___. .___ _ ___. / _| | \ / \ / ._| \ \ | o_/ | | | |_. .\ \ | | | o | | | | The |___/ociety for the |_|romotion of |_|_|dventure \___|ames. ISSUE #26 Edited by Paul O'Brian (obrian SP@G colorado.edu) September 26, 2001 SPAG Website: http://www.sparkynet.com/spag SPAG #26 is copyright (c) 2001 by Paul O'Brian. Authors of reviews and articles retain the rights to their contributions. All email addresses are spamblocked -- replace the name of our magazine with the traditional 'at' sign. ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE ---------------------------------------------------- The SPAG Interview with Volker Blasius and David Kinder REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE ----------------------------------------------------- Alien Abduction? Bugged Hobbit -- The True Story Lost Lost New York Ribbons The Weapon EDITORIAL------------------------------------------------------------------ The timing of this issue makes it a little difficult to write an editorial. Usually, when editorial time comes, I just decide what IF topic is uppermost in my mind and write something about that. But with just over two weeks since the horrifying terrorist attacks of September 11, those attacks and their ramifications are still the One Topic in my mind, crowding out ordinary considerations and making perfectly good hobbies like IF seem, well, a bit trivial. Like light bends when it hits a prism, I find all my orderly thoughts refracting through this theme and looking rather different when they come out the other side. So when I sat down to write this editorial, I was aware that some people are really sick of the One Topic, but I was equally aware that for me, it was what I needed to write about. Consequently, instead of fighting it, I want to spend a little time thinking about the value of IF in the face of overwhelming tragedy. Certainly, there's the virtue of escapism -- like a Busby Berkeley movie during the American Depression, IF lets us get away from all the anxieties of the world for a little while and just have fun. Also, there's the fact that the IF community is international, and thus can provide a global perspective on events; I find that perspective pleasantly bracing from within the tidal wave of hyper-patriotism that the attacks have unleashed here in the States. But the first of these points would be true of any art form, and the second true of any Internet community. What does IF, in particular, offer us? I think the key is in the idea of control. It's an oft-repeated truism that successful IF doesn't offer the player complete control over the story, but rather the *illusion* of such control. Examining how much control the player does or doesn't possess has been a preoccupation of much recent IF, and I think that's because issues of control are central to IF as a medium. Even traditional Infocom-style IF is fundamentally concerned with communicating the idea that its protagonists can have a significant, permanent impact on their world. In our world, where it's easy to feel helplessly, terrifyingly out of control, that illusion is to be cherished. Even if it's just for a second. NEWS ---------------------------------------------------------------------- NEW RELEASES SHELF There are several things worth noting about the crop of games released this summer. Alongside the slew of regular games and mini-games (including the TADS epic First Things First, by last year's XYZZY Best Game author J. Robinson Wheeler), made with a variety of systems from Inform to ADRIFT to Alan to SUDS, there are several demos which make significant inroads into multimedia territory. Adam Cadre's Zeta Space demo utilizes a windowed interface, graphics, and nifty synthesizer sounds, while Ladystar: The New Girl employs full-screen, anime-influenced illustrations combined with a CYOA-type text adventure. Finally, for authors who want to travel further in this direction, there's Marnie Parker's Just A Dream demo, which demonstrates how to achieve various effects using the Glulx runtime. * Pick Up The Phone Booth And Aisle by various authors * Stranded by Jim Bayers * The Long Journey Home by Danny Chabino * A Night in Spooksville by Landry Q. Walker * The Weapon by Sean T. Barrett * First Things First by J. Robinson Wheeler * Ladystar: The New Girl by Heavy Cat Multimedia * Zeta Space (demo) by Adam Cadre * City of Secrets (trailer) by Emily Short * Just A Dream (demo) by Marnie Parker * On A Horse With No Name by Greg Ewing * Large Machine by Gringo G. Scumm * Burglar! by Doug Roberts ON THE MOVE The big news of the summer is that after nearly nine years at ftp.gmd.de, the IF Archive is moving. In honor of the work that Volker Blasius and David Kinder have done in maintaining the Archive, they're the subjects of this issue's SPAG Interview, so I'll let them explain why this change has come about. The Archive's new home is ftp.ifarchive.org, and its maintainers are Kinder and Stephen Granade, with technical maintenance by Paul Asay ("Goob") and Andrew Plotkin ("Zarf"). BEFORE THE BEGINNING After I released SPAG #25, I realized that there was an important news item I forgot to include, and what made the error particularly embarrassing is that I actually served as a judge for the event in question. I'm referring to the PrologueComp, organized by David Myers and inviting participants to craft a prologue for a hypothetical game. The comp got an impressive 23 entrants, which were reviewed by a panel of judges consisting of myself, Nick Montfort, Dennis Jerz, Robb Sherwin, Digby McWiggle, and Myers himself. It was great fun, and generated some excellent discussion of how prologues operate -- check out the results at http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Stu/dmyers/PrologueComp.html DON'T JUST RTFM, CTFM2PDF Infocom was always known for the exceedingly fine quality of its manuals, documentation, and associated "feelies," but in the reissues of its games during the 90's, that quality declined steadily. The documentation in the Lost Treasures packages tended to consist of slapped-together photocopies and sketchy, sometimes-incomplete OCR scans of the old documentation, and the Masterpieces of Infocom CD just took most of this material and converted it to PDF format, saving weight on the package. At its nadir, Activision was selling Masterpieces in a downloadable format with no documentation whatsoever, despite the fact that most of those games are copy-protected via their feelies. Into this sad state of affairs charged Gunther Schmidl and Roger J. Long. Their Infocom Documentation Project has, with the permission of Activision, endeavored to recreate (in PDF format) all the Infocom manuals "as close to their original form as possible," as well as converting them to a format easily readable by screen readers for the blind. Only a few of the manuals are complete so far, but the project also offers all copies of Infocom's newsletter (called The New Zork Times, then The Status Line) as well as zcode versions of Invisiclues for all the games. This cornucopia is available at http://infodoc.plover.net/. A SPAG WITHOUT REVIEWS IS NO SPAG AT ALL You may have noticed that this issue of SPAG is on the slim side, and there's a reason for that: not many people submitted reviews to me this summer. Whether SPAG's anorexia continues to worsen is up to you -- without reviews, there is no SPAG. And don't try that old "I don't know what to review" line; I've got your list right here: SPAG 10 MOST WANTED LIST ======================== 1. Acheton 2. Bad Machine 3. First Things First 4. Frobozz Magic Support 5. Heroine's Mantle 6. Large Machine 7. The Long Journey Home 8. On A Horse With No Name 9. Pick Up The Phone Booth and Aisle 10. Stranded THE SPAG INTERVIEW--------------------------------------------------------- In 1992, something very special happened in the IF community: it acquired an archive. Volker Blasius offered a repository at ftp.gmd.de, and the IF scene underwent a paradigm shift. Where before various development systems, games, and documents were scattered far and wide, now they were centrally located, well organized, and easy to find. That archive acted as a magnet, attracting people to the community and strengthening those already within it. Now that the archive is moving from gmd.de to ifarchive.org, the time seems right to speak with its indefatigable maintainers, Volker Blasius and David Kinder. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Volker Blasius ~~~ SPAG: Could you tell us a little about yourself? Who are you, what do you do for a living, and so forth? VB: Oompf, who am I - quite a philosophical question. I was born of poor because honest parents -- no, nonsense, though it contains some truth. I just love this opening line from Ambrose Bierce's The City of the Gone Away, and I've always been trying to use it somewhere. :) Let's try again. So far my life has been anything but spectacular. Born in '43, standard childhood for this post-World-War-II time, standard school career, always living in the same place here in Germany. My home town didn't have a university then, so I moved to Bonn after military service to study mathematics - the early computers fascinated me, so I chose the subject closest to them at the time. The university had an IBM 7090 and offered programming courses, so I immediately started on my favorite topic. In my second semester I got a part-time job in the university computer center; the computer center developed into GMD, and my student's job developed into a full-time job when I got my degree (nominally still in mathematics). So I'm more or less still where I began. (OK, what I've been doing here changed over time, of course. At first I was in a department that developed its own time sharing system under OS/360 MFT (I did some of the hardware programming), later I became head of system administration for the MVS mainframe until GMD dropped that line altogether. Since then I've mainly been dabbling in PCs, their hardware and their operating systems, supporting people running into trouble.) Now I just turned 58 and I'm three years into my five-year old-age-part-time-retirement contract. This is a German specialty: About five years ago the federal government decided to have another go at getting rid of old farts sitting on valuable jobs and passed a law that guaranteed 70% pay for 50% of work. Your company can reclaim the excess 20% from federal administration if it gives the 50% you get free to someone looking for his/her first job. After two years of negotiations the unions raised the 70% to 80%, and that's when I signed my contract to work half-time for five years and then retire. SPAG: For those that don't know, just what is GMD? VB: Early computers were too expensive even for a university