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Pieces of Eden, Thu 10th Jul 2008
By Po. Prune - See all my reviews

Review by David W.

Sometimes new (and old) authors do really strange things, like introducing puzzles that are impossible to complete without cheating (The Perfect Spy take a bow) or overriding the font settings in a game to force the player to use a font so miniscule and painful to read that anyone even considering playing the game would be left with a class A migraine from it all. Why do authors do this sort of thing? Why force the player to use a horrible, horrible font at a tiny, tiny setting? Beats me. So if you’re going to play this game, I’d suggest copying the following line into the game’s ALR because without it, the thing is practically unplayable:

<font face="Arial Narrow" size=10>|

(Just a little note to the author: there’s an option in the ADRIFT Generator to set the font style and size to whatever you want. It takes all of two seconds. You don’t need to put the line <font face="Arial Narrow" size=10> into every single room/object/task/etc.)

Once all that messing around was out of the way, I started on the game itself. At first, it didn’t seem too bad. Quite well written. Wasn’t too sure what it was about, but seemed at least reasonably engaging. But then the instant deaths and the errors started creeping in and my opinion of the game went from average to bad very quickly indeed.

As far as instant deaths is concerned: the game will kill you if you move either east or west at the start, though you won’t know this until it happens. It turns out you need to pay the waiter before you can leave the coffee shop. Only, funnily enough, even if you pay him then exit to the east, you’ll still be stopped by a message telling you that you left without paying! In the next location, you’ll also be killed without warning. (As an aside, the game also used ADRIFT’s built-in end game sequence so every time you die, you’re faced with the rigmarole of navigating your way through that. If ADRIFT 5 gets rid of this, it’ll be worth using for that reason alone.)

As far as errors? Lots of them unfortunately. Aside from the game not realising you’ve paid if you exit the coffee shop to the east, there are numerous typos (comtemplate pops up a time or two), grammatical errors (missing full stops and sentences split over several lines seem to be a favourite of the author’s) and some really bad errors right at the end of the game which make it impossible to finish. Again, we’ve got a newcomer to the scene who doesn’t realise that you can’t have a full stop in a task command because ADRIFT won’t process it correctly. Now I’m not saying a newcomer is necessarily going to know this (there’s no reason why they would), but as it renders the game unfinishable, it means the game wasn’t even tested from start to finish. Bad, very bad. If there’s one thing guaranteed to get a game a negative response, it’s being unable to finish it. Even more annoying is the fact that the game comprises a whole three locations and can be played from start to finish in less than ten minutes so it’s not like testing it properly would have really taken much effort.

One final point is the bizarre logic at play in the game’s final puzzle (for want of a better word). You meet a man who asks you a question. You reply to him (after you’ve edited the game’s code so it won’t throw a tantrum over the full stop) and he asks you a second question. Only one possible response to this question is given, yet it doesn’t work. For some reason I couldn’t fathom, the correct response here is the number 104. Yep, didn’t make any sense to me either.

Yet another game from a newbie I wouldn’t recommend in a million years. Hopefully one day we’ll have a game by one who has actually bothered to learn how to use ADRIFT before trying to write a game with it.


0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:
 
The Perfect Spy, Thu 10th Jul 2008
By Po. Prune - See all my reviews

Review by David W.

The first thing I thought when starting this game was “effing hell, that’s one big wall of text”. As I was playing in a minimised window, the introductory wall of text I was hit with sprawled to just over five screens. Ouch. Hitting someone with *that* mother right at the start of the game just isn’t a good idea.

After the wall of text – complete with numerous typos and commas in the wrong place – was past, I got on with the game itself. The storyline is a nice enough idea – scientists trying to create a super spy have discovered how to transform humans into various animals – but it isn’t handled very well. Another huge wall of text when changing into a tiger is just so over the top that my eyes glazed over when I saw it.

There are a number of bugs, most involving changing back and forth between human and animal. As a mouse, I was able to carry around some tools (yes, very strong these mice) and at other times, exits would only become available if I was in one form yet be invisible in others. This meant there tended to be a lot of changing back and forth between various forms to see if there was anything hidden. In some locations, the CHANGE command won’t work and instead returns an error message, no doubt the author only intended it to work in certain places and didn’t account for people trying it elsewhere. Worst bug of the lot, though, and the one that really brought the game to a crashing halt, was the author’s strange decision to hide a key item. In one location, there’s a certain item you need to take to progress further, only for a reason I can’t quite fathom the author has chosen to hide it away and not make it possible to discover. This makes the game unfinishable without a cheating look into the Generator.

Then again, the puzzle with the ball of yarn (yes, I’ve given away the name of the item there, but as you won’t finish the game without cheating this isn’t likely to spoil anything for you) shouldn’t really be necessary anyway. I was able to change back into a human inside the hole – despite the room description assuming I’m still a mouse – so surely a fully grown human should be able to see off one little cat?

Overall, a bit disappointing. Not the worst game by a newbie I’ve ever played, but the puzzles need a good reworking and the text some serious rewriting before I could recommend it.


0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:
 
Beanstalk and the Jack, Thu 10th Jul 2008
By Po. Prune - See all my reviews

Review by David W.

At first, this seemed frustratingly buggy. There were little annoyances like trying to close an open window and being told it was open and the listed exits being wrong in every location. Later on, after much muttering and cursing, I realised this was actually the point. If the title of the game hadn’t clued me in already (and no, it hadn’t), the game plays in reverse, e.g. you start at the end of the game and have to retrace (backwards) the steps you took to get there. So if there’s an exit to the east, you need to approach it by going west; if something is closed, it can only be opened with the close command; you’ll often be told what you need to do next *after* you’ve done it; and so on… Quite an inspired idea, but annoying till you figure out what is going on and almost had me quitting.

I didn’t make a whole lot of progress with the game under my own steam. Trying to figure out the command I needed to type – or the *previous* command I needed to type – got me beat most of the time and instead I spent the majority of the game just randomly trying things until something finally worked. A trio of puzzles about midway through the game are essentially the same puzzle just repeated three times, but it wasn’t until I was on the third of them that I realised this. No doubt if I’d realised it a bit sooner, I wouldn’t have had anywhere near as many problems as I did. Fortunately, the game isn’t password protected so I was able to sneak a peek in the Generator (a more polite way of saying I cheated something rotten) every time I got stuck.

Considering this game was written in the unregistered version of ADRIFT 4, complete with all the nasty restrictions meant to give you a taste of what the system is capable of without allowing you to actually producing anything worthwhile, there’s a surprisingly complex game here and the idea of starting at the end of the story and working your way to the start is certainly an interesting one. The restrictions make themselves apparent in a few places and there are definitely some rough edges that could have been ironed out with the registered version, but all in all Beanstalk and the Jack is a far more accomplished game than I’d have expected one written with the unregistered version to be.

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