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IF COMP 2004 - A Day In The Life...

Game #4: A Day in the Life of a Super Hero, by David Whyld
Played On: 10/03/04 (4:55 PM to 6:20 PM, and 8:00 PM to 8:35 PM)
Unofficial Score: 7.5 (6.5 base with +1.0 skew)

     My vague plan for playing all the competition games has been to start with the ones that reside in a category of their own. Being the only Adrift game, I chose it next. It's a very ambitious game, full of puzzles and events to keep things lively. It's a good game, despite receiving a lower score -- it's just not very polished. I couldn't finish it in two hours, and I suspect I have a long ways still to go, having "defeated" only two super-villains and learning nothing from either in the process. My guess is, the author ran into the same problems I did -- a lack of time prior to the deadline, and too much to get done. It seems like a good game that was simply rushed to finish. Later in this review, I'll recap the problems I found in my two hours. I'd like to see an updated version, because I'm still interested in continuing the game.

     Having just played another "super hero" game -- a shorter, more polished one -- I found myself wondering what my character's powers are. Maybe that's a big mystery to be uncovered later in the game, I don't know. One reference to "super speed" was given, but I found no way to really put this to good advantage. More than anything, I felt like a detective rather than a superhero -- and not a very good one, at that. I've always been a fan of puzzle games. Unfortunately, it seems I'm not very good at solving them. I got stuck on numerous occasions, including the introduction, resorting to as much help as the hint system would provide in several places.

     Although frustrated at my lack of progress, and by what I believe to be a spot where I may have saved my game in an unwinnable state, I liked the concept, and I liked the writing. Some British terms were lost on me -- I had to look up "lorry" to know for sure what it was. David has a great imagination, and the puzzles, dialogue, and descriptions seemed clever. My two chief complaints are that I felt too dependent upon the hints (maybe my fault), and that the game seemed to have been rushed to completion.

     You may skip the next paragraph if you're just a casual reader.

     Some of the problems I encountered were sentences with missing commas, other typos ("lessions" instead of "lessons"; a little "while" lie; Mirkhaven's description presumably missing a word or two; commonplace was written as two words; the name of the shop rings a "bill" -- unless that's a British variation, shouldn't it be "bell?"), some inconsistent descriptions (The Cat is asleep, but the room description says he's licking his paws and regarding me with malice; I found soap, searched again, and was told I already found the "marble"; I returned to my apartment but was then shown text regarding Bumble approaching the guards; a kid asks "have you got any real filth?" and the section is repeated), misinterpreted intentions (trying to talk to or show things to Bumble results in the guards responding instead), problems with the talk system (In the apartment, asking or talking to Smelly would give me the "fusty smell" message; sometimes, especially if auto-text would appear right after a conversation list, typing my choice number wouldn't work; "talk" would sometimes not work at all). Adrift's "Undo" seems to be a little quirky as well. I was able to get killed by The Cat, and any attempt to undo would see me dead again. In the presence of Mrs. Muggle, "X Muggle" says she's not there. Hitting the guards results in nothing (not even a flinch). Still, I offer this to be constructive, and hopefully to inspire an improved post-comp version. Having found at least fifteen problems in my own game just in the three days since it was submitted, I'm not trying to break the proverbial glass house by throwing the proverbial stone. :)

     Then, we have sudden death. :) The interesting thing here is, the author makes it a challenge. I found #1, #2, #3, and #9 in my two hours of adventuring, leaving plenty more yet to be discovered. That's a clever way to go about it, and except for not being unable to get "undo" to work correctly in some cases, I didn't even mind it. I kind of felt that it was my superhero's duty in life to fail and fail again. It seemed a less optimistic version of "Mystery Men", and I wonder if that was part of David's inspiration for the game?

     To sum it up, the game has quite a few problems, but the makings of a really good game are still there. I'd like to play it when a new-and-improved post-comp version comes out. If I make the rounds through the other games in time, I may return to this one even without an update. Even though I liked this game, it would fall between 6 and 7 on the scale I set for my rankings. Still, because I can see an epic in the making, and David's style is so enjoyable, I'm going to skew it up a full point.

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