___. .___ _ ___. / _| | \ / \ / ._| \ \ | o_/ | | | |_. .\ \ | | | o | | | | The |___/ociety for the |_|romotion of |_|_|dventure \___|ames. ISSUE # 21 Edited by Paul O'Brian (obrian SP@G colorado.edu) June 15, 2000 SPAG Website: http://www.sparkynet.com/spag SPAG #21 is copyright (c) 2000 by Paul O'Brian. Authors of reviews retain the rights to their contributions. All email addresses are spamblocked -- replace the name of our magazine with the traditional 'at' sign. REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE ----------------------------------------------------- The Boggit Break-In Corruption Deephome Foggywood Hijinx The Frenetic Five vs. Mr. Redundancy Man The Jim MacBrayne games (Frustration, Golden Fleece, Holy Grail, Mission) LASH Perilous Magic Sangraal Toonesia Worlds Apart EDITORIAL------------------------------------------------------------------ Timing. I was all set to write this editorial about Bedouin, Inc. and their bid to make text adventures commercially viable again through a new distribution channel: cell phones, a.k.a. the "Wireless Web." Then, Stephen Granade posted a long, thoughtful article on that selfsame subject to his About.com IF website. [http://interactfiction.about.com] That article not only provides much more depth and detail than my editorial would have, the opinions it offers basically mirror my own. In short, it does everything I wanted to do and more -- I urge you to check it out at http://interactfiction.about.com/library/weekly/aa061200a.htm. So I won't be writing about Bedouin in this space. Instead, I'd like to offer a few words on something that means a great deal to me: community. Specifically, the IF community. The advent of Bedouin and the big-time commercial interests that may accompany it has gotten me thinking a lot aobut what defines the IF community, what its strengths are, and how it might respond to injections of money and popularity. First off, I think I should take a stab at defining what I mean by "the IF community." To my mind, a member of the IF community is someone who takes an active interest in the ongoing development of interactive fiction. If you read or contribute to SPAG, XYZZYNews, or the int- fiction newsgroups on Usenet, you're part of it. If you hang out on ifMUD, you're part of it. If you've written a game, voted for the XYZZY Awards, or been a judge in the annual IF competition, you're part of it. If you regularly download and play the games on the IF archive, you're part of it. Lots of people fall into most or all of these categories, but all it takes is one. I'm part of it, and if you're reading this, chances are you're a part of it too. We're a fairly loose agglomeration of people, and there are a lot of differences between us. We cover a wide range of geographical locations, including Canada, Sweden, the U.K., Germany, and all areas of the U.S.A. Our ages range from teenager to grandmother. We run the full gamut of religious beliefs (from PC to Mac to Unix :), and no doubt span the political spectrum as well. We are one of those highly touted "virtual communities" that the Internet is said to be creating everywhere, and because of our particular mode of communicating with each other, differences that might be an important factor in other communities (race, ethnicity, appearance, class, background) are mostly invisible and irrelelvant. We're a diverse group, but we're bound by one overriding factor: love of interactive fiction. That dedication has carried us to some rather amazing achievements. Community efforts have inspired and fed various IF development languages, including several that are more sophisticated and easier to use than anything Infocom had in its prime. In turn, these development tools have made possible some truly outstanding works of IF, most of which SPAG has reviewed in its six-year history. SPAG itself is an expression of that community spirit, and so are XYZZYNews, the XYZZY Awards, the annual IF competition, the IF Book Club, ifMUD, and all the other myriad undertakings that have advanced the cause of hobbyist IF since its demise from the commercial arena in the early '90s. In a sense, Bedouin's interest in modern IF is a tribute to the strength of the IF community, because the money wouldn't come sniffing if there weren't signs that something interesting is happening here. However, that interest could also pose a threat to the IF community. You may have seen it happen before with something obscure you've taken a deep interest in, perhaps a favorite musician or artist: the mainstream notices, popularity rushes in, and suddenly you're having to share your private passion with a bunch of trendies who don't care so much about the art as about doing what's hip and hyped at the moment, not to mention that skyrocketing economics can take your object of interest way out of your price range and put you in competition for resources which are suddenly scarce in relation to the demand for them. Let me hasten to add that with Bedouin, the signs look positive. They've shown every sign of being good guys, from their consultation with various community members to their scrupulous respect of authors' intellectual property. In addition, they're not interested in blocking the traditional channels of IF distribution, just in adding a new channel and attempting to profit (alongside the game authors) from those new users. Moreover, the average cell-phone IF player isn't about to seek out the int-fiction groups or start crowding into ifMUD. Nonetheless, if IF becomes popular and lucrative again, you can be sure that the IF community won't feel like a little club anymore. That's not necessarily a bad thing -- just a change. And like most changes, it won't last forever. As long as you still take an active interest in the ongoing development of IF, you'll still be a member of the IF community. And if we, collectively, remember that passion and keep it as our foremost priority, we won't go far wrong. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR------------------------------------------------------ From: Neil Bowers
[Neil sent this letter just after SPAG #20 was released, and the quoted text is from Nick Montfort's Christminster review.] I'll probably not be the only person to point this out ... > FOOTNOTE 1. A major Christ-initial place name and character name > may sound contrived, but truth is at least as strange as fiction. > Rees's home page [at > http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/people/wgr2/home.htm] reveals > that he's a fellow of Christ's College at Cambridge, and his > wife is named Christine. Unfortunately that's not the right Gareth Rees. The Christminster Gareth did go to Cambridge, but is no longer there. [Editor's note: D'OH! Correspondence with the IF author Gareth reveals that the web page referenced above is for Dr. William Gareth Rees of Christ's College, Cambridge. According to Gareth, "When I was an undergraduate at Christ's, we used to get each others' mail fairly often! So it's not really a surprise to be confused with him again!" Apologies to both Messrs. Rees for the error. Unfortunately, the email address provided in Nick's Christminster review was also incorrect. The raif Gareth Rees' email address is . The error has been noted in the versions of SPAG 20 stored on the web page and at the IF Archive. --PO] NEWS ---------------------------------------------------------------------- THE BERLYN FALL As one IF moneymaking venture takes the stage, another gracefully exits. Cascade Mountain Publishing, the business venture run by former Infocom Implementor Michael Berlyn, has closed its doors. According to Berlyn, a big part of the reason for CMP's downfall is that it was a "Hydra: print books, eBooks, and IF." Encouragingly, he also assures us that "Next time, it'll be just IF. And there will be a next time." NEW GAMES Some fairly large games came out this Spring, along with some fun experiments and parodies. * Z-Snake by Zach Matley (yet another z-abuse) * LASH by Paul O'Brian * Life On Gue Street by Chris Charla * Augmented Fourth by Brian Uri * Chico And I Ran by J.D. Berry * Dangerous Curves by Irene Callaci * Above and Beyond by Mike Sousa * DragonLord by Mark Silcox and Okey Ikeako NOT-EXACTLY-NEW GAMES The Spring also saw a number of familiar games clothed in a different guise. * Ditch Day Drifter was ported to Inform by Neil Cerutti. The original (TADS) game by Mike Roberts was reviewed in SPAG #2. * John Kean released Downtown Tokyo. Present Day.: The Director's Cut, which apparently is an expanded version of his 1998 competition entry. The original version was reviewed in SPAG #17. * Polyadv by David Picton is the 350-, 550-, and 551-point versions of Adventure [a.k.a. Colossal Cave] all rolled into one * Mike and Muffy Berlyn's game Dr. Dumont's Wild P.A.R.T.I., formerly a commercial product of Cascade Mountain Publishing, has been released to the IF Archive as freeware since that company's demise. * Countdown to Doom, Return to Doom, and Last Days of Doom, were all released by Topologika games in the 80's. Now they've all been ported to Inform and uploaded to the IF Archive by their author, Peter Killworth. ALL THE NEWS NOW FIXED IN PRINT For those of us who wax nostalgic about Infocom, Gunther Schmidl has finally assembled a complete set of all the newsletters they ever published. The title of this newsletter was originally The New Zork Times, but the threat of a lawsuit from a major metropolitan newspaper forced them to shift the title to The Status Line. There were 24 issues in all, and they're now all available in .pdf format on the IF Archive. According to Schmidl, text versions are due in the Very Near Future. LITTLE GAMES ARE EVERYWHERE Ah Spring, the time of year when a young newsgroup's fancy turns to thoughts of mini-comps! There were two notable mini-comps since the last issue of SPAG, and for some reason they both involved big lizards. Adam Cadre sponsored the Dino-comp, for games featuring dinosaurs, in honor of Matthew Amster-Burton's long-ago musing about how cool such a game would be. David Cornelson ran the Dragon-comp, in his words, "to dispel the notion that a cool or funny game cannot be written with dragons." Both comps attracted an impresive number of entrants. Also enjoying success was Marnie Parker's IF Art Show, the winning entry of which spurred lots of excited conversation on the IF newsgroups. For unknown reasons, the most recent Art Show entries have not been uploaded to the IF Archive, but they're available in a zipped file from http://members.aol.com/iffyart/gallery.htm. The results of the Art Show were as follows: * Best of Show - Galatea by Emily Short * Best of Landscape - The Cove by Kathleen M. Fischer * Best of Still Life - Statuette by Ian Ball * Honorable Mention - Guitar of the Immortal Bard by Jason Burns DESPERATELY SEEKING REVIEWS It had to happen sometime: Duncan Stevens has graduated and gotten a full-time job. Consequently, his always-prodigious review output is bound to dip a bit, and I'm counting on the rest of you to pick up the