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IF COMP 2004 - The Great Xavio

Game #21: The Great Xavio, by Reese Warner
Played On: 10/16/04 (10:15 PM to 11:20 PM)
Continued On: 10/17/04 (9:25 AM to 10:35 AM)
Unofficial Score: 9.0 (no skew)

     I would have liked to have finished this game in one sitting. Playing late at night really added to the setting. Usually when I can't finish in one session, it's only a short break. This wasn't the game's fault -- I simply got started on it too late last night.

     "The Great Xavio" is a really good game. I went beyond the two hour mark by a cumulative fifteen minutes, and it was mainly because I missed one thing (the thing I needed to do at the docks). Oddly enough, I had done the same thing elsewhere, earlier, to find the (useless?) lost room key. On second thought, it might not have been useless. Had I not obtained a room of my own, the lost key might have opened the gym door. Still, what's found inside seemed to have no use. Oh well. I could go on about what-ifs for a while, including the necessity to get a room at all, when what's inside is used for only one possible solution to a puzzle. In fact, I was only able to get a room when I mistyped "cart" in asking Todd's opinion. It seems there may be two or three different ways to open the bathroom door of Xavio's suite; the point is, the author went that extra mile to make the game winnable in a variety of ways. I'm tempted to skew it +0.5 for that, but I think a flat 9.0 score is well-deserved for a very strong entry.

     If you've been thorough, you may feel like a packrat by the end of the game. It's always frustrating to have limits on what items you can carry at once, since much of the time you won't know what you need to keep on-hand. Reese imposes no such limitations in "The Great Xavio", which sacrifices realism to gain playability. Had it gone the other way, I can imagine the frustration in trying to determine what should be carried and what should be stashed away for later. Much of my ending inventory was comprised of things which either had no use, or may have been used for alternate solutions I simply didn't encounter.

     I'll list the few problems I found next (nothing to really detract from the overall experience), but first, I can't resist mentioning this any longer. Do any of you other authors notice things in each of the competition entries that tie back in some way to your own game? In just about every entry (although I haven't been keeping a complete list -- maybe I should have), some item or plot point or puzzle component is similar to something from my entry. It's actually kind of interesting to pick out what piece of the game is most like my own, and I wonder if other authors have done the same? In "The Great Xavio", a serving tray is the prime similarity. In "Identity" it was an arm/wrist device which can accept commands. One game (maybe Mingsheng) had stones "perfect for skipping." Multiple games have included card slots. "Gamlet" features a wheel that can be turned (although, if I recall, it had no purpose). Other examples aren't jumping readily to mind, but I'm sure that most of the games had other similarities.

     The writing is excellent, and the dialogue is great. Dr. Todd is quite a character. The problems I found were limited to implementation, not writing or story. An attempt to "get all" cycles through everything in a room (or at least it did where I tried it). When finding the caped man a second time, I attempted to ask Todd's opinion, and his reply was that he found the man puzzling (even though he was right there). Telling Max about the murder results in two quote marks starting his reply. These next two might be spoilers, but here goes. It's possible to enter Max's room even if the cart remains in the elevator. This leads to a couple of quirks, where Todd recommends we bring the cart with us when we leave (it isn't there), and you can direct Todd into it even if it's not there. When taking all four towels, the room description indicates towels are still on the table. When the cops go down to the first floor (it might not even be necessary for the solution), they will still "talk" in the bathroom. In the master bedroom, the bed is sometimes referred to by its object name ("MasterBedroomBed" in parenthesis) -- for example, when trying to search it. The phrase "an one thousand dollar bill" is used near the beginning, and again when looking inside the locker -- however, references to "a one dollar bill" are correct. When trying to "unlock bathroom door with (whatever)", the line "that doesn't seem to fit." Is shown immediately after the period of the prior line (I'm not sure it should be printed at all, or maybe a line break is needed). In several places, a blank line is missing after the text, before the command prompt appears ("x table" in the lobby is one example). When Todd pushes his glasses up on his nose, "x glasses" sees no such thing.

     In a game this detailed, though, a few problems are no surprise. None of these things posed a problem in winning. I only point them out in case the author is interested (like I will be) in releasing a post-comp update. Good writing makes a game much more vivid and realistic, and "The Great Xavio" succeeded wonderfully in drawing me into the game. Playing the first half later at night, when the game is set at 3:00 in the morning, probably helped. I think this game is going to do very well in the competition.

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