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IFCOMP 2008 - Snack Time!

Game #3: Snack Time! (An Interactive Break for a Bite)
Authors: ďHardy the BulldogĒ and Renee Choba
Played On: October 5th (35 minutes)
Platform: Inform 7 (Zcode)

F:1 + T:2 + P:1 + S:1 + W:1 + B:0 = SCORE: 6

     Gameís Blurb:
     Can you help one hungry bulldog in his quest to find something good to eat? He would like that. A lot.

     Snack Time! is a cute, super-short diversion. Itís maybe too short, even by IFComp standards. The concept (PC is an animal), while done before in previous competitions, could stand for a little meatier treatment. The game is everything it sets out to be, which is to say itís not incredibly ambitious.

     Being told from Hardyís viewpoint, things are described in very general terms. A couch is ďthe long soft thing.Ē An oven and a refrigerator are ďa thing that gets hotĒ and ďa box that stays cold,Ē respectively. The television is ďthe box of light.Ē Itís all put into context, though. What these things really are is obvious from the text, and the game accepts the appropriate English names just fine. Parts of the text can be a little hard to visualize on a first pass (and even a little clunky to read), but itís effective overall.

     Plus, itís all smooth enough until the end. Putting yourself in Hardyís place isnít hard, and the game recognizes the kinds of actions typical of dogs. This makes some actions that would be non-intiutive in any other game (jumping up on a something, biting something, begging, etc) fair as elements of the gameís relatively lightweight puzzles. Itís also pretty good about recognizing unimportant actions. Hardy is prevented from doing the more aggressive things in reaching his goal, but the game usually understands them.

     In giving Snack Time! the highest mark for Implementation, Iíve had to judge the gameís responsiveness separate from the difficult bit at the end (which, in scoring, factors more into the puzzles than the implementation). Each achievement is worth ten points (of a perfect fifty). The final two achievements (gained simultaneously at the end, where the second is optional) were harder to come by. Part of the reason is that a very strong clue for what Hardy must do at the end is seemingly seen only if you donít move a certain item before ďPetĒ has a chance to encounter it. If you leave it alone, wake ďPetĒ and wait a couple turns, something happens thatís a strong and important clue for the endgame.

     Without that clue, however, itís pretty difficult to know what to do without stumbling on the answer by accident. For me, it meant checking the hints. I only found that it was clued on a second play-through, and that was by failing to move the item in question. Something is missing there at the end. As the final puzzle -- the final few turns -- it makes sense that the difficulty would rise. The problem, though, is twofold. One, something that should conceivably work (simply taking what you want), doesnít. That would have been a great spot to give even a vague hint, but the chance was missed. Two, an unfortunate choice in wording can lead one to believe that a specific action (one perhaps even independent of the rest of the game) must be required at just the right moment. The final ten points might be clued in the 40-point ending, but it seems unlikely most players will pick up on the one little bit that might be the clue.

     But itís cute. And itís not a bad game by any means. Itís just short, not very ambitious, and potentially hard to crack at the end. It rates a ď6Ē using my self-imposed judging rules, and that puts it right about ďaverage.Ē

     Renee entered the IFComp in 2005 with History Repeating, another short and sort-of nondescript average kind of game. Iíd like to see something longer and more ambitious from this author in the future; something more substantial story-wise.

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