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IF COMP 2004 - Ninja v1.30

Game #2: Ninja v1.30, by Paul Panks
Played On: 10/02/04 (6:30 PM to 6:45 PM)
Tinkered with source code: (7:00 PM to 8:30 PM)
Unofficial Score: 3.5 (2.0 base with +1.5 skew)

     I have an affinity for DOS-based adventure games. Although "Ninja" was distributed in the competition's Windows folder, it's DOS-based, complete with BASIC source code. I admit to peeking at it during a 1-minute run last night, when the games were first released. It's not that I already had my mind made up to dislike the game, because I really wanted to be impressed by it -- I don't know what it is, except that this game is the proverbial poster child for why home-grown games are looked down upon. A little voice tells me that this has to have been a joke, or perhaps an effort to hide an anonymous "real" entry under the submission of a turd -- throw off the scent, so to speak. Honestly, my unofficial "3.5" is generous. The game *is* playable, even winnable, but it makes no attempt whatsoever at being player-friendly. I don't know Mr. Panks, but as an off-and-on R.G/A.I-F lurker, I have come to believe he is an adult. This did not seem to be the work of an adult. "Ninja" earns a bonus point (from a base of 2) for being written in a legacy language I love, and another half point because Paul had the optimism to submit it.

     I became very accustomed to "You cannot do that" during my 15 minutes of play time. Inv? You cannot do that. I? Even better... You cannot do that because you're not yet a master (takes skill to check your inventory, I presume). Help! Ah, verbs, that's good. You gotta spell it out. Cool, he also implemented Save. Save. Er... why must the Gods be with me just to save my game? Woops, killed by a sneaky ninja. Sure, I'll play again. Ah, I can go east. Wait... no I can't. E. E. E. Well... Enter Shrine. Now we're getting somewhere. S. No? I have to Exit Shrine even though it's south? Well... okay, I'll go along with that. Cool, making progress. Woops, go back inside. Get that sword. W (out the window). Swim River. Should have known... but what's that ">20" mean? A score? A clue? Hmm. "Help" said I could chop. Yay! A makeshift bridge. Away west we go. Er... where am I now? Look. C'mon, ya could have just shown me the room description. An idol. Got it. Well, what else can I do here? Hmm.. Try this... try that. What's this, another ninja? And I'm dead again? Well crap. Play again? Might as well -- in for a penny, in for a pound, or so they say. Let's go back through the shrine, back to that "city to the east" I couldn't reach earlier. More of those ">20" messages. What's that all about? Okay, the city -- Still can't reach it. Hmm.... maybe if I try 10 times. E. E. E. E.... Whoa! I won! My score was 101 / 9 -- whatever that implies. I defeated the ninja with my negative-29 HP, and he had 0. I rock!

     I'm *really* not trying to be as critical as it sounds. I just can't help shaking my head at this game. I'll probably feel like a complete idiot later, when I learn that the game is a result of Mr. Panks's disability or mental illness. If that's the case, my apologies for this entire review. Still, it would have been nice if "quit" had let me out instead of assuming I wanted to finish the adventure.

     Well... I owe this game 2 hours. Paul spent about that much time writing it, so... well, it took 15 minutes to write this review, so that leaves me about an hour and a half to play around with the source code. I wonder if I can "objectify" the objects, and "verbify" the verbs? I'll consider it a challenge. QB has more power than you used here.

     FOLLOW-UP: I'm going to let the review stand, because it was my opinion at the time, but for the record, I feel like a big jerk for writing it. Writing games is something we do for fun. It's not fair of me at all to criticize that, nor discourage him -- especially as another IF-COMP participant myself. Paul, you submitted the game, it works, and I bet it was fun for you to do. You've probably hoped that the judges will enjoy it, and that you'll have a fair chance in the contest. Although I found playing the game frustrating, I really enjoyed playing with the source code, and I hope that if you get other reviews as negative as mine (or worse), it doesn't discourage you from improving upon what you do. I hope you continue to enjoy writing games. :)

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