Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971)

Is there a better way to spend your Halloween evening than watching this gloriously bizarre horror comedy with beloved nuanced over-actor Vincent Price in one of his finest roles as an organist and doctor of theology taking biblical vengeance on the doctors of medicine he makes responsible for his wife's death?

IF Comp 2007: Act of Murder

Very neat randomized murder mystery. Of course a less randomized game could have a much deeper story, but most of the time, the game feels well constructed instead of random.
The stories themselves are quite fun, even if you are not the greatest admirer of the British land house style of crime writing. Me, I'm normally more of a noir/hardboiled kind of guy, and was very pleased with the game anyway.

Monday, October 29, 2007

IF Comp: Wish

Ah, one of the time honored "slightly surrealist fantasy and real world life running parallel to each other" games. Sadly, the fantasy part isn't original (or all that surreal) at all and the real world part tries awfully hard to be a sappy story with an uplifting moral, but only succeeds in irritating me. As Emily Short already asked in her review: What kind of moral is this supposed to be - if you wish really hard, your grandfather won't die? And it isn't exactly a good idea to have protagonist Sarah's grandfather have his breakdown because she is riding on his shoulders.
Do I really need to say that the fantasy and real world part only have a very tenuous relation to each other?
Implementation and language are quite bare, although far from bad.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


So, what do you get when you mix polar night, teenie horror, a mad geneticist and a pretty darn unfunny vampire comedy? This Swedish mess that repeats every cliché and everything else that is and was stupid about horror movies.
As a bonus we are also served with the kind of laziness most horror comedies since Scream seem to be proud of.
"The way our characters act doesn't need to make sense. It's ironic, you see?" "There's no need to do something interesting, because we are using the clichés ironically."
The plot doesn't need description. If I use the words "cliché", "vampire pills" and "party" the genre-o-matic-screenwriting machine will come up with exactly what is going to happen here.
The only good thing that comes to mind about Frostbiten is that it really hasn't got anything to do with 30 Days of Night (the comic). The bad thing about that? I wouldn't be ranting if it did.
The less said about it the better.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Invisible Invaders (1959)

Unfairly overlooked gem of the American alien invasion cycle of the Fifties.
Not only are the aliens (budget-sensibly) invisible, but also able to possess the corpses of the recently deceased, using them as their army. And do these walking dead look and move like George Romero zombies in Night of the Living Dead! It's a thing of beauty.
The film is surprisingly tight, with the usual gigantic plot holes, but more believable (I nearly said mature) character arcs and subliminal leftist tendencies.

Darling of the Day:
"The dead will kill the living! And the people of earth will cease to exist."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

IF Comp 2007: My Name is Jack Mills

Again a perfectly solid, but not very interesting entry.
This time you play a hardboiled detective trying to get a stolen coin back. There's really nothing fundamentally wrong with the game or the implementation of what there is. The problem is that there is not that much to see or do. The game is just too short, the puzzles too obvious and the plot too straightforward to really make an impression.


And it's all 's fault!

Write down six things that make me happy, then tag six other people to do the same.

1.) Spending time with one of the few people I actually like spending time with.

2.) The moment when the weather starts to change from oppressive heat to oh-so-beautiful cold. Also: Fog! Snow!

3.) Making someone smile.

4.) The moment in every form of art/media/trash when the author just stops doing what is expected of her and enters a zone of chance and strangeness and/or weirdness. For example in most books of Thomas Pynchon, when Pynchon has told so many versions of the same story that you as reader only have the choice to believe all or none of them; the way Dario Argento in Inferno/Horror Infernal again and again decides against "telling a story" and for just showing us things; the moment music leaves its obvious structure and becomes more physical by it.

5.) Willful absurdity. Sometimes unwilling absurdity.

6.) Spending time in the mind space of another person, be it by book, film, music, video game, blog entry. Or actual human contact. *gasps*

Some people

moan about the length of two of the songs on the (lovely) new Neil Young album. These are the kind of people who would bemoan the extent of the Grand Canyon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

IF Comp 2007: Lord Bellwater's Secret

Competent one room game in which you play a Victorian era groom who unravels a (not very surprising) mystery. Nothing earth-shattering, but an all around solid entry.
More innovative puzzles and a little more originality storywise would have made this good instead of solid. 

