IntroComp Reviews

The IntroComp is designed to get people to write games. It does this by having a competition for the introductions to games, and then giving a prize for people who finish the games. Most of the IntroComp games are too short to really be interesting: you can sometimes predict that the finished game will be lousy, but even if it looks good it's not clear how well it'll work when completed (and, anyway, most don't get completed). Nevertheless, there are a few gems that make it worth looking through, and none of them take that much time to play, so hey. There are less of these than in the regular comp so they're all going on one page. Note that the scores here aren't strictly comparable to completed games: I tend to go a little easier on the introcomp games since they might improve in the full version.

IntroComp 2008

Bedtime Story (Taleslinger [Marius Müller]) Z-Machine:
Having the game be a bedtime story told by a parent to their kid is something I've seen before, but it's still charming, and besides, the game actually takes the idea as more than a frame for the "real" story: the kid is a continuous presence in the game, adding and challenging elements just like you'd expect. The actual gameplay is a little more mixed. Either there were multiple solutions that I couldn't get to work, or there were just unused elements; it was a little hard to tell because a number of things I tried didn't seem to be implemented, a little disappointing in a small game.

Also, the prompt being "The Prince then " started out seeming clever, but then in practice it feels like it cuts off valuable left-edge screen real estate for the command prompt. And more to the point, "The Prince then X TROLL" doesn't actually read right.



The Bloody Guns (Stuart Allen) JACL:
Well, ok, I have no real gripes about the parser even though this was a new IF system. On the other hand, I don't see any reason to have used a new system and made me download a new interpreter either. Oh well. The game itself was fine; it was one of those historical recreations where it is clear the author did their research. Which is good, but "that was really well-researched" is kind of a mixed compliment for a game, in the same way that "that was really nutritious" is ideally not the first thing someone says after eating what you cooked. The other thing that I wonder about is how well this intro actually reflects the game; it's an intro about war stuff and interacting with NPCs, but the actual mission seems to be exploring a spooky abandoned island. Anyway, I actually liked this better than it sounds like I did.



Fiendish Zoo (Elizabeth Heller) Z-Machine:
This game has an awesome premise but barely any follow-through. There's no real gameplay or puzzles here that I can see, just walking around through a couple of rooms and then the game ends. It's not an absolute requirement for introcomp games to have puzzles, but they should at least have a goal.

P.S. If I am a demon, and I have a kitten, simple logic dictates that I should be able to eat that kitten.



Nine-tenths of the Law (Jack Welch) Z-Machine:
Cripes, this is huge. Is this actually the whole game and not an intro? I didn't get to the end after an hour and a half, so it's hard to tell. Anyway, it's got an interesting premise and some decent puzzles. Also some deeply irritating puzzles — I am thinking in particular of a certain riddle. There was not actually that much use of the thing the title made me think it was about, but given that I didn't complete the game, who knows.



Phoenix's Landing: Destiny (Carolyn VanEseltine) Glulx:
This seems like it was written for the same audience as Worlds Apart. There's not quite so much Enya and magical dolphins, but to make up for it you get cat-people and getting to choose your skin and eye color. It has the same essential spirit, though, which is to say backstory and setting so huge you feel like a tiny, tiny drop of water in a great big sea. This is cool in its way but may not be to everyone's tastes; I'm not sure I actually saw anything here that wouldn't have been better as static fiction. Lest I give the wrong impression, I should say this is the most solidly-written and -designed game of the introcomp and I certainly recommend it, but I have to admit it's not going to be for everyone.



Storm Cellar: Chapter Zero (P. F. Sheckarski) Z-Machine:
With the exception of some roughness at the end of the game this Storm Cellar: Chapter Zero feels to me like the archetypal introcomp game: catchy intro, exploration, a couple puzzles but nothing too hard, and then a finish before it overstays its welcome. The mood-setting threatens to go over the top a couple times, the last puzzle is pretty hard to get, and the last room description is just disappointing, but overall this was quite good.



