ISSUE #40 - April 12, 2005

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

                         ISSUE #40

        Edited by Paul O'Brian (obrian SP@G
                       April 12, 2005

           SPAG Website:

SPAG #40 is copyright (c) 2005 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: International IF Special
   * Roberto Grassi of the Italian IF community
   * Ruben "Urbatain" Nieto of the Spanish IF community

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

The Golden French Fry
Isle Of The Cult
Reefer Island


Usually, when it comes time to write this editorial, I look around at
what's happening in the world of IF, and try to come up a coherent
thought or two about some aspect of it. This time, I'm really not too
sure what's happening in IF, because my real life has simply swept me
away. Not only has it been extremely busy time at my job, but my wife is
seven months pregnant with our first child, and my home life seems to
have turned into one long string of baby prep. Consequently, I lift my
head and suddenly it's not even March anymore, making me almost a full
month late on when I'd planned to have this issue hit the digital
streets. What's worse, it's an issue with some really cool stuff in it,
including interviews with members of the Spanish and Italian IF
communities, and here I am just sitting on it.

Sorry about that, folks. Coherent thought doesn't really seem to be an
option for me this time around, so let me just get this issue out the
door before another month escapes my grasp. 

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

From:	Iwan Roberts 

I’m part of the Gumshoe Online development team and I’d like to tell
your readers about the title. Gumshoe Online is a private detective game
set in the crime ridden streets of 1930’s America. The player must use
all their powers of deduction to crack the case and prove they are the
greatest online detective.

I should start by saying that Gumshoe Online is a graphical point and
click adventure, and I know that SPAG is primarily an interactive
fiction/text adventure zine, but in many respects Gumshoe Online is
closer to the text adventure genre than many of the PC or console titles
that are now considered to be adventure games. Gumshoe Online’s gameplay
is the classic adventure game mix of exploration, puzzle solving and

The game can be found at

[Thanks, Iwan. I've checked out the site, and it looks pretty
interesting. Good luck with the game! --Paul]

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

Another year of XYZZY Awards has come and gone, and another batch of
awards has been delivered to a host of deserving authors. The ceremony
was perhaps a touch more subdued, but still full of the typical
brilliant madness. The games glittered, the wit sparkled, and so on.
Here are the official winners of the 2004 XYZZY Awards:
   * Best Use of Medium: The Dreamhold, by Andrew Plotkin
   * Best Individual PC: Julia, from Sting of the Wasp, by Jason Devlin
   * Best Individual NPC: Audrey, from Necrotic Drift, by Robb Sherwin
   * Best Individual Puzzle: The time puzzle, from All Things Devours,
     by half sick of shadows
   * Best NPCs: Sting of the Wasp, by Jason Devlin
   * Best Puzzles: The Dreamhold, by Andrew Plotkin
   * Best Setting: The Fire Tower, by Jacqueline A. Lott
   * Best Story: Blue Chairs, by Chris Klimas
   * Best Writing: Blue Chairs, by Chris Klimas
   * Best Game: Blue Chairs, by Chris Klimas

The games that have been released this spring are a surprising and
varied bouquet. They range from a mad interactive play written in 24
hours (kind of a slightly less speedy SpeedIF) to an enhanced version of
"Hunt The Wumpus" to a tiny little 2K science fiction adventure to a
dark, literary CYOA story. Not only that, six new games were just
released under the auspices of the Spring Thing, being held this year by
Greg Boettcher, who has taken up the mantle from Adam Cadre. So get out
there and start playing some games! (Then send me reviews of them!)
   * Within A Wreath of Dewdrops by Alphonse de L'Entaille
   * Wumpus 2000 by Muffy St. Bernard
   * Lost Kingdom by Jon Ripley
   * The Great Machine: A Fragment by Jonas Kyratzes
   * Spring Thing games by various authors

IF has been getting some very nice press lately. It started with a
column in the New York Times business section about Peter Nepstad's epic
game 1893: A World's Fair Mystery. (Which, by the way, has still not
been reviewed in SPAG. C'mon, somebody help me keep up with the Gray
Lady!) Not too long afterwards, The National Post (which is apparently
Canada's answer to USA Today) featured a nifty little article about the
IF community, including sound bites from Scott Adams, Stephen Granade,
and yours truly. The Times piece is only available via purchase now, and
because of the delays in getting this issue out, the Post piece is no
longer online either. However, there is a copy of it archived on Google
Groups at:

David Cornelson and David Welbourn's latest contribution to the IF
community is the wonderful IF Wiki at This site
contains loads of useful information about the people, events, and
creations of the IF community, and because it's a Wiki, you can make
your own contribution to it. For a brand new site, it's got a terrific
wealth of information -- I highly recommend the current events page.

In 1980 Ken and Roberta Williams (through their company, On-Line
Systems, soon to become Sierra On-Line) released Mystery House, the
first text-and-graphics interactive fiction game. In 1987, Sierra
released Mystery House into the public domain. Now, a cadre (sorry) of
authors has moved into the Mystery House and taken it over, each
refashioning the game to a new purpose. They call themselves the Mystery
House Taken Over Occupation Force, and they make their headquarters at The Force includes such IF
notables as Adam Cadre, Nick Montfort, Yoon Ha Lee, Michael Gentry, Dan
Shiovitz, and Emily Short. They've even created an occupation kit so
that you can join the Force too! Check it out!