Monday, October 22, 2007

IF Comp: Fox, Fowl and Feed

So this is a inoffensively written, decently implemented variation of an old, old puzzle. Yes, that puzzle. As such it really isn't bad and much more polished than many other entries of the Comp.
But there is nothing here that shows any ambition and nothing that makes me care about it in the least.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Vampire Circus

Late period Hammer films (like late period Shaw Brothers films) were in a strange state: Sometimes desperately trying to get away from their old gothic style, but seemingly unable to make completely contemporary looking or feeling movies. Most of them ramped up the sex, gore and weirdness, some, like Vampire Circus reached the much coveted (by me) unreality of a dream. Very much like continental European movies had done for years.
Some of the most competent villagers I have seen in this kind of film destroy the local child-killing, wife-seducing vampire count (every village and small town had one once, if gothic horror is to be believed) and his castle, the latter surprisingly not by throwing their torches at stone walls, but with gunpowder. Of course the count curses the villagers.
Fifteen years later the town/village/who knows is stricken by a mysterious disease and quarantined by their charming neighbors. The blockade notwithstanding "The Circus of Night" arrives in town, and even more people begin to die.

This is probably the most surreal Hammer film. It plays fast and loose with concepts like logic and plot, replacing them with strangeness and pretty colors, which almost always is the way to go in horror movies.
Only the finale is a letdown. It hinges too much on non-stupid people acting like complete idiots - even for my tastes. Still very much recommended.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

IF Comp: In The Mind Of The Master

Your enjoyment of In the Mind of the Master will depend on two things: Do you like pieces that are more (slightly branching) interactive short stories? Do you enjoy games with a kind of pulp sensibility?
If you, like me, do, you will probably enjoy this quite a bit.
You are playing a master of disguise going by the (humble) moniker of The Master (not to be confused with the Dr.Who villain) and...have to find the rest out for yourself.
The implementation is solid, if not terribly polished; the writing is solid to good. I found most of the triggers in the game to be more or less self-evident, and if one situation should prove to seem unsolvable, there is always the possibility to restart and choose another branch, short as the game is.

Oh, and one thing I found in more than one reaction to the piece I really don't get at all: Why was the typo (or is it?) in a central scene, where the word "me" is used instead of "you" sooo terribly confusing? Only one version does actually make sense, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

IF Comp 2007: A Matter of Importance

Damn, there are still entries I do like. I nearly started to think I was turning into a cranky old curmudgeon.
The story in short: You are a member of a (non-medieval) Thieves' Guild somewhat fallen out of favor. Your last chance to rehabilitate yourself is to pull something great. Or so the game tells us.
This piece is the final proof that you can have some totally unclued and unfair puzzles in your game and still make it fun to play, if your writing has character, charm and actually funny humor, sometimes of a gleefully absurd sort.
And not all of the puzzles are unclued, I found the second half of the game quite doable without looking at the (thankfully built-in) hints.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

IF Comp 2007: Deadline Enchanter

I didn't expect to stop playing a competition entry just after reading the instructions, but:

You really expect me to play something with ABOUT texts written as pseudo-intellectual metaphorical drivel like this!?
Sorry, no. (Plus: the truth as ribcage metaphor is terrible).

"To skeptics that require justification of this tale, on account that it might be deemed a "fantasy," let they be reminded that although this might at its heart be a fiction (in that it is not really happening to you), the truth, like a ribcage, encases and armors that heart. The story's marrow is as real as the streets of The City.

I have been forced to knit my quilt of paths illicitly, without the true blessing of the families. I have, as the Mundanes say, taken liberties. The cypher engines herein are kitbashed, not part of the official retinue of the gnomic machine-parse. Therefore, I have been forced to cloak this implementation--and its distribution--through unlicensed abaci, portable units not at all connected with the giant coeur-augmenters of my kin, and optimized for use with Mundane interpreters.