slack! SPAG contributions have been a little down this spring, as you can see from the fact that this issue shows fewer reviews and fewer contributions to the scoreboard. Another example: the SPAG Specifics section, which I ballyhooed as hard as I could last issue, received no submissions. Reviewers, where are you? In case you're wondering what to review, here for your benefit is this issue's 10 Most Wanted list, all games that have never been reviewed in SPAG, but really should be: SPAG 10 MOST WANTED LIST ======================== 1. Above and Beyond 2. Augmented Fourth 3. Chico And I Ran 4. Countdown to Doom 5. Dangerous Curves 6. Dr. Dumont's Wild P.A.R.T.I. 7. DragonLord 8. Guilty Bastards 9. The IF Art Show entries (any, some or all!) 10. Westfront PC KEY TO SCORES AND REVIEWS-------------------------------------------------- Consider the following review header: NAME: Cutthroats AUTHOR: Infocom EMAIL: ??? DATE: September 1984 PARSER: Infocom Standard SUPPORTS: Z-code (Infocom/Inform) interpreters AVAILABILITY: LTOI 2 URL: Not available. When submitting reviews: Try to fill in as much of this info as you can. If you choose, you may also provide scores for the games you review, as explained in the SPAG FAQ. The scores will be used in the ratings section. Authors may not rate or review their own games. More elaborate descriptions of the rating and scoring systems may be found in the FAQ and in issue #9 of SPAG, which should be available at: ftp://ftp.gmd.de:/if-archive/magazines/SPAG/ and at http://www.sparkynet.com/spag REVIEWS ------------------------------------------------------------------- From: Christian Baker TITLE: The Boggit AUTHOR: Fergus McNeill and Judith Child (Delta 4) E-MAIL: ? DATE: 1986 PARSER: Quill (a bit dodgy) SUPPORTS: Commodore 64, Spectrum, Amstrad CPC. AVAILABILITY: Freeware URL: http://www.c64.com/search.php3?sok=boggit&kind=realname The Boggit is a parody of the original Melbourne House adventure "The Hobbit". It starts off in "your round tunnel like hall", although the only difference seems to be that there's a toilet at the end of it. Then things really start to change. Grandalf (or rather "Gandalf") crashes through your window to give you a card and some exploding chocolates, you find out the only reason the dwarves bring you with them is to be fed to Maug (Smaug), and that Thorny's (Thorin) father is in a mental home and thinks Grandalf is his son. The whole game is written in the past tense, and it's also written in a third person perspective. The games writers were about 17 when they wrote this. The room descriptions are fairly dull and below standard, but the rest of the writing is really funny, and will make you want to laugh out loud (Watch out for when Thorny or the dwarves start to sing. It's fantastic!). The game is littered with IF references (one of the puzzles involve the cleaning robots from Hitchhikers Guide), although some objects seem out of place (a credit card on a mountain?). The game has an 80's "home-made" style, which I say just adds to its charm. The characters are very basic, although they do say something funny if you're lucky, but nearly all the characters are just cardboard cut-outs put in there to fit in with the game's Tolkien roots. They may be very funny at times, but most of the time they don't want to talk at all. The best characters in the game have to be the three trolls: Andre, Bernard and Matthew (scary!). Bernard has the occasional slip of grammar (which Matthew promptly corrects), and Andre just grunts. Great fun. The parser is very simple, and if you say something like THROW ROPE at a time when that's not part of the puzzle, the game will give you the impression that you have a made an unfair suggestion. Some of the puzzles just require common sense (the exploding chocolate one, and the Gameshow one), some require knowledge of a subject (a big no-no for IF), and some are just plain weird. Overall, the game is simple, but highly entertaining. Oh, and just for you, here's the whole of the Dwarvish song: Being a merry sort of bunch, the dwarves began to sing: We're dwarves, we're dwarves, all doomed to die We'll probably finish in the dragon's pie So we'll take ol' Bimbo Faggins, a real cement head Hopefully ol' Daug will eat him instead. Sing: Hog the gold! Pass the buck! Split Bimbo's share between us! Across the Wiffy mountains, all through dark Berkwood We'll drag ol' lardball with us, he'll do as dragon food And afterwards we'll celebrate, in Thornys treasure hold. With ale and nosh and diamond rings and imitation gold Sing: Hog the gold! Pass the buck! Split Bimbo's share between us! -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Duncan Stevens TITLE: Break-In AUTHOR: Jon Ingold E-MAIL: ji207 SP@G cam.ac.uk DATE: 1999 PARSER: Inform standard SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD) URL: ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/zcode/break-in.z5 VERSION: Release 7 The line between entertainingly silly and annoyingly silly is a fine one, and Jon Ingold's Break-In doesn't always stay on the right side of it: the game strives so relentlessly to be goofy that the whimsy feels a bit forced, and some serious game design flaws don't help. Still, there are some funny moments and a few genuinely clever puzzles amid all the weirdness. It's not unknown for IF to pull a sort of bait-and-switch with its genre--i.e., giving the player an initial premise that fits into one genre, which suddenly gives way to an unexpected development that throws the story into a different genre entirely. Trinity did it, to some extent (well, tourism isn't really a genre, but stumbling into a surreal fantasyesque dimension was a shift), and Once and Future did something similar (with somewhat peculiar results due to the divergence between the feelies--which studiously avoided any implication that the game wasn't all about war--and the manual, which referred, among other things, to a sword suitable for summoning spirits). Break-In takes those precedents and runs with them: there are several genres all going on at once, with no Big Transitional Event to indicate that the initial premise has yielded to something else. (The end of the game returns to the original plotline, with no acknowledgment of the wacky stuff that's gone on.) As in, the game conflates your ostensible mission--as a freelance burglary artist, to break into a home and retrieve some plans--with silly surreal stuff--chicken-dragons and such--and also with conventional fantasy, casually mixing all three together. There are some explanations provided, but they're not particularly convincing, and they're largely provided after the fact--i.e., there are no warnings that the game is about to take a sharp turn. There's nothing inherently wrong with all this, I suppose, but it does sort of destroy the immersive aspect of the story--the player constantly saying "okay, what's going on NOW?" generally is not particularly immersed. Similarly, while pieces of the setting are well rendered, it's so incoherent--things are juxtaposed that can't really be logically juxtaposed--that the player tends to give up trying to picture the scene. The fluidity of the genre boundaries isn't the main problem here, though--it's the game design. It's not all that difficult to render the game unfinishable in unexpected ways--e.g., by failing to properly manage inventory before a change of scene, or by failing to pick up a hidden object before leaving an area that, it turns out, you won't be able to revisit. There's lots more of that than there needs to be, and it makes it difficult to enjoy the silliness of the game--inventory management is about a prosaic a task as IF offers. The hint system, which is helpful in some areas but completely neglects others, doesn't help much. Worse, there are quite a few bugs-- some fatal, others merely irritating. Break-In is not especially polished--there are writing errors here and there along with the bugs--and the rough-edges feel often distracts from the game. There are some clever puzzles-- oddly, the one nominated for an XYZZY is far from the game's best; there are others that are much more creative--but some rely on rather large logical leaps, and one in particular is hampered by a lack of alternative solutions. It's a shame because, taken the right way, the game is actually very funny--the implicit premise is that spies after the end of the Cold War are reduced to concocting ridiculous projects to keep themselves busy, and the notion of espionage artists dealing with things like giant chickens is, at bottom, pretty amusing. The game may not be particularly immersive, but it's got a fair measure of wit, as in the following: By the doormat lies a brown-paper parcel, tied up with a length of string. It's probably just one of the Prof's favourite things. Or this: >get shoot The shoot is attached to some kind of model or pendant, which appears to be of an orange alien in a green dress dancing wildly. What a weird thing to have buried in your garden! It has several 'arms' of different lengths all pointing upwards, and each with the same cone shape as the main 'body'. There's nothing in the way of a head, the cone just rounds to a blunt point. Maybe something fell off in the hole. >examine alien No, on second thoughts, its actually just a knobbly carrot. You were holding it upside down. Here, the burglar/spy persona of the PC comes across well--you ascribe suspicious or fantastic properties to everything--and it would benefit the game if that persona were more often in evidence. After all, the beginning of the story sees the PC pondering the course of his career in rather weighty terms--"Still, its not petty thieving. It's for national security, which is different"--and it seems like there's plenty of humor to be mined from the PC's reaction to all the silliness. E.g. (not from the game--just my suggestion): "You reflect sourly that none of your training at M5 prepared you for giant chickens. An oversight, clearly." As it is, if you don't find the chickens funny, you won't find the game funny (and those chickens do get tiresome pretty quickly). Break-In is a game with considerable potential but not entirely successful implementation, in other words. Had the author chosen to make more of the story and PC, and less of the goofiness, the result might have been both funny and intriguing; as it is, there are some nicely done bits (intelligent puzzles, well-described settings) and a lot of mistakes. Try it only if you're in a very peculiar mood. