/~~\ /~~~\ /\ /~~~\ \ \/ | |> | //\\ | /\ \ | _/ ||__|| | ~~\ The \__/ociety for the |_|reservation of || ||dventure \___/ames _ | | | | | |----\ |------/ives! ISSUE # 5 Edited by G. Kevin Wilson (whizzard SP@G uclink.berkeley.edu) April 19, 1995 All email addresses are spamblocked -- replace the name of our magazine with the traditional 'at' sign. EDITORIAL-------------------------------------------------------------------- As you can see by the rather unusual magazine header, this issue SPAG focuses on the much awaited, and much speculated upon, Adventions game, _The Legend Lives!_. Within these electronic pages lurks an interview with Dave Baggett, a review of "Legend" by Molley the Mage, and information on "Legend" in the NEW GAMES section, which incidentally, is freeware. Ah, if only my low morals could aspire to such heights. But, I'm just a capitalist pig-dog businessman. Oh well. :) Of course, "Legend" isn't the only thing in this issue, the largest issue of SPAG yet. Mind you, it's almost entirely due to Graeme Cree's efforts (He's the author of Tossed into Space). Graeme sent me so many reviews that, at the current quota of 2 reviews a year, he's covered until, I believe, the year 2175, but I could be wrong. :) As expected, I had a sad and meager response to my "Breathers" contest. Maybe sometime I'll try it again, with a prize. :) Still, the ones I did receive, I enjoyed heartily, and printed them all so you could enjoy them too. SPAG has about 30 new subscribers this month. Welcome folks! Glad to have you aboard. "Whizzard's Guide to Text Adventures" has been delayed so that I might get some work done on Avalon, which I know some of you will be thrilled to hear. The rest of you, keep the yawning to a minimum, okay? Avalon is fast approaching its second anniversary, which is, well, pretty depressing any way you look at it. So I'll try to hurry it up. For those keeping score, I began Avalon in Oct. '93 with the tentative title Avalon: The Return of a British Monarch. The title was pretty bad, I admit. Not at all spiffy like the current title. One Britisher even pointed out to the capitalist pig-dog that England already has a monarch, thank-you-very-much. Whoops. I then turned to the Vietnam Vets mailing list for information. Wow, was that a mistake. They were so insulted by the fact that my game used the Vietnam War that they set phasers to kill and flamed the heck out of me. I quickly unsubscribed from there, let me tell you. I believe the term "mewling puke" was used. Yoinks! I even received several threats of lawsuits if my game used any of their stories/anecdotes or whatnot. Of course, they did fight in a war, not a game, so it's very understandable to me now. As they say, hindsight is 20/20. After that, I kept my use of the Vietnam War to a minimum, and restricted my research to books, magazines, and encyclopedias. Of course, it still bewilders me why it's okay for movies and books to mention serious subjects, but not for a text adventure to do the exact same thing. Probably due to the current commercial games on the market being as trite as they are. Oh well. Experience is the best teacher, except at Berkeley, where the best teachers all have PhD's. Anyways, that's enough reminiscing for one issue (Hey, wake up, it's over, okay?). So, without further ado, I give you SPAG. (Well, technically, the reviewers give you SPAG.) G. Kevin Wilson "Whizzard" INTERVIEW WITH DAVE BAGGETT-------------------------------------------------- [Here's that interview I promised you. You may want to skip down to Molley the Mage's review and read that first.] From: David Baggett
>So Dave, why did you decide to write this great new game of yours? It started life as Unnkulian Unventure V. I had just finished UU2, and we had III and IV in the works --- these were to be written by some new authors (who have subsequently gotten busy with other things). The basic idea was to look at life in the Valley in the future --- to see what happened to all the people and places we'd introduced in UU1 and UU2. In the end, that ended up being a fairly minor part of the work. If you play all the Unnkulian games all the way through, however, you'll recognize a great deal of continuity. We work hard to put in little details that veteran Unnkulian players will notice and chuckle at. Because of this, we encourage people to play through the games again once they've run through the whole series. Little things you didn't understand the first time through will make sense the second time. There's a section of Legend that is there just for the sake of continuity: in Unnkulia Zero you end up in the future at one point, and it turns out that this future is actually Legend's present. So you (in Legend) get to see "you" (in Unnkulia Zero). Similarly, some characters appear in many different places and times. (The bartender in Legend is a good example --- try spraying him with the Snayk spray you get out of the prototypes machine.) There's a lot more going on in the Unnkulian universe than first meets the eye. There's a specific and peculiar philosophy behind all the wackiness --- that something (time travel, reincarnation, or something else supernatural) binds these characters together across time and space. For example, Gavin Kelly ("you" in Legend) is an "echo" of another character you know well. The game tells you who, but in a very roundabout way --- you have to think a bit and try some silly things to figure it out. One thing I find especially attractive about interactive fiction is that you can go through the whole work and still not read 50% of the text. This means that authors can put in lots of (for lack of a better word) subtext --- secret messages, hidden objects --- little things that bind the game world together and reward extensive study of the game. I like to think of this as the weave of a fine Persian rug. You can look at the rug from afar and marvel at the beautiful pattern, and this is a perfectly good way to appreciate the piece. But you can also flip it over and put your face right up against the weave, and see how finely it's crafted --- how many threads there are per inch and so forth. One side tells you a lot about the other. >Why did you decide to call it The Legend Lives! of all things? There's nothing deep about the title. It just reflects the fact that you (as Gavin Kelly) are familar with stories about these supposedly mythical "Unnkulians", and then find out that they're actually around and up to no good. (Of course, it's turns out that it's not that simple in the end.) Keep in mind that you (the player) know that that the Unnkulians were indeed "real" in Gavin's world, since you've played UU1 and UU2. But in Gavin Kelly's world, UU1 and UU2 are fictional works, so he doesn't know that the Unnkulians are anything but the stuff of legend. This is part of a general propensity I had in Legend for confusing the reader in order to get him to suspsend his disbelief. The more you think about what's real and what's not, the more confused you get. So eventually you just give up and go along for the ride. :) Reality vs. unreality ties in nicely, because there's a bit of the same confusion with software in general. A piece of software *does* things -- it acts as an agent for the programmer. But it doesn't really exist in the physical world; or at least, what makes it useful --- the instructions that determine what it does --- don't. They're just numbers that can be stored and transmitted in uncountably many ways. There can be thousands of copies; there is infinite potential there. And in the abstract it takes no space. If you think about it, it really is quite strange. The UU3 bit in Legend underscores this. I remember seeing a report on TV about modern art, and one of the most ridiculed works was a a pile of candy. The work's owner explained that anyone is free to take candy from the sculpture, or add candy to it. The narrator dismissed the work as utterly absurd --- he wondered aloud: if people are adding to and taking away from the pile of the candy, what was it, exactly, that the artist created? The answer is that the artist created the *rule* --- the software. The physical sculpture is not important; it's the rule ("anyone can add candy to and take candy away from the sculpture") that's important. If I'm in a room with you, and point to the bare floor, then I'm pointing at an instance of this artist's sculpture. How peculiar! The narrator completely missed the point of the work. The fact that such a work is so easy to produce doesn't change the fact that it's a very interesting piece. (The first time someone does it, at least. The problem with works of art that are trivial to produce is that so many people rip them off that they quickly lose their impact.) (One does wonder how much the owner paid for the work, however! And again, we often have the same feelings about software --- we feel a bit taken paying for something that can be copied effortlessly. We want to own the *only* copy of a work of art. But the days of owning originals are over!) [I dunno, Dave. It seems pretty deep to me. -GKW] >Were you trying to get a specific message across to the player when you >wrote "Legend"? There are many issues that I hope the work prompts the reader to think about. I think that some of these require some study to "get", and this is perhaps indicative of weakness in the work. Fundamentally, Legend invites you to think about what life really is. What aspects of life do we consider the exclusive domain of biological entities, and why? What would a machine have to do to change our idea of what life is? Intelligence is of course one area where machines lag behind people and animals right now. But suppose this weren't the case --- I think that we'd still be reluctant to call intelligent machines "living" or "conscious". Why? Because we have this notion of soul --- that there is something external to our physical world that somehow guides us and really determines who we are. Only religion talks about the soul, and that's why I thought it imperative for Legend to have a strong religious component. Understanding the role religion plays in Legend is crucial to understanding the work as a whole. Beyond the central theme, Legend also talks about good and evil (this is mainly to fool you into thinking the game is a text adventure like all others, so you'll dive right into it); fascism and how it creeps up on you when beaurocracies get too old and powerful, and how technology contributes to this; the nature of time; and how technology both brings people together and simultaneously eats away at their individuality --- particluarly, how it helps people to work together much more efficiently, but likewise makes each person's individual contribution less significant. >Hunh. Well, I've heard a lot about the new techniques you say you used >in "Legend". Exactly what sort of unusual techniques did you use? For one, I tried to increase the text density significantly. You can examine the world to greater depth, and the text you get is lengthier. This is not really a new technique; it's just a style. However, I do think Legend treats characters in a new way. I call this the "actor/character" distinction. "Actors" are those game entities that the player can interact with --- the troll on the bridge in Adventure, for example. "Characters", on the other hand, are not interactive --- they exist only in the running text. Of course, some entities can have both character and actor components (though as we see in Legend, not entirely successfully). I came up with this mainly out of frustration. It's almost impossible to make good actors, because AI is not up to the task, and won't be for quite some time. As a result, I feel that making convincing actors is a lost cause. Static fiction tells us a great deal about how to make strong *characters*, however. If you read _Catcher in the Rye_ alone, you can see many of the basic devices authors use to fashion believable characters. I wanted to put some of these to use in IF. Hence the actor/character distinction. [Well, of course I disagree. Anything possible in static fiction is possible in interactive fiction, only more so. -GKW] >So, why use WorldClass for "Legend"? It's my understanding that you >wrote it originally for adv.t. Yes, Legend was an ADV.T game for more than half its deveplopment. I wrote WorldClass for another project (GC, the 1994 MIT AI Lab Olympics game) but liked using it a lot more than ADV.T. Half the reason WorldClass exists is that I was getting tired of little annoying problems with ADV.T. Going back to ADV.T now would be very frustrating. To be honest, though, Legend doesn't use much of WorldClass's power. >Do you have any plans for your next game? Is it going to be freeware or >commercial, like the "Horror of Rylvania"? I'm working on a couple of things, neither of which is nearly