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October 18, 2008

IFComp: Capture Me This

Onward with the next batch of IFComp entries, as I review my initial impressions of each game's opening (introduction, "About" screens, and the first location), summarized by the Capture Score from 1 (intriguing; a definite play) to 4 (dreadful and forgettable). Just a reminder, no spoilers here, just early impressions.

Hard to believe, but with this next set I find myself only halfway through all of this year's entries -- and I'm only reporting my initial impressions.

Games covered here include "Dracula's Underground Crypt", "Search for the Ultimate Weapon", "Cry Wolf", and "Snack Time!".


"Dracula's Underground Crypt", by Alex Whitington

Upon opening the game, I'm notified immediately that this release may be less than ideal because of the author's recently discovered requirement for a social life. Later, after typing HINT, I come across the FAQ list (well, more precisely it's the QTIWBFAIAEAMQATG list, but never mind that), the first entry of which is the uninspiring Are you actually planning on fixing the problems in this game? I'm tempted to proceed no futher. Nevertheless, I do.

I've made better choices. The text is riddled with typos, spelling errors, and questionable grammar. It might be a secondary language issue -- and then again, maybe not. It comes across as sloppy and inadequately tested or reviewed; perhaps this was rushed to get it done in time for the Comp, perhaps not. It's a comedy about Dracula's crypt. It has potential, I suppose, but my expectations have already been lowered.

Then I'm hit with phrases like, "He carefully prizes open the pages of the book..." and, "Some sort of melding of english medieval folklore and hindu iconography? Or a cheap device to make the game harder? It's up to you..."

Capture Score: 4. Yes, it is. I'll just wait for the promised "deluxe" version.


"Search for the Ultimate Weapon"

This appears to be a Windows-only game. There are no instuctions for running this on a Mac. That's unfortunate.

Capture Score: 4.


"Cry Wolf", by Clare Parker

I believe this is Parker's first work of IF, which apparently has been in production for "an embarrassing amount of time" and right up to the Comp deadline. Still, it has some polish to it, certainly much more than other entries in this Comp. The author does a decent job setting up the opening scene, as I am awakened during the night by a creature (likely a wolf) that was just injured on the porch outside my bedroom. A relationship with a woman named Celia has recently ended, and I presume the exploration of this relationship will be a main focus of this game.

I'm told this game employs a somewhat different menu-based conversation system, one that is intended to discourage lawnmowering; SAVEs are disabled during conversation, and UNDO will retract the entire conversation back to its beginning. I don't recall playing a game with this type of system before, and it sounds interesting. I'm also told that "If you are particularly sensitive to descriptions of surgery, perhaps this is not the game for you." I wasn't expecting that; now I'm intrigued.

There appear to be a few rough spots in the first location that seem like they should have been caught easily through testing. PUT ON CLOTHES actually only performs a TAKE CLOTHES action; I have to PUT ON each individual piece to actually dress myself. EXAMINE BOOKCASE returns, "The bookcase is made of dark, carved wood and is full of novels. The works of James Herriot are on the bottom shelf," while SEARCH BOOKCASE returns, "In the wooden bookcase are books and James Herriot."

Although I'm not immediately captured by it, this game seems to have enough good qualities to put it high on the second-tier list.

Capture Score: 2. Looks like a worthwhile first effort.


"Snack Time!", by Hardy the Bulldog (with help from Renee Choba)

Every year there are a few Comp entries that employ an alternative perspective for narration, and "Snack Time!" is one of those. The player takes on the role of a dog (a bulldog, I assume), and the game is narrated in second person. The human is described as my pet, and the rooms are described by their functions (the Sitting Room, Sleeping Room, and the Food Room). I'm a dog lover, so this is a Good Thing.

The writing is smooth and the voice fits well with what I imagine a dog's voice might be. I like the descriptions of objects like "the thing you can't scratch" and "the long soft thing." I tried LICK PET and got back "You love on your pet with some little licks," which is just terribly cute. I can also SCRATCH, CHEW, and BARK AT things, which should make things interesting.

No issues came up as I tried this one out, although it seems a little strange that I have to use the object name "the thing you can't scratch" instead of "the thing I can't scratch," which would have made for better consistency. Still, it's only a minor quibble. This looks like a lighthearted, fun game, and one that I look forward to completing.

Capture Score: 1. Hard to go wrong with dogs.


Still more to come...

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