For longer reviews, see Paul O'Brian's '>VERBOSE' pages or Jessica's Knoch detailed scoring page.
Was it a good Comp? Certainly it was in the sense that many people entered for the first time, demonstrating inventiveness and a grasp of the craft of adventure. As in Comp01 there were no pieces that made me go 'This is brilliant! This is what IF was made for', but the average may have been more enjoyable than last year, and the range of plots and structures seems more diverse.
Are there any other noticeable trends from last year? The thriller, in particular the spy thriller, seems to be a genre in the ascendant, although its popularity may well be a simple a statistical fluke; in a related trend, office settings are also common. Metaphysical and afterlife themes also continue to be popular.
It is noticeable that eleven or twelve pieces, nearly a third of the Comp, tell their main story in flashback. This perhaps shows that linear IF's liberty with sudden breaks in the story is now being used more effectively in conventional narrative techniques, instead of in gratuitous linearity. For the most part, flashbacks seem to work in piquing the player's interest. Flashback scenes can still allow interactivity, but at least three, if you stray off the track, respond with something very like 'But that's not how it happened, is it?' (a comment that could be followed with 'You bastard!' in each case): Photograph, Augustine and Unravelling God. The flashback group also overlaps with the composite pieces, where what could easily be separate stories have been packaged into one file ('MythTale' is an example of the overlap).
Some other general remarks:
A few pieces had annoying inventory limits. At least two Inform entries implemented a 'sack object' for overflow items, the usefulness of which was unfortunately blocked by an essential item that wouldn't fit in the sack. There are two entries which although not morbid, involve spending some time in a mortuary locker. Two also featured characters who would supposedly dispense any drink you could think of, but couldn't cope with the difference between white and red wine. [It's also been declared Year of the Squid, said molluscs appearing in four pieces.]
Also interesting, although unlikely to win Comp:
'Sun and Moon', 'Granite Book', 'The Case of Samuel Gregor', 'The PK Girl'.
UK download links are included for the 'picks', which are mostly in Z5 format. Walkthroughs can usually be found in the same directory. Should you need them, here are instructions for obtaining necessary interepreters.
8 Another Earth, Another Sky
By my score
| By Comp score
7.6 Another Earth, Another Sky
Like last year I'll start with the story-based 'linear' pieces named from the limerick
There was a young man who said: 'Damn!
It grieves me to think that I am
Predestined to move
In a circumscribed groove,
In fact, not a bus, but a tram.'
A piece that stands out from the tone of most of the rest of the comp, dealing very directly, as it does, with domestic violence. Other IF authors' attempts to cover such territory, or those of short story writers, might be more sophisticated or even ambiguous, but there's little elaborate technique here. The goal (the player's if not the characters') is to tell the truth about what has been going on in the title character's marriage, and the frustrations on the way to doing that illuminate this kind of abusive relationship well. More like 'Rameses' than 'Photopia' in its lack of interactivity and use of dialogue menus, I still found it more emotionally involving as IF than I would have if it had been a short story, despite the cursory characterization. There are several poignant incidentals, and it approaches climax and resolution in a gradual, dramatic way. I'm hoping for a new genre of 'social realist' IF. 8
Although having less serious intent than 'Jane', this piece (again not a 'game') also conveys real frustration and powerlessness, this time at a metaphysical level as well as a social one. It consists of four subsections linked only by theme, which can be played in any order. There is intelligent writing, detailed implementation - very few objects I wanted to look at had not been thought of - and accomplished programming beyond the normal kind in IF. The second section, 'Inanimate' contains much of the humour and some well characterised NPCs, but produced an idea of the identity of the PC which wasn't apparently entirely what was intended. Although there were a few minor bugs in the third section, the main thing that detracts from the overall effect is the lack of any conclusion to the piece as a whole. 8
An adaptation of a short story, this one does not seem to have translated as well as 'Photograph'. Set in a future not much different from the present, 'Eric's Gift' mostly requires conversation to progress the story. However, the number of topics that can be conversed about is really much too small, and the effect of speaking-at-the-right-time-in-order-to-act, although in some ways more realistic than the traditional IF which focuses on physical actions, is to make it obvious that we are in someone else's story, not creating it for ourselves. The story being told is of the Monkey's Paw / Twilight Zone variety; although solid, it feels a bit dated. 4
Almost entirely linear, in the sense of little significant choice until the end, although that allows the narrative to hop around in non-linear 'flashbacks'. On the other hand, the dialogue system made it seem like a little like CYOA. A well-told and well-written story, but featuring somewhat clichéed settings. Room descriptions often repeat themselves and you are allowed to explore a whole area during an early segment which doesn't have any relevance until later (possibly deliberately underlining the lack of choice?). 6
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Till Death Makes a Monkfish Out of Me!