as large or commercially viable as Legend. I probably won't make any more IF works commercial, but I'm not going to promise that! In addition to all of Legend's DOS problems and its incredible lateness, our experiences with Rylvania led me to go the freeware/shareware route to ensure that the game would get wide distribution. I still feel that Rylvania is an extremely important and innovative IF game --- one that has been unjustly ignored. It's disappointing that although there are so many IF enthusiasts out there, so few are willing to pay a fair price for such a strong work. >Thanks alot for answering my questions. Anything you'd like to add? If you play these games for the puzzles alone --- if you just tear through a work in a couple days --- you will never see what makes Rylvania (or Legend, for that matter) different from its predecessors. Whether or not these works are entirely successful is a separate issue (though I think Rylvania is, and very much so). In my opinion, they are taking IF in new directions. Dave [Bravo, and thanks for the insights, Dave. -GKW] LETTERS TO THE EDITOR-------------------------------------------------------- From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> I would like to comment on Stefan Jokisch's review of my game, Tossed into Space" in SPAGS #4. First, the original version of the game that won an honourable mention in the 7th AGT Game Writing contest was not in fact a Lost in Space parody at all, but a direct and explicit Lost in Space story. "Tossed", the special parody version with the names changed to protect the guilty was specially created to be able to upload to the Compuserve Gamer's Forum without any legal difficulties. As a result, the Designer's Notes that explained the purpose of the game had to be omitted, since they contained numerous references to Lost in Space. Mr. Jokisch comments that the game is extremely easy and was probably intended for beginners. Not quite. It is intended not for beginning gamers, but for non-gamers. Many times I have tried to introduce my non-gaming friends to text games and have been rebuffed with responses like "they take forever to play", "they're too hard", and the occasional "I hate using graph paper". They invariably end up playing the latest version of Space Zap or Pong 2000. Whenever I have a group of friends over, some of us will watch a video, others will play a boardgame, and invariably one person will see the computer and ask if I have anything for them to play. I wanted a fast and easy text game for other people to be able to play on MY computer when they came over. I especially wanted one that they would be able to finish before they went home, and didn't want difficulty or length to cause them to abandon it in the middle and become soured on text games that way. Marc Blank's "Catch A Butterfly" Tutorial was TOO short and easy. I tried using Border Zone - Chapter 1, but the puzzles were a little too hard, and the generic background didn't capture people's imagination. So I decided to write my own. A familiar subject matter would attract interest, and a lot of my friends are science-fiction fans. Lost in Space had a very small space ship, meaning that the players could visualize the whole map in their mind without using graph paper, and would be aided by the fact that they already had some idea of what the playing area looked like. Another factor was that I have one friend who is actually a Lost in Space fan, and another who is named Dr. Smith. In addition, Lost in Space revolved around a quest for Earth that was never resolved. Why not write a conclusion to the story? But a story where the Robinsons heroically nursed their ship back to Earth seemed a bit anti-climactic. Then I remembered the old axiom that good writing made the reader care about the characters. "Surely," I thought, "Lost in Space's writing was so bad that nobody would care if I let Dr. Smith steal the ship and go back to Earth by himself." And the idea was born. To make it more appealing to the first time player I weighted it heavily towards story and against puzzles. Puzzles are there, but are very easy so that the player who tried a text game once, but got stuck after 5 minutes and never came back will be able to progress through the game without getting frustrated. One thing I didn't like in shareware games I had seen was that the authors often wrote responses only for correct actions. If you did something wrong, you often got just a generic "you can't do that message". As a result, I tried to fill the game with specially written responses for all sorts of incorrect or useless actions, so that the player would not only have fun while he was winning, but also while he was just exploring around trying to figure out what to do. The original version of the game is a bit better than the parody. Lost in Space is itself a sort of unintentional parody of good science fiction, so a parody isn't quite as funny as doing it as a straight Lost in Space story. Also, the original version has a few cute little extras, such as Pianoman versions of both Lost in Space theme songs as opening and closing credits, and a .gif of the game map that the batch file offers to show the player at the end. However, it's not possible to distribute the original version due to the copyright. I'm rather pleased with the final result, and think that the game does well what it was intended to do. For better or worse, the final result is almost exactly what I had visualized. [And now, the moment you've all been waiting for (suurrree.): The winners of my "Breathers" Contest from SPAG #4. They will each be mailed a free copy of SPAG #5 to celebrate their success. :) ] From: "Christopher Angelini" You stand in darkness. Through your socks, you feel the rounded edges of floor tiling, cool and hard. Your dressing gown brushes against a counter as you walk through the room, stirring the still air, and forcing a slight whiff of chlorine into your nose. You feel your leg almost ache in anticipation of banging against that counter, but you have managed to avoid it for once. Slowly, your hand glides across wallpaper, flowing over small air-bubbles and peeling seams, finally locating the cold metal of the light switch, which you throw. Your eyes blink reflexively as the room explodes into view, revealing a sterile, white washroom, and a grey door through which lies your room. From: "Magnus Olsson" Drums. At first, just a noise that shoots fingers of pain through your aching head; then, as unconsciousness releases its grip and you slowly become aware of the smell of smoke, the taste of blood in your mouth, the dusty ground pressing against your face, you start perceiving the urgent, almost threatening rhythm. Carefully opening your eyes, you see only the dark wall of the jungle; then dancing, dark shapes sillhouetted against it. As you slowly turn over, the events of your capture leap back into your mind: the oppressive jungle atmosphere, the sudden parting of branches to reveal painted Ngongo warriors, the short struggle mercilessly ended by a war club. Not until your eyes focus on the big, black kettle by the fire do you remember the Ngongos' grim reputation - as cannibals. Flexing your aching muscles, gathering what strength you've left, you desperately seek an opportunity for escape. KEY TO SCORES AND REVIEWS---------------------------------------------------- Consider the following review header: NAME: Cutthroats PARSER: Infocom Standard AUTHOR: Infocom PLOT: Two Seperate Paths EMAIL: ??? ATMOSPHERE: Well Done AVAILABILITY: LTOI 2 WRITING: Good PUZZLES: Good SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports CHARACTERS: Not Bad DIFFICULTY: Medium First, you'll notice that the score has been removed, and replaced by one or two word ratings. These are pretty arbitrary, and should allow more freedom to the reviewers. The EMAIL section is for the e-mail address of the game author, not the reviewer. AVAILABILITY will usually have either Commercial ($price), Shareware ($price), or Freeware. If the commercial price varies in stores, then it will just say Commercial. If it has been released in the LTOI collection, this line should say so. Lastly, if it is available on ftp.gmd.de, the line should add GMD. (Demo) if it's a demo version. The body of the review hasn't changed. When submitting reviews: Try to fill in as much of this info as you can. Also, scores are still desired along with the reviews, so send those along. The scores will be used in the ratings section. Authors may not rate or review their own games. SPAG accepts reviews of any length, letters to the editor, the occasional interesting article on text adventures (no reprints please), and even just ratings for your favorite game, if you don't have the time to do a full review. Please though, at least send me info for each game you have rated equivalent to the review header for Cutthroats, above. All accepted materials will be headed by the submitter's name and e-mail address, unless you request that they be withheld, in which case the header will read as "Anonymous." NEW GAMES-------------------------------------------------------------------- As I'm sure you all know, this month heralds the release of Adventions' _The Legend Lives!_ which is available from ftp.gmd.de in the appropriate directory, which should be found within if-archive/games/adventions/. Be sure to use binary download format when getting it (type 'bi' before downloading), or you may experience trouble when you try unpacking it. As "Legend" is so big, and uses WorldClass, Dave Baggett's updated library for TADS, it can only run using the protected mode version of TADS on IBM compatibles. You need not worry about this, as Legend is packaged in the .exe format. However, users have often complained of difficulty when running the game. If you experience this problem, try running Legend from within a DOS shell running under Windows 3.1. This may help the problem. If Windows 3.1 refuses to install on your computer, as it does on mine, then get your roommate to let you play it on his/her Macintosh, as I am doing. There have been no reports of difficulties using a Macintosh computer. Oh, by the way, you'll need at least a 286 to run it. Oh well. But before you get discouraged by all this, let me say that Legend is worth all the hassle. The puzzles are interesting, the prose is terrific, and the story is marvelous. Of course, the characters are two dimensional, but I haven't seen a good NPC since Floyd anyways. :( REVIEWS---------------------------------------------------------------------- From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> NAME: A Mind Forever Voyaging GAMEPLAY: Infocom Standard AUTHOR: Steve Eric Meretzky PLOT: Quite Good EMAIL: ? ATMOSPHERE: Perfect AVAILABILITY: LTOI 2 WRITING: Quite Good PUZZLES: Not puzzle-oriented SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports CHARACTERS: Well developed DIFFICULTY: Advanced A Mind Forever Voyaging is often billed as Infocom's first serious science fiction (much to the chagrin of Starcross and Suspended fans). You are Perry Sim, who believed himself a normal human being until one day (in adult life) you awake to find that you are in fact the world's first sentient computer, and that the illusion of your earlier life had been a necessary part of your programming process. Your first mission is to test the value of the controversial Plan for Renewed National Purpose, a long-term economic stimulus program. To do this you must travel into a virtual reality computer simulation of the nation ten years in the future and make recordings of several everyday activities you will find there. After doing so, you discover that simulations of times even farther in the future have been made available for you to investigate. In the final section of the game you must deal with the information you have discovered. Right away I had two serious problems with the game's premise. First, computer simulations of the future have always been extremely unreliable, and here we're asked to believe that we will develop one so accurate that it can actually determine the location of (as yet unplanned) parks and small businesses in Rockvil, South Dakota, where the game takes place. It is simply impossible to have enough information about people's private thoughts, especially ones that they haven't even had yet, to be able to factor this into a simulation. Secondly, even if such simulations were available, why couldn't the data simply be retrieved from the computer, rather than have to send someone into the simulation to view it directly? If you can suspend disbelief enough to accept the situation, then the game is quite good. Unlike other Infocom offerings, it is meant to be experienced, rather than played. The first two parts of the game have almost no puzzles, focusing instead on exploration and discovery as you walk the streets of Rockvil, watching daily life, seeing what activities can be attributed to the effects of the Plan, and watching the changes that take place over time. If you've ever enjoyed returning to places you once lived to see the changes, then you will probably enjoy this game. Vacant lots become drugstores, buildings get torn down and replaced with different ones, and people's attitudes towards you may change from time to time. On the other hand, if what you enjoy most about text games is the puzzle solving, you will probably get quite bored. It isn't clear why Infocom rated this game as Advanced. Most of the puzzles are in the third section of the game. As should surprise no one, the Plan turns out to be not such a good idea, and you must defend yourself and your friends from its supporters who are not entirely pleased with the data you have uncovered. Meretzky was so pleased with the puzzle at the end of this section that he used virtually the identical one at the end of Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2. Years ago in an online Compuserve conference, Dave Lebling remarked that most of Infocom's games were done tongue-in-cheek because those titles invariably sold better than the others (this may explain why some of their non-tongue-in-cheek games, like Spellbreaker and Cutthroats, had funny documentation). A Mind Forever Voyaging is no exception, as it never sold particularly well. Nevertheless, I consider it one of Infocom's top three serious games (Spellbreaker and Arthur being the other two), and worth a playthrough by anyone except the most die-hard puzzle fanatics. