Posted 9 September 2001 to rec.games.int-fiction
[Note: This wasn't written on request of the Interactive Fiction Review Conspiracy, because it doesn't exist. However, if it did exist, it would probably have a web page at http://www.textfire.com/conspiracy/ containing details of how to get your game reviewed, how to offer to review some games, and an archive of all IFRC game reviews so far.]
Lost, by Eric Mayer (email@example.com)
Available at ftp://ftp.ifarc
Game format: Adrift (see http://www.adrift.org.uk/ for more information, and to download an interpreter to run Lost)
Author's blurb: You've driven out to Lakeshore Park. In the twilight the wooded hills look flat and unreal. A fitting end to the day, considering the circumstances. You are doing your best not to consider the circumstances. It has been a bad week, at home, at work -- you haven't even headed out into the woods yet and already you're . . . LOST.
Lost is a small, almost puzzle-free game, written using Adrift. Your character is a man in the forest; his task is to find some discarded orienteering equipment (left after a recent event by some hapless organiser). This is definately not a nameless adventurer - he has family, feelings and a past. Unfortunately, he has had a rough time lately and his thoughts, which frequently invade the descriptions of the woodland, are dark and pessimistic.
Lost is written using Adrift, and is the first game that I've played created with this new system. Installing the runtime was fairly straightforward, and running the game was also simple. The interface is text-driven, similar to the interfaces used in TADS and Inform games. However, Adrift also gives you various features, such as automatic graphical mapping, auto-completion on the command line and support for pictures. Lost contains a variety of snapshots taken by the author in the real-life woods in which the game is set.
So what's good? Well, the descriptions of the woods nearby were very evocative in many locations, and gave me a good mental picture of the woods. I believe the author was inspired to some extent by A Change In The Weather and this game has some similarities to the classic Zarf adventure -- a clearly three-dimensional woodland setting, severe climactic conditions, and the inclusion of a small furry critter (Lost very briefly features a squirrel). The author follows some popular guidelines for good adventure design -- a realistic map, good responses to silly actions and freedom of action to the player (although there's not much to do apart from advance the plot). The game also prompts the player quite subtly.
The author has also included the source to the game, so that others keen on creating an adventure in Adrift can see how he created Lost. Hints are also included in-game and are nicely written, with subtle hints followed by outright spoilers.
Sadly, as I said, Lost is a very small game. I managed to finish it in thirty minutes, with very little difficulty from the one puzzle. Unfortunately, the brevity makes it difficult for the author to fit in all the plot and emotional development. I felt the descriptions of the feelings of the main character were a little unsubtle in places, and there isn't time to let the player absorb them all. This wouldn't be quite so bad, but like games such as Rameses, the emotions of the main character are the focus of the game. The finale is foreshadowed nicely so it is not unexpected, but happens very rapidly.
The photos of the forest are in my view a nice touch. Unfortunately, they're very small, and tinted strange colours that make it almost difficult to make out what they portray. File sizes and transfer rates are always important, but at 93k (zipped) Lost is smaller than the average Inform game-file.
Despite this, I would recommend Lost for those who are after an easy character-driven small game, or those who are interested in Adrift.
This article copyright © 2001, Stark