___. .___ _ ___. / _| | \ / \ / ._| \ \ | o_/ | | | |_. .\ \ | | | o | | | | The |___/ociety for the |_|romotion of |_|_|dventure \___|ames. ISSUE #41 Edited by Paul O'Brian (obrian SP@G colorado.edu) July 15, 2005 SPAG Website: http://www.sparkynet.com/spag SPAG #41 is copyright (c) 2005 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. REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE ----------------------------------------------------- Bolivia By Night Catseye Conan Kill Everything The Dreamhold Façade The Fire Tower Heist Moonglow Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots Wumpus 2000 EDITORIAL------------------------------------------------------------------ Way back in 1999, Magnus Olsson asked me if I'd like to take his place as the editor of SPAG. I was honored and flattered to be asked, and after some consideration, I accepted. Since that time, for the six years and 24 issues that followed, I've done my best to make SPAG a worthwhile contribution to the IF community. I hope the reviews and articles collected herein have been enlightening, or at least entertaining. I've certainly had a lot of fun producing the zine. You can probably guess what I'm heading towards here. A lot has changed in the IF community and in my life over the past six years, and I find that I no longer have the time, energy, and enthusiasm to devote to IF that I once did. Given that my son Dante was born just last month, somehow I don't see a lot of spare time in my immediate future, either! So I've decided to step down as editor of SPAG. Fear not, however! The torch has been passed, and the zine will live on in the capable hands of its new editor, Jimmy Maher! You may recognize Jimmy's name as the author of Filfre, a nifty new z-code interpreter (see this issue's news section.) Or perhaps you know him from the fine SPAG reviews he's written, including this issue's eloquent evaluation of Wumpus 2000. Hey, you might not even recognize his name at all, but rest assured, you'll get to know him well. I have a feeling he's in for a prosperous tenure, so please welcome him if you get a chance. As for me, I'll be around. Who knows, I might even submit a review now and then! In the meantime, thank you for helping to keep text adventures alive. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR------------------------------------------------------ From: Richard Otter
I notice that your list of 'New Releases' never seems to include Adrift games. [That's not entirely true, Richard. See, for example, SPAG 37, where the list includes "Curse of the Dragon Shrine". What is true (as I say at http://sparkynet.com/spag/newreleases.html) is that the SPAG New Releases Shelf consists of those games announced on the rec.*.int-fiction newsgroups. I'd encourage ADRIFT authors (for that matter, all authors) to post new game announcements on these newsgroups, particularly rec.games.int-fiction, since that will publicize their games to a wider audience -- one that includes me. (Or rather, one that includes Jimmy, since I won't be writing the new games section of upcoming issues.) --Paul] =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: Peter Hipson Funny what you find on the Internet that is not expected. Though I am sure you have been told the history of Adventure from IBM, here are a few things that may not be well known: 1. Adventure was written to test and develop relational database techniques on IBM mainframe computers. It was written in Fortran. 2. The game was so successful that it was ported to PL/I (though the port was poorly done by today's standards). I worked on the PL/I version, including extending the cave (many limits had been hardcoded in the software that needed fixing!) Some of this work was done at AIT (in Bangkok) with the support of IBM. 3. The game was first ported to microcomputers around 1980. We did our first port to UCSD Pascal on the Apple II. (That port was from PL/I, and we had students retype the entire program as there were no ways to transfer data between the computers -- before microcomputer networks!) 4. I hated Pascal. I next ported it to C, on the IBM PC. Along the way, the Basic version was born, from many different sources, including (so I understand) Apple. 5. Some years later, I did a partial port to C++. This port was not finished properly, but maybe some day... If anyone is interested in the C code, I think it is still on one of my servers. I could be convinced to post it... [Nifty! If anybody's interested in discussing this letter, I suggest rec.games.int-fiction as the forum, since SPAG isn't published frequently enough to support an ongoing discussion. (Man, I'm really shilling rgif today, aren't I?) Also, Adventure/Colossal Cave enthusiasts really ought to check out Rick Adams' excellent page at http://www.rickadams.org/adventure/. --Paul] =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "El Clérigo Urbatain" First of all, sorry by my bad english ;) As all you know my last interview was made by a translator in the middle, so here it is my real bad writing. I write you to make two add on to the interview, one about my non partial opinions about the spanish IF community history, of course I one thinking person and my thought are mine, and are very partial. When I said that the gold era of PAW spanish IF was a mesh, I must admit that was at the end, when all collapses, 8 bits died, advetures died, and all fanzines was falling apart, with bad issues or issues with old info, articles, and such. However the gold PAW era give us nearly hundreds of PAW games, and a lot of really good DOS PC games, so thats not bad at all. And I must to add context to my egocentric phrase "I'm the Stanley Kubrick of the adventure", I must add in the sense that Stanley prefer to "interpreter" good stories of other people than make his own ones. I'll never thought in compare my skill with such master, but I love to interpreter and make my own version or "parserize" a story into an adventure. And so, I hope you enjoy the remake of Dracula I'm nearly uploading on the net for your enjoy. See you! [Thanks for the clarifications, Ruben. --Paul] NEWS ---------------------------------------------------------------------- NEW GAMES We've got a healthy crop of new IF to peruse this summer, from the tiny to the honkin' huge. Highlights include a joyous smashfest (reviewed by William McDuff in this issue), an intriguing puzzle game with a theological bent, a text-adventure prequel to an as-yet-unproduced amateur graphic Zork game, and sizable opus on the order of Curses. Capping the batch is Façade, the culmination of a five-year research project into interactive storytelling -- check out Nick Montfort's review in this issue. * Mini-Adventure demo games by Jon Ripley * Conan Kill Everything by Ian Haberkorn * Creepy Mansion by Kevin Lyons * All Hope Abandon by Eric Eve * Dawn Of The Demon by Paul Drallos * Finding Martin by Gayla Wennstrom * Façade by Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern NOT NEW GAMES Andrew Plotkin does right by his old games. He originally wrote Inhumane in Applesoft BASIC, and then years later ported it to Inform. He released System's Twilight as freeware even while shareware registrations were still coming in for it. Now he's done it again with Praser 5, also known as Fifth Praser Maze. Zarf says that it's a "sort of logic-puzzle, word-puzzle... thing that I created in 1989." It originally lived as a collection of files on an academic file server, but he's ported it to Inform and put it on the archive. I FILFRE (I'm about to give a very very minor Enchanter spoiler, if you care about that sort of thing.) In Enchanter, the filfre spell was known to "produce gratuitous fireworks," which just so happened to display the game credits. Enchanter's invisiclues told us that the spell got its name as a corruption of "feel free," a phrase which game authors allegedly say a lot. Now, Jimmy Maher has exercised his freedom to create a different kind of fireworks: a brand new z-code interpreter known as Filfre. Some nifty things about Filfre are its integrated scrollback buffer (similar to what we find in the Mike Roberts' TADS interpreter) and the fact that double-clicking any word on the screen pastes that word into the command line. In addition, Filfre has the capability of constructing inventory and verb lists in separate panes, giving z-code games the feel of the old Legend classics. The interpreter is available at your friendly neighborhood IF archive. INFORM SCHOOL. NO, REALLY. For the past five years, the University of Michigan's Dearborn campus has offered a Computer Game Design and Implementation class, in which one of the assignments is to create an Inform IF game. Students have roughly a month in which to learn Inform and write a small game that meets a number of quality standards. Do they succeed? Well, you can judge for yourself, since all the games are posted at http://www.engin.umd.umich.edu/CIS/course.des/cis487/z5/index.php. Each one is even available to play online via Zplet, should you be reluctant to download them. If you're curious about the assignment, it's here: http://www.engin.umd.umich.edu/CIS/course.des/cis587/if-f02.html. IF AFTER DARK SPAG talks a lot about IF, but there are some parts of IF that SPAG just doesn't talk a lot about. Nevertheless, they are out there, thriving in their own ways. One of these is the AIF ("Adult Interactive Fiction", aka X-rated IF) community. Luckily, this group has a newsletter of its own, posted monthly at http://newsletter.aifcommunity.org. Obviously, this site is not suitable for children, nor for viewing at work. But if you like that sort of thing, you might well find it's the sort of thing that you like. JIMMY NEEDS YOU! It's true that I'm stepping down as editor, but SPAG must go on! I'm counting on you guys to come through for Jimmy and send him some reviews for issue 42. In case you're stumped for what games to review, here's a little list to help prompt you: SPAG 10 MOST WANTED LIST ======================== 1. All Hope Abandon 2. Dawn Of The Demon 3. 1893: A World's Fair Mystery 4. Finding Martin 5. Future Boy! 6. Mystery House Taken Over games (any, some, or all!) 7. Narcolepsy 8. Return To Ditch Day 9. Threnody 10. Whom The Telling Changed KEY TO SCORES AND REVIEWS-------------------------------------------------- Consider the following review header: TITLE: Cutthroats AUTHOR: Infocom EMAIL: ??? DATE: September 1984 PARSER: Infocom Standard SUPPORTS: Z-code (Infocom/Inform) interpreters AVAILABILITY: LTOI 2 URL: Not available. VERSION: Release 23 When submitting reviews: Try to fill in as much of this info as you can. Authors may not review their own games. REVIEWS ------------------------------------------------------------------- From: Eric Woods TITLE: Bolivia By Night AUTHOR: Aidan Doyle EMAIL: aidandoyle SP@G rushpost.com DATE: March 9, 2005 PARSER: TADS SUPPORTS: TADS interpreters AVAILABILITY: IF Archive URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/springthing/2005/bbn.gam VERSION: One Bolivia By Night is a typical mystery-based interactive fiction game and, therefore, there's nothing particularly innovative about it. You play a journalist for an English-speaking newspaper, The Bolivian Herald. Initially you find yourself in an editorial meeting where you discover that David, the head reporter, has been missing for over a week. You also get the assignment of interviewing two Bolivians with interesting jobs, a cook with a nationally televised show and a Ninja master. The game doesn't allow the story to progress until these interviews are completed. The whole game moves along in a similar fashion, giving the player only one course of action at a time. Bit by bit you discover a murder or two, the supernatural background of the motives for these murders, and the only course of action to make everything in the world right. Like I said, it's pretty typical. The author obviously had a political and moral motive in creating this game. There are many interesting geographic, historical and cultural facts about Bolivia woven through the storyline as well as some cracks on Republicans. These cracks often are presented when you touch photos of Presidents after you have been given heightened senses. The political figures making cameos in this story are the Bush boys, Margaret Thatcher, and Reagan. I found it ironic that if you choose to be American at the start of the game you find a photograph of Lincoln in your desk drawer. This is apparently a sign of admiration for Lincoln. I wonder if the author knows that Lincoln was a Republican. The game play is very smooth in Bolivia By Night. The author recommends that players use a multi-media interpreter though I didn't. I didn't notice any difficulties with making progress without those features. The author also recommends that you keep the game in verbose mode which I generally don't like. There were two points where this would have been helpful since room descriptions sometimes change when you return to them and you won't get any of the changed description upon re-entering. This was easy enough to overcome with a simple look command, though. There were some nice features in this game which I haven't seen in others. The C command gets you a list of characters with whom you have already interacted or about whom you have learned something. The a T command gets you a list of topics on which you have discovered some information. These innovations made note-taking during playing unnecessary, which I found to be very helpful. There is also a well-implemented hint file contained within the game, though the game is simple enough that a gamer with experience probably won't need it. There is an Internet café which you can enter and check your email. You get some choices as to how you can respond to these emails and the story does a good job of implementing your choice in later scenes. For example, if you decide to order the Rodriguez Twins DVD Volume III you will find it in your apartment, all packaged up, later in the game. You can collect all three DVDs throughout the game if you care to. The puzzles range from very easy to easy. Even those that border on clever are given direction through unprompted statements by your sidekick. Your sidekick, by the way, is a talking T-shirt. Again, due to the linear nature of the game, I didn't find any problem with following the storyline or deciding what I had to do next. I don't generally mind being pushed through a story but a little less of this would have suited my tastes more. By the time you've discovered the nature of the mystery, gained some super natural powers and thwarted the bad guys and their evil plot to return Bolivia back to the days when it was ruled by drug lords you'll have a clear idea of the author's motive for producing the game. It's a good notion, of course, but perhaps a little predictable. Overall I found the game enjoyable though not very engaging or memorable. Certainly it is well written with no bugs, typos, or grammatical errors if you don't include the rare preposition at the end of a sentence. There are also some points where the humor made me crack a smile. While the map able area is relatively small it does a decent job of representing Bolivia though I assume I was supposed to feel more like the people were struggling than I did. Have a whack at it if you have a couple of hours to kill and you aren't overly sensitive about some mild Republican bashing humor. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= From: "Niz" Maybe its just me, as the IF community has not been showering it with glowing reviews, but Aidan Doyle's BOLIVIA BY NIGHT (2nd place in 2005's Spring Thing competition) should have all the ingredients required to sweep the XYZZY awards next year, especially if the author can release a post-competition bugfixed version soon. It probably won't, but hey, that's awards for you. Initial feelings that the author made the game just to say, "Hey look, I went to Bolivia on holiday and instead of boring you with my photo album I'm gonna bore you with an IF game I made about it" are thankfully quickly shaken off as you head off on various reporting tasks for the "Bolivian Herald", investigate a murder, and uncover a conspiracy. The scenery feels right throughout: locations are never a chore to plough through simply looking for nouns to "examine". The writing is plain, simple and funny -- the author is thankfully not a frustrated poet trying to wow you with his turn of phrase. It's refreshingly down-to-earth. The characters feel alive (especially the TV chef and your chauvinistic colleague). The puzzles are just simple enough not to get in the way of the story, and entertaining enough to complement it. The whole thing is reasonably long (several hours' worth for an average player, divided into convenient chapters to allow for short spells of gaming), and the story could easily have come straight out of Robert Anton Wilson's ILLUMINATUS! trilogy of novels (a good thing). Okay, the tone of the game is somewhat silly, but let us compare for a moment with THE CABAL, an XYZZY nominee for best story of 2004: sure, THE CABAL didn't have talking Che Guevara t-shirts, ninjas and the ghost of Klaus Barbie, but it comes from the same "school" of piling on the conspiracies and craziness until you give in and just go with the flow hippy-style... its a style you either "dig" or you don't, and if it was "dug" for THE CABAL, why not here? The locations are fantastic. You can really taste the dusty, dry atmosphere, the slow pace of life, the coffee and cocoa. Every South American cliche is thrown in, from drug lords to llamas to witch-doctors to ancient Incan secrets to Shakira. Best compliment: I'm seriously considering travelling there now. Puzzle-quality is very high, often providing unique spins on standard fetch-quest type puzzles, and incorporating what could have just been storyline-asides into the main fabric of the game. The range and style of these puzzles is very varied: one such fetch-quest is solved rather literally (and gruesomely); another (to derail the bad-guys' actions) is solved by making use of what could have been just a throwaway gag; yet another is solved via a callback to your early reporting missions. As for the climactic "boss battle", any puzzle that involves a sun bed, a racy DVD, and a portable camera could never be considered derivative. Yes there are some technical flaws, in particular an annoying bug with the framed photo in Richard's room, and some awkward syntax requirements at times, but these things can easily be fixed. The tricky bit is getting the story, setting and puzzles right, and there the author has definitely nailed it. I get the feeling the game might be lost in the shuffle before the awards season comes round, as it doesn't feature any amazing new technical innovations or break the narrative conventions of IF. It's just a very solid, very playable, very entertaining romp that does something few other games can achieve: it's fun. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Mike Tulloch TITLE: Catseye AUTHOR: Dave Bernazzani EMAIL:daveber SP@G gis.net DATE: October 17, 2004 PARSER: Simple (Microform parser) SUPPORTS: Zcode interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware -- Author's site URL: http://www.gis.net/~daveber/miniventure/ VERSION: 3 A 10k adventure? How good could it be? With visions of Scott Adams' 16k (master)pieces in mind, I began with trepidition. I found the game, converted it to pdb format, and loaded it on my aging Handspring Visor PDA. The intro is concise and informative, and gets you into the action right away. The game possesses a pulp fiction or a Golden age comic book feel. Your quest? Retrieve the necklace of your uncle Xevion from his mysterious house. It's straight-ahead youthful mystery-fantasy. The room descriptions are sparse, occasionally omitting words, presumably to save memory. Some of the error messages are unhelpful because of their brevity. For example, a simple one word response with nary a period in sight shows up quite a bit. Still others are errors, where a blank line displays as the response to your actions. You'll also notice some familiar synonyms missing, the most annoying of which is "get" -- you must use "take". Frustration builds into a claustrophobic spiral, brought on by the small number of rooms, the crippled parser, and the unhelpful responses. Only occasionally do zephyrs of humor lighten the mood. Want to take a breather? You can't, because the game can't be saved. Granted, that's not a problem on the PDA, unless you wanted to play another IF game and resume where you left off. Still, I'm of the opinion that all frustrating games should allow you to save. Catseye consists of one puzzle that starts off simple and rapidly becomes maddening; you have to play "guess the verb" and also "guess the input format for the verb". I finally resorted to r.g.i-f to find enough clues to win the game. I say that to my embarrassment, but to the author's shame. Even when you've won, you feel like the game's getting the last laugh. Your effort is rewarded with a scant two sentences. Unfair! I congratulate Bernazzani for cramming a game into 10k. However it feels like more of a programming triumph than an artistic one. The game is playable, but inordinately frustrating. It has an interesting feel, but not enough to compensate for the parsing problems and lack of feedback (both of which seriously interfere with gameplay). The lack of verbs and missing punctuation are also drawbacks. In short, thumbs down. Score: 3/10. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: William McDuff TITLE: Conan Kill Everything AUTHOR: Ian Haberkorn EMAIL: haberkornj SP@G yahoo.com DATE: April 12 2005 PARSER: Infocom Standard SUPPORTS: Z-code (Infocom/Inform) interpreters AVAILABILITY: IF Archive URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/inform/ConanKillEverything.z5 VERSION: Release 1 "I hope it is adequately stupid. Comments are appreciated." -- Ian Haberkorn on Conan Kill Everything Fear not, Ian! You game is most definitely "adequately stupid". Which is meant in the best way possible, of course. Though perhaps Ian Haberkorn is a bit confused about which competition he entered with "Conan Kill Everything". When the title placed second in StupidTitleComp (a voting mechanism test for the 2005 Spring Thing) he seems to have thought he entered IntroComp, and created a playable game with that title, possibly hoping to claim a prize before the year was up. Alas, he will win nothing for creating this game other than the renown for creating such an amusing, if small, game. In this game you play the legendary Cimmerian barbarian, Conan, and your objective is simple. Kill everything. No, not every living thing. Everything. The walls of the room only escape Conan's mighty wrath because they "are already dead. Conan suspects that he killed them in an earlier episode." Although a one room game, and as mentioned before, very short, some interesting puzzles exist here. None will stymie a veteran IF player for long, but they puzzles are fair and logical, if progressing to a logical extreme. There's not much of a plot or story to speak off, but given the source of the game, expecting one seems silly. The game itself is technically sound, although more verbs could be implemented as with most games, and what can be reached from the table is perhaps a bit generous. Also, the actions of the fly in the room seem to be a bit too random at times, which