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> NAME: The Adventures of Elizabeth (El) Highe GAMEPLAY: Poor, but adequate AUTHOR: Bill Larkins PLOT: Slightly below average EMAIL: ? ATMOSPHERE: Below Average AVAILABILITY: CIS Gamer's Forum WRITING: Average PUZZLES: Not so hot SUPPORTS: AGT CHARACTERS: Slightly below average DIFFICULTY: Trivial In THE ADVENTURES OF ELIZABETH (EL) HIGHE, you play Elizabeth Highe, a game designer for Sierra who must write a sequel to the hit, G-String Gertrude so that Ken and Roberta Williams will allow her to leave the building (all the names have been slightly changed, of course; i.e. Sierra to Appalachia, Roberta Williams to Robert Bills, etc.). You write your game by entering the computer (in a manner similar to the movie TRON) and physically retrieving it. The AGT manual, in describing various uses for adventure games, suggests that you could write a game about your co-workers and play it on a Friday afternoon. This seems to be exactly what Bill Larkins has done here (though I don't know if he ever worked for Sierra). The game is short (I was able to complete it in 42 moves), simple and lighthearted. The AGT parser is much maligned, but is really as good as the author makes it. It doesn't do much in this game, but it doesn't need to. The only problem I encountered was when I performed one important action, and got no response at all, even though the action was registered. Some might mistakenly take this to mean that the action was not important and get sidetracked. The game is meant to be simple, cute, and quickly over, and it is. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> NAME: Beyond Zork: The Coconut of Quendor GAMEPLAY: Infocom Deluxe AUTHOR: Brian Moriarty PLOT: Roller Coaster EMAIL: ? ATMOSPHERE: Rich AVAILABILITY: LTOI 1 WRITING: Very Good PUZZLES: Multiple Solutions SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports CHARACTERS: Very Good DIFFICULTY: Advanced Beyond Zork, the first game in the Zork series since the publication of Zork III five years earlier, really owes much more to the Enchanter trilogy than the Zork trilogy. The story takes place concurently with Spellbreaker and begins in the Guild Hall of Borphee shortly after your departure. The remaining Guild Heads (still in enchanted form), realizing that your quest in that game will result in the destruction of magic itself, decide that the legendary Coconut of Quendor must be seized from the Implementors and stored away, to be brought out again in the distant future. Considering that the Implementors are literally the staff of Infocom (try to ZIFMIA IMPLEMENTORS in Enchanter to see what I mean) this could present a thorny metaphysical problem if one thought about it too much. In a move reminiscent of Enchanter, they decide that an untrained initiate must be selected for this quest. Beyond Zork was one of the format experiments Infocom conducted during the 1987-1989 period, and certainly contains the best parser of any of the non-graphics games. The function keys could be programmed to represent any input desired, with or without a carriage return. The top left part of the screen contained a box that constantly displayed the room description, while the top right contained a small onscreen map that displayed the immediate vicinity. The game was an attempt to integrate role-playing with text adventures, and was surprisingly successful. While most text games have one or two random elements, Beyond Zork has many. You begin by setting your character's attributes from a pool of points that you are given (or you can select a preset character) as in a proper RPG. Several puzzles cannot be solved unless a certain attribute is high enough, even if you are aware of the proper action to take. Combat is conducted as in normal RPG's, with your attributes being cross-referenced against a computerised die-roll. Even the map changes slightly from game to game. The scale of the map areas vary greatly. Some "rooms" are as small as a tavern's common room, while others are the size of a city. The main playing area spans over several towns scattered through the Westlands, but parts of the game may take you through geological ages of time, or on a trip to the land of Oz (the name is changed in the game of course). Beyond Zork is a game with a great amount of play and replay value. Many of the puzzles have multiple solutions, and will keep players coming back to find more even after they have played the game to a conclusion. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> NAME: Bureaucracy GAMEPLAY: Infocom Standard AUTHOR: Douglas Adams PLOT: Great EMAIL: ? ATMOSPHERE: Excellent AVAILABILITY: LTOI 2 WRITING: Excellent PUZZLES: Difficult SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports CHARACTERS: Archetypal DIFFICULTY: Expert In Bureaucracy, you have just moved to a new town and must get your bank to acknowledge your change of address form before embarking on your all-expense paid trip to Paris, as well as untangle several other Bureaucratic mishaps from missed connections to surly waitresses. The game is divided into four parts. In the first, you must cash your check to get money for the cab ride to the airport. In the second, you must get through the airport to reach your flight. In the third, you must escape from the wrong airliner you have found yourself on before it crashes (or does it?). In the final part, you must take care of the computer hacker who is responsible for most of your problems. This game has become the standard by which almost all tongue-in-cheek games about real life are measured, and has been imitated many times, but seldom equalled. The atmosphere is not surprisingly, very much like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but is in many ways funnier since it hits areas that the gamer will have experienced firsthand. By the time this game came out Infocom had abandoned their difficulty rating system, but this game is as difficult as any other Infocom game with the exception of Spellbreaker. Many of the puzzles are intuitive rather than logical and force you to recreate Douglas Adams' twisted thinking to make sense of them (for example, the way you get your check cashed at the bank). Others are logical, but require you to grasp complicated patterns to solve them (i.e., the way you dispose of your Zalagasan Stew on the airliner). There are many well-developed characters that represent a cross-section of the most annoying people in daily life from the llama treat delivery man (who comes up with the brilliant idea that you should get your expired credit card replaced) to the surly waitress, to the survivalist, to Random Q. Hacker himself. One problem with the game is getting to the end of it. The story is so rich in detail that many will not want to remain stuck indefinitely on one of the puzzles. Unfortunately no editions of Bureaucracy contain onscreen hints, and it was included in Lost Treasures 2, which had no hint books enclosed. If you get stuck, your best bet is to download a walkthrough from GMD or the Compuserve Gamer's Forum, or to call Activion's 900 hint number. [I suggest ftp.gmd.de:/if-archive/solutions/infocom/ for you ftp capable readers. -GKW] The freebies are some of Infocom's best. One is a copy of Popular Paranoia magazine, which gives you the low down on the conspiracies that threaten to destroy your life. Another is the infamous carbonless triplicate form. Most people sign these daily, taking it for granted that the lower copies are identical to the top one. Activision did this itself, and only reproduced the top copy for their Lost Treasures documentation. But if you look more carefully, you may find that the line for your zip code on page 1 may ask for your wife's weight, or the number of pancakes that you have eaten today on succeeding copies. Too bad Adams never made this into a book... =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> NAME: Castaway GAMEPLAY: No synonyms AUTHOR: Conrad Button PLOT: Rudimentary EMAIL: ? ATMOSPHERE: None AVAILABILITY: MS-DOS WRITING: Basic PUZZLES: Basic SUPPORTS: MS-DOS CHARACTERS: None DIFFICULTY: Novice In Castaway, by Conrad Button, you are first mate of the cargo ship, Katie Sue (I don't know why, but I suspect that this is Button's daughter. A little nepotism here, hmm?). When your ship is smashed on a reef, you fortunately wash ashore on an island that has a rescue ship anchored a mile away. Your job is to find the fixins' for a signal fire, as well as locate ten treasures hidden on the island. The mixing of the rescue theme with the treasure hunt theme produces some bizarre results. Though you will probably spot the ship a few moves after landing, you will avoid signalling it until you've gotten all the treasures. In real life you'd be much more concerned that the ship might leave. You can get around this problem by signalling the ship but not boarding it until you've gotten all the treasures, but this creates another bizarre situation: the ship sitting in the lagoon waiting around until you feel like being rescued ("Snap it up fella, we haven't got all day!"). In your search, you will encounter the lost city of Pango Tongo, which has several of the treasures you need. We are never told anything about this city like "what is it doing there", and "what happened to the people". It is just there. The game features the traditionally bad Buttonware parser; two-word input and absolutely no synonyms. If you call the "parrot" a "bird", the game will have no idea what you're talking about. The game's difficulty level is Novice, so you probably won't have much trouble solving it anyway, but generally introductory games should be as user-friendly as possible, to encourage the player to play more text games. This one doesn't. One nice feature (that I wish more Introductory games would emulate) is that each room lists the directions that you can travel on a separate line. This is much easier for the novice trying to draw his first map than having to pick all of the directions out of the room description. Castaway is not up to scratch by 1995 standards, but one must remember that it was written in the pre GAGS/LADS/AGT/TADS/Inform days of 1986. Under the circumstances, putting out any shareware text game at all was an impressive feat. