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C32 Comp 2004 Reviews - Paparazzi

Game #4: Paparazzi (Z5), by EV
Played On: 12/12/2004 (8:30 PM to 9:00 PM)
Score For Comp: 5 -- Unofficial Score: 2.5

     I know the rules require that we give each game a full hour - longer, if we choose. Doesn't this mean, though, that we should spend an hour before giving up on a tougher or longer game? Is it fair to cut things short at half an hour, when you have solved the game and concluded that further effort would just be a repeat of the same?

     I'm more than disappointed by "Paparazzi". The premise seemed original, and I started the game expecting an original twist on the idea. I actually put off continuing my contest list until I could set aside some quiet time (I previously peeked at the intro without taking any turns). The game disappoints, yes. More than that, it surprises me by being less enjoyable than "Zombies." And, more even than that, it actually inspires some hostility in me against the author - no offense intended.

     In the first fifteen minutes, I made no progress at all. I couldn't figure out how to successfully interact with anything. It was only after carefully re-reading the introduction that I was inspired to try a few more things. This worked, leading to some sudden death, and ultimately brought me to the ending. Fun trivia: You can win the game with one point by taking two turns. You can win the game with the full three points by taking only four turns. Unfortunately, these are almost the only things that you can do in the game. Nothing else seems to be implemented, except for the two or three sudden deaths. You can get the boyfriends and the girlfriend to leave, although neither of these actions award points. For that matter, neither action is required to win the game, except by exposing an exit to the second location. The exit, however, exists invisibly from the beginning.

     All of this is a surprise, because the game makes use of all but a few bytes of its 32k size limit. Where did it all go? Is there another layer to this game that is completely hidden? How can the other entries cram so much activity into such a small space, when this one seems all but devoid of it? I'll go out on a limb and suggest that maybe the game wasn't beta-tested. If you repeat either of the actions that bring about your first two points, for example, your score keeps rising (well beyond the 3-point maximum).

     "Paparazzi" is broken in other ways, too; that's just the most obvious of them. I'll list the bugs later in this review, because the problems go beyond its technical failures. The Prince's girlfriend rides away on a bicycle; if the couple are that young, wouldn't she at least have her own chauffeur? Why is the boyfriends' car already parked at the bar, even before they ride away in it? Is it even the same car? It would seem to be, since that's where it goes when they leave the castle. My job is to take pictures, yet the camera equipment is completely unnecessary to the game. It can't even be used, unless I missed a guess-the-verb or something. What are the boyfriends doing at the castle, when the princesses are at the bar instead? To say that "Paparazzi" makes no sense understates the matter. It seems as though the author had a wonderfully unique idea for a game, but found himself with only two days to complete it.

     On second thought, I'm not even going to include a bug report. Fixing only those things wouldn't be enough to fix the game. After the author finishes what seems to be an incomplete first draft, a round of beta testing should uncover everything I found (plus any other problems introduced by the added content). I don't like to be so negative about a game. I try hard to find the positive side and enjoy every game I play - no matter how badly it's criticized by others. It says a lot, then, that "Paparazzi" would likely have ranked below "Ninja v1.30" and "PTBAD 3" if it had been an entry in the 2004 IF Comp.

     Because the C32 competition has only six entries, I already made up my mind to vote in a different way. Instead of ranking each game on a scale of 1 to 10 based on criteria similar to my IF Comp '04 reviews, I'm going to rank my favorite at 10, the next at 9, and so forth. If "Paparazzi" bottoms out the list, it will still garner a 5 from me. Based strictly on merit, that's two or three points too high.

     Post-review wrap-up: I want to encourage the author not to give up just based on the results of this contest. "Paparazzi" was clearly the game I enjoyed least, with more wasted potential than "Zombies". It feels like the skeleton of the intro of a game. It bottoms out my rankings with the "5" spot. Using my IF Comp '04 rating scale, it would probably have earned a 2.5 from me.

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