For this I would like to thank many people who, for obvious reasons, I cannot name. Those people are not figments, either.

Consequences of this brazen lack of licensure will have to be sorted by historians, if they choose to care."

Monday, October 15, 2007

IF Comp 2007: The Chinese Room

A totally unashamed puzzle fest that teaches a bit of philosophy. Sounds good, doesn't it. And it is really good: well written, more interesting, whimsical puzzles than you could ask for.
But even a good game is not necessarily a game I like to play. My problem is that I find the narrative tone of the game incredibly smug and patronizing, as if the authors think I'm their twelve year old son, who has to be lectured incessantly.
So the game is very much not for me.
I would recommend to everyone to give it a try anyway. It is quite possible that the tone of the game won't bother you at all. 

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I usually don't post (or read much) poetry,

but this one I found by accident and have to share:

'Dirge Without Music'

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,--but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love, --
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave,
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

-- Edna St. Vincent Millay

IF Comp 2007: Adventure XT

-Don't you a color scheme that hurts my eyes (green on green!?)
-Don't use the most clichéd of cliché plots
-Don't describe a million things no one can interact with
-Don't use a terrible homebrew parser
-Especially don't use error messages containing the words "Huh?" and "What?"
-Don't use senseless restrictions. (I need a glass bottle to drink water from a fountain!?)
-Implement a "talk" verb if there are people in your game
-Don't use the word "stand" for everything. "To the east stands a small shop." sounds silly.
-If you let us enter a church, why don't you let us pray or loot the altar (preferably both)
-Don't torture me with pseudo-RPG auto-fights

If you don't take into account any of the above, don't be surprised if I quit your game very early.


is pretty much what I believe about culture, but better written:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

IF Comp 2007: Packrat

Oh great, another "parodic" game. You are playing the usual kleptomaniac adventurer, trying to save a sleeping princess etc.
It seems no one ever taught the game the difference between a joke and an annoyance. How else to explain how your interaction with the game plays out after you triggered the protagonists kleptomania:

Great Hall: north end
Here the table ends humbly at the High Throne, on which are seated the unconscious monarchs.

You can see a western window, an eastern window and a kitchen boy here.

You vainly attempt to purloin the high throne.
You vainly attempt to purloin the western window.
You vainly attempt to purloin the eastern window.

>x boy
The poor lad must have just opened the great window when he pitched forward onto the stone sill in this cursed slumber. Twenty years of snow and rain have fallen on his shivering body.

You vainly attempt to purloin the high throne.
You vainly attempt to purloin the western window.
You vainly attempt to purloin the eastern window.

>eat boy
(first taking the kitchen boy)
I don't suppose the kitchen boy would care for that.

You vainly attempt to purloin the high throne.
You vainly attempt to purloin the western window.
You vainly attempt to purloin the eastern window.

>x throne
High. Gold. Very. The High Throne backs against the northern wall.

You vainly attempt to purloin the high throne.
You vainly attempt to purloin the western window.
You vainly attempt to purloin the eastern window.

Doing this after every turn stops being funny very, very soon. And, not to put too fine a point on it, does not entice me to play for more than fifteen minutes.
And the writing is not as funny as it thinks it is.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

IF Comp 2007: Ghost of the Fireflies

This is the first thing you read after the instructions:

In the ancient forest, Atsuta Jingu
The bloodied, mangled body of Jesus of Nazareth sits by the road here, stabbing
himself with thorns from his blood-soaked crown. 'Why? Yeshua! WHHHYYYYY??!!'
he moans bitterly. You pay him no mind, for he is a fool, lost in the shadows
of a forlorn world. The forest stretches for miles to the east, shimmering in
the hallowed darkness with a kind of perverted, magical ecstacy.
Obvious Exits: < north east >
An ancient hellhound named Raiythius is here. He has yellow eyes and an
uncertain past.
You halt your walk and stop abruptly. 'Hello, dog...what are you doing in
this forest? It is I, Camphora.'
Raiythius gazes at you intently before bowing.
'My name is Raiythius,' he says to you. You are surprised that he can even
'I am not a dog. I am a hellhound from Aichi Prefecture. This is the land of
the magical, the mystical...and the forlorn. I will be your spiritual guide
in this adventure.'