Look at the top of this issue. See there, right under where it says
"reviews in this issue"? See how there are only four games reviewed
there? (Okay, one was reviewed twice, but still...) That's a pretty
meager showing. SPAG continues to rely on your contributions to remain
alive, so review some games for me, people! I feel like a bit of a
hypocrite complaining about this when I can't even manage to get the
issue out on time, but without contributions, there's no SPAG at all,
even a late one. If you're looking for inspiration on what to review,
try one of these:

1.  Dead Reckoning (Nick Montfort's translation of Olvido Mortal)
2.  The Dreamhold
3.  The Fire Tower
4.  Future Boy!
5.  The Great Machine: A Fragment
6.  Guild Of Thieves
7.  Lost Kingdom
8.  Mystery House Taken Over games (any, some, or all!)
9.  Spring Thing games (any, some, or all!)
10. Wumpus 2000

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

For quite a while now, I've been interested in doing SPAG interviews
with members of IF communities whose primary language isn't English.
Aside from the usual time and priority constraints, the main obstacle to
this goal has always been the language barrier. English is the only
language in which I am fluent, and while some of my potential interview
subjects have a pretty good grasp on English, I still felt that an
all-English interview would lack some of the depth that I try for in
this feature. It was ifMUD that came to my rescue. Within that friendly
community, I found some multilingual people who offered their services
in translating my questions and the respondents' answers. So, with a
thousand thanks to Vika Zafrin (Italian translator) and H. Helfgott
(Spanish translator), I'm proud to present the following interviews with
Roberto Grassi of the Italian IF community and Ruben "Urbatain" Nieto of
the Spanish IF community. 

 Roberto Grassi, translated by Vika Zafrin

   SPAG: Hey, Roberto.

RG: Hi Paul. Before responding to your questions I'd like to thank you
for giving me the opportunity of being interviewed in the name of the
Italian community. It's a big honor for me.

   SPAG: It's my pleasure. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Before
   we get into the Italian IF community at large, could you tell us a
   little about yourself? Who are you, what do you do for a living, and
   so forth?

RG: My name is Roberto Grassi, I work as a Project Manager for an
Internet service provider. In March I will turn 35 years old. I have
been happily married for almost four years now to Paola (who is
adorable, and allows me to dedicate myself to IF when I can). We have a
son named Cesare, who turned one in January (he, unlike Paola, does not
allow me to dedicate myself to IF when I can... :D).

On to the Italian IF community. It's rather small. There are about ten
active authors, and every year an average of about 6-7 games are
written. There is a Usenet newsgroup
(news://it.comp.giochi.avventure.testuali) and every year there are two
competitions. One is for IF situated in only one location (One Room Game
Comp - and
another one for the best game of the year. There's a directory of all
the Italian games (, and we publish a fanzine
on interactive fiction called Terra d'IF (IF World,, but soon it will move to
its own site,

Just a few days ago was born the first Italian software firm
specializing in writing IF games. It's called Mondi Confinanti
(Bordering Worlds, We hope to
do something good enough to be appreciated by foreign players as well.

   SPAG: What is your role in that community?

RG: I'll start by saying that you can find all the things I talk about
on my IF site ( My "main" role is that
of editor-in-chief of the Terra d'IF fanzine. It is published four times
a year and keeps me quite busy, but I have the support of a great
editing team.

As for writing games, I wrote one in 2003 and have finished two more
games in 2004, one of which, "The Last Hour," is in English.

In 2005, I've decided to get serious about things. For this reason I've
sought collaborators, and we've founded "Mondi Confinanti," upon which I
rest big hopes. I contribute as the writer of stories, of dialogue and
of music. The first game we will release in English is Beyond; we're
working hard on it these days.

From this year on I've decided to take on organizing the LoTech Comp,
which was held in 2001 by Mark Silcox, but then abandoned. Since I've
always loved the CYOA genre, I thought that it would be a shame to let
this game genre fall into oblivion.

Finally, I'm the promoter of the "From Hell" project, whose aim is to
find the old 80s adventures in English and translate them into Italian
using the new authoring programs
( This would accomplish
two goals at once. Those who write will learn to use the applications
and don't have to worry about the story. Those who play will have the
opportunity to play games from the past that perhaps merit attention.

   SPAG: Can you give us a little history of IF in Italian? What were
   its beginnings, and what have been some important milestones in its

RG: Italian IF has a definite starting point. It was in 1982, when
Enrico Colombini published "Avventura nel castello" (Castle Adventure),
rightly considered a classic of its genre, very very playable. Later
Colombini wrote, in collaboration with his wife Chiara Tovena, four more
text adventures that are still played now. (Colombini's site is at The adventures quickly became a commercial and
critical sensation. At this point it is necessary to mention Bonaventura
di Bello, who wrote adventures for the magazines published back then for
the Spectrum and for Commodore 64. In any case, we have a dedicated site
run by Giovanni Riccardi, that tries to gather and make available the
games and the magazines in PDF. (

Through the 90s, like in the rest of the world, interest in text
adventures began to diminish here, in part because of their poor
salability; the Italian scene became mostly "silent."

But IF lovers have stayed in contact anyway and, thanks to the Internet
and to newsgroups, the scene never totally died. The release of Inform
and its Italian libraries has reinvigorated the genre, and now there are
a few passionate souls who are starting to write games again.

   SPAG: What tools do authors use to create IF in Italian? I know
   there's a Italian Inform library -- what other resources are out
   there for Italian-speaking IF authors?

RG: Inform is the reference platform [the one used most commonly]. The
Italian libraries have been written and are being maintained by Giovanni
Riccardi ( Besides Inform there are two
applications written by two Italian authors: M.A.C. by Paolo Lucchesi
and Modulo Base by Enrico Colombine. The use of these tools, however,
has been diminishing in favor of Inform.

Recently I released ITDrift, which allows people to write games in
Italian using Adrift, although they have not yet been used. I'll
probably do it myself, when I have time. In addition, Alan and Hugo will
also get Italian libraries written for them as soon as possible.

There's also another application called IDRA, also written by Enrico
Colombine, which allows one to write CYOAs playable on the web, but as
far as I know it isn't being used.

Besides the applications, we are proud to say that a product written by
an Italian has received great reviews in the IF world. I'm talking about
JIF (, written by Alessandro Schillaci.
It's a great Inform editor written in Java and is, most probably, the
best 'dedicated' Inform editor you can find right now. In addition, it
is continually being updated and supported. It's received very positive
feedback, especially from the Spanish community; and this of course
cannot help making us happy.

Nevertheless, I'd say that IF's main problem in Italy is the scarcity
both of authors and of players. This brings with it a series of
interrelated problems that threaten to discourage the people who are
interested in this genre.

