Heasm66's ParserComp 2022 mini reviews

heasm66’s ParserComp 2022 mini reviews, listed in order of my enjoyment (list will be updated).

The mini reviews should be spoiler free.

Things that Happened in Houghtonbridge

Author: Dee Cooke
System: Adventuron
Duration: Under three hours
Available online: Yes
Available offline: No

I have to admit that I like Stranger Things and I suspect that it served as some inspiration for the story. It is a good story. There are other dimensions; basically kids solving the mystery and the grownups are clueless. I imagine the protagonist being like Nancy from aforementioned series; intelligent, resourceful and unafraid. The story engaged me and I really wanted to know what happened to Beverly. The one complaint could be that sometimes it was a little obvious that the story was on rails, you practically need to solve one obstacle at a time to advance. The puzzles are quite easy and logical, and if you get stuck there are always contextual hints (even if I one or two times experienced that the hints directed me to things I already solved). As a last resort there is also a walkthrough available. The map is fairly big but not hard to navigate and the implementation feels solid.

The Impossible Stairs

Author: mathbrush
System: Dialog
Duration: Under two hours
Available online: Yes
Available offline: Yes

This is a charming little game that mimics style and prose from its predecessor, “The Impossible Bottle” by Linus Åkesson. There is no scoring to guide you of your progress; instead you have a chore list of tasks that needs to be done before a family event. The map is fairly small but the central theme is time travel so you can visit the same places during different time periods and changes in one period can affect the outcome in another. The game is well implemented and uses Dialog’s system of clickable words that works surprisingly (for me) well. The puzzles are not too hard and there are contextual hints if you get stuck. My only complaint would be that, even when you’ve figured out the solution, the “Ada”-task required a bit too many steps that got a bit tedious in the end.

Of Their Shadows Deep

Author: Amanda Walker
System: Inform 7
Duration: Under one hour
Available online: Yes
Available offline: Yes

The game centers on a sad and depressing subject that unfortunately many of us encounter among our elderly, dementia. The game is very poetic, with a beautiful language. There are essentially no puzzles to solve; instead you will encounter a string of riddles. The riddles are not that hard, even I (not a native English speaker) had no problem with them, and if you get stuck there are hints available. There is also a nice use of ASCII-art (I’ll say no more, not to spoil the effect). The map is so small that you won’t need the build in map function, but it’s there.

Alchemist's Gold

Author: Garry Francis
System: Inform 6 / PunyInform
Duration: Under two hours
Available online: Yes
Available offline: Yes

An old school “adventure” where you set out to, essentially, rob an old eccentric man that lives in the woods and allegedly can make gold. There are some nods to old classics like Adventure and Zork that I for one appreciated. There are a few puzzles (not very hard), but beware that you can put the game in an unwinnable state (don’t despair, you know when you done it and there is UNDO available) and remember that almost every object is there for a reason. There is a maze but you will have an ASCII-map to help you through. For the visually impaired there is an option to replace the map with a textual description instead. I would love to hear how that works, for me reading it I couldn’t visualize it spatially. If it was my implementation I would probably add a command like “FOLLOW MAP TO [XXX]” instead. The game felt well implemented and the map small enough to keep in your head (aside for the aforementioned maze).

Lantern

Author: Sylfir
System: Custom / LÖVE
Duration: Under three hours
Available online: No
Available offline: Yes

This is a hard one to judge, the parser very much feels like a late addition and don’t work very well. It is very particular on when and where you use words and there are no replies when it fails. Instead I recommend that you use the clickable links, much smoother. The escape room story in itself is quite good. You wake up without your sight and have to use your other four senses to smell, listen, feel and taste your way out. The surroundings are mysterious and big part of the fun is figuring out what is really going on. The music, even if it adds to the mood, became annoying in the end and I had to turn it off. The puzzles are not too hard, even though I got stuck far too long on a word scratched into a table, and there are only four rooms to explore.

