Andrew Schultz's TALP reviews: the whole 9 yards/entries (eventually)

That’s a good question. I thought about what could be done. My initial reaction is, it’d be nice if they could find things a bit faster. But there’s a trade-off, here, one you probably saw to some degree.

It’s nice to have that tension and feel like the other kids are pushing you. But you don’t want players to legitimately fear they could lose or worry too much about save states instead of the game itself!

Perhaps you could have a side-nudge reminding the player that other contestants are going to go through slow patches too e.g. additional small talk like “Boy, the first few were easy, but I slowed down a lot!”

It feels like the sort of thing that would be neat to fix, but balancing the mechanics and testing it all might take too much time/energy away from your next project. However you might be able to sleep on things and think of a magic bullet that resolves these issues, or gets close enough.

Though after writing this I was genuinely curious whether or not you also had a hidden super-advanced mode that gave a special bonus ending. Again tricky coding ahead as it’s something you’re more than capable of but it is probably a real grind–but it might be fun to bounce around in your head.

side tangent for rewarding super-optimal runthroughs

I don’t know how much maximization would be required or allowable, and I don’t know how Adventuron counts moves e.g. does a parser error count as a move? (Perhaps you could just track successful moves between rooms as the threshold.)

This would require some major coding and testing, again, but it could be a final achievement to unlock.

And of course the very fastest run-through would necessitate solving clue Y before clue X, even though you can’t get Y without X. So you might consider whether you want to check for that and if it would disqualify a speed run, or have a separate “internally logical” achievement and “cheating”.


Barry Basic and the Witch’s Cave (TALP), by Dee Cooke

After a few Barry Basic entries and several other works, one sort of expects a baseline for Dee Cooke’s work, and Barry Basic and the Witch’s Cave hits that and then some. It’s an increasingly ironic name, because in each entry except the very first, you do something not very basic to Adventuron or text adventures at all. I’m worried even this allusion may be a spoiler, because when a lightbulb went on for me, it was a neat moment. It wasn’t critical to solving things. Maybe I should have seen it right away. But … this is intertwined with another BB game. I’d be interested to trade experiences with people who played Barry Basic in a different order than I did. It would probably impact us both differently.

If I recall correctly, BB was one of the games allowed in slightly post-deadline. And the worst I can say about it is – it does jump a bit from feeling trivial to what is a very neat sequence to complete tthe final task.

In BBWC, you’ve been sent to the seaside, chaperoned by a horrible teacher named Mr. Brawl (he will spend the day reading the sports section and yelling at kids not to go in the cave,) to pick up five shells, and since Barry is physically slower and weaker than most others, and he’s already been pushed around on the bus ride up, they get the easy seashells first. Barry has some puzzles to figure as he finds different shells. Nothing much at first. But of course that cave is there for a reason! And I enjoyed how it jibed with Barry’s adventures in future games, looking where he was not supposed to.

The adventure turns surreal once in the cave, with an underground lake and such and new verbs to learn. They’re nonstandard, but you know them. How? Well, I’m torn between waffling on this review and giving out untagged spoilers. Suffice it to say the final shell is definitely the hardest, and Barry has an interesting run-in with another student, described below.

That student is Tony O’Hara, whom I didn’t realize was Barry’s friend in Quick Escape until near the end. Then I felt dumb I didn’t notice it! I like how the author plays off how Tony and Barry see things, without playing the DUH TONY IS DUMB card. And after I realized Tony was that Tony, I realized it answered another question I had in BBQE: how the heck did these two very different people wind up as friends? Perhaps we will find how Barry and Gill met in another game in the series. I’d like that.

Also, I’d like to see more Adventuron games where you can switch between characters. On the strength of the Barry Basic games, I see a lot of possibilities.

That run-in, though, made me realize the one thing I felt was missing. It’s well done, as you do things to the landscape that make the graphics flip around (the author does a lot of this. It’s a neat feature of Adventuron.) My major criticism, and it’s not much, is the steep jump in complexity from finding seashell #4 to #5. My guess is that the author was up against the deadline a bit, because BBWC was not, as I recall, in the initial list, but two games were allowed in. Good choice by the organizers. Still, I felt unprepared for the lurch. Barry Basic and the Speed Daemon felt more smoothly paced despite being bigger. It felt like the author missed a chance to maybe put in more conflicts with other kids, nothing terribly violent, but enough to ramp up to the big one. Still, the game is more than complete, and I wouldn’t have liked the author to put off publishing BBWC over that.

