VERY VERY SHORT INTROCOMP REVIEWS
My expectations for the Intro Comp games may have been a bit different than organizer Neil DeMause’s. To me the “introduction” is the bit that grabs you and drags you into the story. No more than the first scene, and only the whole first scene if it’s short. But Neil clearly specifies “the beginning of a game” which, I’d say, can include more. Nevertheless, I’m going to review the games by my own criterion since I think the ability to hook a player/reader quickly is important and difficult to accomplish.
A caveat – in reality I don’t instantly discard games that don’t hook me. My approach is the opposite. I play until a game discourages me from playing any longer. So my estimate of whether I would play the Intro Comp games or not is somewhat theoretical. Since I’m “judging” these on the very limited criteria of whether just the bit I see really makes me want to play on, my judgments might be overly harsh.
I tried to be fairly vague but how can you even talk about intros without
…from the Files of Sigmund Praxis, Guerilla Therapist
You are a most unprofessional psychiatrist awaiting an unknown patient. The apparent premise, a kind of battle of minds in the psychiatrist’s office just doesn’t grab me, especially since when the patient arrives you size her up to be “interesting” but you aren’t told why you think that. It seems you have about fifteen moves to examine your surroundings and there are some laughs evoked by the doctor’s various trophies and degrees. But I don’t think I want to play a psychiatrist even if I am a guerilla.
So the file for this game is called “deadman”. What was the author thinking? Would a mystery writer title a novel “The Butler Did It”? I guess one could argue giving away the introduction isn’t giving away the game. Publishers usually give away the introduction in the publicity blurbs. Still…You do start off in a fairly attention grabbing bind, although the actual writing is not the most compelling, given the situation. The game runs on tracks, which, I suppose makes sense if you look at this as a kind of interactive introduction page. Rather than just pressing space to show repeated pages of text you seem to have a minor puzzle that can be solved, if you choose, and multiple beginnings, depending on what you do or don’t do which is kind of cool. I’m not sure if the concepts tossed out here are intriguing or just muddled. Maybe I’d play this far enough to find out. Maybe.
The Maintenance Man
OK. The “intro” to the intro, which consists of being on your way to work isn’t very exciting. Worse, if the introduction stumps me – this one does -- I’m not likely to want to try to play more. At least this game doesn’t advance automatically. In one place it specifically gives you the command necessary to scroll up more text (pretty much like being instructed to hit the space key but a bit more elegant) But there are people trapped in an elevator and I can’t just leave to help them? Instead I keep coming back to answer the phone? Would I really do that? Of course not. So it looks like the puzzles in this are going to overwhelm any logic, which means it is probably just not my cup of coding.
More of a beginning than an introduction, I think. Simple settings, but rather nicely implemented. Being confronted immediately by a vortex to enter was good. Entering the mysterious vortex and ending up in a field of grass, and then a dungeon, not so good. Finding a simple way to escape the dungeon was good. Unfortunately I’m still in a dungeon. Not so good. And confronted by a door I can’t figure out, really not good. Mind you, I’m not saying a game shouldn’t have puzzles but to my way of thinking, the introduction shouldn’t give you much pause, otherwise it isn’t really grabbing you, or me at any rate. I don’t know I’d play this, simply because it is a dungeon and I’m already stuck.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (By One of the Bruces)
I sometimes use an Atari emulator to mess with the old games I used to play (hey – three Activision badges!) I never thought I’d see the old ones again – let alone new ones. But sure enough – and a text adventure at that! Wow. This manages to mix up my past and present. Like maybe I was dreaming about playing text adventures on my old Atari. But, Lord of the Rings in 4 bytes. . . Yeah. Gotta play that!
D. R. Porterfield
The world is about to end and you’re opening doors with ID cards and keys and checking items off a to-do list! It just doesn’t quite hit the right note for me, though the clock is ticking away and that helps some, plus the writing is good. What you’re doing, specifically, is preparing to flee in your homemade time machine. Since, presumably the real story isn’t the escape but what you do after you’ve escaped I would’ve preferred to reach that point more quickly. However, once you do activate the machine and get going things become more interesting – again multiple beginnings, in a way -- and I’d definitely play this, especially since I can zip through the first bit now and get to the story.