Midnight at Al's Self Storage, Truck Rentals, and Discount Psychic Readings

Author: Thomas Insel
System: Inform 7 / Version 10.1 (the 1st?)
Duration: Under two hours
Available online: Yes
Available offline: Yes

The simple task of moving three boxes to the loading dock takes you to some strange places. There are a couple of puzzles but aside from the central one they are not very hard. Personally I have a hard time visualizing how the mechanics of the elevator works and why the things that happens happens and why the steps to prevent them happening needs to be done (there is certainly the possibility that that is a lack of imagination on my part!), fortunately there is a magic word to bypass this, if you are so inclined (found in the “Official Clues”). There are contextual hints available and if you get really stuck there is always the “Official Clues” (InvisiClues style). The game is reasonably well implemented but I, myself, managed to get stuck in the elevator with no way to get out (don’t enter the elevator from the Vestibule kids).

Gent Stickman vs Evil Meat Hand

Author: AZ
System: Custom / Parser Commander
Duration: Under one hour
Available online: Yes
Available offline: No

This is a quite unusual game engine where you type commands and the game answers with pictures. The game isn’t very big but the puzzles can sometimes be a bit farfetched and of the guess-the-word variant. Don’t be afraid to use the built in hints, they are funny, quite ingenious and sometimes essential. The game is funny and made me laugh a couple of times. The implementation of the parser is quite picky and sometimes you need to find the exact word. There is no save option and it is easy to die a quick death but there is often not many steps required to get back to the same place. I, myself, struggled with the movement between locations (not the usual compass directions, instead you use LEFT and RIGHT.

The Euripides Enigma

Author: Larry Horsfield
System: ADRIFT
Duration: Over six hours
Available online: Yes
Available offline: Yes

This is a big game that very much is like the games from the golden age (80s). It plays like a classic sci-fi adventure where it is up to you to rescue a research base that encountered some alien species and gone silent. Unfortunately it also have a lot of the bad features from the 80s era. Not everything is visible in the room description and you have to find hidden things by examining walls, look behind/in/under objects and searching objects. There is also a lot of inventory handling and you have to do a lot of mundane things in detail. It is realistic that you have to drop everything and then remove and drop every part of your current space suit before you can wear a new one, you even have to adjust the straps of the rucksack to make it fit, but it is a bit tedious. It is Small favor that you don’t need to remove the rucksack and put it on the ground to put things in it or remove things from it (Infidel style). I played about halfway before the inventory juggling got to me and made me finish the second half of the game with the walkthrough.

The Muse

Author: Xavier Carrascosa
System: Inform 7
Duration: Under one hour
Available online: Yes
Available offline: Yes

This is a dark game in seven acts that requires you, especially in act IV, to do repugnant things. Other reviews have covered this so I won’t go into the morality of the game. All the acts are small and they are often solved by finding the right word. When you understand the central theme of the game the acts are quite easy and the muse often gives guidance. I only had little problems with act VI that required that I pick up an object not entirely described in the rooms description. The “one word solution” is logical but all the same a problem of finding the right word. There are pictures and sound. The sound doesn’t play when you are playing online but the pictures certainly add to the ambiance.

You Won't Get Her Back

Author: Andrew Schultz
System: Inform 7
Duration: Under one hour
Available online: Yes
Available offline: Yes

Not the usual IF game, instead it is an implementation of a, apparently, well known chess endgame known as the “Saavedra position”. Aside from the optimal solution where you set the opposing king checkmate there are a number of suboptimal solutions that you can achieve. As soon as a solution is identified, the board is reset and you can try again. I’m not much of a chess player but I managed pretty quickly to reach a couple of different stalemates by brute force. The optimal solution is a bit tricky and I had to resort to the walkthrough. When I studied the solution it finally dawned on me why the trick was necessary and I had me a nice aha-moment.