IntroComp 2007

Folkar Station (Doug Jones) TADS 3:
If I tell you the game starts out with you waking up on a space station you will probably be able to imagine the kind of game it is almost exactly. But personally that is ok by me since I like that kind of game. I also give it points for the size: most of the games this year are either too large or too small, but this one has exactly the right amount of stuff to do before the intro's over. There are a few implementation quirks, and I wouldn't have minded harder puzzles, but on the whole the structure is pretty good. My one other concern is the full game seems like it would have only two more sections of this size left in it, which isn't really enough. But I guess I'll have to wait and see.
(Disclaimer: I was a beta-tester for this game)



Jack in the box (Marius Müller) Z-Machine:
I am ok with games where you receive a mysterious magic package from your grandfather and have to do an important quest, and I am ok with games where you are a drunken bum who lives in your slobby apartment, but mixing these two styles should be done with care*. Jack in the box doesn't seem to even notice there's a possible clash here. Also, I'm afraid the implementation is still pretty bumpy — the author has some comments about the difficulty of getting beta-testers, and, well, he probably should have tried harder. I'm not actually sure I won the game correctly; there's an object embedded in another object, and I was able to use it without removing it first. The writing has some funny bits but the author isn't a native speaker and it shows. Anyway, yeah, I'm afraid this isn't quite up to snuff. There is definitely the base of a good game in here but it will take some digging to expose.

*I guess Adoo's Stinky Story basically pulls off the combo. But the field is still open if someone else wants to give it a shot.



Jacob's Travels (Anssi Räisänen) Z-Machine:
This is a perfectly good intro but it doesn't go far enough. I arrive on a mysterious island, I meet a person who tells me I'll get some sort of tasks, and then .. it's over. Wait, what about having me doing one of the tasks? How about me solving a puzzle of some kind? How about some actual gameplay? I like the premise of this game but it's very hard for me to judge whether I'd like the full game without knowing what I'll be doing as a player to play it.



The King of Shreds and Patches (Jimmy Maher) Z-Machine:
As my more dedicated readers know I am a big fan of RPG/IF integration, so seeing an IF adaptation of a Call of Cthulhu module is right up my alley. This is basically right, anyway: you have a nice historical setting, you have a mysterious death, you have somebody poking at Stuff Man Isn't Supposed To Poke At. If it does have a flaw as an intro, it's that it doesn't end early enough, I think. The point of an intro is partly to tease and tantalize, and so the best place to end is on a high note for the plot. This game goes past that high note and into a bunch of exploration and then sort of fizzles to a stop. It still works pretty well, but I think it would have been catchier to end earlier.

Incidentally, I am not sure anything in the game signals that this is a bizarre world unlike my own so well as the second room description, which has "On the table are a tympan and a frisket."



Three Princes (Alex Godofsky) Glulx:
Ok, I'm giving this one a pass, but only on a technicality. As far as I can tell, there's nothing you can actually do in this game: the only implemented command seems to be turning off the computer, and the room description indicates that the computer's still on, so I don't think that counts as doing something. I certainly couldn't do anything wild and crazy like use the computer. However, 1) it's an introcomp game and 2) regardless of what you do, something happens 17 turns after the game starts. The event piques my interest enough that I'd be willing to take a look at the full game, despite the impression the rest of the intro gives.



Tin (Jim Aikin) TADS 3:
Parodies are always a little tricky. I was never quite convinced of the tone of this one — not that it's a bad premise, but it was hard to believe the character in question would talk like this*. The shape of the game seemed a little off, too: most of the game didn't seem to have any relevance to gameplay, and I'd think in an intro you'd want to encourage more exploration. These complaints make it sound like I liked the game rather less than I did, though. The premise is original, there are a number of nice touches, and the implementation feels pretty solid. So yeah, I'd certainly play this, and I imagine my objections about the tone would smooth out over the course of the full game.

*ie, it was reasonable for him to be grumpy; but it didn't seem like he was objecting to the right things or vocalizing his complaints in an appropriately-characteristic way.



Trainstopping (Ben Collins-Sussman) Glulx:
This game gets a point just for the title, and another because, hey, Western. Further points are awarded for having a gun and actually being able to shoot stuff with it. However, then I must deduct points for the game not telling me what the hell I'm supposed to do. Eventually I deduce what the overall objective is, then take equally long times to find the item I was lacking, and then to figure out the fiddly positioning to make it work. So on the whole I have mixed feelings about this as a full game, despite liking the general idea.



