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IFCOMP 2006 - Simple Adventure

Game #8: Simple Adventure (by Paul Panks)
Played: October 18th (35 minutes)
Platform: QuickBASIC (MS-DOS Executable)
Unofficial Score: 2

     Game’s Blurb:
     Simple Adventure is a basic Scott Adams-like adventure game written for the 12th annual interactive fiction contest. The goal is to slay the ice dragon.

     XYZZY Response:
     I don't understand the verb 'xyzzy'.

     If I were rude, I would describe Simple Adventure as Simply Abysmal.

     I think the game’s blurb lies. This bit from the introduction makes me think this so-called “ice dragon” is actually a Sith Lord in disguise:

     ...an evil dragon turned the good creatures of the forest towards the dark side...

     I’m tempted to let the following exchanges (showing that you can’t really trust what the game tells you) summarize my review, but I have a bit more to say afterwards.

     Here’s one:

     You are standing inside a darkened toolshed. There are a few items of interest lining the shelves here.
     >examine shelves
     You notice nothing unusual about the shelves.

     And another:

     >use lantern
     You can't use that here.
     >buy oil
     >use lantern
     Pzzzzt! The lantern flickers on!

     And how about this, in regards to a tree:

     ...It looks climbable.
     >climb tree
     I don't understand the verb 'climb'.

     I won the game quicker than I expected, because most of it is superfluous. With a minimum of effort, you can take the troll’s broadsword and defeat the dragon quite easily. You just need the lantern, the oil, and the rope (for going “up” the tree). Pick up a helmet along the way, be sure to wear it (and wield the sword), and you’re golden. On my first run, I remained pretty healthy during the battle. On my second attempt (because I expected something more), I even started the fight with fewer hitpoints. When I dropped to 0, I was able to keep fighting and gain some HP back. Although you can fight anything that’s alive (monsters yes, but also the villager, the clerk, and a bard), it doesn’t seem necessary. You don’t even need the armor from the shop (and even if you kill the clerk, you can’t steal it).

     It’s the same problem in some of the other games Paul has written. The combat system seems important to the game, yet it doesn’t work as intended. I probably needed to kill all the lesser monsters, level up (maybe a couple times), earn enough gold to buy the armor, collect the other pieces of defense (helmet, shield, etc) and then take on the Sith (er… I mean ice) dragon.

     It’s almost a non-game: no story, no creativity, no substance. The included text file states that Paul intended it to be a programming tutorial for would-be authors of text adventures. Without debating why would-be authors of text adventures would be wise not to follow this pattern, the game itself didn’t have to be dull and unoriginal.

     Paul is immune to well-intentioned advice. Each of his games seem written without the benefit of the code he has already created, yet the same styles, themes, and dragons find their way into them again and again. He is stuck in the 1980’s, writing IF exactly the way I used to (and that’s not a compliment). He doesn’t improve, and the quality and implementation of each game, while low in general, varies wildly from game to game. Hasn’t he implemented “x” as the shortcut for “examine” in the past? This one doesn’t, and it assumes any “look” (even when specifying an object to look at) should show the room description instead.

     After being pleasantly impressed with the weirdly original Jesus of Nazareth in last year’s competition, I hoped for more. I am giving this one a “2” because, quite frankly, I didn’t enjoy it at all. This comes directly after I ranked another DOS-based game (The Initial State) much higher. Perhaps Paul has succeeded either in snapping me back to reality, or in reminding me how hard it is to maintain that kind of high-minded optimism.

     Well, Fetter’s Grim and Green Falls are both interesting titles. I’ll save further commentary for those, a little later in my randomly-generated play-list.

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