   SPAG: What games would you recommend for someone fluent in Italian?
   What about someone who had less experience with the language but
   wanted to use IF as a learning or practice tool? 

RG: In regards to your first question, I'd definitely suggest what I
believe are the two best Italian IF games written to date: "La Pietra
della Luna" (The Moon Rock) by Paolo Lucchesi and "Kazan" by Francesco

As for the second question, I'd say that any game would do.

In any case, if someone wants to play Italian games, they can certainly
post to our newsgroup or contact me directly. We'd be happy to give the
best advice we can.

 Ruben Nieto, aka "Urbatain", translated by H. Helfgott

   SPAG: Before we speak of the Spanish interactive-fiction community in
   general, could you tell us something about yourself? Who are you, how
   do you earn a living, etc.?

U: Why, my full name is Ruben Alberto Aguilera Nieto, I am a Spaniard
from Andalusia, and, as Emily Short well put it, I am the kind of person
who lets himself be carried away by his hobbies to such an extent as to
leave behind real life (or such parts of real life as are supposed to be
truly important), with the difference that I am not able to put in the
titanic effort necessary to nevertheless fulfill my obligations in real
life. So, well... I am a failed computer-science student who formed a
family and can barely subsist from one job to another, all involving
hard physical labour. Currently, I clean anything whatsoever for a
general cleaning agency: windows, floors, office buildings, hotels...
The only good thing about such jobs is that they leave you almost the
entire afternoon free for programming, reading and playing adventures or
commercial games, and thus I am able to maintain on a par my cultural
level with my physical brutalization. Otherwise -- I am still trying to
continue my studies of computer science by means of the UNED (the
national Spanish distance-learning university). I do have the feeling,
fortunately, that I've succeeded: ever since I was small, I have always
wanted to program computer games, and that is what I do programming
adventures, no? 

   SPAG: What is your role in the Spanish interactive-fiction community?

U: One might say I am a rather irritating guru to whom nobody listens,
for he speaks so loudly as to be nearly unbearable. My problem is that
design is my thing. I relish philosophizing on games, and also
beta-testing, and solving programmers' design problems; since, as I
said, it is difficult to curb my enthusiasms, I can almost become more
involved in other people's projects than they themselves. There is
evidently a problem in the difference in motivation between others and
myself; conflicts arise. Thus I have acquired the name of guru or
luminary: critical, egocentric, monopolizing, and a bit of a bastard.

It's been four or five years since I came into the Spanish adventure
community. Since then, I have written a few experimental adventures, of
which only one could be considered a short story in the
interactive-fiction genre. I edited the fanzine SPAC for about a year.
SPAC was initially an unauthorized translation of SPAG, and then went on
to consist largely of original Spanish texts, with a few authorized
translations appearing from time to time. After a while, I got married,
and had the good sense to pass my post onto Dhan, who has taken the
fanzine to its apogee, at least in terms of quality. My contributions to
SPAC are now in the order of commentaries on games, technical or
theoretical articles, interviews, and the occasional translation. I also
organize, and have long organized, competitions and prizes for adventure
writers. This I do by means of yearly threats: "Either one of you will
take care of the competition, or I will do so myself (with all that that

One could also say that I am a guru of informATE! (the Spanish version
of Inform) and, even more so, of Glulx, quite simply because it always
complicated my life, or my adventure-writing, rather; I always try to
push adventure technology a little further. So far, in Glulx, I have
programmed frames, sound, graphics, mouse events... Perhaps all of this
seems rather elementary to you, but in my community such things are not
yet considered to be quite trivia. It is always hard to be the first in
anything, and to have nobody of the same language with whom one can
consult. In such a situation, I always resort to RAIF or to Adam Cadre,
but not always with much success, as I do not know English well enough
to make myself sufficiently understood.

I always keep an eye on your community, and play the top-ranked games
from the IFComp and the XYZZY awards every year; then, of course, I
write reviews of them for SPAC.

I will now give you a brief run of my works, in part because you are not
asking, and in part because I have some interest in possible bilingual
collaborations. My adventures are:

"Astral": My first official release, written in Visual Sintac. VS is an
adventure development system which, being based on Visual Basic, has a
structured language and a fantastic IDE; unfortunately it cannot compete
with Inform & company. "Astral" is, well, about zombies... it is a kind
of dream-like kill-the-zombies-with-an-iron-bar arcade game endowed with
impact localization. I suppose you could call its fighting system
simulationist, since the damage given depends on the size, weight and
bluntness of the objects used; thus, one can fight using a chair or a
sword, or one's bare hands, for that matter -- no special object class
called "weapon" is defined. Towards the end, "Astral" offers something
other than killing and gore; it has the doubtful privilege of having
what must be the longest literary ending -- where by "literary" I mean
"devoid of interactivity" -- in the history of adventures. So, "this is
longer than the end of Astral" has become a common-place. This has
taught me not to go to too great a length when writing an ending.

"Aventurero en el Sega Park": This is a joke based on a script that won
what might be called, well, a script contest, I suppose. It is about an
adventurer that arrives at an amusement arcade full of children playing
at the machines. The objective is to make amends for the failure of
commercial adventures...

"Por la Necedad Humana" ("Because of Human Folly"): This is a
vanguardist experiment involving sounds that can propagate across rooms
(MelHython's sound library). It is based on a story by a colleague of
mine who goes by the name "Undeath". It may be the first fully
non-interactive adventure... sigh. Well -- the main character is an
alien entity invited to witness the last moments in the life of a family
in Hiroshima a few minutes before the fall of the nuclear bomb. The
point of the matter is to look at the scene from various standpoints and
see how the NPCs interact. After a while, I realized that the
interesting thing would have been to let the player enter the role of a
member of the family. It doesn't matter -- I won a contest with this

"La Jugueteria de Mago Zacarias" ("The Toyshop of Zachary the Wizard"):
This is a remake of Graham Nelson's "Toyshop". It was an experiment in
developing a hint system that would teach a complete newcomer how to
play -- a system with graphics, sound effects, music... a great deal
like what Zarf has done, but rather simpler, and oriented towards
children, evidently.