IntroComp 2006

The Art of Deception (she's long gone) Z-Machine:
If a game is called The Art of Deception, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect it to have some deception in the intro. I see a little mistaking, a little concealment, and a little espionage, but I really don't see any deception. Maybe there is more deception in part two — my other main gripe about this game is it doesn't quite feel long enough to establish anything. The PC is supposed to be your basic awesome secret agent, it seems like, but doesn't really get a chance to do anything awesome — there is a very small amount of sneaking before a screwup occurs, and the awesomeness factor there is really not as high as it could be (although the game does get points for having a spy gadget).

There's not really enough build-up of the bad guy either. A large part of the appeal of James Bond (or Conan, for that matter) is that he has awesome opponents who get a lot of screen time to show off how sinister and powerful and weird they are before Bond offs them; this guy gets two sentences about how he's a pistol-smuggling philanthropist. I mean, pistols? C'mon, that is totally the lamest possible illegal thing to be smuggling, short of cut-rate Viagra.

But, ok, I like spy games and I'll probably give the full version a chance. I wish the intro did a better job of selling it but I guess that's the way it goes.



Child's Play (Stephen Granade) Z-Machine:
I am, generally speaking, fond of games that have an unusual writing style. I am also fond of games with interesting narrators, and games by Stephen Granade. So it's not surprising that I found Child's Play awfully charming. I am disinclined to spoil anything about this game, but I can say I was pleased by the sassy narration, the game size (enough to show what the game was going to be like, to fit in a couple puzzles and give the player a genuine accomplishment, and not any longer than necessary), and all the implemented bits of scenery and unnecessary-but-fun verbs. I'm definitely looking forward to the full version of this one.
(Disclaimer: I was a beta-tester for this game)



Mechs (Allan Crain) Z-Machine:
This is one of those intros that I find interesting more for what they suggest than for what they actually contain. The game seems to be one of those ones about an unexpectedly free-willed robot that can detach its body parts, with some interesting sub-things about rogue AIs and switching between VR view and real-world view. Unfortunately, the actual game isn't long enough to give a good flavor — it's mostly an introduction to the commands and then some legalistic quibbling as you escape; I hope the full game has a more complete exploration of the interesting elements, with puzzles that rely on the PC's unique capabilities.



Nothing But Mazes (Greg Boettcher) TADS 3:
Well, this is, er, unusual. I thought at first it was a straight sf thing, and then I thought it was a parody, and then it was a sort of computer hacking thing, and then — well, I'm not quite sure. On the plus side, the computer hacking thing was interesting; the interface could have been smoother but it was certainly original, and I didn't have to use it for so long that it got completely irritating. I hope it gets more use in the full game; it seems like there were some capabilities that could have been explored more. On the minus side, there was an awful lot of exposition. Part of the deal with introcomp games (or other short games) is that the player doesn't want to spend a lot of time reading backstory or getting into the zone, because they know it's going to be over soon. It probably would have been better to present the backstory here in some shorter way, and if it's important to get it all out in the full game, include it in expanded form there. But, ok, Nothing But Mazes intrigued me enough to make me interested in the rest of the game, and I guess that's the goal.



Sabotage! (Felix Plesoianu) Z-Machine:
As sf games where you're a passenger on the ship of an advanced-tech alien race with mysterious powers go, Sabotage! is pretty palatable. I don't think gameplay is really that intuitive — there are various locked things and they're all controlled in different ways (or not openable at all), there are some non-working machines that you can get working and others you can't, there's a computer that can do a bunch of stuff but it's hard to figure out the syntax, and so on. Then to top it all off, you spend a lot of time wandering around poking at things for the lack of anything more specific to do. But all that said, Sabotage! is respectable enough as your basic sf game. I do kinda like walking around poking at strange machines, and I figure I've got a better feel for how the author's puzzles work now, so I expect I'd enjoy the full game.



Southern Gothic (Mordechai Shinefield) Z-Machine:
I think the coolest bit about Southern Gothic is that it opens with a scene that seems kind of artificial and weird and you poke at it for a while and then realize that there is a perfectly good reason for it. The least cool bit is that once you figure this out you end up wandering around aimlessly for a while, trying to figure out what to do. Personally, I am a big fan of games that are vigorous about directing the player at the start of the game; give them some task to accomplish and it's way easier to get oriented. Anyway, I am not so interested in character-centric modern drama, which Southern Gothic seems to be verging on, but maybe there'll be some bloodshed at the end or a car chase or something. I can but hope.