This is clearly going for the 'best title' award, isn't it? Not that that means anything by itself, but 'Till Death' lives up to its title better than 'Invasion of the Angora-Fetish Transvestites...' did last year; some bits are very funny, but most of it is a straight puzzle-based adventure, sharing both linearity and a cutting-edge laboratory setting with 'Unraveling God' (above). It's also longer than two hours if played without hints, and I didn't feel sufficiently rewarded by having reached the end, since very little had actually changed and some of the plot remains obscure. But there's lots of fun to be had on the way, particularly the 'evening classes in a bottle' puzzle. 7
When Help Collides
This is probably the most adventurous and original entry in the entire competition. Like 'Constraints', it actually comprises four very different sub-games, stylistically with even less connection to each other. The two I had time to play properly ('Help' and 'Bleach of Etiquette') were perhaps the best, and both barely used the Inform parser. The first has a truly surreal opening that makes it rather difficult to orient oneself at first. The role you then assume for most of the story is highly amusing and quite ironic - I shouldn't spoil it, but it does open up interesting ways of interacting with other characters, similar to that in 'Being Andrew Plotkin'. The second sub-game had very little humour despite the title, and I found it quite challenging, requiring three attempts before winning. From what I saw of them the other two pieces were distinctly more conventional, but worth playing. No major bugs that I could see [that was playing with Winfrotz 2.x], and the whole package does several new things and does them well. 9
I did a much longer review of When Help Collides in SPAG 31, which also includes much praise for it from Jon Ingold.
Download (279K +, release 2)
Hell: A Comedy of Errors
There's not a lot more to this piece than the premise [which makes it definitely a game, not a story], so look away now. You are a demon whose job it is to torture souls as thoroughly as possible, using such novel torture implements as a 'screechy singer' and an accountant who recites the duller parts of tax law. The programming is well above average, allowing the player to build a custom dungeon from prefabricated prototypes, some of which are also imaginative and well-described. The scoring is the only real sign of progress in the game, and it's quite important to keep an eye on it every few turns as it provides the only warning that you have performed a torture less than perfectly. There's are some annoying limitations such as 'You cannot torture two souls in the same room'. An interesting subterranean diversion, but personally I found it unsatisfying because of the lack of story. Maybe I'll come back to it when I'm feeling more sadistic: a feature to enter the name of a personal enemy might be useful. 4
I suspect this is going to do better in the comp than my impressions of it would suggest. 'Janitor' features pastiches of Zork and Advent and references to many other classic works of IF, and the premise is a clever metafictional conceit that might appeal to IF writers. However, part of that conceit, reversing a treasure hunt process, has been done before ('Zero Sum Game') and in this case, I found it unnecessarily cruel because replacing an item is likely to be harder and more tedious than finding it. Resorting to the hints actually confused me even more - the most important hint would be the command which allows one to play the story forwards. Yes, it's funny, but the humour isn't enough to sustain itself when one is bogged down trying to lose the last few lousy points. 6
I hadn't read any of Simon Travaglia's 'Bastard Operator From Hell' stories before playing this, but soon went looking for them on the Register, and this adaptation gets the sadistic flavour across pretty well, meanwhile adding some humour of its own. But I kept trying things that hadn't been programmed, and following a hint about a magic word found an apparently unwinnable state; the new verbs that are unnecesarily added could have been better handled too. The final scenes seemed less in keeping with BOFH, petty rather than psychopathic. 4
Coffee Quest II
I quite enjoyed this one for the puzzles. The office setting is reminiscent of 'Little Blue Men', and this particular Dilbertspace derives humour mostly from cruel stereotypes of co-workers, rather than company practices. The puzzles too become quite cruel by the final stages including a guess-the-verb, and a geographically-unrelated-lever. There are quite a few buggy responses and typos, but some laughs too. 5
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Perhaps one of the advantages of the spy thriller for the programmer is the lack of NPCs, as discussed recently on raif. I've also included pieces towards the end of this section which are clearly not spy thrillers, but which could be said to have a suspense derived from avoiding direct conflict through most of the story.
