ISSUE #8 - February 5, 1996

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  The  |___/ociety for the |_|reservation of  |_|_|dventure  \___|ames.
				ISSUE # 8
        Edited by G. Kevin Wilson (whizzard SP@G
			      Feb. 5, 1996.

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


	Well, it's been about three months since last we joined together in
the communal effort that is SPAG.  Life has simplified itself, and I now have
a really spiffy school schedule: Tuesday and Thursday classes only.  The rest
of the week is all mine, barring homework, and I can't wait to get to it.
	It seems like the I-F community has been really busy without me. I
can count at least 2 or 3 new games that I haven't got around to beating yet,
one of the most notable being the _Windhall Chronicles_.  But don't think
that I'm neglecting _Shelby_ or _Broken String_.  I just haven't gotten
really into them yet, and I plead a busy Christmas.
	Arrangements are moving into place for the 1996 I-F Competition.  It
looks like we may have as many as twenty entries, but I'm not sure yet.  If
so, it will be an exciting event, to say the least.
	Just so as not to break the pattern, I have to talk about Avalon for
a sec.  It's not done.  It's in its final stages of development.  I am
investigating printshops for the manual.  When will it be done?  I really
don't know.  Maybe this year.  I hope.  

				G. Kevin Wilson

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

From: "Christopher E. Forman" 

Dear SPAG,

     What follows is something I've been mulling over for several days now,
something I think should be heard by everyone involved in playing and/or
writing text adventures.
     The I-F medium should serve to provide a two-way street for the
facilitation of communication between players and authors.  Players should
feel free to discuss how they think I-F should be, authors need to be able to
draw on that discussion when writing their own works, and players need to
give feedback (both positive and -- pardon the gratuitous euphamism --
"otherwise") to those authors informing them of how closely their work
exhibits the qualities players feel are inherent and necessary in I-F.
     Unfortunately, the last of these three basic needs appears, to myself
anyway, to be largely unfulfilled.  In short, I just haven't been receiving
the quantity or quality of feedback I'd like to get regarding my work, and I
suspect that many other authors have experienced the same problem.  Oh,
there's the occasional "this is a really great game" post on UseNet, but,
aside from requests for hints, that's all I ever see.  While such statements
are nice to hear, they tend to lack specific details about just what it is
that the player thinks is "really great".
     I bring this to the attention of players because about a week ago, I
discovered in my e-mailbox a lengthy, extremely well-written evaluation of my
work, revealing what one player found favorable about it, and, more
importantly, a number of aspects he rather disliked.  This was a revelation
to me, as he'd made some excellent points I'd never considered when coding
the game, and it gave me something to really think about.  Although I did
disagree with a few of his statements, and found some others too time-
consuming to be implemented at the present, I most certainly plan to take
everything he said into account to at least some degree over the course of
future projects.
     The point of all this is that, believe it or not, game authors will
listen to your comments.  They want to hear them.  They need to hear them.
Heck, they DESERVE to hear them.  Writing a text game means setting aside a
lot of time and taking a lot of effort to give computerists a little fun.
So the next time you play through a game, if it made any sort of impression
on you at all, take ten or fifteen minutes out of your own life to let the
author know what you think of his/her creation.  Anything -- positive,
negative, or both -- on any topic -- writing, plot, puzzles, characters,
etc. -- will be appreciated.  If you don't tell us what pleases you and what
doesn't, how can we be expected to find out?  While we may not agree on
everything (differences of opinion are inevitable within any entertainment
medium), it's encouraging to see just what those differences are.
     As a final note, don't let shareware games scare you away from such a
practice.  I suspect that many shareware authors suffer a lack of feedback
because players don't want to feel obligated to register, and admitting that
they've finished the game invites such feelings of duty.  I'm of the belief
that one should only pay the registration fees if one deems the game worthy
of such a price (although my shameless UseNet promotions may seem to indicate
otherwise B-).  Most shareware authors are not going to pressure you into
paying for their games just because you've admitted you've played them.
While receiving a little extra cash from a game is nice, there's more to
writing I-F than that.
     With a little help, authors should be able to create games that not only
merit but encourage intelligent discussion everywhere.  SPAG and UseNet can
help, but they can't do it alone.  That little help also has to come through
direct feedback from the playing public itself.

                                                 -- C.E. Forman

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, 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, or do not supply them, in which case the
header will read as "Anonymous."

NEW GAMES--------------------------------------------------------------------

	The only game out of the three that I mentioned in my editorial that
could vaguely be referred to as new at this late date is _The Broken String_.
I have seen the game, and in my opinion, the potential is there, but the
authors did not go the extra mile.  They needed more betatesting, a native
english-speaking editor (The authors themselves are not.) and some careful
polish.  It is also a tad crude at the beginning.  But hey, it's a punk
adventure, so some crude is permissible there.  I simply question the
neccessity of it.  I suggest waiting for a future release, but at last
count, it was found at


>From "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

 NAME:  Adventure                       GAMEPLAY:  Two Word parser
 AUTHOR:  Will Crowther                 PLOT:  Good
 EMAIL:  I wish I knew                  ATMOSPHERE:  Tolkienic
 AVAILABILITY:  GMD                     WRITING:  Very Good
 PUZZLES:  Many trial & error           SUPPORTS:  Practically all
 CHARACTERS:  Few, but memorable        DIFFICULTY:  Average

     Adventure, aka Colossal Cave, is the oldest, most famous, most
modified, most ported, and most pirated game in the history of
Interactive Fiction.  Written in the antiquity of the mid 70's, it was
bootlegged to practically every university in the country on magnetic
tape.  It was commercially released by several companies (such as The
Software Toolworks), and has been ported to AGT, TADS, Inform, and
several others.
     It has also been expanded several times.  Many authors have taken
the layout of the original game and simply added new rooms, items, and
puzzles.  For this reason, the game is usually referred to by the
maximum number of points that can be scored.  For instance Adventure
350 (the original version), Adventure 370, Adventure 550, Adventure
1000, and so on.
     Adventure could also be said to be indirectly responsible for the
entire Infocom product line.  The original mainframe Zork was begun
when the authors played Adventure and believed that they could improve
on it, especially vis a vis the parser.  Zork, the product of their
efforts, was the foundation of Infocom, and owes heavily to Adventure.
 The words "xyzzy" and "plugh" will draw a response, and the thief's
maze is lifted directly from the game.
     All in all, one might conclude from this that Adventure is the
greatest Adventure game ever written, but this is not quite the case.
 It's continued popularity stems from a) it's hauntingly compelling
atmosphere, b) it's colourful imagery, c) the fact that for many it was
their first adventure game, and d) the fact that many people first
played it 70's style.
     Playing a game 70's style was very different from playing today. 
Since there were few personal computers, playing a game usually
involved a trip to the local university computer room, generally after
hours, with a bag lunch in tow (since the session would usually last
quite a while).  My own first experience with Adventure involved
late-night trips to IBM with my programmer father.  The long trek
through dimly-lit windowless corridors to the terminal room was
practically an adventure in itself, and since you couldn't 
just go and play whenever you wanted to, the game had plenty of
opportunity to grow larger in the imagination in between sessions.
     Also, a player is more likely to be forgiving of a first game than
later ones.  When you have never seen such a game before and are not
quite sure what it can understand or do, you won't mind a simple
two-word parser, such as Adventure has, unless it is positively
user-unfriendly.  Adventure's parser while simple, is adequate for the
game, and produces a good effect by frequently addressing the user
directly ("You don't expect me to do a decent reincarnation without any
orange smoke, do you?").
     Adventure is loaded with memorable imagery (Witt's End, the maze
of twisty little passages, the Pirate, the breath-taking view, "xyzzy",
et cetera) that generally stays with a player long after the game is
     The atmosphere is wonderfully authentic.  The game map was based
on Bedquilt Cave in Kentucky, part of the Mammoth Cave labyrinth. 
While there are no dragons in Bedquilt, it is said that first-time
visitors have been able to find their way around by virtue of having
played the game.  While Zork is simply a collection of interesting
locales that just happen to be underground, Adventure resembles a real
cavern much more, featuring dead ends, fissures, blocked passages, and
passages in the floor.  As in Tolkien, magic in Adventure is present,
but tantalizingly remote; not coming out the wazoo, as it is in Zork
and most other fantasy games.
     Nevertheless Adventure is not without its problems.  As mentioned 
previously, the parser is rather primitive, at least in the original
version (the TADS and Inform ports have state-of-the-art parsers).
     Also the puzzles are frequently meant to be solved by trial and
error rather than deduction.  How are you supposed to figure out what
to do with the rod, or how to kill the dragon, or how to bring light to
the Dark Room, or how to recover the Golden Eggs, or how to get that
final point, anyway?  By experimenting, that's how.  Of course, in a
first game players are often much more inclined to experiment with it
to discover its capabilities.
     That's not to say that there aren't some good puzzles as well. 
The object that you need to win at the end is very cleverly concealed,
and only the keen-eyed will detect the subtle difference between the
vending machine maze and the Pirate's maze that allows you to map the
former without dropping objects (unfortunately, this feature is not
present in the Inform version).
     There are no save/restore puzzles as such.  It is possible to win
on the first playthrough, but not to achieve the maximum score.  If you
take too long (and you will), you will be forced to expend one of your
treasures to recharge your lamp (thus lowering your score), but after
you have solved the game, it will be a simple matter to optimize your
time and win before this becomes necessary.
     Adventure is an adventure game that every text gamer should play
some  time in their lives; the only game that has a genre named after
it.  But it would be best to stick with Adventure 350 in either its
original form, or the TADS or Inform ports.  The add-ons of the larger
versions simply make the game bulkier and clunkier without improving
the gaming experience.


