sent a note to the game author saying about the bug, and he promised that it will be fixed in a next version. Let me sum it up: "Stranded" is a short cushy game either for young novice players or for somebody who feels nostalgic about innocent childhood. Hardcore IF players probably will find the game weak. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Duncan Stevens TITLE: Vacation Gone Awry AUTHORS: Johan Berntsson, Fredrik Ramsberg, and Staffan Friberg E-MAIL: vacation SP@G ramsberg.net DATE: 2001 PARSER: Inform, modified somewhat SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive) URL: ftp://ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/Vacation.z5 VERSION: Release 2 I must acknowledge that Vacation Gone Awry got my attention right away -- but not with the cleverness of its premise or with a nifty hook. No, what grabbed me was the copyright notice, which described the game as "copyright (c) 1988-2002." Not many works of any kind are fourteen years in the making, and IF has a sufficiently short shelf life that putting that much time into an IF game is worthy of note. More to the point, though, the world of IF changed more than a little between 1988 and 2002, and I wondered just how retro Vacation Gone Awry would feel. The short answer: fairly. But not unpleasantly so. One of the aspects that makes Vacation feel a little dated is that the plot is a bit on the ostensible side. You're vacationing with your family when a big causal event happens, which leads to various puzzles involving getting into a research lab, which leads to standard research-lab situations and mildly artificial puzzles, many of the there-must-be-*something*-important-behind-this-obstacle variety. There are NPCs, to be sure, but most are cardboard at best; their saving grace is that most of them do move around without, as far as I can tell, tripping over any bugs. Most importantly, though, nothing much happens after the first third or so of the game, besides that you solve puzzles; most IF of more recent vintage is somewhat more story-driven, in that solving puzzles will lead not only to more puzzles but also to some sort of plot development, but in Vacation the plot is pretty much given to you whole at the beginning. This stuff isn't the kiss of death, I suppose, but it does give the game a certain flavor. As a puzzle- rather than a plot-driven game, however, Vacation is a reasonably good, though by no means perfect, example of the form. Lessee -- the good: there's a timing puzzle that involves a certain amount of large-scale thinking (figuring out who's where when) and some advance planning, though some trial and error is necessary as well. The bad: that same puzzle requires an astounding amount of stupidity from a certain NPC; let's just say that most people, when they encounter someone walking away from a suspicious event, don't just wave them by. The good: the game's world is built in a way that does a passable job of modeling a real research lab -- not every locked door can be opened, for instance, and certain locations are there because realism requires them, not because they're essential to a puzzle. The bad: some of the red herrings are simply confusing and don't appear to be driven by realism, as there's no particular reason why the features in question should appear where they do (which tends to suggest to the savvy player that puzzles are at work). The good: a puzzle that involves delving into an NPC's past. The bad: the way you put that knowledge to use is (a) cruel, (b) far from subtle, and (c) made unnecessarily hard by the point in the game -- i.e., very early -- where the puzzle comes up. As in, the game closes off if you don't take advantage of a specific opportunity at a specific time, and taking advantage of that opportunity requires knowledge that you're unlikely to have gathered by that point. The good: a multi-room puzzle that's an homage of sorts to a pretty good puzzle from Lurking Horror. The bad: here, unlike there, solving the puzzle in the way you do really should attract some attention, but the attention never comes. You get the idea. The design problems aren't severe by any means, and most probably wouldn't have been considered design flaws at all in 1988; a lot of them amount to NPC stupidity or cardboardness, and those things haven't always been considered major warts. Still, the game simply doesn't try all that hard in that department -- there are quite a few things that the NPCs should be able to talk about but can't, and you can carry around all sorts of suspicious items without any comment from them. There's also the larger problem that, even though you're supposed to be working with some scientists in a lab, no one seems particularly interested in actually working with you, and you can go about your puzzle-solving business without anyone asking what you're doing. The puzzles