Unyielding Fury (Michael Pruitt) Z-Machine:
I feel bad about not giving this game a totally fair shake, but it's a little hard to take a game seriously that is named Unyielding Fury and opens at a birthday party. Unfortunately the first room isn't particular endearing either: I don't think a single noun mentioned in the room description is implemented. Anyway, it goes along for a bit and eventually you end up lying in a bloody mess on the front lawn, a dead body next to you and police sirens in the distance. Now that is how to get my attention — why couldn't the intro have started there?



IntroComp 2005

The Amazing Uncle Griswold (David Whyld) ADRIFT:
Well, I guess this intro does a good job of suggesting what the final game will be like, since it suggests that it'll be pretty similar to most of Whyld's other games, which I assume will be the case. I still don't really care for his sense of humor — it feels kind of overdone and self-consciously "look how bizarre I am, isn't that wacky?" — but if you do, I imagine you will like this.



Deadsville (William McDuff) Z-Machine:
When my main complaint about an introcomp game is that it's too short, that's generally a good sign. Deadsville is a fun zombie comedy with a nice twist — you're the zombie. The implementation is pretty detailed, probably even excessively so (but I imagine that'll taper off in a full game). Like I said, it was a little too short, but it certainly got my attention, and I'll be looking forward to the full game.



The Fox, the Dragon, and the Stale Loaf of Bread (David Welbourn) Z-Machine:
So, uh, the title promises it'll be a game about a fox, a dragon, and a stale loaf of bread, and I cannot deny that is precisely what it delivers. It feels perfectly well-implemented, and the writing is nice and consistent except for the froofy room description on the cliff, but I can't help wondering where it's heading from here — if we've already seen the three title characters in the intro, what's the rest of the game going to be about? Since this is an intro, I guess I will just have to play the rest of the game and find out.



The Hobbit (Serhei Makarov) Z-Machine:
Hrrm. I think the problem with this game is mostly a feedback one. The actions it expects you to take aren't totally unreasonable, but they're pretty much unclued, so unless you are exhaustively trying everything or get lucky, you're not going to make much progress. Or at least I didn't (until I hit the walkthrough). The overall tone is kind of inconsistent, too: it is partly a creepy explore-the-darkness game and partly a solve-arbitrary-puzzles games, and it's hard to stay creeped out when you've got this magic hat. But that said, I did like many of the bits in the game, and it felt like it was just getting the most interesting when it ended — which is probably the best way for an introcomp game to be.



Negotis (Robert DeFord) TADS 3:
Man. Ok, see, the games I can write a bunch about tend to be those that prominently illustrate some aspect of IF craft. The problem is that this means that sometimes you end up with a review like this one, where it's going to basically just be a list of things that irritated me about the game. I can't really kid myself that the author is going to sit down and revise the game in response to my comments, but hopefully some of them will help for a later game. Anyway:

Ok, first off, if you are thinking about disabling UNDO in your game, reconsider. You have to figure that like 5% of people who start up a game with no UNDO will quit as soon as they realize this, because it's too annoying. 15% of people will play until they die, then realize they haven't saved recently, and quit instead of restarting. 79% will play through most of the way but write nasty comments about it, and the last 1% will say "hey, seemed fine to me." If dropping UNDO is worth writing off 99% of your audience, then hey, go for it, but know what you're getting into.

The UNDO thing is actually a good example of a general problem with the game — subsystems that are irritating to the player in a UI sense, add little to the game experience, and can be subverted anyway. Another example of this is the skill system. I haven't seen this much in IF games before — you have, eg, a Stealth score, that improves by being stealthy (or by not being stealthy), and you can try and sneak past guard NPCs, with a success chance based on your Stealth score. I suppose this is why UNDO was disabled, to prevent people from UNDOing every time they failed to sneak past — but even if you don't save and restore, you can usually just walk out of the room after one round of the NPC attacking you, then re-enter and try and sneak again. Meh. If you're going to have a skill system like this, I think it's a bad idea to make it random — make it so you just can't sneak past the guard until you have a sneak skill of 6, and then the puzzle is working out how to raise your sneak skill to that level (or working out some other way of getting past the guard).