Well, this is by far the best thing by Paul Panks I have tried to play, which doesn't mean it's good of course, but bad in a very interesting way. By playing you enter an utterly incoherent and incongruent world of not very deeply understood Japanese myth and whacked on the head American Christianity mixed with a friendly portion of D&D, which never ceases to amaze and delight in its total ridiculousness, while always keeping to an Ed Woodian sense of total honesty and earnestness of the author. 
That's the good part.
The bad part is the terrible RPG and fight system, the idiotic parser (and no, that I am able to define my own synonyms does not make the parser any better), and the atrocious puzzles.
The writing is obviously not very good at all, but quite interesting in its strangeness and actually a few levels above some other games that have been inflicted on me by the comp.
Much more entertaining than expected.

IF Comp 2007: Press [Escape] To Save

Hello sloppiness, long time no see.



In a dark room.
If only you found the light switch.  It must be on the wall somewhere.  You feel weak.

>x wall
You can't see any such thing.

>x man
Just a hardcore jailrat.  A burly muscular man with tattoos all over his arm, he's a man in his middle forties you're guessing.  He seems like the easily offended type.

>talk to man

The creature is asleep.

You grab your head in anguish.  "NO NO NO!" you scream.  "I'm going to be hanged tomorrow!"

"Man, you're annoying, kid.  You said hanged tomorrow?  I'm glad its not going to me until these three weeks are over.  I bet somebody will bail me out by then." He smiles fiendishly. "Now, tell me who you are kid."

Select an Option below:

1: "Why do you want to know?"
2: "My name is inferior to yours mister."
3: "My name is Danny."
4: "My name is Jimmy."

Type in number:   1

"Why do you want to know?"you ask.

"So I may call you easily.  You know a servant can't be called slave . . . Oh yah, I'll call you slave from now on.  With me, Jimmy, being the master."

"What do you mean?" you question confusingly.

"Well, you know, any person that enters my rest has to play by my rules."  He chuckles sarcastically. "I mean obey my rules."  His smile disappears.

"So, I have to obey you?"


"And what happens if I don't?" you challenge.

"Bad things, my boy.  Bad things...".  He squints his eyes.  You wince back in fear.

Well, at least the author is trying.

Monday, October 8, 2007

IF Comp 2007: A Fine Day For Reaping

A pretty good, silly (in a good way) puzzle game. You're playing the Grim Reaper, trying to reap five problematic souls in a (generous) time limit.
The reaper's trials and tribulations are quite funny, if not very original. The same can be said of the puzzles. The puzzle solutions on the other hand reach from the (relatively) obvious to the grotesquely convoluted, but are never too troubling, given that most problems can be solved in more than one way.
What makes the game "pretty good" instead of "good" are some of the usual implementation problems: Mostly underdeveloped NPCs and (quite grating in the Kenya section) room descriptions that contain actions. This is especially annoying when the acting character is already dead...
And of course we have some of the more unhelpful error messages in the competition: "read notes" - "You can't read the notices!" - well, I actually can, but only by examining them; "wear uniform" - "You can't wear the military uniform!" - well, I actually can, just not here and now, and so on
So, as I said, pretty good, but more polish would have been nice. 

Sunday, October 7, 2007

IF Comp 2007: Eduard the Seminarist

I don't want to sound cranky, but why bother writing a text based game if you don't want to write descriptions or implement anything? Why write a text based game without telling the player at least a little about what the game is supposed to be about or what the protagonist plans to do?
This way, I awake in my (very empty) dormitory room in the middle of the night (of course without being told who I am or what I want or where I am or, you know, anything), get up, enter the next room, open a cupboard with a book I can't read (because it would tell me too much about the game *groans*) and clothes I can't take or wear, am not allowed to go upstairs, go outside, meet a guard I can't talk to, who confiscates the unreadable  book while losing an old newspaper (which I take and can actually read -it contains about one sentence), go back inside, go downstairs, find a gym with a climbable rope (and of course nothing else of interest) go west into a shed, which is of course pitch black, and, asking myself why I should bother, quit.

