Game Reviews K

These reviews are in alphabetical order according to the name of the game reviewed. The index also has a few extra features. First and foremost of these is the instant gratification feature. If you see the SPAG button:

Then you can click on it to retrieve the file from, or to go to that file's directory on the archive (in the case of competition games).

The email addresses used are those submitted with the review, so naturally some of them may be out of date. All email addresses are spamblocked -- replace the name of our magazine with the traditional 'at' sign.

Table of Contents

Kaged Katana King Arthur's Night Out Kissing The Buddha's Feet Klaustrophobia Knight Orc The KORC Trilogy


From: Suzanne Britton <tril SP@G> Review appeared in
SPAG #23 -- December 29, 2000 TITLE: Kaged AUTHOR: Ian Finley E-MAIL: domokov SP@G DATE: 2000 PARSER: TADS standard SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive) URL: VERSION: 1 I hope Ian leads a happier life than his protagonists. His games get grimmer every year. "Kaged" is a dystopian tale strongly reminiscent of 1984 (but not derivative). Like just about everything its author has produced, it is strikingly original, evocative, well-written, and suicidally depressing :-) I quite liked it, though it is, in my opinion, not as successful as "Exhibition" or "Babel". It is more ambitious than either of those works, which leads me to be somewhat forgiving of its failures. As a mood piece, "Kaged" is excellent. Every bleak, oppressive nuance of the world you live in comes to life in the vivid writing, enhanced by graphics and sound (the opening picture is especially evocative), and your own character is well-drawn. As a story, it is ambitious, but less excellent. I felt that what began as tightly woven threads unraveled near the end--and not just because of the protagonist's dissolving sanity. I came out of the experience with no real understanding of what had happened and why. Many hints, many seeming contradictions, no certainties. Normally, I like it when a game leaves the player with a mystery, but this was just unsatisfying. It's hard to pinpoint why...perhaps partly because I felt I was expected to understand much more than I did. Certainly, my protagonist seemed to be way ahead of me, and as a result, I felt less connection with him. (Postscript: I've since spoken with Ian, and to some extent "it's intentional". Apparently, his playtesters kept pushing him for more ambiguity. Ah, well.) The programming was also not quite as polished as I've come to expect of this author. Again, it was trying to accomplish more than in earlier works, I think. The world was very fleshed-out, but flawed. I encountered a number of guess-the-verb problems. Perhaps the most egregious was the matchbook. It was lazily (and unintuitively) implemented as a single object, leading me to fumble for awhile before I simply typed "strike match": >get match You already have the book of matches! >get match from matchbook The book of matches isn't in the book of matches. >look in matchbook There's nothing in the book of matches. Rating: 8 From: Stas Starkov <stas_ SP@G> Review appeared in SPAG #25 -- June 20, 2001 [Our man in Russia has sent us this rather scathing review of Kaged, and as usual I've gone over its sentences and tried to wrestle them into something resembling standard English. Any misinterpretations or errors in the translation (and apparently there were a few in my work on last issue's Gateway 2 review) are my fault. --Paul] HOLLYWOOD STRIKES AGAIN First, I must warn you that this review is an attempt to provide an opinionated critique of the game that won the 2000 IF Competition. But I don't like this game a lot. So as you can guess, I'll pour manure on "Kaged" in this review. That's the reason why I wrote the review. And this review includes personal comments about the author of the game, as well as a lot of cynicism and flame provocation (please, resist this possibility). Also I must add that I live in Russia, and consequently my points of view differ a lot from those of Americans. So you understand that this review is more than a little biased. So, if you're easily angered, stop reading now. That's not a joke. So there. The shareware version of "Kaged" includes images but no music. That's