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November 12, 2008

IFComp: Slow Capture

Only seven games left to go, and three days left in the Comp. So time to start wrapping things up with the penultimate batch of 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 "The Hall of the Fount of Artois", "Riverside", "Magic", and "The Lucubrator".

"The Hall of the Fount of Artois", by Simon

The last of four Windows-only games in the IFComp. I'm a Mac user, so I'll have to find out after the final Comp votes are tallied to see if this is unfortunate.

Capture Score: 4. Fortunately, only four of these this year.

"Riverside", by Jeremy Crockett and Victor Janmey

This is another game that comes without an information file, ABOUT screen, or any HINT or HELP commands, but the introduction and opening scene are written with enough skill and style that I can overlook this. It's a game with a somber tone; at the start, a close friend has been murdered, and we begin at the funeral. Where it goes from there is not clear, but the story is set up well and the atmosphere is believable.

Interested in getting more feel for the game, I played a few moves and realized that there would be more to the story, one that involved a potential mystery around my friend's death. I thought this was a good hook into the developing narrative, at least from a technical standpoint, although I thought the writing stumbled a bit at this point, and a few typos and/or misspellings detracted a small bit from the impact. Still, it looks like a good effort.

Capture Score: 2. Drew me in enough to generate some interest.

"Magic", by Geoff Fortytwo

One of only two TADS3 games in this year's Comp, this game is "a story about the dangers that magicians can face." It starts with a scene of me performing a magic trick in front of a dozen uninterested children; I thought at first it was written fairly well, but when it ended with me running away crying and giving up on magic, I was a bit jolted, particularly as I then wake the next morning in a dumpster. From there, it appears you can explore the neighborhood a bit, which includes the magic shop and some nearby houses.

Overall, it appears to be a moderately interesting game. The writing is generally adequate, with only a few typos, but the writing is awkward in places and the descriptions are not particularly engaging. The description of the magic spell discovered early on is an attempt at humor (I think) with a reference to Paris Hilton and trash, but it comes across as neither creative nor funny. There doesn't appear to be a solid hook after a few moves, although I admit I'm a little curious to see where the story will eventually go. But only a little curious.

Capture Score: 3. Could use a bit more refinement and a better hook.

"The Lucubrator", by Rick Dague

Dague has written or contributed to a number of IF games in the past, although I don't think I've played any of them. His latest game is a bit of an enigma; it starts with my character lying prone on an autopsy table, held down by restraints. There is a sharp cleaver nearby, but the restraints prevent me from doing much with my hands. After a few turns, I was honestly stumped, and actually had to resort to the walkthough; without mentioning the solution, I have to say I don't think it would ever have come to me considering the way that the restraints otherwise preventing me from doing anything.

I was more frustrated than challenged by this one, even in just the opening of the game. The writing is decent, but dotted in places by awkward sentence structure, and there are fairly common actions and objects that are not defined -- for instance, YELL is allowed, but TALK is not recognized. It's fairly clear within a few turns what is happening at the opening of the story, but my overall impression is that it could use a bit more work and some polish.

Capture Score: 3. An interesting idea hampered by its design and structure.

Almost done...

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