to buy, so our state here created and funded a company that bought and ran a computer for the university at Bonn. (Computers were then considered as instruments to be used for mathematics, so the company was called IIM - Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Instrumentelle Mathematik. Still a funny name.) In 1968 the federal government took over and converted the IIM into GMD, the Gesellschaft für Mathematik und Datenverarbeitung, located in Sankt Augustin near Bonn. Later it was renamed to German National Research Center for Information Technology (and its German equivalent), but the well-established acronym GMD was kept. GMD did much more than just run a mainframe; it grew to 1200+ people who did all kinds of research in and around mathematics and computers. Most of it was basic research, and that's what GMD was explicitly founded und funded for, but now the tide has turned - basic research was declared useless and GMD was handed off to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG) to do applied research, i.e. earn short-term money or perish. GMD will be broken up into many small units fighting for themselves and against each other. Funding is guaranteed until 2005, but nobody knows will be left after this date. SPAG: Was it difficult to persuade them that an archive of text adventures was something worth keeping on their ftp server? VB: No, it wasn't, because I didn't ask them. Like all the good things here, the archive began as what we call a submarine - somebody finds a topic interesting and starts working on it while officially doing something different. If the idea proves feasible, the submarine surfaces and becomes an official topic. Access to the ftp server wasn't difficult, either. I've been in the IT infrastructure department for quite some time now, so the admins are just the guys next door working in the same group. SPAG: Could you give a little bit of history on how the IF archive came about? VB: I knew text adventures from ADVENT on the IBM mainframe, which really got me hooked, and later Dungeon on a VAX. The VAX belonged to a different department, so my access to it was limited and I wasn't able to finish the game. I bought my first computer in 1989 and wasn't interested in micro computers until then, so I didn't even know Infocom and the other companies existed. This changed when the data center was closed because nobody used the mainframe for scientific purposes any more, and I had to find a new job. I joined the department that's responsible for GMD's central server machines and the network and started working with Unix and the Internet. I also did some PC/DOS/Windows service, using support BBSes and CompuServe - all this was new to me, so I looked around everywhere. I forgot the details, but at some time during this period I must have found the free and shareware text adventures, the r*if community and the early TADS games. I soon found that the good things were scattered everywhere, and being used to data center operations I thought that a central repository would be a good idea. I asked the only person I knew, Dave Baggett, co-author of the Unnkulian Unventures, for his opinion, and he agreed. I asked for space on GMD's central ftp server and started the archive with stuff Dave Baggett and I downloaded from wherever we found it. I kept the original date in the README file: 12nov1992. The archive was a success right from the start. People soon started uploading games, info and development systems they had written or found or kept on their private disks, and then it ran all by itself. The first mirror (wuarchive) was started in January, 1993. When Chris Myers asked me how big the archive was, I answered, "About 12 MB now; growing to maybe twice as much." It's 1131 MB today... Dave Baggett couldn't help any longer when he left MIT. Fortunately David Kinder volunteered to step in, and gradually the burden has shifted more and more onto his shoulders - during the last years he has done practically all of the work alone. I never could have managed without him. SPAG: What have been some of the IF games you've enjoyed most, and why? VB: Now this is a somewhat embarrassing topic - I'm probably the person who knows and has played the fewest games in the community. ADVENT will never lose the glory of first love, of course. I like science fiction, so Planetfall was my favorite Infocom game. And there was J. Doug McDonald's World, another SF game. I started many games, but usually I get interrupted for a week or two, and I never pick it up again. World was the only exception to this rule: I played it off and on for about 6 years until I finally solved it. Another game I enjoyed immensely and have always been planning to resume (or rather restart after all this time) is Graham Nelson's Curses. Anchorhead looked very good, too, but it was another victim to some interruption - vacation without computers, I think. The only recent game I played was Photopia, and I only managed to complete it because I could play it on my Palm. Quite a different experience, but a very good game, I think. SPAG: Do you plan to continue contributing to the IF community in the future, and if so, how? VB: Probably not. Apart from the archive and one or two solutions, I haven't contributed anything, so this won't be much of a loss. The only important thing is that the archive will be continued, and thanks to Goob, Zarf, David and Stephen this problem has been solved. I don't know how to thank them enough. SPAG: If not, how do you think you'll spend your newfound free time? VB: Since David has been doing all the work for the last two or three years, there is no newfound free time, I'm afraid. I don't really know where my time is disappearing, but it does. I have a huge pile of games waiting to be played when I retire, a programming project I've been planning to do since about 1970 (and which I'm going to begin Real Soon Now), I have my dog and like to hike with her, I've recently taken up cycling again after 30 years - no, I've no idea where all that time goes. But I'll keep lurking. You won't see me, but I'll be watching you. :) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ David Kinder ~~~ SPAG: Could you tell us a little about yourself? Who are you, what do you do for a living, and so forth? DK: I'm a computer programmer living in Oxford, England, and working in London. My firm writes specialized programs for the financial derivatives market; it always amuses me that the programs I write for fun have a bigger audience than those I do for work :) I'm also turning 30 this year, though I'm trying to pretend that that's not going to happen ... SPAG: How did you come to be co-maintainer of the IF archive? DK: Way back in 1992 I finished my undergraduate course and became a member of a research group at the university. At the same time, the university was then getting around to connecting every PC to its network and the Internet, so about then I discovered Usenet and the rec.*.int-fiction groups. Along with a lot of others, my interest in text adventures had been restarted about a year before by the release of "The Lost Treasures of Infocom", so it wasn't too surprising that I was soon reading the groups every day. Now, one of the advantages (or problems, depending on perspective) of doing physics research is that you can often find yourself spending ages keeping an eye on experiments. It's not easy to really do anything involved, as you need to keep watching the experiment, so one night I found myself wandering around the IF-Archive. At that point the /unprocessed/ folder had become rather full, so I decided to give Volker a hand by working out where all these files should go and writing up Index entries for them. After doing this a few times Volker asked if I'd like to become a maintainer, and I've been at it ever since ... SPAG: What changes do you anticipate now that the archive has moved from gmd.de to ifarchive.org? Do you plan any innovations for the archive's future? DK: It's unlikely that the basic structure of the archive will change, but something will happen with the indexing system. Currently the plain text "Index" files are okay for people to read, but they're not so suitable for processing by programs. Zarf is working on an XML definition that will let us have machine readable indexes from which we can create human readable Index files. SPAG: What have been some of the IF games you've enjoyed most, and why? DK: Curses, for the evil puzzles, and the fact that it (along with the Unkuulia games) really seemed to push the level of amateur text adventures away from the rather poor efforts of the past. When I first started reading the newsgroups the consensus view was still that Infocom had written all the best text adventures; now the community writes the best ones itself. Photopia, because I've never read ("played" seems inappropriate) anything quite like it, especially Alley's dream of meeting the Queen of the dead world. Loads of others spring to mind, especially those that have pushed back the barriers of what is possible: Worlds Apart, Galatea, My Angel, Shade... SPAG: I know you've made extensive contributions to the archive yourself, in the form of ports and technical tools. Is this the only role in which you see yourself, or have you ever given any thought to authoring a game? DK: I like writing ports and implementations of IF engines as it can throw up some interesting coding problems, such as: How do you write a Glk implementation that can reformat the text in the window if it resizes, even if the text is in different sizes, and has pictures embedded in it? DK: Writing games calls for something else again: Not just skill but artistic vision. Having said that, I do have some sketches somewhere for a game idea I had. I'm not going to jinx it by saying anything though, but maybe for one competition I'll get around to it. 