From: "Christopher E. Forman" 

NAME: The Awe-Chasm (a.k.a The Chasm of Awe, a.k.a. Snatch and Crunch II)
PARSER: C Adventure Toolkit
AUTHOR: Tony Stiles                              PLOT: Dungeon Quest
EMAIL: ???                                       ATMOSPHERE: Very little
AVAILABILITY: Freeware, GMD                      WRITING: Decidedly unfunny
PUZZLES: Generic/pseudo-logical                  SUPPORTS: PCs, Atari STs
CHARACTERS: Unresponsive                         DIFFICULTY: Painful to play

        Start with a rather straightforward late-1970s style dungeon
quest/treasure hunt.  Now add a remarkably crude and unpretentiously juvenile
sense of humor.  Stir in a frustrating parser and some poorly-implemented, at
best semi-logical, puzzles.  Blend into this a sloppy overall design, and, to
give a slight flavor of anti-logic, top the whole thing off with a dash of
sheer incomprehensibility.  Following this recipe, the resulting mixture is a
serious candidate for the very worst text adventure ever written.
        In this case, author Tony Stiles has cooked up an unappetizing little
dish titled "The Awe-Chasm", a.k.a "The Chasm of Awe", a.k.a. "Snatch and
Crunch II".  (Personally, I've never seen or heard of "Snatch and Crunch I",
but it must have been good enough to justify the making of this sequel.)
        Snatch and Crunch, the two main characters in this game, are, in the
author's own words, a "pokey pervert" and a "monolithic mutant", respectively.
For reasons unknown (good old-fashioned greed perhaps?), they're out to
explore the many caverns and passageways of the Awe-Chasm in search of
treasure.  During the course of the game, the I-Fer can type "BECOME SNATCH"
or "BECOME CRUNCH" to switch control back and forth between Snatch and Crunch,
using each one in tasks for which he is specifically suited -- some puzzles
can only be solved using one of our two explorers.  Snatch and Crunch can
also work together, with Crunch picking up the smaller Snatch and carrying
him along on his shoulders.
        While this may sound promising, the game doesn't really put forth
the extra effort necessary to make it work.  Neither Snatch nor Crunch seems
to have much personality, so it's hard to figure out who can do what unless
the game specifically tells you (which, in most cases, it doesn't).  Perhaps
the player is expected to bring this knowledge over from the first "Snatch
and Crunch" game.  Further, unless Snatch is being carried, the duo doesn't
move around together -- the player must move Snatch and Crunch individually,
and having to retrace your steps is tedious.  It would have worked much
better to have the pair stay together for the most part, providing a special
"SPLIT" command for the few times when they need to go their separate ways.
        Complicating matters is the sloppy overall design of the game.  It's
very linear at the start, until the player figures out how to buy a lamp.
This had me stuck until I stumbled across a walkthrough of the first few
puzzles amongst the myriad seemingly useless files zipped in with the game
executable.  My problems were more due to parser quirks than anything else.
Did I talk about the parser yet?  Perhaps I should do that now.
        The author wrote his own adventure design system, called the "C
Adventure Toolkit" to create this game.  While I must bow slightly to such an
impressive feat, the sad truth of the matter is that the parser just isn't
very good -- it's barely adequate for the game.  There are very few synonyms
for nouns -- you can't call a pond a "lake", for instance -- and some commands
only work properly if prepositions are used -- "GET EMILY" fails; you must say
"GET EMILY FROM POND".  (Emily, in this case, happens to be a fish with whom
Crunch, the "monolithic mutant" is infatuated, and...oh, just forget it.)  For
simple interactions (directional moves, two-word commands, etc.) the parser
works okay.  For longer, more complex sentences, though, it's not even up to
the standards of AGT, let alone Inform and TADS.  (It's dated 1989, BTW.)
        But now back to the game, which becomes more frustrating once the
player acquires a lamp and descends into the Awe-Chasm ("a chasm of orgasmic
proportions", the game shamelessly announces).  There are several levels to
the chasm, some of which have openings leading to tunnels.  What's
particularly noteworthy here is that, when climbing between levels, there's a
good chance you'll fall to the bottom of the chasm and have to climb back up
several levels again.  This happens far, FAR too often to even be called
infuriating.  After five or six times, you'll want to quit right then and
there.  (I didn't even get a quarter of the way through the 500-point game.)
        The tunnel openings themselves are equally frustrating to navigate.
They are listed in room descriptions as "an opening", but no compass
directions for them are given or recognized.  Players must type "ENTER
OPENING" to go inside, and "ENTER OPENING" again to come back.  Doors must be
traversed in the same manner.  What's so difficult about allowing directional
        "The Awe-Chasm" showcases an astoundingly juvenile sense of humor.
It almost seems as though the author is attempting to imitate the style used
by Steve Meretzky in some of his racier titles.  But Meretzky's writing
exudes personality, and his characterization in "LGOP" and the "SpellCasting"
series makes the "naughty" bits more charming than offensive.  "Awe-Chasm"'s
writing offers little characterization and little personality, and the
overall result is decidedly distasteful.
        On top of all this, the game just isn't very well planned out.  The
best dungeon adventures (by which I mean "Colossal Cave" and the "Zork"
series) employ a degree of continuity between their locations, adding realism
to the layout.  In "Awe-Chasm", rooms are slapped together clumsily and
objects are thrown about with no thought whatsoever.  One tunnel, for
instance, harbors a band of sex-starved nymphomaniacs to assault our heroes.
Yet for some reason, they've never ventured into the throne room a few levels
down to visit King Tony (another personal appearance by a game author
degenerating into a very tired and unfunny inside joke).  Other thrills and
chills awaiting you include a slew of locked doors (at least three more than
ANY adventure game needs), the "magical mystery maze" (three guesses as to
what this is, and the first two don't count), and the "Oh sh*t, all my
treasures have been scattered" room (crusaders for fairness in I-F need not
        The game is not without its cult value, however.  Fans of truly
abysmal I-F should get plenty of howls out of the flaws inherent in "The
Awe-Chasm", but everyone else is better advised to leave the "monolithic
mutant" and the "pokey pervert" to fend for themselves.
	(Both versions are packaged in the same .ZIP file, at

                                            -- C.E. Forman


>From "Gareth Rees" 

  NAME: A Change in the Weather           PARSER: Inform's usual
  AUTHOR: Andrew Plotkin                  PLOT: Highly branching
  EMAIL: erkyrath+ SP@G                ATMOSPHERE: Good
  AVAILABILITY: Freeware, GMD             WRITING: Excellent
  PUZZLES: Very neat, very clever         SUPPORTS: Inform ports
  CHARACTERS: None                        DIFFICULTY: Hard

My second favourite of the competition games, after "The One that Got
Away".  This was a fun experiment and a deserved winner of the Inform
category.  I found it very challenging, but it wasn't outright
impossible (unlike one or two of the other games in the competition), so
I think the difficulty was well-judged.  Three aspects of "A Change in
the Weather" were excellent: the quality of the writing, the changing
descriptions of the scenery, and the way the components of the puzzle
interacted.  I was reminded of my decision in "Christminster" to keep
the player indoors from seven p.m. until ten so that I didn't have to
write descriptions of the sun going down!  Andrew Plotkin tackled this
problem head on and the result was very impressive.

What I didn't like was the very short time limit and the way it was
incredibly easy to get stuck.  To finish "A Change in the Weather"
required an enormous amount of patience: going back to a saved game,
trying something new, observing the consequences, going back again and
trying something else, and on and on.  The puzzles themselves were quite
elegant, but I didn't appreciate them very much because I was a bit
fatigued by the process of solving them.  I also felt the game lacked
for NPCs (the fox was better than nothing), and the dream was just
willfully obscure.


>From "Gareth Rees" 

  NAME: Detective                         PARSER: Inform usual
  AUTHOR: Christopher Forman              PLOT: None
  EMAIL: ceforma SP@G     ATMOSPHERE: Unusual
  AVAILABILITY: Freeware, GMD             WRITING: New material is good
  PUZZLES: None                           SUPPORTS: Inform ports
  CHARACTERS: Unoriginal, but good        DIFFICULTY: Trivial

I'm only aware of "Mystery Science Theatre 3000" through the genre of
MST3k parodies on Usenet, so I have no idea how faithfully Christopher
Forman reproduced the flavour of the television program.  I thought that
this game was interesting as an experiment, and I did find bits of it
funny, but a lot of it was completely meaningless to me, especially the
introduction and the endgame, and I probably wouldn't play another
similar game.

I'm not sure at all that text adventure games are suitable for this kind
of parody by ridicule, and especially free or shareware games produced
by amateurs.  Bad films are interesting targets for ridicule because
they are the result of the labours of intelligent adults who should have
known better, and because millions of dollars were wasted on their
production.  On the other hand, "Detective" was probably the result of a
couple of hours' work by a twelve-year-old kid, whose main mistake was
to upload it to a bulletin board for the world to laugh at (although the
adventure games I wrote when I was twelve were better than "Detective",
I have more sense than to let anyone see them now!).  Activision's
expensive multimedia game "Return to Zork", with live actors pretending
to be characters from an adventure game, would be a much more appropriate
(though also much more challenging) target.

I think that parody of adventure games is very tricky to do well,
because most adventure games sit rather uneasily on the dividing line
between seriousness and humour, and generally incorporate elements of
self-parody already (think of the ongoing Flathead jokes in the "Zork"
series, or the ridiculous names of the spells in "Enchanter" et al),
whereas parody succeeds best when its target is relentlessly humourless
(think of "A Modest Proposal" by Swift or "The Pooh Perplex" by
F.C.Crews).  There are some supposed parodies of Infocom games at the
IF-archive ("Pork" and "Disenchanted"), but they end up being pastiche
rather than parody or satire, and rather weak pastiches at that.

>From "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  DETECTIVE:  An Interactive MiSTing
                                         GAMEPLAY:  Inform Parser
  AUTHOR:  C. E. Forman                  PLOT:  Trivial              
  EMAIL:  ceforma SP@G   ATMOSPHERE:  Demented
  AVAILABILITY:  GMD incoming            WRITING:  Pathetic
  PUZZLES:  None                         SUPPORTS:  All Inform Ports 
  CHARACTERS:  Cardboard                 DIFFICULTY:  None at all