odd, because I know that his Competition 2000 entry contained both sounds and images. But I didn't bother downloading these rather big files (in sum more then 12 Mb), so I don't know what quality these additional "things" add. And I have played only the competition entry. When I started playing the game I felt that it was a parody on dystopias. Why? Look at this chunk of text from the beginning of the game: The madness started a week ago. The entire Citadel of Justice is on razor edge. It began in the Department of Enforcing when a patrolman shot his partner. He begged to be locked away, claiming to see devils. and a bit later: >z Time passes... Pieter's stomach growls. It's not a noise you want to hear again. >examine pieter Pieter has a sausage face set with two piggy eyes, like raisins. His spectacles are huge, saucer-like things that don't help the appearance. Pieter taps you on the shoulder. "Um... where would our office be, Commissar?" There's something incredibly irritating about his voice, like the whine of a petulant child. >z Time passes... Pieter coughs behind you, a wet, phlegmy noise. Well, you see that it is possible to interpret the game comically. But then things show their darker side, and suddenly you notice all the misery of the world. And, gee, it's another dystopia. And not the best one I must add. I've read several dystopias but never found one that feels true enough for me. But more about that subject below. Ian Finley is not a novice author. This is his fourth (I think) game, but the first that I have played. And I don't want to play his other games now. Ian Finley was 20 years old (according to SPAG #23) when he wrote "Kaged" and he was studying acting at the University of Utah at that time. And I think that his theater and movie influences caused all that I don't like in this game. I live in Russia but I see a lot (and I mean *a lot*) of bad American movies. Even the latest Oscar's big winner "Gladiator" got me sick. It's not that this movie is bad. Not at all. But when I see that rich and beautiful woman run to a dying man that she hardly knows but already loves, I can sympathize and even (barely) understand her the first, second or even tenth time I see this thing. But when I see the same scene for the hundredth time (and I mean hundredth) in yet another movie, I get sick. I want to say that "Kaged" is very similar to _bad_ American movies. The only thing that's missing is a girl-friend of the PC (and the pseudo-hero running hand in hand with her with a huge explosion in the background, as at the end of the usual bad movie). I read quite a lot of SF stories, so I'm hard to surprise, though. And this game shows nothing that I haven't read or seen before. Nothing that doesn't reek of decay. Which brings me to the question of plot. The plot wouldn't be that bad if you took only the very beginning and very ending of the game. At least it would be original. But when I saw the middle of the game and all those story twists I felt that I was seeing another bad movie with all the cliches and standard devices that I have already seen a thousand times. And the author manages to place at least two conflicting plots in this game. During the middle part of the game, my best guess was that this plot was entirely a mad dream of a druggie after a good joint. Later I found that my supposition was not far from the real plot, since for half the game author just lies to you. Yet another story of mind manipulation -- yet another idea that was beaten to death (Example: the dystopian movie "Brazil", which, by the way, is far better than "Kaged"). Another feeling that I had during game play: I felt that the author grabbed me from behind and I was dragged to the end of the game. This feeling was due in large part to the puzzles. Puzzles? Hah. There are puzzles but they're not the strongest side of the game. And considering my above descriptions I think you understand that I think that the puzzles stink badly. Why? This game is not a puzzleless game, so there are puzzles. But they are the worst puzzles I have ever seen. Why? OK, I'll give you an example (not from the game): Imagine that you only have a big piece of flammable wood (which you must get by helping an old man to find all his long lost teeth), a bottle of gasoline (which