The buy/sell system is kind of a similar deal. First off, buying anything from the NPC requires you to go through a complicated haggling process (he says 200, you have to guess a number, and if it's too low he gets pissed off, so you guess 150, he says 195, you say 155, and so on, until he decides to accept your offer). Curiously, this is inconsistent with selling anything to the NPC, where he just makes a flat offer that you can take or leave. But, ok, despite having this complicated buying and selling system which is integral to the game (since, right, the world is named Negotis and all the people are into buying and selling), it's all irrelevant, because you can get arbitrary amounts of money fairly easily. Feh.

The writing is nothing special — there's a few typos but it's not terrible — and the storyline is cliched but not unpleasantly so. I was kind of interested in how it was going, in fact, which is why it was an anti-climax to have the game just peter out — instead of seeing a teaser message, you get dropped in a little area and can wander around until you get bored. But the fundamental problem with Negotis, I think, is that it's trying to show off too many different things — a detective story, this skill system, this negotiation/finding money system — and they're not well-integrated. Picking just one or two of those and writing an intro that really showcased it in a number of interesting ways would have been much more successful.

So, yeah, Negotis didn't work for me, although it has a number of subparts which could be interesting with some more polish.



Somewhen (Bryce J Rhaiz) Z-Machine:
This is one of the games that is best illustrated by a quote from the transcript, I think:
Front Entrance
Outside the majestic West Baden Springs Hotel. The circular structure curves away to the northwest and southwest. Far to the southwest lie the springs and waterpark. To the north is the emerald golf course, and a tree-lined drive leads east to the magnificent gates, and beyond, the airport. The registration desk lies beyond the glass doors to the west. The original limestone can just be seen beneath the expanse of neon and chrome.

You're pretty much stumped as to how to get anywhere here. Best to just relax and enjoy the scenery.

>x golf course
You can't see any such thing.

..Right. Eventually I figured out you could walk around the hotel, even if you can't enter it, and so I did that, and then it turned out there didn't seem to be any plot or puzzles or anything, so I quit.



Weishaupt Scholars (Michael C Martin) Z-Machine:
I am totally a fan of spy games, so this gets points just for that, and I didn't see any implementation blunders or anything. But, still, I found myself a little disappointed. I think the thing was that even though the game set up a fun premise and had a few teasy plot things, it didn't actually let me do anything except report for duty. Lame. It seems like given the little amount of backstory the game actually gave, it could have just begun in the middle of an action scene and let the player do some cool stuff — even if it was totally scripted, it'd be about the same feel as the game now, only you'd be following a cooler script. That said, the hints at a plot were interesting enough that I'm looking forward to the game, I just wish this intro gave me a better idea of what it'd be like.



IntroComp 2004

Auden's Eden (Tommy Herbert) Z-Machine:
The author clearly has a unique idea for a game here, but I'm not sure it's actually an interesting idea. There is a certain amount of suspense in the intro, but it's ultimately not particularly satisfying, and there's not really much to do. On the plus side, the implementation is good, and the playthrough I had was nice and smooth. I have no idea if I'd want to play the complete version of Auden's Eden or not — this intro didn't show enough to tell me if it's a whimsical tour through wackyland, a cutting social satire, or just a detailed sartorial experience.



A Bet's a Bet (Santa's Helper) TADS 2:
A Bet's a Bet has a reasonably good idea for a game that I haven't exactly seen before, although I'm a little sad not to be the other red-suited guy. There are a few bumps in the execution (most notably, the first time you examine the vehicle, it doesn't reveal its only important feature), but the game is short enough that it doesn't really matter, since it's good about giving you some direction from the beginning. There's not really enough here for me to tell how fun the full version would be, but I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt based on what I see here.



The Homework of Little Carl Gauss (Stefano Gaburri) Glulx:
The Homework of Little Carl Gauss plays like, well, what it is — a sort of old-school game hacked together by an author over a couple years. These sort of games tend to have no real clarity of vision or compactness of design, but they can still be cute and fun. Actually, the subtitle of the game is probably its best summary: "A dimension-traveling adventure with sound, no mazes, no darkness, and a bagful of cats!" The sound didn't play on my interpreter, but I agree I didn't encounter any mazes or darkness. Unfortunately, since there was really nothing implemented except for a few empty rooms I didn't encounter the bagful of cats either, although Gaburri did helpfully indicate where they'll be. Because the intro is so small gameplay-wise it's not at all clear what the final game will play like, so it's hard to know if I'm interested.