themselves are clever in their way; it's just that the player who says to himself "but I could never get away with that" may get onto the wrong track. The writing is adequate, though largely unexceptional -- most of the descriptions are pretty workmanlike, but there are flashes of personality here and there. Trying to charge off into a storm elicits "Hey! There's a blizzard going on, in case you forgot," and "search jeans" brings "You figured out the difference between boys and girls a long time ago. You know what is in the jeans." There are some clumsy moments as well, though -- for some reason, Inform's default "That's hardly portable" for stationary objects has been replaced by "That seems unmobile," not an improvement, and this description of a sound, "There's that whistling sound again. It does sound like someone whistling," is simply redundant. This paragraph is representative: The corridor, entering from the south, ends at a heavy door made of steel. Judging from the temperature, being somewhat lower here than in the rest of the building, you jump to the conclusion that the door could lead out into the cold (or into a giant freezer, perhaps...) The "being somewhat lower" phrase is clumsy and "judging from the temperature" is a little wordy, but "jump to the conclusion" and "giant freezer" are pretty funny, in a wry way. The writing is also marred by sprinkling of typos and misspellings that recurs just often enough to be noticeable. The problems -- e.g., "Suddenly high-pitched alarm signals start emerging from hidden loudspeakers"; do sounds really "emerge"? -- aren't so awkward that they make things unclear, however, and on the whole the writing isn't a major flaw. The technical aspect is okay, on the whole -- the NPC movement daemons work particularly well, and one complex object in the castle was well handled. There are also very few library responses, though some of the replacements are less helpful than the library; one that I found particularly irritating was, as a generic failure message, "You do. Not that it seems to change anything," even though more often than not the action in question had not been "done." I wrestled with the syntax a few times, but mostly when I was on the wrong track anyway, and synonyms are reasonably plentiful. The problems lie more in the design. How grave those problems are is, as usual, a matter of taste. As most of the puzzles are reasonably well-conceived, some will enjoy this thoroughly; as the logic is often less than thorough, particularly around the edges, some will find this annoying. For my own part, I ended up somewhere in the middle, but a given player's attitude will more than likely depend on how that player feels about IF created circa 1988. 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 ftp.ifarchive.org IF-archive or on the SPAG web page at http://www.sparkynet.com/spag. Name Avg Sc Chr Puz # Sc Issue Notes: ==== ====== === === ==== ===== ====== 1-2-3... 4.1 0.9 0.5 3 23 F_INF_ARC 9:05 6.6 0.7 0.5 11 20 F_INF_ARC Aayela 7.0 1.0 1.3 6 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 5.2 0.7 0.2 5 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 6.4 0.6 1.1 15 8,22 F_INF_TAD_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 All Roads 8.8 1.6 1.7 1 F_INF_ARC Amnesia 6.9 1.5 1.3 4 9 C_AP_I_64 Anchorhead 8.7 1.7 1.5 29 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 5.9 1.1 1.1 3 15,18 F_INF_ARC Awe-Chasm 3.0 0.7 0.7 2 8 S_I_ST_ARC Babel 8.5 1.7 1.3 11 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 Begegnung am Fluss 5.6 0.8 1.4 1 F_I_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 5.0 0.8 0.9 2 6 F_I_ARC Beyond Zork 7.6 1.5 1.7 11 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 7.1 1.5 1.4 13 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 Carma 8.0 1.9 1.2 1 F_GLU_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 Cave of Morpheus 5.4 1.3 1.0 1 F_ADR_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 14F_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 Dragon Hunt 5.4 0.5 0.5 1 F_HUG_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 Eins Swei Spiegelei 5.0 1.1 1.0 1 F_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 FailSafe 7.5 1.0 1.0 1 24,25 F_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 Fusillade 7.1 1.5 0.3 1 F_TAD_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 7.4 1.8 0.9 5 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 Heroes 7.9 1.8 1.6 1 F_INF_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 Horror30.zip 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 Invasion of... Jupite 1.9 0.3 0.6 1 F_I_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 Jump 3.2 0.5 0.7 1 F_INF_ARC 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 11 17 F_INF_ARC Lock And Key 6.6 1.0 1.5 1 20 F_GLU_ARC Lomalow 4.6 1.0 0.6 3 19 F_INF_ARC Losing Your Grip 8.5 1.4 1.4 6 