IF Comp 2007: The Lost Dimension & Vampyre Cross

The Lost Dimension

One of these unholy crosses between IF and RPG that never seem to work, especially in a case like this, with no story, barely understandable writing, a cluttered GUI and a pseudo-RPG combat system that consists of incredibly deep tactical decisions like "Do I attack or don't I attack".
Surprisingly, crossing a bad RPG with a bad adventure game still leaves a bad game.

Vampyre Cross

Not having a C64 emulator installed and not wanting to install one, I have to pass here. Which would be terribly unfair, if there weren't two other games by Mr. Panks in the competition.

IF Comp 2007: Lost Pig

This is a classical dungeon romp in a small, but interesting environment with some very satisfying puzzles. Also, it is the very funny adventure of a not very bright orc named Grunk and his search for a lost pig.
The game graces us with room descriptions like this:

Gnome Room
This look like room for little person. It have bed that too little for Grunk. It have trunk that too little for Grunk. It have desk that too little for Grunk. Desk have stool that too little for Grunk. Room have doorway to east and west too, but them not so little. That good, because if doorway too little for Grunk, not know how Grunk get back out of room.

Gnome sit at desk with tool and strange helmet thing.

On top of shelf there ball (that make light).

On top of desk there little box (full of tool) and strange helmet.

Gnome scrape tool against side of helmet.

and never breaks character.
The score system seems to be broken, as I never got any points for catching the pig or finding the exit of the shrine, and the full score list in the end only gave me my score total of 3, but didn't list what I got the points for. Speaking to other characters sometimes gives half a dozen "Programming Errors". They don't seem to break anything  else, though.
Highly amusing and recommended.

IF Comp 2007: Beneath: a Transformation

This seems to be the comp of games inspired by my favorite pulp writers. Now playing: Robert E. Howard.
It being inspired by the Bran Mak Morn stories is the best thing I can say about this game, though. The writing is alright, if missing mood, but the design is puzzling, to say the least: There is no direction whatsoever on what I am supposed to achieve and the ways to achieve it (which I learned from the integrated walkthrough) don't make any sense at all. Why exactly am I buying this dog? Oh, of course, so that he can dig a hole in another room to give me a hook I don't know I need. Why am I buying this owl? Oh, of course, so that it can fly away and...Well, as I said, the only way to make sense of this is by reading the author's mind (or his walkthrough).
The rest of my patience got tested by a very spotty implementation: You can't pet your dog, you can't buy something with "buy xxx", but have to give each coin to the seller separately, you get a meaningful description of something by trying to take it, but no by examining it, you have to play the old inventory juggling game between your inventory and a paper bag and so on.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

IF Comp 2007: My Mind's Mishmash

Apart from the title, which seems to threaten a highly "ironic" and "artful" kind of game, this is just great.
Obviously partially inspired by Japanese Mecha Anime, but with some twists very much of its own, it contains interesting puzzles and is written in a dense style that uses just as many words as necessary, but shows enough detail to keep the player interested.
I'm especially impressed by the clever use of technical gadgets and the great sense of pacing.
And I can't find many faults, except for some misleading error messages that make some puzzles slightly more difficult than they need to be. One or two synonymous verbs would do the trick.
Still, there is so much else to like about the game. The way the player gets glimpses of the history of the world by watching...the way so much back story is hinted at, instead of blared out in expository dialogue. And so on.