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> NAME: Cosmoserve - An Adventure for the BBS Enslaved PARSER: Great AUTHOR: Judith Pintar PLOT: Many Twists EMAIL: ??? ATMOSPHERE: SIM BBS AVAILABILITY: GMD WRITING: Very Good PUZZLES: Quite Good SUPPORTS: AGT Ports CHARACTERS: Very Good DIFFICULTY: Above Average In Cosmoserve, you play R.J. Wright, a plumber and freelance computer programmer in 1999. The program you are using to complete one of your assignments has a glitch in it, and you must sign on to Cosmoserve to download a patch file. Along the way you will encounter computer viruses, virtual reality games, lost passwords, online conferences, FBI raids, online stalkers, and Rick's Cafe Americain. I think that Cosmoserve is my favourite non-commercial text game, and certainly the all-time best AGT game. Judith Pintar performs wonders with the AGT parser. You can actually navigate through the hard drive of your 786 computer using DOS commands. When you logon, you are treated to phone dialing and modem sounds. When you are in an online conference the other users' statements come one at a time, as in real life. Maxis could market this game as "SIM BBS". The plot is delightfully interwoven, as the simple task of finding your patch file takes you on a trip through a myriad of forums, file directories, conferences and e-mail encounters. There is limited online help in three places. There is a hints forum (GO HINTS) that will answer a few questions. Also, Ms. Pintar herself makes a cameo appearance in the Virtual Reality game as Judith, the Cosmoserve Hints Sysop. Thirdly, your Aunt Edna will drop by early in the game if you are unable to find your new password. The atmosphere is superb. Watching the debate in the Plumbers & Electricians forum over which profession provides a better metaphor for the human condition (one purifies with water, the other with fire) is frighteningly funny. Tongue-in-cheek games about real life are invariably compared to Infocom's Bureaucracy, and they usually fall far short. This one doesn't. This is probably not a game that can be completed in one pass. You are on a time limit of less than 12 hours, and some things can only be done at certain times. It is likely that you will have to restart the game from the beginning at some point to optimize your time utilization. A couple of points. Although Cosmoserve is available for all AGT ports, MS-DOS users will have a slight advantage, as the game is keyed to simulate a PC. Also, people who have logged on using generic communications software will be better prepared for the game, as there is no "Cosmoserve Information Manager". Incredibly this game only tied for first in the AGT Game Writing Contest. From: "Donna McCreary Rodriguez" Name: CosmoServe Parser: AGT 1.32 Author: Judith Pintar Plot: Linear Email: Compuserve 76636,2067 Atmosphere: Unusual Availability: GMD; Freeware Writing: Fair Puzzles: Clever; logical Supports: AGT ports Characters: Fairly Flat Difficulty: Easy to Medium "CosmoServe: An Adventure Game for the BBS-Enslaved" has a "play-within-a-play feel." You are an absent-minded, self-employed computer consultant/programmer and erstwhile plumber who is trying to beat a project deadline. Solutions to the bugs in your creation may be found on CosmoServe, but--alas--you have forgotten your password, and , what's more, you've go a bbs hacker time-bandit to contend with once you finally logon. Things escalate from there to a fairly engrossing set of subplots and games-within-games. Much of the game is set in a simulated computer/bbs environment, and therein lies its appeal. The novel atmosphere more than makes up for the flat characterization. The puzzles are clever and logically solved, and the plot is tightly written, with only 86 locations. Give this one a try. Hats off to the author, Judith Pintar, who doesn't ask a fee, just that you e-mail her "the meaning of life, in 20 words or less." =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> NAME: Detective GAMEPLAY: Limited AGT AUTHOR: Matt Barringer PLOT: None EMAIL: ATMOSPHERE: None AVAILABILITY: GMD WRITING: Baaaad! PUZZLES: None SUPPORTS: AGT PORTS CHARACTERS: Cardboard DIFFICULTY: Zero Detective was previously reviewed in SPAG 4, but I'd like to do it again, as I have a slightly different take. This review stems from an e-mail conversation with Magnus Olsson, in regards to his review of Space Aliens Laughed at My Cardigan (also in SPAG 4), which had stated that despite its flaws the game had some cult value, calling it "Infocom on acid". I agreed with him, stating that Mystery Science Theater 3000 had demonstrated that there were "good" bad movies (which provide loads of unintentional laughs), and "bad" bad movies (which were merely painful), and that Space Aliens was definitely a "good" bad game. He responded by comparing it to Detective, a "bad" bad game, that has no puzzles, and requires only compass directions to win. Now that I've played Detective, I'm not sure I agree. I think that it too is a "good" bad game. Oh, it doesn't have the whacked-out psychedelic Eraserhead surrealism of Space Aliens, but it has more than its share of entertainment (not to mention equally bad spelling). I feel that I may owe a slight apology to Electrabot, which I criticize for lack of plot. Detective is like a stripped-down version of Electrabot. Like Electrabot, it has a fairly linear path that you must run, with several rooms of instant death, but at least Electrabot had a Rogues Gallery of hostile characters who could be killed by incongruous objects. Detective only has one hostile character, who can be easily bypassed. The game begins with your being told that the mayor has been murdered and that you must solve the crime to avoid bad publicity (!!). You can then go into the next room and get your gun. The description of the gun tells you that you only have 10 shots and should use them wisely. Fair enough, but no matter how many times you fire you will still have 10 shots. Another interesting feature is what I call the closets of teleportation. At one point you are in a hallway, with closets to the east and west. If you go east you will enter the west closet, and must go east again to reenter the hallway (and vice versa). The few items generally have bizarre adjectives. Along the way you may acquire the "food hamburger", and the "wooden wood", though you don't need any of them to win. Like Electrabot, Detective has several rooms that kill you without warning when you enter, but Detective's are more interesting. There is one that I call "The Room of Mysterious Death". The description says that you have reached a dead end and can go back west. But you can't because the game then proceeds to kill you without giving any explanation. In another instance, you are standing in a hallway and see a door to the east marked "Pool". If you enter you are told that you were in the pool when the killer shot you. WHY the heck did I get INTO the pool? I just wanted to check out the room!! The game has a terrible (and amusing) problem with blending room, object, and character descriptions with each other. When you meet the game's only character, the room description tells you all about what he's doing. Which of course means that it keeps telling you even after he's dead. The description of the hamburger tells you that you should just eat it and go north. This is, of course only valid if you are still in the room where you got it. In another case, you see a knife on the floor, but if you try to take it you are told "What knife? There is no knife here." It would have been easy enough to make the knife takeable, or at least give a message saying that you don't need it, or mustn't touch it because it hasn't been fingerprinted yet, or something. But this is much more amusing. The game can't seem to decide what time period it takes place in. In one room a passerby tells you to boycott FDR. In the next, a convict tells you he was busted for possession of crack. At another point, you enter an area and are told that the killer's rumoured hotel is in one direction, his favourite hangout in another, and his workplace in a third. You never learned any of this previously. Real police work should be so easy. All of this is but a prelude to the big ending. When you enter the room where the killer is, you are told that after a fierce battle you overcame him. In other words, "Yes, there was a big fight, but we couldn't afford to show you any of it". I'm not going into all this detail just to pile on the criticism. Mr. Barringer obviously enjoys playing and writing text games, and I'd be the last to tell him not to do it. I'm only writing this because unlike Stefan Jokisch (in his review), I think that you SHOULD get this game and you SHOULD play it. It's very quick (as little as 26 moves), loaded with such unintentional laughs, and unlike Space Aliens, you can play it to a conclusion, with no headaches or technical glitches. The parser is terrible, but when you only need "north", "south", "east", and "west", what the heck? Mr. Barringer's goal in writing the game was to entertain his audience, and as far as I'm concerned he suceeded in ways that the rating system can't show. If you like Mystery Science Theater 3000, you will enjoy playing this game. I'm going to e-mail a copy to Dr. Clayton Forrester myself, for use in a future experiment. Heads up, Mike, Tom, and Crow! =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> NAME: Electrabot GAMEPLAY: Poor AUTHOR: Woody Hunt PLOT: Meaningless EMAIL: ? ATMOSPHERE: None AVAILABILITY: CIS - Gamer's WRITING: Adequate PUZZLES: Arbitrary SUPPORTS: AGT Ports CHARACTERS: Generic DIFFICULTY: Trivial In Electrabot you play the part of a prototype android seeking to rescue your creator from the clutches of the evil Barbarith. I don't want to be too hard on the game, as it's no mean feat to download a program like the Adventure Game Toolkit, read the instructions, understand them, and put together a reasonably grammatical game that will run to completion without crashing or causing the player numerous unintended headaches. Author Woody Hunt has done all of these things. The problem is that there's not much there. In Electrabot, you follow a more or less predetermined course (there are a couple of side routes), picking up objects and meeting creatures along the way. Each object kills exactly one creature. That's it. That's literally all there is to the game. Well, not quite. There are two other puzzles. One involves a direction you can use that isn't mentioned in the room description. The other involves a set of 3 or 4 rooms that will kill you without any warning if you enter them. For the most part, the weapons are generic. Common sense will tell you which weapon kills the giant slug and the giant rat, but all of the others are totally arbitrary. It's also worth mentioning that although you're supposed to be a high-powered android, everybody you meet (from the insane artist to the butler) is capable of completely cleaning your clock if you don't have the right item handy. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> NAME: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy AUTHORS: Douglas Adams GAMEPLAY: Infocom Standard & Steve Meretzky PLOT: Very Good EMAIL: ? ATMOSPHERE: Outstanding AVAILABILITY: WRITING: Outstanding PUZZLES: Excellent SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports CHARACTERS: Very Good DIFFICULTY: Standard [Possible minor spoilers, folks. -GKW] The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was Infocom's first game based on a novel (Shogun was the second), and is certainly their most famous product. As such, it faced heavy expectations both from the text game crowd and from fans of the book (I saved this game until I had played all of Infocom's 34 other text games, hoping to guarantee finishing with a winner). Fortunately, the game meets most expectations. For those who don't know, you begin the game as Arthur Dent, a typical Englishman whose home is about to be demolished to make way for a new highway. Soon afterward, the earth itself is destroyed to make way for a new interstellar spacelane, and you must escape the holocaust with your alien friend Ford Prefect; first to a Vogon warship, and then to the Heart of Gold, run by Ford's friend Zaphod Beeblebrox. Once there, your goal becomes to land safely on the lost planet of Magrathea. To do this, you must search various corners of reality (changing identities a few times along the way) to acquire several different pieces of fluff, which when used properly will produce an item that will give you the clairvoyance necessary to open the hatch and set foot on the planet. The writing is some of Infocom's very best, which is fortunate because the game itself is a little too short (only The Witness and Seastalker have fewer locations). The atmosphere produced is almost exactly like that of the book, even if specific details of the plot are often changed. The puzzles (including the legendary Babel Fish puzzle) are based on a brand of "consistent illogic" that is rather reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, and make the game one of those few that many will some day play again even after having solved it once. Hitchhiker's is one of the more literate text games on the market, as you will often have to pay more attention to how things are worded than you might in other games. There are a few things that may aggravate purists. As in Sorcerer, there is an action which must be taken at the beginning in order to win the game. If you don't do it, you may play for quite some time before realizing that victory is impossible. [Not quite so. You have another opportunity later in the game to take this action. -GKW] Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the absence of the promised sequel. The story does not really end, it merely pauses and gives you a "to be continued" message just as you set foot on Magrathea. Though the sequel was promised many times (such as in the New Zork Times, and in the crystal ball in Beyond Zork), it never materialized. Since Infocom no longer has the rights to Hitchhiker's, it is unlikely that it ever will. (For those of you keeping track, the sequels promised by Infocom/Activision that have not yet come out are: Hitchhikers 2, Journey 2, Leather Goddesses 3, and Simon the Sorcerer 2). Despite this, Hitchhiker's plusses massively outweigh the negatives, and the game remains one of the great classics of interactive fiction. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> NAME: Horror30.zip GAMEPLAY: Generic AUTHOR: John Olsen PLOT: Not Bad EMAIL: ? ATMOSPHERE: Varies AVAILABILITY: S20_IBM_GMD WRITING: Minimal PUZZLES: Good SUPPORTS: MS-DOS CHARACTERS: None living DIFFICULTY: Below average Horror30.zip is a trilogy of games by John Olsen (author of magic.zip, another trilogy reviewed in SPAG 3). The package includes NIGHT OF THE WALKING DEAD, FRANKENSTEIN'S LEGACY, and THE SEA PHANTOM. These three games were each written by Mr. Olsen using his own interpreter, and none is larger than 38K. In NIGHT OF THE WALKING DEAD, you are trying to find your Aunt Bedilia's grave to recover a locket buried with her in order to prove your identity (how graverobbing proves this is unclear) and claim your inheritance. FRANKENSTEIN'S LEGACY is reminiscent of the sample transcript for THE LURKING HORROR. You arrive at Victor Frankenstein's house, instructed by him to find the monster and bring it to life. In THE SEA PHANTOM, you arrive at the coastal mansion of the late Captain Thorne. Once every 10 years his old ship appears offshore. It is your job to put his spirit to rest and recover his treasure. All three are interactive short stories having from 20 to 40 locations each. They are not especially difficult, but have a couple of arbitrary puzzles. This combined with the poor parser may make them a little aggravating if you don't immediately guess what the author is thinking. S.O.P. for an arbitrary puzzle is to keep trying whatever you can think of until you hit on the right thing, but these games have have only 1 or 2 generic "failure" messages, and after a bit it may get maddening to keep reading "You can't", or "You see nothing special". Especially since you get the "You can't" message for just about anything that isn't useful, even actions that you obviously COULD do (i.e. "Throw dagger"). The parser can also be misleading at times. In one of the games you encounter a locked object. There is no key, you must use some other means of opening it. But if you try to pick the lock or unlock it with the wrong key you are told that you need the right key (implying that such exists). Another problem is that if the parser doesn't know what you're talking about, it will sometimes give you an answer that looks like it does. In one game, I tried to do the right action, using the wrong words. The message led me to believe that the ACTION had failed rather than the command, and I spent two days stuck, believing that I had already tried and rejected the correct thing. This is not to be too hard on Mr. Olsen. Considering that he's written these games from scratch without AGT, TADS, Inform, et al, he's done rather a good job. But if we compare his games to ones made using public compilers, then they suffer, even though it may be unfair to make the comparision in the first place. The atmosphere varies from horror to unintentionally comic. NIGHT OF THE WALKING DEAD at times seems more like Night of the Zombie Keystone Cops. You will often be running along with some item that you need, only to be hit over the head and have it stolen just when you get to where you would have used it. You must then chase down the creature that took it and drag him off to the crematorium to prevent him from doing it to you again. FRANKENSTEIN'S LEGACY's lack of graphic description is at times comic also. If you order the game to cut open a dead body, you are told "OK". That's it, just "OK". If you then take an organ out of the body and examine it, you are told simply "You see nothing special." Although this review has focused primarily on negatives, these are not at all bad games, and all three are well worth spending an afternoon playing. However, I would advise having a walkthrough handy before you start, and use it you get stuck for more than, say, half an hour. These games are short stories and as such their pacing demands that the plot keep moving. If you get stuck by an arbitrary puzzle, a bad parser, or a guess-the-word problem, they become very unrewarding. If you don't, you will probably have rather a pleasant gaming experience. [I have to agree with Graeme's review, although I enjoyed the games somewhat more than he seems to have. The games are very reminiscent of the Scott Adams adventures that some of you may have played. -GKW] =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> NAME: Journey GAMEPLAY: Multiple Choice AUTHOR: Marc Blank PLOT: Extremely Linear EMAIL: ? ATMOSPHERE: Good AVAILABILITY: LTOI 2 - CD ROM WRITING: Well Done PUZZLES: Slightly less than average SUPPORTS: Some Infocom Ports CHARACTERS: Good DIFFICULTY: Relatively Easy Journey is an extremely difficult game to classify; not quite a text adventure, even less of a graphic adventure, and certainly not a role-playing game. Billed as a "role-playing chronicle", this helps us little, as it is the only one of its kind. It is generally classified as one of Infocom's text games, because it uses the same interpreter as Zork 0, Arthur, and Shogun. While every other text adventure is written in Second Person, Journey is written in First Person, from the point of view of your own character, who keeps a journal of your progress through the story. While most text games have a parser that requires complete sentences, Journey's parser resembles a graphic adventure. It lets you choose from a set of actions in a separate window, and even allows mouse support. While the AGT Master's Edition allows one to use a similar parser, it is probably unique in commercially published text games. And ultimately, Journey must be considered a text game, as it is through the text rather than the graphics that the interaction takes place. Though the parser is extremely easy to use, it makes for very linear game play. In most cases it is impossible to return to a room that you have just left. At times the game seems more like one of those Adventure Game Decision Books than it does a computer game, though it still presents you with many more choices to be made than the average book does. Still, the game allows less interaction than most text games do, and the graphics only partially compensate for it. Some sort of sound and music capability should have been included. Journey's plot is a variation on that made famous by Tolkien and imitated many times since then. A Dark Lord (here called "Dread Lord") is wreaking havoc on the countryside and its populace, so a questing party is formed and sent to seek the wizard Astrix for his advice. After many perils, they reach Astrix who sends them on a quest to break the Dread Lord's power. Since Journey is only part 1 of the Golden Age Trilogy, and parts 2 and 3 were never written, we don't get to see the Dread Lord's final defeat. Due to the menu system, Journey's puzzles are generally not too difficult, but there are some that will challenge the experienced gamer, and one at the end that can only be solved if you were paying attention earlier. Journey is one of several "experiments" in formatting that Infocom undertook around this time (some others being Nord & Bert, Beyond Zork, Border Zone, and of course the infamous Infocomics). This is one of their less successful attempts. The game is fairly enjoyable to play by itself, makes a nice change of pace, and presents the gamer with a new way of doing things to try to assimilate, but ultimately the reduced interaction, and the difficulty of doing challenging, interesting puzzles with this parser would have made a whole line of such games rather less interesting. The moral: play Journey and have a good time with it, but don't feel too bad that the series was never continued. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "M. Sean Molley" NAME: The Legend Lives! PARSER: TADS + WorldClass AUTHOR: David M. Baggett PLOT: Visionary EMAIL: dmb SP@G ai.mit.edu ATMOSPHERE: Incredibly rich AVAILABILITY: Freeware, GMD WRITING: Extremely good PUZZLES: Creative SUPPORTS: TADS ports CHARACTERS: Unfulfilled potential DIFFICULTY: Slightly above average _The Legend Lives!_ is probably one of the most highly anticipated text adventures since the demise of Infocom. Written by David Baggett, author of the popular shareware game "Unnkulian Unventure II", _Legend_ takes the Unnkulian Universe far into the future. However, it is a future where despite the soaring technological advancements of mankind (and creaturekind in general), the threat of the dread Unnkulians still lurks. You, as student Gavin Kelly, stumble upon the most horrifying plot the Unnkulians have ever unleashed as a part of your thesis research. Your quest will take you across the universe and even through time as you seek to once again penetrate the secrets of the Akmi corporation and uphold the tenets of Dudhism. However, _Legend_ was not so highly anticipated just because it's another game in the popular Unnkulian series. It was billed as an experiment of sorts, an attempt to see if the interactive fiction medium can be used to do more than just provide entertaining puzzles -- to see if IF can be used to make a statement, convey a message, really get inside your head and make you think. In this, _Legend_ succeeds admirably. The emphasis here is clearly not on the puzzles (although there are plenty of those) but rather on the experience: the atmosphere, the writing, the message. To this end, there are a fair number of very long text sequences which are many pages and contain a great deal of conversation between the player (you) and certain NPCs. These "vignettes" are the strongest point of the whole game. They are very well written and loaded with all sorts of allegory and subtleties. I was disappointed that there were not more of these "cut scenes", in fact, because they add a lot to the storytelling aspect. I certainly don't mind reading 10 screens of text if it helps to advance the story and give me something to think about. And _Legend_ will definitely give you something to think about. I won't spoil the plot for you, but I should mention the overall "quest": the goal of the game is to thwart an unbelievably powerful computer virus unleashed by the Unnkulians which is self-aware, self-replicating, and taking over the entire universal computer network. Once it has established control over the technology, it will have established control over the people, and the Unnkulians' dream will be fulfilled. This of course would be a Very Bad Thing (tm) for the rest of creation, and you are the only person who is even aware that the virus exists. Unfortunately, Akmi (the corporation which runs basically everything and controls nearly all information) is on to you and they will attempt to foil you as you try to gain information about and eventually defeat the virus, thus saving all of creation from an Unnkul fate (sorry). Of course, you can't do it alone; and _Legend_ provides a suitable cast of NPCs to help you (or hinder you). There are computer programmers, a star musician, aliens of various sorts, and an artificial intelligence program, among others, who will appear along the way. Sadly, this is where _Legend_ suffers the most. The NPCs are not developed well enough. In fact, some of them are not developed at all. This is a real shame, because there is an awesome amount of potential in these characters. I was really disappointed by this aspect of the game, but the quality of the writing goes a long way to make up for it, and the environment (the "Unnkulian" mythos) is top-notch. Still, no story can be fully successful without effective, quality characterization. [See the interview with Dave Baggett for more on this.] And there will be obstacles in your path; after all, defeating the nefarious schemes of the Unnkulians will require you to be even more devious than they. There are a good number of puzzles in the game, ranging from very easy to quite difficult. However, David did not want players to get distracted from the story by being stuck on a puzzle, so he provides a remarkable "adaptive hint system" which will give you intelligent hints based on your current situation. There is no penalty for using the hints, or limit to how many you can use, but be warned that they do go right on up to the outright spoiler level