'Rent-A-Spy' didn't promise much from the title, but that was deceptive. Although unpretentious, it is a perfectly-formed IF story with plenty of puzzles, mostly well clued and often original, all of which fit the story perfectly and do not feel forced or artificial. Your objective is clear from the start: to gain access to a building, obtain incriminating evidence, and likewise achieve egress without leaving behind any obvious hint of your visit. You start with no inventory and have to fashion the tools of the trade from anything at hand. Unfortunately, I played this one on auto-pilot so didn't appreciate the puzzles as much as I could have. 6
Seems like it might have been a bit of a rushed job, with a sizeable introduction but hurried ending (or was that just me using the walkthrough?) There are some nice touches to the writing, and the SF plot is well presented, if a little inconsistent: the story seems to get bored with its opening cyberpunk clichés and violence, and then wanders into a few slightly different forms.
'ID Thief' doesn't seem to have been playtested at all, and could become a textbook example of gameplay problems. If it is possible to play it without the walkthrough at all, it is very easy to reach a suboptimal ending where the final message makes little sense. The first scene requires Xing the Y and fair enough, Y's description does say there's something odd about it, but attempts to X it result in short messages suggesting you can't X it at all; in fact, you only need Z to X the Y, but when you do it the program implies you actually used... er... W that you may not have and has no connection to Z. Still worth a second release. 4
Out of the Study
This is a simple and enjoyable little puzzle. There is quite a sense of mystery in expanding the description of a single room to its second or third or fourth level of features in a hunt for clues. The player also finds some nice descriptions on the way, and by the end of the process I had a vivid and detailed visualisation of my location, rather like something the IF Art Show strives for. I had to ask the author for a hint, mostly because I forgot to search somewhere obvious, but also as a result of the two or three red herrings. The conclusion [modified in release 2] was a trifle unsatisfying, but getting there was fun. 8
Download ZIP of ALAN files (40K).
A Party to Murder
This is an ADRIFT composition where the parser seemed to be nearly up to the same standard as that of TADS or Inform, although generating a few weird responses: 'give coffee to character' results in 'You can't drink the drink'. This is a party full of what seemed at first to be apparently unresponsive NPCs, who mostly ignore you, give stereotypical responses, or (you are told) are too boring to interact with. (In fact I could hold an interesting conversation on the subject of cheese for quite a while. It was probably G. K. Chesterton who observed that poets have been surprisingly reticent on the subject of cheese.) Anyway, lest you think this is actually pretty realistic behaviour during a particularly bad party, they also refuse to engage in any conversation about your objectives, viz finding either your host or a file on your home.
Nor do they react realistically when the title murder is discovered. Instead you have to snoop about, finding clues as to the perpetrator and motive of the murder. In one bedroom scene, the NPCs do react appropriately, so it shows the author could do it with a bit more coding. The basic plot idea is actually very good, and the middle section picks up, but you will almost certainly have to restart once (the condition for a sudden 'death' being too broad), and one later puzzle solution is less than logical. 5
Sun and Moon
One of the novelties in the Comp that seemed radical and new to me, and which perhaps cannot be done again. Instead of playing a story file on an interpreter, here we follow the author's clues over the web in an internet treasure hunt: I wonder if Stephen G had to get an undertaking that the author wasn't going to change anything deliberately during the judging period.
