The Amazing TV Caper

The Amazing TV Caper by Bryan Peterson
Platform: ADRIFT 3.9

Another game from a newcomer to the ADRIFT scene and another that, unfortunately, I’m going to be writing a largely negative review about. The game actually sparked off quite a debate on the ADRIFT forum when it was released; not for anything positive alas but for some of the decidedly non-obvious commands it requires to complete. Now guess the verb is something anyone who has played a few IF games will be familiar with; it’s the sort of thing that anyone who has written an IF game of their own has probably incorporated into said game without realising. It’s one of those things that seems to pop up from time to time and never go away and even the most careful writer can find themselves falling foul of it. But I think I can honestly say that I’ve never encountered guess the verb quite on a level with that found in this game.

The premise of the game is simple: someone has stolen your TV and you need to get it back. How you go about this is… well, the way you go about it is to open up the game in the ADRIFT Generator (i.e. cheat) because there’s no way you’ll make any progress with it otherwise.

One of the earliest things the player needs to do is go to the toilet. This is about a minute into the game and was as far as I got without opening up the game in the Generator and cheating. The required command is (and I’m not spoiling a puzzle for anyone by telling you this because I’d bet money no one would ever figure it out on their own) is MAKE PITSTOP. Huh…? Why not USE TOILET? Why not PEE? Why not a dozen and one other commands? But MAKE PITSTOP? How is anyone ever expected to figure out something like that? I’d grudgingly admit I’ve heard of the phrase before but I’d never think to type it in a game. It’s akin to OPEN DOOR not working but PLACE HANDS ON THE DOOR AND CAUSE IT TO OPEN being required instead.

Unfortunately, it gets worse. I see later commands required in the game are EMBRACE EMILY, ASK SHANNON TO ELABORATE and (my favourite) ASK LEO IF HE’S SEEN EMILY. Now at no point in the game is it hinted, even vaguely, that commands like this might be necessary and none of them (with the very slight exception of EMBRACE EMILY) are things anyone is likely to try. Even relatively straightforward commands are impossible to figure out due to the game’s strange wording of them: GIVE RING TO Shannon won’t work but PRESENT SHANNON WITH RING will. By the look of things, no other commands apart from those absolutely required to finish the game have been included so it’s not like the game is even going to steer you towards the right command if you persevere. It’s hard to imagine just what the writer was thinking when he included commands like this without even a brief note to indicate to the player that they’d be needed. If his intention was to write a game that was impossible to finish without cheating, he’s certainly succeeded.

Unfortunately, guess the verb isn’t the only problem with the game. Numerous items and people mentioned in room descriptions aren’t implemented; items have to be referred to by their full name to be referenced so if you see Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, you’ll need to refer to it as that (including the apostrophe and colon) before the game will understand what you mean; there are frequent spelling and grammatical errors.

Then there are the directional problems. Most of the directional commands are IN and OUT, which makes movement kind of strange. Moving IN from your living room takes you to the Java Joint coffee house, which I’m guessing isn’t actually inside your living room. Funnily enough, moving IN again from the coffee house takes you back to your living room. An impossibility surely? At other times, exits appear only after certain actions have been carried out, though there is never any kind of logic to the way this happens or any indication that it will happen. Wondering where the stairs from your bedroom to the front room have gone? Simple. You haven’t made your pitstop yet.

Then there are the truly bizarre “guess what to do next” problems. The ASK SHANNON TO ELABORATE command is expected without any kind of prompting and responds with the player asking Shannon what kind of payment she expects in return for her help. What help? Elsewhere, the command GET RING FROM SQUIRT has me attacking Squirt, yet nothing like KILL SQUIRT, ATTACK SQUIRT, HIT SQUIRT or similar commands will work.

Playing the game with the Generator open to get you past the many problems isn’t a fun way to play a game unfortunately. I keyed in commands one after another for a while but in the end it just wasn’t worth it to keep on playing. Even allowing for the fact that this was a first game by a newcomer, it would need a huge amount of work to raise it above a dismal rating of 1 out of 10.

1 out of 10