can make a long wait. The writing is terse, tight phrasing emulating the 'action, not words' approach of your average barbarian stereotype. This simplistic style actually generates some of the humour, and there are also some great lines sprinkled here and there. Significantly, the game endings take a step back to a director's view of the action as a movie, giving a view that this farce is something of a play within a play. This decision actually helps, as some distance from the absurdity keeps the player from getting too involved and turned off by the stupidity of the main action. Not that these aren't amusing as well. The main complaint against the game is that it is, as I've said repeatedly, quite short, finishable in less than half an hour even if you get stuck at one point or another. More could certainly be added: for instance, Conan's association with beautiful women is a significant part of the mythos, and is missing here. Besides, with such an addition, there's a got to be a joke about the 'little death' that could be inserted somewhere. Still, considering the inspiration, this is an excellent little game. One can only hope that "You Get Transported To Another Dimension and Find This Weird Machine In A Maze And Then Some Other Stuff Happens, It's Really Cool" will be as good if Jacqueline H. decides to produce it. (Though it's certain to be stupid.) -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Paul Lee TITLE: The Dreamhold AUTHOR: Andrew Plotkin EMAIL: erkyrath SP@G eblong.com DATE: December 2004 PARSER: Inform SUPPORTS: Zcode interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware, IF Archive URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/dreamhold.z8 VERSION: Release 5 The Dreamhold, in my opinion, strikes the mark of a well-done adventure game. This game is written with people new to the lore of interactive fiction in mind; in fact, there is a "Tutorial Voice" narrator that guides you through your endeavors, helping you with the basic concepts of IF. One thing that distinguishes this game is that all aspects of this game -- not just the ever-helpful Voice -- seem to be written to encourage and bring satisfaction to the player. Rather like a parent, this game guides and directs you. It is not that you are not allowed to fail, but when you make a mistake, you are gently admonished, then shown the right way around an obstacle. As I am fairly new to IF, I found this game both insightful and refreshing. Although I already knew how to travel and manipulate objects with commands, I was delighted to glimpse the sage and kind mind of an interactive-fiction master and the art to which I am an infant. From my perspective, the story is the weakest point of "The Dreamhold." That is saying much, for it really is not that bad. At the start of the game, the motives for the player character are escape, exploration, and self-discovery. As the game moves forward, the plot becomes much more interesting. Still, the game does not explain its story as it presents it to the player, and I was incapable of figuring it out. I knew there was meaning there, yet at best I could put together a few pieces of background, which would seem unrelated to each other if it were not for a common detail or two, the significance of which I could only muse at. I was especially confused at the ending -- it was definitely an attempt to tie everything together, but for me it just confused and muddled the little bit that I thought I had worked out. Still, the story was not a complete failure -- the scenes of background were so nicely integrated with the puzzles as to keep me interested in both the narrative and the crossword. While irritating, it was fun to try to figure out the meaning of the scenes and the history of the player character. Also, my difficulties with the story may have been personal; perhaps other people would find it all to make perfect sense. Maybe the game was not even written to have a clear meaning at all, in which case with story as with puzzles "The Dreamhold" succeeded in its goals. More than making up for the story are the puzzles. Solving the puzzles is pleasantly rewarding, and new areas to explore and more story to unfold come as results of your efforts. The game never forgets about its striving player -- all the puzzles are fair and to my knowledge cannot be made unwinnable. Most are probably easier from the norm, but figuring out how objects work can sometimes be a bit complicated, although never frustratingly so. In addition to the Tutorial Voice, which sometimes offers help, the game offers a thorough hint system that will not at first spoil the puzzle you are working on, if it tarnishes the joy of solving it just a bit. The whole makes "The Dreamhold" very enjoyable. In fact, I, being introduced to IF after it had taken a turn toward narrative, was shown by this game the value and excitement of good puzzles. The mechanics of the game were excellent to the high standard as a tutorial that the game sets initially for itself. I do not try every possible action or close every door behind me just for the sake of ensuring that it works properly, but I found no bugs in the game. It is especially mandatory for this game to be bug-free because of its status as beginner's IF; it was created in such a way that it could actually be someone's very first game, so imagine the confusion on the part of the poor newbie when something did not work as explained. Not only is the game without bugs, but also I recall running into no grammatical errors. For even those folks who have their playtime experience ruined by minor slips of grammar, "The Dreamhold" will likely immerse you in its perfect prose. As a game in general, "The Dreamhold" raises the bar high, not just as a tutorial. It builds up the player's trust by never failing to live up to its high standards, and the result is great. You become the game's friend and feel it encouraging you in your difficulties and delighting with you in your triumphs. At any rate, for beginners and advanced players alike, I recommend anyone the awesome glow of satisfaction that comes from "The Dreamhold." -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Nick Montfort TITLE: Façade AUTHOR: Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern EMAIL: feedback SP@G interactivestory.net DATE: July 2005 PARSER: Custom SUPPORTS: Windows, >= 1.6 GHz, >= 256MB RAM, OpenGL AVAILABILITY: http://www.interactivestory.net/download/ URL: http://www.interactivestory.net/ VERSION: 1.0 Not another one-room game set in an apartment! Well, actually, you probably couldn't call Façade a game in the typical sense -- even though a pre-release version was a finalist in the 2004 Independent Games Festival, and the New York Times called the system "the future of video games." Façade may or may not even be IF, for that matter. But it's clearly something closely related to it, and whether you're willing to award it the IF label or not, there are good reasons that a lot of people -- myself included -- think that Façade is a tremendous advance in interactive storytelling. This "one act interactive drama" is the outcome of a research project that has spanned more than five years, one that you can read more about in the two creators' dozen-odd academic papers and in Mateas's dissertation, done as the last publication of the Carnegie Mellon University Oz Project. Façade is not just good research, though. It can provide an intense, compelling experience, even though a session can be played in about fifteen minutes. When you download and fire up the system, you'll get to visit with your old friends Trip and Grace -- 3D illustrated characters whose statements have all been recorded by voice actors -- as their marriage falls apart. You'll be able to type short statements to converse with them, move around the room using the arrow