I told Adam a few months ago that I would play ParserComp games and write about them, so here I am! A few prefatory notes:
- I am only reviewing games, not rating them. This isn’t because of ParserComp. I think I’m off rating games generally.
- The smaller number of entrants means that I’ll have more time to play and write, much to my liking!
- I haven’t decided how or when, but I will make at least one post at Gold Machine about ParserComp.
- I’ll be using the “submissions in need of ratings” page to decide my next game.
I’ve already finished my first game, so let’s get this show on the road:
Midnight at Al’s Self Storage, Truck Rentals, and Discount Psychic Readings
Elevator pitch: an employee at a humorously-named storage rental is tasks with fetching differently-colored boxes, only to discover the desecrated burial place of an indigenous and/or magical people.
Though I didn’t feel terribly motivated by the opening of MASSTRDPR (a fetch quest with some rather ordinary-sounding objects), the off-kilter nature of the location showed a lot of potential. Business-owner Al seems to have a lot of irons in even more fires, and I would have liked to see this developed further. The best indicator of Al’s personality is a collection of knickknacks in his desk drawer along with a humorous price listing, but I wanted to see even more. Since the main quest is initially underwhelming, the strangeness of the setting is a way to propel the player forward.
There aren’t many puzzles. The main one, which involves a freight elevator, is unusual in that the solution makes perfect sense, even if I did not understand why it was needed. It may have been related to the supernatural element implied by “Discount Psychic Readings.” I would have enjoyed seeing this part of the game world realized in greater detail, as well as introduced sooner. Once the humorous introduction to Al’s weird business is over, adding supernatural elements is a way to establish stakes. A thought: while this is much lighter than Lurking Horror, LH is a good model for having player goals evolve as knowledge of the game world evolves. Would the protagonist really care about boxes by the end?
So far as design matters go, I did encounter objects with default descriptions, and changing some of the baked-in responses from the standard rules might keep the experience fresher.
I should note that the “play online” option left the right 20% of my screen blank, which bothered me enough to download the story. However, the custom presentations of font/color (job task list, etc) looked off in my configuration of Windows GLULXE (dark mode for life!).
I liked the idea a lot and think there’s a lot of potential here. The supernatural storage business oeuvre is likely underpopulated–this setting is a chance to do something different! The competition release courteously provides Invisiclues-style hints (complete with misleading questions!). However, it didn’t tell me how to get the different endings, which was the only thing I needed a hint for. MASSTRDPR is built on good ideas, and I hope that the author continues to work on it.
Next up: I don’t know! I’ll check tomorrow to see if any games are recommended by itch.io.