you steal) and a single match (which you found by pushing a high tree). When you have all of the above, you are teleported to the dark room. Huh! What do I need to do to find a ray of light in the kingdom of darkness? I hope you can guess the "solution". Yes, you can work out the solution easily, but can you find the match so easily? So, I ended up with the walkthrough, which is twice as odd because the puzzles in common are very straighforward. It's very, very annoying when all puzzles are based on _giving_ you the right and obvious tools to solve another puzzle. (And did you notice the old man in my example? He is there only to give you a piece of wood, but you must solve his errand first.) And this feels so unnatural, that I got sick (again). The puzzles stink badly. So there. Another feature that is not very interactive is the "talk" verb (as in "talk to worker"). According to the game, "this action will cause your character to examine the current situation and say whatever would be most appropriate." Someone on R*IF said that the menu-based interrogation system is a bad thing, but this "most appropriate" conversation is far less interactive and looks like a device from graphic adventures. Well, you have now two possible ways to interrogate: (a) to talk or (b) not to talk. But this restriction is solved brilliantly -- the game ignores your silence and continues to talk to you as usual. Dumb, dumb! But you might still believe that this game didn't get first place in the Competition for nothing. OK, I'll open your eyes. I'll tell you about the prose in this game. First, the amount of writing in "Kaged" is just huge. Second, for me any good (but not outstanding) prose with rotten thoughts behind it is just useless crap. And the more text in any art form, the worse, because I must force myself to read all these chunks of text trying to find something good. Well, it is possible to interest me with extraordinary writing wedded to a lame story (plot, I mean), but "Kaged" is not on this level of art. Writing must be on the same level as a story. If the writing is lower than the plot, the whole work will be unenjoyable (but that's not a rule). If a bit higher, the work will be boring and overblown. "Kaged"'s writing is the latter type. Many people like the atmosphere of the game. Well, yes that's something that you can try to play a game for, but for me atmosphere was broken by the rotten plot and stupid puzzles. Ian Finley shows himself as a skilled author, but concept of the game was a total disaster. This game reminds me of Stephen King's stories -- a lot of text, a lot of fake story turnings, a lot of characters, but the result is just boring. Yes, both authors (King and Finley) tried hard to make me believe in the story, but they failed. But King, at least, writes for money and the more text he produces, the more money he'll get. "Hollywood strikes again," I must say. "Kaged", for me, is a game where bad movies merge with the unstoppable urge to write. The dystopia is an old genre. (The first dystopia was written, I think, in the first half of the nineteenth century.) And all dystopias look the same to me. There's always a common story -- some variety of "Big Brother looks at you.", i.e. mega-government takes total control over people's lives, people who are just foolish soulless dolls and who work (the prime purpose of their lives) during all their miserable lives. Why is this concept is not working for me? Because life doesn't work like that. Life can be more grim but not so obviously evil. Sure, it's very visually striking to show a dystopia, but it was beaten to death ages ago. So if "Kaged" is somewhat of a premiere for IF (at least for me), for literature it's something like the rotten carcass of a horse. And as far as I can recall, _new_ dystopias are not published any more. What can I recommend to the author? Better spend your time on books and movies (and not only on good ones) first. And when you're sick from all this crap, you'll understand how not to implement a game. Write a story on the paper, read it and if you don't hear as your stomach growling in hate then, and only then, start to write an IF game. At least the game will be original. FTP FileDirectory with TADS .gam file and associated files (competition version)


