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IF COMP 2004 - Chronicle Play Torn

Game #7: Chronicle Play Torn, by Algol
Played On: 10/07/04 (2:30 PM to 4:30 PM)
Unofficial Score: 6.5 (6.0 base with +1.0 and -0.5 skews)

     I found it difficult to rank this game. I overlooked the grammatical errors, numerous as they were, because this author has done an amazing job if English is foreign to him/her. This was probably the first competition game I played without caring as much for the quality of grammar and phrasing. I think I actually enjoyed it more as a result.

     I found the game world very interesting, very fun to explore, and something unique at this point in the competition. It was very trippy, at times, but I liked that. I found one fatal error ("get gnostical" from the bookshelf at the beginning will result in a Frotz "illegal object" error, and the game crashes). Other than that, and discounting the problems in the writing, my chief issues are with playability.

     I think you have to distinguish between ordinary puzzle-fests, and games intended for the competition. It's something I'll have to keep in my mind for future competitions, but this game really illustrated the problem. The game world was big, the challenges were plenty, and you can put the game in unwinnable states that require replays. Ordinarily, maybe that's not so bad. But when you're trying to stick to a two-hour rule (yeah, yeah, I'm not officially judging -- I could take however long I need, but still...), these things lead to frustration. In particular, every once in a while, various incarnations of an item-stealing statue will appear. It's actually very well done, and the text is varied each time. However, it turns out that you really do need that pickaxe more than once. I can start over from a prior save (heeding the warning from the text file), but I'm beginning to realize it's just not much fun to play through the same parts of a game when the only reward is to get un- stuck. If I didn't have 30 games still to play, this might not bother me. I didn't even need the walkthrough until Part 3, and then I just kind of kept referring to it because I lost my sense of purpose. It was fun to explore -- I loved the world Algol has created -- I just felt confused.

     I noticed something in this game, and in the last ("Escape from Auriga") that struck me as odd. Maybe it's something particular to Inform or the Frotz interpreter, but attempts to "Get All" will cycle through every reachable object: windows, doors, walls, floor, statues... anything. Again, this might not be the author's fault, it's hard to say. I know that in Hugo, you simply make the object "exclude_from_all." Something similar could probably be done here. Otherwise, crafty use of "get all" will identify everything you see, often giving clues where clues shouldn't have been.

     I liked it, yet it frustrated me. I didn't beat it, although I might have, if not for that dastardly statue. I added one full point for entertaining me with such an imaginative game world, and I removed half a point because it is so easy to render unwinnable. That's a final score of 6.5. I can tell that the author put a lot of work into it, and I hope it does well in the competition. I didn't get to see any of the three endings (assuming the three paths outlined in the walkthrough lead to three separate endings), but I would like to. This is another I'll have to come back to later, especially if the author releases an updated version.

     Does anybody have any idea what the title means, and in what way it references the game? I sure couldn't figure it out, but I must be missing something.

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