     Normally, looking at the above category descriptions (such as
"Trivial", "Demented", and "Pathetic") one would expect a pretty bad
game.  Yet, such is not the case here.  In the zany world of Mystery
Science Theater 3000, (MST3K for short) where schlock is fun, and all
involved want "More cheese, please", such descriptions denote an
excellent game.  Detective, the game least likely to be ported now
exists (with enhancements) for Inform.
     A little background is in order to understand this game.  SPAG #4 
featured a review of an AGT game called Detective, which stated that
the author had made every possible mistake, and that the game should be
avoided.  In SPAG #5 I wrote a second review in which I stated that the
game, though awful, was in fact loaded with unintentional laughs and
bizarre incongruities that were sure to entertain the player, and that
the game would make an excellent episode of Mystery Science Theater
     For those who don't know, MST3K is a cable television show (soon to
be a major motion picture) on Comedy Central, that involves a man shot
into space by two mad scientists and forced to watch bad movies so that
his reactions can be monitored.  Throughout the movie we can see the
silhouettes of Mike and his robot companions (whose outer casings are
made out of things like a gumball machine, a bowling pin, and a
lacrosse helmet) at the lower right-hand corner of the screen, and hear
them deliver a barrage of sarcastic remarks, pop-culture references,
and suggestive dialogue.  For example in "Godzilla vs. Megalon", a
close-up of Godzilla waving his arms and bellowing drew the response "I
am Kirok!!", a reference to a classic bit of Shatner overacting in Star
Trek's "The Paradise Syndrome" episode.  In "Marooned", when three
astronauts, stranded in space are arguing over who will leave the ship
(there was only enough oxygen to sustain two until the rescue ship
arrived) one of the robots observed "they could toss a coin, but it 
would never come down."
     The show is in its 7th season, and each episode is two hours long.
 Their bread-and-butter is schlocky sci-fi movies, but they have hit
almost every genre, including the occasional biker movie.  Before and
after the show, as well as during intermissions, they do short amusing
skits, often based on scenes from the movie.
     Chris Forman has taken this format and adapted it into a text
game, almost seamlessly.  The original Detective game has been transferred
verbatim to Inform, even retaining the AGT default responses, and snappy
responses from Mike and the robots have been inserted everywhere; into room
descriptions, item descriptions, response descriptions, et cetera.
Repetition is avoided, enhancing believability.  The first time you enter a
room you get one set of responses.  The second time you will get either a
different set, or none at all.  The jokes are generally top quality, turning
an already (unintentionally) amusing game into a laugh riot.  The level of
imitation is flawless; if you have seen the show, you can almost hear
the dialogue coming out of the actors' mouths.
    A typical MST3K episode features a short skit and an invention exchange
with the mad scientists before the movie actually begins.  Mr. Forman has
represented this by including a special introductory text file that
highlights the robots attempting to write their own text games, and Dr.
Forrester's "fictionary", a device that inputs the vocabulary of a text game
directly into the player's mind, with hilarious results.
     The only thing that could put anyone off about this game might be 
found in Stefan Jokisch's original SPAG #4 review:  "we should not
forget that Matt [the original author of Detective] wrote this game
with good intentions and he offered it for free, so who are we to mock
at his efforts?"  Matt Barringer's game is "mocked" here, but previous
MST3K episodes have had movies featuring the likes of Gregory Peck,
Gene Hackman, Linda Evans, Peter Graves, James Earl Jones, and Bela
Lugosi, putting Mr. Barringer in very august company indeed.
     This may not be my all-time favourite text adventure, but it is
one of the few that I would recommend to absolutely everyone.


From: "Christopher E. Forman" 

NAME: Jigsaw                                  PARSER: Expanded Inform
AUTHOR: Graham Nelson                         PLOT: Complex and entertaining
EMAIL: nelson SP@G                       ATMOSPHERE: Excellent
AVAILABILITY: Freeware, GMD                   WRITING: Stylish & imaginative
          (.Z5 and .Z8 versions)              SUPPORTS: Infocom ports
PUZZLES: Varying, clever & logical            DIFFICULTY: Hard
CHARACTERS: Accurate but primarily

     The turn-of-the-millennium party at Century Park is something of a
letdown, with little to do but run out the clock and, ultimately, let
yourself succumb to the festive spirit that's already claimed all the other
partygoers.  Unless, of course, you found something else to take your
attention away from it all.  Something like a time machine, perhaps?
     "Jigsaw," the latest wonder from Graham Nelson ("Inform" and "Curses",
for those of you who've been in comas for the last three years) promises to
be every bit as fascinating a diversion as his previous works.  As players
jump back and forth through twentieth-century history, they discover pieces
to complete the aforementioned time machine, which is in actuality a large
jigsaw board.  In that respect, "Jigsaw" really _is_ a large puzzle to be
solved by the player.
     Each of the sixteen timeplaces houses a critical event that needs to be
resolved so that history as we know it can proceed.  Solving an area means
you must determine where you are, figure out the critical event that's about
to take place, take action to ensure that it happens as history tells you it
did, and escape back through time to the jigsaw board.
     Complicating matters is a mysterious stranger in black, whom you
recognize from the party, alternately hindering and (sometimes seemingly
inexplicably) helping you.  As the game progresses, a relationship develops
between yourself and "Black," whose intentional lack of a specified gender
sparked a brush-fire of discussion across r.g.i-f in the weeks following the
release of "Jigsaw."
     Comparisons to Nelson's previous work is inevitable.  "Jigsaw" stacks
up very well to "Curses," although IMHO, it's not quite as extravagant as
the popular attic search.  Perhaps this is because "Curses" was released
during a severe I-F drought, and its superior parser and excellent gameplay
immediately astounded players.  There was nothing out there even remotely
close to it at the time.  Now that the shortage is comfortably over, "Jigsaw"
suffers a little.
     Don't get me wrong, though.  It's still one of the very best games out
there, and it does manage to overcome the (few) problems "Curses" had.  For
instance, the jigsaw board gives the game's layout a more structured feel,
whereas the whole of "Curses" always seemed slightly fractured and
incoherent, with several seemingly unrelated puzzles simply thrown together
(again, only my opinion).  And whereas "Curses" took awhile for me to really
get into, "Jigsaw" drew me in right away with the powerful first meeting
between White (as the player is referred to) and Black, in Sarajevo.
     Virtually all of the timeplaces are self-contained and require no
outside information to solve, but this doesn't make the game any less
challenging.  Some of the puzzles here are very, very hard -- the ghost
plane, the moon, and the Enigma machine were particularly taxing.  Everything
has a satisfying, logical solution to it, and the clues aren't buried quite
as deeply as in "Curses," although you still need to examine everything.
     Another game to compare "Jigsaw" to would be Legend Entertainment's
cult classic "TimeQuest," as both share a similar premise -- that of jumping
back and forth between historical events to preserve the timestream's
integrity.  Personally, I found the historical figures in "Jigsaw" to be
handled more realistically than those in "TimeQuest."  While the "Jigsaw"
player gets to see many of them up close, direct interaction is usually
minimized.  "TimeQuest" required the player to speak and act around its
historical personages to influence their actions, often in unrealistic,
sometimes almost laughable, ways.  The atmosphere in "Jigsaw" is better,
giving its areas a dark, gritty edge that's necessary to make it convincingly
realistic (in particular, the Berlin chapter is one of my favorites).  Sadly,
while the NPC's are very accurate (Graham Nelson did his research), aside
from Black, they are not as interactive as I'd hoped.  It would have been
nice to be able to ask them about a larger number of things, for instance.
"TimeQuest" offers a much wider variety of (amusing) queries.
     I found "TimeQuest" quite overwhelming at the start, though, with nearly
eighty timeplaces open for exploration at the very beginning (although the
game does make some effort to point you in the right direction).  "Jigsaw,"
by contrast, keeps just enough timeplaces open at once to give the player a
variety of alternatives to choose from.  This furthers the structured,
episodic feel of the game: At the start, you have a small number of places to
visit; in the middle-game, nearly half the board is unexplored; and as the
endgame draws near, the number of unsolved pieces is again reduced.
     Speaking of the endgame, I must confess that I felt it tended to drag on
considerably, with nothing for the player to do but solve an extremely linear
sequence of puzzles chasing after a single object.  Saying more would
necessitate spoilers, so I'll close by saying that the endgame in the Land is
by far the weakest portion of "Jigsaw."  Once the player gets through it,
though, a satisfying conclusion awaits.
     "Jigsaw" also sports a nifty performance of the Z-Machine assembler, in
the appearance of the board and puzzle pieces.  Graham Nelson again works
wonders with his Inform compiler (but I noticed that "Jigsaw" uses version
6.0, currently unavailable to the rest of the I-F community).
     If you haven't played "Jigsaw" yet, then by all means, do so.  You won't
regret it.

                              -- C.E. Forman

From: "Adam J. Thornton" 

	[Beware, Adam's review borders on a few spoilers near the end, though
I edited out what I could. -GKW]

_Jigsaw_ is the second full-size game from Graham Nelson, author of
_Curses_ and the Inform compiler.  As one would expect, then, it has
been written in Inform, and is thus an Infocom-format story file.  There
are actually two separate versions of each release: one the familiar .z5
Version 5 story file, such as used in _Trinity_, in which the game and
footnotes are separated into separate files, and one in the new Version
8 format.  Infocom never wrote a .z8 story file; the format itself is
new, and was developed by the author as a way to lift the restrictions
of v5 analogously to the way v5 removed certain v3 limitations.

This, then, is the first Inform game that could not, in principle, have
been an Infocom product.  That is to say, the sheer quantity of this
game places it outside the scope of even late-period textual Infocom.
The game is certainly one of the biggest currently existing.  For sheer
amount of text, only _The Legend Lives_ and possibly _Avalon_ (of the
games in my experience) come close; both of those are TADS games, and
therefore have a different set of limitations and restrictions with
which to cope.

However, quantity does not, of course, imply quality.  We need only to
look at the sixteen (?) floppy diskettes of _Leather Goddesses of Phobos
II_.  _Jigsaw_ is big.  Is it good?

I'll cut the suspense short: yes, it's good.  It's very, very good.  It
is clearly intended by Nelson as his _Trinity_.  I consider this an
awfully ambitious goal, as _Trinity_ is, in my opinion, Infocom's finest
hour.  No one else currently working in IF could, I think, write
anything approaching another _Trinity_.  This is not to disparage any of
the fine works that have recently appeared or soon will be appearing.
_Avalon_ is a fine game; it also involves a lot of time travel,
modularized puzzles, and a plot of cosmic significance.  But it doesn't
try to be _Trinity_; _Legend_ has lots of travel--this time spatial
rather than temporal--between worlds and a plot of cosmic significance,
although its puzzles tend to be much less self-contained; however, it
too does not attempt to be _Trinity_.

The structural similarities between _Jigsaw_ and _Trinity_ are striking.
Both have a motif of a central place from which portals lead to other
worlds; in _Jigsaw_ these worlds are found within the puzzle of the
title; _Trinity's_ mushrooms provide its portals.  In each, there is a
specific problem in each world which must be fixed for the game to
proceed.  In each game, the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and
devolves onto the player, initially just another IF protagonist--in
_Jigsaw_, a millenarian partygoer, and in _Trinity_ a boorish American
tourist. There are more subtle parallels as well: each game abounds in
animals, and both are liberally sprinkled with quotations from external

Remember _Trinity's_ quotations?  I do.  "Tomorrow never yet/ On any
human being rose or set."  "Time isn't holding us/ Time isn't after us/
Same as it ever was/ Same as it ever was."  "Tempus edax rerum."  It was
the first time I realized that IF was heir to the same wealth of
allusion that traditional fiction is; if you like, the first time it hit
me that IF could be Art rather than mere recreation.  Nelson has managed
to find the same sensitivity in choosing appropriate quotations; like
_Curses_, _Jigsaw_ bears the stamp of someone gifted not only with his
own words, but with knowing when to use those of others.