From: Valentine Kopteltsev <uux SP@G> Review appeared in
SPAG #34 -- September 24, 2003 TITLE: Katana AUTHOR: Matt Rohde EMAIL: rohdemusic SP@G DATE: 2003 PARSER: TADS Standard SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware URL: VERSION: 2.0 Judge for yourself, Valentina Mikhailovna -- in the 15th century, the Heaven knows who sails up to you and starts speaking Japanese. -- V. Belobrov, O. Popov, "Valentine's Day" Are you tired of IF experiments? Are you looking for an old-school game you could spend a few quiet days with? Then you should give Katana a try. Yes, it's basically a rather conventional text adventure, set in Japan. A disclaimer is needed here: it's difficult to judge the depth of the author's knowledge of Japanese history and traditions by this game; the only thing that's sure is that he knows a whole lot more about it than I do. Likewise, I can't say the game provided me with a comprehensive picture of Japanese culture, in general, or Japanese mythology, in particular, but that didn't seem to be the author's intention anyway. The only purpose of all the Far-Eastern decorations, references, and characters (which, by the way, they served very well) seems to have been the creation of an atmospheric setting -- and it's probably better so. One of the pleasant aspects of such an approach is that one doesn't get the impression that the author plumes himself with his erudition; at least, I never got the feeling of being talked down to because of my lack of certain knowledge, as has sometimes happened with other games. The story underlying this work is a fine match for the setting. Sure, it's not the fanciest I ever encountered, but it's still a pretty good one. The author tells it very competently using the flashback technique. My only complaint about it was that the player character somehow didn't get emotionally involved into it -- he seemed to remain a distant observer. That's all the more paradoxical, since this story concerns the PC's ancestor, and since in the course of the game, the PC makes considerable efforts in order to put right injustices of the past. The puzzles are an essential part of old-school text adventures; in Katana, I'd describe them as "not exceptional, but solid". Their main virtue is the smoothness with which they fit into the story. Let's put it this way: while probably none of them will be an aspirant for the "Best Puzzle" Xyzzy Award for 2003, they do help to create a consistent and well-built structure for the game. Many of them are based on careful examination of your surroundings. There's nothing wrong with that, though I got the feeling that this trick was a bit overused. That's pretty much all I can say about the puzzles, except for an observation of minor importance: the layout of the first major puzzle in the game reminded me of one certain episode in the movie "The Fifth Element" by Luc Besson -- with the only difference that Milla Jovovich was missing from the centre of the composition; I assume that, if she were of Japanese origin, she wouldn't be. ;) In addition to being a traditional text adventure, an atmospheric piece, and a story-driven game, Katana is one more thing: a first attempt. And while it clearly represents a decent one, there're a number of details showing that its author had little or no experience when working on it. I'm not talking about bugs, though there are some; after all, this is a review, not a public beta-test report. (However, I'll be glad to send one to the author if he's interested, and asks me to do so.) Here's an example from the game illustrating what I mean: >x door It's a solid slab of granite that fills the entrance to the tomb. There's a Kanji symbol for fire carved in the granite. There's a Kanji symbol for air carved in the granite. There's a Kanji symbol for water carved in the granite. There's a Kanji symbol for earth carved in the granite. It seems to me that the author followed the path of least resistance here. If he'd had more experience, he probably would have formulated this description some other way -- at the least, he'd have listed all the Kanji symbols in one single phrase instead of using four nearly identical sentences. Other details I implied when talking about first attempts are similar, so that I won't dwell on them any further, except for one feature that significantly affected the gameplay. I refer to the way that the game parser makes extensive use of responses of the type "If you want to do such and such, just say so" (for instance, typing "turn on car", and being told, "I think you mean 'START THE CAR'.") Somehow, I got such responses a bit more often than I'd like to. (After writing this, I remembered how frequently I did the same thing in my own first game. Then, I recalled that game I played some time ago, which had a shimmering curtain of light in the northern wall in its opening scene; it harassed me for at least twenty minutes by rejecting all my attempts to enter, go in, go through, etc. that darn curtain with the message, "I don't know how to <put the appropriate verb here> the shimmering curtain of light", until I finally happened to type "north"... Well, looks like I'm getting to be an old grumbler. ;) Fortunately for Katana, being a first attempt doesn't necessary consist of disadvantages only. The positive aspects are the genuine fun the author clearly had writing it (this fun shows through, say, in a number of witty responses to weird player input), and the attention to details. And they outweigh the negative ones, despite the fact that you could get a different impression reading all my nitpicking. ;) So, to sum up, if you prefer longer text adventures, and don't mind some minor technical flaws... hey, it's time to look at the beginning of the review again!;) ...and the SNATS[*]: PLOT: Reasonably solid, matches the setting very well (1.2) ATMOSPHERE: Certainly original (1.4) WRITING: Sometimes not emotional enough (1.1) GAMEPLAY: Just what you'd expect of a traditional text adventure -- with minor issues that are listed in the review (1.1) BONUSES: The rich setting and the many Easter eggs (1.2) TOTAL: 6.0 CHARACTERS: Convincing enough (1.2) PUZZLES: Fit into the game structure very smoothly -- so smoothly they don't stand out at all (1.1) DIFFICULTY: An appropriate ordeal for a novice samurai (5 out of 10) * SNATS stands for "Score Not Affecting The Scoreboard" FTP FileTADS .gam file FTP FileMacBinary .bin file FTP FileMacintosh BinHex format