14S20_TAD_ARC Lost New York 7.9 1.4 1.4 4 20, 26 S12_TAD_ARC Lost Spellmaker 6.3 1.3 1.1 5 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 Magic.zip 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 14F_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 No Time To Squeal 8.6 1.6 1.5 1 F_TAD_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 5.7 1.0 1.2 3 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 0.6 28 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 7.4 1.6 1.4 14 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 7.5 1.4 0.5 7 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 6.5 1.3 1.1 4 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 19 14F_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 Starrider 7.2 1.2 1.4 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 Stick It To The Man 6.2 1.8 1.0 1 F_GLU_ARC Stiffy 1.2 0.1 0.2 2 F_INF_ARC Stiffy - MiSTing 4.1 0.8 0.3 7 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 7.3 1.4 0.9 6 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 Test 1.9 0.1 0.4 1 F_ADR_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 8.0 1.7 1.4 10 21 F_TAD_ARC YAGWAD 6.7 1.1 1.3 2 23 F_INF_ARC You Are Here 6.0 1.0 1.3 1 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 7.5 1.5 1.6 4 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 14C_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 14F_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. As usual, veeery little activity in the ol' Top 10. To wit: Babel moves up a spot, from #9 to #8. Consequently, Spellbreaker moves from #8 to #9. And that's all. Good thing I decided against hiring Casey Kasem to announce these charts -- he'd be bored out of his skull. 1. Gateway 2: Homeworld 9.0 6 votes 2. Anchorhead 8.7 29 votes 3. Sunset over Savannah 8.7 6 votes 4. Trinity 8.7 18 votes 5. Spider and Web 8.6 19 votes 6. Gateway 8.6 7 votes 7. Losing Your Grip 8.5 6 votes 8. Babel 8.5 11 votes 9. Spellbreaker 8.5 8 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 (http://www.sparkynet.com/spag). You can also, if you like, send ratings directly to me at obrian SP@G colorado.edu. 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! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ___. .___ _ ___. ___. / _| | \ / \ / ._| / _| \ \ | o_/ | | | |_. \ \ .\ \ | | | o | | | | .\ \ |___/ |_| |_|_| \___| |___/ PECIFICS SPAG Specifics is a small section of SPAG dedicated to providing in- depth critical analysis of IF games, spoilers most emphatically included. WARNING! SPOILERS BELOW FOR THE FOLLOWING GAME: Lock & Key PROCEED NO FURTHER UNLESS YOU HAVE PLAYED THIS GAME! THIS IS NOT A TEST! GENUINE SPOILERS TO FOLLOW! LAST CHANCE TO AVOID SPOILAGE! From: Eytan Zweig TITLE: Lock & Key AUTHOR: Adam Cadre E-MAIL: ac SP@G adamcadre.ac DATE: January 2002 PARSER: Inform standard SUPPORTS: Glulx interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive) URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/glulx/lock-key.blb VERSION: 1.12 This is a SPECIFICS review, which means that it contains explicit spoilers and analysis of the game's puzzles. Worse than that, it is mostly occupied with mentioning where "Lock & Key" went wrong, and not on what it did right, even though it did a lot more right than wrong. If you haven't played it, all I can say is that "Lock & Key" is a lot of fun, and quite easy - don't deprive yourself of the pleasure it offers by reading this review first. "Lock & Key" is pure puzzle IF, and it's quite clear from the moment you finish the prologue and start the game proper that the plot exists to serve the puzzle and not vice-versa. The writing itself is great, with nearly everything in the game being both entertaining and easy to understand. The overall plot is basically a parody of old-school IF conventions, with those conventions arranged as just the way the world works -- adventurers will have a supply of seemingly randomly selected items that happen to be just right for the job, every dungeon must have a way out, every maze just serves as a delaying tactic, and guards are the most brainless creatures in creation. The player is put into the position of making a dungeon work with these limitations. Unfortunately, the plot quickly starts to become irrelevant, as the player has to restart the game over and over in order to figure out his next step. It's not just that the game is a relearn-by-dying game -- Adam Cadre himself wrote "Varicella", which shares that trait with "Lock & Key" but never loses the plot in the same way -- but that there really isn't anything in the plot that isn't already told in the first attempt. Obviously, the player will not restart the game from the beginning each time, but only from the planning stage -- but even then, he'll be reading the same text over and over dozens of times before it's over. To make things worse, once the