"El Extraño Caso de Randolph Dwight" ("The Curious Incident of Randolph
Dwight"): This is the one that has had the most success -- and the one
that might be considered a serious interactive fiction story. It is
based on another mystery tale by the colleague I mentioned. In this case
I try out a new movement system that eliminates the cardinal points and
allows the player to approach specific objects, obtaining descriptions
whose detail depends on his position. Darkness is implemented in a way
appropriate to the plot. The player character moves from room to room by
means of what I call "stage-doors": the player must use terms such as
"go through the corridor door", "go outside", "enter the hall" -- no
north, west, east or south. I, for one, recommend this game.

Finally, "Dracula, la Primera Noche" ("Dracula, the First Night"): A
remake of Rod Pike's excellent game from the 80's. It is bilingual, but
I have not yet released the English version. In this, I feel I may have
failed a beta tester who helped me greatly -- Yagram Borum; what happens
is that I have not yet remade the final screen, and I would not want to
release the game in the IF archive without it.

All of this can be found on my web-page:

As you can see, only the first adventure is completely mine --
everything else is either an adaptation or a remake of some sort... I am
a Stanley Kubrick of adventure... fortunately, I do have things of my
own to tell -- it is just that the time has not yet come, and now I am
involved in the second part of Dracula... well... I am already somewhat
tired of implementing others' ideas... Moreover, I always try to carry
out experiments or innovate in one way or the other... what I truly seek
is the use of complex world models derived from simulationism, which...
in my view, gives an enriched fictional experience. Why, it seems I have
ended up on the same wavelength as Emily.

As I said, I always have an eye set on the world IF community, but the
level of my English keeps me from being able to participate as I would
like to -- let alone write an adventure in English without firm support
from over there. Something similar happened to Andrés Viedma, who wrote
Shattered Memory, later rewritten as Dead Reckoning by Nick Monfort.
Incidentally, Nick, I think it would be a good idea to revive the IF
translation web-page by means of an online forum or mailing list where
we would be able to help each other directly without assuming the
responsibility of translating a complete adventure. Returning to my set
eye -- I am planning an adaptation Genesis's conceptual disc "The Lamb
Lies Down On Broadway", and I would like to make it bilingual, just like
Dracula -- first, I will wait to obtain permission from Genesis, though.

Also -- I am translating the IF Theory Book, little by little and with
some help. For now, Crimenes Contra Mimesis is ready, and, if the author
grants permission, it will be published in SPAC. I am finishing a
translation of the Designer's Manual -- our InformATE! guru, Zak, is
presently absorbed by reality, and the rest of us must complete his
work, little by little.

   SPAG: Can you give us a little history of IF in Spanish? What were
   its beginnings, and what have been some important milestones in its

U: The first Spanish adventure was Yength, released by Dinamic in 1984.
It had graphics, a ridiculous parser, and a non-existent plot and
script. Little fandom could come from there, but Spectrum magazines and
their ilk talked about a certain Hobbit, and, after a while, some folks
got some not very legal copies of that game. Now, that did dazzle the
multitudes. Also, at that time, some theoretical-practical-didactic
manuals were very popular -- I am thinking of "Spectrum Adventures", by
Tony Bridge and Roy Carnell. Reading that book on adventures, I
discovered I loved them -- it spoke of Adventure, Dungeon Adventure, The
Hobbit, Wumpus, Transylvanian Tower, Velnor's Lair -- unfortunately I
could never play them... until time passed, I got pirated copies of
some, and, later, in the 90's, I came across the Internet and finally
got all the games that I had long yearned for. There were many cases
like my own -- cases of distant admiration, for there was nothing to

Oh -- Dinamic changed name to "Aventuras Dinamic" and developed new
adventures -- among them El Quijote [Quixote] and Los Pajaros de Bangkok
[The Birds of Bangkok]. These adventures generally had great success,
and, thanks to the sections dedicated to the genre by Microhobby and
other computer game magazines, adventures acquired a respectably-sized

In 1988, Dinamic decided to separate Aventuras Dinamic from its main
line, but went on producing and distributing the adventures of the new
company -- "Aventuras AD", where AD stands for "Aventuras Dinamic".
Aventuras AD released the most important commercial adventures in
Spanish: La Aventura Original (a version of Adventure) and Cozumel.
This, together with the commercialization of Tim Gilbert's PAW and the
creation of two mail fanzines, spurred a great growth in fandom and the
writing of hundreds of amateur adventures, which have kept Spanish
adventure alive to our days.

I do not know whether it was an idea of Dinamic's or of "Aventuras
AD"'s, but a new commercial name was introduced to "reinvent the genre";
much like Infocom used "Interactive Fiction", AD sold its games under
the name "Aventuras Conversacionales" - the player enters a conversation
with the computer. Thus, the Spanish adventure community speaks of
"Aventuras Conversacionales" or AC. As of late, given the evident
influence of the IF community on some of our members and the popularity
of new tendencies for adventures and games that go beyond puzzles --
games that are more literary and less game-like than before --
tendencies that have been led, in Spanish, by Photopia, thanks to Zak's
translation, some diverge on the matter of the name of the genre, and
follow the American habit of distinguishing between text games and
interactive fiction. Still, the weight of history -- the weight that is,
in your case, Infocom -- will always tell us that what we deal with are
Aventuras Conversacionales.

Returning to a previous paragraph -- the era of fanzines was very
important; it was the germ of what we are now on the Internet. The
eldest adventurers, or "mummies", as we call each other with some
endearment, know one another from the times when we read what we wrote
in the old paper fanzines. There were problems - the AC community was
divided into two mutually exclusive groups associated to the two main
fanzines (CAAD and ZFZ), thanks to a stupid, absurd and egocentric
dispute between the "leaders" of the two. Things got to a point where
the two groups almost censored each other: if a game was published under
the aegis of one of them, the subscribers to the other one didn't even
catch the smell of it. Oh well... those were sad times, which we
nonetheless call the golden age of Spanish adventure.