King Arthur's Night Out

From: Adam Cadre <ac SP@G> Review appeared in
SPAG #19 -- January 14, 2000 NAME: King Arthur's Night Out AUTHOR: Mikko Vuorinen EMAIL: mvuorine SP@G DATE: November 1999 PARSER: ALAN SUPPORTS: ALAN interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware URL: This may seem like an odd choice for such a high ranking, but it succeeded in doing something no other game this year did: it made me laugh out loud. Five times, in fact. Much of the humor derives from the fact that the author has taken a game that could've been set just about anywhere -- more than anything, it reminded me of a Lockhorns strip -- and cast King Arthur in the central role. This leads to the expectation that all sort of elements of the Arthurian cycle are going to pop up... and they never do. Excalibur becomes nothing more than a yardstick to poke around under the bed with. That's *hilarious*. It's exactly the sort of comedy underlying the #2 entry in the Top Ten Things Abraham Lincoln Would Say If He Were Alive Today: "Eeeagh! Iron bird!" Because, you see, he wouldn't recognize an airplane, being from the 19th century and all... "But why Abraham Lincoln?" you cry. "Of all the things we know about Lincoln, you make a joke about his unfamiliarity with the airplane? You could've picked anyone! Why Lincoln? Why??" Man, I'm laughing again just typing this. Then we come to the language used in the game. This could very easily have been written as an overly-clever Douglas Adams pastiche, but that would've spelled instant doom for this project. Instead, the author chooses a tone not at all unlike the comedy of Norm Macdonald, and it's a perfect fit. (Macdonald, for those unfamiliar with his work, specializes in punch lines that are boorishly blunt enough to stun one into laughter, yet somehow delivered in such a way so that, unlike with Don Rickles, you don't want to punch him in the face. "Magic Johnson has received a $900,000 retainer to write a book on how not to get AIDS. Chapter 1: Don't Have Sex With Me.") But there's such a fine line between stupid and clever -- what makes Rickles's brand of humor the former and Macdonald's (and, here, Vuorinen's) the latter? This is an especially tricky issue where gender politics are concerned: the response to >X QUEEN ("Guinevere is the most beautiful woman in the land. You are lucky to have her as your wife. But she can be a real bitch sometimes.") is a potentially dangerous one. I think that in the end it comes down to the with/at distinction. Comedy in the Rickles mode encourages the audience to laugh at the person being mocked. But here's a sample of a Norm Macdonald joke I find screamingly funny: "In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a man allowed his eight-year-old daughter to take the wheel of his car, and an accident ensued that damaged seven other cars and injured six people. Which once again proves my theory: women can't drive." "Women can't drive" is, of course, a staple of The Lockhorns and its ilk, and is pretty offensive. But is that the point of the joke? Of course not. The reason for the crash is that the driver was eight years old, not that she was female. The "theory" is, therefore, obviously wrong, and therefore funny. We're not laughing with the misogynist and at the girl; we're laughing *at* the misogynist. In the same way, Vuorinen makes it clear that his King Arthur is meant to be a lout, without overplaying his hand by making him a belching idiot: it's the little touches, like Arthur looking forward to a pleasant spell of urination after a night at the bar, that make the game work. And the game does work: I didn't notice any obvious bugs, and thought the size and level of difficulty were just about perfect. Were this an entry in last year's comp, I would've ranked it a touch below the similarly slight and funny but superior DOWNTOWN TOKYO; given how buggy most Comp99 entries were, though, and how this was the only game all year that made me laugh, I found myself feeling very charitable when it came time to slap a number on it. Score: a low NINE. FTP FileDirectory with ALAN game files and text files