after the first couple of hints. Luckily, there is an encryption feature you can turn on to prevent yourself from reading all the hints too quickly. The game is difficult; however, I was able to finish it in about a week without needing to resort to the hints. Nice to have them if you want them, though, and the hint system is really a great piece of work. As for the quality of the puzzles themselves, they are by and large very good. (And no mazes!). Most of the puzzles are logical and fair, and I got a real sense of satisfaction out of solving them. There are exceptions to this rule of course; but every game has a few bad spots. I would imagine that most people will need a hint or three as they go through the game. Then again, I didn't, so you might not either. Some of the puzzles are very tricky, though. Others, however, can be solved purely by dumb luck -- ie, having the right item in your inventory when you speak to a particular character. Puzzles like that irritate me. However, as I have said, the puzzles are not the emphasis in _Legend_. They are supposed to add to the story instead of distract from it, and for the most part this is fairly successful. Until you get to the end of the game. This is my biggest complaint about _Legend_. The ending is a tremendous disappointment. Not because it's an emotional downer or anything like that; it's just totally unexpected and very unsatisfying. I would say that the ending seems like an afterthought, except that it was obviously carefully written to make certain statements. Unfortunately they fall flat and there is not a satisfactory resolution to the main plot themes. However, I cannot in good faith say anything *too* bad about the game, because it's one of the most visionary and daring works to come along since, well, "A Mind Forever Voyaging" from Infocom. Honestly, AMFV is the better game, but _Legend_ is damn fine as well. If you liked AMFV, I think you will not be disappointed by _Legend_. If you like good puzzle-solving games, you won't be disappointed by _Legend_. If you like good writing and lots of prose, you won't be disappointed by _Legend_. If you like a great atmosphere and enticing plot, you certainly won't be disappointed. The only place _Legend_ fails is that it does not exploit the incredible amount of potential for characterization. But you probably will forget that in the wake of all the other images _Legend_ is going to throw at you. Let me sum it up this way: _The Legend Lives!_ is not the best IF game I have ever played in my life. It is, however, the best IF game I have *experienced* in a very long time. That, perhaps, is the highest recommendation I can give. Hats off to David Baggett for a fun game which is also a fine work of fiction. Even though it doesn't completely succeed in getting the message across, _Legend_ really pushes the envelope and challenges our definitions of interactive fiction. It also challenges a lot of other things, like our relationship with technology (a major theme of the work). _Legend_ deserves to be played if for no other reason than to think about what David is trying to say. I mean, when was the last time you played an IF game which *really* had a message and a vision? Maybe never. Well, now's your chance. And best of all, it's freeware, which means that after reading this review you have absolutely no excuse for not downloading it right now and playing it. [Well, except for the excuse that you weren't done reading yet. :)] You'll be glad you did. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Magnus Olsson" NAME: Mop and Murder PARSER: AGT (insufficient) AUTHOR: Brad Friedman PLOT: Linear, predictable EMAIL: ??? ATMOSPHERE: A bit thin AVAILABILITY: GMD, F WRITING: Competent PUZZLES: Not very exciting SUPPORTS: AGT CHARACTERS: Few, non-interactive DIFFICULTY: Below average In the infancy of text adventure games, the number of rooms in a game was used as a measure of quality; basically, the more rooms, the better the game - or at least that's what advertisers thought. Judged by that antiquated standard, this game wouldn't stand much of a chance. In fact, its most distinctive feature is that the entire game takes place in one room! (There are actually two rooms, but one of these is the corridor where you start out, and is irrelevant to the rest of the game). Fortunately, there are other criteria of quality than the number of rooms. This alone would be enough to make the game interesting, but the scenario is also very promising: being a lowly janitor at CIA headquarters, working late at night cleaning the deserted building, you enter an office only to find its occupant lying in a pool of blood, with a suicide note on the desk. But was it really suicide? There's something's fishy about the whole business. Maybe this is your big chance to prove that you were meant for bigger tasks than sweeping floors! This is your starting point; as you start examining the room, you'll discover more and more evidence that points to murder. Your finds will help you unravel the plot that led up to the agent's death, and, finally who killed him and why. Unfortunately, while this may sound very promising, the game turned out to be a disappointment. This is partly due to the fact that the author, while competent enough at producing easily flowing prose and a logically consistent plot, has somehow failed at making the whole thing very memorable; the atmoshere is rather thin (considering that the setting - a closed, windowless CIA office with a dead body on the floor - should provide ample opprotunity for atmosphere), the puzzles not very original or challenging, and the story that is gradually unraveled by your investigations just isn't very interesting (not even the murderer's identity was much of a surprise to me). Still, viewed as interactive _fiction_, the game isn't too bad. What really ruins things, however, is the game-play aspects. The author doesn't seem to have put enough effort into making the game playable - not only are there quite a few outright bugs, as well as some nasty cases of "guess the right word" ("cut paper with scissors" works, but "cut paper" produces the message "you can't do that"), but the descriptions you get when examining things don't change when you manipulate them. For example, even if you remove all the objects that were on the desk to start with, "examine desktop" will gladly list all the objects anyway. This is a serious handicap when there are so many objects stuffed into one room! The fact that the parser (as in most AGT games) isn't quite up to the task doesn't improve things. Of course, all this may be due to this being the author's first game, or to shortcomings in AGT, but this really is no excuse - no author should ever release a game that's so awkward to play (or a game whose shortcomings would be so easily detected by letting a friend try it). If this sounds overly harsh to you, my irritation is mainly due to the fact that I got totally stuck on a problem that should be quite easy: opening a desk drawer. In fact, that problem had me (figuratively) running round in circles, trying every possible verb-noun combination I could think of, examining and re-examining every object for clues - with a total lack of success. Finally, I had to give up and ask for help on rec.games.int-fiction. The Usenet is wonderful - I did get in touch with somebody who had solved the problem (and was able to help him finish the game - he was stuck on another problem). As it turned out, opening the drawer was only possible if a certain object was in a certain state (I'm not saying anything more here - feel free to email me if you're stuck, too, and want a more explicit hint). While not inconceivable after the fact, the solution wasn't exactly obvious, either - and there isn't an inkling of a hint in the game; perhaps you were supposed to solve that problem through trial-and-error, or by sheer inspiration - who knows? To summarize, the setting and plot shows promise; the game is initially quite enjoyable, but after a while you realize that nothing really interesting is happening, and then you start to get irritated by all the bugs and misfeatures. The puzzles feel rather contrived (sure, an agent working under a death threat would hide his notes carefully, but would he leave clues about how to find them lying around?) and just aren't challenging enough, and the plot isn't interesting enough to make it worth the inconvenience. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> NAME: Odieus' Quest for the Magic Flingshot GAMEPLAY: Problematic (0.8) AUTHOR: Unknown PLOT: Below Average EMAIL: ? ATMOSPHERE: Below Average AVAILABILITY: GMD, F WRITING: Below Average PUZZLES: Below Average SUPPORTS: LADS, AGT, Inform CHARACTERS: Poor DIFFICULTY: Easy Odieus has rather an interesting history. It was originally uploaded to the Compuserve Gamer's Forum in 1987 by an unknown author who wrote it using the LADS compiler. That version seems to have disappeared, but the game lives on. About a year later David Malmberg, author of the Adventure Game Toolkit converted it to AGT format as a coding exercise. Recently Teo Kwang Liak converted the game to Inform, also as a coding exercise. In the game, you play Odieus, whose magic Flingshot has been stolen by the evil Blackwing. You are tossed by a giant into the approximate location and must solve a series of puzzles to retrieve it. The game is fairly short and simple, having fewer than 25 locations, and one and only one use for each item (which may explain its apparent value as an exercise). Surprisingly, the older AGT version plays better than the newer Inform one, as the Inform version is a bit buggy. I saw a review of Odieus in another magazine which stated that the author couldn't even finish the Inform version due to a difficulty in cooling down the hot springs, which was accomplished easily in the AGT version. Whenever you try to do it, you get a nonsensical message that says "Alas, it is closed". I fiddled with the game until I found the proper command which was 16-12-1-14-20 2-12-21-5 2-5-1-14 (for those who wish to decipher this spoiler, simply convert the letters to numbers; i.e. 1=A, 2=B, 3=C, and so forth). A few of the puzzles are altered in the Inform version. Your light source, for example, is totally different. A couple of other items are changed, and a useless room is given signifigance. Nevertheless, when I played the Inform version I only got 148 out of 150 points, and haven't yet bothered to go back and track down the other 2. A couple of the puzzles are completely arbitrary. There is no clue at all to as how to open the lock at the end, unless you have figured out the pattern that each item has a single use. In any case, the game is not bad, and makes a nice little diversion. It shouldn't take more than a half hour to solve it. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Magnus Olsson" NAME: The Sound of One Hand Clapping PARSER: Advsys (not quite sufficient) AUTHOR: Erica Sadun PLOT: Many linear sub-plots EMAIL: gt5052b SP@G prism.gatech.edu AVAILABILITY: GMD, S10 PUZZLES: Simple WRITING: Beautiful, poetic ATMOSPHERE: Beautiful DIFFICULTY: Quite easy SUPPORTS: DOS (portable source for Advsys run-time included) CHARACTERS: Non-interactive but interesting It's a sad fact that the world of interactive fiction seems to be an almost exclusively male one; although many women enjoy IF, there are very few female IF authors. In fact, the present game is probably the only one by a female author that I've played. Had this been the only unusual thing about this game, it would have been noteworthy as a curiosity, perhaps; fortunately, it has other qualities that make it a very unusual experience. To start with, the setting and general idea of the game are quite different from the logical, puzzle-oriented world of most adventure games, which tend to have a rather mechanistic view of the world (pardoxically, this seems to be especially true of magic-based games; indeed, the magic systems of games like "Enchanter" are more logical and mechanistic than most scientific gadgetry in SF games). As one might infer from the full title of the game, "The Sound of One Hand Clapping - a Riddle in Subtlety", the focus of the game is different, emphasizing emotion, empathy and analogy, rather than deduction. This is not to say that the puzzles aren't logical (they are - see below), just that the emphasis is on a different kind of thinking; for example, several puzzles can only be solved through meditation (in the game, that is - you don't have to be a Zen master in real life to solve them). What makes this game truly outstanding, however, is the atmosphere and the quality of the writing. I can't put it in any other way than saying that this is by far the most beautiful piece of IF I've ever come across. My experience is that most good IF reads like either "hard-boiled" novels, gothic horror stories or slightly absurdist comedy - all of these pretty "male" genres (if I'm allowed to continue flogging the rather moribound horse of gender differences in writing). "One Hand Clapping", on the other hand, at its best reads like a prose poem: the imagery vivid, the prose gently flowing. This kind of writing makes very high demands on the author, and she is in general up to the challenge. There are, as might be expected of an amateur author, some beauty spots. Occasionally, the rhythm of the prose falters (rhythm being especially important in this kind of poetic writing), turning it into a drab march of short descriptive sentences, which renders the imagery peculiarly ineffective; occasionaly, the metaphors seem a bit overdone, dangerously close to empty rhetoric; but these are mere blemishes that hardly detract from the overall impression. More serious is, perhaps, a certain tendency to bathos; for example, the long build-up towards the encounter with Crystal Dragon results not in the expected profundity, but in a rather trivial conversation, and the final confrontation with Black Dragon (the villain of the piece) culminates in a disappointingly trite plot device. Still, I'm willing to forgive these shortcomings of the writing; the game is a pearl, albeit flawed, and flawless pearls are few and far between. As for the atmosphere, it is as beautiful as the writing: in typical fairy-tale fashion, you are transported to the World Beyond to find six dragons and obtain six keys in order to confront Black Dragon, and restore balance to this world as well as the one Beyond. The fairy tale atmosphere is not the usual, Western, one, but Chinese, or rather generally "Oriental" - in the author's own words, it's not realistically Chinese, but "Chinoiserie", the reflection of the Oriental world in the mirror of Western folklore and prejudice, and some aspects of the game, such as the Zen allusion of the title and a puzzle involving a bonsai tree, are decidedly Japanese rather than Chinese. The dragons are not the fire-breathing monsters of Western folklore that you generally find in adventure games, but Chinese dragons: supernatural beings of great subtlety, not to be confronted by violence but to be won over by empathy, provoked into action, or perhaps simply outsmarted. The World Beyond is as perfect as a Chinese painting; serene, meditative, with just enough detail for your imagination to fill in the rest. So much for writing and atmosphere. Had these been the only aspects of the game, it would have been close to a masterpiece. However, the game-play aspects are, unfortunately, on a totally different level of perfection. The puzzles are not bad. Most of them are quite simple, but I don't mind simple puzzles; in fact, having too difficult puzzles in a game like this would perhaps only distract the player from the beauty of the World Beyond. A few of the puzzles are quite subtle, one perhaps overly so, since it hinges on the player's interpreting a clue quite literally. Without being too explicit, let me say that at one point, when obeying certain instructions, you should carry them out to the letter, without thinking or rephrasing them into the verb you'd normally use. You could claim that this is an example of the different way of thinking needed to solve these puzzles; to me, however, it is dangerously close to "guess the verb". Despite what I've written above, many of the puzzles are not very unusual or even imaginative, but just standard fantasy game puzzles. On the other hand, they are not trivial, and a few of them offer new twists on old ideas. Perhaps there are a few too many puzzles of the type "find hidden object X, give it to dragon Y" with nothing more to it; this, however, may be a plus for the inexperienced player. Meditation plays an important role, as several of the puzzles can only be solved through insights gained that way; the player is advised to meditate frequently, since only a fraction of meditations lead to enlightenment (there is a random factor involved). A plus regarding the puzzles is that the plot is multi-linear; if you're stuck on, say, how to extract a coin from a bonsai tree, you could always try to climb a glass mountain or explore a mysterious cave instead. The map branches out with six-fold symmetry from the central point, Rainbow Fountain; similarly, the Fountain is the central point of the sub-plots, which with six-fold symmetry branch out from it. The NPCs, most notably the dragons, are unfortunately not very interactive; they don't care very much about human affairs and generally only pay you any attention when you perform the right action to rouse their interest - and you can generally only do this once. This, however, is the nature of dragons, so maybe one shouldn't complain. Like in most IF, you feel distinctly alone; the dragons aren't very sociable. Your most memorable companion is a "fire iguana", a curious lizard with a tendency for quasi-profound Taoist utterances. Though the iguana doesn't make a very good conversationalist, he's really quite charming. There are also some more NPCs that aren't very interactive. The area where I feel I must be the most critical of the game is its interactivity and general playability. To begin with, the parser isn't very good and has some annoying quirks (the game was written with Advsys, to which I'd like to return in another article); fortunately, no sophisticated commands are needed, but there's still an element of "hunt-the-right-word", especially since the game's vocabulary is pretty limited. However, you can live with a bad parser. What's worse in my opinion is that you can't do very much. Most objects are in the game for one specific purpose only; you can't do anything with it until you find out that purpose, and then it's rather evident. It may seem that interactivity is not very important; after all, we can never hope for an accurate simulation of reality in a text adventure, and, unlike the "simulationist" school of IF theorists, I don't think authors should even aim for such realism. However, if the game introduces a highly complex and usable object, like (to use a real example from the game) a box of rubber bands, the player will want to play around with it, or at least get some sensible message when trying to do so; in this game, the player has far too little freedom to interact with the simulated world; there are far too many possible actions that are just not possible to perform, and there are far too many interesting objects described in the text that either aren't recognized by the parser or produce a message about "that's just scenery". At least to me, this produces a feeling of being led by the hand through a beautiful diorama with a few useful artifacts strewn about; your hands itch with eagerness to touch and manipulate things, but you are constantly reminded that you're not supposed to do that, just to watch and admire. By contrast, the really great games of IF (such as Infocom's best) may have a less perfect atmosphere, and far coarser writing, but they actually let you experience their world, not just observe it. _This_ is the great potential of IF, as opposed to books, plays or films: not only do you experience the world "as if you were there", but you can actually interact with it. Alas, "One Hand Clapping" to a large extent misses exploiting that potential. Had this game had a better parser and a larger vocabulary, and had the author put more effort into the interactive aspects, this would have been a great work of IF. Had she polished her prose just a little more (avoiding, for example, the occasional anticlimax), and added perhaps just a little bit more dramatic tension (let's face it, the plot is rather thin). While I don't hesitate to give this game near-perfect marks for writing and atmosphere, I must unfortunately rank it as less-than-average on gameplay, and the plot is only of average quality. Still, with my wildcard points for overall impression, this adds up to an impressive (for a shareware game) 7.5. And: despite all my criticism, let's not forget that "One Hand Clapping" is an unforgettable experience. Play it, if only for the writing; immerse yourself in the atmosphere, let the gently flowing prose entice you away from the usually cold and logical world of computers, enjoy for a while the subtle simplicity of this world of imagination: The peace of summer, Fish gliding through still waters, Subtle as dragons. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> NAME: South American Trek GAMEPLAY: No synonyms AUTHOR: Conrad Button PLOT: Unintentionally funny EMAIL: ? ATMOSPHERE: Almost none AVAILABILITY: MS-DOS WRITING: Passable PUZZLES: Uninteresting SUPPORTS: MS-DOS CHARACTERS: Unimportant DIFFICULTY: Easy South American Trek by Conrad Button is an educational text adventure designed to teach children about South American geography. The plot is a bizarre cross between a wasteful Federal pork program, and a college fraternity initiation. You are sent by the President to spy on South America. But rather than seeking to learn about troop strengths or drug lord activity, your mission is to learn things like Venezuela's leading export, and the capital of Peru (a quick look in the atlas could have saved millions of taxpayer dollars). You start on Devil's Island and must travel to South America by raft (here's where the fraternity-like stuff comes in). Once there, you wander around learning about the various countries and solving puzzles to try to acquire the item you need to signal the submarine waiting for you at Cape Horn. Once you've reached the sub, the captain will ask you six trivia questions about South America. If you get a question wrong, back you go. You have a maximum of three opportunities to get all six questions right. The map scale varies tremendously. Some areas are no bigger than a temple or a mine shaft, others are the size of a city, or even an entire region. But since South American Trek, or S.A.T. (appropriate acronym) is an educational game, we should not be asking whether its plot is plausible, but rather, whether or not it fulfills its goal of educating while making learning fun. Unfortunately, the answer is that it most certainly does not. The programming may have been good by 1986's shareware standards, but now or then, the game is worse than a month of detention. Like all Buttonware text games, the 2-word parser is rock bottom. There are absolutely no synonyms for anything. If you try to refer to the "rowboat" as a "boat", the game will not know what you are talking about. To make it even more confusing, some items are known only by their adjective. If you see "copper ore", you must type "take copper". "Take ore" will not work. In addition, the map is especially confusing. Generally speaking, there are two ways that text game authors can make their map challenging. The first way is to change directions in transit. For example, suppose that you leave a room by going south, but must go west rather than north to return. The second way is by varying the transit length. For example, look at the following map: E D C A B As you can see, the distance between A and B is longer than the distance between E and D. As a result, if you go from A to B first, you will probably draw a short line, and only after you have then gone to C, D, E, and A will you discover that the first line wasn't long enough and have to redraw the whole thing. Using this motif once or twice may make a game a little more challenging, but South American Trek uses it extensively. Not only is the technique totally unsuitable for the beginning audience that the game is aimed at, but it is used to such excess that even the advanced gamer will be annoyed more than challenged. The beginner will never want to play another text adventure again. The information about South America is presented in the "room" descriptions, and in one or two speeches made by Miss Diddlemeyer, an American teacher you may pick up along the way, but who is not necessary to win the game. The presentation is hardly more interesting than just reading it out of a book, since the game doesn't really make you apply the information anywhere, except in the trivia quiz that the submarine captain gives you at the end. The rather dry information about major exports, highest mountains, and longest rivers, does nothing to bring the area alive, since it is primarily a sidebar to the game rather than being integrated into it. There are one or two laudable points. The game's contrived and unintentionally humourous plot may give the game a small amount of cult value, and the idea of mixing education with play value is a good one, despite the poor execution seen here. Unfortunately the kids will be too busy trying to redraw their maps and play "guess-the-word" to have time to learn anything, much less have any fun. Gaming parents would be much better advised to try Carmen Sandiego. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> NAME: Stationfall GAMEPLAY: Infocom Standard AUTHOR: Steve Eric Meretzky PLOT: Detailed & developed EMAIL: ? ATMOSPHERE: Excellent AVAILABILITY: LTOI 1 WRITING: Excellent PUZZLES: Very Good SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports CHARACTERS: Very Good DIFFICULTY: Above Average The sequel to Planetfall, Stationfall takes place 5 years later. Sent in a shuttle on a routine bureaucratic errand to a local space station, you arrive to find the station deserted, a strange alien space ship in one of the docking bays, and mechanical devices behaving erratically. You must discover what happened to the crew, and deal with the unknown threat before your limited supplies run out. Generally, the problem with sequels is that they are either a boring rehash of the original, or they are so completely different that they are sequels in name only. Stationfall strikes a marvelous balance between these two extremes, and provides a quintessential example of what a sequel ought to be. The old happy-go-lucky Stellar Patrol charm is still there, but it only partially covers a new and more somber tone. Whereas in Planetfall, we see only empty buildings to show us that something is wrong, in Stationfall more grim clues show through the cracks: bloody notes; log entries that break off in mid sentence; common household appliances that may blow up in your face, and strange sounds coming from the sealed off lower decks. Where in Planetfall, we are able to undo virtually all of the damage in the end, in Stationfall all of the laughs can't change the feeling that somehow things won't work out so neatly this time, nor do they. The characters are few, but well developed, and disturbingly not always what you would expect. The puzzles go beyond the normal Infocom style at points. Deciphering ability will solve one, a trip to the dictionary may help with another. A few are quite obscure, but generally even these have some clue, generally in the form of a piece of guesswork made by the former occupants. The plot is extremely well detailed, and pieces of it are hidden all over the station. Some of the puzzles are almost as good as those in Starcross, but rather than being isolated, they all contribute to supplying a piece of the story. All in all, Stationfall is an outstanding blending of humour and suspense; puzzles and story. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G compuserve.com> NAME: Wishbringer: The Magick Stone of Dreams GAMEPLAY: Infocom Standard AUTHOR: Brian Moriarty PLOT: Pretty Good EMAIL: ? ATMOSPHERE: Very Good AVAILABILITY: LTOI 2 WRITING: Very Good PUZZLES: Average SUPPORTS: Infocom Ports CHARACTERS: Above Average DIFFICULTY: Introductory Although it's not widely realized, Wishbringer takes place in the Zork/Enchanter universe. The Festeron Town Library, where the Legend of Wishbringer book is checked out from is also the source of some of the documention found in the Zork Trilogy. In Wishbringer, you begin as a mail clerk in the Festeron Post Office, who is sent to deliver a letter to the Magick Shoppe at the other end of town. When you get there, you discover that the shop owners' cat is being held by the Evil One in exchange for the magick Wishbringer stone. When you leave the Shoppe you discover that the old woman has slipped you the stone, and that the town of Festeron has changed into a dark caricature of itself called Witchville. As you explore, you find that the former items and occupants of the town have transformed into twisted alter egos of themselves (the effect is much like that of classic Star Trek's "Mirror, Mirror" episode). Your mission is to defeat the Evil One and your boss, Mr. Crisp, and to transform the town back into Festeron, with the help of the Wishbringer stone, some friendly platypii, and your own raw wits. Wishbringer's puzzles are generally very easy, and most of them have multiple solutions, being solvable either through reasoning, or using the Wishbringer stone to wish for some sort of aid. But if you rely too much on the wishes, you may fail to acquire items that you may need to solve later puzzles. In online conferences author Brian Moriarty has said that because of this, the moral of the story is that frivolous wishing can be a bad thing. The atmosphere wavers between being comic and sinister, and is difficult to classify. At times it seems almost as though it is trying to be a children's game, what with having the plot revolve around a kidnapped cat, and supplying such fanciful images as talking platypii, and disembodied boots that patrol the town. Wishbringer was one of the 5 older titles chosen to be reissued in a bare bones Solid Gold edition with onscreen hints. This was probably purely to extend its marketing cycle, as it is one of the Infocom games that least needed onscreen hints. Indeed, the "wish for advice" function of the Wishbringer stone already partially fullfilled this role. Since the Solid Gold editions had greatly reduced documentation, the Legend of Wishbringer book was deleted from the packaging and incorporated into the program itself, appearing as a storybook in your starting inventory. Wishbringer was also one of the books chosen to be novelised in Avon's Infocom books series. The novelization of Wishbringer, written by Craig Shaw Gardner, author of the Batman Returns novelization (among others) deals with a different transformation of the town, and a different postman named Simon, who deals with the problem in a different way than in the game. Though very well written in points, and one of Avon's better Infocom books, the plot is not always completely consistent. For example, at one point we are told that the Evil One needed to physically acquire the stone to make the transformation permanent, and that if no one had it that that it would be temporary. Later, we are told contrarily the Magick Shoppe owner must herself possess the stone in order to prevent the transformation from being permanent. Since she had voluntarily let the stone out of her possession in the first place, this makes her look either very stupid, or very confused, or both. Wishbringer is generally a very fondly remembered game, even by those who feel moved to apologize for the ease of the puzzles. READER'S SCOREBOARD---------------------------------------------------------- Notes: A - Runs on Amigas. AP - Runs on Apple IIs. GS - Runs on Apple IIGS. AR - Runs on Archimedes Acorns. C - Commercial, no fixed price. C30 - Commercial, with a fixed price of $30. F - Freeware. GMD - Available on ftp.gmd.de I - Runs on IBM compatibles. M - Runs on Macs. S20 - Shareware, registration costs $20. 64 - Runs on Commodore 64s. TAD - Written with TADS. This means it can run on: AmigaDOS, NeXT and PC, Atari ST/TT/Falcon, DECstation (MIPS) Unix Patchlevel 1 and 2, IBM, IBM RT, Linux, Apple Macintosh, SGI Iris/Indigo running Irix, Sun 4 (Sparc) running SunOS or Solaris 2, Sun 3, OS/2, and even a 386+ protected mode version. AGT - Available for IBM, Mac, Amiga, and Atari ST. This does not include games made with the Master's edition. ADVSYS - Available for PC and Macintosh only, or so my sources tell me. (Source code available as well. So it can be ported to other computers.) INF - Infocom or Inform game. These games will run on: Atari ST, Amiga, Apple Macintosh, IBM, Unix, VMS, Apple II, Apple IIGS, C64, TSR-80, and Archimedes Acorn. There may be other computers on which it runs as well. Name Avg Sc Chr Puz # Sc Rlvt Ish Notes: ==== ====== === === ==== ======== ====== Adv. of Eliz. Highe 3.1 0.8 0.3 1 5 F_AGT Another...No Beer 2.5 0.1 1.0 1 4 S10_IBM_GMD Arthur: Excalibur 8.6 1.8 1.7 1 4 C_INF Ballyhoo 7.0 1.8 1.6 2 4 C_INF Beyond Zork 8.0 1.6 2.0 2 5 C_INF Border Zone 6.1 1.1 1.4 2 4 C_INF Bureaucracy 8.4 2.0 1.8 2 5 C_INF Castaway 1.1 0.0 0.4 1 5 F_IBM_GMD Cosmoserve 8.7 1.3 1.4 2 5 F_AGT_GMD Curses 8.3 1.3 1.7 6 2 F_INF Cutthroats 6.3 1.4 1.2 4 1 C_INF Crypt v2.0 5.0 1.0 1.5 1 3 S12_IBM_GMD Deadline 7.2 2 x C_INF Deep Space Drifter 5.5 1.4 1 3 S15_TAD_GMD Detective 0.7 0.0 0.0 2 4-5 F_AGT_GMD Ditch Day Drifter 7.1 1.2 1.6 1 2 F_TAD_GMD Dungeon Adventure 6.8 1.3 1.6 1 4 F_SEE REVIEW Dungeon of Dunjin 7.0 1.0 1.5 1 3 S20_IBM_MAC_GMD Electrabot 0.7 0.0 0.0 1 5 F_AGT_(GMD?) Enchanter 7.0 0.8 1.3 4 2 C_INF Enhanced N/A 0 2 S10_TAD_GMD Great Archaelog. Race 6.5 1.0 1.5 1 3 S20_TAD_GMD Hitchhiker's Guide 8.2 1.6 1.8 4 5 C_INF Hollywood Hijinx 5.5 2 x C_INF Horror30.Zip 3.6 0.0 0.9 1 3 S20_IBM_GMD Horror of Rylvania 7.7 1 1 C20_TAD_GMD (Demo) Humbug 7.4 1 x S10_GMD (Uncertain) Infidel 6.9 5 1-2 C_INF Jacaranda Jim 7.0 1 x S10_GMD (Uncertain) John's Fire Witch 8.5 1.2 1.5 1 4 S6_TADS_GMD Journey 6.9 1.3 0.8 1 5 C_INF Klaustrophobia 7.3 1.3 1.4 3 1 S15_AGT_GMD Leather Goddesses 8.0 1.6 1.7 3 4 C_INF The Legend Lives! 8.2 0.8 1.5 1 5 F_TADS_GMD Lurking Horror, The 6.9 1.4 1.2 4 1,3 C_INF Magic.Zip 4.5 0.5 0.5 1 3 S20_IBM_GMD Mind Forever Voyaging 8.4 1.5 0.3 3 5 C_INF Moonmist 5.8 4 1 C_INF Mop & Murder 4.9 0.5 1.0 1 4-5 F_AGT_GMD Multidimen. Thief 5.3 0.4 1.0 2 2 S?/F_AGT_GMD Nord and Bert 3.9 2 4 C_INF Odieus': Flingshot 3.2 0.4 0.7 1 5 F_INF_GMD One Hand Clapping 7.1 1.1 1.3 2 5 F_ADVSYS_GMD Planetfall 7.1 3 4 C_INF Plundered Hearts 7.9 1.2 1.2 1 4 C_INF Sanity Claus 9.0 1 1 S10_AGT_GMD Save Princeton 5.6 1 x S10_TAD_GMD Seastalker 5.4 2 4 C_INF Shades of Grey 7.8 1.2 1.5 2 1-2 F_AGT_GMD Sherlock 8.5 1.5 1.8 1 4 C_INF Shogun 7.1 1.5 0.5 1 4 C_INF Sorceror 7.3 0.6 1.6 4 2 C_INF South American Trek 0.9 0.2 0.5 1 5 ?_IBM_GMD Space Aliens...Cardigan 1.6 0.5 0.4 3 3 S60_AGT_GMD Spellbreaker 8.1 1.2 1.8 3 2 C_INF Starcross 7.2 4 1 C_INF Stationfall 7.5 1.6 1.5 3 5 C_INF Suspect 5.9 1 x C_INF Suspended 7.0 1 x C_INF Tossed into Space 3.9 0.6 0.2 1 4 F_AGT_GMD Treasure.Zip N/A 0 3 S20_IBM_GMD Trinity 8.8 1.4 1.7 6 1-2 C_INF Unnkulian One-Half 7.0 1.3 1.7 4 1 F_TAD_GMD Unnkulian Unventure 1 8.0 1.3 1.7 3 1-2 S10_TAD_GMD Unnkulian Unventure 2 7.2 1.4 1.5 3 1 S10_TAD_GMD Unnkulian Zero 9.0 1 1 C25_TAD_GMD (Demo) Waystation 8.0 1.2 1.5 1 x F_TAD_GMD Wishbringer 6.7 1.2 1.0 2 5 C_INF Witness, The 7.0 1.7 1.2 3 1,3 C_INF World 6.9 1.0 1.4 1 4 F_MISC_GMD (See Rev.) Zork 0 6.5 1.1 2.0 1 x C_INF Zork 1 5.9 0.6 1.5 6 1-2 C_INF Zork 2 6.7 0.8 1.6 4 1-2 C_INF Zork 3 6.0 0.6 1.4 4 1-2 C_INF -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- The Top Three: A game is not eligible for the Top Three 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. 1. Trinity 8.8 6 votes 2. Mind Forevr Voyagn. 8.4 3 votes 3. Curses 8.3 6 votes -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Editor's Picks of the Month: This month has been good to us. We've been handed The Legend Lives! on a platter. That's my first pick of the month. My other pick of the month is Waystation, advertised just below. It is a fairly enjoyable game, with a few puzzles that seemed somewhat unfair to me. Both are TADS, both are free. How can you lose? The Legend Lives ftp.gmd.de:/if-archive/games/tads/ and then just pick one of the versions you find there. Waystation and Solution ftp.gmd.de:/if-archive/games/tads/way.zip ftp.gmd.de:/if-archive/unprocessed/waystn.sol [Temporarily.] ADVERTISEMENTS--------------------------------------------------------------- From: "Stephen Granade" Newly released! Yet Another Sci-fi Adventure Game (tm)! It's fun, it's kooky, it's... WAYSTATIONNNnnnnn..... While driving home one night, your car mysteriously dies. You get out, pop the hood, and wham! that's the last you remember...until you wake up trapped in a cell. With no idea of how you got there and no one to ask, you must escape and find out why you were kidnapped. Visit the lovely sewage dump Melica! Tour abandoned Comanis! Avoid Efric at all costs! The game is guaranteed 99.9% maze free, and is freeware. That's right, freeware. (I wrote it as an exercise to see what TADS could do.) The game is in TADS .gam format, and can be found at ftp.gmd.de in the directory if-archive/games/tads, under way.zip. (If necessary, e-mail me at sgranade SP@G obu.arknet.edu, & I'll put a .tar'ed file there as well.) All comments are welcome, all suggestions are listened to. See what one man, a twisted imagination, and lots of free time hath wrought. Waystation! Get yours today. CLOSING REMARKS-------------------------------------------------------------- Well folks, SPAG is getting automated. That's right, no longer will I have to suffer through typing 30 names into my e-mail program. This is all thanks to Magnus Olsson. I thank you, Magnus, and my fingers thank you. The next version of the FAQ will detail the functioning of the new mailing list, and I will post the details as soon as I figure them out myself. :) Well, that's all until next issue. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!
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