I really liked BBWC overall. Mr. Brawl is an effective antagonist, though there is another, later. You just know that cave he tells you not to explore is going to be explored, and you will find out why it is dangerous. The conflicts were resolved well. I am already looking forward to a fifth entry.


Thanks for the review of The Mystery at Winchester High.It was very perceptive.

There are, indeed, a lot of adventure tropes. I thought this was appropriate for a game targeted at beginners to the genre. Even so, the solutions are generally a bit different to what you would normally expect. For example, there are three locked doors, one locked drawer, 80 locked lockers (not 100) and one locked safe, but there are no keys to be found!

Everything is very well hinted, although it’s easy to miss or skip over some of those hints. I have to thank the play testers for many big improvements in this area, as I was able to see where they got stuck and they quite often gave useful suggestions.

Regarding NPCs, I just checked and all my games have at least one NPC, though not necessarily human. This one has four major NPCs and two bit parts. (Did you encounter Louise and Billie the Bruiser?) Maybe there was a little more interaction with the characters and the ambient messages give them more life. (That was another tester suggestion.) It’s worth talking to each character and asking them about various things, as they each provide their own perspective on the mystery and the school’s financial woes. It was a lot of fun developing the characters. If you’re paying attention, the game also reveals a lot about the player character as the game unfolds.

Anyway, it sounds like you had fun, and that’s all that matters.


Thanks Garry! I played to get through the game. That’s something worth looking at before I send my final review to IFDB. I indeed missed Louise and Billie.

As for NPCs … yes I see what you mean. Maybe I was relying too much on Carpathian Vampire, which IIRC didn’t have one til the end. I think the difference here is that the NPCs weave in and out of the story nicely.

Thanks for describing what was different about it as opposed to your regular games. I couldn’t put my finger on it. But I definitely was sort of hoping not to have to handle too many keys, and I enjoyed the non-key solutions to locked door, and I feel kind of silly missing the general point you made!


You can see Louise and Billie in the first few moves if you throw something other than the ink bottle at the students or the teacher. Don’t panic. You do not need the lost objects later in the game.

There are lots of little hidden treasures like this scattered throughout the game (and most of my games, actually). Another one that springs to mind is to examine the swimming pool, then read the small sign, then examine the swimming pool again. I must get into the habit of writing an AMUSING thingy at the end.

The vampire in Carpathian Vampire is probably the least active NPC in all my games. The characters in Captain Cutter’s Treasure are quite colourful, but they don’t move around very much. I had fun writing those.

Sorry for the sidetrack. Back to the reviews.


Thanks so much for your review Andrew! My aim with this one was to make it extremely easy for beginners, and one thing I did consider but didn’t put in (due to being up against the deadline) was a slight extra hurdle for puzzles 3 and 4. Perhaps this would have softened the difficulty lurch you describe, and so I’ll definitely consider it for post-comp. Thanks again!


There’s nothing to sidetrack. I’m all done! It’s always interesting to read the inner bits of someone’s game. I just wanted to get out of the classroom, probably because that is what lots of 13 year olds want. It’s neat to have something to look at on replay.

Yeah, it’s tricky to fine-tune this sort of thing, and I’d definitely look forward to a post-comp release with the puzzles tweaked. But if not, I had a very good time!


This is a wrap for me, sort of. I had an outside goal of doing one review per day, and it looks like I hit that, so I’m pleased with myself! There’s a point at every comp I’ve done where I’m able to review everything where I say “yay, I’m going to get through it all” and if I am able to by some margin, I am disappointed there aren’t more entries.

That was certainly the case here. It was nice to see a good mix of established authors and new ones, and even someone who is more a Twine author but wanted to make that jump, and I really enjoyed working through everything. I would again encourage everyone to try to look through all the entries if they can. I bet there is a lot to see that I didn’t.