Anita's Goodbye

Author: IlDiavoloVesteRosa
System: Inform 7
Duration: Under one hour
Available online: No
Available offline: Yes

This is also a game that involves time travel (this year’s theme, maybe?). Once you get a hang on the mechanics of moving yourself and other objects in time, the puzzles are not so hard and the map of your house and the small town is manageable to keep in your head. Your mission is to find Anita and say your final goodbye (the ending makes you feel a bit uneasy but is perfectly logical). The game is reasonably well implemented but can be a bit picky with the use of the definite article “the”; even though I think there is an updated version that remedies this.

python game

Author: theernis
System: Custom / Python
Duration: 0 minutes to infinity
Available online: No
Available offline: Yes

Well, that was pointless. This isn’t a game, it is more an exercise in building a, not very good, parser in Python. I’m not going to use any spoiler tags because, honestly, there is nothing to spoil. There are two locations (“Field” and “Forest”). In the field you can encounter one of the two traders (Jake and John) and trade. In the forest you can also encounter a wolf or a bear that you can fight or run from. In both locations you can also nap, waiting for one of the random characters to show up. That’s it! Scanning the source code, there is no goal to achieve, just an infinite loop of fighting, trading and eating waiting for death (life, essentially). You can also make the game crash (most fun I had) by typing “eat” without specifying what to eat.

<> eat
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "Game.py", line 47, in <module>
    game_loop()
  File "Game.py", line 44, in game_loop
    game_loop()
  File "Game.py", line 44, in game_loop
    game_loop()
  File "Game.py", line 44, in game_loop
    game_loop()
  [Previous line repeated 82 more times]
  File "Game.py", line 42, in game_loop
    Handler.event_command_handler(player_input)
  File "/home/Gustav/theernis_ParserComp/Handler.py", line 564, in event_command_handler
    eat()
  File "/home/Gustav/theernis_ParserComp/Handler.py", line 548, in eat
    if b[0] == a[1]:
IndexError: list index out of range
ConText NightSky

Author: XxTheSpaceManxX
System: Custom / ConText
Duration: 0 minutes to infinity
Available online: No
Available offline: Yes

This is so unfinished that it shouldn’t been released. I’m unable to advance much anywhere beyond the first room. The game becomes incredibly slow and uses all CPU and hogs more and more memory without responding to input. What kind of slow mechanics it uses to input/output is beyond me, but it isn’t very effective. All the game’s text descriptions and logic are stored under the directory data and available to read in a text-editor and it is much easier to access the story that way. According to the “Thanks.txt” the author are well aware of its shortcomings and I think he should have worked more on the interface and then engaged some testers before he released it at some future comp in a finished state instead of this unfinished game.

Out of contest:

Cost of Living

Author: Dorian Passer
System: Custom
Duration: Under one hour
Available online: Yes
Available offline: No

This game stretches the definition of a “parser game”, maybe beyond the acceptable. You, in essence, read a novella together with a commentator and have to insert a word here and there to move the story along. I’m not sure if the word I choose in any way modifies the story but my feeling was that it very much was like “Eliza”. The story in itself isn’t all that bad and I appreciate it as a short story, it certainly makes you think about the squirrel wheel (is this an English idiom also?) we all, more or less, live in.

13 Likes

Thanks for taking the time to play and review my game! I appreciate it.

6 Likes

These mini reviews are great! I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of them.

And thank you for still reviewing my out-of-contest entry, Cost of Living (in spite of it’s status).

Also, rest assured, the gist does differ between the stateless and stateful versions of Cost of Living. I’m still waiting patiently for someone to point out the difference, but I have to admit that the anticipation is killing me! :joy:

4 Likes

I was originally planning to enter two games - a small game and a large game. ‘Alchemist’s Gold’ was to be the small game and a time-travel theme was to be the large game. As it happened, I added so much richness to ‘Alchemist’s Gold’ that I ran out of time and didn’t really get started on the large game. Maybe that was a good thing.

6 Likes

Thanks for the review! This was generally what I was hoping for from YWGHB. I’d have liked to spend more time on the narrative, but that must wait for post-comp. Knowing the puzzly stuff seemed to work okay helps.

2 Likes

Added “Things that Happened in Houghtonbridge”.

4 Likes

Many thanks for the review!

4 Likes

Added “python game”.

3 Likes

Regarding the map in ‘Alchemist’s Gold’, I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but if you enter MAP OFF to turn the ASCII map off, then enter HINT when you’re in the dense forest, it gives you the route through the forest. On your return journey, it gives you the return route.

2 Likes

Added “The Muse”.

2 Likes

Added “ConText NightSky”.

3 Likes

Added “Lantern”.

2 Likes

Added “The Euripides Enigma”.

3 Likes