Jabberwocky (Gregory Weir) Z-Machine:
The best game of this introcomp by a wide margin, Jabberwocky has an inventive fantasy world, decent (and grammatical) writing, and actually interesting, if simple, puzzles. There's a clear goal right from the start of the game, a way to track your progress and get nudges as to what to work on, in-game hints, >ABOUT, some nice extra touches (the various tools to play with, >XYZZY, >X BOROGROVES), and generally everything I am looking for in a game. Aside from the minor quibble of Weir's descriptions not really getting anywhere close to my mental image of the stuff (and, I am pretty sure, not to Carroll's — for one thing, he says what a wabe is and it's not this), my only real gripe with the game is that it has a lousy ending. C'mon, this is an introcomp game, it's supposed to hook me, right? So how about ending with a cliffhanger, or a surprise, or something cool, instead of just a boring comment on the things I'm going to see in the rest of the game?



On The Cross (Ian Kaleb) Z-Machine:
The main good thing about On The Cross is it seems to be one of those "ex-hitman gets done wrong and goes back for revenge" stories that I'm fond of. Unfortunately the actual implementation is pretty lousy: there's a ridiculously long introductory text, some guess-the-verbs, a "a guess what to do oops you're dead" bit, no real character identity or motivation, and there seems to be a bug making the game impossible to complete (actually, I am informed that it's possible to complete, it's just another guess-the-verb: try (rot13'ed) >NFX QEVIRE SBE YVSG). Oh, and the author didn't change the response to >X ME. I hate that.



Passenger (Niall Richard Murphy) Z-Machine:
Passenger offers a decent concept but a little weak execution, and ends too early to get a feel for what the game is going to be like. It has a slightly original riff on what looks to be a hackneyed fantasy setting (and if it's not, Murphy should have shown it off better), but there are numerous small irritations (it not being clear when you stop being frozen in place, a number of obvious actions not having a response, inconsistent line-spacing). Anyway, this might be good in a full version, or it might not be. There's not enough here to tell.



Runes (Deane Saunders) Z-Machine:
This is really too unfinished even to have been entered in the introcomp. Many of the rooms don't have descriptions, and the only real gameplay consists of wandering around picking up the many herb objects, with which you can do nothing. The map is either mis- or confusingly-linked in many places, and often directions aren't reversible. There is no motivation or explanation as to what the PC is doing here (beyond that I fell from someplace) and the writing could use a grammatical brush-up. I would like to play a game with cool alchemy stuff but I guess this isn't it. Oh, and the author didn't change the response to >X ME. I hate that.



IntroComp 2003

Agency (Ricardo Signes) Z-Machine:
A cyberpunk-esque beginning to what looks like a mystery or a thriller or something, Agency doesn't fall into the trap of slapping together existing tropes to build a world. Instead, it creates specific details that are in the style of cyberpunk without actually being the off-the-shelf models. This is The Right Way To Do It, even if the game tends to overwrite when spilling all the details for us. Unfortunately, the plot itself seems pretty by the numbers: I don't know if this is because the game's so short or what, but it doesn't really have time to go anywhere interesting. Anyway, I'd happily play the full version, if it starts going someplace better than where the intro ends. (Oh, yeah, and if it uses dramatic pauses more sparingly than the intro does.)



Harlequin Girl (Sean M Elliott) Z-Machine:
Hrm. It's a bad sign when the last couple lines of the story are the most interesting part. Specifically, it's a sign that the author has a possibly-cool idea but has no real idea how to present it, which bodes ill for a longer version. This is exacerbated by author's notes after the game starting out "Now the adventure begins. Who was the mystery man? What was the Harlequin girl's plan, and what went wrong?" and worse yet, they end "And most of all, who are you?" I think there is some kind of cool idea floating around in here: my theory is there's some kind of angel-demon conflict going on here, or maybe demon-demon, and that's always good. But the game doesn't feel like it's trying after the first few turns (which are, admittedly, cool): objects are routinely unimplemented, the player has amnesia, there's a random flashback, there's nothing really interesting to do. Like I said, the first few turns are cool, when I'm trying to figure out where I am and what's going on, but then once I find out, it turns out not to be interesting. No wonder the author was hiding it. Elliott says he's going to decide whether to continue based on feedback; personally, I'd scrap this and start off something else which isn't a "you have amnesia and wake up in a strange room, what do you do now?" game.



