Night of Pointless Anecdotes: Review of Cryptozookeeper

Cryptozookeeper, Robb Sherwin’s latest punk noir, has that cheap feel of a movie that’s been shot exclusively at night in non-descript locations using the director’s friends and their hapless pets as unpaid actors. The cheapness extends to the implementation.

[spoiler]>X COMPUTER
The system lacks a keyboard, but there are big, and rather friendly pushbuttons placed on the front of the deck. Out of the corner of your vision, the pushbuttons seem to have weird glyphs written on them, but when directly viewed they clearly say POWER and MERGE. (The monitor has no buttons, simply a knob for adjusting brightness.)




You are wearing your vest, your lip ring, and your glasses.
You are also carrying a revolver, the cellular phone, some entrails, the merge button, the power button, and the monitor’s brightness knob.[/spoiler]

Not only can you walk away with the buttons, but you can also operate the device from another room, a much welcome comic relief in a game that takes bleakness to new levels. You play William Vest, a tedious underachiever who’s never read anything other than a box score and whose memories seem to be an endless array of pointless anecdotes which are, at best, mildly amusing, but only in small doses. Vest works as a courier of illegal biomaterial for Igor Cysterz, a mobster of vague ethnicity. On this particular night your employer has accepted a substantial sum from unspecified “Top Men” to kill you. His weapon of choice is a dog. Why not a gun? Because this is The World According to Robb Sherwin and all the comedy in it derives from everyone in it being submental, except the protagonist who’s a smug mocker. Sounds a lot like The World According to Adam Cadre, doesn’t it? The difference is that Cadre is occasionally funny.

You are standing in a cramped office. There is Igor, his dog, a cauldron containing a bad oyster and a bottle of Worcester sauce. At some point Igor will sic his dog on you and you’ll be ripped to pieces. The solution is not so much an exercise in cognition as in empathy. Don’t think “How would an intelligent person approach this?”, think instead “What does Robb Sherwin find amusing?” Robb finds vomit amusing. The solution is to pour the sauce on the bad oyster, eat it and feed the dog your vomit, thus distracting it.

This is the first puzzle and it sets the tone for what is to come: obtuse, arbitrary and of uncertain causation.

Feeding your vomit to the dog lands you in a cell. There is a corpse in the cell and searching it you find a remote control. In the cell opposite yours are two old acquaintances. You tinker with the remote control and a clunky conversational system and after a while the emperor from Star Wars comes and releases you from the cell. The causation is vague. Did my tinkering with the remote somehow beckon the emperor or did I simply exhaust the conversation topics?

This is all very Theatre of the Absurd, but unintentionally so because I doubt Robb knows (much less cares) who Samuel Beckett was. This isn’t Robb bemoaning the meaninglessness of life. This is Robb being unable to design a single puzzle that makes sense. Despite all this, Cryptozookeeper is Sherwin’s best game to date. Those of you familiar with his previous output will know exactly how modest a compliment this is. Here’s another modest compliment. Robb Sherwin is easily one of the top ten writers of interactive fiction. One of the things I’ve learned from you people is that rock bottom is not a level plane at all but has its own rich topography. Adam Cadre wrote what is probably one of the worst novels ever published, and yet he is Cervantes compared to Sherwin. Sherwin, in turn, is Shakespeare compared to Plotkin who is Dante compared to Aaron Reed.

ok, with a grain of salt taken regarding the vitriol, this was both a fun and insightful review by our resident troll :slight_smile:

Oh, Jacek.

Before we get started, I have to comment on this, from your Stiffy review:

This is absolutely the most insipid beginning to a paragraph in the entirety of the English language. For over ten years you have been desperately trying to rustle some jimmies by playing a game for ten minutes, finding a typo, a bug or an object missing a property, and then start with the shrieking. All because you’re too stupid to understand that IF is a form of computer game, which, yep, sure will have bugs since they are computer programs. I know as a little boy in your precious, sequestered little savage land, you would inspect the soft-covers in the neighborhood book store for hours, then insist on the proprietor’s attention at the end of the day so you could tell him which books had pages with creases. All in the hopes of a pat on the head or some sugar. So it’s got to be maddening that every time you awkwardly try to write about someone’s games on here, you get humiliated and everyone starts laughing at you. Dear old Mister Consonants never laughed!!

That said, man, it really takes some balls to do all that and then sign your name to something like this:

You’re trying so hard, too! That’s what’s so adorable. Oh, not with the games. Your shallow, smoldering contempt of the games prevent you from making the simple leap as to why the first scene in a game with “zoology” in the title might involve a fucking animal. No, you’re trying soooo hard to come off as the sophisticated outsider with the weird publisher fetish, but then you screw up and say things like:

Ha ha ha ha ha. I assume the plan was to file that under the fake account you were desperately trying to get Ben to let you use and you then just shrugged and wrote it anyway. God, no matter how many times I see it on my monitor, that never stops being funny. A guy who doesn’t process English trying to tell us how untalented we are, by beginning his post on a dark and stormy night.

I do enjoy the part in each review now where you hammer out “submental” on your pebble-capped keyboard, cave man. I also like the part where, in your mind, there’s a native English speaker over the age of three who scrunches up his face at the mention of “Samuel Beckett.” Like if one of us went to your village and accidentally used with the word “blowtorch” or something and we then had to patiently explain that such a mysterious word means fire (the faces of the toddler cavelings shivering behind their mothers’ thick ankles) and then patiently explain to your tribe that “fire” means “the glowing orange demon that dances.”

Anyway, have a great 2013, though I doubt you know (much less care) what 2013 is. You guys hit 25 years yet since a disinterested, low-rung government slob from eastern Europe parked their sedan outside the white lines, thus conquering the place?

Hi sorry, I’m new here, love text games and stuff, and this seems like a really great place. Is “jacek pudlo” made up though? He sounds like a made up character posting really bad posts just to stir up trouble. I don’t know if maybe you want to look into that, but you probably have, I guess. Sorry if this has been gone over before but he seems like a “bad seed” that maybe you don’t want on here because the rest of the place is really great, but I know when I see that name to steer clear.

Thanks though.

Welcome to the site, idrafan.

Do you think he made any good points? Surely there are a couple bits here and there that came off well. I mean… well, you tell me. Was there a sentence fragment that seemed like it wasn’t by a frazzled guy trying to type the words out while constantly draining the dicks out of his nose?

I thought he pointed out one bug that I also noticed, but he didn’t mention anything that came after the first 15 minutes of playtime which makes me wonder if he played the game or not but then I looked around at his other posts and they all seem to be like that… is there a moderator here who can speak on this issue? I think the text game community is small enough where we dont need this kind of nonsense, but like I siad I’m new here so sorry if I got it wrong.

Jacek is this community’s big troll. You could ban him, sure, but he’d just return under another name, and letting him post under his own makes it easier to ignore him. (There is an “ignore” option in the forum software.)

And as trolls go he’s fairly decent, he generally only goes after the established big names in the community rather than new authors.


Whatever happened to Emily Short’s Pudlology Project? Didn’t she do an in-depth study of the Pudlo an its mating habits?

(Oh, and Jacek, using your “RealNC” handle to draw attention to your own puppeteering is so clever. Will you now resort to your standard MO and use your sock puppets to accuse me of being you?)

Enough already. Thread locked. (In case anyone reading this is unfamiliar with this tedious saga, “Peter Rickardson” posts from the same IP address as “Jacek Pudlo”.)