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.ifarchive.org/if-archive/magazines/SPAG/ and at http://www.sparkynet.com/spag REVIEWS ------------------------------------------------------------------- From: Duncan Stevens
TITLE: Alien Abduction? AUTHOR: Charles Gerlach E-MAIL: cagerlac SP@G merle.acns.nwu.edu DATE: 1996 PARSER: TADS standard SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive) URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/games/tads/abductv2.gam VERSION: Release 2 One of the many trends in IF of recent years has been to emphasize characterization, and in particular the character of the player character, over puzzles. An early portent of that trend was Charles Gerlach's Alien Abduction?, a 1996 competition entry that endeavors to make the PC something other than a cipher. The result isn't a total triumph, mostly because the game didn't fully emancipate itself from puzzlefest expectations, but it's an interesting attempt. It seems you're convinced that aliens are out to abduct you; a similar conviction landed your father in an asylum, but you know what you know. Sure enough, aliens do come by and -- after making you play a variant on Mastermind -- release you again, but the reality you go back to has some incongruities, notably that your father is back, showing no signs of having been carted away. Your goal, at that point, is to make sense of the incongruities. At least, I think so, and therein lies the difficulty. It's far from clear to the player at that point what he or she should be doing; that things seem to be a little off-kilter doesn't point the player in any particular direction for purposes of addressing the problem, and nothing that you find as you explore the off-kilter world (which is quite small as it is) is particularly illuminating. You can talk to your father, and while he has quite a lot to say, nothing really gives you much of a clue about what you're supposed to be doing. The solution isn't wholly illogical, it turns out, but it requires some fairly tortured inferences about various characters and how they react to certain stimuli. Considering that this puzzle is the heart of the game -- there are several subpuzzles, but most of the game is given over to one central problem -- not having a sense of what you're doing is a major flaw. This isn't a characterization problem, as such -- there are good reasons for the PC to do what he does. It's just that the player doesn't know enough about the PC (and his past) to understand those reasons. The problem springs in part from the game's attempts at giving the PC a specific identity and background, since the solution to the central problem hinges on the player's having a much deeper understanding of that background than seems likely, given the available evidence. Specifically, the problem turns on a certain NPC's psychology, for the most part, and the game didn't provide enough exposition to permit the player to draw the right inferences. This is good, in a certain respect; NPCs with psychological makeup more complex than some variant on "feed me" are relatively uncommon. That also means, however, that the player cannot necessarily be counted on to see what the author wants him/her to see, unless the author spells everything out in nice big letters (which defeats the point, to some extent). Here, there are clues scattered around, but it's a fairly long leap from the clues to the solution. (A related problem is that the solution requires inferring that a certain bit of technology has what seems a grave flaw; I certainly didn't find any suggestions that there was such a flaw.) Mostly because of those psychological intricacies, Alien Abduction? is a pretty difficult game -- it's entirely possible that you, the player, will stumble on the solution by accident, but that's not exactly satisfying. There are, let me emphasize, internal hints, and those are handy indeed -- and the game as a whole has a certain twisted logic once you understand what's going on. It seemed to me, however, that there wasn't much chance of the player attaining such an understanding without the hints. There's also one rather artificial puzzle (a.k.a. a "soup can" puzzle) -- the presence of the aliens supplies an excuse (they're testing you, you see), but not a great excuse, and the game would have been better, I think, had that puzzle been omitted. While Alien Abduction? doesn't quite work as a fusion of puzzle-solving challenge and character study, it does work as a mood piece and as a mess-with-your-head game in the tradition of Delusions and Spider and Web. (Yes, I'm aware that this preceded Spider and Web, but that's the paradigmatic example.) The discover-what's-going-on process is thoroughly creepy -- there's no big payoff, but there's a series of smaller surprises that effectively kept me guessing. The almost-normality of the setting works nicely (though it might have worked even better if the game gave the player more of a chance to explore the layout at the beginning, the better to appreciate the changes, Wishbringer-style; as it is, the game mostly tells the player "hey, this and that are different"), and lots of relatively nonessential objects and conversation topics are implemented, so the player isn't likely to keep running up against the game's boundaries (never a good thing in a mood piece). As for the mess-with-your-head factor, the game does a nice job of raising doubts about the PC's sanity and reliability, though those doubts are largely tangential to what actually goes on in the game; you may question whether the PC's perceptions are true, but you can largely assume that they are for purposes of getting through the game. That aside, unreliable narrators are a fun device, central to the progress of the story or not. How well Alien Abduction? works is a function of the player's expectations, I suppose -- it's certainly a well-written game with some suspenseful moments and good deal of atmosphere, and if you're someone who enjoys IF that emphasizes setting and mood, and who doesn't care overmuch about being able to solve the puzzles without reliance on hints, this is definitely for you. (I'm sure I'll hear from people claiming to have finished the game with no hints in seconds flat, but I call 'em like I see 'em, and I just don't see enough in the game to enable the player to understand the logic of the puzzles ex ante.) In that respect, the intervening years have made the IF audience somewhat more receptive to this game -- a well-crafted story with not-entirely-well-crafted puzzles is perhaps more welcome now than it was in 1996, though the tendency these days, I think, is to omit or downplay the puzzles. (In other words, the tendency for an author writing this game now might be to let the PC make some of the trickier inferences himself, rather than making the player do it; the interactivity would be thereby reduced, of course, but life is full of tradeoffs.) To the extent that Alien Abduction? tries to squeeze both challenging puzzles and some complex personalities and character interactions into the same game, it's a laudable effort; to the extent that it doesn't quite succeed, well, not many games can be called a total success on both those levels, and this was an early shot at it. It's not a roaring success, but it certainly has its moments. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Duncan Stevens TITLE: Bugged AUTHOR: Anssi Raisanen E-MAIL: anssi.raisanen SP@G cop.fi DATE: 2001 PARSER: Alan (full-sentence) SUPPORTS: Alan runtimes AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive) URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/alan/bugged.zip VERSION: Release 1.0 Anyone who's ever tried to slog through a vintage AGT game will get a chuckle or two out of Bugged, where the bugs are deliberate -- you're beta-testing a game for a cousin, see, and the cousin needs a lot of programming help, and the only way to plow through the game is through exploiting bugs (because the solutions your cousin has attempted to implement don't work, due to other bugs). It's no more than a chuckle, but chuckles are important in the IF world too. The bugs themselves are standard-issue: takeable objects that aren't, untakeable objects that are, mostly, along with a dash of verbs defaulting to the wrong noun. Getting into the spirit of things takes a while -- unless you're a long-standing beta-tester, you're unlikely to think of getting rid of an obstacle by simply taking it, say -- and things get difficult toward the end, when you're carrying around all kinds of immobile objects and it's not clear which one of them is useful. (The last puzzle, in fact, turns on a bizarre syntax trick that fits nicely into a buggy game but doesn't exactly spring to mind otherwise.) In other words, the bugs accumulate over the course of the game, after a fashion, and the potential for ridiculous interactions among various unlikely objects becomes considerable. Some of the bugs strain credulity a bit -- it's not clear what sort of coding error would make an object both out of reach and takeable. Likewise, it sometimes seems like every single object that should be takeable isn't and every one that shouldn't be is, suggesting that the "cousin" simply doesn't understand the word "static" (or an Alan equivalent) -- but on the whole it's a plausible buggy game. The joke, I suppose, is that the buggy game is more interesting than the non-buggy one would have been; the puzzles that you would have solved are bog-standard, whereas the buggy version at least requires some thinking outside the box. True enough, though it's hard to picture anyone writing a game that's quite as boring as the one your cousin supposedly tried to write, and in that light it's not hard to come up with something more interesting. For my part, I found Bugged entertaining simply because it's loopy in the usual way of a buggy game; something about picking up apparently huge objects with no comment on your feat of strength is inherently amusing, though the humor would probably pall in a game of any length. As it is, Bugged is quite short, short enough that most players are unlikely to tire of the idea before reaching the end. The main problem with Bugged is the lack of a hint system (and in this case a hint system is even more preferable to a walkthrough than usual, because the puzzles are well suited for nudges but the solutions are usually one-move) -- it's frustrating enough to struggle with a game that's trying to be helpful, but when things are intentionally broken it's even worse, as there are (naturally) no clues that you're on the right track. In fact, since some bugs amount to red herrings, it's possible to get suckered into trying to exploit the wrong bugs altogether. I ended up poring over the data file to solve a few of the puzzles, which is appropriate, in a way -- cheat to finish a game whose premise is cheating to finish a game -- but not especially satisfying. Bugged is a twenty-minute diversion at most -- if it takes you longer, resort to the data file -- but it's amusing enough, and perhaps it's a fitting tribute to/preparation for the upcoming competition. (Shame on this cynical reviewer.) IF veterans should get a kick out of it. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- [As always with Mr. Starkov's reviews, I've heavily edited this prose (and that in his review of "The Weapon", below) in an attempt to hammer it into sensible English. Mistakes may have been made in this process; comprehend at your own risk. --Paul] From: Stas Starkov NAME: Hobbit - The True Story AUTHOR: Fredrik Ramsberg and Johan Berntsson EMAIL: d91frera SP@G und.ida.liu.se (Ramsberg -- no address provided for Berntsson) DATE: Monday 19 April 1993 PARSER: Very strange and not very good SUPPORTS: DOS AVAILABILITY: Shareware -- $10, but I think it's a joke URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/pc/hobbit.zip NAME: The Terror of Mecha Godzilla - The True Story AUTHOR: Fredrik Ramsberg EMAIL: d91frera SP@G und.ida.liu.se DATE: Monday 4 October 1993 PARSER: Very strange and not very good SUPPORTS: DOS AVAILABILITY: Shareware -- $10, but I think it's a joke URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/pc/mecha.zip First of all, the reviewed games are written as MS-DOS 5.0 batch files, and require some fiddling with your computer. (That doesn't mean that you need to hit the computer with a hammer.) Personally, I was not able to run these games in a DOS box under Windows 9x. But I have not tried hard -- for me it's faster to reboot the computer into DOS mode. I think you'll probably need to do the same. Another problem that I encountered _before_ I started the game is that the ZIP files are archived with rather old archiver (I think -- pkzip 1.x) and my archiver (7-ZIP, if you want to know) was not able to unpack all the files from the archives. Then I used WinZip and everything was well. But, hell, these are real puzzles in real life. Sometimes I like to solve these sorts of puzzles, but not very often. :-) As the authors claim, these two games were written in 1993, using a very strange language called Adventure Maker, which compiled the games to batch files. As a player, I sometimes like to switch from games written in a good authoring system to games written in another system, one that is not so good. It's fun to compare old computer technologies with modern ones. Well, the games' "parsers" are not very powerful, but it's amazing that you can type commands at just a DOS command prompt! Yes, after loading a "restart.bat", you can play in raw DOS. It's so bizarre that you don't need an interpreter to play these games, and that you can run any program, then quit from that program and continue to play the game. That _is_ fun. But quite strange fun. On the other hand, there are no UNDO, SAVE, or OOPS commands. If you've made a wrong move (as is especially likely in "Godzilla") you must start from the beginning. But that doesn't hurt, because the games are so small, and so linear. The games themselves are not very strong. I think they were probably written in one or two days each -- they're short and not very polished, but fun. Why are they fun? Because they use a somewhat offbeat sense of humor and because their scenery is very familiar. The first game, "Hobbit", is about the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, and the second, "Godzilla", is about Godzilla in Tokyo. If you've never heard these words before, you must have been living on the moon for the last fifty years. Of course, these games are parodies. "Hobbit" is a story about a hobbit who wants to kill a dragon and loot its gold. For the "untrue" story of this hobbit, you can read the book "The Hobbit" by J. R. R. Tolkien. But even more than it parodies the book, this game parodies Melbourne House's game with the very familiar name "The Hobbit". People who have played Melbourne House's game will notice that the solutions to some of the puzzles in this game are almost identical. Continuing the list of influences: I think the authors of this game have probably read the book "Bored Of the Rings" by Henry R. Berd and Douglas K. Kenny, (excuse me if I somehow changed the names -- I have only a Russian translation) [The authors of "Bored Of The Rings" are Henry N. Beard and Douglas C. Kenney. --Paul] which is itself a parody on J. R. R. Tolkien's work. There is nothing groundbreaking in this book, but there are a lot of funny moments, especially if you only read a few pages each day. Next -- I do (barely) remember that once I had read a solution to some game (whose title I don't remember at all) for the ZX Spectrum, a game that, as far as I can tell from the dull reflection of its solution, utilized the same approach to humor. The humor in this game is strange, but I like it. A small example, if you try to show a map to Thorin when you aren't carrying it: Thorin eyes you suspiciously. "Don't try any tricks, boy. We both know that there is no map here, now don't we?" he asks. He doesn't seem too sure about it himself. The implementation of the game is bad, but so what! A seasoned adventurer such as yourself will find a way through the rubble of bad code. If not, maybe the hints for Melbourne House's "Hobbit" will help. And if that doesn't work, "disassemble" this game -- it's not very hard. :-) The NPCs in the game are strange. For example, Thorin: Thorin, your old friend, is no longer the proud dwarf he once was. All the drugs have turned him into a drooling good-for-nothing idiot. The only reason that he has come along is to get more treasures for drugs, as always. Gandalf is a dumb magician who is inventing a new spell of a rather shady nature (and I recommend you explore that subject). Elrond -- a megalomaniac who wants to rule the entire world. Smaug -- a fat lazy dragon. If you put yourself in Bilbo's place, you'll notice that the surrounding world is very cruel and evil. Your good old "friends" despise you. It's terrible to live as a hobbit in such a world. "Godzilla" is not as good, nor as funny, as "Hobbit". It is longer, and has several "guess the word" problems that make it quite difficult. This game does have some violent moments (for example, a moment with a huge tank and a poor doggy), but if you remember the Japanese (and one American) movies about Godzilla, you will understand why the author includes those moments. (If you still don't understand, I'll tell you -- because those movies are so disgustingly pathetic and simultaneously have so much aggression that, after viewing them, you yourself want to kill several monsters or just animals. :-) "Godzilla" has a more "advanced" version of the parser. Because of that, the batch files are harder to read (yes, read the source code to get hints to the game), but that didn't stop me. To tell the truth, I tried six or seven times to finish this game before starting to read through the batch files Overall, if you have a little extra time to kill, try "Hobbit". If you like it, try "Godzilla", but do not try them in the reverse order. And be prepared for bugs, but again, these games are so short that the bugs should be no problem. And did you notice that both games were released on a Monday? Odd. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Duncan Stevens TITLE: Lost AUTHOR: Eric Mayer E-MAIL: emayer00 SP@G epix.net DATE: 2001 PARSER: ADRIFT SUPPORTS: ADRIFT runtimes AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive) URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/adrift/lost.zip VERSION: First release Making emotional content plausible in IF ain't easy. Getting a player to feel what the protagonist is supposed to be feeling requires subtlety (more than "you're feeling angry now"), good writing (at least, good enough that the player doesn't notice it and get pulled out of the flow), and, most of all, time -- a story that's long enough for the player to settle into the protagonist's skin before any serious emotion-imputing begins. Eric Mayer's Lost is a highly emotional game, and while it does passably well on the first two counts, it's simply not long enough, in my book, to achieve the desired effect. It seems that the protagonist is upset about all manner of things, primarily the decaying states of his marriage and his job, and he heads for a walk in the woods. As he wanders and examines things, thoughts run through his mind (in different colored text lest he miss their significance), and the forest setting, while nicely rendered, is of course merely a backdrop for the stuff going on in his head. He solves one fairly simple puzzle (rendered more complicated only by the unfriendliness of the ADRIFT parser), and a few sounds and apparitions later, the protagonist has a choice of sorts. One of two different endings ensues. Not to belabor the point, but it must be belabored: the protagonist can reach this ending point inside of 30 moves if he's pretty direct about it, and isn't likely to take more than 60-70 even if he stops to smell all the roses he can find. His ruminations about his past, however, start right away and come relatively thick and fast. If you, the player, don't decide to identify with the protagonist right away, you may just miss your chance entirely. Now, there may be some for whom losing a marriage and a job simultaneously strikes an instant chord of recognition, and if you're one of those, I sympathize and recommend Lost -- but the rest of us need some more prompting before we can identify with the protagonist. Perhaps, with more exploration of his personality, we might see ourselves, or someone we know, in this character. But the protagonist's personality is almost wholly absent from Lost: we know what he feels, but not who he is. As such, he had my sympathy, but I was a spectator. The backdrop, for what it's worth, is fine -- the woods are well rendered, with attention to detail. There are some glitches in the writing (e.g., "A few tough, spikes which used to be limbs, protrude"), and the style tends toward the choppy ("Here and there grassy hillocks are interspersed with dead trees. At the edge, cattails rattle in the breeze. There is a wooden post here. The swamp is impassable."), but there are some nice spots as well: "The lingering twilight floods the top of the reentrant with a rusty glow." There are occasional fuzzy pictures (which feel the need to reappear, necessitating window-closing, every time you return to the location in question), which don't enhance things much, but as a walk-in-the-woods game this is okay. (There are occasional sidelights about orienteering, which could have used some more explanation -- not everyone knows about orienteering, or even that the term refers to a sport, if that's the right thing to call it -- but as with publicity, there's almost no such thing as bad background detail.) When it comes to the internal strife, Lost isn't awful, but the game doesn't exactly have the lightest touch. The principle of "show, don't tell" is observed only haphazardly; one example, when examining a pine tree: You're reminded of the fragrant, prickly needled Christmas trees you used to bring home. How long since you switched to the plastic one? You just snap the limbs on and spray it with pine scent. From a distance it looks alive. Not unlike you marriage. Even aside from the "you marriage," the last sentence ruins what was, up to then, a nice little aside -- it conveys the protagonist's associations, and that's