Harrington House (Gayla Bassham) Z-Machine:
The setting and plot and so on have definite promise (it feels like, hrm, a teenage girl protagonist in a colonial-era Curses) but the game is so buggy that it's not really recommendable as is. I suspect this'll be one of those games where the author eventually produces a nice finished product with a note in the credits saying "Did I ever underestimate the amount of time you need to spend beta-testing."



The Mage Wars: Statue (Jim Fisher) Z-Machine:
Hrm. This is certainly, er, large. Like, at the end it says "You have completed the first six chapters," and there's clearly way more to come. The good news is that it's fairly well-programmed, which should be expected from the author of the Onyx Ring libraries. The bad news is that what Fisher chose to implement is what seems like a pretty standard science-vs-magic time-travel fantasy game. I'm the last to gripe about a fantasy setting but I would like to see it have some original details — note that this isn't a gripe about the plot or theme but rather about how it's evoked. The game does get points for developing a bunch of viewpoint characters and generally having what looks like a Big Plot, but, I dunno, enh. Maybe this is just the sort of slow-starting game that doesn't work well with an introcomp — I think that this doesn't do a great job of selling the main game but I'd probably enjoy it more than the intro.



Ophelia (Benjamin Fan) Java:
Oh man. I am torn as to what score to give this game, because on the one hand I don't think it's possible that the full game can be written (or any of the game — Fan seems to have interpreted "intro" as "let me explain how the game will work, not actually implement any of it and show you"), but I am morbidly fascinated by the mere possibility of it being implemented and what that would look like. I think I can summarize it best by explaining that while there are no objects implemented (which means you can't flush the toilet, boo), it does have a section explaining that the goal is to, by careful monitoring of Ophelia's (yes, this is Hamlet) depression score, let her live through adolescence and achieve empowerment.



Reality's End (Harry Hol) Z-Machine:
The winning score seems to be 5/1000, so I guess this is going to be a pretty big game. It seems to be a vaguely Dean Koontz/Stephen King style "a kid must fight off evil creeping into the world" game, which I am not a big fan of literature-wise but it seems to play pretty well as an IF game. There's nothing really special here but on the other hand the game is pretty solid, doesn't have anything wrong with it, and doesn't wear out its welcome, which is more than can be said for most games. So hey, let's see the full game.



IntroComp 2002

Artifiction (Mikko Vuorinen) Alan:
Sort of a parody of time-travel games: "In the middle of this room is the magnificent travelling vortex. It can be used to go to another place, dimension or even time. If you believe in that sort of thing, of course. But anyway, the vortex is already configured for your destination and waiting for you to enter." Yawn, just another magic vortex of teleporting you anywhere. And where does it teleport you? Into some grass. And then you're locked up in a prison cell. And then you get out and it ends. There's a fairly simple puzzle made difficult by an extremely uncooperative parser, but the real problem is the game isn't really all that compelling. Vuorinen's other games have generally had a wacky and fun sense that anything could happen and it'll be okay. This one has the same wackiness but somehow the fun isn't really there; I don't know if that's because the different areas aren't really all that interesting or because the one puzzle is such a pain.



At Wit's End Again (Mike Sousa) TADS 2:
I didn't really like At Wit's End, so it's not too surprising that I was only so-so on this. It's a good advert for a sequel to At Wit's End, though, so, um, there you go.



Death By Monkey (R. Rawson-Tetley) IAGE:
Despite the title, I read the source and determined there was not, in fact, a way to get killed by the monkey. So bah on that. Other than that this is the usual pretty good home-grown parser that isn't quite up to inform/tads/hugo standard (although at some point it's not really a parser issue and more a library issue: as well as parsing sentence constructions you need a fairly large number of standard verbs in the game). The game is nothing special. It claims it can be played multiplayer, which would be special, but apparently that feature isn't implemented. Other than that you wander around a small unexplained area, solve a puzzle in a somewhat improbable way for no reason other than that it's there to be solved, and then the game ends. I dunno. Implemented ok as far as it goes but still fairly pointless.