keys, and use the mouse to manipulate objects. Façade lacks adventuring, a clear way to win, and the typical IF command structure -- if you type "PICK UP THE MAGIC EIGHT BALL" you'll be saying that to Trip or Grace, not instructing your character in what to do. You can manipulate objects, however, and can say whatever short statements you like to the two other characters. If you manage to keep your comments fairly relevant to the conversation, or apartment, or situation, the two are likely to react appropriately, both in an immediate sense and in terms of the overall development of the conversation and the drama. Before getting deeper into why Façade is so great, I'll mention that the two authors and developers, Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern, do happen to be my good friends and fellow bloggers with me at Grand Text Auto, where I made the official announcement of the release of Façade. So, you may choose to take my evaluation of the system with a grain of salt. But then, if no one reviewed interactive fiction by people they knew, there would be a lot less reviewing going on. I'll also mention a few other things by way of preface: Façade is a working prototype, one quite capable of providing a powerful experience that is both interactive (in a meaningful way) and dramatic (in the tradition of drama, going back to Aristotle). But it's also capable of breaking. Trip and Grace can fall eerily, permanently silent and remain planted in the same spot. You can get stuck walking in the door. Things that you type can be interpreted by the system in what seems to be exactly the wrong way. As is the case with interactive fiction, you have to learn something about how to interact fruitfully before you can interact fruitfully. Trying to play along, and not getting it quite right, can lead to frustration. Façade's excellence is not that it has some sort of dramatic Turing-Test-like ability to handle everything you can throw at it; there are plenty of ways to run aground, even when you're not trying to. The thing about Façade, though, is that when things go right, which isn't all that difficult to achieve, they can go brilliantly right. Your conversation can take you in an exhilarating free ride over the Freytag diagram of Trip and Grace's soul-searching and their coming to terms with their relationship, a ride that is not just funny, but manages to be touching. And, it's a ride that you get to steer: once a good typist is keyed into the way to talk to Trip and Grace, he or she can provoke reactions, draw the conversation to different topics, side with one or the other character, and nudge the drama in different directions. Grace and Trip are not stateless Elizas; they are closer, if anything, to Galateas, but they also maintain an awareness of the way the conversation has progressed so far, and they work together to achieve dramatic goals, and they use a complex behavior control system to blend their high-level and low-level actions together smoothly. The Oz Project at CMU, the major academic effort in interactive drama so far, sought to develop systems that were "highly interactive," that is, ones that allowed the player to move, talk, and act at any point, rather than only at the end of a turn. Façade realizes this goal, among others. Grace and Trip react fluidly to comments from the player at any point, given the somewhat asymmetric typed text interface. They player is always free to move around and check out things in the apartment. The system structures events beginning at the level of the dramatic beat (a visible action and reaction) and allows the player to intervene between beats or to interrupt a beat. Façade is also impressive in how it deals with language. It is able to understand many statements that are relevant to the current situation, and to correctly handle jokes, praise, agreement, disagreement, flirting, rudeness, and so on. Not that every possible statement is always correctly classified and acted upon, of course. But the natural language understanding system works well enough, enough of the time, for the drama at hand. Again, the amazing thing isn't that this system is flawless. It's that players can manage to get through an entire act without a noticeable slip-up -- even though this framework for interaction, unlike the venerable ">" prompt in IF, has few precedents, and players can't build on their previous knowledge of how to interact. It's as if you found someone who had never played interactive fiction before, sat this person down at a new version of Adventure, and found that after a few minutes of typing the game understood practically all the input it was getting and the newcomer was having a great time. While Façade looks more like a graphical adventure or a strange first-person shooter than like most text-based IF pieces, the insights that Mateas and Stern have gained in working on the system can certainly trickle into more traditional IF. It's not the place of a review to start outlining all the ways in which they might do that, but I will note that Mateas, with his student Mark Nelson, has already looked into how some of the techniques employed in Façade can be used in the context of an existing interactive fiction. Those two discuss this topic in a paper presented at the Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment conference, "Search-based Drama Management in the Interactive Fiction Anchorhead." Currently Façade only runs on Windows XP, 2000 or ME. It's pretty processor intensive, and will refuse to run on processors slower than 1.6 GHz. It's also an 800 MB download via BitTorrent. (You can spend $14 plus shipping to get Façade on two CDs, which Mateas and Stern sell at cost.) If you're an IF fan with an adequate Windows machine, it's certainly worth the download time or CD cost. I had to ask around my department for a while to find a suitable computer to borrow for Façade installation and play, so I envy those who only have to wait for the download to finish. A Mac version is planned, and will happen whenever the two developers (hopefully with some volunteer help) can manage the port, but it isn't imminent. In the meantime, if you're lucky enough to have a system on hand that will run Façade, check it out! I'd venture to guess that it will be the most impressive one-room game in an apartment that you'll play all year. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Mike Penman TITLE: The Fire Tower AUTHOR: Jacqueline A. Lott EMAIL: jacq SP@G allthingsjacq.com DATE: 28 May 2004 PARSER: Inform SUPPORTS: Zcode interpreters AVAILABILITY: IF Archive, Freeware URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/art/if-artshow/year2004/firetower.z8 A map is located at: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/art/if-artshow/year2004/firetower_map.jpg VERSION: 1 Writing for the IF Art Show isn't easy, I know. Faced with the remit "explore interactivity", where do you begin? Jacqueline A. Lott chose to begin with an engaging character. The protagonist of The Fire Tower is consistently drawn, from the results of ">look at me", ("You glance down and the first thing you see are your hiking boots. They're serious hiking boots...") to knowledgeable asides made during the IF. She even has a purpose, having come to the fringes of Mount Cammerer in the Appalachians to walk solo and get away "from everything: work, responsibilities..." Though it was good to find such a well-presented character, it's Mount Cammerer that stars in this piece. This was an entry in the 2004 IF Art Show "landscape" section. It took best of show and "best setting" at the following XYZZYs. The first, powerful impact is of a beautiful landscape beautifully presented. It's tempting to describe sweeping scenes with flowery prose but the author resists that temptation. The text is sparse and transparent; it doesn't get