all it really has to do. The player can draw the contrasts, given that much: it's not hard to put the "those were happy times, unlike now" pieces together, nor are the plastic-instead-of-real-tree dots difficult to connect. The paragraph could easily have been stopped after four sentences, or three, or (perhaps best of all) two. As it is, the last sentence seems to assume the player isn't bright enough to draw any conclusions -- not wholly unfair, as the player may be no more than five moves into the game at that point (and no more than 25 moves from the end), but the answer to that is more game, not signal-flare writing. Similar is this passage: Everything here seems still, sheltered from the wind, quiet. It seems to you a soothing place, beyond the reach of the world. Ridiculous of course, since the highway is a few minutes walk. The first sentence is really all that's needed -- the second sentence, setting out what the protagonist feels, can just as well be inferred, and the player should know that the highway is within a few minutes' walk if he or she's been paying attention. The author can clearly write -- the writing here is always passable (typos and such aside) and sometimes good. It's just that he often seems to write one or two sentences too many. Picky and grumpy, that's me, but I'd like to think there's a good reason here. Writing IF whose success hinges on evoking emotion is a hit-or-miss matter; if you don't succeed, you're likely to end up sounding kind of mawkish. The player is tempted to snicker, which is never a good thing. (A puzzle game that doesn't work may leave the player frustrated or baffled, but usually not condescendingly amused.) No one likes feeling manipulated, and the nature of the string-pulling in Lost is such that it's easy to feel that way. And yet it seems to me that all that really needs to change here (aside from some writing stuff) is that the ratio of scenery/exploration to emotionalizing needs to increase substantially -- there needs to be more going on, such that the setting feels like a part of the game rather than an stimulus to get the protagonist's mental wheels turning. Give me enough of it so that it gets *my* mental wheels turning -- sufficiently so that you can tell the story without spelling everything out so, er, blatantly -- and you'll really have something. Lost has its heart in the right place, but it's trying to accomplish something very difficult while devoting minimal resources to the job. Good try, say I, but not quite. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Adam Cadre [Note: This review first appeared on the IF-Review website, at http://www.ministryofpeace.com/if-review/. --Paul] NAME: Lost New York AUTHOR: Neil deMause EMAIL: neil SP@G demause.net DATE: 1996-1997 PARSER: TADS (Also available in PC format) SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters AVAILABILITY: Shareware ($12) (IF Archive) URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/tads/lostny14.gam VERSION: 1.4 LOST NEW YORK by Neil deMause sends the player character bouncing around in time, from 1880 to 1905 to 1954 to 1780 to 2040. But none of these dates has anywhere near as much effect on the shape of the game as its year of publication: 1996. For in 1996, the conventional wisdom asserted that the remaining audience for text adventures was after just that: text adventures. Games were essentially just series of puzzles, with the story as a backdrop, the model world as set decoration. Yes, that backdrop and set decoration could be and often was masterfully designed, but the idea that one could create valid IF simply by building a model world for the player to poke around in, or telling a story in which the player could participate, only gained widespread acceptance over the subsequent five years, as increasingly daring games placed less and less emphasis on puzzles and were rewarded with plaudits from an audience that found it rather liked that sort of thing. But in 1996, how the audience might respond was an open question. Given the amount of effort that goes into a full-length work of IF, most authors elected to go with the proven approach. LOST NEW YORK is no exception. But while it follows the crowd, it does so with obvious reluctance. In the spirit of time travel, let's jump back about 400 years, to the time of Shakespeare. But not our Shakespeare -- this Shakespeare lives in an England where theater audiences are mad about juggling acts. Day after day, the Globe is witness to trio after trio of balls, pins and torches being flung into the air. But the audiences didn't want to see *just* juggling; they wanted the juggling folded into a little story. Enter Shakespeare, who soars to fame on the strength of "Romeo and Juliet", in which a pair of young people fall in love at a masked ball (the chief entertainment there: juggling), but then the boy's friend and the girl's cousin get into a ill-fated juggling contest and it all goes downhill from there. Now Shakespeare decides he might like to try writing a history, perhaps something involving King Henry V... yes, a piece tracing his evolution from carousing prince to the inspirational leader of his countrymen in a great victory over the French. But he can't just tell that story -- where's the juggling? If there's no juggling, it's not a real play! So the first act ends up foregrounding a bunch of jugglers at the bar while Falstaff and Prince Hal talk in the background, and proceeds to the point where the jugglers accompanying the army are told that the English have won the battle... and the audience response is tepid because while the historical stuff is interesting, the juggling isn't as accomplished as that in RITO AND IMITA. Shakespeare is left to mutter to himself about the constraints of the medium. Similarly, it's clear that in LOST NEW YORK, deMause's heart is in the geographical and historical material. Virtually all the prose is extremely deft, but never is the writing more alive, more joyous, than when you die and the author gets to tell you another wacky story about a long-dead mayor; never are the quips funnier than when they're playing off the geography of the city (try going east from the City Hall area in 1880, or north into Hell's Kitchen later on.) The fact that the game begins with a slideshow and ends with a bibliography is another indication of where the author's interests lie. Hint: it's not in fiddling around with hairpins and stopwatches. But because this was written in 1996, the author felt obliged to fill it with juggl-- I mean, puzzles. And these are mostly not very good, being chiefly of the type where you're wandering around and find a fishing pole, which you take because, well, it's implemented; later on you find a stream, and go fishing because, well, that must be what the pole's for; you catch a fish and, when you cut it open to cook it, a key falls out. What was the key doing in the fish? Well, one of the conventions of the genre at the time was that you weren't supposed to ask questions like that. That's not actually a puzzle from LOST NEW YORK, but many similar ones abound. Of course, while the "take everything that's not nailed down, look under and behind and inside everything that is" ethic works fine in a dungeon, it gets to be a little absurd when transplanted to the island of Manhattan. In LOST NEW YORK, Manhattan has like twelve things. And that's too many. (Bet you thought I was going to go a different way with that, huh?) Again, to avoid spoilers, I'll disguise the details a bit. Let's say that the Upper West Side, circa 1965, has been reduced to a single location with a mailbox in it. Now, the problem is *not* that each street corner should be a separate location, nor that every item in every store and every apartment should be implemented. As it stands, the location works just fine as a representative area of the Upper West Side, and the mailbox works just fine as a representative mailbox. BUT! As soon as you fish around in the mailbox and pull out a live monkey (which you then stuff into your knapsack) you are no longer dealing with the Platonic Mailbox -- you're dealing with a specific, highly unusual mailbox. And by extension, this is no longer just a representative street corner: it's the particular street corner with the strange monkey-containing mailbox. And once players lose the sense that the locations they're visiting are representative, they're no longer wandering around Manhattan; they're navigating a diorama of Manhattan with twelve things in it. But it didn't have to be this way. LOST NEW YORK is as much about the New Yorks that might have been as the ones that actually have, and in that spirit, I can't help but muse about what might have happened had Neil deMause had his notes stolen one day in 1995. Disheartened, he puts off the project for a few years, till his enthusiasm revives -- only now the IF landscape is different. A MIND FOREVER VOYAGING is no longer a low-selling oddball; *lots* of games now revolve around exploration instead of dinking around with inventory. And so this alternate, post-'96 version of LOST NEW YORK takes on a different shape. Instead of players getting little more than a glimpse of New York's evolution, whatever gets mentioned in passing as they're messing around with goats and baseballs in curiously limited regions of the city, they can now roam the entirety of the city freely, watching the different neighborhoods evolve. Perhaps the interaction with figures who clearly fascinate the author -- Robert Moses, Emma Goldman, the various mayors -- is more substantial... leading to more New Yorks that might have been, perhaps? A fully implemented Moses-free New York, say, or one where Goldman's ideals took root... perhaps even a modern-day New Amsterdam, if you diverge early enough. And hey, TADS has multimedia now: why not throw some pictures into the mix?... oh, and... ...and at this point I've got the blueprints for a 21st-century skyscraper and am waving them at the base of the Empire State Building. The game has been written, and if deMause is anything like me, the idea of revisiting a project that was long ago declared done is hardly an appealing one... ...but hey, it's New York. If it were ever really finished, we wouldn't have that old story about the visitor from Nebraska. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Duncan Stevens TITLE: Ribbons AUTHOR: J.D. Berry E-MAIL: berryx SP@G earthlink.net DATE: 2001 PARSER: Inform standard SUPPORTS: Z-code interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware (IF Archive) URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/ribbons.z5 VERSION: Release 2 A counterpart of sorts to Ian Finley's Exhibition, a 1999 competition entry, J.D. Berry's Ribbons, the winning entry in Marnie Parker's 2001 IF Art Show, takes the "art show" premise and runs with it. It doesn't run extremely far, truth be told, but it's a nice concept. As in Exhibition, you're in an art gallery, checking out a series of exhibits, and as in Exhibition, you get a series of different perspectives on each exhibit. Rather than playing the critics, you read their critiques, which are posted by each exhibit, but the effect is similar -- you learn something new about each work, and about the critics, from each critique of it. (At least, that's the hope.) There aren't as many exhibits here -- only four, whereas Exhibition had twelve -- so there isn't as much room for development of the critics; their voices don't develop in the same way that those of Exhibition did. The twist is that the works themselves have a better chance of coming across because (a) the critics are a little less obsessed with themselves than Exhibition's critics were and (b) the works are, to some extent, interactive. (It also helps that one of the critics' opinions is that of the artist himself/herself.) You can alter certain aspects of the works, and the critics' opinions will change (though not their ultimate judgments) to reflect the alterations. The results in this respect are sometimes amusing: the same critic praises the same work for both the presence and absence of an element, or slams an artist's binary decision no matter which way it goes. As a jab at criticism itself -- portraying critics as applying preconceived opinions regardless of what they actually find -- this works pretty well. Unfortunately, not enough of the game leads to those moments; Ribbons is more interactive than Exhibition, but that's not saying a lot. Interaction with one exhibit (other than passive interaction like SMELL) is precluded entirely because someone else has vandalized the work and you don't want to be held responsible. Another exhibit allows for interaction, but not in a way that changes any text (of the descriptions or of the critics' reactions) -- you're told that you're altering things, but that's about it. The other exhibits allow for a little more interplay, but I left the game feeling like the most interesting aspect was barely there. (Perhaps the author and I differ about what the most interesting aspect was.) Credit where credit is due, though -- the artworks themselves are well rendered and intriguing, and the variety of perspectives you get (the descriptions change slightly after you've read each critic's take) is impressive. It's pretty clear (at least, to me) that they occupy four distinct categories -- one strictly aesthetic, one literally representational, one metaphor/symbol, and one simply abstract -- and I enjoyed seeing the extent to which each critic managed or failed to grapple with each work on its own terms; in each case, some of the reaction amounted to "I don't like this because of the category it's in." (Sorry, no points for complaining that this critic has been known to do the same thing.) It's also fun to see the artists gently mocking the whole critical enterprise. For example, one critic notes that part of his work wasn't originally planned, but "[t]he curator's (Hi, Mrs. Washington!) little boy wanted to be part of the show, so he brought me that part from his trainset. Congratulations, Daniel, you are officially [sic] an ARTISTE!" The works themselves also bear scrutiny -- in some cases second- and third-level nouns are available (as in, objects mentioned in the room description are first-level, objects mentioned in the descriptions of first-level objects are second-level, etc.), deepening the level of detail available considerably. Ribbons is a fifteen-minute game at most, but it's a worthwhile fifteen minutes. As with Exhibition, reading the critics' thoughts is far and away the meat of the game, but those thoughts are good enough that that's not faint praise. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Stas Starkov NAME: The Weapon AUTHOR: Sean Barrett EMAIL: buzzard SP@G world.std.com DATE: 2001 PARSER: Inform Standard SUPPORTS: Z-code (Infocom/Inform) interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/weapon.zip VERSION: Release 1 Surprisingly, the game's subtitle, "an Interactive Misdirection", is true enough. But this game offers additional err... misdirection. Well, the problem is -- you don't know who you really are until the very end. But that's the main idea (or call it the feature) of the game. "The Weapon" is strongly related to the outstanding game "Spider and Web" by Andrew Plotkin. Both games are heavily puzzle-oriented, but more than that -- they both have a lot of gadgetry in their puzzles, and you must work out how to use that gadgetry. I'm happy to add that the puzzles exist not just for sake of themselves -- they are based on the plot. In addition, both games' PCs know more than the player; you must explore not only surrounding world, but also yourself. Or at least you must care about what PC says. But there is a problem in "The Weapon" -- to follow the hints that reveal the PC, you must pay close attention to those hints. Strangely, the puzzles distract you from that, and I personally was not able to identify myself with the PC, because it was not far enough from a simple, boring cardboard stereotype. That's OK in most IF games, those with simple plots or those that are puzzle based (take "The Mulldoon Legacy" by Jon Ingold for example), but, as I noted above, after all "The Weapon" is a story with heavy plot, based on puzzles and self-discovery. "The Weapon" features the "most appropriate" conversation system: you type "talk" (or just "t") and the PC considers the current situation and says (in fact, more often just replies) what he/she thinks the most appropriate answer is. Ian Finley (and before that Adam Cadre in "Shrapnel") used this very technique in his game "Kaged". I found the effect weak then, but unlike "Kaged", in "The Weapon" there are several reasons why the author chose to use this conversation system. First, I think it's impossible (or very hard) to explain to the player "what's going on" in the game, since the PC is so far ahead of the player right from the start. Well, there _are_ alternative ways to show what's going on, but I don't think that cut-scenes or self-dialogues are more elegant methods for expressing the PC's thoughts. Second, as the author said, "you never need to TALK to win the game", but you need to in order to understand the story. Third, you can ask NPCs for things and order them to do things in the usual way, i.e. "Cheryl, open the door" or "ask Tom for a knife". Fourth, the PC's remarks are quite terse and seldom go very far from the NPC's questions -- and that lessens the "PC commands player" effect. Puzzles in the game are logical and mostly fair. But -- you can't solve some of them without seeing the death messages first. That's not very good, but with modern "UNDO" techniques you can reach the end of the game without much trouble. Overall, the majority of the puzzles are quite easy, because you can't do a lot in any particular moment of time, and that's good -- I was able to concentrate on the current puzzle for a long time. But there are no red herrings (well, the scenery "window" doesn't count), and I think that's bad -- red herrings add not only challenge for the player, but also a time to think about the situation aside from its puzzles. On the other hand, all the puzzles are well thought-out and sufficiently beta-tested. There are a lot of messages for the wrong moves of puzzle solving, and no technical bugs, as far as I can tell. To help you in puzzle solving, the author has added built-in hints. They consist of many levels (i.e. each puzzle has about 15 hints) and are well thought-out. But not everyone loves built-in hints -- they are far too easily accessible (I mean, you don't need even to connect to Internet) to prevent their use. There is only one NPC in "The Weapon", I think. But as in "Spider and Web", she is your enemy and you're trying to outsmart her. The NPC is fairly well implemented, but has little dynamism. She is not cardboard, but you can easily confuse her with it. The writing in the game was not easy for my lame English (I hope you don't forget that I'm Russian.) -- it was too heavy and had a lot of specific to science words. I was able to fully understand the story only after my fourth time reading one particular sentence -- a really rare situation for me. My English is lame, as I said -- let it not distract you from the game. But do note that. Also, the game supplies a newspaper -- the usual newspaper that describes recent news [events]. It helps to set the mood for the game. Overall, "The Weapon" is well implemented and has some good puzzles, but it is not _long_ enough to suck players into the game, I fear. The story is good and made me think about it after I finished the game. I almost forgot to say: "The Weapon" is a one room game. It is placed in the very far future and centers around the space war (or around post war events) with aliens (there are no laughs, it's serious). Not that this plot was never implemented before, but it's not bad for such a short story. This game is worth a look. SCORE: Atmosphere: 1.3 (not enough mind sucking) Game-play: 1.6 (mostly fair, but nothing outstanding) Writing: 1.2 (good, but not great -- for me) Plot: 1.3 (quite novel, but short) Wildcard: 1.4 (for gadgetry oriented puzzles; sci-fi story) Total: 6.8 (not bad) Characters: 1.1 (not very deep) Puzzles: 1.4 (good enough) =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: Duncan Stevens I don't think a definitive taxonomy of IF puzzles has been written, but there have been gestures in that direction, and one of the better ones is in the recently released fourth edition of the Inform Designer's Manual. Graham Nelson doesn't so much describe the essence of good puzzles -- for the sensible reason, I suspect, that there's no unifying thread that distinguishes good puzzles -- as point out some of the more tiresome themes in puzzle creation (as well as some underexplored puzzle models). The themes are instantly recognizable to the seasoned IF player: Get-X-Use-X, locked-door (including variants involving guardians who want a particular object), maze, light-source, capacity-and-exhaustion, etc. It's probably an oversimplification to say that good puzzles are those that don't fit into the familiar categories, but I do think it's true that, for a puzzle to be genuinely memorable, it either needs to be outside the canon altogether or be a truly novel spin on the usual patterns. The puzzles in The Weapon are of both varieties, and for that reason they're, for the most part, satisfying to solve. You're in the middle of a war against an alien race, with a third race