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Cursor  Member Reviews - Just a Fairy Tale

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External reviews, Wed 23rd Dec 2020
By Denk - See all my reviews

With permission, here are two external reviews from IFDB:

By Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Pixel-hunting in text form, December 8, 2020

Much like Hansel and Gretel, this one needs a bit more time in the oven, I fear.

The overall setting and structure for JAFT are nothing close to original – the player character is a ten-year-old who’s contacted by a wizard and transported to a fantasy land to save it from a wicked queen – but some good old tropes are good and old for a reason. Entering the world is at first like entering a warm bath, as you pick clean a homely cottage in the woods and then enter a dark forest for some light adventuring. The writing is undistinguished, but fits this high-fantasy story with a pre-teen protagonist just fine.

There are a few things that distinguish JAFT from the countless other stories with similar premises. First, there’s a note of whimsy and humor – I’m thinking especially of the puzzle involving the trolls and a punny bit of business involving a magic clock. Several puzzles also have alternate solutions or offer multiple paths through the game, which is very helpful given that I found the difficulty level of the game quite high.

On the negative side, there are two primary issues I had with JAFT that wind up reinforcing each other. Many puzzles rely on what I’d call pixel-hunting design in a graphic adventure – there are many progression-critical objects that can only be found by methodically examining every single word that’s mentioned in a description, and even some that aren’t.

The related issue is that “near-miss” solutions don’t wind up generating helpful nudges to the right track, but rather parser confusion. I had to go to the walkthrough to get through the aforementioned bit with the trolls, because something I was expecting to be there wasn’t, and the responses to trying to interact with it didn’t lead me in the right direction, even though what was going on should have been obvious to the player character. Dialogue with characters similarly felt very fiddly – there was one puzzle that I couldn’t get to work even when I was trying to just type in the walkthrough commands. And there were several guess the verb/guess the noun issues that stymied progress.

Combined, these two issues meant I felt like I was groping my way through JAFT, unclear on what I should be doing or how I should be doing it or whether I was close to a solution or miles off. Again, I think the basic concept is solid, and some of the puzzles do have some promise, but there’s some significant polishing to be done to make the experience of playing the game fit the charming, winsome mood the story’s trying to create.


By Stian
A classic style fantasy adventure, December 1, 2020

This is a classic style fantasy adventure, seemingly written for young children, but much too hard for me. I picture the boy from Time Bandits as the protagonist, taken from reality and inserted into a fictitious world filled with magic and fraught with danger, but nothing a young boy can't handle.

The reason I did not get very far in two hours is mainly down to the verbs. Perhaps Adrift has a different set of standard verbs than Inform and Tads; a lot of the ones I'm accustomed to were not recognised, and when I finally gave up and had a look at the walkthrough, the solutions surprised me. I was reminded of the challenges Jason Dyer writes about when playing very old games. In these games, you need to forget any expectation you have about which verbs will work and which will not. In a sense, Inform games have made me very comfortable with a certain way of interacting with parsers, and I'm not really equipped with the lateral mindset for something completely different.

As far as I came, I found the story to be quite okay. It's very stereotypical, but also cute in a way. The moments in which it shines are whenever it is obvious that you are a little boy, and a rather obedient one at that. A feature I enjoyed -- which sometimes was necessary, but only occasionally implemented -- was being able to examine elements over a distance. In the end I think I might have enjoyed it more if I had consulted the walkthrough earlier and gotten a bit further, though that would also have been counter to my instincts.

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