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Walter Sandsquish NAME: Corruption AUTHOR: Robert Steggles and Hugh Steers DATE: 1988 PARSER: Magnetic Scrolls SUPPORT: Magnetic AVAILABILITY: Secondhand Retail/Auction (Out of Print) URL: Possibly VERSION: Version 1.12 Two schools of thought define adventure games. One school says, "an adventure game is a story whose conflicts have been translated into puzzles," while the second believes, "an adventure game is a puzzle described in terms of a story." The difference is significant. If you look at "Corruption" through the eyes of the first school, you will see a vastly unfair and agonizingly difficult work of interactive fiction. The game cannot be finished, or even understood, without experience gained through player-character "death." What's more, I can predict, a little smugly, that everyone will discover, just before he thinks he is about reach "Corruption's" climax, that he neglected to do something at the start of the story, and must replay the entire game. For instance, I found out that I should have thoroughly searched the toilet sometime before the 15th move. If that sounds absurd, this may not be a game for you. Much of the behavior required of the player character, like breaking into his partner's office, would seem unmotivated -- even paranoid -- in any other storytelling medium. On the other hand, members of the second school of thought will find a mesmerizing, Chinese-puzzle-box of a game. "Corruption" is a giant riddle, and to decipher its meaning, you must play, and replay, each of its parts. Once the player has mapped out the movements of the non-player characters, he will recognize a web of deceit and betrayal, and be able guide his character to paths that lead to a satisfying ending. In this way, "Corruption" is similar to Infocom's murder mysteries, but "Corruption" is an English game, published by Magnetic Scrolls, and it puts the same sort of twist on text-adventure mysteries that the English director Alfred Hitchcock put on filmed mysteries. Instead of a professional detective or reporter, the player character is a naive everyman who becomes caught up in a criminal conspiracy. Unfortunately, conspiracies are difficult to uncover, and while a reporter or detective has an assignment, the everyman in "Corruption" has no immediate goal and will, most likely, wander around aimlessly until the player figures out where and when to look for clues. Fortunately, Steers and Steggles' prose doesn't ramble. It efficiently paints effective portraits of characters, events and locations, making the illustrations redundant. I turned the graphics off when I played. It's not that there was anything wrong with the illustrations, it's just that characters like the brusque secretary, who really tries to be friendly, and the indifferent lawyer, who, nevertheless, offers comforting platitudes to the law's victims, are vivid and honest enough to trigger mental images on their own. In short, "Corruption" is a well-written, bug-free puzzle fest, and the puzzles are strongly related to an interesting suspense story. Remember to save early and save often. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Duncan Stevens TITLE: Deephome AUTHOR: Joshua Wise DATE: 1999 E-MAIL: yesuslave SP@G yahoo.com PARSER: Inform standard SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD) URL: ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/zcode/deephome.z5 VERSION: Release 1 Joshua Wise's Deephome is a rather uneven effort: it's a well-built world with plenty of attention to detail, and the setting is nicely done. As a game, however, it doesn't work so well--there are far too many mimesis-breaking moments and unfair puzzles--and the result, sadly, is rather unsatisfying. The objective, as conveniently laid out in a handy letter, is relatively simple--reopen and bring back to life the lost city of Deephome, which involves practical things like restoring the power and water as well as getting rid of some spirits that seem to be hanging around. Herein lies the first problem, however: you're told that these spirits are terribly dangerous, but they stand where they are for the entirety of the game and don't act threatening in any way--or, even, impede you from doing anything. They seem about as dangerous as paperweights, and it's hard to get all worked up about getting rid of them. There's an obvious purpose to restoring the power and water--accomplishing those tasks serves your purpose in the game, in fact, apart from giving you points--but not the spirit-banishing stuff. Moreover, in that you get a vital part of the formula for getting rid of them from the spirits themselves, these don't seem like particularly savvy spirits. The puzzles range from humdrum to rather irritating. Notable is the adversary you're told is allergic to "certain plants." The one plant that's prominent in the game isn't effective, however (and the syntax problems make it far from immediately clear that you need a different plant rather than different syntax), and the right one is buried in scenery. It has a lot of company in that respect, in fact--plenty of vital objects are buried in room descriptions with no hint that they're takeable. Other problematic puzzles include a bizarre combat sequence in which the first several attacks elicit both a "cries out in pain" message and a "your enemy notices you" message. There's also a puzzle that turns on a property of your body that you don't know about, and has almost no motivation other than the fact that certain suggestive objects are in close proximity. Another is made more difficult than it needs to be by confusion between "on" and "in," and another requires that you go through a series of steps with no way of fathoming the final result (i.e., the motivation). The best puzzles are the most straightforward, the ones that rely entirely on common-sense judgments--the ones that try to be cleverer than that end up being painfully nonintuitive. (One strange touch is that you get a point for visiting every location, so you can finish with less than the optimal number of points merely because you don't get around to visiting all the nonessential rooms.) As suggested, part of the reason the puzzles don't work particularly well is that there are plenty of technical problems, enough that it usually isn't clear whether a given attempt at solving a puzzle is wrong or simply not worded properly. Among the problems are objects mentioned in both the room description and in a separate line, objects so inadequately described that some of their salient features need to be inferred, and objects that can be examined but not taken before a search of another object turns them up. The writing likewise doesn't do the game many favors: there are lots of misspellings and misused words, and while certain moments are described well, others are rather underdone. The following exemplifies the unevenness of the writing: The main hall is quite large, and is lit by magical torches that line the walls all around, in a pattern that spirals up the grandiose room. Elevators hang in mid air, no longer powered. To the northeast is a small opening that is usually covered over by a tapestry that has long since been removed, to the northwest is a staircase leading up to one of the villages where your people lived; to the west you see the railway station. A main street runs to the south. "Grandiose" room? How does this character know that the opening was usually covered by a tapestry that has long since removed, or that his people lived in one of the villages? On the other hand, though, there are well-done bits in this description--"elevators hang in mid-air, no longer powered" is vivid and concisely described, and the "pattern" of torches that "spirals up" the room is nicely conveyed. The writing is mostly good enough to set the scene, in other words, but shot through with enough mistakes to make the reading less than fully pleasurable. The above problems are particularly frustrating because the story is actually pretty good. For one thing, the plot is refreshingly small-scale for fantasy--you're not saving the world or acquiring vast stores of wealth, you're simply exploring one city and performing certain tasks. That, in itself, suggests restraint, and it helps the story feel more immediate and less implausible than it might be. Moreover, much more detail than was strictly necessary went into the game--there's an encyclopedia lying around that has information on all sorts of topics, for instance, and there are certain elements of the game that get developed seemingly just to round out the story, in particular your religion. There are even some red herrings that point toward a sequel, and while that's not usually a great design choice (insofar as it encourages the player to spend time on apparent puzzles that can't be solved) it does convey the sense that there's more to the setting than the bare bones required for the puzzles. Likewise, there are quite a few locations that are there only to make the city feel more complete--and while some of them feel a little gratuitous, most are well chosen. The main fly in the ointment is a maze that isn't especially creative or well-rendered--the game would be better if the maze had been left out--but on the whole the setting is competently done and serves the purposes of the story. Deephome, in short, is a mixed bag. Enough thought clearly went into its crafting that the setting feels real, and the story is well thought out. The game aspect, unfortunately, has serious problems, significant enough that getting through the puzzles can be a major hassle. If some of the writing and technical problems get resolved, a sequel or a revised release of Deephome would be worth checking out. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Duncan Stevens TITLE: Foggywood Hijinx AUTHOR: Ivan Cockrum E-MAIL: ivan SP@G cockrumville.com DATE: 1998 PARSER: TADS standard SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD) URL: ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/mini-comps/mini-comp/foggy.gam VERSION: Release 2 If the recently released Break-In is any indication, the effects of the 1998 chicken comp may be with us for years to come, as games inspired by the chicken theme but not finished on time appear one by one, covering the landscape with feathers and...well, best not get into that. At any rate, Ivan Cockrum's Foggywood Hijinx was one of the first chicken-themed post-chicken-comp efforts (we also saw Downtown Tokyo, Present Day not long afterwards), and it's an amusing effort that's somewhere between a spoof of the inherit-your-uncle's-fortune genre and a Penn & Teller homage. Your uncle was fond of practical jokes, it seems, and his last and greatest joke, now that he's dead, is to turn the whole family into chickens when they show up to squabble over his estate. The challenge is to overcome your newfound limitations and find a way out of the problem, using your uncle's various wacky inventions that litter his study. The inventions themselves are at least as amusing as the premise, since they include things like the Hedge Helpers (a pair of hands to extend one's reach) or the Buffalo-on-a-Spring. There's really only one puzzle, but it's quite a puzzle--it involves all sorts of clever mechanical finagling, and the various peculiar devices are described well enough to make the puzzle solvable. (Well, mostly--there are a few slightly misleading responses.) The point of Foggywood Hijinx is the humor, obviously, and there's enough of it to keep the game going for a while. Notably, a TV features Julia Child raving dementedly about the joys of killing chickens, e.g.: "I once killed a chicken just to watch it die." Your various bickering relatives continue to bicker in chicken form, but in more amusing ways: "Uncle Orpington pulls a long strand of fiber from the carpet. Cousin Red jealously tries to snatch it away, and a tug-of-war ensues." This wouldn't be enough to sustain anything other than a very short game, of course--and it might not be enough, depending on how long it takes you to figure out the puzzle, to get through this one without the jokes getting stale. Still, there are a few chuckles here and there, which is all that can be asked of a chicken-comp game. In sum, it's funny enough to be worth the 10-15 minutes, and if you haven't already seen too much IF involving chickens, it's worth a shot. