Eduard the Seminarist by Heiko Theiben; Inform

Order played: 2 out of 22

It kind of tells you what I thought about Eduard the Seminarist when I say that, being perfectly serious here, I couldn’t tell at first whether or not it was a joke game. Usually it’s easy enough to spot these a mile off because they’ve got so many things wrong with them right from the word go that they might as well be called Generic Joke Game. This one was different. It had many, many things wrong with it (more of this below) but at the same time, it seemed a strange subject for a joke game and it didn’t seem like a joke game. Just a very, very bad one.

I unwittingly committed suicide on my second move by attempting to go south. The game, unhelpful in the extreme, decided that typing S meant I wanted to throw myself out of the window (which I hadn’t even realised was to the south) and promptly killed me. Yes, we’re definitely off to a good start here. Shouldn’t the game at least warn me that going south will kill me? (Joke game or just very, very bad one? I still can’t decide.)

For the most part, room descriptions are brief and devoid of any attempt at depth. You often get nothing more than a single line detailing where you are followed by a list of directions, except for the location of the gym where the author finally seems to have cottoned on to the fact that the people playing his games might like them more if he made a bit of effort. Unfortunately, this is a one off burst of enthusiasm and everywhere else shows a distinct lack of effort.

What the game is supposed to be about I don’t know. There’s no introduction, no background, no goal stated. Finding your way about is confusing as a few exits aren’t listed so it’s generally a case of trying every direction in every location to find your way around (and if you happen to throw yourself out of a window in the process, too bad). Add to this an annoying darkness puzzle* and you’ve got a game that doesn’t try very hard to make you like it.

Re the darkness puzzle: there’s a candle you can take with you to light up dark areas. But there’s a rope that needs to be climbed. Only, of course, you can’t climb the rope while carrying the candle. So you drop the candle which promptly goes out (thus proving that people who throw themselves out of windows when attempting to move south are equally as unskilled at laying down their only light source and not preventing it going out) and climb the rope. Ah, but then the candle has gone out and so any location you enter which is dark you’re unable to leave because it’s too dark to see. So… you enter a normal sized room, find it’s too dark, and then discover you’re unable to navigate your way to the exit, which can’t be more than a few feet away from you, due to the lack of light? Blind people are able to move about in perfect darkness, but it seems seminarists can’t manoeuvre their way out of a simple room without running into problems. Added to this, even when I knew there was a front door before me in a dark location, I still couldn’t open it on account of it being dark.

From the time I started playing this to the time I quit was about 25-30 minutes. That was pretty much all I could take of it. I’ve played worse games in the past than Eduard the Seminarist but it’s hard to remember them right now. It fails on just about every front and really should have been kept on the author’s hard drive as a failed first effort instead of being released to the assembled wolves (i.e. the IFComp judges and reviewers). I think I may have spent longer writing this review of the game than I did playing the game itself, which probably tells you all you need to know about it.

Addendum: After quitting the game, I went and read a few other reviews of it to see if there was something that I had missed. It seems there was. Someone mentions another bed in the first location, missed completely out of the room description, that you need to look under in order to find a key item which reveals a lot of the game’s storyline, not the least of which being the actual aim of the game. As this isn’t mentioned in the room description, they either managed to get the walkthrough to work where I failed (kudos to them) or somehow managed to discern the location of an item which isn’t referred to anywhere* (double kudos to them). With this in mind, I thought about going back to the game and having another go at it, but the same reviews also mention problems like literally getting stuck inside a door, picking up a tree as if it were a carry-able item and various other errors. Considering all that, I think my decision to quit when I did was the best one.

  • I remember having a couple of discussions with people in the past about this kind of thing. Someone put a doormat before a front door but failed to mention it in the room description; someone else put a key under the carpet in a room but didn’t mention the carpet anywhere. Both people reckoned these puzzles were completely fair as you’d expect to see a doormat before a front door and a carpet in a room. I disagree. In IF games, you tend to work with what is displayed to you in the text on screen and shouldn’t be expected to interact with items not mentioned anywhere.

2 out of 10