in the way of the country depicted and everything is described with an infectious enthusiasm. I was left feeling relaxed, as though I'd been there, at least in part. I presume that was the main objective of the piece, so it's a success from the first play through. That sense of "being there" is enhanced by the sheer interactivity of the piece. Faced with something that says, in essence, "See how interactive I am!" I start to verb the nouns. This setting is deeply implemented. Almost everything can be examined, heard, smelled, felt and tasted. I know more about Appalachian flora now than I did before playing. Sometimes a lack of options left me feeling frustrated. I wanted to go back on myself or try routes that I wasn't allowed to. I was particularly miffed to find that I missed the work's titular tower because, having moved away from it without entering in order to re-check a previous description, I was barred from returning. But this isn't a game -- the author's trying to guide the player around a landscape -- nor would route reversals or unplanned diversions be in character for the experienced lone-walker protagonist. Time -- always a difficult dimension in landscape -- is well handled. The protagonist's watch counts one minute for each turn and each travel description adds a number of minutes dependent on the terrain covered. There's a sense of time passing at a realistic rate, adding to the sense of "being there". I was disappointed with the centre of the game, the fire tower. It being the target and title of my walk, I was looking forward to finding something extra there. It's as beautifully described as everything else, but I'm not sure it deserves its pivotal placement. It's a good sign if the only major gripe I can raise about an IF is that I was left wanting more. In particular I wanted to explore the issues of stilting and entrapment -- barely but skillfully hinted at -- that led to this walk in the first place. I wanted to turn the protagonist to an equipment shop and then along the whole Appalachian trail, fulfilling her lifetime dream. For a player like me, without any real interest in puzzles, it wouldn't take much to turn this into a full length game in the Sunset Over Savannah mode. Perhaps the best praise I can offer the piece is this: I wish I'd written it. Its clean, artless-seeming approach fosters the illusion that I could have. In fact, I think I feel a landscape entry for next year's IF Art Show coming on. But first I'm going back to see if I can find the bear that Emily Short saw. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Valentine Kopteltsev TITLE: Heist AUTHOR: Andy Phillips EMAIL: pmyladp SP@G pmn1.maths.nottingham.ac.uk DATE: 1997 PARSER: Inform SUPPORTS: Zcode interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/heist.z8 In the last few years, a lot of talk could be heard about IF "growing petty" (which effectively means, text adventures becoming shorter). Well, there certainly are objective factors calling forth the numerical superiority of shorter works -- after all, a simple arithmetic calculation shows that in the period of time it takes an average author to write a hundred-room game, the same author can create about five games of equal quality with only twenty rooms each. (In fact, the real statistics could turn out even less favourable for longer games, because the beta-testing work usually increases at a rate outstripping growth). Of course, there're also a number of subjective factors that make this quantitative imbalance even harsher, but this isn't the proper place for discussing them; I'd just like to mention that, as usual, several opinions about the optimal size for a modern text adventure exist. My personal point of view on that matter can be best expressed with a paraphrase of a saying popular in Russia: More IF games, good and different! Of course, if we had three or four Curses!-sized works released each quarter it'd probably be a bit too much, but if they vanished from the IF scene completely, a certain vacuum would be left behind. Andy Phillips seems to be one of the people who don't want the latter to happen, and who don't just restrict themselves to idle talk but take active measures to prevent it. Heist certainly can be considered a contribution to the struggle against the extinction of IF giants. At this point, I'd like to take the bull by the horns, and call the game by its proper name: it's a puzzlefest. Those of you who don't feel like spending the next period of time (quite an extended one -- the walkthrough for Heist includes over 1000(!) moves) hearing about logical problems can stop reading right now -- the rest of this review is dedicated entirely to puzzles. Of course, the game has a story, and a setting, but it really isn't what it is about. ;) Well, the opening section of Heist could probably be as off-putting as the beginning of this review. From the very start, the author demonstrates he's not inclined to any compromises -- once the player has decided to take her brain to the gym, she has to sweat her guts out from the very start. No warming-up exercises are provided for; the prologue is at least as hard as the rest of this work. In some respects, it's even harder: you see, as you progress, you begin to get accustomed to the author's design style, and start to know what to expect of him. The early stages of just *any* game, on the contrary, have chances (at least, theoretically) to take the player by surprise. Heist doesn't quite miss these opportunities. The first thing the player needs to get accustomed here is, uh, let's call it adventure game logic. What do I mean by that? Now, suppose your relative is going to die, and wants you to visit his place after his death. (BTW, this also represents the first problem to solve in Heist). On the other hand, he intends to make getting there some sort of challenge (for whatever reason), so that he doesn't just send you the key by mail. There are several ways to accomplish that, but in real life, something like travelling to India to kill a tiger whose stripe pattern matches that of your relative's door-mat, reading the combination tattooed on the beast's stomach, then returning and using the combination on the safe in your relative's office to open it and discover there the key sought for hardly would come to anyone's mind, although it can't be contended that this action sequence has no logic at all. What is more, even a "lite edition" of this solution based on a visit to the local zoo, or even on catching a like-coloured cat on the nearby garbage heap wouldn't be much of an option, either; however, it probably would fit reasonably well into a text adventure. While this very example isn't adopted from Heist, the game often uses similar approaches to puzzle creation, and heavily relies on the assumption that people will fiddle with certain things/visit certain places not because there's any indication it's going to help them, but just because it's possible. There are a couple more things one needs to get used to, regarding technical aspects of game creation. The first of them is illustrated best by yet another abstract example. Let's imagine that in some text adventure, the player gets to an abandoned airfield, finding there a wreck of a plane. So, (s)he types "X PLANE", and sees the following lines: This aircraft hardly will ever fly again: the hull is all rusty, and the covering of the wings has rotted through here and there, revealing the underlying ribs. The undercarriage, its posts twisted and bent, rests on two flat-tyred wheels. The cowl is missing, as are a few other, more essential motor parts. From where you're standing, you can't look inside the pilot's cockpit, but its shattered hood and a bundle of wires sticking out of it quite unambiguously hint at the fact marauders already have been there. A glance at the