IF Comp 2007: Gathered in Darkness

What starts out a little clunky turns out to be a nice, if not spectacular pulpy semi-Lovecraftian text adventure. The prose is serviceable, with some typos and a little grammar trouble, but nothing too distracting. Plot and structure make it seem like a modest Call of Cthulhu scenario made interactive. The puzzles are sensible too (again), but a little on the conservative side.
Flaws are sometimes (and only sometimes) spotty implementation (why can I open a desk drawer not with "open drawer", but only with "open desk"? -could actually be a problem of the QUEST interpreter for all I know), and the "gameyness" of the thing, leading to moments of clunky exposition and reducing any feelings of creepiness.
And the writing sometimes falls into moments like this:

The beam of your flashlight catches the bag just in time for you to see his eyes, like boiled eggs, droop casually from their sockets and begin to float like little clipper ships in the pool of blood that has been steadily collecting in the bottom of the sack.

Seeing that it is the author's first piece of IF, I still expect good things of future projects. I'm looking forward to playing the full (longer) version after the comp.

The TV season and me

Aren't you just dying to know what I think about various new and returning shows? I thought so.

You know what?

Oh great, it's Quantum Leap without heart, minds or the slightest interest in the problems the protagonist is supposed to solve. Which leads to the question why the producers think he should solve them at all.
What the show is interested in are the private problems of some rich guy who randomly jumps back in time and returns to puzzled looks of his family and boss and every stupid soap opera cliché known to man. Yes, it bored me terribly.
As an aside: I would very much like to see a show about someone who goes back in time to fuck up people's lives or, you know, do something interesting for a change.

Bionic Woman
And lo! It happened that the television gods saw fit to create a show that fills the hole in my heart Alias left there.
So we have: A great cast, a show that is not as stupid as it seems, but not as clever as it would like to be, surprisingly good action scenes, lots of fun, plot holes the size of Mount Everest and Katee Sackhoff gleefully chewing scenery as gleefully scenery-chewing half-bad person.
I like it much more than I ought to.

Well, Ray Wise as the devil is quite a casting coup. But the rest of the show is terminally dull in its strained way of trying to be !wacky! and !funny! and !quirky!, without ever rising above !stupid!.
The rest of the cast could get hit by a meteorite for all I care.

Heroes Season 2
I really thought they would fuck this up royally, but to my delight they didn't. There are flaws (including the most stupid gangsters the world has ever seen), plot holes and strained bits, but the character arcs are delightful, sometimes even clever and the plot gets going nicely.
Even the "Hiro in Old Japan" storyline gets the House in R'lyeh Seal of Approval, although "Japan" does not look like Japan at all and we all should know the story of Cyrano de Bergerac by now.
Plus: Cliffhangers!

Supernatural Season 3
I thought to myself: "Why not give this a try again?" and surprising enough, I kinda had fun watching it. Rhythm and texture of the dialogue are pretty great, actually, there's lots of (TV-)gruesome violence and even some stabs at subtlety.
I think if the main actors wouldn't look like Neanderthals permanently puzzled by a very difficult algebra problem (like adding one and one), I would actually call this great. As it stands it is still good enough to watch.

Dexter Season 2
The perfect show. It's funny, creepy, surprising and you never know what the show is going to throw at you next. And how great is a show written that can get you to the point where you think that a serial killer's inability to kill is a problem, instead of something good.
Oh, and Michael C. Hall is the best actor on TV right now, period.

IF Comp 2007: Across the Stars

Oh, thank the gods, a good game! A nicely written SF game about pirate attacks and the protag's stranding on an alien planet.It is quite traditional in a good way, with fair and clean designed puzzles, deep implementation and a lot of things one can miss if one isn't observant.
Yes, the story could probably be deeper, but there is nothing wrong with a game just trying to let the player have a good time.
Plus: Shiny feelies and as much hints as one may need or want.

There are only two flaws in the implementation: Firstly the verb "activate" should have been implemented. Secondly you can encounter a game breaking bug - if you use the detonator and just wait it out instead of moving into another room, some error messages appear, the landscape doesn't change as needed and you are stuck.