Then came the waning of 8-bittery, and all went to the dustbin --
Spectrum games, adventures, magazines, fanzines, all of it. Thank God,
then came the Internet, which united us more than ever and revitalized
the genre. The most important Spanish-adventure website (CAAD: was founded in 1997.

Returning to an even more previous paragraph -- on magazines, on
Microhobby, which had a section dedicated to adventures (again, AC, here
in the land of the bulls). The main influence on us, and our sole
information source, came from that magazine, meaning, of course, the
author of those articles: Andrés R. Samudio. In turn, he, who for us was
a guru of adventures, was influenced by English adventure, by which I
mean adventures from England. Level 9 adventures were the best in the
history of ACs, in our view; of Infocom we heard only sporadically and
on the side, and it is only through your IF community that we have
learnt about their vital importance. I would like to emphasize this: the
main influence on world adventure, as reflected in the IF community, is
American, while, historically, the main influence on the Spanish
community has been British.

Evidently, the main current influence on the AC community is yours, the
IF community's, and so we drink from your well -- from the short
adventure competitions, from the experimental competitions -- from the
new tendencies towards IF with fewer puzzles and more story, from the
formalization of the genre -- we have also started out on our own path
towards the academic world, as Nick Montfort has done. One could say we
are almost at the same stage as you are, or perhaps a few steps before,
saving the enormous differences. It is absurd to compare... last year,
our community wrote 16 games -- how many did you write last year? In the
IF Comp alone there were thirty-six. On one side, we have the efforts of
only one country, aided by three or four South American friends; on the
other side -- the rest of the world.

   SPAG: What tools do authors use to create IF in Spanish? I know
   there's a Spanish Inform library -- what other resources are out
   there for Spanish-speaking IF authors?

U: InformATE! is an odd translation of Inform, in so far as the grammar,
actions and library identifiers are all translated; it is the adventure
system used by the majority. Besides, there are Visual Sintac, which has
a visual IDE and where programming goes much as in Visual Basic, and
Superglus, a PAW-like that compiles to Glulx, and is winning followers
at a speedy rate -- it must be the second most popular system; other
than that, there is nothing much worth mentioning -- as I do not think
obsolete ancient systems would be worth mentioning here. As far as
support materials are concerned, there is JIF in Spanish (thank you,
Alessandro!) and additional libraries, documentation, tutorials, etc. 

A paradox arises from InformATE!, in that, since it is a translation of
the entire Inform library, it is automatically incompatible with the
Inform library and its expansion libraries. So, whenever a new version
of Inform is released, we do not know whether to rejoice or get
depressed. What is certain is that we have taken our own path and now
can only work towards the stability of what we do have.

I was forgetting AGE, an system for the creation of adventures and MUDs
in JAVA -- it is still in the alpha stage. As far as the future is
concerned, I can glimpse translations of TADS 3 and Hugo... but it is
certain that a few years will pass before we obtain anything stable
along these lines.

   SPAG: What games would you recommend for someone fluent in Spanish?
   What about someone who had less experience with the language but
   wanted to use IF as a learning or practice tool?

U: I do not believe there is any Spanish game oriented towards teaching
the Spanish language to a foreigner. I can only recommend what to me are
the best games -- games that anyone with a mind sufficiently open to
wish to expand his interactive experience to other countries and
cultures should try. 

Take my case -- almost all the English I know is due to adventures from
England. Somebody who knows some Spanish and wants to learn more ought
to try to see whether a game's vocabulary fits well his or her
knowledge. I do something similar myself -- some of your adventures are
textually too dense for somebody who is not a native speaker.

The adventures that, in my opinion, are indispensable for understanding
the history and evolution of the AC community are the following:

* Cozumel, which belongs to the series of Ci-Hu-Tan, Cozumel, Templos
Sagrados [Sacred Temples] and Chichen Itza.

* The Ring, where the main character is a dragon transmogrified into a

* Eudoxio, a classic adventure with swords and magic.

* El Libro que se Aburria [The Book that was Bored], a tale that teaches
the user how to play adventures (thanks perhaps in part to its easy

* Del Otro Lado [From the Other Side], a brief adventure with a
transition between two main characters, much like Earth and Sky 3, with
the difference that it takes place in a medieval and oriental world.

* Casi Muerto [Almost Dead], in one room, with an alien language to be

* La Sentencia, which is The Pit and the Pendulum, by Edgar Allan Poe.

* Olvido Mortal [Fatal Forgetfulness], which you know as Dead Reckoning.

* El Extraño caso de Randolph Dwight, this one by me, a mystery a la

* El Archipielago, a clear example of the introduction of literary
stories perfectly integrated into a classic adventure game.

And, of course, you can always try out and compare the translations with
the originals: Fotopia with Photopia, El Despertar with The Awakening,
I-0 with I-0, Aventura Original with Adventure, and La Intrepida Noche
del Osito with A Bear's Night Out.

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

Consider the following review header:

TITLE: Cutthroats
AUTHOR: Infocom
EMAIL: ???
DATE: September 1984
PARSER: Infocom Standard
SUPPORTS: Z-code (Infocom/Inform) interpreters
URL: Not available.
VERSION: Release 23

When submitting reviews:  Try to fill in as much of this info as you can.
Authors may not review their own games.

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

From:	Mike Snyder 

TITLE: The Golden French Fry
AUTHOR: Paul Panks
EMAIL: dunric SP@G
DATE: November 2004
PARSER: Custom (simple)
AVAILABILITY: Freeware -- IF Archive

In "The Golden French Fry" (an MSDOS-based BASIC game including source
code with the executable) you are a slacker, a stoner, a lazy moocher
left home alone while your parents are gone for the weekend. The PC's
personality is described well enough in the introduction: "You're a drop
out junkie, and it's gonna stay that way, yo!" To make things more
interesting, your mother mentioned that a dragon lurks in the basement.
Fortunately, the single re-spawning french fry is your ticket to this
strange new world (which is somehow the basement).

