(And yes I am a native English speaker and the this isn’t my first game but is my first text adventure and game using inform 7)
Hello! I played the version which was included in the download package (,zip file). Yes, if something else comes to mind, I will send you further comments
Yeah I did some improvements to grammar in the latest release and made the well puzzle easier to figure out.
Great, I will take a look at that version as well
Ok, let’s see… The intro says:
“You came home from work only to be driven out. Sam’s wife lost it, going on about how the landlord is going to evict you. She needs to calm down, but you’re no help. Sam should be down at the bowling alley that’s on the other side of town. If you’re lucky, you might be able to get him away from the bar.”
I was a bit confused after this. So, I was driven out of home because Sam’s wife lost it. What does she have to do with me? Is she living in our place? What say does she have about whether I can stay at home or not? Why is the landlord going to evict me? So, as I am of no help obviously, Sam needs to be found, for whatever reason. So I need to go to the bowling alley to get him. But why does it say I might be lucky getting him out of the bar? Didn’t we just talk about a bowling alley?
You head out looking for Sam. The first location is “Eastside Cliff” overlooking Sunnybrook. Why do I start here - wasn’t I supposed to be going to the bowling alley? Turns out that I live in a trailer park a bit out of town, so that’s why. Even if the location is “Eastside Cliff”, I have to walk along a path leading north to enter the town. Or is it a city? “This cliff overlooks Sunnybrook, a small town that could be any one of the number of cities dotted across Midwest.” Ok, it’s a small town. Following the path (seems I’m on foot all the time) I come to a gas station, from where the path continues north to Main Street. How do cars access this gas station, if it is only connected to the Main Street by a footpath?
Well, not to give the author any more bad time :-), these were just some first impressions and remarks. Everything will become clear in due course. The game is very well implemented and a joy to play. The parser is very understanding and helpful. The game map consists of the streets of the town that you can go around, asking people about Sam and trying to figure out where he is. Soon, however, it turns out that that is not your biggest worry. You notice that you have ended up 40 years back in time, and your new task is to fix a time machine to find your way back home. You do that by going around the town again, now revisiting those places you’ve already been in, these places being now different by the time gap of the said 40 years. Once you manage to return, the problem with Sam also finds its solution. The two-hour estimate was rather accurate. There were helpful hints, but they were not needed that much, as the puzzles were not too hard. There were some “redundant” locations, such as the art gallery (at least I couldn’t find out what to do there), on the other hand the art gallery contained a potentially useful object for a puzzle. That object was, however, found elsewhere.
I was left thinking about one thing concerning the plot:
The fortune-telling lady could be encountered already in the present-day world, but in the past she was described as closing her shop and selling it forward; it felt like there was an inconsistency there. But it didn’t disturb the flow of the game in the big picture.
All in all, a very strong game with excellent programming. Towards the end (e.g. when fixing the machine), there were a couple of instances of subordinate clauses forming their own sentences, but otherwise I couldn’t find any problems or errors in the game. An entertaining game that gave a rewarding feeling. 8 1/2 now, might be higher once I get through all the games I am going to play and when possibly re-adjusting the scores.)