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Duncan Stevens TITLE: The Frenetic Five vs. Mr. Redundancy Man AUTHOR: Neil deMause E-MAIL: neil SP@G demause.net DATE: 1999 PARSER: TADS standard SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD) URL: ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads/fren5-2.zip VERSION: Release 1.2 The first edition of Neil deMause's Frenetic Five, a 1997 competition entry, had its problems--the game didn't really have a good sense of what to do with all your fellow superheroes--but it was also quite funny; this episode works out the kinks inherent in giving the PC multiple sidekicks, and it's even funnier than the original. The result, while not a wildly ambitious effort, is well worth playing. You are Improv, a MacGyveresque hero with a talent for making tools out of common objects, and your team consists of Newsboy, who can instantly provide a news update on any topic, Lexicon, who always knows the right word, Clapper, who can find any missing object, and Pastiche, who has assorted random powers (among them the power to sing lines from Top 40 songs relevant to almost any occasion). You can ask your sidekicks for help at any time; you won't always get a hint from each of them, but you'll usually get help in some form somewhere. Truth to tell, not getting anywhere is at least as rewarding as making progress, since your fellow superheroes have a wide range of amusing sarcastic responses. Moreover, the ending encounter with the Mr. Redundancy Man of the title is absolutely hilarious, mainly for the villain's dialogue: "Welcome to my hideaway lair, my dear friends of mine! Your arrival has come fortuitously just in time for you to witness the sight of my greatest and most triumphal achievement!" The way you deal with him is clever, but it's the premise itself that makes this worth playing--he has such a wealth of amusingly repetitive dialogue that it's more entertaining to find all the ways to interact with him than to set to work at solving the puzzle. Both the first and second Frenetic Five games draw much of their humor from humdrum settings and tasks--i.e., you have superheroes riding the bus and trying to operate a copy machine--and while it's amusing here, as in the first one, the frustration aspect of wrestling with boring objectives comes perilously close to being simply irritating. Contributing to that problem is an unfortunate fellow named the Validator, who comments on everything you do, as follows: >examine validator Some superheroes are blessed with a magnificent physique, like Backhoe Woman and The Human Hydraulic Press. Some have powers that are only dreamt of by regular humans, such as The Defenestrator and Microwave-Popcorn Boy. Some have neither, but are at least fun to be around and get invited to lots of parties. Then there's the Validator. The Validator says, "Outstanding! It never would have occurred to me to inspect the Validator!" >kick validator It's not clear how to kick the Validator. The Validator says, "Oh, kick the Validator, huh? Great idea!" You get the idea. It's not a bad joke, but it's not especially funny for more than a few turns, and the typical player will end up spending more than a few turns around this particular irritant. At any rate, the Validator brings out the basic mundanity of the setting--there's nothing that makes a setting seem quite so mundane as an irritating person commenting on everything you do--as well as the ho-hum nature of your powers, and those of your sidekicks. It's not every writer who could make mundanity funny, but this one does. E.g.: "The clerk looks thoughtful, in a manner that makes it clear that thought is not a usual requirement of the job." The puzzles, by and large, are nothing special, with the exception of the endgame puzzle, whose solution is a real "aha" moment. There's one earlier puzzle that takes either a major logical leap or better visualization skills than I have, but it's a relatively minor flaw, particularly in a game this small. The second episode of this series corrects the main flaw of the first one, namely that there was no particular rhyme or reason to when your fellow superheroes would be able to help you, and no standard way to ask them to intervene; here, "ask x for help" elicits either action (solving a problem you couldn't solve on your own) or some sort of response. It's not a perfect solution-- it's still rarely obvious when you should be addressing a problem with your own wits, in the manner of standard IF, and when you should be relying on your team--but at least Episode Two doesn't require you to guess what the other members of the team would do, which was the major flaw of the first Frenetic Five. Having a standardized way to kick a puzzle out to the rest of the gang makes things much easier. There's not a lot to the second edition of Frenetic Five; it's solvable in half an hour or so, and it doesn't do anything all that surprising. But it has several laugh-out-loud moments, and fans of superheroes will no doubt grin knowingly at the absurdity of it all. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Duncan Stevens TITLES: The Mission; Holy Grail; Frustration; Golden Fleece AUTHOR: Jim MacBrayne E-MAIL: jmacb SP@G medusa.u-net.com DATES: 1996 PARSER: TADS 1.0 SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD) URLS: ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads/mission.zip ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads/hgrail.zip ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads/frust.zip ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads/gfleece.zip VERSIONS: The Mission: Release 1.02 Holy Grail: Release 1.01 Frustration: Release 1.02 Golden Fleece: Release 1.00 Among the most obscure denizens of the IF Archive are four games by one Jim MacBrayne--all written in 1989 and 1990 (possibly in AGT--I'm not sure), and ported to TADS and uploaded sometime in 1996. And while there are technically four games--Holy Grail, The Mission, Golden Fleece, and Frustration--they're so similar that they're practically indistinguishable. For that matter, their merits and faults are all pretty much the same as well: they're quite well put together but not especially engaging. The genre is vaguely fantasy, though the settings go back and forth between modern-day and otherwise (within the same game-- medieval castles and mysterious machinery sit virtually side by side). The premise of Holy Grail involves medieval stuff, as you might imagine, but it hardly matters, since the plot is all but irrelevant to these games; the objective amounts to object- collecting. (True, in Frustration, the idea is to pull together items on your shopping list--but it doesn't really change the game significantly, since you don't find the relevant items in places you're looking for them, unless you look for honey by climbing trees in deserts.) All four games are out-and-out puzzlefests in the tradition of classic IF--the objective provides a vague excuse for your being there, and a nice ending message, but doesn't really affect what comes in between. The puzzles themselves are at once varied and oddly monotonous. Keys for doors play a very big part--all four games are simply littered with keys--and magic potions with various unforeseeable effects are also a recurring theme. All four of the games feature at least one math problem and at least one maze, and all of them revolve around singularly bizarre magical transportation systems which make it annoyingly easy to strand yourself somewhere and make the game unfinishable. Not many of the puzzles break out of the apply-object-X-to-obstacle-Y feel, and many of those that do rely on trial and error and weird intuitive leaps. One puzzle in Golden Fleece, for example, involves what amounts to a giant see- saw, and requires lots of tedious object-moving to balance the seesaw properly; another at the beginning of Holy Grail involves, in essence, a timing device to open and close a door. Creative puzzles both, but highly obscure--and the relevant descriptions don't help much. There are other, stranger similarities. All four games have at least a few "Broom Cupboard" locations--Jim has a fondness for the things, whether or not there are brooms around--and three of the four have at least one long hall that you traipse along, opening doors. All of them are inordinately fond of buttons or switches that trigger something else somewhere in the game, no longer a favored approach to IF design; likewise, all of them have lots and lots of useless rooms. In fact, the author sometimes gives the impression that someone's requiring him to have a certain minimum number of locations (perhaps he worked for Sycamora Tree), because he often seems to make fun of himself for throwing in useless rooms: Small Chamber The small chamber you have entered has but two features. One of these is the small doorway inset into the wall to your north, whilst the other is its total lack of interest. Or, even stranger: Almost-featureless Chamber An involuntary gasp of recognition issues from your throat as you pass into this dead-end chamber. Wonderingly your gaze travels over the walls, floor and ceiling, remarking on the total absence of mossy growths, damp patches, stalactites or any other remarkable features. You are about to come to the the apparently-inescapable conclusion that this is a featureless chamber, when your eye comes to rest on a knobbly little bit of rock with a texture and colour marginally but sufficiently different from that of the surrounding rocks as to make the chamber almost-featureless. Calm down, Jim. There's a balance to be struck, of course, in crafting a setting--not every location needs to be absolutely crucial--but when a room has so little purpose that the description consists of a comment about how useless the room is, it's time to rethink. It's especially odd because many of the settings are effectively described--granted, some of them throw too many diverse milieus into too little space, but most of the subsections and smaller areas within the game are well done. Those areas include numerous locations that are just there for the atmosphere, and they work very well. Unfortunately, as shown above, there are other locations that don't