Man Alive - Part 1 by Bill Powell (Inform)
Damn, but this annoyed one me before I was even out of the first location. It won’t let me climb over the wall while I’m carrying items. So I remove and drop the items (one at a time as the REMOVE command can only handle one item at a time). Then it won’t let me climb over the wall and leave my items behind. So I have to throw them over the wall (again one at a time) and then climb over. Making the start of a game, particularly an IFComp game, so pointlessly frustrating isn’t going to win you favours from the judges.
There were a few oddities in the game that didn’t really affect the game too much but were certainly a pain. I spent a while chasing my hat around the garden after the wind blew it off, despite the fact that the WEAR HAT command told me
(FIRST TAKING THE WHITE PANAMA HAT)
Strangely, the hat wasn’t taken. Another oddity I encountered with a simple movement command:
(FIRST TAKING THE SOUTHEAST)
THAT ISN’T AVAILABLE.
Bizarre. Was the southeast direction coded as an item or is that unusual bit of code something I’m not familiar with in Inform?
But for the game itself? For the most part, I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to be doing. This is the unrevealing intro:
THE SHRUNKEN OLD PROFESSOR TALKS AGAIN. TALKING AND TALKING AND TALKING.
YOUR HAND SLIPS TO YOUR POCKET. YOUR FINGERS CLOSE AROUND COLD METAL…
BUT THAT WAS MANY YEARS AGO. YOU ARE NO LONGER THAT MAN.
NOW YOU ARE THE MAN WHO WILL NOT DIE…
Which doesn’t tell me a thing. The game begins with me climbing over a wall, having my hat blown off by the wind, and then going to extremes trying to get it back. If the hat blows away, the game ends (although why the hat is considered so important as to end the game like this I couldn’t say). After the game ended prematurely on me three times because my hat-catching skills were somewhat limited, I went to the walkthrough and keyed in the commands one after another. This wasn’t helped by the strange format of the walkthrough which seemed to intersperse random bits of text between the required commands (why?) but at least I was able to figure out what I needed to do this way.
While I’m at it, I might as well point out the oddness of the walkthrough which frequently leads me to dying and then undoing the command. Is there a reason for this or simply just flaws in the walkthrough? (It’s also quite amusing that the man who will not die seems to die so easily…)
The writing was better than the rest of the game might indicate and if the game itself had been less of a chore to play, I might well have enjoyed it. As it was, I just got more and more confused about what I was supposed to be doing, not helped by the strange, and totally unrelated to the current goings on, the player can say. After being shown to my room, I was given the following list of possible conversation options:
 FAIR PLAY, FAIR PLAY…SPORT OF KINGS…CHASE THEIR CROWNS… QUITE HUMANE…TRAMONTANA…CARDINALS CHASE RED HATS…OLD ENGLISH HUNTING…
 CAN’T NAB IT…FEELING FAINT…DEHYDRATED…SOMEONE GRAB…BLASTED THING…
 …DEAR OLD HAT…WHITE…LIKE HORSE…
Er… come again?
If you have a fondness for oddball games that don’t make any sense, you might have a blast with this one. Unfortunately I don’t, so after struggling for a while, and shaking my head in dismay that the garbled mess that was the walkthrough, I was only too eager to play something else.
3 out of 10