Bradford Mansion

This game is implemented using a homebrew parser that runs within the command shell. I will try to focus the following review on the game and its design choices and not so much on the parser, but it is not always easy for the player to see on what level some feature or another is implemented.

Onto the game, then, which advertises itself as “classic”. My first impression was that the author would have greatly benefited from a a native speaker of English for proof reading. There are some outright mistakes, as in “The features of the house, including the tower is very recognisable.” or “There are no furniture in this room.” , but I don’t usually mind if a game has somewhat of an accent, nor am I in a position to complain about this. I do, however, mind the jarring use of American vocabulary in a stereotypical British setting and I would have appreciated a minimum level of attention to some generally accepted rules of style (which hold true in all the languages I know). Two examples from the first 30 seconds of play:

“The two sons of the deceased very much would like to get their hands on the mansion, but a distant cousin says he is the one to get the mansion.” - One would want to avoid such a doubling within a single sentence.

“The large metal gates lead north while to the south stands the main entrance to the mansion.” - To my mind, passages lead somewhere, gates block passages. Likewise, entrances are set into walls (or fences, if you like), they don’t stand on their own.

Later on, we find a toilet, not a loo, which need not surprise us, since we are in an English mansion, not a manor house, anyway. It is described as “Not much to describe here really.” before the game goes on to describe the toilet, sink, and even the missing mirror in detail. I do object, by the way, to the games notion that “There is no need to sit on the toilet.” That’s filthy.

My point is this: the occasional stylistic slip-up is, of course, to be expected and won’t sink a game, but here these come up so frequently throughout, that they just seem to be the product of wilful carelessness, which begs the question why the reader should invest the interest in this work that even the author couldn’t muster.

This impression carries over to the interaction you get from the game. The implementation is paper-thin. The PC is supposedly a solicitor from a law firm, but we have to take the game’s word for it – we can’t examine our self. The rest of the game is similarly under-implemented: The descriptions of everything that is mentioned give us a lot of detail, but closer inspection of these details is not supported. Consider the following interaction:

x mansion

The mansion is a two story building with a tower. The outside is mostly red brick, with probably white sandstone used for decorating the facade. There are many windows. The style it was built in suggest a late 18th century origin. It has some gothic and victorian style elements mixed on the outside.

x facade

I didn’t really get that.

x sandstone

I didn’t really get that.

x brick

I didn’t really get that.

x tower

I didn’t really get that.

x windows

I didn’t really get that.

x window

I don’t see that here.

Since the game doesn’t even recognise the vocabulary it suggests, it will come to no surprise that we don’t get any synonyms for those relatively few things which we do have to interact with. Notice how the last examine command returns a different response. We now know that there is a window we can interact with somewhere in the game. It’s just not here, even though it ought to be. I noticed several more instances of similarly revealing responses. In other situations, the responses do not contain enough information:

read book

The book is not something you can read.

Translation: You can’t read this particular book, but there is one you need to read later.

fill glass from tap

The wine glass cannot be filled.

Translation: You do need to fill the glass after all, but not with water.

Getting the game to do what you want is often a chore. The room descriptions revert to super brief style automatically (that is, only the room title is displayed after we’ve visited once). Unfortunately, this means you have to manually look after every movement action, so as to get the room connections to display. I will freely admit that I could have drawn a map for myself to help me navigate. That would have been smart, since some locations have many exits. The look command has no abbreviation in this game and it is not possible to edit previous commands by, say, pushing the up-button.

Equally tedious is the need to examine each container after opening it in order to list its contents, to open every door before going through it and to unlock every locked door before opening it.

Few verbs are implemented and the game requires the generic “use”-command a few times in its second half, while more straightforward interactions make up the first. When the use-command came up for the first time, this caused some of the old guessing of the correct command on my part.

These problems with the writing and the implementation aside, I found Bradford Mansion not exactly gripping in terms of setting, characters, or plot, like I had expected, given the blurb. Nonetheless, I would have liked to be able to finish the game. Alas, after looking for a while for a way to open the fourth locked door, I had a look in the walkthrough, to find out that not only did I indeed pass this obstacle to proceed, there was also supposed to be a key for it in a location I had already visited. Said key appeared to be missing in the version I played. With no way to proceed, I quit before the two-hour mark.

I take it this is the author’s first (published) attempt at a text-based game, with his own development system, no less. That is no small programming feat for a single person. The parser itself is workable and could surely be improved upon in a future iteration (But why? There are other IF languages, browser-capable and all). The game implemented with this parser is, however, definitely less than satisfactory.


My experiences with the game were similar. I’ve posted a review on my blog.