IF Comp 2007: The Immortal

Highlander FanFic IF in space.
Typos and missing words galore, or to speak the slightly ill-advised metaphorical vernacular the game sometimes falls into: Contains as many typos as there are gray pebbles on a beach. Prose is permanently on the edge of purpleness and seems sloppy.
What's a dias?
Obviously the helmet of a spacesuit is not part of the spacesuit. You have to take each off separately.
Thought bubbles. Neat.
The punctuation is even more eccentric than my own.
Really stupid death scenes. The game seems not too sure if it is a melodrama or a bad comedy. A little consistency in tone would go a long way to make this interesting.
And again, lots of unimplemented scenery, but not as much as in RM. But enough so that it makes puzzles more difficult than necessary. And there should be nothing like this:


Transport Pad
It is a Transport Pad. You need access to use it.

>x pad
You can't see any such thing.

Writing seems to get sloppier as the game gets longer. Scratch that: Everything is getting sloppier.
"Use" as an important verb!? Not since Scott Adams.
Some possibly game breaking bugs; things can very easily be done out of order.
The puzzles don't really make a lot of sense.
Another sin: Learning by dying.  If there is also a maze, I'm going to quit at once.
Wouldn't it be nice if walkthrough and game would actually fit?
Oh, great another bug. The game doesn't seem to be finishable, and it's really not good enough to go out of my way to try anymore.

Friday, October 5, 2007

IF Comp 2007: Slap That Fish

As the title says you are slapping around fish. It's as well written as the premise allows, but gets tedious very fast. How often can you type "slap fish", "hit fish", "rest" etc without getting bored?
After the tedium come the puzzle-like fights against bigger fish, which aren't that much more interesting.
At least it's a cute idea and well implemented. Now it only needs to become entertaining.

IF Comp 2007: Reconciling Mother

So, I decided to judge in the annual Interactive Fiction Competition and keep my notes here.
This was the first game I tried.

This is supposed to be some Lovecraftian romp. Ah, it's even set on the campus of Miskatonic University!
Tragically, it's not very good.
There's much walking through nearly empty rooms, and reading of nearly understandable descriptions. It would be nice if any scenery would be implemented at all. In this state, interaction works something like this:

Snow Cave South Fork

You travel a long time in this cave only to reach a dead end. Near the end, you see an ice sculpture.

>x sculpture
You come upon a large ice sculpture. It is of a complex and polymorphic shape. It reminds you of a belly dancer. She is holding a large brass key with a pick-ax on one end and a chandelier on the other. There is a river of bats flowing out of her mouth. Each bat is wearing glasses and has a symbol from the atomic table of elements on its back. The river of bats flows into a giant orifice. Its rim is lined with tiny palm trees.

>x key
The word “key” is not necessary in this story.

(If this was an accidental misspelling, you can correct it by typing OOPS followed by the corrected word now. Any time the story points out an unknown word, you can correct a misspelling using OOPS as your next command.)

>x brass
The word “brass” is not necessary in this story.

>x ax
The word “ax” is not necessary in this story.

>x bats
The word “bats” is not necessary in this story.

>x pick-ax
The word “pick-ax” is not necessary in this story.

Nope, I haven't got a clue either how this statue is supposed to look. And I am not entering any orifices here.
Oh, instant death rooms (with a slight warning, but still not excusable in this century).

And this is the point where I quit:

Receptionist Area

You are facing a small office with pictures of children and horses on the walls. There is a lamp in the corner. Go East to return to the lobby. There is a faint whiff of perfume in the air.

You see a Receptionist Desk here.

The Receptionist Monica is standing here.

>greet monica
Hmmm, why hello there good looking. My name is Monica and I must say that I am pleased to meet you. I am the receptionist here. She pauses for a moment. Takes long, slow sip from her drink. She picks up her pen and asks you to sign in.

>sign in
The story doesn’t understand that command.

>take pen
The word “pen” is not necessary in this story.

>x desk
The desk has a dozen red roses in a vase on it. There is a pad of pink stationary on the desk. This is what the letterhead reads. Whatever Monica wants, she gets. There is also an image of a lipstick kiss on the letterhead.

>ask monica about roses
The Receptionist Monica does not respond.

>ask monica about science
The Receptionist Monica does not respond.

>ask monica about scientists
The Receptionist Monica does not respond.

>ask monica about university
The Receptionist Monica does not respond.