even play a role in providing atmosphere, unless the desired effect is dullness. Moreover, the volume of useless locations leads to a lot more traipsing around than seems strictly necessary. As games, all of MacBrayne's works are only somewhat successful. Certainly, if you're looking for an involving story, these don't have much to offer--but even on their terms, as collections of puzzles, these games have some problems. Too many of the puzzles rely on guesswork and on experimentation rather than on logic as such; it's hard to imagine that most players actually like pushing a button and then poking around the landscape to see what, if anything, happened. Much of the transportation involves going through one-way doors of sorts--and if you failed to bring something with you, or press a certain button that will end up opening a certain door, you're stuck. In other words, there's a lot of unfairness and player-unfriendliness going on. There's one puzzle in Frustration that turns on a rather silly pun, and another in the same game that amounts to a stubborn-parser trick, and another in Holy Grail that's the ultimate in knowledge- obtained-by-screwing-up. There are moments of creativity, but they're outnumbered by rather mindless give-object-to-obstacle puzzles. The shame of it is that Jim MacBrayne's games clearly reflect some real effort--there are lots and lots of objects in each one, for instance, and the objects all interact in more or less sensible ways. The writing is thorough, and though it's a bit overdone in places, it's usually good enough to convey the scene efficiently. There's some entertaining whimsy scattered here and there as well--there's a cut scene in Frustration involving a giant teddy bear (really), and there are numerous jokes of varying degrees of cleverness scattered through all four games. There's even a sense of dramatic progression at times-- particularly in The Mission, where your quest for the toothpick of Quetzlcoatl (really) is periodically interrupted by scenes out of some old boys' club, where the potentates who commissioned you with the quest speculate on the chances of your completing it. It's a cinematic device that I'd never seen in IF, and it's used to great effect here. The problem is that standards have changed since MacBrayne wrote these games, and even well-written puzzle- fests don't elicit much more than a yawn anymore--even when they don't have the game design flaws that these have. The year when these were released--1996--saw thoughtful efforts like So Far, Delusions and Tapestry that integrated story with puzzles in a way that little, if any, IF had done before; obsolescence, for old-style fantasy/puzzle IF like MacBrayne's games and Path to Fortune came suddenly. Works on the wrong side of that divide are treated more like museum pieces than works of actual interest now--and while the development is a healthy one is many respects, it left some games that were clearly the product of considerable labor out in the cold. It can't fairly be said that these are terrific examples of their kind; they're flawed in several respects on the design front. But they're solidly put together, and nostalgic old-style IF buffs just might enjoy one of them; Holy Grail is probably the best of the lot, but there's not much to distinguish them. For most of us, though, the main function of Jim MacBrayne's games is to offer some perspective on where IF has come. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Duncan Stevens TITLE: LASH AUTHOR: Paul O'Brian E-MAIL: obrian SP@G colorado.edu DATE: 2000 PARSER: Inform standard SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD) URL: ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/zcode/LASH.z8 VERSION: Release 10 Paul O'Brian's LASH is a puzzler (and not in the sense that it's full of puzzles). It's an intriguing story, well told, and technically it all hangs together well. The writing is strong, and the exploration options wildly diverse--there are lots and lots of endings and different options to explore, and any given player is unlikely to see all the text the game has to offer without the aid of TXD. But for LASH to really work as interactive fiction, it has to resonate emotionally with the player, and unfortunately the nature of the story makes significant emotional impact somewhat unlikely. The backstory is complicated and intricately done, and the game sets it up nicely. The Second American Civil War has come and gone, and you're picking through the rubble, looking for valuables, via satellite link to your handy robot. The documentation leaves some ambiguity about whether your ostensible aim is historical knowledge rather than simple lucre, but the trajectory of the game tends to shape your character into a looter rather than a historian. (The SCORE function, for instance, tracks your earnings.) At any rate, you're searching through a mansion that dates to before the First American Civil War, and your robot acts as your eyes and ears, to some extent at least. The premise, therefore, is terrific--at least, I thought so. I love reconstructing stories from clues and bits of information, and LASH seemed initially to be taking that path. It turns out that it doesn't, really; you end up exploring the past, but not in the way I'd expected, and what does happen, for lack of a better way to put it, isn't quite as subtle as pure historical reconstruction might have been. To be sure, the other way might have been unsubtle too, but my main reaction to the way LASH told its story was, okay, I get it, don't yell at me. It's certainly not a bad story, nor is it badly told, and the subject has hardly even been touched on in IF; there's nothing inherently wrong with any of it. But the game throws you so suddenly into the scenes that should affect you that it's easy to become detached from it all--you don't have enough time to get to know the central character before the relevant events begin. It's also clear that the distancing is, to some extent, deliberate; it matches a similar distancing that is going on in the game (arguably, in fact, two of them)--but as well as it works from a theoretical standpoint, it undermines the game's effect on the player. Likewise, there's a sequence toward the end of the game that's cleverly done--subtly, even--and yet, even when the player recognizes what's going on, it's unlikely to pack much of an emotional punch. Appreciation of the author's craft, perhaps, but that's not quite the same. As noted, LASH offers the player lots to do; some of the puzzles and problems have a significant effect on the outcome, and some don't, though there's not really a single way to "win" as such. Solving certain problems gives your character more money, of course, but it's not really clear that that's an unequivocal good, or sufficiently so that you should be striving for it at the expense of other goals. There's an odd division going on, however, between items and events that are there purely for historical perspective and those that merely represent more money, and it isn't even always clear whether solving the few puzzles there are (most of which are optional) will lead to insight or to riches. The player who's interested in one more than the others may be disappointed, in other words, to find that solving a given puzzle won't advance his chosen goal. To the extent the bifurcation represents a split between the player and the character, it's an interesting division, but it also makes for some awkwardness. And yet LASH also has a lot going for it. It's thoroughly researched, for one thing; there isn't much IF that could be called historical, but if other authors put as much thought and effort into historical IF as this one did, there's plenty that can be done with the genre. The quality of the research is manifested not so much in the story or characters, which are a mite on the generic side, as in the details of the setting--objects, customs, map layout. When, as here, the reality of the historical scenes depicted is part of the point, it seems all the more important to get things right, and LASH cannot be faulted in that regard. It's also possible to screw up in a variety of interesting ways that shed light on the story; step outside the realistic constraints of your role and you're in trouble. (It's tempting at several moments to do rather unwise things, in other words, things that might seem perfectly appropriate to the generic IF adventurer, and the game reminds you quite forcefully that you're not the generic IF adventurer.) The writing is strong throughout, enough so that the historical setting comes across vividly and the Wishbringer doubled-landscape trick is believable (and highly atmospheric). LASH is a well-thought-out, polished work of IF that I wanted to like more than I did, sadly; I recognized its good intentions, but I didn't respond as viscerally as I suspect the game wanted me to, and ultimately my experience became more detached appreciation for the author's skill in crafting the technical aspects of the game (which is considerable) than real involvement in what the game was trying to do. In that it's difficult to say categorically that others will share my reactions, I recommend that all fans of good IF give it a shot, but I consider it only a partial success. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Duncan Stevens TITLE: Perilous Magic AUTHOR: David Fillmore E-MAIL: Noslwop SP@G hotmail.com DATE: 1999 PARSER: Inform standard SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD) URL: ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/zcode/permagic.z5 VERSION: Release 4 How great an influence do the games of Infocom still have on today's IF? Hard to say, but there must be some presence there if an offhand remark in one of Infocom's manuals can turn into a game in its own right, as is the case with David Fillmore's Perilous Magic. The joke in question was a reference to a great fire--which, the manual said, was caused by some bureaucrat meaning to cast the ZEMDOR spell ("turn original into triplicate") but slipping up and casting the ZIMBOR spell ("turn one really big city into lots of tiny, little ashes"). It's a cute joke, and as long as you know the source, Perilous Magic is a cute game. There isn't a lot more to it than that: you end up causing the spell switch, and the whole thing's over in 15 moves. It's not flawless--it's possible to render the main puzzle unsolvable by doing things in the wrong order-- but there's not much wrong with it, either. The main appeal of the game is in the humor: there are Infocom references sprinkled here and there, and the wonder-what-happens-if-I-try-this results are suitably amusing. There isn't really enough here to call this a full-blown homage, but it's enough to capture the feel. Perilous Magic is a short but reasonably entertaining effort that suggests that IF authors and players have ridiculously good memories for throwaway jokes in manuals published in 1984. As a game, it's nothing special, but it's not a bad way to spend five minutes. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Duncan Stevens TITLE: Sangraal AUTHOR: Jonathan Partington, ported to Inform by Adam Atkinson and Graham Nelson E-MAIL: (Adam's) ghira SP@G mistral.co.uk DATE: 1987 (ported 1999) PARSER: Two-word SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD) URL: ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/phoenix/games/zcode/Sangraal.z5 VERSION: Release 1.18 of the original, release 1 of the port Sangraal is one of the three Topologika games recently ported to Inform--the others are Fyleet and Crobe--and it's an odd experience in several respects for present-day IFers. While it doesn't meet the fairness and friendliness standards that latter- day IF has developed, the overall level of literacy and wit is high enough to make it worth a look. The parser represents the biggest adjustment. It's a two-word parser that simply ignores anything after the first two words, so GIVE X TO Y will generally work, but PUT X IN Y will not. This requires some fairly tortured inferences at times--DROP is sometimes taken as the equivalent of PUT, improbably--and on the whole it's not a major highlight. EXAMINE is disabled--the "initial" description of each object has everything that's relevant--and other standbys like ENTER and WEAR aren't on the scene either, and nor are meta-commands like UNDO and OOPS. (On the other hand, lots of highly unusual verbs are recognized, and there's no way of guessing what the game does and doesn't allow as a verb.) There are other, smaller differences--abbrevations like I and L aren't provided for--but the parser is the biggest adjustment, and whether it drives the modern player completely insane depends in large part on whether the player grew up on Infocom (whose parser was never limited to two words) or discovered IF only recently (and therefore never encountered the earlier, cruder days of IF parsing). As you might guess from the above, the puzzles don't, by and large, involve particularly subtle object manipulation--i.e., discovering subtle hidden properties of objects generally isn't key to solving the puzzles. They do, however, involve some baffling logical leaps, and it's possible to solve some of them without figuring out the key, so to speak. Moreover, a few are simply infuriating--there's a maze that ranks with the most annoying in the history of IF, which is saying quite a bit, and an extended one-of-these-three-doors-is-telling-the-truth sequence. Some are more creative, admittedly--there's a "seven deadly sins" puzzle that would feel quite original if the idea hadn't been done several times in recent years (i.e., long after Sangraal was released)--but few are real highlights. Supposedly, Sangraal is the easiest of the three ported Topologika games; if so, that should give IFers pause, because in no sense are the puzzles in Sangraal easy, nor is the game design particularly forgiving. It's not at all hard to close off the game without realizing it, and some of the puzzles don't allow for trial and error. The game itself is fairly wide--lots of puzzles are available for most of the game--but many of the available puzzles aren't initially solvable, and solving them in the wrong order can render the thing unfinishable. Sangraal's saving grace is its literacy and cultural acumen. The game is littered with references to various authors--Keats, Poe, Shelley, Homer, the Bible several times over, and many, many more. Some of the digs are rather subtle--there's a Wailing Wall that, initially, you get driven away from because you don't belong there, and you (minor spoiler) evade getting driven away by changing your appearance so that you look the part, a barbed reference to the ongoing controversy in Jerusalem over Orthodox Jews refusing to allow Reform and Conservative Jews to pray at the Wailing Wall. Equally subtle is the following: There is a five-foot high pillar of salt here, which looks a bit like a running woman. But not a lot. Sangraal abounds with humor along these lines, and while not all the jokes work--one sequence involving the "Eleventh Commandment" and a bunch of computer programmers feels rather forced--most of them are funny enough to make the game consistently amusing. The drawback, however, is that much of the humor requires that the player think in the same bizarre and subversive way as the author does, and Sangraal is hence best played with the aid of a walkthrough or a helpful friend who's already finished it. Particularly difficult in this respect are the puzzles that draw on certain poems by Keats and Shelley--the logical progression is highly obscure. Sangraal occupies such an odd niche that it's hard to liken it to any recent work of IF. There's no plot, really--the initial premise (retrieving the Holy Grail) is entirely irrelevant, as with most fantasy quests--and neither is there anything binding the game's world together. (I.e., the world depicted feels less like a setting than an excuse for a lot of silly puzzles.) The puzzles have a way of disappearing once they're solved, and most of them either give the player a treasure-type object or simply award points; none, as far as I can recall, changed the game's landscape, and not many even opened up new territory to explore. No doubt this is a function of the memory limitations of the day, which made it difficult to code for both a solved and unsolved state of a puzzle, but the effect is to magnify the random-collection-of-puzzles feel. While it's an uneven work in several respects, there's plenty of wit in Sangraal, enough to overcome the clumsier bits, and if you enjoy rather obscure satire, you may well enjoy this. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Walter Sandsquish NAME: Toonesia AUTHOR: Jacob Weinstein DATE: 1995 PARSER: TADS Standard SUPPORT: TADS AVAILABILITY: Freeware URL: ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads/toonesia.gam VERSION: Version 1.1 Each storytelling medium has its own strengths and weaknesses. Animated films, for instance, are wonderful at presenting frantic, surreal absurdities. And text-adventure games are, unfortunately, poor at creating and maintaining the pace of action in a story. Now, why, exactly, would I choose to point out that particular strength of animation in the same paragraph as that particular weakness of IF? Because "Toonesia" is a light, pleasant hodgepodge of Warner Bros. cartoons. And, while it effectively recreates the environment of a toon, solving its puzzles will wreck the rabid tempo of the cartoons it's paying homage to. Not that the puzzles are difficult. On the contrary, once you catch on to their theme, which should be obvious from the game's title, the conflicts in "Toonesia" are fairly simple, and entertaining, to resolve. Unfortunately, "Toonesia's" other major flaw is not inherent in the medium the author chose. While Weinstein did capture the essence of the Warner Bros. characters, he failed to make any of them very interactive. In the Warner Bros. world of hyperactive, clever, sarcastic characters, this just doesn't work. The most interactive one, Dizzy Duck, is also the most frustrating one. Oddly, Dizzy will react to Elmo's actions, but to nothing that Elmo, the player character, says to him! "Toonesia" is too short to have as many settings as it has. Weinstein shoveled the desert of Wylie Coyote and the Roadrunner, the woodlands of Bugs Bunny, and an abandoned jewel mine into this game. One of the settings, the mine, complete with a greedy Dizzy Duck, isn't even directly related to Elmo's goal, which is to kill the rabbit! And the ending, lifted directly from the Bugs Bunny short with a Wagner theme, jars the player. While the Wagner episode worked for the toon, because it was an unusual setting and an odd story-telling method for a series of shorts that are a little too similar to each other, it only emphasizes the mismatched environment of this game. Although the programming is fairly transparent, you should beware of one nasty bug. The description of the cliff walls from the Mesa will kill your player character if you pay attention to it. The east-west directions are reversed. Despite these weaknesses, "Toonesia" is still an agreeable game. The writing is solid, and, although the author's voice rarely comes out, when it does, it's funny. Try referring to the characters by their Warner Bros. counterparts' names and you'll discover a mildly, and amusingly, paranoid author denying any involvement in copyright infringement. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Duncan Stevens TITLE: Worlds Apart AUTHOR: Suzanne Britton E-MAIL: tril SP@G igs.net DATE: 1999 PARSER: TADS standard SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (GMD) URL: ftp://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive/games/tads/worlds.zip VERSION: Release 2 A variety of adjectives could well be applied to Suzanne Britton's Worlds Apart, but the main one that comes to mind is "rich." Rich in story, rich in characterization, rich in description, and generally rich in details of every kind--there's nothing thin or underdone about Worlds Apart. Whether any given player enjoys the story depends on the player, of course, perhaps even more so than in most IF: the plot depends on abstractions to an unusual extent, and keeping up with it requires a certain openness to unusual ways of information processing. Still, this is one story that rewards persistence on the player's part, and those who don't make the effort are missing something special. What's going on is--well, figuring out what's going on is one of the game's few real puzzles, so it won't be revealed here, but suffice it to say that almost no information is given to you initially. The process of discovering who and where you are and what you're doing there is rather deliberate; there's a lot of information to glean over the course of the story, but very little of it is available initially, which makes the game somewhat less immediately accessible than it might be. Contributing to this problem is the world you inhabit, which may fairly be described as alien; there are plenty of unfamiliar names and terms scattered here and there, and while they all eventually either get explained or become obvious, a player could be forgiven for finding the learning curve a bit steep at first. There's an upside to all the strangeness, however, that comes as the story develops: the player's imagination is freed to an extent it might not be if all the quantities were initially known. The flora and fauna you discover, for example, are given primary characteristics, but mostly the details are left for the player's mind to fill in. Dan Schmidt's "For a Change" did something similar (though to a much greater extent, of course, since the level of abstraction there was much higher), and in many ways it's a liberating experience to be encouraged to fill in relevant sensory details for yourself. Paralleling this are the verbs that you use to interact with other characters and with the environment, verbs which either aren't standard-IF at all or are used in highly unusual ways; the