_Trinity's_ historical research was good, particularly in the
painstakingly correct layout of Trinity Site.  _Jigsaw_ has raised the
stakes again.  It is clear that a great deal of reading has gone into
the recreation of its historical set-pieces: Kitty Hawk, the S.S.
Titanic, Proust's apartment, and others.  This, of course, suggests the
other comparison between _Trinity_ and _Jigsaw_.  Where do they differ?
_Trinity_ has eight worlds; _Jigsaw_ sixteen.  _Trinity_ has the
lemmings, the bees, the magpie, the German shepherd, the lizard, the
rattlesnake, and, of course, the roadrunner.  There are sixteen
sketchable animals in _Jigsaw_, and a host of others that make cameos.

"Sketchable?" I hear you cry.  Patience.  All will be revealed.  Up to
now I have told you how _Jigsaw_ is and isn't _Trinity_, but very little
as to what it is.  One way of characterizing it might be: _Trinity_, but
with a love story and a sketchbook.

You play White, the generic IF protagonist; you start at a quarter to
midnight in Century Park, somewhere in London, on the evening of
December 31, 1999.  You have a party invitation; it instructs you to
wear white--hence your character's appellation--and have seen a brief
glimpse of an attractive stranger, dressed all in black.  Shortly after, you
come upon a giant jigsaw piece, and a very bizarre statue of a very
bizarre man, one Grad Kaldecki, whose fault all this will turn out to
have been.  Then a monument to him.  There's also a strange device, a
rucksack that looks--and acts--surprisingly like the one in _Curses_,
and a sketch book belonging to a girl named Emily, intended to hold
drawings of animals.  WIth luck, you can figure out what to do before
the celebrations start and you are sucked into the merriment.

What you find is a giant jigsaw puzzle; and you're already carrying a
piece.  Add to this a lovely Victorian clock, and you have the makings of an
adventure, as, when a piece is correctly placed, it opens up a portal to
another area of the game.

There are sixteen pieces.  Each one is a self-contained puzzle; in no
place do you need an object from any other, although a certain gadget
found in one scene can be used in another, but is then lost--and
therefore must be put to its intended use before being taken to that
world, and one animal can only, I think, be sketched with the use of an
object from another piece of the puzzle.

Through the course of the puzzles, there seem to be three ongoing goals:
you need to collect the remaining pieces of the jigsaw, you ought to
sketch the animals you find, and you get to know Black, the Mysterious
Stranger, somewhat better.  The motivation is admittedly weak here:
putting together the puzzle and sketching the animals are both things
done only because the materials to do so are at hand.  While the
rationale behind the puzzle pieces appears early on, until the epilogue
is reached, there is no indication of the point of the sketchbook.

Graham Nelson has done an amazing job with the White-Black romance.
Black is never assigned a gender: she or he can be whatever you want him
or her to be, as long as it's attractive.  Black has stayed a caucasian
female for me, though White's gender has fluctuated. has had a long discussion on the technique used. 
It is, I think devastatingly effective.  I have a theory that Black's
gender may, in fact, be determined, but to give my speculation would
give away a great deal of the game.

Black, it turns out, is trying to modify the course of the Twentieth
Century to make it better, or at least, what Black feels to be better.
After realizing that allowing Black to make his or her changes is fatal
to the progress of the game, it becomes clear that your job, as White,
is to keep history the way it was, or, at least within the context of
the game, should have been.  This means thwarting Black at (almost)
every turn; the tension between preserving your future and courting
Black is ridiculously persuasive, despite that fact that Black is no
more interactive than your standard IF NPC and that the depth of your
crush on Black, within the game, makes little sense.  This is another of
my criticisms of the game: for someone on whom you're so hung up, you
can do curiously little to elicit responses from Black.  And one feels
that, given Black's behavior throughout the game, you may well be
heartily sick of the poltroon by the end.

The endgame takes place in The Land; it includes knowing winks to
_Colossal Cave_ and _Zork_, and is basically one long Rube
Goldberg/Heath Robinson puzzle: what you have to do is obvious, but, as
you try to do it, like the Babel Fish in _Hitchhiker's Guide To The
Galaxy_, obstacles keep interposing.  It's charming, and reasonably
climactic.  And just when you think it's all over, there's an epilogue,
which (finally) reveals the purpose of the sketchbook, brings closure to
the tension with Black, and, like _Trinity_, drops you back into the
circle of time.

The game fares well as narrative; but how is it as a game?  In short,
just fine.  There a a few flaws: one has to "look under" too many
things. The Barge scene needs a bit more of a clue; as it stands, it's a
"guess the author's intention" puzzle.  For someone so central to the
game, one would hope that Black were more interactive, but he/she
doesn't seem to ever want to talk to you.  There is one puzzle of
exhaustion: the Enigma machine.  One feels that Nelson was so pleased
with what a spectacular bit of programming modeling an Enigma Machine
in Inform was that he forgot to ask whether it would be a good puzzle. 
If one more stecker were given, reducing the problem to brute-forcing
one steckering and one wheel setting, it would be a less annoying
puzzle.  There is one maze, thankfully brief and not a standard
drop-and-map maze.  There is one egregious "guess-the-verb" puzzle.

There are also a few wonderful puzzles.  The Ghost Bomber is one such;
although I've seen complaints from the rgif readers about it, I found it
logical, well-motivated, and well-executed.  Berlin is small, but
tightly constructed and entertaining.  In fact, most of the worlds have
tight and satisfying puzzles.

At the end of the day, _Jigsaw_ is a masterful game.  It lacks the
endearing silliness of _Curses_; it is a much more serious game.  It
could not have come from Infocom, and I suspect could never have been
produced as a commercial venture: too much effort went into the research
to have been commercially viable.  It is arguably the finest piece of IF
yet written.  That includes _Trinity_.  I have not yet decided whether I
prefer _Jigsaw_ or _Trinity_; for once, trying to compare _Trinity_ to
anything else is not comparing apples and oranges.  However, _Jigsaw_
ranks, on my personal scale of games, comfortably within the top two,
followed at some distance by _Spellbreaker_.

I close with an observation and three questions: first, I would like to
see a full bibliography rather than just the scattered notes at the end
of each section's footnote.  Since the v8 format is huge, and since the
v5 footnote file is small, could we not also have a list of "Have you
tried..." as we had in Curses?  Second, shouldn't the bowl in Paris
contain lime, rather than jasmine, tea?  Finally, who is Emily?

	[By the way, before everyone starts asking if Avalon is done again,
noticing Adam's comments in his reviews, I'd better head you off and say that
no, it isn't, and Adam is one of my betatesters, hence he's actually seen the


From: "Christopher E. Forman" 

 NAME:  A Journey Into Xanth                  PARSER:  AGT Standard
 AUTHOR:  Neil Sorenson                       PLOT:  Quite linear
 EMAIL:  None Given                           ATMOSPHERE:  Well-adapted
 AVAILABILITY:  GMD                           WRITING:  Prosaic, with good
   (:/incoming/if-archive/agt/        spelling but poor grammar
 PUZZLES:  Easy, typical, but plot-related    SUPPORTS:  AGT Ports
 CHARACTERS:  Nicely developed                DIFFICULTY:  Easy - Medium

        No, this is not the graphical "Companions of Xanth" game released by
Legend Entertainment a couple years ago.  Rather, it's a text adventure, set
in the magical land of Xanth, that I stumbled across on GMD (in rather an
odd place, as the header shows).
        Xanth (the world, not this game) is the creation of author Piers
Anthony, and is explored in a couple dozen books comprising the popular
series.  Unlike our world, known in Xanth as "Mundania", everything about
Xanth is magical, and puns are taken quite literally -- a "card table" is
literally a table made out of a giant playing card!  Each inhabitant of
Xanth has a single magical talent, and no two talents are identical.
        "A Journey Into Xanth", a charming I-F adaption of Anthony's world,
succeeds admirably in capturing the same whimsical appeal of the books.
Author Neil Sorenson is obviously a dedicated fan -- his game is chock-full
of places, plants, and personages from Xanthian lore, as well as truckloads
of the really bad puns that Xanth is famous for.  (You _will_ cringe.  I
guarantee it.)
        Sorenson's "Xanth" puts the player in the role of Mim, a young
Xanthian with the ability to summon a magical mirror, which he can use to
communicate with anyone else in Xanth.  A lengthy but well-written
introduction sets up the plot.  When the Sen-Trees (told you you'd cringe!)
that guard Castle Roogna mysteriously wither and die, leaving the palace
defenseless, King Trent sends for your friend Lief, the only one with the
power to restore them.  Because you have knowledge of swordsmanship, as well
as the ability to communicate with the king via your magic mirror, you are
chosen to go along as Lief's companion and guide.
        The game handles better than most AGT packages I've had experience
with.  There are usually plenty of good synonyms, and some amusing responses
(although there's no escaping some of those goofy-sounding AGT defaults).
        What impressed me most about "Xanth" and convinced me to write a
review of it were the NPCs, particularly Lief.  Rather than attempting to
successfully implement a convincing "ASK  ABOUT " or
", " routine, Sorenson restricts all NPC interactions to
the simpler "SHOW", "GIVE", and "TALK TO" commands, and leaves plot
advancement to the more lengthy strings of dialogue produced by the actions.
Although it may appear somewhat unrefined by TADS or Inform standards, this
method _works_ here, and it's well-programmed.  Dialogues appear when they're
supposed to, and produce different responses based on game circumstances.
This creates the illusion of some of the most realistic NPCs seen in an AGT
game, although they are fleshed out through primarily non-interactive methods.
        Unfortunately, while the dialogue routines are quite nicely done, the
rest of the game's writing is marred by a great deal of rather poor grammar.
I found no spelling errors (a plus), but few of the room descriptions are
particularly memorable, and run-on sentences abound.  Also, there are no
double-spaces or indentations between the lines of dialogue, which makes it
hard to read in places.  Occasionally an event description will be printed
out of order in some locations (a common problem with AGT games) which
furthers the somewhat ramshackle appearance.
        While most of "Xanth" is fairly logical (though sometimes in a
strange, punnish kind of way), a few problems -- crossing the river in
particular -- determine success or failure (i.e. life or death) based
entirely on the outcome of a random number generator, a very, VERY big no-no
in my book.  Also, while many of the puzzles make perfect sense after you've
solved them, there is often little indication beforehand that a particular
solution is the correct one.  Perhaps this is due to the somewhat
inconsistent nature of the AGT play system more than anything else.
        It's hard to knock "Xanth" completely though, because it tries so
hard.  The author has gone to great lengths to make the game as easy to play
as possible, even including a set of brilliantly rendered ASCII maps (a great
time-saver) with the game files.  There's also a walkthrough in case you find
some of the puzzles a bit too obscure.  Speaking of the puzzles in "Xanth",
although they aren't terribly difficult or imaginative, they do serve to
actually advance the plot, a feature sadly lacking in so many text games.
The plot itself is a pretty standard fantasy journey, and quite linear.
Unless you do most things in a particular order, you'll either become halted
or stuck.  But because of the author's ability to make a good story with a
somewhat limited development tool, I decided to score him fairly high on the
wildcard points, even if the game is otherwise unspectacular.
        As an adaption of sorts, the appeal of "A Journey Into Xanth" is
limited primarily by the size of its target audience.  It's obviously aimed
at fans of the books.  Players familiar with Piers Anthony's world should get
a kick out of it if they can bear the AGT parser.  If you're not at all
familiar with Xanth, or if you've tried the Xanth series but didn't care for
it, you'd be advised to look elsewhere, perhaps into a more mundane game.