>ask monica about herself
The Receptionist Monica does not respond.

>ask her about reception
The Receptionist Monica does not respond.

On watching silent movies and early sound films

While re-watching Nosferatu and Vampyr - Der Traum des Allan Gray something occurred to me: Most of the difficulties we modern viewers of films so early in the evolution of the art have will dissolve into nothing, if we just correct our expectations. If we stop looking for a portray of nature and "real life" (realism) and instead try to experience these films like dreams, we can find the most beautiful and terrible things.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris

Most things I wrote about the second part of Shusuke Kaneko's Gamera trilogy apply to Revenge of Iris as well. So just a few observations.
It's very strange that the kaiju eiga that strive to be as realistic as possible are also the ones that makes the heaviest use of mysticistic poppycock. Mysticistic poppycock with a strict internal logic, though.
Every film that relies so heavily on its female characters to solve problems gets very special ideological brownie points (sometimes also called "my undying love").

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Read this:

Oh, how much I like this mode of mock documentary writing.

EDIT: And it is really very funny.

Monday, October 1, 2007


These are the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing's users (as of today). As usual, bold what you have read, italicise what you started but couldn't finish, and strike through what you couldn't stand. The numbers after each one are the number of LT users who used the tag of that book.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (149)
Anna Karenina (132)
Crime and punishment (121)
Catch-22 (117)
One hundred years of solitude (115)
Wuthering Heights (110)
The Silmarillion (104)
Life of Pi : a novel (94)
The name of the rose (91)
Don Quixote (91)
Moby Dick (86)
Ulysses (84)
Madame Bovary (83)
The Odyssey (83)
Pride and prejudice (83)
Jane Eyre (80)
A tale of two cities (80)
The brothers Karamazov (80)
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies (79)
War and peace (78)
Vanity fair (74)
The time traveler's wife (73)
The Iliad (73)
Emma (73)
The Blind Assassin (73)
The kite runner (71)
Mrs. Dalloway (70)
Great expectations (70)
American gods (68)
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius (67)
Atlas shrugged (67)
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books (66)
Memoirs of a Geisha (66)
Middlesex (66)
Quicksilver (66)
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West (65)
The Canterbury tales (64)
The historian : a novel (63)
A portrait of the artist as a young man (63)
Love in the time of cholera (62)
Brave new world (61)
The Fountainhead (61)
Foucault's pendulum (61)
Middlemarch (61)
Frankenstein (59)
The Count of Monte Cristo (59)
Dracula (59)
A clockwork orange (59)
Anansi boys (58)
The once and future king (57)
The grapes of wrath (57)
The poisonwood Bible : a novel (57)
1984 (57)
Angels & demons (56)
The inferno (56)
The satanic verses (55)
Sense and sensibility (55)
The picture of Dorian Gray (55)
Mansfield Park (55)
One flew over the cuckoo's nest (54)
To the lighthouse (54)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (54)
Oliver Twist (54)
Gulliver's travels (53)
Les misérables (53)
The corrections (53)
The amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay (52)
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (52)
Dune (51)
The prince (51)
The sound and the fury (51)
Angela's ashes : a memoir (51)
The god of small things (51)
A people's history of the United States : 1492-present (51)
Cryptonomicon (50)
Neverwhere (50)
A confederacy of dunces (50)
A short history of nearly everything (50)
Dubliners (50)
The unbearable lightness of being (49)
Beloved (49)
Slaughterhouse-five (49)
The scarlet letter (48)
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (48)
The mists of Avalon (47)
Oryx and Crake : a novel (47)
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed (47)
Cloud atlas (47)
The confusion (46)
Lolita (46)
Persuasion (46)
Northanger abbey (46)
The catcher in the rye (46)
On the road (46)
The hunchback of Notre Dame (45)
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything (45)
Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance : an inquiry into values (45)
The Aeneid (45)
Watership Down (44)
Gravity's rainbow (44)
The Hobbit (44)
In cold blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences (44)
White teeth (44)
Treasure Island (44)
David Copperfield (44)
The three musketeers (44)