empennage brings you to two important conclusions: 1. judging by the rests of the markings, the airplane once belonged to the Royal Ligutanian Air Force, and 2. even if all its other parts were intact, this machine still wouldn't be able to take off. Further on, our player randomly tries out, say, "X WINGS", "X COCKPIT", and "X EMPENNAGE", each time getting the same description. I think 99% would give up after that, rightfully deciding the aircraft was implemented as a single object, and stop examining its parts. How could they possibly know that, if they happened (by chance or by persistence) to enter "X WHEELS", they'd be rewarded with an entirely different response: You never thought of the reasons why the airplane had been left here to rot away, but as you look at the wheels you realize that at least one of them was sabotage: protruding from the left tyre is a sturdy steel needle (needless to say, it appears to be crucial for your further progress). Such situations are very common in Heist, so that inspecting every single element of a multi-part object is a good idea. To be fair, it's to be said the whole is by far not as draconian as it might have been, because the game does its best in limiting the scope of objects the player can interact with by using the standard "That's not something you need to refer to..." response. Still, not being aware of this particularity could be pretty confusing. The other feature requiring getting used to is a strange minimalism of some descriptions (as with the previous issue, examples are scattered all over the game). For instance, somewhere in the middle of the story, I found a remote control unit, which claimed to have "three simple buttons", yet gave no hint about how I could distinguish between them. I tried "X BUTTONS", but was told that I couldn't see any such thing. Pressing the remote control didn't earn me any information about the buttons' unique characteristics either (it merely replied with "Nothing obvious happens"). As it turned out, this cul-de-sac could be overcome by typing "PRESS BUTTON" (note the singular) and learning the distinctive features for the buttons from the standard disambiguation response -- "Which do you mean, ...". OK, this method worked, but don't tell me it's a good game design style! Normally, I'd dismiss something like that as slopwork; however, it's hardly applicable in this case, because Heist clearly isn't sloppy. Thus, I tend to see these features as some sort of the author's conceptual design choices I'm just failing to understand. After the prologue, the game splits up into a number of sub-games -- a decision amiable for both the author and the players. The author has obviously spared a lot of coding work, especially considering the fact that the player's inventory can't be transferred between the game parts; the players have received an additional chance to complete at least a major section of Heist on their own (while solving the entire game without help from outside probably also is possible, it'd certainly require more time and efforts most people could afford to spend on a text adventure). And, of course, there are puzzles, puzzles, puzzles. Puzzles abound. Most of them are decent, original and fun to solve, although they make massive use not only of adventure game logic, but also of adventure game conventions (you know, things like the player becoming able to pick up an object that previously had been too heavy for him to carry after (s)he swung the dumb-bells a few times). One of the puzzles seems to be loaned from Zork II, but I think the reason for it lies in the author just being unfamiliar with the immortal masterpiece by Infocom; since there's enough proof in Heist of Mr. Phillips' creativity regarding puzzle design, I can't blame him for that -- not having played Zork certainly isn't the worst crime in the world (actually, it's no crime at all). And this is pretty much all that can be said about this game. It's not without faults, but true puzzle-lovers will forgive all of them: occasional typos (admitted, their rate is kept quite low, especially considering how huge the whole thing is), a few wording problems, and a couple non-fatal bugs. As to those who aren't true puzzle-lovers, they shouldn't play this game, anyway. As to me, I'm completely happy with Heist, and I hope games of this kind (and size) will be kept being released. At times, it's great to have something you could put your brains to work onto, and to do so (with my inclination to bad puns, you could bet I was going to say it!) without haste. The SNATS (Scores Not Affecting The Scoreboard): PLOT: OK for a puzzle-oriented game; otherwise, I'd rate it lower (1.2) ATMOSPHERE: See PLOT, although a few places are really atmospheric (1.3) WRITING: Even and solid (1.2) GAMEPLAY: Well, puzzlefest. An entertaining puzzlefest, though (1.4) BONUSES: The amount of work that obviously has gone into a work so huge automatically deserves at least... (1.2) TOTAL: 6.3 CHARACTERS: Well-implemented and not annoying - what else can be required of a NPC in that kind of game? (1.2) PUZZLES: Lots of 'em, a vast majority being decent, original and fun to solve (1.4) DIFFICULTY: The game is obviously intended to keep the player busy for a very, very long time (10 out of 10) -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Mike Tulloch TITLE: Moonglow AUTHOR: Dave Bernazzani EMAIL: daveber SP@G gis.net DATE: October 4, 2004 PARSER: Simple (Microform parser) SUPPORTS: Zcode interpreters AVAILABILITY: Freeware -- Author's site URL: http://www.gis.net/~daveber/miniventure/ VERSION: 3 Moonglow exudes a 50's Sci-Fi feel, that some may find to be cliched, but it does provide a familiar backdrop in an economy of words. You see a UFO crash in your field; you can guess what unfolds next. Moonglow, like Catseye, is a 10k adventure, but it feels more polished due to its more robust parser. Like the aforementioned game, it is lean on description, terse with its replies, and consists of only a few verbs and objects. I also discovered an instant death routine that seemed a bit capricious. As with Catseye, you can't save the game, should the need or desire arise. The puzzles here are a medium level of difficulty, but I found them rewarding. First, they are separate puzzles (not simply part of one big puzzle as in Catseye); second, they are creative, in that they made sense, weren't immediately obvious, and yet weren't insanely difficult. The plot proceeds linearly but does involve a lot of "guess the verb" towards the end, however, due to the lack of helpful responses. In comparison to Catseye, Moonglow is more descriptive, more interesting, and more realistic. (Yes, it's a realistic SF.) Moonglow is diverting and worth an hour or two of playing. Bernazzani hit the mark with this one. Score: 6/10. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Paul Lee TITLE: Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots AUTHOR: Benjamin Mullins EMAIL: benmullins SP@G gmail.com DATE: February 2005 PARSER: Inform SUPPORTS: Z-code ports AVAILABILITY: Freeware, IF Archive URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/reser.z5 VERSION: Release 1 This is a cute little game in which you play the blue "rock 'em sock 'em" robot and are determined to defeat your eternal adversary, Red. The obvious goal comes very easily; it is the bells and easter-eggs that make this game worth your five or ten minutes. Many actions give funny responses, and there are several humorous ways to end the game. Although the game will draw its laughs, there are not really enough things to do to make it a serious endeavor. Still, it accomplishes its goal well enough for what it is. Neither the coding nor the writing are very spectacular, but they both pass. The game has been tested and is not terribly buggy, although the Inform debugging commands are still present. Most everything works the way it obviously should. The only thing that disappointed me was one object that when used suggested something that the game did not incorporate. The writing similarly is fine. In fact, in places the prose is pleasantly witty. At any rate, the small amount of time that you put into this little work should be fun. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From: Jimmy Maher TITLE: Wumpus 2000 AUTHOR: Muffy St. Bernard EMAIL: muffysb SP@G hotmail.com DATE: November 2004 PARSER: Inform SUPPORTS: Z-code ports AVAILABILITY: Freeware, IF Archive URL: ftp://ftp.ifarchive.org/if-archive/games/zcode/wump2ka.z5 VERSION: Release 1 Wumpus 2000 is a rather bold amalgamation of everything the average member of the IF community hates the most. We have hunger daemons, randomized combat, and arbitrary death. Best of all, the whole game is a gigantic five-level maze. Don't move on to the next review just yet, though. There are some interesting things going on here. As its name would imply, Wumpus 2000 is an homage to the early '70's IF progenitor Hunt the Wumpus. However, Wumpus 2000 adds to Hunt the Wumpus at least a suggestion of a plot and more interactive elements, thus changing its form from an elaborate logical puzzle to a full-blown, if rather unusual, text adventure. The player is a newspaper reporter whose expose has angered the wrong people, resulting in her being deposited into a monster-infested toxic waste dump below her city. The objective is simple survival and, ultimately, escape. To do this, the player must explore a 5-level, 100 room dungeon which is randomly generated for each game, building up equipment and experience in preparation for her showdown with the game's ultimate foe, the wumpus itself. In classic dungeon crawl style, the monsters and challenges get steadily tougher as one progresses, but the rewards -- in the form of more powerful weapons, and treasures which can add to the player's score upon escape -- also increase. You will also have the opportunity to get physically stronger in a couple of different ways, a nice stand-in for the conventional RPG experience level trope. Taking advantage of these opportunities is essential if you are to have any hope of defeating the tougher monsters on level 3 and below. Yet the heart of Wumpus 2000 remains mapping. There has been considerable discussion on the IF newsgroups about potential alternatives to the traditional compass style of navigation. Wumpus 2000 is interesting in this regard, for it dispenses with directions altogether. Rooms are numbered from 1 to 100, with rooms 1 through 20 on level 1, 21 through 40 on level 2, etc. Exits from each room are listed not with their direction but with their destination. For instance, the exits from the first room of my game looked like this at the beginning: Exit 1 corkscrews toward an unexplored room. Exit 2 corkscrews toward an unexplored room. Exit 3 corkscrews toward an unexplored room. After I had explored a bit, they looked like this: Exit 1 corkscrews toward room 1 (A vast, rough chamber.) Exit 2 corkscrews toward room 17 (A vast, rough chamber.) Exit 3 corkscrews toward room 18 (A vast, rough chamber.) Mapping this is not really that difficult, although it does require a slightly different frame of mind. One must stop thinking directionally and start thinking solely in terms of connections. Deeper in the dungeon, things start to get a bit more complicated. You will encounter steep slopes upon which you can lose your footing, rushing water which can sweep you away in undesired directions, and other such obstacles. Things get really tough in the bottom couple of levels, when you run into things like this: Exit 1 corkscrews toward a familiar part of this room. Exit 2 corkscrews toward an unexplored part of this room. Exit 3 corkscrews toward a familiar part of this room. Exit 4 rises steeply toward room 85 (A vast, dark chamber.) As you can see, there are now multiple locations located in the "same" room. Mapping this sort of thing requires some real ingenuity, as well as resorting to the old standby of dropping items about the place and hoping no wandering monsters carry them off. For the truly masochistic, there is an option to turn off the room numbers altogether throughout the dungeon. Needless to say, I didn't partake. Other than exploring and mapping, you will spend your time collecting and experimenting with a variety of useful and not so useful items, fighting monsters, and slowly building up your character. There really are no traditional set-piece puzzles. The game is completely simulation oriented, with it challenges all arising organically from the environment. I would say its gameplay has as much in common with Nethack and its cousins as it does with traditional narrative IF. Dungeons and Dragons tropes get pretty unbearable pretty quickly for me, but the game's saving grace is that it never takes itself particularly seriously. Monsters are silly and fun, and you will even find some very humorous little notes left by the dungeon's earlier (doomed) explorers. It isn't the sort of thing I usually enjoy, but I had quite a good time with Wumpus 2000 for the first few hours. I found it fairly challenging, but not ridiculously so like, say, Nethack, and figuring out how things worked and reading the game's humorous little descriptions and asides was a lot of fun. Eventually, though, things got simultaneously more difficult and tedious, and I started to cheat, making copious use of the UNDO command. The presence of UNDO destroys much of the challenge in a game like this, for virtually any combat can now be won by UNDOING anytime the result in a given turn is unfavorable to your character. I'm frankly rather surprised that the author didn't disable it, although I'm not disappointed. I seriously doubt I would have ever completed the game without it. Even with UNDO, winning the game for me involved some more extensive cheating. I found myself on the last level of the dungeon, having killed the dreaded wumpus, with two of the three keys I needed to make my final escape. Naturally, I couldn't find the third. In the end, I hacked into the object tree to find that last elusive key and win the game. Sometimes a man must do what a man must do... The prospective player should be aware that there are a few bugs to be found. The worst of these is that doing an INVENTORY while holding the gem pouch you find on one of the later levels will crash the game with an illegal opcode. Perhaps another release will be forthcoming to correct this issue, and a few other more minor niggles. For me, the problem with a game like this is that increased challenge just feels like increased tedium. At some point it all becomes work rather than fun, and then I either give up or cheat. I suspect that many other IF players are, like me, looking for something fundamentally different in their computer entertainment than that which Wumpus 2000 provides, and so I am not surprised that there has been virtually no discussion of this game in the community since its release. Still, if you think you might enjoy a heaping dose of RPG-style simulation and old-school mapping puzzles to go with a little bit of narrative, give Wumpus 2000 a try. It really does do what it does very well, and I don't know of any other modern parser-based game quite like it. 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, with the exception of reviews submitted to SPAG Specifics, where spoilers are allowed in the service of in-depth discussion. In addition, reviewers should play a game to completion before submitting a review. There are some exceptions to this clause -- competition games reviewed after 2 hours, unfinishable games, games with hundreds of endings, etc. -- if in doubt, ask me first. 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