plans are given, the endgame mostly consists (with one major exception) of typing "z" repetitively -- about 20 times are needed to play the whole thing through. Adam Cadre kindly provides the ability to script the endgame commands and replay them, but that just further removes the player from the plot, making it harder for to look for any changing information. Moreover, this is not a fully effective solution, as some player interactivity is required in the end. But the way the endgame plays, even though it does so over and over, isn't Lock & Key's biggest problem. The biggest problems Lock & Key suffers from are not when the puzzle takes over the IF, but the design of the puzzle itself, and its interface. The puzzle contains several elements which don't really contribute anything to it, but merely serve to make it less interesting. The first such element is the door-laying stage -- according to the "making-of" notes, this was supposed to be an opportunity for the player to lay his own mazes, which was then simplified. Unfortunately, what remains is just tedious and uninteresting -- the constraints on placing the doors are so extreme that very few possible configurations remain, and among those, the most obvious one (use all the rooms) is the correct one. Essentially, this phase of the game boils down to the player having to type "open direction", "look direction" 16 times in order to return to the interesting stuff. The other pointless element is the money limit. It does not really function as an inhibiting factor to the amount of traps the player can place -- the dungeon's size does that; unless one tries buying dragons, it is in fact a lot more difficult to run into the money limit than not to do so. And the dragon gag, while funny, didn't need the whole game mechanic there. The money limit also doesn't work well plot-wise -- the king keeps praising you for staying on budget, but you don't even have the choice of going over-budget. At the very least, it would have been more amusing to allow the player to go over-budget and then face the consequence when meeting the king rather than just block him from doing so. But the main problem of "Lock & Key", which all the nitpicks listed above are really instances of, is that the interface is not suited for the puzzle. In order to place a trap, you have to go through the double stage of placing it and buying it. This allows Adam Cadre the opportunity of writing twice as many entertaining events, but it also makes the game twice as tedious -- the player has to go through the events so many times that he will inevitably stop caring about reading the never-changing text. You need to place 10 traps to win the game, each of which must be mentioned twice (actually, there is a feature -- the command QBUY ALL -- which allow you to bypass this second stage, but if it's documented somewhere, I haven't seen it). Worse, once you buy a trap, you can't move it, which means that if you misplace a trap and then save the game, you have to restart. So, at best, whenever you restore the game you then have to buy all the traps. In a private correspondence, I asked why the game was designed this way, instead of just having a single step (with all the text appearing at once) which was reversible. The answer I received, I think, explains the source of the problem -- the reason is that, from a story point of view, planning and purchasing are a different thing; you wouldn't want to interact with the shopkeeper whenever you look at the catalog. This is true in life, and would be true if this was an attempt at simulationist IF. But it's not, it's a puzzle, and as such it is a lot more important that the puzzle interface be comfortable than that it should reflect the way things work in real life. So far, I've been heaping negative criticism on the game, and it seems like I have a very bad opinion of it. I don't -- I think it's a brilliant puzzle, and a very entertaining game. But the reason I took five long paragraphs to list the flaws and only a few short lines here and there to list its virtues is that I think that the flaws are more interesting. Many words have been written about how modern IF should function as a story-telling device, but not as much has been said about how the capabilities of modern IF could be used for other things, such as pure puzzles. "Lock & Key" attempts to be a puzzle, but it is problematic mainly because it does not strip itself from enough of the trappings of story-based IF in order to be a great puzzle; if a little less thought was put into making things work "right", and a little more thought was put into making them work smoothly, "Lock & Key" would be impeccable. 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 http://www.sparkynet.com/spag/spag.faq. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!
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