IFComp: Capture Time

It’s November, so the deadline for judging this year’s IFComp is closing in fast. Time to move on with the next batch of entries, as I review my initial impressions of each game’s opening (introduction, “About” screens, and the first location), summarized by the Capture Score from 1 (intriguing; a definite play) to 4 (dreadful and forgettable). Just a reminder, no spoilers here, just early impressions.

Games covered here include “Project Delta”, “Escape from the Underworld”, “Opening Night”, “Afflicted”, and “Everybody Dies”.

“Project Delta”, by Emilian Kowalewski

Another Windows-only game. I can’t tell if this is a shame or not. I guess I’ll find out after the final Comp votes are tallied.

Capture Score: 4. The third of four Windows-only games in the Comp.

“Escape from the Underworld”, by Karl Beecher

This one comes with hints and walkthrough files, but without any background information or an ABOUT command. I generally like to have even a small amount of background info, whether it’s about the inspiration for the game, an acknowledgement of the authoring system, or a shout out to the beta testers. There were beta testers, right? I’ll have to make do.

Escape has a mildly entertaining but thin premise: I play a demon in the Underworld who, unhappy with his eternal task of torturing evil souls and seeking to better himself, must escape by making my way up to the “top floor.” It is written in a humorous style, although the humor only partially succeeds. It comes across as fairly well put together, without any notable errors, but it seems to lack much polish, particularly in the room and item descriptions. I could probably play a game like this if the writing had a bit more style, but as it is it’s a bit bland and I’m just not drawn in enough.

Capture Score: 3. A decent idea that faltered in the implementation.

“Opening Night”, by David Batterham

As the ABOUT screen notes, this is a game that focuses on story rather than puzzles, which is generally my preference. In this one, my character has saved up a month’s pay to purchase a ticket to the opening night performance of my idol, Miranda Lily, on Broadway. Starting out just outside the theater, it appears that at least part of the goal is to make it inside, as the doorman seems intent on upholding the theater’s strict dress code. I’m told it will probably not be difficult to solve this game’s puzzles, so the story must carry the day here.

Although it appears to be well written, I can’t say that this particular narrative captures my imagination right away. There might be considerably more beyond the opening, but I find it more difficult to muster up the desire to play this one than a number of other Comp games. It’s probably just a function of the premise more than anything else. I’ll be interested to see if my initial impression differs from the final voting.

Capture Score: 3. Just not enough up front to grab me.

“Afflicted”, by Doug Egan

Egan is the author of “Pascal’s Wager”, the winner of the 2008 Spring Thing (although I haven’t played it yet). Interestingly, Egan notes it took four years to complete that game using Inform 6, while it took only four months to complete “Afflicted” in Inform 7. His new game is intended to be enjoyed by IF newcomers and veterans alike — a worthy goal, but one that is sometimes difficult to pull off. Most common verbs are employed, although in the ABOUT screen I’m told that there is one new verb, NOTE, as well as an extra emphasis on the SMELL command.

The premise is that my character’s job as city sanitarian is to complete health and safety inspections of all restaurants in my district, and I start in a place called “Nikolai’s Bar and Grill” in a questionable part of town. The place is closed, the front door is locked, and nobody is close enough to hear me knocking. The first puzzle would appear to be getting inside; the rest appears to involve receiving a sanitation rating for the work that I do, although it’s not clear how points are awarded.

My impression is that there is probably a lot you could do with this premise. I like the decrepit setting, and the writing is good without being silly, lighthearted, or too clich√©. I’m interested to see where this game decides to go after this introduction, and it compares well with many of the other entries in this year’s Comp.

Capture Score: 1. I want to see if my impression is correct.

“Everybody Dies”, by Jim Munroe

Munroe previously wrote the game “Punk Points”, which was entered in the 2000 IF Comp. Although I haven’t played it, a review of this game from 2001 starts with: “You’re a teenager trying to demonstrate to yourself and to your peers how angry and rebellious you are.” This would also probably describe the opening of Munroe’s new game, “Everybody Dies”, which starts with a young, angry, vulgar kid who works at a supermarket bagging groceries and collecting shopping carts. There is no ABOUT screen, but a CREDITS screen acknowledges an impressively large group of beta testers. The HELP screen provides mostly generic help, although I’m informed that dying is “a part of life, and for most of the game unavoidable.”

There’s little direction when the game starts, although it seems that I have to retrieve a shopping cart before returning to the store. It’s hard to know where this game is leading — except perhaps for the title — but with the only visible shopping cart submerged in the frigid river below, I’m a bit intrigued. The writing and construction appear sound, with a fairly convincing characterization of an angry youth.

Capture Score: 2. Would be interested in coming back to this one.

Only seven more to go…

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