I think the author started testing this in January! Makes sense it would be so smooth and polished
@Anssi Thanks for playing my game. I appreciate you sticking with it
@mathbrush Yeah. This was in development for a long time. Probably too long
I like the premise very much - a mansion I have inherited from an obscure uncle. It promises a pleasant puzzlefest, and as there is a language-related aspect thrown in, be it as “boring” as comma rules, so much the better. A small grammatical error (“in your mothers words”, with a missing apostrophe) casts a small shade of doubt right in the intro, though, and there are some other such small mistakes (“You read a couple poems”, “The closet is empty except from a strange copper panel”), which distract from trusting the author fully as to the included theme of comma rules, but fortunately errors of this kind are few and far between. The gameplay is fun, even if descriptions are sometimes rather sparse - ‘x me’ yields the default response, many objects are just “nothing special”, and location descriptions mostly list the two or three pieces of furniture present in the room, without much variation. To be fair, there are some delightful exceptions, for example the description of the reflecting pool: “…by reflecting the wispy clouds, [the pool] brings the sky down among the hedges and flowers” and a couple of other instances. There is a maze at some point, seemingly without anything else to it than mapping or going around by force, and I as had encountered another such maze in another game recently, it felt a bit frustrating. This is also where I stopped at the two-hour mark. I intend to play to the end as the game was interesting enough to make me want to finish, and looking at the walkthrough, there is not that much left to do. The in-game help sometimes gives helpful nudges, but the help is often too generic to help in specific problems. To summarize: I expected maybe a bit more, but this was a good effort and kept me engaged during the allotted time. 6 1/2
Small addendum: I finished the game and just wanted to add that, contrary to what I said above, the maze in this game is clued. (You can also proceed just by trial and error, and you’ll find the goal easily enough.) The final puzzle felt a bit tedious (you have to place the plates correctly twice (in different combinations; first, to release something, then to bind something, and for this you had to read the sentences that the plates contain, but fortunately there was a command to examine all plates at once, so that it didn’t have to be done one by one. The very ending seemed a bit anticlimactic (an object disappears, and that’s it… there might have been some additional remarks about the main character now having finally proved themselves to be the rightful heir to the mansion, or something to that effect) but anyway this was a fun experience and I thank the author for their efforts.
The blurb claims that this game is a crossover between the worlds of Fallen London and Flatland. I haven’t played either game before, so I took a quick Google search to get an idea. Fallen London is a text game depicting London with a Gothic take - the city has fallen underground and various creatures have taken over/infiltrated into the city. Flatland is a 2-D platformer with geometrical shapes. Strangely, this combination works. Even if the resulting setting is bizarre, it keeps the player interested. In fact, I was absolutely engrossed. This is probably the strongest game so far, or at least one that has made the biggest impression on me. That’s a good job, because I must admit I wasn’t at all thrilled after reading the blurb. Your main goal in the game is to find a book about 3-D concepts recently imported into the city and destroy that book before the heretic ideas presented in it manage to become widespread. You go around the city, and as everything is 2-D, going north of a building might mean you’re on its roof, a basement is south of the ground floor, etc. (Most often, though, the directions work normally, except for up and down.) While you keep asking “but why?” while playing, you just have to keep going because somehow the fascinating nature of the game, as well as the fresh ideas you continually encounter, slowly seep into you and keep you playing. What exactly is so appealing about the whole thing might be hard to point at - maybe it is just the general bizarrerie - but you (well, at least I) just become sold as you go. The map is rather large, and there was no chance of finishing this in two hours (just as the time estimate in the blurb mentions), but what I had time to see convinced me.Only two beta-testers are mentioned, but everything works well. I still have to play this to the end but thank the author already at this point for a genuinely enchanting experience. 10.
I think the reference is to Flatland the novel, not a game, but I agree, this one is really fun!
@Mike Oh, ok
Thanks for your review of Flattened London! It was definitely interesting to see your impression as someone who wasn’t familiar with Fallen London or Flatland. I’m also glad to hear you didn’t run into any bugs - as far as I know, there aren’t any, but one can always worry.
