A couple of paragraphs each on Despondency Index and Parthenon, from Introcomp 2011.
In each of these cases I came away feeling like I didn’t know what the author thought was the selling point of the game. Maybe I’m not getting it; alternatively, maybe the author didn’t know the answer to that question. (This is an issue to some degree in most Introcomps.)
The Despondency Index: Despite its extreme brevity, this contains several unhelpful errors (such as a room description that puts the exit in the wrong direction), which doesn’t inspire me with confidence. More to the point, though, I never got to do anything very interesting. The game insistently took agency away from me even on minor things. I ran, but it didn’t matter which direction I chose. I gave a command only to pick up a mug of cold coffee, but the game drank for me and then dropped the cup on the floor. I gave the command to take the idol, but the game narrated a whole bunch of reactions and movements afterwards.
I get that sometimes you want an effect, an image, a character note that would be ruined if you give the player control. But if your whole game is like that, then what you should be writing is a movie script or a novel, not IF. It’s possible the author is planning for the player to do some cool stuff later in the game, but the intro lacks examples of compelling gameplay.
Parthenon: This is implemented very sparsely: almost none of the scenery is there, key NPCs are totally unresponsive, the one important bit of interaction requires you to guess the verb, and there are assorted spelling and punctuation errors. But leaving all that aside, I can’t play this game without shouting WHAT?! at the screen every move. The game is named after the Parthenon, but the Parthenon in Athens bears no resemblance to the one in the game. There is no domed ceiling (maybe the author got it crossed up with the Pantheon in Rome?). The columns are not knee-height. The building is not divided into a half dozen different rooms, and neither is any other typical Greek temple. Animals were not stabled inside the Parthenon, nor were sacrifices performed under its roof. (Greek animal sacrifice happened at outdoor altars as a rule, or possibly — in the case of heroes and certain deities associated with the underworld — in a pit. There was a lot of blood and smoke, which would have been inconvenient indoors. What the temple did house was a cult statue, though that’s long since gone.) The Parthenon is not located on a street, but is on top of the Acropolis, together with a number of other buildings; and while the Acropolis does have sheer drops, these drops overlook lots more of Athens, not a lashing Mediterranean seascape. If you want the ocean, you have to drive to Piraeus. And ταξιδι means “travel” or “trip” and is not the name for a taxi. Eventually I started to wonder if the whole thing was a prank, because it would have taken no more than five minutes with an internet connection to correct many of these issues had the author cared to do so.
After the unconvincing tour of the unconvincing Parthenon, there’s a time-traveling magic bit which apparently takes us back in time to that well-known period of Greco-Aztec religion in which the priests sacrificed humans at obsidian door-altars.
I dunno. These choking noises I’m making, they’re not pedantic apoplexy exactly. More like appalled, incredulous laughter. To some extent I have the same reaction I had to April in Paris — here’s a piece I’m just not able to like because it is false to something I know from experience and care about a lot. And then it doesn’t help that the game is also not very strong technically.