Another IF Comp review, following my format for this comp. Yeah, I know, I thought I was done too — but then I discovered (apropos of playing Eliuk Blau’s Damusix demo) that my copy of Spatterlight wasn’t as up to date as I thought it was. So I thought, why not have another stab at playing the Alan game, since maybe the problem there was that I didn’t have the latest Spatterlight with the latest Alan insert?
And what do you know: it worked.
(Incidentally, one of the things I really love about Zoom is its ability to check on its own for new interpreter modules, and download them when updates are needed. That is a sweet feature. Too bad Zoom doesn’t cover Alan, or play sounds.)
More after the break, which is to say
I like the idea of a martial arts school: that introduces the possibility of lots of unusual puzzles (combat, contemplative, or some mix of the two). And there just isn’t enough eastern-themed IF to start with, with a few fun exceptions (Moonlit Tower, Katana, and Lesson of the Tortoise come to mind).
The implementation is, unfortunately, not as good as the premise; at least, I find the puzzles fairly undirected, and the scenery underimplemented, and I rapidly lose immersion in the frustration of trying to figure out what the heck I can do here.
Still, the implementation is not as sketchy as that of many another game I’ve played in this competition. I would likely have finished the game had it come bundled with a walkthrough.
I got through the first puzzle (though, like many other people, I had a few moments of doubt in trying to interpret the symbol images). Then I got to the second and couldn’t figure out what to do at all. Something about getting the torches, maybe? Or conquering the three men? But my attempts to knock a torch down, or jump up to get it, or push it over with my staff, or use it to light my paper on fire — or to attack the men, or ask them questions, or show them things — all end in cluelessness. Even in this sparse environment, not everything is implemented. (The men don’t seem to exist individually, only as a “men” collective; the cloaks don’t appear to be modeled at all.) I quickly progress into the sorts of stupid commands tried by users who are getting confused and frustrated:
> stand on staff
You can’t do that.
> stand on men
You can’t do that.
> climb men
[The word ‘climb’ isn’t recognised in this story.]
> form human pyramid
[The word ‘form’ isn’t recognised in this story.]
So… neh. Nice idea, not enough follow-through. I wouldn’t have noticed some of the implementation issues had my goal been clearer, though.
(I think there is a broader principle at work here: the more directed the player’s activity, the shallower the sets can get away with being. The more frustration/stuckness the player is likely to encounter, the more it matters to have every, every detail of the environment responsive in full. Being Andrew Plotkin was, as I recall, a little sparse around the edges implementation-wise, but it was such a wild ride and so cinematically paced that most people didn’t poke around enough to notice. Lost Pig offers lots more opportunities to get stuck, but it keeps you entertained during the potential stuck periods with a near-infinite supply of participatory slapstick.)
Anyway: not bad, not fabulous; I’m glad I got a chance to try it, if belatedly, but it doesn’t fundamentally change anything I said in my comp overview.