player is forced to put together his or her own images of how those verbs work. The plot, for its own part, has its own logic, which, like everything else, may not be initially apparent; themes that seem quite sensible after they're encountered a few times may simply be baffling the first time or two they appear. There's an adaptive hint system that fills in most of the gaps (though not all), and while Worlds Apart is far from puzzle-oriented, it's likely that most players will end up using the hints at least once or twice. It's not so much that the puzzles are hard as that they require being on the author's wavelength. One that initially stumped me involved applying recently learned knowledge, and while I recognized immediately what to do, I didn't manage to supply the proper verb for quite a while. (It wasn't a verb that I, or anyone else, had ever encountered before, and while the game gave me an obvious clue, I tried to convey the action through more conventional verbs.) This isn't, I hasten to add, a bad thing. The world of Worlds Apart is all the more immersive for its strangeness. But it's not impossible that some might find it frustrating. One of the greatest strengths of Worlds Apart is its cast of characters. True, you don't interact with them in especially complex ways; many of the interactions amount to cut-scenes, and much of the rest of it is ASK/TELL--but these are impressively complex characters. There isn't a thoroughgoing hero or villain among them; all have their faults and virtues, and while some are more likeable than others, none are there merely to be loved or loathed. Better still, their various personalities aren't merely identifying features ("here comes X, and he's going to display his character trait so that we don't confuse him with Y")--the plot depends on those personalities, and understanding the characters mean understanding why the plot unfolds the way it does. They also have some fairly complex relationships with each other, and much of what you learn about them you pick up secondhand, adding to the complexity. Better still, there's one character whose motivations and true nature are almost entirely open to interpretation (or so it seemed to me), and how the player chooses to perceive that character's actions may, or may not, shape how he or she views the rest of the story. There's no special technical wizardry that I could discern behind the character development--just good writing and lots and lots of ASK/TELL topics--but they come alive, arguably more so than in any work of IF in memory. And if some remain a bit opaque at the end of the story, well, it adds to the aura of mystery. The writing is uniformly excellent: it's full of details, as noted, but generally the descriptions aren't so long that they become ponderous. Typical of this economical approach is this passage: You have come to a secluded glade, half-sheltered from the elements by the many trees extending their branches out over the clearing. One of these in particular catches your eye, a gentle giant of a ch'nuka whose boughs stretch wide in every direction. Once, it might have shaded this place on its own, but now it shows signs of failing health--some of the branches are almost bare, and decaying leaves surround the trunk in piles and litter the clearing, although it feels like summer, and the other vegetation here is thriving. All the details necessary to set the scene are here--tree, leaves, vegetation--but the author also manages to convey the feel of the setting, and the tree that dominates the glade also dominates your impression of the place. The decay of the ch'nuka is more important than the continued vitality of the surrounding vegetation, and so it dominates the description; had the author chosen to give the other vegetation more attention, the extent to which this particular tree affects your perception of the scene would be lost. Moreover, the contrast between the dying tree and the thriving vegetation wouldn't work as well if it were explicitly pointed out; leaving the reader to draw the contrast and wonder about it works much better. Here, and elsewhere, the author eschews a camcorder approach for a more subjective, intuitive account--the aspect of the scene that draws your attention not only is described in more detail, but also colors your overall view of the setting. The author's writing skills are particularly apparent late in the game, when there's a Wishbringeresque transformation of your surroundings; not only are the changed features of the landscape vividly rendered, but every scene is emotionally charged in ways similar to the above. Worlds Apart is not a flawless effort (as opposed, of course, to all those flawless works of IF out there). There are some questionable game design choices--at one point, for instance, you happen across a book with a great deal of information that becomes pertinent to a certain task, or series of tasks. Unfortunately, you can't take the book with you when you're carrying out the tasks (logically, given the nature of the assignment), and you may end up having to retrace your steps to consult the book that you couldn't take with you. The worldbuilding that the inclusion of the book accomplishes is outstanding--thorough and plausible--but the frustration aspect threatens to yank the player out of an otherwise immersive scene. The progress of the story sometimes depends too much on wandering around and eventually noticing that something has changed in an unforeseeable way, and while that encourages frequent re-exploration, it may prove frustrating to the player who wants the story to keep moving. The hint system fills in the gaps most of the time, but there are a few gaps. And the end is a bit abrupt; there's a reference to a possible sequel, but it's disappointing to leave the game's world with so much unresolved. There is much to like about Worlds Apart, in the end--in quantity and quality, the detail that went into the worldbuilding is unmatched in any work of IF in recent memory, and it's unlikely that any player will catch all, or even most, of the story on the first try. If it's a little inaccessible at first, that comes with the territory--i.e., introducing the player into a highly complex and well-developed world--and it's hardly a fatal flaw. In its interactivity and in the quality of its storytelling, Worlds Apart is a remarkable accomplishment. READERS' SCOREBOARD ------------------------------------------------------- The Readers' Scoreboard is an ongoing feature of SPAG. It charts the scores that SPAG readers and reviewers have given to various IF games since SPAG started up. The codes in the Notes column give information as to a game's availability and the platforms on which it runs. For a translation of these codes and for more detailed information on the scoreboard's format, see the SPAG FAQ. This FAQ is available at the ftp.gmd.de IF-archive or on the SPAG web page at http://www.sparkynet.com/spag. Name Avg Sc Chr Puz # Sc Issue Notes: ==== ====== === === ==== ===== ====== 9:05 4.9 0.4 0.6 2 20 F_INF_GMD Aayela 7.4 1.2 1.5 5 10 F_TAD_GMD Acid Whiplash 5.3 0.6 0.2 3 17 F_INF_GMD Acorn Court 6.1 0.5 1.5 2 12 F_INF_GMD Adv. of Elizabeth Hig 3.1 0.5 0.3 2 5 F_AGT_GMD Adventure (all varian 6.2 0.6 1.0 10 8 F_INF_TAD_ETC_GMD Adventureland 3.9 0.5 1.4 3 F_INF_GMD Adventures of Helpful 9.1 1.6 1.0 1 F_TAD_GMD Afternoon Visit 4.1 1.0 0.8 1 F_AGT Aisle 6.6 1.4 0.2 7 18 F_INF_GMD Alien Abduction? 7.5 1.3 1.4 5 10 F_TAD_GMD All Quiet...Library 5.0 0.9 0.9 6 7 F_INF_GMD Amnesia 6.9 1.5 1.3 4 9 C_AP_I_64 Anchorhead 8.6 1.7 1.5 18 18 F_INF_GMD Another...No Beer 2.4 0.2 0.8 2 4 S10_I_GMD Arrival 8.1 1.3 1.5 4 17 F_TAD_GMD Arthur: Excalibur 8.0 1.3 1.6 4 4, 14 C_INF Augmented Fourth 7.6 1.2 1.4 1 F_INF_GMD Aunt Nancy's House 1.3 0.1 0.0 2 F_INF_GMD Awakened 7.7 1.7 1.6 1 Awakening 5.6 0.9 1.1 2 15, 18 F_INF_GMD Awe-Chasm 3.0 0.7 0.7 2 8 S_I_ST_GMD Babel 8.5 1.8 1.3 7 13 F_INF_GMD Balances 6.6 0.7 1.2 8 6 F_INF_GMD Ballyhoo 7.3 1.5 1.5 6 4 C_INF Bear's Night Out 7.1 1.2 1.3 5 13 F_INF_GMD Beat The Devil 6.0 1.2 1.1 3 19 F_INF_GMD Beyond the Tesseract 3.7 0.1 0.6 1 6 F_I_GMD Beyond Zork 8.1 1.5 1.8 7 5, 14 C_INF BJ Drifter 7.3 1.3 1.2 3 15 F_INF_GMD Bliss 5.7 1.2 0.6 3 20 F_TAD_GMD Bloodline 7.2 1.7 1.2 1 15 F_INF_GMD Border Zone 7.2 1.4 1.4 7 4 C_INF Break-In 6.1 1.1 1.4 3 F_INF_GMD Broken String 3.9 0.7 0.4 4 F_TADS_GMD BSE 5.7 0.9 1.0 3 F_INF_GMD Bureaucracy 7.0 1.5 1.4 10 5 C_INF Busted 5.2 1.0 1.1 1 F_INF_GMD Calliope 4.7 0.9 0.8 3 F_INF_GMD Cask 1.5 0.0 0.5 2 F_INF_GMD Castaway 1.1 0.0 0.4 1 5 F_I_GMD Castle Elsinore 4.3 0.7 1.0 2 I_GMD CC 4.2 0.4 1.0 1 F_ALAN_GMD Change in the Weather 7.6 1.0 1.4 11 7,8,14 F_INF_GMD Chaos 5.6 1.3 1.1 2 F_TAD_GMD Chicken under Window 6.9 0.6 0.0 3 F_INF_GMD Chicks Dig Jerks 5.6 1.2 0.6 6 19 F_INF_GMD Christminster 8.3 1.7 1.6 14 20 F_INF_GMD City 6.1 0.6 1.3 2 17 F_INF_GMD Coke Is It! 6.2 1.0 1.0 2 F_INF_GMD Coming Home 0.6 0.1 0.1 1 F_INF_GMD Common Ground 7.4 1.8 0.8 1 20 F_TAD_GMD Commute 1.3 0.2 0.1 1 F_I_GMD Congratulations! 2.6 0.7 0.3 1 F_INF_GMD Corruption 7.2 1.6 1.0 4 14 C_MAG Cosmoserve 7.8 1.4 1.4 5 5 F_AGT_GMD Crypt v2.0 5.0 1.0 1.5 1 3 S12_IBM_GMD Curses 8.2 1.2 1.7 16 2 F_INF_GMD Cutthroats 5.7 1.3 1.1 9 1 C_INF Dampcamp 5.0 0.8 1.1 3 F_TAD_GMD Day For Soft Food 7.1 1.0 1.4 4 19 F_INF_GMD Deadline 6.8 1.3 1.3 8 20 C_INF Death To My Enemies 4.7 1.1 0.7 3 F_INF_GMD Deep Space Drifter 5.6 0.4 1.1 3 3 S15_TAD_GMD Deephome 5.9 0.7 0.9 1 F_INF_GMD Delusions 7.9 1.5 1.5 5 14F_INF_GMD Demon's Tomb 7.4 1.2 1.1 2 9 C_I Detective 1.0 0.0 0.0 9 4,5,18 F_AGT_INF_GMD Detective-MST3K 5.7 1.0 0.1 8 7,8,18 F_INF_GMD Ditch Day Drifter 6.7 0.9 1.7 4 2 F_TAD_GMD Down 6.0 1.0 1.2 1 14 F_HUG_GMD Downtown Tokyo 5.7 0.8 0.9 4 17 F_INF_GMD Dungeon 7.4 1.5 1.6 1 F_GMD Dungeon Adventure 6.8 1.3 1.6 1 4 F_ETC Dungeon of Dunjin 6.0 0.7 1.5 5 3, 14 S20_IBM_MAC_GMD Edifice 8.1 1.5 1.8 7 13 F_INF_GMD Electrabot 0.7 0.0 0.0 1 5 F_AGT_GMD E-Mailbox 3.1 0.1 0.2 2 F_AGT_GMD Emy Discovers Life 4.6 1.1 0.7 2 F_AGT Enchanter 7.3 1.0 1.4 9 2,15 C_INF Enhanced 5.0 1.0 1.3 2 2 S10_TAD_GMD Enlightenment 7.1 1.3 1.6 2 17 F_INF_GMD Erehwon 6.1 1.1 1.4 3 19 F_TAD_GMD Eric the Unready 7.8 1.5 1.6 4 C_I Everybody Loves a Par 7.0 1.2 1.2 3 12 F_TAD_GMD Exhibition 5.6 1.1 0.4 3 19 F_TAD_GMD Fable 2.0 0.1 0.1 3 6 F_AGT_GMD Fable-MST3K 4.1 0.7 0.1 2 F_AGT_INF_GMD Fear 6.3 1.2 1.3 3 10 F_INF_GMD Fifteen 1.5 0.5 0.4 1 17 F_INF_GMD Firebird 7.2 1.6 1.2 3 15 F_TAD_GMD Fish 7.5 1.3 1.7 4 12, 14 C_MAG Foggywood Hijinx 6.2 1.2 1.3 3 F_TAD_GMD Foom 6.6 1.0 1.0 1 F_TAD_GMD For A Change 7.8 1.0 1.5 4 19 F_INF_GMD Forbidden Castle 4.8 0.6 0.5 1 C_AP Four In One 4.4 1.2 0.5 2 F_TAD_GMD Four Seconds 6.0 1.2 1.1 2 F_TAD_GMD Frenetic Five 5.3 1.4 0.5 3 13 F_TAD_GMD Frenetic Five 2 6.6 1.5 1.1 2 F_TAD_GMD Friday Afternoon 6.3 1.4 1.2 1 13 F_INF_GMD Frobozz Magic Support 7.2 1.2 1.5 3 F_TAD_GMD Frozen 5.5 0.7 1.3 1 F_INF_GMD Frustration 5.7 1.1 0.9 1 F_TAD_GMD Gateway 8.3 1.3 1.7 5 11 C_I Gateway 2: Homeworld 9.0 1.7 1.9 2 C_I Glowgrass 6.9 1.4 1.4 4 13 F_INF_GMD Gnome Ranger 5.8 1.2 1.6 1 