Fellowship of the Ring (One of the Bruces) Atari 2600 ROM:
Emulators are at Didn't play this. Heard it was funny.



From the Files of Sigmund Sigmund Praxis, Guerrilla Therapist (Mark Silcox) ADRIFT:
The title pretty much says it all. This is an intro, so you only get acquainted with you the therapist and your first patient and then the game ends, but I think that's probably all you need to play. I dunno; the game felt like it relied too heavily on being bizarre and not didn't actually make sure that that bizarreness was funny.



Genie (Stark Springs) Glulx:
I would like to defend this intro on two points. One, it clearly explains how to change forms in the intro: "Now, a genie such as yourself has more flexibility. You can materialize and dematerialize at will...". And sure enough, >MATERIALIZE and >DEMATERIALIZE work. Two, ok, it's a boring setting and an easy puzzle. But that's funny! And it's also good, since you'd expect as a genie to be having to use weird magic and stuff and it's a nice twist to have to be scrounging up cash on the street (metaphorically) to accomplish the wishes. That said, ok, the puzzle itself is lame and the writing is fairly bumpy. But I'd still play the full version of this.



Hey, Jingo! (Caleb Wilson) Glulx:
An absolute gem. Wilson does a brilliant job of setting the scene, both in terms of background and in room/scenery/object descriptions. Plus just enough action happens to keep you interested. The one flaw I'd point out is the dialogue in the end scene feels very odd, but this is tiny by comparison to the rest of the game. The only reason I can think that you might not want to play this is if you'd rather wait for the full version.



Madrigals of War and Love (Jason Dyer) Z-Machine:
I am quite fond of PG Wodehouse, so it is no surprise I thought this was great. It's extremely railroady, but, as has been pointed out, that's less of a big deal for this as it's just an intro. The writing and coding are a bit rough in spots and the railroadiness keeps the game from feeling as fleshed out as it might be, but this is still excellent.



The Maintenance Man (Philip Dearmore) TADS 2:
Again, this game seems to me like it's been unfairly slagged by some people. It has a cool concept and that is worth a lot to me, particular in a teaser, and then, hey, it's set in my home town, so points for that too. The first puzzle is really lame, which is a pity, as the third puzzle, while handled badly by the parser, is quite clever and requires some outside-the-box thinking. The full version of this might be good or it might be bad, but I'll be taking the risk and playing it when it comes out.



Private Cyborg (Tony Ash) TADS 2:
As mentioned elsewhere, the title of this is godawful. Good concept, though. The intro itself as an intro isn't really that interesting; or, rather, it's not any more interesting than the last two or three turns alone would be, and is somewhat more tedious. I think the moral is to give us more of the good bits and leave out the bad bits. But still, sufficiently interesting to make me look for it.



Timetrap (D.R. Porterfield) Z-Machine:
The largest game and has a couple puzzles. The puzzles are somewhat improbable and the setting doesn't exactly feel like golden-age sf to me. But the game is sufficiently developed that it seems like a "real game" in a way that the others don't, which is kind of nice as a change. On the downside, although size-wise it's much larger than the other games it only has a bit more plot, so there are some areas entirely without motivation, which strikes me as a lousy move for a game intended as a teaser.



Virus (Philip Dearmore) TADS 2:
This is much less interesting to me than Dearmore's other introcomp game. Partly this is because I missed an exit from one room and got stuck for a while, but mostly because while I like stuff about interesting native cultures, that turns out not to be the focus, and while I don't really go for thrillers, this game turns out to be one. Also, as mentioned, the title kind of gives the point (and the suspense) away early. Probably would have been better to release it with a different title or something.



The Waterhouse Women (Jacqueline Lott) Z-Machine:
This one, hmm. You can't help but admire Lott's craftswomanship here, but there's not really any motivation offered, and that's mostly what I'm looking for in an intro. You're trying to get me interested, right? So while it's great that I can poke around at lots of stuff, I'm not going to do it much unless you convince me first that I want to.



And that's all. For other IF-related things, including many more reviews, you can go to my main IF page.