AD VERBUM by Nick Montfort (2000)


Reviewed by Eric Mayer

This was the game I started Comp 2000 with. It was not the game I needed. No knock on Nick, but you've got to understand my frame of mind October 3. Hoo Boy! The games are here! On the other hand 53 freakin games are here! No way I'm going to get through fifty-three but I'm looking forward to judging as many as I can -- since I've been too lazy to actually *enter anything*.

So I'm a little rusty, game-wise, and I'm hoping the randomizer spits out something simple, that'll let me ease in, get the old brain in gear. Right now I wouldn't mind something along the lines of. . . say. . . Beal Street.

> Keep Walking?

Yeah. I can handle that.  So let's see what we have...Press that big red button and up comes - "logological puzzles" from the "realm of recreational linguistics."

>Arrghhh!! (As my old comic book characters used to say)

Look, don't take that "Arrghh" personally. It's just that this ain't Beal Street. At least not for me. The idea is you have to clear objects out of a house. Pretty much just pick them up and toss them in a dumpster. Problem is this house has just been vacated by the Wizard of Wordplay so you need to find the right way to phrase your commands, depending on the context - what the game calls "the constraint" which can be gleaned from the descriptions of each room. Pretty damn clever really. Well, too damn clever for me. I was dangling like a participal before I'd made it through the first "difficult difficult difficult" door.

I enjoyed some of the puzzles I figured out. They're different from the usual IF puzzles. But as a reader and writer I've always been more interested in words as a means to an end rather than for themselves. For example, I was terribly disappointed with James Thurber's THE WONDERFUL O. His speculations about outlawing the letter "o" didn't strike me as funny or engaging compared to his earlier essays about his eccentric family.

So while I admired Nick's amazing verbal feats, like writing whole sensible paragraphs in words beginning with the same letter, and also enjoyed a lot of the humor (it is a very good humored game despite the plonkingly academic-sounding About section) I wasn't personally wildly enthused while playing.

This game got me off to a bad start scoring-wise too. I really don't like scoring, which is really like grading which strikes me as too much like school. (Now class, programming will count for 35%, grammer for 15%, originality for 25%...) Art is subjective, after all. But on the other hand, I don't want to trash a game that is well done and that all those logological puzzle fans are going to love.

Score 7

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