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C32 Comp 2004 Reviews - Amusement Park

Game #3: Amusement Park (Z5), by Algol
Re-Played On: 12/11/2004 (3:20 PM to 4:00 PM)
Score For Comp: 9 -- Unofficial Score: 8.5

     This is the second of the three games I beta-tested, and the one with which I spent the most time. Algol went a different direction than the other authors. His concept was to write a larger, longer game. To keep it within 32k, this meant seriously sacrificing detail in favor of more puzzles and more locations. "Amusement Park" works as a longer game, but the thinly-spread detail is a shame. (And no, I won't be rhyming the rest of the review.)

     As the player, you have found an old abandoned amusement park -- in a forest. As I said, the game lacks layered details. What's here, though, sets a certain creepy mood. The park "lies sleeping in the embrace of an ancient forest." The ticketing hut is "watching your every move with its blank window." Even the introductory blurb is fitting and spooky in this context.

     English is a second language to Algol, and in suggesting changes to the text, I tried to revise based on his intentions. Some flaws in the grammar and the writing persist, but it's doubtful any of it would have distracted me. When compared to "Zombies" -- or even Algol's own IF Comp '04 entry "Chronicle Play Torn" -- this text flows much better.

     Several parts of the game are likely to frustrate players. Perhaps the biggest source of confusion is the ending. To win, you leave the park by going south from the entrance. I can say that, because it's not really a spoiler. You can leave at any time. Ideally, you will have earned one hundred points. However, leaving is your decision. The game doesn't end once you see and do everything, nor does it clue you to this. You simply have to leave. Some puzzles are easy, but some require you to be thorough in examining what you see. The puzzle in the mansion is to find a way out -- but since this isn't evident, it might seem that the missing exit is a bug instead. Because some of the score comes in other ways, simply figuring out how to ride or go through the attraction at each location isn't enough.

     By now, I have already played through it several times. It takes about a minute to go from start to finish, and that's by memory. Algol has revised the parts where I became stuck during my first encounters with the game, but he added a little more that might elude new players. How easily will other players figure out how to raise the water lever for the canoe ride? Or find a way out of the mansion? Or discover what's needed to zoom down the slide the "fun" way? Ten points come from a move that can be done last as easily as first (the walkthrough begins with this move, although at least one alternate phrasing is supported). It's an action, though, that could easily be overlooked by some players.

     Despite this -- or maybe because of it -- I'm very partial to this game. It brings a classic adventure feel to the contest -- very little story, but plenty of puzzling game-play. If other judges really use the contest's premise as a basis for scoring these games, "Amusement Park" has to rank highly. As a hypothetical C32 cartridge, it offers plenty of (excuse the cliche) bang for your buck. Imagine buying that computer. Imagine buying one of the launch titles. This one could have been a hit. This one, difficult though it is, offers plenty for the pertinacious player.

     Post-review wrap-up: It really wasn't easy to rank the three games I beta tested. Of those I didn't, I was certain of the positions (one was my top game, the other two take clear places at the bottom). So, for second, third, and fourth place (scores of 9, 8, and 7, respectively), it was more or less a turkey shoot. If I hadn't decided to score by rankings, I might have been tempted to rate them all the same. But, since that isn't what I decided, I scored "Amusement Park" as my "9" -- primarily because it's a classic puzzle-fest somehow crammed into 32k. It seemed most fitting as a hypothetical seller on the hypothetical C32 computer. By my IF Comp '04 guidelines, I might have scored it at an 8.5 (placing it, oddly enough, below the other two I tested).

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