                                                 -- C.E. Forman


>From "Gareth Rees" 

  NAME: The Mind Electric                 PARSER: Inform's usual
  AUTHOR: Jason Dyer                      PLOT: None
  EMAIL: jdyer SP@G               ATMOSPHERE: Good
  AVAILABILITY: Freeware, GMD             WRITING: Good
  PUZZLES: Impossible, bizarre            SUPPORTS: Inform ports
  CHARACTERS: None                        DIFFICULTY: Impossible w/o hints

I enjoy playing a game in which I am plunged into a new universe with
unfamiliar but logical laws which I can discover by experimentation and
careful thinking.  "The Mind Electric" seemed to promise that, but it
didn't deliver.  The world it presented made no sense as a real world,
and still made no sense when interpreted as some kind of "Neuromancer"-
style virtual reality (i.e., the objects and landscapes are visual
representations of programs and data in the memory of a network of
computers).  I didn't feel as though I was in a world with logical laws
that I could deduce; I felt instead that I was in a world where an
ad-hoc rationalisation could be produced for any event, however
meaningless.  I think the majority of those who commented on "The Mind
Electric" on (and it was the game which seemed to
receive the most debate) would agree with me.

For example, at some point in the game I need to pick out one of ten
thousand boxes, or else I will die.  There is an intelligent cube which
cannot talk, but wants to tell me the number of the correct box.  There
are several easy and straightforward ways it might do this.  One way
would be binary chop: the cube blinks if the number I guess is too high,
and nods if I guess too low.  Another way would be for the cube to
communicate the number directly: "The cube blinks four times, then
pauses, then blinks three times, then pauses...".  But instead it
insists on playing "Mastermind" with me, which might have been
appropriate in "The Magic Toyshop", but not in a life and death

One possibility for improvement would have been to give a set of rules
at the start.  Infocom's games "A Mind Forever Voyaging" and "Suspended"
are similar in some ways to "The Mind Electric", and those games come
with manuals explaining the nature of the world into which the player is
plunged, and details on the kind of commands that might be expected to
work in that world.  The shareware game "Enhanced" doesn't come with a
manual, but it does have a gentle introductory section in which the
player is prodded into experimenting with the game's capabilities.
Either of these approaches, followed by a consistent way of interacting
with the virtual world, would have helped "The Mind Electric" become

Even ignoring the debate about the nature of the world and the
difficulty of the puzzles, it was just a dull game!  The backstory (who
are the Kaden and the Souden? what was I spying on and why? how did I
got into this mess in the first place? who is the mysterious character
who is trying to get me out?) sounded much more interesting than what
actually happened in the game.  Jason Dyer's responses in suggest that he had a much more clearly worked-out
rationalisation for the events in "The Mind Electric" than actually
appears in the game:

    As for the paper puzzle, well, the paper was a gift from the tall
    man.  He had access to the passwords, but, was unable to send
    messages that were too long without being detected [...] logically
    speaking, knowledge of how a duplicator operates is one thing not
    erased in loyalty transfers since both Kaden and Souden use it.

Perhaps there should have been more of this background (and maybe a
character or two?).


>From "Gareth Rees" 

  NAME: A Night at the Museum Forever     PARSER: TADS's usual
  AUTHOR: Chris Angelini                  PLOT: None
  EMAIL: cangelin SP@G             ATMOSPHERE: Poor
  AVAILABILITY: Freeware, GMD             WRITING: Poor
  PUZZLES: Not very logical               SUPPORTS: TADS ports
  CHARACTERS: None                        DIFFICULTY: Impossible

I didn't enjoy playing this at all.  Ninety percent of the game seemed
to consist of tramping back and forth along the corridor in the
different time zones, and the remaining ten percent was somewhat dull.
No people, no interesting puzzles, no colourful background, no
awe-inspiring future technology, nothing.  The game seems to have not
been playtested, and it raises rather more questions than it answers.

Why is the McGuffin something as prosaic as a diamond ring in a game
wanting for colour, when it could have been an exciting Heechee (tm)
gadget with miraculous properties?  Is the coal/diamond puzzle a
reference to "Zork I", or is it just serendipity?  And anyway, how on
earth did the coal turn into a diamond when it was just buried in a hole
for 2000 years?  Why is there a starvation time limit when there is no
food in the game?  Is this just the infamous "TADS has starvation and
sleep deprivation time limits unless you explicitly turn them off" bug,
or is it deliberate?  Why does the walkthrough think I can refer to the
"glass cover" as a "case"?  And so on.


>From "Gareth Rees" 

  NAME: The One that Got Away             PARSER: TADS's usual
  AUTHOR: Leon Lin                        PLOT: Linear, very short
  EMAIL: unknown                          ATMOSPHERE: Excellent
  AVAILABILITY: Freeware, GMD             WRITING: Superb, funny
  PUZZLES: Not so good                    SUPPORTS: TADS ports
  CHARACTERS: Excellent                   DIFFICULTY: Easy

My favourite entry in the competition.  The puzzles aren't up to much,
but who cares?  The writing is superb, atmospheric, and very funny.  I
usually find myself impatient with long sequences of text in adventure
games, but even though "The One that Got Away" was brimful with text, I
enjoyed it immensely.  I must have spent ten times as long thinking of
things to say to Bob as I did trying to catch any fish.  I suppose I
have a soft spot for this kind of mock American pioneer folklore.

I laughed out loud at some of the more purple passages, especially the
example game sequence in the pamphlet, which is an accurate pastiche of
the Infocom style of sample transcripts and at the same time a hilarious
take on "Moby Dick":

    "Curse you, Doby the Mackrel, curse you!"  Pete exclaims, shaking
    his fist at the sea.  "From Hell's heart I stab at thee."

I have a nitpick about an inconsistency in the text: if you type "kiss
bob", then Bob replies, "I've been lonely since the missus died", but
according to his other speeches, he has been mourning his first love
Nellie all his life and has never married: "I always thought Nellie
might come back, and I've waited, just minding this store, but I guess
it'll never be."

However, I think it's a good sign when characters have enough background
that I can worry about consistency like this.  No other game in the
competition had anything like this level of backstory.

Carl Muckenhoupt  wrote the following in the

    I'd put ["The One that Got Away"] the category of "could have been
    written in AGT with no appreciable decline in quality" [...] I like
    detail.  I like background objects that are fully fleshed-out.  I
    like doodads with lots of parts that can be poked at individually.
    I like characters that do more that just stand there, waiting to
    respond to your actions.  These are all things that AGT handles
    clumsily, if at all.  Neither "Toonesia" nor "The One" gave us much
    beyond Rooms containing Objects.

I think this criticism is unfair.  The complexity of implementation of a
game should be just as complex as required by the story and
characterisation, and no more.  Just because it is possible to write a
sliding-block puzzle in Inform or TADS, doesn't mean that every game
should have some similar piece of complex machinery.  Similarly, just
because computers are large enough to store hundreds of thousands of
words of prose, doesn't mean that every game should have pages and pages
of irrelevant descriptive text (which is very hard to write vividly).
It's kinder on the player to just say "that's not important" than to
produce a dull description that nonetheless has to be read carefully for

When I play "Adventure" today, I don't think, "This game would have been
much improved if the lamp had a wick that had to be cut and adjusted
every 100 turns, or if the nasty little dwarves had Eliza-style natural
language parsers so that `dwarf, why do you throw knives at me' would
produce the response `Is the fact that I throw knives at you the reason
why you are unhappy?'".

If a story can be told well using only objects and rooms, then why not
tell it that way?  "The One that Got Away" was a very effective piece of
fiction because it was concerned with people and their feelings and
motivations, rather than mechanical puzzles.  I agree that it doesn't
expand the boundaries of what is possible with interactive fiction, but
other entries in the competition (notably "Undertow") demonstrated that
it's extremely difficult to expand these boundaries without losing a lot
of valuable qualities that "The One that Got Away" had.  To put it
another way, a genre has boundaries to explore *because* there's a solid
core of technically routine but artistically successful work to react

I hope that Lin writes more interactive fiction, and that he continues
to orient his work towards strong characters.  Other peoples' comments
in the newsgroup suggest that he should work on the structure of the
game -- "The One" was too easy to finish without ever having to quiz Bob
about the history behind the game; instead, the puzzles should have been
an inducement to explore the background -- and on the quality and number
of the puzzles.


From: "Brian Reilly" 

NAME:  Save Princeton               PARSER:  TADS
AUTHOR:  Jacob Weinstein	    PLOT:  Rescue Princeton from
EMAIL:  jacobw SP@G	    ATMOSPHERE:  Good
AVAILABILITY:  GMD, shareware,$10   WRITING:  Good

Egads!  Gun-toting radicals have infiltrated the Ivy League.  Nope, it's 
not Columbia of '69, but Princeton of today.  As a mild-mannered
perspective Princetonian, you duck away from your tour of Princeton 
out of boredom and begin to explore the the campus on your own, 
only to be startled by the sounds of gunfire erupting in the usually 
tranquil Princeton, NJ.  When you come out of hiding, you can tell that 
something has gone drastically wrong.

Your explorations around Princeton soon lead you to discover that the 
Administration Building has been seized, and the President of Princeton 
is being held hostage.  Now, it's up to you to oust the terrorists, and 
rescue President Shapiro.  The puzzles in this game are done fairly well, 
but some tend to be rather illogical or bizarre.  The game is full of a 
good amount of humor, although a lot of it is dependent on Princeton 
history or a familiarity with the campus.  The characters add to the 
humor of the game, although many of the characters could have been more 
developed.  I do have to add though, that I was ecstatic when I realized 
that the maze was a non-maze, and did not have to spend hours mapping.  
All in all, Save Princeton is a fun, enjoyable game.