peripherally involved, and you're helping a superior officer figure out how to use a mysterious weapon -- except "helping" isn't quite the word, because you're interested in figuring out the weapon but not entirely interested in enabling the officer to succeed. Accordingly, the task is both to decipher the gadgetry and to mislead and misdirect the officer looking over your shoulder. Gadgetry-deciphering is a pretty familiar puzzle trope, but not with this sort of spin -- and, better, the tricks you come up with make sense, for the most part, and change to fit the situation. The gadgetry itself isn't particularly exciting, really, but the nature of the challenge demands some creative thinking -- how do you vary the tricks and misdirections to avoid going to the same well too many times, for instance? There are a few flies in the ointment. The puzzles aren't easy, and while for the most part they're logical, they also depend to some extent on visualization of things that aren't quite as well described as they could be. In other words, the puzzles make perfect sense if you visualize some key objects the way the author does -- but you might not, and the descriptions are a little too sparse to clue you in that you should be seeing the objects in question another way. There's a comprehensive hint system, to be sure, which helps fill in the gaps, but it's something of a drag to wrestle with puzzles and find, when you give up, that the solution was something that never crossed your mind because you "saw" the scene the wrong way. Another puzzle, while reasonably logical, suffers from guess-the-verb problems, and in several cases the game doesn't acknowledge guesses that are on the right track. These aren't mortal sins, though, and I'm willing to put up with some design flaws for the sake of some original ideas. The main NPC -- the officer -- is also well rendered; most of the puzzles hinge on observing her behavior or guessing at her reactions, and for the most part she functions logically. The relationship between the protagonist and the NPC isn't quite as well described and leaves a lot of questions unanswered -- why does the officer choose someone whom she clearly doesn't trust? Why does she seem to trust you at some times -- letting seemingly interesting developments pass with no comment -- but not at others? Still, most of the problems are relatively minor, and a little imagination can fill in the gaps, I suppose. There's also an interesting twist at one point that forces the player to reassess everything that's come before -- though the twist might have worked better if another recent game hadn't done something extremely similar. The best way to describe The Weapon, I think, is that the seams don't often show: library responses are rare, descriptions and logical responses are in ample supply, and most aspects of the game appear to have been thought through, quibbles about visualization aside. The HTMLized feelies enhance the feeling of professionalism, though there isn't a lot to them; they're not as slickly done as Infocom's feelies, but they're well designed and suggest that the author took more than the usual pains to set the scene. The puzzles may not be everyone's cup of tea, but on the whole it's likely that the player will be reacting to the puzzles themselves (and to the concept), not to inadequate implementation thereof. Admittedly, it's not a long game -- four puzzles, by my count, and I did find some flaws even in those four puzzles -- but the flaws aren't fundamental tragic flaws, and many probably wouldn't consider them flaws at all (or wouldn't encounter the same problems). The writing, similarly, is unspectacular but effective -- it's strictly functional, doesn't try for splashy effects or clever dialogue, and never gets in the way of the game. The experience is rarely spectacular but almost never outright disappointing. The Weapon is intelligently done, and done with care; it may not set the IF world on fire, but it doesn't do much wrong. 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.ifarchive.org IF-archive or on the SPAG web page at http://www.sparkynet.com/spag. Note that starting with this issue, the GMD code has been replaced with ARC. Name Avg Sc Chr Puz # Sc Issue Notes: ==== ====== === === ==== ===== ====== 1-2-3... 4.1 0.9 0.5 3 23 F_INF_ARC 9:05 6.4 0.7 0.6 9 20 F_INF_ARC Aayela 7.4 1.2 1.5 5 10 F_TAD_ARC Abbey 6.8 0.6 1.4 1 24 S10_I_ARC Above and Beyond 7.3 1.5 1.6 5 24 F_TAD_ARC Acid Whiplash 5.1 0.6 0.2 4 17 F_INF_ARC Acorn Court 6.1 0.5 1.5 2 12 F_INF_ARC Ad Verbum 7.4 0.9 1.7 3 23 F_INF_ARC Adv. of Elizabeth Hig 3.1 0.5 0.3 2 5 F_AGT_ARC Adventure (all varian 6.0 0.5 1.1 13 8,22 F_ETC_ARC Adventureland 4.4 0.5 1.1 6 F_INF_ARC Adventures of Helpful 7.0 1.3 0.9 2 F_TAD_ARC Aftermath 4.0 0.7 0.7 1 F_TAD_ARC Afternoon Visit 4.1 1.0 0.8 1 F_AGT Aisle 6.8 1.4 0.3 10 18 F_INF_ARC Alien Abduction? 7.5 1.3 1.4 5 10, 26 F_TAD_ARC All Alone 8.2 1.3 0.7 2 22 F_TAD_ARC All Quiet...Library 5.0 0.9 0.9 6 7 F_INF_ARC Amnesia 6.9 1.5 1.3 4 9 C_AP_I_64 Anchorhead 8.7 1.7 1.5 28 18 F_INF_ARC And The Waves... 7.9 1.5 1.1 2 23 F_INF_ARC Another...No Beer 2.4 0.2 0.8 2 4 S10_I_ARC Arrival 7.9 1.3 1.4 5 17 F_TAD_ARC Arthur: Excalibur 8.0 1.3 1.6 44,14,22 C_INF Asendent 1.7 0.0 0.3 1 F_INF_ARC At Wit's End 7.1 1.2 1.3 1 23 F_TAD_ARC Augmented Fourth 7.9 1.2 1.6 7 22 F_INF_ARC Aunt Nancy's House 1.3 0.1 0.0 2 F_INF_ARC Awakened 7.7 1.7 1.6 1 Awakening 5.6 0.9 1.1 2 15,18 F_INF_ARC Awe-Chasm 3.0 0.7 0.7 2 8 S_I_ST_ARC Babel 8.4 1.7 1.3 10 13 F_INF_ARC Balances 6.6 0.7 1.2 9 6 F_INF_ARC Ballyhoo 7.3 1.5 1.5 6 4 C_INF Bear's Night Out 7.3 1.1 1.3 7 13 F_INF_ARC Beat The Devil 5.5 1.2 1.1 4 19 F_INF_ARC Being Andrew Plotkin 7.5 1.5 1.1 2 23 F_INF_ARC Best Man 5.2 0.8 1.2 2 F_INF_ARC Beyond the Tesseract 3.7 0.1 0.6 1 6 F_I_ARC Beyond Zork 7.7 1.5 1.7 10 5, 14 C_INF Big Mama 5.4 1.2 0.6 3 23 F_INF_ARC BJ Drifter 6.5 1.2 1.2 5 15 F_INF_ARC Bliss 6.3 1.1 0.8 4 20 F_TAD_ARC Bloodline 7.7 1.4 1.1 2 15 F_INF_ARC Border Zone 7.2 1.4 1.4 7 4 C_INF Breakers 7.5 1.5 1.1 1 C_I_AP_M_64_S Break-In 6.1 1.1 1.4 3 21 F_INF_ARC Breaking The Code 0.4 0.0 0.0 2 F_INF_ARC Brimstone: The Dream. 6.5 1.4 1.1 1 C_I_AP_M_64_S Broken String 3.9 0.7 0.4 4 F_TADS_ARC BSE 5.7 0.9 1.0 3 F_INF_ARC Bureaucracy 6.9 1.5 1.4 12 5 C_INF Busted 5.1 1.1 0.9 2 25 F_INF_ARC Calliope 4.7 0.9 0.8 3 F_INF_ARC Cask 1.5 0.0 0.5 2 F_INF_ARC Castaway 1.1 0.0 0.4 1 5 F_I_ARC Castle Amnos 4.6 1.0 0.8 2 F_INF_ARC Castle Elsinore 4.3 0.7 1.0 2 I_ARC Cattus Atrox 4.9 1.2 0.8 1 17 F_INF_ARC CC 4.2 0.4 1.0 1 F_ALAN_ARC Change in the Weather 7.5 1.0 1.3 14 7,8,14 F_INF_ARC Chaos 5.6 1.3 1.1 2 F_TAD_ARC Chicken under Window 6.6 0.8 0.3 4 F_INF_ARC Chicks Dig Jerks 5.2 1.1 0.7 9 19 F_INF_ARC Chico and I Ran 7.2 1.7 1.1 1 F_INF_ARC Christminster 8.3 1.6 1.6 21 20 F_INF_ARC Circus 3.4 0.5 0.8 1 City 6.1 0.6 1.3 2 17 F_INF_ARC Clock 3.7 0.8 0.6 1 F_TAD_ARC Coke Is It! 5.6 1.0 0.9 3 F_INF_ARC Coming Home 0.6 0.1 0.1 1 F_INF_ARC Common Ground 7.1 1.6 0.3 3 20 F_TAD_ARC Commute 1.3 0.2 0.1 1 F_I_ARC Comp00ter Game 0.9 0.1 0.1 1 F_INF_ARC Congratulations! 2.6 0.7 0.3 1 F_INF_ARC Corruption 7.2 1.6 1.0 4 14, 21 C_MAG Cosmoserve 7.8 1.4 1.4 5 5 F_AGT_ARC Cove 6.5 0.8 0.7 4 22 F_INF_ARC Crimson Spring 6.9 1.5 1.2 1 F_HUG_ARC Crypt v2.0 5.0 1.0 1.5 1 3 S12_IBM_ARC Curses 8.0 1.2 1.7 20 2, 22 F_INF_ARC Cutthroats 5.7 1.3 1.1 9 1 C_INF Dampcamp 5.0 0.8 1.1 3 F_TAD_ARC Danger! Adventurer... 3.2 0.3 0.7 1 F_INF_ARC Dangerous Curves 8.6 1.5 1.6 1 24 F_INF_ARC Day For Soft Food 6.8 1.0 1.3 5 19 F_INF_ARC Deadline 6.9 1.3 1.3 9 20 C_INF Death To My Enemies 4.4 0.9 0.7 4 F_INF_ARC Deep Space Drifter 5.6 0.4 1.1 3 3 S15_TAD_ARC Deephome 4.0 0.5 0.9 2 21 F_INF_ARC Degeneracy 8.7 1.5 1.3 1 25 F_INF_ARC Delusions 7.9 1.5 1.5 5 14 F_INF_ARC Demon's Tomb 7.4 1.2 1.1 2 9 C_I Desert Heat 6.0 1.3 0.7 1 23 F_TAD_ARC Detective 1.0 0.0 0.0 9 4,5,18 F_AGT_INF_ARC Detective-MST3K 6.0 1.2 0.2 10 7,8,18 F_INF_ARC Dinner With Andre 7.2 1.6 1.4 1 23 F_INF_ARC Ditch Day Drifter 6.3 0.9 1.6 5 2 F_TAD_ARC Djinni Chronicles 7.1 1.1 1.1 3 23 F_INF_ARC Down 6.0 1.0 1.2 1 14 F_HUG_ARC Downtown Tokyo 6.1 0.9 1.0 6 17 F_INF_ARC Dungeon 6.2 1.0 1.6 3 F_ARC 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_ARC Edifice 8.0 1.4 1.8 10 13 F_INF_ARC Electrabot 0.7 0.0 0.0 1 5 F_AGT_ARC E-Mailbox 3.1 0.1 0.2 2 F_AGT_ARC Emy Discovers Life 5.0 1.1 0.8 3 F_AGT Enchanter 7.3 1.1 1.5 10 2,15 C_INF End Means Escape 6.1 1.4 1.1 1 23 F_TAD_ARC Enhanced 5.0 1.0 1.3 2 2 S10_TAD_ARC Enlightenment 6.5 1.1 1.5 3 17 F_INF_ARC Erehwon 6.2 1.2 1.5 4 19 F_TAD_ARC Eric the Unready 7.4 1.4 1.4 6 C_I Essex 5.7 1.2 0.9 1 C_I_AP_M_64_ST Everybody Loves a Par 7.0 1.2 1.2 3 12 F_TAD_ARC Exhibition 6.2 1.4 0.3 6 19 F_TAD_ARC Fable 2.0 0.1 0.1 3 6 F_AGT_ARC Fable-MST3K 4.0 0.5 0.2 4 F_AGT_INF_ARC Fear 6.3 1.2 1.3 3 10, 24 F_INF_ARC Fifteen 1.5 0.5 0.4 1 17 F_INF_ARC Firebird 7.1 1.5 1.3 4 15 F_TAD_ARC Fish 7.5 1.3 1.7 4 12, 14 C_MAG Foggywood Hijinx 6.2 1.2 1.3 3 21 F_TAD_ARC Foom 6.6 1.0 1.0 1 F_TAD_ARC For A Change 8.0 0.9 1.3 6 19, 22 F_INF_ARC Forbidden Castle 4.8 0.6 0.5 1 C_AP Four In One 4.4 1.2 0.5 2 F_TAD_ARC Four Seconds 6.0 1.2 1.1 2 F_TAD_ARC Frenetic Five 5.3 1.4 0.5 3 13 F_TAD_ARC Frenetic Five 2 6.6 1.5 1.0 3 21, 22 F_TAD_ARC Friday Afternoon 6.3 1.4 1.2 1 13 F_INF_ARC Frobozz Magic Support 7.2 1.2 1.5 3 F_TAD_ARC Frozen 5.5 0.7 1.3 1 F_INF_ARC Frustration 5.7 1.1 0.9 1 21 F_TAD_ARC Futz Mutz 5.3 1.0 1.1 1 F_TAD_ARC Galatea 8.1 1.9 0.9 4 22 F_INF_ARC Gateway 8.6 1.4 1.8 7 11 C_I Gateway 2: Homeworld 9.0 1.7 1.9 6 24 C_I Gerbil Riot of '67 6.3 0.7 1.1 1 F_TAD_ARC Glowgrass 6.9 1.3 1.3 5 13 F_INF_ARC Gnome Ranger 5.8 1.2 1.6 1 C_I Golden Fleece 6.0 1.0 1.1 1 21 F_TAD_ARC Golden Wombat of Dest 6.3 0.7 1.1 1 18 F_I_ARC Good Breakfast 4.9 0.9 1.2 2 14 F_INF_ARC Got ID? 6.2 1.4 1.0 1 F_INF_ARC Great Archeolog. Race 6.5 1.0 1.5 1 3 S20_TAD_ARC Guardians of Infinity 8.5 1.3 1 9 C_I Guess The Verb! 6.5 1.2 1.4 2 23 F_INF_ARC Guild of Thieves 6.9 1.2 1.5 4 14 C_MAG Guilty Bastards 6.9 1.4 1.2 5 22 F_HUG_ARC Guitar...Immortal Bar 3.0 0.0 0.0 1 F_INF_ARC Gumshoe 6.2 1.0 1.1 7 9 F_INF_ARC Halothane 6.6 1.3 1.2 4 19 F_INF_ARC Happy Ever After 4.6 0.5 1.2 1 F_INF_ARC HeBGB Horror 5.7 0.9 1.1 2 F_ALAN_ARC Heist 6.7 1.4 1.5 2 F_INF_ARC Hero, Inc. 6.8 1.0 1.5 2 F_TAD_ARC Hitchhiker's Guide 7.3 1.3 1.5 16 5 C_INF Hobbit - The True Sto 5.9 1.1 0.8 1 26 S10_I_ARC Hollywood Hijinx 6.3 0.9 1.5 12 C_INF Holy Grail 6.2 0.9 1.2 1 21 F_TAD_ARC Horror of Rylvania 7.2 1.4 1.4 5 1 F_TAD_ARC Horror30.zip 3.7 0.3 0.7 2 3 S20_I_ARC Human Resources Stori 0.9 0.0 0.1 2 17 F_INF_ARC Humbug 7.4 1.6 1.3 4 11, 24 F_I_ARC Hunter, In Darkness 7.3 0.9 1.4 7 19 F_INF_ARC I didn't know...yodel 4.0 0.7 1.0 5 17 F_I_ARC I-0: Jailbait on Inte 7.7 1.5 1.2 20 20 F_INF_ARC Ice Princess 7.5 1.4 1.6 2 A_INF_ARC In The End 4.8 0.6 0.2 3 10 F_INF_ARC In The Spotlight 3.2 0.2 1.0 2 17 F_INF_ARC Infidel 6.9 0.2 1.4 15 1 C_INF Infil-Traitor 2.9 0.1 0.7 1 F_I_ARC Informatory 5.5 0.5 1.3 1 17 F_INF_ARC Ingrid's Back 7.0 1.6 1.6 2 C_I Inheritance 5.0 0.3 1.0 3 20 F_TAD_ARC Inhumane 4.4 0.3 0.9 4 9, 20 F_INF_ARC Intruder 6.7 1.3 1.1 4 20 F_INF_ARC Jacaranda Jim 7.5 1.0 0.9 3 24 F_ARC Jacks...Aces To Win 7.1 1.3 1.2 3 19 F_INF_ARC Jarod's Journey 2.5 0.5 0.3 1 F_TAD_ARC Jewel of Knowledge 6.3 1.2 1.1 3 18 F_INF_ARC Jeweled Arena 7.0 1.4 1.3 2 AGT_ARC Jigsaw 8.2 1.6 1.6 19 8,9 F_INF_ARC 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_ARC Jouney Into Xanth 5.0 1.3 1.2 1 8 F_AGT_ARC Journey 7.2 1.5 1.3 5 5 C_INF Kaged 6.8 1.0 1.0 3 23, 25 F_INF_ARC King Arthur's Night O 5.9 0.9 1.0 4 19 F_ALAN_ARC Kissing the Buddha's 7.9 1.8 1.5 6 10 F_TAD_ARC Klaustrophobia 6.4 1.1 1.3 6 1 S15_AGT_ARC Knight Orc 7.2 1.4 1.1 2 15 C_I L.U.D.I.T.E. 2.7 0.2 0.1 4 F_INF_ARC Lancelot 6.9 1.4 1.2 1 C_I Land Beyond Picket Fe 4.8 1.2 1.2 1 10 F_I_ARC LASH 7.6 1.3 1.0 5 21 F_INF_ARC Leather Goddesses 7.2 1.3 1.5 12 4 C_INF Leaves 3.4 0.2 0.8 1 14 F_ALAN_ARC Legend Lives! 