IF Competition: Trein

Another IF Comp review, following my format for this comp. There is a cut, then any spoiler-free comments I have, and then spoiler space, and then more detailed feedback that assumes the reader has tried the game.

But first, we have some obligatory filler to try to make sure that the RSS summary does not accidentally contain any review. Filler, filler, la la la…

Okay. Here we go.

I’m sort of confused by this game. On the one hand, it’s apparently untested, relies on very basic find-thing-use-thing puzzles, has lots of unimplemented scenery and other technical issues, and sets a fairly generic plot in a fairly generic place (there are seelies and some hints of pagan festivals, but otherwise it is your basic Faux Medieval adventure land).

On the other hand, it’s sufficiently disciplined that it comes out much better than it has any right to be. There’s a fairly consistent (if sparse) distribution of stuff in the various rooms. The puzzles are mostly (with one appalling guess-the-verb exception) easy enough to solve in fairly rapid succession. The text contains lots of cues, which are sometimes too blatant, but not always. Trein is overall much more playable than I would have expected given some of the aforementioned quality issues. The writing has a tendency to cliché and also to summary, but it’s readable enough to make me wonder whether the remaining flaws were in fact a stylistic affectation.

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On the other other hand, “an Evidence”? And how about that PUT TORCH ON BRACKET business? Wouldn’t it make more sense to put a torch *in* a bracket? And how come the Unlit Torch is the only torch I can take, even though there are lots of other torches (mostly lit) in room descriptions? I wasted a bunch of time on the idea (silly me) that I needed the Unlit Torch in order to illumine something, and wandered all over the place trying to light it from one of the unimplemented torches.

Two possibilities occur to me. One: the author of this game is secretly an experienced IF author who wrote a parody of Generic Medieval Games with Lotsa Capital Letters so plausible that it isn’t obviously a parody; or, two: the author of this game is secretly a novice with a taste for old-school games but some not-bad design instincts, who simply hasn’t heard the good news about beta-testing.

This game is another vote for my new rule for next comp: any game where I can’t find some beta-tester credits, I don’t play. I know it’s possible that some people have their games tested but then neglect to credit the testers; but so far, at least, the absence of any credits has been a pretty reliable indicator that what followed wasn’t ready for prime time.

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