Rating: C+ (6/10)
Let me say up front that, other than certain references to specific elements within the game itself, I would give Apartment F209 nearly the same review as I'm about to give Chicks Dig Jerks. At one point I was going to review my own game, but I think this will suffice nicely.
Robb Sherwin is one of the greatest writers I've ever met through the internet. His unmistakably quirky style -- chock full of expertly wielded, deftly mutated street slang, juxtaposed wildly with obscure references to ancient, forgotten video games, all wrapped up in a pliable membrane of barely supressed, hormonally charged anger -- is undeniably irresistable. Plus, he's the funniest mufucka I know. It was primarily due to this that Chicks Dig Jerks was the very first 1999 IF Comp game I played.
Within thirty seconds of firing it up, it's obvious that Robb is in top form here. The first scene, in which the lowlife protagonist and his equally shady partner attempt to cull a list of phone numbers from girls at a nightclub, is rich, ripe material for Robb's venerable wit. The laughs come fast and furious as you engage in various stylized, crafted conversations with your buddy... and your prey.
Judged only on these qualities, the game is an absolute winner. Anyone wishing to be entertained needn't think twice. However, as the pre-eminent IF analyst of my time, I feel it necessary to review the game as a whole, rather than some of its parts.
As a game, CDJ does not hack it. The first half plays like a polished version of Human Resources Stories, as you spend most of your time picking prefabricated responses from dynamic lists in order to continue dialogues with the fine ladies. As long as you're not intentionally trying to incite a riot, it's very difficult to pick the "wrong" answers, and the story (such as it is) moves along quickly. However, the game begins to feel more like an SAT test (make sure to completely fill in the oval!) than an adventure game.
If CDJ simply stuck with this M.O., it would be easier to accept, but halfway through the game, the scene shifts wildly to a completely unrelated situation, with completely unrelated goals (note: they might not actually be completely unrelated, but... well, see below.) It is as if Robb wrote one game, said what he wanted to say, and then tacked on another game at the end to beef up the contest entry.
There is essentially one significant puzzle here, in the last half of the game. Bryan has praised it as being logical, and not succumbing to "guess the verb" syndrome. However, I required a walkthrough, because I couldn't guess the verb. In retrospect, I should have, so perhaps this is my fault. If I haven't said this before, let me make it clear, I'm not very good at text adventures. And it certainly could have been worse, what with the author being responsible for perhaps the worst "guess the verb" puzzle in the history of IF.
Both the author and a previous reviewer have commented on the number of bugs present in the game, so I won't harp on that, except to say that I was unable to finish the game, because towards the end, there is a bad guy who the player must kill, but before I could accomplish this, the bad guy mysteriously disappeared (although he was somehow able to keep shooting at me... figure that one out.) This relates to what I said above. The first half and the last half of the game might indeed be completely, rationally, logically related, and an epiphany may await in the closing chapter of the game, causing the player to reflect on what he has been through, then fall to his knees in a gesture of utter awe at the unmitigated brilliance displayed by the genius implementor...
...but I couldn't get to that part, so I couldn't tell you.
So that's it. As pure entertainment, CDJ hits the mark (though it suffers a bit from Full Metal Jacket Disease, in that the first half is markedly superior to the last half), and as a game, well, let's just say it won't win any competitions.
And F209 sucks too.
Ben sprach the following on November 3d, 1999:
Just for the record, I thought both halves of Full Metal Jacket were equally as spectacular, but for different reasons. But I know nobody else does, and it was the only pop culture reference analogy I could come up with at the time.
Stanley Kubrick sprach the following on November 8th, 1999:
I was searching the internet for information about my movies and this page came up. What the hell???!??? You kids make me want to choke on my own hot, tasty vomit.
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