C_I Golden Fleece 6.0 1.0 1.1 1 F_TAD_GMD Golden Wombat of Dest 6.3 0.7 1.1 1 18 F_I_GMD Good Breakfast 4.9 0.9 1.2 2 14 F_INF_GMD Great Archeolog. Race 6.5 1.0 1.5 1 3 S20_TAD_GMD Guardians of Infinity 8.5 1.3 1 9 C_I Guild of Thieves 6.9 1.2 1.5 4 14 C_MAG Guilty Bastards 6.9 1.4 1.2 5 F_HUG_GMD Gumshoe 6.2 1.0 1.1 7 9 F_INF_GMD Halothane 6.9 1.3 1.3 3 19 F_INF_GMD HeBGB Horror 5.7 0.9 1.1 2 F_ALAN_GMD Heist 6.7 1.4 1.5 2 F_INF_GMD Hero, Inc. 6.8 1.0 1.5 2 F_TAD_GMD Hitchhiker's Guide 7.2 1.3 1.5 13 5 C_INF Hollywood Hijinx 6.5 0.9 1.6 11 C_INF Holy Grail 6.2 0.9 1.2 1 F_TAD_GMD Horror of Rylvania 7.2 1.4 1.4 5 1 F_TAD_GMD Horror30.zip 3.7 0.3 0.7 2 3 S20_I_GMD Human Resources Stori 0.9 0.0 0.1 2 17 F_INF_GMD Humbug 6.9 1.6 1.4 3 11 F_I_GMD Hunter, In Darkness 8.1 1.0 1.5 4 19 F_INF_GMD I didn't know...yodel 4.0 0.7 1.0 5 17 F_I_GMD I-0: Jailbait on Inte 7.6 1.5 1.3 12 20 F_INF_GMD Ice Princess 7.5 1.4 1.6 2 A_INF_GMD In The End 4.9 0.6 0.0 2 10 F_INF_GMD In The Spotlight 3.2 0.2 1.0 2 17 F_INF_GMD Infidel 6.9 0.2 1.4 13 1 C_INF Informatory 5.5 0.5 1.3 1 17 F_INF_GMD Ingrid's Back 5.6 1.6 1.2 1 C_I Inheritance 5.2 0.5 1.0 2 20 F_TAD_GMD Inhumane 4.4 0.4 1.0 3 9, 20 F_INF_GMD Intruder 6.7 1.3 1.1 4 20 F_INF_GMD Jacaranda Jim 7.9 0.9 1.0 2 F_GMD Jacks...Aces To Win 7.6 1.6 1.3 2 19 F_INF_GMD Jewel of Knowledge 6.3 1.2 1.1 3 18 F_INF_GMD Jeweled Arena 7.0 1.4 1.3 2 AGT_GMD Jigsaw 8.2 1.5 1.6 14 8,9 F_INF_GMD Jinxter 6.1 0.9 1.3 3 C_MAG John's Fire Witch 6.5 1.0 1.5 9 4, 12 S6_TADS_GMD Jouney Into Xanth 5.0 1.3 1.2 1 8 F_AGT_GMD Journey 7.2 1.5 1.3 5 5 C_INF King Arthur's Night O 5.6 1.0 0.9 3 19 F_ALAN_GMD Kissing the Buddha's 8.0 1.8 1.4 5 10 F_TAD_GMD Klaustrophobia 6.4 1.1 1.3 6 1 S15_AGT_GMD Knight Orc 7.2 1.4 1.1 2 15 C_I L.U.D.I.T.E. 1.9 0.2 0.0 3 F_INF_GMD Lancelot 6.9 1.4 1.2 1 C_I Land Beyond Picket Fe 4.8 1.2 1.2 1 10 F_I_GMD Leather Goddesses 6.9 1.3 1.5 10 4 C_INF Leaves 3.4 0.2 0.8 1 14 F_ALAN_GMD Legend Lives! 8.2 1.2 1.4 4 5 F_TAD_GMD Lesson of the Tortois 7.1 1.4 1.4 4 14 F_TAD_GMD Lethe Flow Phoenix 6.9 1.4 1.5 5 9 F_TAD_GMD Life on Beal Street 4.7 1.2 0.0 2 F_TAD_GMD Light: Shelby's Adden 7.5 1.5 1.3 6 9 S_TAD_GMD Lightiania 1.9 0.2 0.4 1 F_INF_GMD Lists and Lists 6.3 1.3 1.1 3 10 F_INF_GMD Little Blue Men 8.2 1.4 1.5 8 17 F_INF_GMD Lomalow 4.8 1.2 0.5 2 19 F_INF_GMD Losing Your Grip 8.5 1.4 1.4 6 14S20_TAD_GMD Lost New York 7.9 1.4 1.4 4 20 S12_TAD_GMD Lost Spellmaker 6.9 1.5 1.3 3 13 F_INF_GMD Lunatix: Insanity Cir 5.6 1.2 1.0 3 F_I_GMD Lurking Horror 7.2 1.3 1.3 15 1,3 C_INF MacWesleyan / PC Univ 4.9 0.6 1.2 2 F_TAD_GMD Madame L'Estrange... 5.1 1.2 0.7 1 13 F_INF_GMD Magic Toyshop 5.2 1.1 1.1 5 7 F_INF_GMD Magic.zip 4.5 0.5 0.5 1 3 S20_IBM_GMD Maiden of the Moonlig 6.4 1.3 1.5 2 10 F_TAD_GMD Matter of Time 1.4 0.3 1.4 1 14F_ALAN_GMD Mercy 7.3 1.4 1.2 6 12 F_INF_GMD Meteor...Sherbet 7.9 1.5 1.6 5 10, 12 F_INF_GMD Mind Electric 5.2 0.6 0.9 4 7,8 F_INF_GMD Mind Forever Voyaging 8.2 1.3 0.9 12 5,15 C_INF Mindwheel 8.5 1.6 1.5 1 C_I Mission 6.0 1.2 1.4 1 F_TAD_GMD Moist 6.8 1.4 1.2 4 F_TAD_GMD Moment of Hope 5.0 1.3 0.3 3 19 F_TAD_GMD Moonmist 5.9 1.2 1.0 14 1 C_INF Mop & Murder 5.0 0.9 1.0 2 5 F_AGT_GMD Mother Loose 7.0 1.5 1.3 2 17 F_INF_GMD Mulldoon Legacy 7.4 1.2 1.8 1 F_INF_GMD Multidimen. Thief 5.6 0.5 1.3 6 2,9 S15_AGT_GMD Muse 7.5 1.5 1.1 3 17 F_INF_GMD Music Education 3.7 1.0 0.7 3 F_INF_GMD Myopia 6.1 1.3 0.6 2 F_AGT_GMD Mystery House 4.1 0.3 0.7 1 F_AP_GMD New Day 6.6 1.4 1.1 4 13 F_INF_GMD Night At Computer Cen 5.2 1.0 1.0 2 F_INF_GMD Night at Museum Forev 4.2 0.3 1.0 4 7,8 F_TAD_GMD Night of... Bunnies 6.6 1.0 1.4 1 I_INF_GMD Nord and Bert 5.9 0.6 1.1 8 4 C_INF Not Just A Game 6.9 1.0 1.3 1 20 F_INF_GMD Not Just... Ballerina 6.3 1.0 1.1 2 20 F_INF_GMD Obscene...Aardvarkbar 3.2 0.6 0.6 1 F_TAD_GMD Odieus...Flingshot 3.3 0.4 0.7 2 5 F_INF_GMD Of Forms Unknown 4.5 0.7 0.5 1 10 F_INF_GMD Offensive Probing 4.2 0.6 0.9 1 F_INF_GMD On The Farm 6.5 1.6 1.2 2 19 F_TAD_GMD Once and Future 6.9 1.6 1.5 2 16 C30_TAD_CMP One That Got Away 6.4 1.4 1.1 7 7,8 F_TAD_GMD Only After Dark 4.6 0.8 0.7 3 F_INF_GMD Oo-Topos 5.7 0.2 1.0 1 9 C_AP_I_64 Outsided 2.5 0.7 0.2 2 F_INF_GMD Pass the Banana 2.9 0.8 0.5 3 19 F_INF_GMD Path to Fortune 6.6 1.5 0.9 3 9 S_INF_GMD Pawn 6.3 1.1 1.3 2 12 C_MAG Perilous Magic 4.9 0.9 1.1 1 F_INF_GMD Perseus & Andromeda 3.4 0.3 1.0 1 64_INF_GMD Persistence of Memory 6.2 1.2 1.1 1 17 F_HUG_GMD Phlegm 5.2 1.2 1.0 2 10 F_INF_GMD Photopia 7.3 1.5 0.7 15 17 F_INF_GMD Phred Phontious...Piz 5.2 0.9 1.3 2 13 F_INF_GMD Piece of Mind 6.3 1.3 1.4 1 10 F_INF_GMD Pintown 1.3 0.3 0.2 1 F_INF_GMD Planetfall 7.2 1.6 1.4 11 4 C_INF Plant 7.3 1.2 1.5 4 17 F_TAD_GMD Plundered Hearts 7.3 1.4 1.2 8 4 C_INF Poor Zefron's Almanac 5.6 1.0 1.3 3 13 F_TAD_GMD Portal 7.0 1.8 0.0 2 C_I_A_AP_64 Purple 5.6 0.9 1.0 1 17 F_INF_GMD Pyramids of Mars 6.0 1.2 1.2 1 AGT_GMD Quarterstaff 6.1 1.3 0.6 1 9 C_M Ralph 7.1 1.6 1.2 3 10 F_INF_GMD Remembrance 2.8 1.0 0.1 2 F_GMD Reruns 5.2 1.2 1.2 1 AGT_GMD Research Dig 4.8 1.1 0.8 2 17 F_INF_GMD Reverberations 5.6 1.3 1.1 1 10 F_INF_GMD Ritual of Purificatio 7.0 1.6 1.1 4 17 F_GMD Sanity Claus 7.5 0.3 0.6 2 1 S10_AGT_GMD Save Princeton 5.8 1.1 1.3 4 8 S10_TAD_GMD Scapeghost 8.1 1.7 1.5 1 6 C_I Sea Of Night 5.7 1.3 1.1 2 F_TAD_GMD Seastalker 5.1 1.1 0.8 10 4 C_INF Shades of Grey 7.8 1.3 1.3 6 2, 8 F_AGT_GMD Sherlock 7.0 1.3 1.4 5 4 C_INF She's Got a Thing...S 7.0 1.7 1.6 3 13 F_INF_GMD Shogun 7.0 1.2 0.6 2 4 C_INF Shrapnel 8.3 1.5 0.5 2 20 F_INF_GMD Simple Theft 5.8 1.3 0.8 1 20 F_TAD_GMD Sins against Mimesis 5.5 1.0 1.2 3 13 F_INF_GMD Sir Ramic... Gorilla 5.0 1.0 1.5 1 6 F_AGT_GMD Six Stories 6.2 0.9 1.1 2 19 F_TAD_GMD Skyranch 2.8 0.5 0.7 1 20 F_I_GMD Small World 6.2 1.3 1.1 3 10 F_TAD_GMD So Far 8.0 1.2 1.5 11 12 F_INF_GMD Sorcerer 7.2 0.6 1.6 7 2,15 C_INF Sound of... Clapping 7.0 1.2 1.3 7 5 F_ADVSYS_GMD South American Trek 0.9 0.2 0.5 1 5 F_IBM_GMD Space Aliens...Cardig 1.5 0.4 0.3 6 3, 4 S60_AGT_GMD Space under Window 7.2 0.8 0.4 5 12 F_INF_GMD Spacestation 5.6 0.7 1.1 1 F_INF_GMD Spellbreaker 8.5 1.2 1.8 8 2,15 C_INF Spellcasting 101 6.7 1.0 1.3 2 C_I Spellcasting 201 7.8 1.6 1.7 2 C_I Spellcasting 301 6.0 1.2 1.2 2 C_I Spider and Web 8.7 1.6 1.7 13 14F_INF_GMD SpiritWrak 7.1 1.3 1.3 5 F_INF_GMD Spodgeville...Wossnam 4.3 0.7 1.2 2 F_INF_GMD Spur 7.1 1.3 1.1 2 9 F_HUG_GMD Spyder and Jeb 6.2 1.1 1.4 1 F_TAD_GMD Starcross 6.6 1.0 1.2 7 1 C_INF Stargazer 5.4 1.1 1.1 1 F_INF_GMD Stationfall 7.7 1.7 1.6 6 5 C_INF Stiffy 0.6 0.0 0.0 1 F_INF_GMD Stiffy - MiSTing 4.5 1.0 0.4 4 F_INF_GMD Stone Cell 6.7 1.3 1.4 2 19 F_TAD_GMD Strangers In The Nigh 3.2 0.7 0.6 2 F_TAD_GMD Sunset Over Savannah 8.7 1.7 1.4 6 13 F_TAD_GMD Suspect 6.0 1.2 1.1 7 4 C_INF Suspended 7.5 1.5 1.4 7 8 C_INF Sylenius Mysterium 4.7 1.2 1.1 1 13 F_INF_GMD Symetry 1.1 0.1 0.1 2 F_INF_GMD Tapestry 7.1 1.4 0.9 5 10, 14 F_INF_GMD Tempest 5.3 1.4 0.6 3 13 F_INF_GMD Temple of the Orc Mag 4.5 0.1 0.8 2 F_TAD_GMD Theatre 7.0 1.1 1.4 11 6 F_INF_GMD Thorfinn's Realm 3.5 0.5 0.7 2 F_INF_GMD Time: All Things... 3.9 1.2 0.9 2 11, 12 F_INF_GMD TimeQuest 8.1 1.2 1.7 3 C_I TimeSquared 4.3 1.1 1.1 1 F_AGT_GMD Toonesia 5.8 1.1 1.1 6 7 F_TAD_GMD Tossed into Space 3.9 0.2 0.6 1 4 F_AGT_GMD Town Dragon 3.9 0.8 0.3 2 14 F_INF_GMD Trapped...Dilly 5.1 0.1 1.1 2 17 F_INF_GMD Travels in Land of Er 6.1 1.2 1.5 2 14 F_INF_GMD Trinity 8.7 1.4 1.7 16 1,2 C_INF Tryst of Fate 7.1 1.4 1.3 1 11 F_INF_GMD Tube Trouble 4.2 0.8 0.7 2 8 F_INF_GMD Tyler's Great Cube Ga 5.8 0.0 1.7 1 S_TAD_GMD Uncle Zebulon's Will 7.3 1.0 1.5 12 8 F_TAD_GMD Underoos That Ate NY 4.5 0.6 0.8 2 F_TAD_INF_GMD Undertow 5.4 1.3 0.9 3 8 F_TAD_GMD Undo 2.9 0.5 0.7 4 7 F_TAD_GMD Unholy Grail 6.0 1.2 1.2 1 13 F_I_GMD Unnkulian One-Half 6.7 1.2 1.5 9 1 F_TAD_GMD Unnkulian Unventure 1 6.9 1.2 1.5 8 1,2 F_TAD_GMD Unnkulian Unventure 2 7.2 1.2 1.5 5 1 F_TAD_GMD Unnkulian Zero 8.4 0.7 0.8 21,12,14 F_TAD_GMD Varicella 8.5 1.6 1.5 8 18 F_INF_GMD Veritas 6.9 1.3 1.4 3 S10_TAD_GMD Vindaloo 2.9 0.0 0.4 1 F_INF_GMD VirtuaTech 6.1 0.0 1.2 1 F_INF_GMD Waystation 5.6 0.6 1.0 3 9 F_TAD_GMD Wearing the Claw 6.6 1.2 1.2 5 10, 18 F_INF_GMD Wedding 7.4 1.6 1.3 3 12 F_INF_GMD Where Evil Dwells 5.1 0.8 1.1 1 F_INF_GMD Winter Wonderland 7.9 1.3 1.2 5 19 F_INF_GMD Wishbringer 7.4 1.3 1.3 13 5,6 C_INF Witness 6.5 1.5 1.1 9 1,3,9 C_INF Wonderland 5.4 1.3 0.9 2 C_MAG World 6.5 0.6 1.3 2 4 F_I_ETC_GMD Worlds Apart 8.3 1.6 1.4 6 F_TAD_GMD Zanfar 2.6 0.2 0.4 1 8 F_AGT_GMD Zero Sum Game 7.2 1.5 1.5 3 13 F_INF_GMD Zombie! 5.2 1.2 1.1 2 13 F_TAD_GMD Zork 0 6.3 1.1 1.4 9 14C_INF Zork 1 6.1 0.8 1.5 19 1, 12 C_INF Zork 2 6.5 1.0 1.5 11 1, 12 C_INF Zork 3 6.5 0.9 1.4 8 1, 12 C_INF Zork Undisc. Undergr. 6.5 1.0 1.2 1 14F_INF_GMD Zork: A Troll's Eye V 4.6 0.9 0.1 2 14 F_INF_GMD Zuni Doll 4.0 0.6 0.9 2 14 F_INF_GMD -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- The Top Ten: A game is not eligible for the Top Ten unless it has received at least three ratings from different readers. This is to ensure a more democratic and accurate depiction of the best games. Well, I'm sad to say I've only received a measly 34 votes in the three months that have passed since the last issue of SPAG. Thus, predictably, the Top Ten hasn't changed much. The only significant movement is that Worlds Apart has finally broken into the top 10 after hovering just below it for months. Suzanne Britton's speculative epic bumps Little Blue Men out of the number 9 spot. 1. Sunset over Savannah 8.7 6 votes 2. Trinity 8.7 16 votes 3. Spider and Web 8.7 13 votes 4. Anchorhead 8.6 18 votes 5. Varicella 8.5 8 votes 6. Babel 8.5 7 votes 6. Losing Your Grip 8.5 6 votes 8. Spellbreaker 8.5 8 votes 9. Worlds Apart 8.3 6 votes 10. Christminster 8.3 14 votes As always, please remember that the scoreboard is only as good as the contributions it receives. I'm not sure why voting has taken such a dive in recent months, but it's a trend I'm really hoping to reverse. I strongly encourage all SPAG readers to submit votes for all the IF games they play... and I know that the group of you has played more than 34 games in the last three months! To make your mark on this vast morass of statistics, rate some games on our website (http://www.sparkynet.com/spag). You can also, if you like, send ratings directly to me at obrian SP@G colorado.edu. Instructions for how the rating system works are in the SPAG FAQ, available from GMD and our website. Please read the FAQ before submitting scores, so that you understand how the scoring system works. After that, submit away! SUBMISSION POLICY --------------------------------------------------------- SPAG is a non-paying fanzine specializing in reviews of text adventure games, a.k.a. Interactive Fiction. This includes the classic Infocom games and similar games, but also some graphic adventures where the primary player-game communication is text based. Authors retain the rights to use their reviews in other contexts. We accept submissions that have been previously published elsewhere, although original reviews are preferred. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!
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