Kissing the Buddha's Feet

From: C.E. Forman <ceforman SP@G> Review appeared in
SPAG #10 -- February 4, 1997 NAME: Kissing the Buddha's Feet AUTHOR: Leon Lin EMAIL: leonlin SP@G DATE: October 1996 PARSER: TADS standard SUPPORTS: TADS ports AVAILABILITY: Freeware, IF Archive URL: VERSION: Version 1.0 An instant classic. Your goal is to help roommate John study and finally pass that psych class after 12 long semesters. John's friends have a different agenda, though, so you must get rid of them and any other distractions around the house. Every single character is hilarious, from the unresponsive Carl to the eternally drunk Bob, and even your own character exhibits a compulsive cleanliness that rivals Howard Hughes. My personal fave: Evan, the god of thoroughly useless trivia, who follows you around, constantly spouting drivel on anything that strikes his fancy - a pet parrot he once had, the origin of the game's curious title, speculations about what the world would be like if it were like a text adventure, error messages to improperly phrased commands, and so much more. The characters offer a wide variety of optional interactivity to fill the two-hour time allotment, and there's even a trivia game that provides some side-splitting references to other text adventures. The setting, though collegiate, is nonetheless unique. By focusing on the personalities of John's friends, and interlacing them with some extremely imaginative puzzles, "Kissing" avoids the pitfalls and cliches of the college I-F genre and makes for genuine entertainment. This game is bust-a-gut funny and very well-implemented, making it my personal choice for first place. Many of this year's entries are very strong in one area, but flawed in others - "Tapestry" occasionally feels too much like hyperfiction, "Delusions" is buggy, "In the End" didn't offer me enough story, - but this game excels in all areas. Truly fantastic. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. Wait a minute... I guess I can. It was last year, when I played Leon Lin's "The One That Got Away." I'm going to venture a guess that this entry was done by Lin, as it exhibits his talent for superb I-F humor and the same quantity of amusing things to try as "The One." Am I right? Am I right? [Amazingly enough, he was. I guess Leon just has a very distinctive game-writing style. -GKW] FTP FileTADS .gam File (.zip)


From: Audrey A. DeLisle <rad SP@G> Review appeared in
SPAG #1 -- May 15, 1994 NAME: Klaustrophobia PARSER: Good (AGT) AUTHOR: Carol Hovick PLOT: Excellent EMAIL: ??? ATMOSPHERE: Hilarious AVAILABILITY: IF Archive S15 WRITING: Excellent PUZZLES: Hard SUPPORTS: AGT ports CHARACTERS: Excellent DIFFICULTY: Hard Klaustrophobia, an AGT text adventure, just won the 1994 AGT contest (with a co-winner, The Jeweled Arena, by David Raley). I had the pleasure (?) of testing it. It is an hilarious account of your vacation. You start preparing for your trip at home and at the office, then head for the airport(s). Somehow your flights keep getting diverted. Part 2, you arrive in Hollywood and appear on several game shows. Your big prize is a vacation in Mexico which takes you to Part 3. This is not easy, but is very funny. Those who have played Jacaranda Jim will find it especially amusing in Mexico. Look for KLAUS.ZIP. A sequel is planned, but this took about 18 months to complete, so not soon. Hilarious and hard. Funniest yet, but subject to the limitations of AGT-BIG. Also, the registered version comes with pophints! The author, Carol Hovick, is a big fan of Bureaucracy. Her game was somewhat inspired by it, but it is not the same. FTP FileAGT files with PC Executable runtime (.zip)

