IF Comp 2007 – More Brief Mentions (Jack Mills, JDX, Mishmash)

Some of these mentions will be very brief. If you start from the beginning of my reviews, you can probably tell that I am running out of steam on analyzing games.

 The first I am voting for.

I am Jack Mills

I don’t have much pithy to say about this. I rather liked it, as I am fond of mysteries. I also rather liked encountering a “film noir” type of detective in the comp, but in the end I felt this game fell short of its promise. It is short and sort of shallow (not thin, but bordering on it), and a bit obscure. Overall, there is nothing seriously wrong with it, but it does need tightening up. That would raise it higher, closer to the “good” game bar.

You are a P.I. looking for a valuable, stolen Roman coin. The time period is not explicitly stated, but it could easily be the 1940’s/1950’s. However, as the player trying to find the coin, you may have to resort to walkthru more than you would like.

I liked how driving the car worked (the PC has to know of/about some location before he can drive there), I liked Jack Mill’s voice overs (not too intrusive, appropriate to the plot development, the player learns more because of them, and they are in italics to distinguish them), but I still found the puzzles too hard. Some of this was due to guess the verb, some was due to actions that seemed illogical, and some was due to the fact that there wasn’t really quite enough to do. So I feel this would be hard to win without the walkthru, although the walkthru isn’t required for every action/puzzle. However, I think this could be fixed. I would also suggest a little more “attitude” for the PC, so we get a better feeling of him as a character. And maybe more for the NPCs as well. More writing would add more meat to the story and improve it.

SPOILER ON. Guess the verb – When I encountered the container and the fire escape, I though, aha, supposed to get on container and climb ladder. Why not just call it a garbage can, by the way? Plastic containers were not prevalent in earlier time periods. But get on container would not work, etc., etc., so I had to look at the walkthru. I did see later that the in-game help commands mentioned climb, but a synonym of get on would be better. Opening the window with the knife – I tried opening the window and breaking the window with the knife. Some hint there would help because that is almost a guess the verb problem. Maybe a voice over from Jack after the player tries it two times, “The latch looks worn and old, probably the knife could pry it open.” Illogical — It seemed counter-intuitive for me to go and confront Geigner at the night club. I already knew he was a thief and a hood, what would confronting him with those facts get for me except broken knee caps? Somehow the idea of masquerading as someone else needs more lead in. I had to look at the walkthru there too because I am not fond of getting beat up, in games or elsewhere, so I tend to avoid it. 🙂 And actually, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to photograph someone through a window where they would spot me. Branches – I am not sure either that the plot branching works all that well in this game. I only played one, Violet’s offer, but it seemed to make the whole game way too short. SPOILER OFF.

This isn’t a “bad” game, but it also isn’t quite a “good” game, either. However, if the author will take more time to expand it a little more — more writing and attitude and tighten up the puzzles and plot inconsistencies, then I feel it just might fall into the latter category.

Jealousy Duel X

Nice graphics, some cute ideas, looks like it was a lot of work to make/write it, and not-my-cup-of-tea, again. In fact, many IF players will probably not like the CYOA/graphic approach. I also didn’t like the attitude toward women that seemed to be expressed in this game. Sorry, I didn’t. I know the PC is supposed to be bitter, but the girls at the bar were bad reflections also.

I only played long enough to cover the initial game map and to figure out that I probably could win it if I kept playing (although it seemed difficult). The goal was sort of stated, but it still wasn’t clear to me at first. However, I wasn’t really enjoying the laborious puzzle solving (being restricted to such simple choices makes it harder) and had no desire to keep working at it, er…, playing it.

Mishmash

And, boy, is it! This game irked me, though I didn’t take a strong dislike to it like I did to one other. I was more disappointed than disgusted.

The writing wasn’t bad, the plot seemed promising with intriguing ideas, I like science-fiction, I can even stand all the reruns of “Starship Troopers” on TBS, and I like virtual reality science-fiction. But, uh, after more than a couple of turns I wasn’t sure what this was. Or wasn’t. I suspect thought went into this, but be warned, when it comes to science-fiction, vagueness is no substitute for clear, good writing.

What is a cold suit? What is a node? Was I trooping? Was I virtual realitying? Was I the ghost in the machine? A computer bug?I don’t know. I had to use the walkthru for everything and after about 15-20 turns I gave up. I like to play, not watch (having to use a walkthru is watching). Also, not only was the surrounding reality, or lack of it, unclear, so was the goal. How the author expected me to deduce what to do is beyond me. SPOILER ON. How was I supposed to know getting into the crate was a good idea? Because how did I know that penetrating the factory further was what I wanted? SPOILER OFF.

In sci-fi one does not have to explain HOW some technology (unfamiliar to the reader/player) works, but, at the least, they do have to explain what it IS. There may be a good game here somewhere, but I didn’t find it.

P.S. Note that this is another game where more beta testing would have helped the author clarify the plot — another game that would have been greatly improved by it. See Ferrous Ring review.

IF Authors get a big break in the comp, because many judges are committed to finishing games regardless. Or finishing the games they started. Or finishing some games. But when a game is released outside the comp there is another standard, a more “real life” standard. When player confusion outweighs player motivation and/or enjoyment — the player simply stops playing.

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