I was a beta tester for earlier versions of this game. It has improved
in this revision, and the original was already more playable than Paul's
recent Comp 04 entry (Ninja v1.30). I have written additional bug-notes
to send to Paul, but I'll skip most of that for the purposes of this

In short, version 1.26 is still buggy. Some of it is just the inevitable
result of building a quickly-made parser from scratch. Attempting to
climb anything, whether it exists or not, will result in a message
saying that it wouldn't be safe. Birds chirp in several areas -- it
would be nice if "listen to birds" would work, but at a minimum,
"listen" would be a good verb to understand in general. I still noticed
a few typos, but nothing to detract too much from the game. An update
will probably address these and several other things I found while
playing this version.

The larger problem is that the game is just too rigid with what it can
understand. The verb "use" is implemented, but it's not always logical.
An alternate solution to the endgame battle requires you to "use" a
certain object. However, using it will actually "throw" it, even though
"throw" doesn't work as an alternative. In another example, you can't
"give" the troll what he wants -- you simply attempt to go south with
the item in your inventory, and the action takes care of itself. While
that's a nice shortcut, it's also not an intuitive one. If a troll asks
for something, I haven't previously been able to pass him, and now I
have what he wants, my first instinct will be to "give" this thing to
him. I tried a few variations before I found that walking "south" was
the solution.

Paul has implemented a few shortcuts, though. The "x" verb works for
"examine." The "l" verb works for "look" (although "l object" does not).
Version 1.26 introduces a "save" feature, for which I was very thankful.
The "undo" command isn't supported, except in one spot (and then, it's
automatic as a friendly means of avoiding death). I don't mind RPG
elements in a game, but the battles generally take just a couple of hits
to finish (and when longer, it's not really clear what's going on -- you
can massacre a creature shortly before it massacres you). The extra hit
points and "wimpy" mode (run when HP gets low) makes it more playable
for those with a dislike for RPG-style fighting. Usage of colored text
in Interactive Fiction may annoy some, but I found it useful and

All bugs and parsing restrictions aside (the game is playable -- just
not as easily as typical "standard" works), I'm disappointed in the
story and the consistency. Paul did add more to the intro, referencing
the PC's state of inebriation as a clue to why nothing really seems to
make sense. Still, it just isn't enough. If I'm going to see dragons and
trolls and werewolves, a nice twist would have been to reveal what these
things really are at some point, a la Don Quixote -- not just what the
PC believes them to be. As it is, I can't tell if much thought went into
the story. It seems that Paul decided to make a short puzzle game with
various random elements, connected only by the fact that they seem to
reside in the same pseudo-fantasy world. With more thought given to the
story, it might have worked. Instead, "The Golden French Fry" offers
very little to make it memorable, or to separate it from other similar

I mentioned consistency as well. From the beginning, I'm an unmotivated
slacker -- yet I proceed on a quest that involves much walking,
climbing, fighting, and personal peril. I'm able to kill an owl
protecting her egg (in order to take the egg), and the PC offers no
remorse. However, slaying the dragon leads to some brief but personal
soul-searching. A map of the area (not a bad idea) is shown on the wall
of a shed -- but it's written from the author's point of view (with
rooms named and numbered). Shouldn't it appear as if drawn by an in-game

Paul Panks might just be the Ed Wood of Interactive Fiction. He's
motivated and relentless in his efforts, and his enthusiasm is never
deterred by criticism. But, like the director of such duds as "Bride of
the Monster" and the unforgivable "Plan 9 From Outer Space", Paul seems
unable or unwilling to consider compromising his design decisions --
even though doing so might improve his work and help him grow as an IF

"The Golden French Fry" is by no means unplayable, nor is it "bad" in a
memorable way. As of version 1.26, it's still rough -- but it's getting
better. Paul has been very willing to act upon the suggestions sent
after each of my play-throughs. It could be a much better game if given
a more meaningful, cohesive storyline -- and if the parser had not been
tacked together from scratch. What's most interesting (and
disappointing) is that Paul Panks isn't new to Interactive Fiction. He's
no beginner, yet the game kind of feels like someone's first effort.


From:	Eric Woods 

TITLE: Isle of the Cult 
AUTHOR: Rune Berg 
EMAIL: runeberg SP@G 
DATE: Dec. 23, 2004 
SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters 

Isle of the Cult is the first work from Rune Berg, and I didn't discover
this until after I had completed the game. I went looking for other
games and was disappointed to find that there were none. We don't
usually find such good games as an initial attempt by authors. I am very
hopeful that he will give us another game in the near future. 

You play a thief who gets boated to an island that doesn't seem to have
been inhabited for some time. You have been sent by the Guild, though
thanks to seawater smudging your letter, you don't really have much idea
of what you are supposed to do. What's more, you forget all your
supplies in the boat that departs as the game starts. Let's go

The setting is very good in this game, allowing for some oddities of a
ramshackle, fantasy, super-natural, genre game. The sense of desolation
and ruin is done well in the village, and the jungle and beach settings
are adequate if somewhat sparse and terse. Overall, I found the island
and its structures and locations to be very believable. One thing I did
notice, however, is that, even though the overbearing sense is that this
place has been run from long ago, there is still the smell of baking
bread in the bakery. Odd, but we allow some discrepancies for the sake
of puzzles. And there are puzzles aplenty. 

This game is a puzzlefest from the good old fashioned days of IF. It is
impossible to go through two locations without encountering a problem to
overcome. Personally, I love puzzles in my IF games and the ones you'll
encounter on the Isle are well done, sometimes clever, most always
logically based, and satisfying when you complete them. I only found one
that didn't seem very logical but this can be explained by the
supernatural aspects of the game. With minimal trial and error,
manipulation of the items in your inventory, and a little thought, an
experienced gamer should get through everything. Though ultimately the
game offers only one outcome, many puzzles can be tackled in various
orders without affecting the ending. Your goal becomes apparent through
basic exploration and puzzle solving. You'll know what to do even if
you're not sure why you're doing it at the time. I also liked the fact
that Berg puts in red herrings throughout the game that seem to be
objects or locations that one would expect to find on the Isle. I think
it detracts from a game when you know you'll have to do something with
everything you find or get through every locked door you encounter.
Somehow it makes a game more believable for me if some unimportant stuff
is just lying around. 