Knight Orc

From: Robb Sherwin <robb_sherwin SP@G> Review appeared in
SPAG #15 -- October 11, 1998 NAME: Knight Orc AUTHOR: Level 9 Computing E-MAIL: DATE: 1987 PARSER: name unknown, excellent SUPPORTS: DOS, , Amiga, ST, C64, Apple, Amstrad AVAILABILITY: Commercial URL: N/A ( VERSION: IBM PC Level 9 released "Knight Orc" in July of 1987 and soon thereafter changed what I felt entertainment software could be. While Knight Orc falls short of becoming a classic on the merits of pure art through this medium (unlike, say, "Sentinel" or "The Space Under The Window") it nonetheless does hold up eleven years later due to the strength of its atmosphere, gameplay and sheer indifference it shows to the player. Knight Orc was one of the first games to give a voice to a "villain." The player assumes the role of an orc named Grindleguts, abandoned by his buddies after a night of hard drinking. The orcs, caught in an inebriated stupor by a pack of foppish human knights, arrange for a "Contest of Champions" to take place in the morning. Which is all well and good, as they have no plans on sticking around for it. The orcs tie Grindleguts (completely passed out and in no position to argue) to a horse and give him a lance. The knights, bound by their code can do nothing but watch as the roving evil horde skulks off into the darkness. Much like the Baltimore Colts leaving for Indianapolis, really. The orcs then destroy the bridge and make good on their escape. (The backstory is related in a novella that accompanies the game entitled _The Sign of the Orc_ by Peter McBride. Having purchased hundreds of computer games throughout my life I maintain to this day that the story is the finest ever to accompany a piece of computer software. It's very clever and funny and somehow manages to convey warmth and stunning brutality all within paragraphs of one another.) The interface to Knight Orc is much like that of the typical Magnetic Scrolls wares. Text dominates the bottom of the display, while painted visuals (that unfortunately lost quite a bit in digitization on my IBM version) are displayed on top. While the PC version did not allow manipulation of the image size, much more text is present than on the default settings for the Magnetic Scrolls games. Knight Orc's parser is excellent -- objects can be located using a FIND command -- regardless of whether or not you have seen them (this does not work for special items you will learn about, and the command will not do any problem solving for you). It will understand virtually anything you throw at it, or give you helpful reasons why it doesn't. So, then. You're an orc trapped in human country. While attempting to pick up some rope to cross the river you will encounter the first bit of magic the game has to offer: the characters. I have never witnessed a greater collection of thugs, losers, egomaniacs and self-important motos than I have in this game. The descriptions offered by the parser as to the wandering characters are cruel -- The gripper: "he is a squinty, rat-like youth, with an orcish squint." Kris the ant-warrior: "she is a muscle-bound champion, armoured with plates of giant ant cuticle and wearing a strange ant-head helm. She looks a lot like an ogre-sized fried roach." Denzyl: "he is a right gullible and stupid-looking person." Fungus the boggit-man: "he is a lanky, twitchy-fingered, nicotine-addict." -- but a riot. Efffing genius. Furthermore, there are plenty of hapless denizens just waiting to have horrible things happen to them. I offer the following story as to why this game works so well: During one stretch on the first episode I was being identified as an orc rather easily. When a character recognizes an orc, her or she will attack. While getting thumped by the Green Knight (arguably the most powerful character in the episode till you solve his puzzle), a do-nothing slacker named "Sam the Grey Earl" jumps into the fray for a bit. After dying, I restored the game. I take a different route around, and Sam follows me for a little bit when I happen upon a cemetery. For whatever reason, Sam is lapping along like a puppy. I find the vampire for the first time, who offers me a spell in return for a victim. And guess who just happens to walk into the tomb? Sam is sucked down just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and because the little bastard couldn't leave me alone he is slain. And I get the spell. Justice. Absolute justice. (Such an event is completely impossible to reproduce. The denizens in the game seem to have some "goals," like picking up treasure and killing orcs, but while Sam never followed me again I can not say that the characters in the game really move in completely random patterns. Somehow, Level 9 were able to create an environment filled with rich characters leading their own lives all while not creating an impression of headless chickens running around in a maze. ) The last two episodes of Knight Orc are interchangeable -- without giving away too much, the end game involves a story of revenge and escape against those that tormented you -- and yet, reading the novella and playing the first episode does not begin to prepare you. (I should note that it ties into Level 9's earlier "Silicon Dreams" trilogy. Very, very nice.) The puzzles, jokes, characters and parser are all up to par with the best that Infocom had to offer. I suspect that this game did not receive the props that it should have due to its subject manner -- playing the "bad guy" didn't really become in style until "Syndicate." While Grindleguts is a greedy, violent, angry little pit he is also a character worthy of our respect. Especially among the piles of spods he's running around with. I suspect that the background characters in Knight Orc are set to mirror the kind of individuals we (the gaming community) can't -- in theory -- stand or relate to in real life. Jocks, Girls, urchins, soldiers... one can make the argument that when they are in our world (a game) they should be the outsiders. Knight Orc describes them with as much distaste as we normally get in "their" environments. Bloody fabulous. If you take the time to enjoy this game -- to smell the roses -- Knight Orc will return your attention with an incredible amount of pleasure. If Knight Orc were a woman, it would be the very cute, very sarcastic, yet seemingly shallow girl who melts like butter for you when you steer the pillow talk completely in her direction... and you then fall in love with her depth. FTP FileSpectrum Z80 Disk Image (.zip) FTP FileClue sheet (Text) FTP FileSolution (Text) FTP FileManual (HTML with JPEG images) (.zip))