Death By Monkey
I played this on the web, which was neat. The setup is the sort that’s so cliched its fun. (Cliches don’t get to be cliches because they’re unpopular, after all) A rainy night. Car breaks down in front of brooding mansion. You go up to the house and looking in the window you see -– well, something weird and horrible of course. Then you descend to the basement. Of course it’s a load of old nonesense – but in a good sort of way. I’ll play more.
At Wit's End Again
by Mike Sousa
YESSS! You’re trapped in a burning ambulance, a falling plane. You’re having a nightmare. No you’re not. Yes you are. You’re in a falling elevator! This one’s nonstop action. I’ve been to Niagara Falls a few times and rode the Maid of the Mist to the base of the falls. When the boat makes its closest approach the engines are shut down and your guide intones – “Ladies and gentleman. This is Niagara Falls.” All I can say about this game is - “Ladies and gentleman. This is an intro.”
Oh yeah – you’re a ballplayer and the game recognizes >spit. Natch.
by Philip Dearmore
This one’s a conundrum. The opening sequence, set during a bleak winter’s day in the depths of an ice age is brilliantly atmospheric and detailed. Check out the way the scenery changes as snow moves in. You can see what’s coming before your player character does, but that just adds to the tension. My problem with this is that I can imagine it going somehwere as a novel, but not as a game. I’m not sure how you would play the story that seems likely to unfold. But based on the quality of the writing I’m guessing the author has something in mind I haven’t thought about.
The Waterhouse Women
by Jacqueline Lott
You begin by contemplating a painting by a favorite of mine, the Pre-Raphaelite artist Waterhouse. This is finely wrought but describing visual art works verbally is a difficult task and this was all a little too static to engage me very strongly. There is one action you have to perform to get the intro going – which happens to be an action you would definitely not perform in reality. To get around this, I suppose, the author, almost literally, hands you a hint but I feel a more gentle nudge would have been in order first. Maybe there was one that I missed. I would take a look at the finished game because of the generally quality of the intro, however, in hopes that it would become a bit livlier later.
by Stark Springs
I have to admit I don’t want to play a genie who has to walk to the neighborhood liquor store to grant his Master’s wish for a drink. I guess that should be funny but somehow it wasn’t. Anyway, you can’t really have a genie as your player character and not implement “grant wish.” Or so I would have thought.
by Caleb Wilson
The year’s 1942, the location a tropical colonial outpost. You, a ministery agent, are sent on a simple mission, to steal a carved mask from the office of, one assumes, the native despot. Easy enough, but maybe the comic books in the office should’ve tipped you off that this is going to a bit more off the wall than it might first appear. A most unappetizing horror – one your superior seems to know about – is waiting to greet you when you return to the ministry. This flowed beautifully, while giving the illusion (or was it an illusion?) that I was calling the shots. Surely, if I had been there would’ve been a lot less flow and a lot more pointless wandering. A very enticing beginning.
Madrigals of War and Love
by Jason Dyer
This one hooked me by the end of the first sentence and the author just kept rolling. Rather than action, you have mostly conversation menus –- but the conversation hints at so many delicious possibilites for farce, mayhem and general hijinks -- how can you not want to know what comes next? Not to mention what appear to be a case of very eccentric characters sporting upper-class-twit type monikers. Bloody good show!
Seems like I about broke even with my desire to play these. They reminded me that there are many ways to “hook” readers/players. There’s always the action that pulls the player in, but also just hinting at a wealth of interesting ideas, mysteries to be solved, or presenting appealing characters, can do the trick. And as the IF Archive keeps filling up with games, the intros might become more and more important to authors who want their games not just downloaded but played.
Reviews From Trotting Krips