Brass Lantern
the adventure game web site


Tommy's Introcomp reviews

by Tommy Herbert

Posted 19 August 2005 to

I wrote these reviews before the voting deadline and then went on holiday. I came back today and found that most of my points had already been made by people who are more eloquent than me. I'm posting them anyway, because I'm stubborn.

Deadsville: 7

You get to play a zombie in this one. I'm bound to score a game highly if it requires me to type EAT BRAINS. Apart from a couple of spelling and grammatical mistakes, among other small niggles (I'm not fluent in Latin, but I suspect there's more wrong with the incantation than a misplaced letter), it's nicely put together. Considering its length, it has an impressive number of laughs—I especially like the response to PRAY and the last lousy point.

The Amazing Uncle Griswold: 3

Mr Whyld is prolific. I don't know how many games he's written so far, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was more than the number of times I've posted to R*IF. The cost is polishedness. In this case, I suspect some of the text wasn't even proofread: certain errors are clearly typos. There are also gameplay issues. There's only one action necessary to complete the intro, but if you do it in the wrong place, the game tells you rather misleadingly that you don't need to do it at all. Apart from that, the intro seems to be kicking off a pretty inoffensive fantasy-quest-type affair. Not my cup of tea, but not a terrible thing to be attempting, for heaven's sake.

The Fox, the Dragon and the Stale Loaf of Bread: 8

The title reminds me of The Meteor, the Stone and a Long Glass of Sherbet. I just mention it.

The ABOUT text begs for tolerance on the issue of bugs: "Hopefully, the Spirit of IntroComp will bless this mess, understanding that the beginning of a game is going to lack a little completeness in any case." Ah. Well, that's not how I've been operating so far. I've more been treating the intros as though they were the first part of a complete game and then deciding whether I wanted to play on. It's my experience that games get more buggy towards the end, rather than less. Well, we'll just have to see how tolerant I'm feeling later on, won't we?

I like games where you start off with the tools of a trade. I like to poke through them all before I set off—I think it's a great way of parcelling out information about the player character and giving it to the player when he's ready for it. In this case, I played a few lute chords and smelled some spices before going on my way, which put me in a very good mood. It's nicely written, this: David Welbourn has pulled off the neat trick of making the world seem good and solid but also keeping up a style consistent with a fairy tale bard—it's about more than sprinkling the word alas around, you know.

I did run into the promised bugginess, but in the form of one big bug rather than many small ones—I rendered the game unwinnable. But the criterion is whether I would want to play more, and the answer is yes—you'll have to fix that bug to let me do so, but yes. So I don't think it needs to affect the score too drastically.

Negotis: 4

As with Uncle Griswold, I can't really judge this on its own terms, because it's too far from the sort of thing I enjoy. It has a lot of RPG elements. Some people like the feeling of progress that comes from accumulating Stealth Points or Healing Spells, but I find randomised combat and the unpredictable death that comes with it get in the way of my enjoyment of a story. The main selling point of this one is, I think, that you can trade with any NPC you come across. I can't comment on this, because I didn't get far enough to do it, except to say that I suspect text isn't the best interface for that sort of thing. It's hardly good for anything, in fact—just telling stories, describing places and evoking characters. Anything else, in my opinion, would be better with sexy graphics and lush soundtracks and the rest of it. There are some interesting-sounding places here, but the descriptions of them are a little clunky. The pod's description, for example, drops clanging clues about how to interact with it before you've had a chance to fiddle with it on your own.

Weishaupt Scholars: 8

Well, this one's fun. Multiple PCs and a Skull-and-Bones/Masonic type storyline. Ooh, have you ever read The Business by Iain Banks? It's the same sort of set-up—very good. Anyway, I haven't seen very much of the game yet (the intro is very short), but I want to, so 8 points.

By the way, the conceit of starting out in a boring lecture appears to be getting popular: Risorgimento Represso, All Hope Abandon and now this. Does it have something to do with day-dreaming students coming up with ideas for IF during lectures?

The Hobbit: 4

Why am I uninspired by this one? The writing isn't bad at all. Is it anti-Tolkien prejudice? No, I don't think so. I liked the original book, despite having begun reading the Lord of the Rings three times and giving up quickly; I reckon I'd react just as negatively if this was a version of a non-fantasy novel. I think it's because it's an adaptation of an already existing story. I've read that story already, so if you want me to enjoy it again, you'll have to come up with a strikingly different way of approaching it from the one that's already been provided. I suppose some players might find that the interactivity of this version will give it enough originality to be fresh and enjoyable, but it hasn't worked for me. Compare Gregory Weir's Jabberwocky: now there was invention enough to give new life to something that already existed in another form.

Somewhen: 2

Many of the directions in which you seem to be able to travel actually contain this message: "You're pretty much stumped as to how to get anywhere here. Best to just relax and enjoy the scenery." Fair enough - I'll treat that as indicating boundaries that exist in the introduction but will disappear when the game is complete. The trouble comes when you try and follow the advice and "enjoy the scenery". Look:

Southeast of Hotel
Valets and bellboys hang about here where limousines and luxury cars disgorge their rich and well-dressed occupants. The sidewalk is nearly impassible from mountainous sets of matched luggage, and none of the bellboys milling about look anxious to burden themselves with the load. You can just squeeze by to the northeast, where the front entrance lies, and southwest leads to the famous springs.

>x valets
You can't see any such thing.

>x bellboys
You can't see any such thing.

>x sidewalk
You can't see any such thing.

>x luggage
You can't see any such thing.

To make me want to play more, the writer of an introduction should stake out some limits, however narrow, and then implement fully between those limits. He should also provide for some interactivity—if there's some here, I didn't manage to find it. The only thing that separated my experience from reading an essay on a piece of paper is that I could vary the order in which I saw the room descriptions. That, and the fact that it was peppered with "You're pretty much stumped..."

This article copyright © 2005, Tommy Herbert

About Us | Contact Us | Technical Info | History
Copyright © 1997-2010, Stephen Granade.