Technically the game is extremely sound. I noticed two minor bugs but
neither was critical to completing the game or even inconvenient for
that matter. It should be noted that Berg doesn't allow for "brief" mode
in this game which I would have preferred since I became quite familiar
with the lay-out of the setting with the running around and returning to
locations that the puzzles sometimes demanded. There is one point in the
game, however, where the PC has to return to a distant spot on the
island and Berg did a good job of realizing this and incorporating it
into the text so that the player is automatically transported there and
back without the trouble of typing commands. He also doesn't choose to
use the search, look behind, under, etc. functions but lets you know
this the first time you try it by telling you examine will work well
enough. Things like that made the game play easy and smooth. 

The story itself is a bit vague. Honestly, I had to play through twice
and do some thinking before I came up with the ultimate reason why I'm
doing what I'm doing on the Isle, and it's still only a theory, based on
some hints in the game. The beginning and ending text is fairly brief,
so drawing concrete conclusions is difficult. Regardless, I found this
game to be very enjoyable in the old school style of IF which I grew up
playing and loving. Those who like and admire good puzzles will feel the
same, I'm sure. Those who like more interaction with NPCs will be
disappointed. There are no other people on the Isle, and once the
boatman leaves you all you can interact with is a monkey and an animated
creature. But for those of us who like to go on an adventure alone, I
strongly recommend you take an afternoon or two and get to the Isle of
the Cult. Hopefully Rune Berg will find another place to cart us off to
in the future. 


From:	Jimmy Maher 

You are a new member of the local guild of thieves. To give you a chance
to prove your worth, your guildmaster has loaded you into a boat and
deposited you on a remote island as this game begins. Your assignment:
to plunder everything you can get your hands on, then return to the
jetty to meet the boat again and make your escape.

IF old-timers will recognize this setup right away, for it comes from
one of the beloved classics of the commercial era, Magnetic Scrolls'
Guild of Thieves. Oddly enough, however, Rune Berg's new release Isle of
the Cult has the exact same beginning, and is even structured in much
the same way. Like Guild of Thieves, Isle of the Cult never pretends to
be anything more or less than an unabashed puzzle-fest, with just enough
of a stub of a plot to give the player a reason to solve its puzzles. I
do not know if this is coincidence or deliberate homage. If homage it
is, it is odd that no mention of its esteemed ancestor is made anywhere
in the new game's text.

Does Isle of the Cult measure up to its predecessor? The short answer is
no, but the question is perhaps unfair. Taken on its own merits, Isle of
the Cult is a solid and fairly satisfying piece of work, and a welcome
debut effort from an obviously talented designer.

A puzzle game like this must of course rise or fall on the basis of
those puzzles, for there is very little else here. Luckily, this game
largely succeeds. The puzzles are not particularly complex, difficult,
or even imaginative, but they are mostly reasonable. The game is very
solvable as long as the player reads carefully, examines everything, and
uses the objects he finds in fairly common sense ways. Virtually
everything revolves around the straightforward application of items from
the gameworld. There are no elaborate logical setpieces, multi-stage
puzzles, or research puzzles. In short, if this were a graphic adventure
it would be Monkey Island (and not just for the similar subject matter)
rather than Myst.

That is not to say that Isle of the Cult is a trivially easy game. It
started out that way for me, and I acquired the first 20 or so of 100
points with little thought or effort. However, there is quite a large
area to explore by modern standards, and a fair number of objects to
juggle. By the middle of the game, I found myself wandering over a large
map liberally sprinkled with inaccessible areas and unsolved puzzles.
The game is fairly linear in that there are generally only a few puzzles
that can be solved at any one time, and the combinatorial explosion
factor is significant. And a few puzzles do require some lateral
thinking. The fact that the rest of the game is so straightforward
actually makes these puzzles more difficult, because the player will
likely not be expecting such an obscure solution.

Still, I eventually solved the entire game on my own with no recourse to
hints. While I am an experienced IF player, I am not always the best
puzzle solver. On the old Infocom scale, I would grade this as a
Standard level game.

The TADS2 development system is designed by default to create
traditional text adventures of this kind. Perhaps for this reason, Mr.
Berg appears to have made few or no alterations to the parser and
standard library. Playing this game confirms my perhaps controversial
opinion that the standard TADS2 parser is not quite as robust and
capable as the Inform parser. A fair number of common Inform verbs are
unimplemented here, and it quickly becomes obvious that complex concepts
are simply not possible to communicate to the game.

That is not to say, however, that the parser ever presents a real
problem. I quickly adapted to using only very simplistic commands, and
the author never left me guessing for verbs or phrasing. On a few
occasions, I was actually surprised when my commands led to the game
doing something far beyond what I had intended. I solved one or two
puzzles literally accidentally due to this. Still, I would prefer this
situation to the alternative of struggling to get my point across.

This philosophy of ease-of-use extends to all other areas of the game.
While the game is old-school in form, all of the annoying aspects of
that form have been removed. There are no mazes, time limits, inventory
limits, hunger daemons, or sudden deaths to be found here. At one point,
there is a fairly complex puzzle that the player will likely have to
"solve" multiple times. After the player goes through the motions once
and receives his score reward, the game automatically repeats the
sequence for the player each time it is necessary, thus minimizing
tedium. Such small kindnesses are commendable.

The game's prose is serviceable, if (like everything else) subordinate
to the puzzles. There are rarely more than a few sentences of
description for any given location. Even the About text is unusually
terse. Still, the prose is grammatically correct and clear, and makes up
for in lucidity what it lacks in personality. 

This is one of the most well-tested games I have played in years. I
found not a single bug, typo, or inappropriate response in a fair few
hours of gameplay.