FOR A PLACE BY THE PUTRID SEA
This story takes place in a harbour area of Tokyo where the protagonist returns after spending some (rough) time in the Philippines. The exotic setting is enhanced by the use of many Japanese terms when referring to objects, for example to the clothes the protagonist is wearing, and this gives the game a nice flavour. I was not sure if this game is a sequel to some other one; anyway, the main character is returning to (presumably) their home country and has to find an apartment to stay in. She manages to find an apartment, and if she’s happy with it (the player can make the choice), the game ends there (but the ending message conveys that she didn’t end up altogether happy and could have fared more happily in a better lodging); thus, the actual goal of the game is to upgrade to a better apartment until the third one she manages to find is actually the ideal goal of the game. The ways in which she manages to obtain each apartment in turn are a mixture of hilarious and macabre; so much more when keeping in mind that the main character is a 16-year-old girl. Let’s just say, without giving away too much, that in the first apartment she has to get rid of a dead body, and yes, that’s just the first apartment. Winning the final apartment (which already is a question of life and death :-)) involves an encounter with someone the main character seems to know from before, and again, I was not sure if this referred to an earlier game. The descriptions are short, and the narrative is in the first person past tense. A similar game in this respect, in this very same comp, would be Dr Ego and the Egg of Man-Toomba which has similar short descriptions and style. I think the style is effective and evokes a certain air of mystery, here particularly with the use of the local terminology. The implementation is fine and the narrative goes on smoothly except for one passage that I had to play by the walkthrough in an early section of the game (the fish factory); even with the walkthrough it took a couple of tries, as some elements were randomized. Anyway, I liked the way the game managed to be at the same time mysterious, macabre and humorous, so much so that I’m leaning towards forgiving the said difficult factory scene. Another strong game this year :-). 9
An intriguing detective story where you investigate the murder of the CEO of Happyland, a hotel/fairground complex. Being able to take fingerprints from people and objects and compare them, as well being able to use a magnifying glass to notice small details were nice extra features, and they were implemented well. I walked around the complex, interrogating people. These people were often walking around, too, and they were scripted smoothly. I liked also how, after I had expressed my suspicions at someone, their default description was changed to reflect their mood after my conversation with them: “X sits at the desk, eyeing me suspiciously.” or the like. Thinking about it all now, afterwards, the programming and implementation were very well done. I arrested someone relatively early, at which point the game ended. I had made this arrest based on an incident that didn’t seem to be directly connected to the murder, but anyway the game ended in a successful note. The motive and the way the suspect had managed to commit the murder were left unexplained, though. As this felt a bit unsatisfactory, I undid and played on, trying another path. However, some time afterwards a representative of the hotel came to me and expressed their discontent at me not making any arrest even if spending a lot of time at the scene, and the game ended there. At this point I stopped playing. So, I was left uncertain about whether I had happened to catch the right person (albeit with insufficient evidence), or whether there was someone else I should have caught instead. Also I was not sure why the hotel representative came to interrupt me - is there a time limit to this game, or had I managed to find out something about the said person and that’s why he shoved me out of the complex? Anyway, due to the competent programming and the way everything worked smoothly, this deserves a decent score. 8
Thanks for playing and reviewing Happyland.
I’m glad you came across the changing NPC moods. There was a lot of coding for their emotional states and I wasn’t sure if the subtleties would be noticed or not.
Given the complexity of the crime, I struggled with how explicitly to announce the connection between clues. For example, should the narrator point out a fingerprint match or should the player be left to figure it out?
I opted to let the player figure things out, with the aid of NPCs who would add their own observations, (or lies), and questions (once shown the evidence). Perhaps sprinkling more narration around would prompt the player into otherwise unseen avenues of investigation. What do you think?
The game does has a time limit. The security guard at the beginning mentions that most of the staff leave the hotel at 8pm after which any incriminating evidence might be lost. I’ll reword that into a more explicit deadline.
Thanks again for the kind words.