Of course, hypertext is fine for investigating and turning up concealed information, but one limitation is that puzzle solutions cannot involve manipulation of physical objects, only of data, in this case a series of passwords. Obtaining these solutions requires a little general knowledge, and there is plenty of fun for those into cryptic clues that isn't actually relevant to the easiest solution. The writing and web design should be capable of imitating that of a weblog and a corporate site among others; the first it achieves well, the second less so, and a few things break the realism, such as the epilogue. Perhaps sensibly, the author pulls his punches and notes that this is part of a fiction at the bottom of every page: instead he could have created all kind of identities to leave clues on public discussion boards and so on. The SF plot really needed a bit more work to suspend disbelief; perhaps the author realised this and so decided to add a few bits of comic relief. 6
The Case of Samuel Gregor
At the heart of 'Samuel Gregor' is a really good idea that has been achieved without the breaking of any IF conventions or narrative flow. Both this central idea and the East European setting are conscious tributes to Franz Kafka. Fortunately the bureaucracy in the story is surmountable and there is a conclusion (unlike The Castle). My enjoyment was marred when I found several problems in the implementation, such as the inventory limit and a buggy container; of all the pieces in Comp02, I think this is the one that would benefit most from a second and third release. There is a particularly ironic puzzle involving a clock, but in this and other metamorphoses, just a few more clues or updated object descriptions or psychological references would make it work so much better. 5
Four Mile Island
If you are nostalgic for old-style BASIC two-word parsers, mazes, brief descriptions, and breaches of the player's charter, this is definitely the one for you. 'Four Mile Island' adds some variety to the comp which judges may appreciate, but considered on its own merits as a story, there's not too much here. This story involves a terrorist rather than a spy, in this case threatening to blow up the infamous nuclear facililty of the title, but some of the same tropes apply. There are some problems with the plot: for example, you're sent in as an empty-handed negotiator, yet your main sub-objective is to obtain a gun. But in those days, such things didn't really matter. 4
The PK Girl
This is a thriller with fantasy overtones which, once the player gets over its rather adolescent viewpoint and style and oddly prosaic or elevated descriptions, actually has a lot to offer. The PC is quickly hooked into the action of the first two chapters, only for the pace to slow considerably during the tedious domesticities of the following two, when there are opportunities to increase involvement with the female NPCs. In addition to just completing the story, there is a separate system of 'scoring' which gives another meaning to the word. (I wouldn't want to give the wrong impression by that: in fact it seems more prudish than sexually explicit. )
The depth of implementation is very impressive indeed, and nearly bug-free. Even after the two hours of play I found hints of large areas that I had completely missed: in this way it resembles Comp01's 'Moments out of Time' - not necessarily too long, but too broad to be appreciated during the Comp. The characterisation on the other hand is very variable: there are lots of responses programmed, but the dialogue was stilted and lacking much flavour except in the case of a few caricatures. Nor is it helped by the included 2-D cartoon images of the main NPCs, when the programming actually strives for and frequently succeeds in a level of realism beyond that of Toontown. I gave this a low score after 2 hours and use of the walkthrough because the story seemed incompletable after the PC ran out of cash, which seems a trivial and annoying obstacle if attention had not been drawn to it [in fact it was still winnable, but I still felt misdirected]. 4.