The KORC Trilogy

From: J. J. Farmer <J.J.Farmer-CSSE94 SP@G> Review appeared in
SPAG #4 -- March 2, 1995 NAME: The KORC Trilogy PARSER: Limited AUTHOR: AMF the Doomwatcher PLOT: Linear (ish) EMAIL: ??? ATMOSPHERE: Unique AVAILABILITY: Freeware WRITING: Brief, Preaching PUZZLES: Interesting, Moral SUPPORTS: Acorn Archimedes CHARACTERS: Weird but Shallow DIFFICULTY: Medium-Low It may (or may not) surprise you to learn that the KORC trilogy consists of three separate games ("Welcome to the Kingdom of Relative Concepts," "Return of the Timebringer," and "The Waking of AMF the Doomwatcher" ), the plot of all three being centred around one person's quest (yours) against corruption in a world moderately similar to ours. Throughout this quest, you meet all manner of weird characters, ranging from the author (who describes himself as a "timid genius" in the first two games), to Ergol the pi-reciter (whose life is devoted to reciting pi), to an old guy who asks you to kill him. This last character sums up the atmosphere of all three games; the author seems to be trying to preach a number of moral points at you. The only problem is that occasionally he has you do something that goes against these teachings (like killing somebody). Whenever this does happen, though, the feelings of guilt that consume you (and I'm not being sarcastic here) are a testament to how well the author is getting his message across. The characters, for all their weirdness, don't seem to have much depth to them - apart from their purpose in the story, they consist only of a few "fob off" statements (usually something like "I exist, uncorrupted. Is that not enough?" ). They certainly aren't as fascinating as the characters in Scapeghost, for instance. The user interface is a complete washout. Rather than multi-tasking (as all good adventure games should), the games single-task in Mode 12 (80 columns by 32 rows, 16 colours, for those non-Archimedes users reading this), although the colour scheme is at least bearable. The parser is just plain annoying. It doesn't understand the normal abbreviations for compass directions (N for North, and so on), and doesn't even recognise the full compass directions (NORTH, SOUTH, etc). Only commands like GO NORTH will move the player around; this is extremely irritating and there is no good reason for it. To be fair, the movement commands are stored on the function keys (so pressing F1 will move you north), but this is no excuse. Despite their limitations, I actually found these games very enjoyable, especially the third. It didn't take me long to finish KORC 2 and 3 (although I did cheat and take a peek at the program code once or twice). I personally found KORC 1 the most difficult, and it is probably the largest (nothing to do with the presense of a character called Olaf the Fatty!). In the instructions, the author hints that a second KORC trilogy is on the drawing board, and I certainly hope that this is true. Until then, the KORC trilogy is free and reasonably addictive. What more could you want?
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