I think leaving the fingerprints for the player to analyze was a good decision, actually that was one of the most fun parts of the game. It might be hard to say whether more narration would prompt the player to investigate something they didn’t come to think of otherwise; of course that is possible. - Good to know there was a real time limit, and the person in question was not trying to get rid of me for their own ends
THE IMPOSSIBLE BOTTLE
The game introduces its subject matter and setting through a short dialogue, which is a good idea: in the very beginning, then, we get to know and use the conversation system as it will be used throughout the game. You play as a six-year-old girl who is supposed to clean up after herself and bring her toys to her room as well as help her parents to prepare for some visitors. This is accomplished, though, through a major twist that is the actual main theme of the game and makes everything a lot more exciting. This big twist becomes apparent once you step into your own room and examine the toys there. Basically, your task in the game is to help set the dining table by finding three things for it. This is made more difficult by unexpected turns in the plot, to the extent that it at times felt a bit overwhelming - and the game takes well over two hours to finish - but on the other hand, a more barebones approach might have given a too lean or meagre aftertaste, and I agree with the author’s judgment that the plot, as it stands, with its turns and surprises along the way, brings about a good balance and explores the various possibilities of the said twist in a versatile way. Maybe one element in mid-game - the roaming stegosaurus - was given too much prominence/ “stage time”, but it might have been just me trying to struggle with the puzzle. After having played for a while, I actually foresaw that a certain thing would happen at some point, plot-wise - that the actual house would, in its turn, be a “dollhouse” in an even bigger house - and felt smart when it happened. Given the complexity that the setting entails, the game was extremely well implemented, and bugs were as good as non-existent. I encountered only one small disambiguation error " > x computer", in Nolan’s room, yielded “Do you mean the miniature laptop computer, or the computer?” but otherwise everything worked smoothly, In a couple of places, solving a puzzle required quite a bit of fine-tuning before the solution was arrived at - for example throwing and spinning the line (rope) on the ship to enable an escape route - took quite a lot of time and tries to make it work successfully. In any case, this is a top-tier game with high-level implementation. 9
THE INCREDIBLY MILD ADVENTURES OF TOM TRUNDLE
We play as Tom Trundle, a 17-year-old high school junior back in 1987. We actually hear occasionally Tom’s present-day voice as he grants us points for accomplishing various things and thus helping him remember in more detail everything that happened to him during the spring break in March 1987. The introduction gives an insight to Tom’s feelings as the spring break is about to start: partly he is worried about his friend Will who seems worried or uneasy about something, and partly he is expecting to see Anne, presumably his own girlfriend, that same evening. OK, that sounds fair - those two things are something to keep him busy while his parents have gone on a holiday of their own. As the game goes on, however, the seemingly trivial thing that Will asks Tom to do, regarding a girl that Will has a crush on, turns into something more complicated, and Anne, on her part, also presents unexpected problems that Tom has to solve. The tone of the story is naturally juvenile, as seen through the eyes of a 17-year-old guy. With that in mind, there are several good and appropriate descriptions and expressions - for example in the first location description, the study hall, just before the spring break starts: “I was sitting amongst other victims of my state’s education policies. They were making various noises made by students pretending to be quiet.” etc.
The story is rather long, and after two hours, taking a look at the walkthrough to see how much I had left to play, it appeared that I wasn’t even halfway through. So, I would guess that this game might take about 4-5 hours to play through (I didn’t try that; maybe I will do that later.) So, I don’t know how the story ends, but playing up until where I was at two hours in was fun because of the humorous tone of the narrative, even if the subject matter (Tom’s and Will’s relationship problems) were not funny in themselves. Implementation-wise there were no big problems, even if there were some minor rough spots. For example, when opening the locker in the school corridor when I was carrying the keys (I had taken them out of my pocket), “unlock locker” first mentioned “I was already carrying that.” and some similar passages elsewhere. Nothing major, though. Hints were implemented through the “think about (object)” command, which was a good idea.
The portion of the game I was able to play in the allotted time first focused on Tom helping Will, and then that plot line was left hanging while Tom’s trouble with Anne was focused on instead. Undoubtedly the story and the various plot lines will come together nicely once I play to the end, but for now a lot was left unclear (naturally). The included puzzles were good, and playing this was a fun enough experience; the only trouble that I would have with this game was how much there was still left of it after two hours of play. 7 1/2
Thank you for your fair analysis of my game, Tom Trundle! I kind of expected the length to be somewhat of a drawback. But I am glad that you enjoyed it and if you play to the end, I hope you enjoy the rest!