8.2 1.2 1.4 4 5 F_TAD_ARC Lesson of the Tortois 6.9 1.3 1.4 5 14 F_TAD_ARC Lethe Flow Phoenix 6.9 1.4 1.5 5 9 F_TAD_ARC Letters From Home 7.0 0.6 1.2 2 F_INF_ARC Life on Beal Street 5.4 1.3 0.1 3 F_TAD_ARC Light: Shelby's Adden 7.5 1.5 1.3 6 9 S_TAD_ARC Lightiania 1.9 0.2 0.4 1 F_INF_ARC Lists and Lists 6.3 1.3 1.1 3 10 F_INF_ARC Little Billy 1.1 0.4 0.0 1 F_I_ARC Little Blue Men 8.2 1.4 1.5 10 17 F_INF_ARC Lomalow 4.6 1.0 0.6 3 19 F_INF_ARC Losing Your Grip 8.5 1.4 1.4 6 14 S20_TAD_ARC Lost New York 7.9 1.4 1.4 4 20, 26 S12_TAD_ARC Lost Spellmaker 6.1 1.3 1.1 4 13 F_INF_ARC Lunatix: Insanity Cir 5.6 1.2 1.0 3 F_I_ARC Lurking Horror 7.2 1.3 1.4 16 1,3 C_INF MacWesleyan / PC Univ 5.1 0.7 1.2 3 F_TAD_ARC Madame L'Estrange... 5.1 1.2 0.7 1 13 F_INF_ARC Magic Toyshop 5.2 1.1 1.1 5 7 F_INF_ARC Magic.zip 4.5 0.5 0.5 1 3 S20_IBM_ARC Maiden of the Moonlig 6.4 1.3 1.5 2 10 F_TAD_ARC Masque of the Last... 4.7 1.1 0.8 1 F_INF_ARC Masquerade 7.3 1.6 1.0 1 23 F_INF_ARC Matter of Time 1.4 0.3 1.4 1 14 F_ALAN_ARC Mercy 7.3 1.4 1.2 6 12 F_INF_ARC Metamorphoses 8.7 1.3 1.6 1 23 F_INF_ARC Meteor...Sherbet 8.0 1.5 1.6 9 10, 12 F_INF_ARC Mind Electric 5.2 0.6 0.9 4 7,8 F_INF_ARC Mind Forever Voyaging 8.4 1.4 1.0 14 5,15 C_INF Mindwheel 8.5 1.6 1.5 1 C_I Mission 6.0 1.2 1.4 1 21 F_TAD_ARC Moist 6.4 1.3 1.1 5 F_TAD_ARC Moment of Hope 5.0 1.3 0.3 3 19 F_TAD_ARC Moonmist 6.2 1.3 1.0 16 1 C_INF Mop & Murder 5.0 0.9 1.0 2 5 F_AGT_ARC Mother Loose 7.0 1.5 1.3 2 17 F_INF_ARC Mulldoon Legacy 7.4 1.2 1.8 1 24 F_INF_ARC Multidimen. Thief 5.6 0.5 1.3 6 2,9 S15_AGT_ARC Muse 7.9 1.5 1.2 4 17 F_INF_ARC Music Education 3.7 1.0 0.7 3 F_INF_ARC My Angel 8.2 1.8 1.4 2 23 F_INF_ARC Myopia 6.1 1.3 0.6 2 F_AGT_ARC Mystery House 4.1 0.3 0.7 1 F_AP_ARC Nevermore 7.2 1.5 1.4 1 23 F_INF_ARC New Day 6.6 1.4 1.1 4 13 F_INF_ARC Night At Computer Cen 5.2 1.0 1.0 2 F_INF_ARC Night at Museum Forev 4.2 0.3 1.0 4 7,8 F_TAD_ARC Night of... Bunnies 6.6 1.0 1.4 1 I_INF_ARC Nord and Bert 6.1 0.6 1.2 9 4 C_INF Not Just A Game 6.9 1.0 1.3 1 20 F_INF_ARC Not Just... Ballerina 5.3 0.8 0.9 3 20 F_INF_ARC Obscene...Aardvarkbar 3.2 0.6 0.6 1 F_TAD_ARC Odieus...Flingshot 3.3 0.4 0.7 2 5 F_INF_ARC Of Forms Unknown 4.5 0.7 0.5 1 10 F_INF_ARC Offensive Probing 4.2 0.6 0.9 1 F_INF_ARC On The Farm 6.5 1.6 1.2 2 19 F_TAD_ARC On The Other Side 2.2 0.0 0.0 1 F_I_ARC Once and Future 6.9 1.6 1.5 2 16 F_TAD_ARC One That Got Away 6.4 1.4 1.1 7 7,8 F_TAD_ARC Only After Dark 4.6 0.8 0.6 4 F_INF_ARC Oo-Topos 5.7 0.2 1.0 1 9 C_AP_I_64 Outsided 2.5 0.7 0.2 2 F_INF_ARC Pass the Banana 2.9 0.8 0.5 3 19 F_INF_ARC Path to Fortune 6.6 1.5 0.9 3 9 S_INF_ARC Pawn 6.3 1.1 1.3 2 12 C_MAG Perilous Magic 6.0 1.1 1.3 2 21 F_INF_ARC Perseus & Andromeda 3.5 0.4 0.9 2 64_INF_ARC Persistence of Memory 6.2 1.2 1.1 1 17 F_HUG_ARC Phlegm 5.2 1.2 1.0 2 10 F_INF_ARC Photopia 7.4 1.5 0.7 27 17 F_INF_ARC Phred Phontious...Piz 5.2 0.9 1.3 2 13 F_INF_ARC Pickpocket 4.1 0.6 0.8 1 F_INF_ARC Piece of Mind 6.3 1.3 1.4 1 10 F_INF_ARC Pintown 1.3 0.3 0.2 1 F_INF_ARC Pirate's Cove 4.8 0.6 0.6 1 F_INF_ARC Planet of Infinite Mi 6.8 1.1 1.3 1 23 F_TAD_ARC Planetfall 7.3 1.6 1.4 13 4 C_INF Plant 7.3 1.2 1.5 4 17 F_TAD_ARC Plundered Hearts 7.4 1.4 1.3 11 4 C_INF Poor Zefron's Almanac 5.6 1.0 1.3 3 13 F_TAD_ARC Portal 8.0 1.7 0.2 3 C_I_A_AP_64 Prodly The Puffin 5.8 1.3 1.1 2 23 F_INF_ARC Punk Points 6.4 1.4 1.3 1 F_INF_ARC Purple 5.6 0.9 1.0 1 17 F_INF_ARC Pyramids of Mars 5.8 1.2 1.1 2 24 AGT_ARC Quarterstaff 6.1 1.3 0.6 1 9 C_M Ralph 7.1 1.6 1.2 3 10, 25 F_INF_ARC Rameses 8.0 1.6 0.4 2 23 F_INF_ARC Rematch 7.9 1.5 1.6 1 22 F_TAD_ARC Remembrance 2.7 0.8 0.2 3 F_ARC Reruns 5.2 1.2 1.2 1 AGT_ARC Research Dig 4.8 1.1 0.8 2 17 F_INF_ARC Revenger 4.2 0.8 0.5 1 F_INF_ARC Reverberations 5.6 1.3 1.1 1 10 F_INF_ARC Ritual of Purificatio 7.0 1.6 1.1 4 17 F_ARC Saied 4.6 1.0 0.2 1 15 F_INF_ARC Sanity Claus 7.5 0.3 0.6 2 1 S10_AGT_ARC Save Princeton 5.6 1.0 1.3 5 8 S10_TAD_ARC Scapeghost 8.1 1.7 1.5 1 6 C_I Sea Of Night 5.7 1.3 1.1 2 F_TAD_ARC Seastalker 5.2 1.1 0.8 11 4 C_INF Shade 8.5 0.7 1.0 2 23 F_INF_ARC Shades of Grey 7.8 1.3 1.3 6 2, 8 F_AGT_ARC 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_ARC Shogun 7.0 1.2 0.6 2 4 C_INF Shrapnel 7.1 1.3 0.5 6 20 F_INF_ARC Simple Theft 5.8 1.3 0.8 1 20 F_TAD_ARC Sins against Mimesis 5.5 1.0 1.2 3 13 F_INF_ARC Sir Ramic... Gorilla 6.0 1.2 1.2 2 6 F_AGT_ARC Six Stories 6.3 1.0 1.2 4 19 F_TAD_ARC Skyranch 2.8 0.5 0.7 1 20 F_I_ARC Small World 6.2 1.3 1.1 3 10, 24 F_TAD_ARC So Far 8.0 1.1 1.4 13 12, 25 F_INF_ARC Sorcerer 7.2 0.6 1.6 7 2,15 C_INF Sound of... Clapping 7.1 1.3 1.3 8 5 F_ADVSYS_ARC South American Trek 0.9 0.2 0.5 1 5 F_IBM_ARC Space Aliens...Cardig 1.5 0.4 0.3 6 3, 4 S60_AGT_ARC Space under Window 7.1 0.9 0.4 6 12 F_INF_ARC Spacestation 5.6 0.7 1.1 1 F_INF_ARC Spellbreaker 8.5 1.2 1.8 8 2,15 C_INF Spellcasting 101 7.4 1.1 1.5 4 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 8.6 1.7 1.7 18 14 F_INF_ARC SpiritWrak 6.7 1.2 1.3 6 22 F_INF_ARC Spodgeville...Wossnam 4.3 0.7 1.2 2 F_INF_ARC Spur 7.1 1.3 1.1 2 9 F_HUG_ARC Spyder and Jeb 6.2 1.1 1.4 1 F_TAD_ARC Starcross 6.6 1.0 1.2 7 1 C_INF Stargazer 5.4 1.1 1.1 1 F_INF_ARC Stationfall 7.7 1.6 1.5 7 5 C_INF Statuette 3.7 0.0 0.1 1 F_INF_ARC Stiffy 0.6 0.0 0.0 1 F_INF_ARC Stiffy - MiSTing 4.4 1.0 0.4 6 F_INF_ARC Stone Cell 6.0 1.1 1.0 3 19 F_TAD_ARC Stranded 6.4 1.4 1.5 1 F_TAD_ARC Strange Odyssey 4.0 0.0 1.0 1 Strangers In The Nigh 3.2 0.7 0.6 2 F_TAD_ARC Stupid Kittens 2.9 0.6 0.4 2 F_INF_ARC Sunset Over Savannah 8.7 1.7 1.4 6 13 F_TAD_ARC Suspect 6.2 1.3 1.1 8 4 C_INF Suspended 7.7 1.5 1.4 8 8 C_INF Sylenius Mysterium 4.7 1.2 1.1 1 13 F_INF_ARC Symetry 1.1 0.1 0.1 2 F_INF_ARC Tapestry 7.1 1.4 0.9 5 10, 14 F_INF_ARC Tempest 5.3 1.4 0.6 3 13 F_INF_ARC Temple of the Orc Mag 4.5 0.1 0.8 2 F_TAD_ARC Terror of Mecha Godzi 4.6 0.8 0.6 1 26 S10_I_ARC Textfire Golf 7.1 1.3 0.4 2 25 F_INF_ARC Theatre 7.0 1.1 1.3 13 6 F_INF_ARC Thorfinn's Realm 3.5 0.5 0.7 2 F_INF_ARC Threading the Labyrin 1.9 0.0 0.0 1 F_TAD_ARC Time: All Things... 3.9 1.2 0.9 2 11, 12 F_INF_ARC TimeQuest 8.0 1.2 1.6 4 C_I TimeSquared 4.3 1.1 1.1 1 F_AGT_ARC Toonesia 5.8 1.1 1.1 6 7, 21 F_TAD_ARC Tossed into Space 3.9 0.2 0.6 1 4 F_AGT_ARC Town Dragon 3.9 0.8 0.3 2 14, 22 F_INF_ARC Transfer 7.6 1.0 1.6 2 23 F_INF_ARC Trapped...Dilly 5.1 0.1 1.1 2 17 F_INF_ARC Travels in Land of Er 6.1 1.2 1.5 2 14 F_INF_ARC Trinity 8.7 1.4 1.7 18 1,2 C_INF Trip 5.4 1.2 1.1 2 F_TAD_ARC Tryst of Fate 7.1 1.4 1.3 1 11 F_INF_ARC Tube Trouble 4.2 0.8 0.7 2 8 F_INF_ARC Tyler's Great Cube Ga 5.8 0.0 1.7 1 S_TAD_ARC Uncle Zebulon's Will 7.3 1.0 1.5 12 8 F_TAD_ARC Underoos That Ate NY 4.5 0.6 0.9 3 F_TAD_INF_ARC Undertow 5.4 1.3 0.9 3 8 F_TAD_ARC Undo 2.9 0.5 0.7 4 7 F_TAD_ARC Unholy Grail 6.0 1.2 1.2 1 13 F_I_ARC Unnkulian One-Half 6.7 1.2 1.5 9 1 F_TAD_ARC Unnkulian Unventure 1 6.9 1.2 1.5 8 1,2 F_TAD_ARC Unnkulian Unventure 2 7.2 1.2 1.5 5 1 F_TAD_ARC Unnkulian Zero 8.4 0.7 0.8 21,12,14 F_TAD_ARC Varicella 8.2 1.6 1.5 9 18 F_INF_ARC Veritas 6.6 1.3 1.4 4 S10_TAD_ARC Vindaloo 2.9 0.0 0.4 1 F_INF_ARC VirtuaTech 6.1 0.0 1.2 1 F_TAD_ARC VOID: Corporation 3.2 0.4 0.8 1 F_AGT_ARC Water Bird 5.0 1.1 0.8 1 F_TAD_ARC Waystation 5.5 0.7 1.0 4 9 F_TAD_ARC Weapon 6.8 1.1 1.4 1 26 F_INF_ARC Wearing the Claw 6.5 1.2 1.2 7 10, 18 F_INF_ARC Wedding 7.4 1.6 1.3 3 12 F_INF_ARC What-IF? 1.6 0.0 0.0 2 F_INF_ARC Where Evil Dwells 5.1 0.8 1.1 1 F_INF_ARC Winchester's Nightmar 6.9 1.5 0.5 1 22 F_INF_ARC Winter Wonderland 7.6 1.3 1.2 7 19 F_INF_ARC Wishbringer 7.6 1.3 1.3 16 5,6 C_INF Withdrawal Symptoms 4.4 0.5 0.7 1 F_INF_ARC Witness 6.7 1.5 1.2 10 1,3,9 C_INF Wizard of Akyrz 3.2 0.3 0.8 1 Wonderland 6.4 1.4 1.1 3 C_MAG World 6.5 0.6 1.3 2 4 F_I_ETC_ARC Worlds Apart 7.8 1.7 1.4 9 21 F_TAD_ARC YAGWAD 6.7 1.1 1.3 2 23 F_INF_ARC Your Choice 5.5 0.0 1.1 1 F_TAD_ARC Zanfar 2.6 0.2 0.4 1 8 F_AGT_ARC Zero Sum Game 7.2 1.5 1.5 3 13 F_INF_ARC Zombie! 5.2 1.2 1.1 2 13 F_TAD_ARC Zork 0 6.3 1.0 1.5 10 14 C_INF Zork 1 6.1 0.8 1.4 24 1, 12 C_INF Zork 2 6.4 1.0 1.5 13 1, 12 C_INF Zork 3 6.5 0.9 1.4 8 1, 12 C_INF Zork Undisc. Undergr. 5.9 0.9 1.1 3 14 F_INF_ARC Zork: A Troll's Eye V 4.4 0.6 0.1 3 14 F_INF_ARC Zuni Doll 4.0 0.6 0.9 2 14 F_INF_ARC -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- 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. A less-than-impressive 32 ratings have been submitted since the last issue, leaving me to wonder aloud whether the scoreboard has outlived its usefulness. Movement in the top ten has been subtle, but extant: Anchorhead slips two slots to number 4, while Spider and Web has gotten a leg up on Gateway and Losing Your Grip. 1. Gateway 2: Homeworld 9.0 6 votes 2. Sunset over Savannah 8.7 6 votes 3. Trinity 8.7 18 votes 4. Anchorhead 8.7 28 votes 5. Spider and Web 8.6 18 votes 6. Gateway 8.6 7 votes 7. Losing Your Grip 8.5 6 votes 8. Spellbreaker 8.5 8 votes 9. Babel 8.4 10 votes 10. Mind Forever Voyaging 8.4 14 votes As always, please remember that the scoreboard is only as good as the contributions it receives. 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 the IF Archive and from 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. Any and all text-based games are eligible for review, though if a game has been reviewed three times in SPAG, no further reviews of it will be accepted unless they are extraordinarily original and/or insightful. SPAG reviews should be free of spoilers. 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. For a more detailed version of this policy, see the SPAG FAQ at http://www.sparkynet.com/spag/spag.faq. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive!
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