From: "Christopher E. Forman" 

NAME: Shades of Gray                       GAMEPLAY: Surprisingly responsive
AUTHORS: Mark Baker, Steve Bauman, Belisana Magnificent, Mike Laskey,
         Judith Pintar, "Hercules", Cindy Yans
PLOT: Complex and absolutely fascinating
EMAIL: ?                                   ATMOSPHERE: Generally well-done
AVAILABILITY: GMD, CompuServe (Freeware)   WRITING: Generally well-done
PUZZLES: Above average                     SUPPORTS: PCs
CHARACTERS: Varying degrees of realism     DIFFICULTY: Average - Difficult

        The AGT programming language was designed to be easy to use, to give
non-programmers the power to create their own games.  Yet in games I've seen,
its parser has been almost consistently flawed, leading me to believe that
users didn't find this aspect of the programming as user-friendly as AGT's
developers had intended.
        But "Shades of Gray" is different.  The annoying quirks that plague
every other AGT game simply are not present.  The parser generally accepts
multiple methods of phrasing, a move in a wrong direction does NOT repeat
the entire room description, and trying to examine something that isn't
there gives a better message than the annoying "You see nothing special",
which always seems to imply that something is there when it really isn't.
Add to this the fact that the writing approaches the very best in _any_
text adventure, and you've got something well worth downloading.
        What fascinates me about "Shades of Gray" is the fact that it wasn't
written by a single author, or even a creative pair.  This game is the
combined efforts of _seven_ authors, from both the U.S. and the U.K.  Not
only that, but the authors' only means of communication has been through a
private CompuServe Gamers' Forum!  Having collaborated with a co-author
myself, I can appreciate the difficulty in trying to merge the products of
two creative minds into a single streamlined work of art, but SEVEN...!  One
would think that conflicting ideas and plot details would crop up incessantly,
reducing the end product to a cluttered, incomprehensible mess.  But,
astoundingly, it doesn't.
        In fact, "Shades of Grey" has the most fascinating plot I've ever
seen in a work of I-F.  You begin with no clue about who you are or what
you're supposed to be doing, shifting back and forth between hallucinations
and reality.  Eventually you gain the help of the clairvoyant Lady Magdalena,
whose Tarot cards seek to provide insight into your existence.  (I often
wonder if this game was Graham Nelson's inspiration for the Tarot puzzles in
"Curses.")  As you learn more about yourself, and your past and future, you
act out the roles of yourself as a young child, a soldier, and Robin of
Locksley and the Sheriff of Nottingham, all culminating in a complex
political thriller surrounding Haiti.  To say more would certainly spoil the
entire game, but rest assured that everything fits together beautifully in
the end, after you've faced every facet of yourself and put the events
        The use of seven authors leads to a rather segmented design, but
linearity serves the story well.  The individual episodes vary in style and
quality (both in the writing and the overall design), yet somehow this
creates the effect of many pieces coming together.  And the whole of "Shades
of Grey" is far, far more than the sum of the parts.
        Still, it's not perfect.  The parser still isn't up to TADS level,
but it's the closest I've seen from AGT.  And there are some small mazes and
a few puzzles that involve trying to guess the author's frame of thinking.
But the rest of the game is so breathtaking that these flaws are easy to
        Give this one a play.  Even if you normally hate the AGT system,
you'll enjoy it.

                                            -- C.E. Forman


>From "Graeme Cree" <72630.304 SP@G>

  NAME:  Suspended                    GAMEPLAY:  Early Infocom
  AUTHOR:  Michael Berlyn             PLOT:  Save the World
  EMAIL:  ???                         ATMOSPHERE:  Changing viewpoints
  PUZZLES:  Save/Restore              SUPPORTS:  All Infocom Ports
  CHARACTERS:  All-Robot              DIFFICULTY:  Expert

     The implicit promise of a good adventure game is that the gaming 
experience is just like really being there, or as one of Infocom's
early brochures put it, "It's like waking up inside a story."  In
Suspended, the promise is broken; deliberately.  You aren't really
there, and you don't wake up.
     In Suspended, you play the part of an alien being frozen in an 
underground cryogenic chamber that is part of an underground complex
that controls the planetary weather control devices.  In the event of
emergency, your mind (but not your body) is activated in order to
coordinate repair efforts.  The main characters are your six repair
robots; Auda, Sensa, Iris, Poet, Whiz, and Waldo (Where's Waldo?), who
perform the game's vital tasks, and report to you what they see and do.
 Each one has different abilities (one can only see, one can only hear,
et cetera), and must be directed by you to the point where they will do
the most good.
     Suspended is a game that will appeal to some players and infuriate 
others.  It is the ultimate save/restore game.  It is flatly impossible
to solve it on the first play through; you must acquire vital knowledge
through failures before you can put it all together to be able to win
the game.  
     Also, simple knowledge is not enough.  The game works on a very
strict time limit, and to win, you must not only know what to do, but
be able to optimize the time it takes to do it.  Since the robots take
time to travel through the complex, you must have the foresight to have
them in the proper locations at the proper times, which means ordering
them there earlier.  If you take too long, a team from the surface will
enter the complex to take control from you.
     It might be best not to think of Suspended as a work of
Interactive Fiction at all.  It is a pseudo-simulation game, written
before software technology was developed enough to develop real
simulation games.  It is a game for frustrated would-be air traffic
controllers who enjoy coordinating multiple activities from a central
location, much more than it is a work of fiction.  It is a game for
people who like to play WITH games, not merely play them.  
     To help you, the game supplies a game map (the only Infocom game
apart from Seastalker to do so), and markers to track the movements of
your robots.  The original edition gave a good, mounted map with rubber
markers.  The thin-paper map included with Lost Treasures I is much
more difficult to work with.  I haven't yet seen the components for
Activision's new Science-Fiction Collection.
     The parser is one of Infocom's early ones, and is missing several 
convenient abbreviations that players will be used to.  Not merely "x"
for examine, but also "z" for wait, and "g" for again are missing.  The
very handy "Oops" feature is also missing.
     Suspended features three different levels of play, of increasing 
difficulty, designed to give the game more replay value.  It might not
be the best computer game ever written, as Rolling Stone said in their
review, but it is worth a look.


>From "Gareth Rees" 

  NAME: Toonesia                          PARSER: TADS's usual
  AUTHOR: Jacob Weinstein                 PLOT: Mostly linear
  EMAIL: jacobw SP@G                  ATMOSPHERE: Good
  AVAILABILITY: Freeware, GMD             WRITING: Good
  PUZZLES: Very nice                      SUPPORTS: TADS ports
  CHARACTERS: Fair (a bit static)         DIFFICULTY: Easy

I enjoyed playing "Toonesia".  It captures a good deal of the flavour of
the cartoons it pastiches, and makes excellent use of the logic of the
cartoon world it takes place in: I found all of the puzzles were
solvable on the first attempt, and the majority were very good.

There were problems with the descriptions (the directions on the mesa
were reversed), and a few minor bugs (e.g., you could type "enter hole"
from the mesa and get there directly, rather than messing about with the
blindfold), but the main reason why I ranked "The One that Got Away"
higher was because "Toonesia" seemed to lack energy.

Palmer Davis  wrote the following in the

    The writing could use a bit more polish, but still manages to
    capture the spirit of Saturday morning.  The NPCs don't, however --
    if you encounter Daffy Duck or the Tasmanian Devil in a "real"
    cartoon, he'll be in your face until Porky Pig shows up for the
    fadeout, rather than just standing around like they do here.

I agree entirely; the characters in "Toonesia" are too static, and the
game is directed too much by the player's own wanderings to be a
completely successful pastiche.  In a typical cartoon, Bugs would appear
right at the start and his running battle with Fudd would continue to
the end, with Fudd setting traps for Bugs and Bugs always escaping and
turning the tables.

You can make an NPC more interesting by giving him or her a strong
motivation and an ability to do things on his or her own initiative, not
just in response to the player's actions.  They are more interesting if
they react to each other's actions as well as to the player's.  And it
helps a lot just to give them many different things that they can do.
So in "Toonesia", the player should have had to make several attempts to
deal with Bud, with interaction at each stage.  The other characters
should have had their own motivations and schemes which would either
provide additional hindrances, or present opportunities for subversion
by the player, or be just there for background.


>From "Gareth Rees" 

  NAME: Tube Trouble                      PARSER: Inform's usual
  AUTHOR: Richard Tucker                  PLOT: Linear, short
  EMAIL: rit10 SP@G               ATMOSPHERE: Claustrophobic
  AVAILABILITY: Freeware, GMD             WRITING: Good
  PUZZLES: Good, very complex             SUPPORTS: Inform ports
  CHARACTERS: Not interactive enough      DIFFICULTY: Hard

I played this game on a BBC micro several years ago, and I was impressed
by the neatness and complexity of the puzzle: I had a feeling of going
round and round on a complex Heath-Robinson mechanism that I had to
nudge a little bit each time it went round until finally I could step
off where I wanted.  I did my to best to capture this feeling in the
opening sequence of "Christminster".

From: "Palmer Davis" <>

    Not as sketchy as _Toyshop_, and not as pedestrian as _Library_,
    this entry still falls prey to the major shortcomings of both games,
    to lesser degrees.  You are stuck inside the London Underground,
    and must find a way to extract food from a run-down old vending
    machine in a tube station.

Unlike _Toyshop_, _Tube_'s rather laconic style succeeds in much
the same fashion as _Enchanter_ at making the setting seem real.
Much of the tube station is left to the player's imagination to
fill in, but the setting is familiar enough, and the handful of
words carefully enough chosen to evoke the appropriate image from
the player.  Likewise, the vending machine looks and works just
like you'd expect.  Of course, relying on a shared experiential
context to fill in atmosphere is hazardous; players in rural areas
who do not normally encounter urban mass transit stations may not
have enough background to provide the needed imagery.

Unfortunately, the limited vocabulary and amount of interaction with
the NPCs (one of whom enters and then promptly vanishes before you
can interact with her at all!) turns a good portion of the puzzle
into a guessing game.  This entry may have been an attempt at the
"sudden" IF concept described in Whizzard's Supplement #1, but the
reduced set of possibilities that the author implemented jars the
player out of the tenuous sense of immersion that the writing creates.
Keeping words, locations, and objects to a minimum works if done
correctly; restricting the player's actions without providing a
reason why (beyond "I don't understand ____ as a verb") doesn't.