Isle of the Cult, in spite of its considerable size, is not an ambitious
game. It sticks to the tried and true, and there is nothing here that an
experienced IF player won't have seen many times before. Yet the whole
is executed with a care and polish that eludes many more daring efforts.
If you are in the mood for a reasonably sizable old-school puzzlefest,
this would make an excellent choice.


From:	Laurence Moore 

TITLE: Paint!!!
AUTHOR: David Whyld
DATE: 2004
PARSER: Standard
VERSION: Release 1

Paint was originally intended for a one-room competition but that was
aborted due to a lack of entries. In fact, only two games emerged: The
Last Hour and Paint. You certainly couldn't find a bigger gap between
the two.

Initially, I thought that the one room concept would be impossible to
work with (as a writer) and surely dull to play (as a player). Where is
the fun in only describing events, characters and items in one room?
Where is the fun in not being immersed in hundreds of locations? Well,
To Hell In A Hamper, another one-room Adrift game, certainly showed the
quality that can be produced in a one room adventure. With Paint, I feel
there is a healthy second to such a benchmark classic.

The premise of the story is typical of David Whyld material. If you're
unfamiliar with his prolific work (and by prolific, I really do mean
prolific, with 30 titles penned using Adrift) then you'll find the vein
of comedy and silliness at its core. Personally, I don't really get
comedy in IF. It takes quite a lot to raise a smile or even draw forward
a laugh. So, for this game to have the money shot, it's definitely quite

You are in charge of a crew of dozy painters who have to paint an
office. Yep, that's it. Sounds simple, right?

Of course not -- this is IF. As with other Whyld outings, we have an
array of traditional text adventure puzzles from the sublime to the
downright silly. This is tongue-in-cheek stuff and, unlike in some
games, it really works here. I think that is because the initial
scenario is plausible, credible and easy to imagine. It's madcap
nonsense and all the better for it.

From the start, and don't even try to pronounce your client's surname, I
enjoyed having a nosy around the office, looking out the window and then
telling my crew to snap to it with the work. All seemed sane until a
meteor crashed through the roof...oh, yes, it's that kind of game.
Interacting with your crew is vital in solving this game. They hold
items you require and answers that you need. Other characters also pop
in, including your client and a rather interesting female secretary.

I won't give too much away but you'll encounter the meteor very quickly.
From that point on it's one loony encounter after the other. I enjoyed
the game. The witch doctor was my favourite encounter en route to
completion. This is a tough game, but enjoyable, with enough clues --
some subtle, some less. I came across no bugs or parse errors.

A fun outing!



[NOTE: This review contains a spoiler, but what it spoils is an action
that makes the game unwinnable without warning. I've left it in, but if
you're strictly anti-spoiler, you should probably skip the second
paragraph. --Paul]

From:	Eric Woods 

TITLE: Reefer Island  
AUTHOR: Steve Barrera 
EMAIL: stevebarrera SP@G  
DATE: April 21, 2004 
SUPPORTS: TADS Interpreters 

I downloaded Reefer Island on a whim. I prefer to play TADS games, and
by the title I thought this one might be a short, pleasant and maybe
funny, diversion for a little while. I was initially surprised to find
out how involved and elaborate a game it turned out to be. Honestly,
from the title I hadn't expected much. This game would have been a very
good and fun game (probably a *** from Baf's rating), but it only turned
out to be an exercise in frustration, wondering what to do next and
finally quitting with a sense of time being wasted. After a short while
I could only progress via email assistance from the author. He tells me
he is planning to rework the game and design it so as to be more
friendly to the player. I hope he does this because this effort is not
without its merits. 

Reefer Island is a large, sprawling island that you'll have to traverse
numerous times in order to complete the goal. The goal is, of course, to
find pot, a lighter, and something to smoke it with. This is made clear
to you at the beginning of the adventure, when the ship that you and your
comrades are on is shipwrecked and you get separated from everyone in a
small lifeboat. You find yourself washing up on shore with nothing but a
watch (which occasionally tells you how many hours it's been since your
last bong hit) and an empty bag of Cheetos. Fair enough. The island is a
very colorful place with a few characters with which to interact and
numerous locations through the town, jungle, and dunes to explore.
Unfortunately, it is quite simple to put the game in an unwinnable state
very early without realizing it. I hope this next statement won't be
considered too much of a spoiler, but when you get pot from a native,
which is what I logically assumed I was supposed to do, you put the game
in an incompletable state without knowing that you've done so. But don't
worry about that. To initially interact with this guy you need to give
him a lighter which you can find easily enough with some exploring. Give
it to him and you put the game out of reach even before you ruin it by
buying pot from him. He gives you the lighter back, will sell you a bag
of dope for two shells (their currency) which you can find just lying
around on the beach, and everything seems great, huh? But you can't give
him the lighter since once he uses it there isn't enough fluid in it any
longer to complete a task for which you'll need it later in the game. I
had dope, and a lighter and thought I was well on my way to winning a
fairly easy game. How was I to know? 

Other than the above-listed problems I found the puzzles to range from
the easy and logical to the strange and unintuitive, especially the ones
concerning a dais and a camera at the Mayor's house. Too much mind
reading for me with these. I consider myself a pretty good puzzle solver
but I wouldn't have come across the solutions to those in a hundred

There is some good humor in this game and technically it is fairly
sound. I did run across a bug that seemed to make the game unwinnable
but I couldn't duplicate it afterwards, and the author tells me that it
shouldn't have happened, so take that for what you will. The
descriptions are good, colorful, and thorough, but I felt the fantasy
and supernatural aspects of the game seemed a little forced and awkward.
All the items were implemented well, though there was one location where
I couldn't stand on something even though I needed to get on it. It
seemed that the game would play very smoothly if only whoever was
playing it could read the author's mind at several points through the

I haven't noticed a walkthrough for this game yet but, if you can find
one, it's worth a play. If the frustrations could be removed it would be
very enjoyable for those of us that like some puzzles in our games. I
hope the author will consider making it more intuitive and follow a more
logical progression of events in a revision. 

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
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addition, reviewers should play a game to completion before submitting a
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Authors retain the rights to use their reviews in other contexts. We
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