Jon Doe - Wildcard Nucleus

Disclaimer: I hadn’t quite finished this game when my judging time ran out, though I think I was very close. I’ll probably finish it at the end of the comp when I finalize my votes, and post an update when I do.

Jon Doe - Wildcard Nucleus is a British spy/detective story in the James Bond mode, involving murder, nuclear energy, retro computing technology, and slightly problematic gender relations. The writing isn’t quite good enough for me to be entirely sold on the setting and atmosphere. The first character we meet being named Miss Bestbeforedates isn’t a promising start, for example, and there are descriptions that make no sense (there’s a character who must be in his late fifties “according to the cut of his suit and the pattern on his tie” - I didn’t know tie patterns were quite that specific), but it has heart. A rather formidable vocabulary is sometimes in evidence: I came across alopecia and pomadised.

It’s quite playable, with many minor parser snags but nothing that causes excessive difficulty. A rather annoying one appears in a scene that’s otherwise quite fun, when you’re working with a certain model of computer that played a role in the history of IF, and you have to explicitly say TYPE X ON COMPUTER for every command. Even Dunnet did better than that.

There are a few good puzzles. I found at least one that probably should have been hinted better, but there are a couple of satisfying moments when you get good results from a course of action that would be unlikely in real life, but seem natural in the game. However, the puzzle and story end up being a little thin for the game’s length, with a few too many turns spent driving back and forth between several locations in your Jaguar.

On the whole, despite some problems, this was playable and fun, and a good addition to the comp.

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I’ve also posted a review of the game on my blog.

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