I may update this with transcripts as I replay through everything. One thing I am disappointed about is, I didn’t get transcripts for everything I could. And if authors have questions about my reviews, you can post questions here or PM me.


Thanks for the reviews and for supporting the jam. It was certainly an interesting bunch of games. I’ve still got three to play, but I should get around to those in a week or so, as I have a ParserComp game that I need to work on this weekend. I’ve been writing up maps and solutions for CASA, but I think I’ll save them until the jam is over.


Okay so now that you’re done reviewing, I want to bring this up!

I was very tickled when I played @dee_cooke’s and Rex Mundane’s games back to back, and they both incorporated a plot twist involving a wizard, and having to type a magic spell! Nobody else has mentioned it. Did anyone else find that striking?


I think every game jam/competition I’ve entered has had similarities between games. This one is no different. The similarities are usually quite small: a puzzle, a room, a character, an object etc. There’s often multiple similarities, but those similarities are in different games. It’s fun to find them.

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I think “collective consciousness” is so neat. Always reminds me that we’re all more connected than we think we are.


During IFComp (which features a huge amount of games, amplifying the effect) there used to be threads in these forums anticipating eventual overlapping concepts. You would be amazed of how many pop up.


First before I get boring and cold and mathematical I want to say I agree with everyone it’s neat to see the coincidences.

That said, my cold calculating side always looks to the Birthday Paradox, which many of us may know. It says that if there are 22 people in the same room, there’s a 50% chance of birthdays in common.

For any arbitrary number N, you need roughly sqrt(4N/3) people to get this result. The reason I bring this up is, there are a whole bunch of potential ideas and images out there, and if we pour enough into our games, and the comp is big enough, things are bound to overlap. It’s extra neat when it happens two games in a row between two authors one doesn’t think of as generally linking together. And the more ideas that fly around in every game, the more likely a few are to collide. That it happens with a good deal of regularity suggests that people are using their imagination.

But the thing about Birthday Paradox coincidences? You generally don’t expect, say, the 19th person to be the one matching someone else. It’s always a surprise when that specific number comes up. In the case of the 19th person there is a roughly 5% chance it’ll happen just then. So it seems like a big coincidence, but is it really? A coincidence was bound to happen eventually.

No matter how big the coincidence is, though, that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying it. Perhaps the coincidences and links are out there more than we think if we just pay attention. And we can expect to be surprised without contradiction.


During IFComp (which features a huge amount of games, amplifying the effect) there used to be threads in these forums anticipating eventual overlapping concepts. You would be amazed of how many pop up.

Ha! Just my kind of thread. Love it.

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Interesting to call the command CLUE rather than HINT. I wonder if more games should do that. I think people have more positive associations with obtaining clues than they do with “giving up” and asking for a hint.


I prefer CLUE, too. My parser recognises HINT as a synonym for folks brought up on games that prefer that, but all my documentation refers to CLUE. Like you, I think it resonates with more acceptable connotations.

Can’t mess with tradition too much, tho - I was thinking of a Left/Right/Ahead/Back movement system where exits were displayed based on the direction from which you entered the location (so entering the same location from different directions would result in different exits). I’m not sure if the world is quite ready for that (although it would be relatively easy to do with my game engine). Maybe an idea to which I’ll return once I design an adventure on a spaceship.

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Ha, the Discworld MUD does that for the Unseen University’s library, and it’s extremely confusing, even before you get deep enough into the library that it starts rolling against your direction skill to see if you end up facing the way you think you’re facing.

Of course, the library is intentionally confusing, all the rooms just have shelves and maybe chairs and tables, so you have to distinguish the rooms by their exits. But I feel like I’ve seen it in a game with more distinct locations and it was still significantly harder to navigate than compass directions. But if that’s what you’re going for…

Edit: gah, didn’t look at the thread title before posting; I…guess I’ll leave this here, but let’s not derail this too much farther…


I found several threads on this topic, all linked to from Some good advice in them.


Well, I don’t mind my review topic spawning new discussions, just so folks know! All publicity is good publicity, etc.

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