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IF COMP 2004 - Magocracy

Game #15: Magocracy, by Scarybug (A. Joseph Rheaume)
Played On: 10/12/04 (6:45 PM to 7:30 PM, and 8:00 PM to 9:20 PM)
Unofficial Score: 10.0 (9.0 base with +1.0 skew)

     When the "readme" for a game begins with "...is not like most Interactive Fiction games," it kind of sends up a red flag. In the past, I might have thought "cool!" Now, I kind of think "uh oh." In the case of Magocracy, the former is more appropriate.

     I'm not sure what it is about this game that I liked so well, but taken as a whole, I found it a wonderful experience to play (even if I did get stuck down in the dungeon -- even that was fun). Maybe it's the writing, especially in the introduction. Maybe it's because I started playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends just a couple of months ago (yeah yeah, I guess I'm a big nerd), for the first time since a brief encounter with it over twenty years earlier. Maybe it's because the total flip-flop from black-on-white to white-on- black between the castle and the dungeon impressed me. Maybe it's because of the cool castle and dungeon layouts. Maybe it was just the right kind of game at the right time in my play list. It isn't even really a puzzle-based game, but using spells can be a puzzle in itself. It isn't a perfect game, either; it has its share of periodic typos.

     It's becoming increasingly difficult for me to pick a favorite game -- or even a top three (I kind of dread casting my Miss Congeniality vote) -- but this one is a strong contender. Somebody else could have written this game and completely botched it, making it not only dull but downright messy. Mr. Rheaume does a fantastic job of making the game not only playable (and re-playable), but highly entertaining to boot!

     The hints say that in my situation, I couldn't have left the dungeon. With only one mage standing (I pride myself on defeating at least one of them), I kept hoping for some way out of my situation. But no. She did appear, but she vanished just as quickly. Still, it was FUN. I'll play this game again, I'm sure. It's the kind of game that actually makes me want to play more and discover better tactics. My crowning achievment was when I conjured the dead body of a recently deceased mage in time to loot the corpse. I didn't expect it to work, but it did!

     I didn't find any real bugs (except maybe that I can read books being carried by other mages if I refer to "book" and then disambiguate), but with so much going on in the game, I did find typos. The description for the east guest wing is missing a space after the period in "...trophies on the wall.The hall..." Near that, "an golden orb" is mentioned. Looking at Loge puts an "a" in place of "he" in the line that reads "...speak of the time a bested..." In the dungeon (grid coord 5,5), something found and referenced as being "west" is actually to the east. From there, the line "...to cell door is east" appears. A space is needed between "at" and "the" in "...obsidian blade atthe stone gargoyle..." In the line containing "...Loge sends handfull..." an "a" should appear after Loge, and "handful" needs only one "l". "Cold" should be "could" in the line "...she cold free her people..." Although it isn't a typo, if you try to conjure a book and disambiguate to the "wealth" book, a message says that with so many books here, it would take forever (seems to be piggy-backing off normal "get" messages).

     I intended to base this game at 9.0 with a +0.5 skew, because I wanted to save the ultimate score for the game that totally wows me. This one comes dangerously close, though. It's not even sci-fi, but I couldn't justify giving a lesser skew for a game I think deserves a high mark. So, with a full point skew (for being so well-designed, fun, and original among other IF games), it gets an unofficial 10 from me. It's probably too early to predict, especially when I'm not even half-way through the entries, but I'll be very disappointed if "Magocracy" doesn't land a spot in the final top three.

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