This long and ambitious adventure could also fit in the 'Myth' category, since a lot of it is told in flashback. A huge amount of work, research and imagination has gone into it, and even weeks after playing it, many of the scenes remain quite vivid. I now know a lot more about St. Augustine, the oldest city in the USA, than I did before playing. The drawbacks are that a similar story has been done before, and because of that, all the creativity which the author has exercised results in detail that seems there to fill in gaps and it can get a bit predictable. Perhaps even more complexity could have been added to some of the sections to avoid having obvious candidates to be unmasked as villains by the PC - the story would then be far too long for the Comp. Some of the period details fail to convince, but the author clearly has a passion for history, and I look forward to his next work. 6
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Not Much Time
Mild . A 'collect the magic ingredients' quest within a modern-day setting that felt quite real. Very quickly one finds plenty of direct clues about the disappearance of the PC's aunt, and some of the required objects are also quite close at hand - the one thing I had trouble finding was actually in the start location. The puzzles are on the whole well set-up although there are some details that could be considered red herrings. There's a bit of animal cruelty - I suppose one objection to witchcraft is that someone has to have the job of newt enucleation. 5
Mild . By the same author as 'Not Much Time', here the light-hearted style doesn't work so well with the theme of unjust incarceration, especially as one escape attempt involves killing an NPC, something way out of proportion to anything that has gone before. It also hasn't been playtested as completely, at least not by anyone whose preferred method of investigation is the 'search' verb. One nice puzzle at the beginning involves a toilet (it seems the author is from a more civilized part of the world, where they don't still have 'slopping out' in prisons). 3
Quite a well-imagined bit of SF, set in a luxury spaceship with an internal ecology. However, the first question that comes to mind is never resolved: given the title, why has the PC alone among the passengers not evacuated? The puzzles here seem too cruel perhaps because they weren't well described, and required some very precise wording, and hence the walkthrough. Could be better proof-read too: 'hurculean' (without caps) really required more persistence with the dictionary.
While "Evacuate" fortunately lacks an inventory limit, it is marred by a lot of IF beginners' traps, including a maze (with a twist, as usual), unannounced unwinnable states, and worst of all, a starvation time-limit. If the food is readily available, it's just a minor detail, but if you've spent several hundred moves trudging between locations and in fact innocently working yourself into an unwinnable position, it's very annoying, as well as unnecessary. In different circumstances where the threat of death was not realized, it might possibly convey a sense of urgency, but to simply drop dead after an hour of play, and what can't be much longer in the fictional world, is inexplicable. What kind of dietary problem does the PC have? Anyway, there is the consolation of a big explosion at the end. 3
The first thing I noticed about this was the feelies: two exquisitely drawn maps in PDF format (although there's a bit of confusion in the story over which way the river should flow!). The almost utopian fantasy world is also beautifully imagined (maybe two parts Earthsea to one part Middle Earth) and provides the PC with some very appropriate elemental spells. These are useful in the four independent escape attempts the player must make, each mostly comprised by timed puzzles, and the even more time-critical finale. The work does contain a warning that the player will need to keep several saved positions, and even given that, it feels that if the story were considerably more merciful it might be more fun. A few spelling errors could be corrected, and useful synonyms added. Probably too long to play in 2 hours without walkthough, but given the caveats above, more time, and frequent restores, it stands to be a classic, and part of a trilogy to boot. 7
Download story file (335K) and relevant map (PDF, 330K).