No help at all was provided, and the author didn't include a
walkthrough, so I still haven't seen a fairly sizeable portion of
the game.  Combined with the rather circumscribed nature of reality
and the generally unexciting goal, that fact has kept me from wanting
to return to finish the game.  Authors of future entries that don't
implement help systems might want to keep that in mind and at least
provide a walkthrough.

BOTTOM LINE: Tightly written, but misses the train.


>From "Gareth Rees" 

  NAME: Uncle Zebulon's Will              PARSER: TADS's usual
  AUTHOR: Magnus Olsson                   PLOT: Linear
  EMAIL: mol SP@G                    ATMOSPHERE: Good
  AVAILABILITY: Freeware, GMD             WRITING: Competent but dull
  PUZZLES: One great, rest pedestrian     SUPPORTS: TADS ports
  CHARACTERS: OK (there's only one)       DIFFICULTY: Easy

My third favourite of the competition games, after "The One that Got
Away" and "A Change in the Weather".  I was reminded very strongly of
Infocom's game "Hollywood Hijinx": there's a mysterious will, a hunt
through a deserted house, and plenty of descriptions which are enlivened
by references to my childhood memories of the place.  I almost expected
to find Uncle Zebulon still alive at the end, menaced by my evil cousin
Hector.  Perhaps the fabled city of "Cyr-Dhool" which I reach at the end
of the game is some kind of reference to Liz Cyr-Jones, co-author of
"Hollywood Hijinx"?

The background to the game suggested a world in which magic takes the
place of science and technology.  (The genre is known as "elfpunk" and
is exemplified by the novel "The Iron Dragon's Daughter" by Michael
Swanwick.)  This was very interesting, although it was perhaps too
subtly done, and didn't seem as relevant to the game as it could have
been.  I wondered if the "train strikes" mentioned in the opening text
(rather than, say, "magic carpet strikes") were evidence that the
background wasn't part of the original design.  Certainly the Greek
mythology sits rather uneasily with either the elfpunk world in which
the game starts or the generic-fantasy land in which it ends.

I enjoy games where I have to sift through lots of information to find
material that's relevant to the puzzle I'm working on, and "Uncle
Zebulon's Will" was good in this respect: two letters, a torn note, a
scroll and a poem on a bronze plate.  There was a point where I wondered
if I was going to have to replicate Zebulon's alchemy experiments
(shades of "Christminster" here).  But it quickly became apparent that
most of the information was redundant, and from there on I found it
an easy game to finish.

The main impression I had of the game was that it was a very solid piece
of work.  There were no bugs, all the pieces of the plot fitted together
smoothly, the hook at the start was intriguing, and the ending was good,
though not as much of a surprise as it should perhaps have been.

There were various aspects that disappointed.  Apart from the one-object
restriction, which was excellent despite needing a completely gratuitous
demon to enforce it, the puzzles seemed a bit pedestrian.  There are
four objects hidden in obvious places and *two* puzzles involving
collecting a set of related objects.  The writing was very flat and
lifeless, managing to be lengthy without being either vivid or
humourous.  Half a dozen descriptions have some variation on "This room
has been ransacked by your greedy relatives".  Magnus Olsson commented

    I tried not to be too literary; the more flowery the prose, the more
    time one has to spend polishing it.

I'm afraid that it shows; perhaps a bit more floweriness would have
helped.  And I was hoping for at least some people in the land of Vhyl
to welcome me.  Perhaps the sequel will reveal where they've all gone.


>From "Gareth Rees" 

  NAME: Undertow                          PARSER: TADS's usual
  AUTHOR: Stephen Granade                 PLOT: Mystery
  EMAIL: sgranade SP@G            ATMOSPHERE: Good
  AVAILABILITY: $10 requestware, GMD      WRITING: So-so
  PUZZLES: Obscure                        SUPPORTS: TADS ports
  CHARACTERS: Don't convince              DIFFICULTY: Hard

This is a very ambitious work unfortunately let down by its
implementation.  Interactive fiction has to come to grips with
characterisation and complex character interaction, but it has to do
that while allowing suspension of disbelief and remaining interesting
and playable.  This kind of material was something I considered doing
for the competition, but rejected because I didn't have time, and
because in any case I don't know how to do it!  So I think Stephen was
very brave to tackle it.  It's just a shame that the result isn't very

The characters in "Undertow" don't seem to have the knowledge that they
should have, based on what they've seen me do.  For example, suppose I
tell Carl that I have seen Thom's body in the water.  Later on, I still
get the exchange

    "What is it?" you ask him [Carl] en route.
    "Thom. We've found him dead."

which was clearly written for the case when I hadn't seen Thom's body at
all.  The game let's me attack the other characters, but they don't seem
to treat me any differently afterwards than they did before.  Then there
are perfectly sensible actions that are prevented for arbitrary and
stupid reasons.  The worst such problem I found was that I couldn't pick
up Ashleigh's purse or get her gun!  Surely no-one in such a situation
-- a murdered man just discovered -- would leave a gun lying around on
the deck for anyone to pick up?  The game says that if I'm seen with a
gun, then people will think I killed Thom.  Well then, let me pick up
the gun, and implement the other characters' suspicions!

"Undertow" seems not to have been play-tested much (if at all), when in
fact the mystery genre demands extremely rigorous testing.  It's hard to
be a detective when you get responses like

    > ask ashleigh about carl
    Carl is no longer here.

    > carl, tell me about ashleigh
    You can't reach that from the dinette bench.

There are lots of little bugs, such as "The battery cover is closed,
revealing a nine-volt battery", the consistent misspelling of "gauge" as
"gague", and the way the "shape" in the water that looks like Thom's
body is still present after Thom's body has been pulled out of the sea.
There are also far too many objects: try typing "tell all about thom" in
the Forecastle -- I counted 25 scenery objects in that one room alone!
This clutter obscures rather than illuminates.

There are basic problems with the way the story develops.  After an
extremely hectic opening, suddenly nothing else seems to happen until
the boat explodes (a situation which reminds me of "Plundered Hearts"),
and the player is left with no idea of what to do.

There does seem to have been a lot of work put into this, but the task
facing authors of this kind of game would seem to be greater still.
"Undertow" was too ambitious for the competition, but I'd be intrigued
to see what Stephen Granade could produce if he went back to the code
without any deadlines or time constraints and tried to finish writing
the game.  (If you need another play-tester, e-mail me).


From: "Christopher E. Forman" 

NAME: Zanfar                              PARSER: Good ol' AGT
AUTHOR: YAK (Your Adventure Kreator)      PLOT: Explore-the-old-mansion
EMAIL: ???                                ATMOSPHERE: Very, very ordinary
AVAILABILITY: Freeware, GMD               WRITING: Unremarkable
PUZZLES: Generic                          SUPPORTS: AGT Ports
CHARACTERS: Cardboard                     DIFFICULTY: Easy, if you can
                                            force yourself through it.

        There are a number of ways for authors to draw attention to their
games: by promoting them through newsgroups, web sites, and e-zines; by
creating a favorable (or unfavorable) impression on players, who spread it
by word of mouth; et cetera.  A more imaginative trick is to give the game
a name that places it dead last in an alphabetic directory listing on an
FTP archive, so it grabs attention by being the very last thing a user sees
when doing a "dir".  Well, it worked on me, anyway.  The title I refer to is
"Zanfar", an appellation that seems to have absolutely no significance in the
game itself, apart from the promotional scheme I've just outlined.
        In fact, there's very little about "Zanfar" that's significant.
Though it boasts 140 rooms, there just isn't much there.  Very few of the
rooms are more than padding, and it's painfully obvious what's important and
what's not (the game doesn't allow you to examine ANY scenery).  The
rudimentary plot simply tells you that you're someone who enjoys exploring
old houses like the one in the game, despite the fact that the locals warned
you there's something dangerous there.  Before long, though, you find out
that the whole thing is just another collect-all-the-treasures operation,
with no innovations to recommend it.
        The puzzles are so cheesy and cliched, they could have come out of a
white box labelled "Acme Jenerik Advenchur Puzzuhlz."  Your exploits in
"Zanfar" range from obtaining a light source for dark rooms, to unlocking
things with keys (Did I say "The Awe-Chasm" had a lot of locks?  "Zanfar" has
even more!), to solving a drop-an-item-in-each-room maze, to dealing with a
group of cookie-cutter NPCs -- there's an enraged wizard, a "Junk Food
Junkie", and a "Humongeous [sic] Bat", to name a few.  All this is strung
together with wholly unremarkable writing.
        As a result, "Zanfar" is neither good enough to gain widespread
popularity nor awful enough to be a must-play for bad game aficionados.  It's
the kind of game that you forget all about a couple days after you solve it.
If nothing else, "Zanfar" deserves recognition as the most _ordinary_ text
adventure I've ever had the privilege(?) of having played.

                                            -- C.E. Forman

READER'S SCOREBOARD----------------------------------------------------------


	A   - Runs on Amigas.
	AP  - Runs on Apple IIs.
	GS  - Runs on Apple IIGS.
	AR  - Runs on Acorn Archimedes.
	C   - Commercial, no fixed price.
	C30 - Commercial, with a fixed price of $30.
	F   - Freeware.
	GMD - Available on
	I   - Runs on IBM compatibles.
	M   - Runs on Macs.
	S20 - Shareware, registration costs $20.
	64  - Runs on Commodore 64s.
	ST  - Runs on Atari STs.
	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 Acorn Archimedes.  There may be
                other computers on which it runs as well.

