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October 7, 2008

IFComp: Screening Capture

Forging 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.

Games covered here include "A Date With Death", "When Machines Attack", and "Berrost's Challenge".


"A Date With Death", by David Whyld

Whyld's game, subtitled "being the further adventures of the king who wished to die but whose subjects just weren't ready to let him go", is the third game in a series that began in 2004 with "Back to Life... Unfortunately" and continued in 2007 with "The Reluctant Resurrectee" (second place, Spring Thing 2007). I never played either one, but Whyld includes a short summary in the "About" screen of their bizarre premise: a king who had been assassinated and brought back to life by his adoring populace then seeks to kill himself in various elaborate ways because he preferred being dead. In the third installment, I'll be trying to avoid being killed instead. Not bad.

The intro is lengthy, but with that background I'm ready for it. The writing is good; a little awkward in places, but in all it is very entertaining with a nice touch of humor, especially with the Grim Reaper. You can tell Whyld's been at this for some time and has many games under his belt. The opening includes some hints -- checking the archives, for instance, and preparing best you can for midnight -- and I see it will keep track of locations visited and the rough time of day. The time limit promises to keep game play focused and brief.

Capture Score: 1. "Can Death be cheated?" I'll give it a try.



"When Machines Attack", by Mark Jones

This one strikes me as a little clumsy. The title is a bit blunt for my tastes, and the intro text is peppered with small typos and minor grammatical errors, as well as a few rough edges ("Pretty nice. It smells clean, and it is nicely spaced out with nice, leather chairs on one side of the room..."). I'm also told that I'm twenty minutes late for my appointment, even though the appointment was at 3:00 and it's now 4:30.

The premise is that I've been selected to work at the "Planetron Defense Laboratories" on a spacecraft project, which is supposedly a prestigious job that I am excited about. But I'm told about things that seem odd or suspicious about this appointment, even though I can't tell what is odd or suspicious. Then, even though I'm usually not late for anything, I show up extremely late for the exciting, prestigious job I've always wanted, and I have no idea why. The initial experience, particularly with the receptionist, purposely comes across as suspect, which does provide some intrigue -- but only a little.

The "About" screens provide little additional information. It was written intentionally for the competition, so anyone finding this game outside of the IFComp is effectively excluded in the help section. Also might want to change the "Contacting the Author" section to say "They benefitted me greatly" rather than "They benefitted greatly"...unless I'm misinterpreting. I hope not.

Capture Score: 3. Might end up having some good puzzles, but I'll likely pass.



"Berrost's Challenge", by Mark Hatfield

Transitioning back once again from futuristic science fiction to magical fantasy, I'm presented with this tale of the player character's journey from floor mopper to "proper" wizard. But is that what this is? The intro describes how the master, Berrost, is planning on kicking out the apprentice player character because he is "too vexing" to invest the time it would take to mold him into a proper wizard. So instead the plan is to kick him out, but after teaching him a few spells. What?

On top of that, instead of teaching him the spells he has devised a challenge: the player must find the spell scrolls hidden in the village. That sounds like a pretty shaky premise for the game, but then who isn't up for a good easter egg hunt once in a while?

This one is also sprinkled liberally with typos and various spelling and grammatical errors, and the writing is awkward in many places. For instance, examining the murals in the opening room, I get: "Berrost spends a lot of flooglemids on ornamental junk that's primary function is to require constant cleaning," which is not exactly inspirational stuff. Also, in the intro: it's servitude, not serviture.

ABOUT produces a long list of commands, many of which are unique to this game. Spell success is apparently impacted by concentration, which is affected by hunger and fatigue; this can be turned off with the interestingly named CURMUDGEON command. Score is kept and ranges from 0 to a possible 100, altough it is framed as "wit." There are also numerical measures for "Manna" (which I assume pertains to spellcasting) and Concentration, as well as inventory bulk and weight.

Capture Score: 3. Could have been a 2 with some more polish, although I still might give it a go for the subject matter.



More to come...

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