Another Earth, Another Sky
Which, I suppose, leads me to the second of another trilogy where the PC has superhuman powers. Without the pseudonym that was used for last year's episode, some unconscious positive bias may have come into play in my scoring this one more highly, but I think what really made the difference was the more exotic setting. The comic dialogue that derives mostly from sibling rivalry between the two superheroes is less in evidence this time, but we do have Glulxe-enhanced visual 'sound effects' that look good and set the tone for the adventure. (Also gone from 'Earth and Sky I' are features that could have won Xyzzy award for best xyzzy.) I enjoyed exploring the grandly visualised landscape, and I think every puzzle solution came easily without hints, except a guess-the-verb-construction problem at the start of chapter 3; while it was a logical extension of the Inform language, it could have been better clued. The complete absence of objects not involved in puzzles (except to explain the backstory) helped here. 8
A piece using the Quest system, which was also too buggy to finish. It's not just a matter of poor English, I don't think the software was tested much or even proof-read: a character is said to "hold grunge against you". (I may have worn ripped jeans a few times, so what?) This superhero story starts well enough, with expected violence, but I have no idea how it ends. 1
Oh dear. I recommend going straight to the walkthrough for this one. And then probably not playing the thing. The motive and setting, collecting dinosaur DNA from prehistoric Earth, holds potential, but there are so many things that let it down. One of the first things one encounters is 'Black Bot', whose description is simply 'Black Bot is Bot's nemesis', leaving one none the wiser. Then the landscape consists of many undifferentiated tracts not relevant to the story and which are a pain to map, and in further similarity to Comp01's 'Stranded', there's a sudden death trap that activates when you leave. Only to be fair, in fact it isn't an unwinnable condition at all, but the first puzzle you have to solve: unfortunately, I'd already lost faith in the game design which could only have been restored by really good puzzle description and in-story hints about your objective. The objective you are given is in fact mis-stated, the actual 'solution' requiring knowledge you could not possibly possess, relying it seems to me entirely on persistence and serendipity, and not making any plausible sense at the end anyway. Sorry, guys, but a terrible.gam indeed. 2
This story can be finished, although there is an inexplicable bug that I think can easily make it unwinnable. The puzzles would otherwise be gentle, as are the comic moments. Had it not been for the bug, and some irrelevancies, it could have been more intriguing and fun. 3
This is much a better bit of SF, being pretty bug-free with nicely caricatured NPCs, and good writing. I describe the non-interactive cut-scenes at the start and end as 'frenetic'. There are all kinds of nice touches with default responses changed to things like 'Don't molest the scenery' and an alliterative fullscore command. There are two puzzles that many players will solve immediately without using all the objects provided, thus getting a lower score: a case of the solution not being exacting enough perhaps. Likeable, playable, and fulfilled by a satisfying conclusion. 7
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The opening read really well until I got to something about a crimson oak tree. Maybe it's a different species; even at this time of year, the oaks over here are never crimson. So I start out expecting realism, and then a new device is introduced that goes beyond simple flashbacks in the author's intention of reliving childhood memories: the 'screen' of the title. The lack of detail in this part of the story, even before we enter what are obvious fantasies, is disturbing, and I am not sure if that is intentional - has someone besides the story author set this scenario up? What is its function? 'Screen' is a short work that then includes two discrete sub-pieces. The first works, although my cultural knowledge is such that I don't understand what the scene refers to, and the second might have worked were it not for a few guess-the-verbs coupled with a very tight time limit. 4
The Granite Book
As with last year's 'Kallisti', I wish the author could be more explicit about what he is trying to achieve. For all I know, it may be an allusion to a myth of which I am unaware; or maybe it's purely invented. Despite this inaccessibility and lack of explicit objective, the opening, which is not returned to satisfactorily, does a very good job of describing a human world through alien eyes. We then find ourselves in a warped symbolic statuary trying to restore some kind of symmetry to the world. 4
Two hours cannot be entirely wasted if you learn something. 'MythTale' incorporates scenes from several Classical myths, from Daedalus and Icarus to more obscure (to me) stories like that of Polyeidus, each a well-handled little puzzle. The framing narrative, meanwhile, consists of two pieces, one to do with a Golden Bowl (possibly Zeus's, it was not too clear), and a Curses-like rummage through your house to find your lost notes for... a piece of interactive fiction. Kind of self-referential, that, but fun. There is some complex programming in, for example, a cat feeder that takes a little working out [most reviewers disliked this; it worked for me], but sometimes simpler situations are let down by lack of response to sensible commands or minor bugs in descriptions or typos. As usual, I'm hoping for a second release. Another bonus is the presence of five cats, each well-characterised in accordance to their respective name (one solution to the problem of NPC dialogue is to have non-speaking NPCs). 8