 Name		       Avg Sc  Chr  Puz  # Sc  Rlvt Ish       Notes:
 ====                  ======  ===  ===  ====  ========       ======
Adventure               8.1    1.3  0.7    1     8      F_INF_TAD_ETC_GMD
Adv. of Eliz. Highe     3.1    0.8  0.3    1     5      F_AGT
All Quiet...Library	4.2    0.5  0.7    2            F_INF_GMD
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
Awe-Chasm		2.4    0.3  0.6    1     8	S?_IBM_ST
Balances		6.4    1.0  1.3    2     6      F_INF_GMD
Ballyhoo		7.0    1.8  1.5    3	 4	C_INF
Beyond Zork		8.1    1.5  2.0    3	 5	C_INF
Border Zone		6.7    1.4  1.4    4	 4	C_INF
Bureaucracy		8.3    1.8  1.6    3	 5	C_INF
Busted                  5.2    1.0  1.1    1            F_INF_GMD
Castaway		1.1    0.0  0.4    1     5      F_IBM_GMD
Change in the Weather   4.5    0.6  0.8    1            F_INF_GMD
Christminster           8.1    1.8  1.6    1            F_INF_GMD
Corruption              6.7    1.4  1.4    1     x      C_I
Cosmoserve		8.7    1.3  1.4    2     5      F_AGT_GMD
Crypt v2.0		5.0    1.0  1.5    1     3	S12_IBM_GMD
Curses			8.3    1.3  1.7    7     2	F_INF_GMD
Cutthroats		6.4    1.4  1.2    5	 1	C_INF
Deadline		7.0    1.3  1.4    4	 x	C_INF
Deep Space Drifter	5.5	    1.4    1     3      S15_TAD_GMD
Demon's Tomb            6.7    0.7  1.1    1     x      C_I
Detective		1.1    0.0  0.0    4     4-5    F_AGT_GMD
Detective-MST3K		5.1    0.1  0.1    2     7-8	F_INF_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 Issue #4
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		7.1    0.9  1.4	   5     2	C_INF
Enhanced		N/A		   0	 2      S10_TAD_GMD
Eric the Unready        7.4    1.5  1.4    1     x      C_I
Fable, A		2.0    0.2  0.1    1     6      F_AGT_GMD
Fish                    7.1    1.2  1.5    1     x      C_I
Gateway                 7.5    1.6  1.5    1     x      C_I
Great Archaelog. Race	6.5    1.0  1.5    1     3      S20_TAD_GMD
Guild of Thieves        6.8    1.1  1.2    1     x      C_I
Hitchhiker's Guide	8.0    1.6  1.6    5     5	C_INF
Hollywood Hijinx	5.7    1.0  1.5    4	 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 		7.0	    1.4    7     1-2	C_INF
Jacaranda Jim		7.0		   1	 x	S10_GMD (Uncertain)
Jeweled Arena, The	8.0    1.5  1.5    1     x      ?
Jigsaw			8.6    1.5  1.7    2     8	F_INF_GMD
John's Fire Witch	7.1    1.1  1.5    3     4	S6_TADS_GMD
Journey			6.9    1.3  0.8    1     5      C_INF
Jouney Into Xanth	5.0    1.3  1.2    1     8	
Klaustrophobia		7.3    1.2  1.4    4     1	S15_AGT_GMD
Leather Goddesses	7.8    1.4  1.7    5	 4	C_INF
The Legend Lives!	8.2    0.8  1.5    1     5      F_TADS_GMD
Lurking Horror, The	7.1    1.4  1.3    5     1,3	C_INF
MacWeslyan(PC Univ.)    5.6    0.7  1.0    1     x      F_TADS_GMD
Magic.Zip		4.5    0.5  0.5    1     3      S20_IBM_GMD
Magic Toyshop, The	3.6    0.5  1.0    1            F_INF_GMD
Mind Electric, The	5.1    0.5  0.8    2     7-8    F_INF_GMD
Mind Forever Voyaging	8.5    1.4  0.6    4	 5	C_INF
Moonmist		5.9    1.4  1.3    5     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
Night at Museum Forever 4.3    0.0  1.0    2     7-8    F_TAD_GMD
Nord and Bert		4.8    0.5  1.0    2	 4	C_INF
Odieus': Flingshot	3.3    0.4  0.7    2     5      F_INF_GMD
One Hand Clapping	7.1    1.1  1.3    2     5	F_ADVSYS_GMD
One That Got Away, The  6.4    1.2  0.9    2     7-8    F_TAD_GMD
Perseus & Andromeda     3.4    0.3  1.0    1     x      ?
Planetfall		7.4    1.7  1.6    5	 4	C_INF
Plundered Hearts 	7.8    1.4  1.3    2	 4	C_INF
Sanity Claus		9.0	           1     1	S10_AGT_GMD
Save Princeton		5.8    1.2  1.3    2	 8	S10_TAD_GMD
Seastalker		5.5    1.1  1.0    4	 4	C_INF
Shades of Grey		7.9    1.2  1.4    3	 1-2	F_AGT_GMD
Sherlock		8.2    1.5  1.6    2	 4	C_INF
Shogun			7.1    1.5  0.5    1     4      C_INF
Sir Ramic Hobbs		5.0    1.0  1.5    1     6      F_AGT_GMD
Sorceror		7.3    0.6  1.6	   5	 2	C_INF
South American Trek	0.9    0.2  0.5    1     5      ?_IBM_GMD
Space Aliens...Cardigan 1.8    0.5  0.4    4     3      S60_AGT_GMD
Spellbreaker		8.2    1.2  1.8	   4	 2	C_INF
SpellCasting 101        7.0    1.0  1.2    1     x      C_I
SpellCasting 201        7.8    1.5  1.6    1     x      C_I
SpellCasting 301        7.5    1.4  1.5    1     x      C_I
Starcross		7.0    1.1  1.3    5     1	C_INF
Stationfall		7.6    1.6  1.6    5	 5	C_INF
Suspect			6.2    1.3  1.2    2	 4	C_INF
Suspended		7.5    1.3  1.2    4	 8	C_INF
Theatre			6.1    0.7  1.0    2     6      F_INF_GMD
TimeQuest               8.6    1.5  1.8    1     x      C_I
TimeSquared             4.3    1.1  1.1    1     x      F_AGT_GMD
Toonesia		6.3    1.1  1.2    2     7      F_TAD_GMD
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    8     1-2	C_INF
Tube Trouble		3.3    0.5  0.4    1            F_INF_GMD
Uncle Zebulon's Will	7.7    0.7  1.0    1            F_TAD_GMD
Undertow		5.2    1.0  0.8    1            F_TAD_GMD
Undo			1.9    0.1  0.4    2     7      F_TAD_GMD
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		7.6    1.3  1.3    4	 5-6	C_INF
Witness, The		7.1    1.6  1.2    4     1,3	C_INF
Wonderland              7.5    1.3  1.4    1     x      C_I
World			6.5    0.6  1.3    2     4	F_SEE REVIEW Issue #4
Zanfar			2.6    0.2  0.4    1     8	
Zork 0			7.1    1.3  2.0	   2	 x	C_INF
Zork 1			6.0    0.7  1.5	   8	 1-2	C_INF
Zork 2			6.5    0.9  1.5	   6	 1-2	C_INF
Zork 3			6.1    0.6  1.4	   5	 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	8 votes
 2. Mind Forevr Voyagn. 8.5	4 votes
 3. Curses		8.3	7 votes
    Bureaucracy		8.3	3 votes


Editor's Picks of the Month:

	My two picks for this issue are _Shelby's Light_ and
_The Path to Fortune: Volume 1 of the Windhall Chronicles_.  Both are
engrossing, somewhat difficult (I'm still stuck in both), and well
implemented.  _Fortune_ has a ton of characters to play around with, which is
a plus in my opinion.  _Shelby_, while less populated, has an intricate plot
that has kept me interested through the entire game so far.
	Both of these are available on the FTP site.  Shelby is a
TADS game, available in /if-archive/games/tads/, I believe.
Windhall is a v8 Inform program, and as such requires jzip rather than zip to
run.  I don't have the info on me, but jzip is on as well.
Windhall is in /if-archive/games/infocom/windhall.z8.


	[Well, better late than never, I suppose. -GKW]

Soon, the unlikeliest of heroes will be chosen to embark on the unlikeliest
					   of adventures.../\
                                                         /    \
                                                / \    /     /
                                                \   \/     /
                                                  \      /
         THE PATH TO                              / \   \
         ___________                            /    /\   \
        |  _________|                         /    /    \ /
        | |_________                       _/    /
        |  _________|  ______   _____   __| |__/  _   _   _____   ____
        | |           |  __  | |  ___| |__   __| | | | | |  _  | | o__|
        | |           | |__| | | |    /   | |_   | |_| | | | | | | |__
        |_|           |______| |_|  /    /|___|  |_____| |_| |_| |____|
                       BY JEFF CASSIDY AND C.E. FORMAN

Windhall has fallen upon hard times.  Lord Osrich, ruler of the realm of
Rysch, has threatened to reclaim the tiny village and send its inhabitants
away, unless a great debt is paid.  The town's only hope lies in finding
and recovering the treasure of the great dragon Kirizith, hidden and nearly
forgotten for so many centuries...

Meet Aerin.
A simple blacksmith's apprentice, nothing more.  Certainly not the hero
selected by the village to seek out the dragon's lair...

...Or is he?

Meet the cast.
Fifteen fully-developed characters help and hinder Aerin in his quest:

  Borthur, the dwarven blacksmith, Aerin's mentor and best friend.
  Mielon, the mayor of Windhall (since no one else wanted the job).
  Idah, his wife, the finest storyteller in the land.
  Baezil, preparer of Windhall's finest culinary delights.
  Sir Gunther IX, the most incompetent and tongue-tied knight in Rysch.
  Creston the cleric, master of alchemy...when he feels like it.
  Kytan the thief (guard your gold closely).
  Denvil, the jovial (or is it pain-in-the-neck?) wood elf.
  Midknight, swordsman extraordinaire.
  Kaela, the enchanting young wizardess of Aerin's dreams.
  Mighty Nostrophidius, an ancient sorcerer whose powers are unmatched.
  The ever-rhyming Mire Cat, master of riddles and wordplay.
  The Haughty Chameleon, appearing and vanishing in the blink of an eye.
  Grrarr, werewolf of the Forest of Ansalon.
  And of course, the mighty Kirizith himself.

Meet the quest of a lifetime.
In a world where magic is the ultimate power of mortals,
           where only the most skilled warrior can survive,
           where only the most clever explorer can uncover the secret,

                           ADVENTURE IS INEVITABLE.

                            "The Path to Fortune"
                   Volume One of "The Windhall Chronicles"

                   Available on a ZIP Interpreter near you.

CLOSING REMARKS--------------------------------------------------------------

	Excitement abounds.  The 1996 I-F Competition looms in September.
For those of you planning to enter, here are some preliminary things to keep
in mind:

1. Your game can be written in any format: TADS, Inform, C++, whatever.  But,
	if it isn't played and voted on by at least 10 people, it will be
	disqualified.  Votes will be on a scale of 1 to 10 for each game. and
	authors and betatesters may not vote.

2. All the games are in the same category this year.

3. The final deadline looks like it will be Sept. 30, 1996.

4. Betatesters will be made available for your use starting in April.  They
	are not mandatory.

5. All entries must be freeware, and should be playable in under two hours by
	the average player.

6. We need prize donations still. for this year's winners.

7. I will not be accepting votes this year.  There is another who has
	shouldered the burden.


	   Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!

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