The Moonlit Tower
An abstract puzzlefest lifted above most of the genre by exceptional writing and a believable mythology. At times the amount of room description involving things which aren't there might even make the player think the piece a bit pretentious at first. The puzzles are all well-clued, each solution providing a little bit of background as the PC's identity gradually dawns on you, making a replay (or reading of the transcript) useful to understand these hints. However, a whole slew of puzzles seem unnecessary to achieve the conclusion; while it seems there are meant to be multiple endings, I could only find one. Highly atmospheric. 9
Color and Number
Another abstract puzzlefest, although this time with a brief framing story to do with investigating an obscure cult, later somewhat spoiled by the unexpected use of futuristic technology. The tasks involve decoding a simple number system for later use in extended dial-twiddling and lever-pulling. Two other puzzle phases saw me resort to the hints, because the helpful texts and pictures left around were not quite helpful enough, and open to quite a range of interpretations, none of which felt 'natural'. Authors should make allowance for players who try a correct solution but make a slight error in implementing it and therefore assume it was wrong. A great feat of programming, however, and only a few typos. 5
My overall winner in the comp, pipping to the post some others within this section that might equally have been favourites. It's hard to say why Photograph's overall effect on me was more profound than that of, say The Moonlit Tower. Perhaps it was that I could thoroughly relate to the player character, and that the gradually introduced fantasy elements elicited appropriate reactions rather than just being presented as the way things are (not that either of those things are criticisms of 'The Moonlit Tower'). The opening scene is a detailed observation exercise, leading to flashbacks within flashbacks, and the writing and programming are consistently good.
This is a piece for anyone who has ever look at a personal photograph with longing or regret. [In some ways it's similar to J. G. Ballard's tales of obsessives.] The character here does exactly that, in his case, fantasizing a Good Life in a traditional sense; but just in case you think it's going to be a morality tale reinforcing conventional aspirations, the conclusion overturns this. There is all the same some moral I can draw from this about living in the present moment [as was intended by the author].
The outback setting is an essential character in the story, and I don't see any reason the author should attempt to make it vaguer than it is. (Iain Banks claims that the more personal, local and particular a story is, paradoxically the more universal it becomes.) And a pademelon is a small wallaby, for those who don't already know (I did!). 10
Download release 3 (or later) (202K)
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I don't know quite why H. P. Lovecraft seems to have inspired such enjoyable IF. Perhaps it's something to do with the secular, modern forms of horror story fitting a computer-based medium, or the heightened descriptions. In any case, this is another eldritch addition to that genre. It has an effective opening, unearthly setting, good puzzles and a logical conclusion. 'The Temple' also features a single reasonably rounded NPC who is all too willing to assist (reappearing when needed even after you've sent him home, which is perhaps a bug), and excellent contextual hints. There's perhaps nothing too innovative about it, and the dialogue and writing is often perfunctory and straightforward, but it conjured vivid images despite that. 8
Scary House Amulet
The childish language of the title continues through this horror comedy together with matched idiosyncrasy of invented puzzles. Far better than Comp01's 'Mystery Manor', however, because here when we are repeatedly told, rather than shown, in an overstated way how 'scary' this location is, it works to comic effect. Humour and horror have something in common, claimed Stephen King, because they are the only genres that produce audible response in the audience. There were more chuckles here than gasps. My favourite responses were when examining (a) a bible and (b) the already-described innards of a vanquished foe: respectively 'It's full of words!' and 'Cool!'. 5
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Five minutes of Zen lateral thinking. It does what it claims to, with misdirection supplied by IF expectations, but I didn't find the fairly clever solution that satisfying. 3
Ramon and Jonathan
This very short piece plunges you into the end of a story with just enough description to work out the backstory. It presents you with only two puzzles, requiring good timing and frequent restarts. Most of the actions you try don't seem to have been programmed for, and the plot is none too logical. The English is poor, but the author's heart seems to be in the right place. 3
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