Revenger by Robb Sherwin(2000)

The Evil, Ugly Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: I don't know if there is any sex in this game because I couldn't get past the first scene. Damn you, Sherwin.

The Nice, Handsome Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: I hold no malice towards Robb personally, but I would never play a game made by the same guy who did that boorish sex game "Chicks Dig Jerks."

My Verdict: Well, Robb did it again. "It" meaning "make a small, very well written game with about fifty thousand bugs in it", unfortunately.

Game Information

Game Type: Inform

Author Info: Robb is not only one of the guys who writes for this site, but he's also a celebrated writer of interactive fiction. This is his third text adventure release in two years.

Other Games By This Author: Chicks Dig Jerks, Saied

Download Link: The entire Dino Comp 2000 package(650 KB) includes this game and a lot of other great ones.

The Review...

I wanted so badly for this game to be perfect. The sort of thing I could point to and say, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is interactive fiction done right." But, alas, it was not to be, for the spectre that has haunted each and every Robb text game so far has reered its ugly head once again. Bugs. Bugs. Bugs. Game design flaws. Fiddly gameplay. A lackadaisical parser. What burns me up about this is that the game really is very, very good in several ways. Like what, you ask? Well, the writing. The writing is very good, very funny, very effective, and even a little frightening.

"Frightening?" the reader asks. "Oh, I suppose there's another stinking graveyard scene in this game, too. REAL scary."

No. This game does the horror thing better than "Chicks Dig Jerks." Now, sure, the endings(note the plural) smack very strongly of risible "B" horror movies (I admit I am quite glad to know that I am not the only person who has seen "Night of the Demons III" more than once), but here the "B" movie horror effect totally works. The gruesome, gory depictions which close the game are chilling and unexpected - scenes that might seem cheesy and sensationalistic in a low budget film starring the worst slave actors the director could kidnap from Canadian high schools are kind of spooky tacked onto a text adventure game. And, you know, the text turns red at the end if you have a color supporting interpreter. The color of blood and all. As soon as I saw that I fell straight down to the floor, my heart pumping fast and my nerves in a tangle. Curling into a fetal position I began plaintively screaming for my mommy. But mommy never came. I would have to face my worst nightmares alone. Oh, and you thought Anchorhead was spooky, didn't you? Oh, how wrong you were.

The story is also offbeat and a welcome alternative to the all too politically correct plots of many modern IF games. The dinosaurs in the game are purely figurative. Instead of ancient reptiles, we've got a bunch of elderly, tyrannical, and close-minded academians to deal with; fearsome foes, indeed. The player character - an idealistic young man/"professional" student - has the unfortunate task of attempting to win over these dinosaurs to an unconvential idea that he's thought up. This is no easy task, alas. Are you up to the challenge? And, if not, are you willing to summon the FORCES OF HELL in the process of gaining revenge?

The first time I played "Revenger" I didn't read the beginning text as closely as I should have. That is, I followed what was going on but I didn't remember the name of the main guy, the bastard to whom I was to plead my cause. Result: I got stuck in the first room because I didn't remember the guy I was sposed to talk to. While Robb was kind enough to code in a variety of different actions for several of the academian dinosaurs to perform at intervals, he neglected to code any actions for the guy I needed to talk to. In other words, since I didn't remember the guy's name I was stuck. Past the opening sequence there seemed to be no way that I could ascertain the guy's name("Clack", as it turned out), leaving me no choice but to restart. Now, in most adventure games, if you couldn't remember the name of a guy you wanted to talk to you would just type "look" and the NPCs currently in the room with you would be mentioned. In this game: nope. That's a bug. And that's only the beginning. If you put an object in hand on something else, like let's say a table or a sink, the object will vanish. You will not be able to get it again, and the game will not ever mention it again.(No, not even 'look'.) That's a bug. If there is an item you are carrying that you can consume or swallow, doing so will not harm the object. Rather, you can spend as many hours as you want trying to eat a piece of cake and that piece of cake would still be there in your inventory, lightly mocking you. Sure, the game says you've eaten the cake, so you could use your imagination or something, but what's the point of the inventory command if it's just going to lie to you? So that kind of pissed me off, and the more I pondered the logic of this in my mind the more disgruntled I became. How big a piece of cake is this freaking thing, anyway, I wondered? Could it be some sort of futuristic pastry that continually regenerates in order to satisfy even the most ravenous of appetites? So that's either a science fiction subplot or another bug. Another bug, I think. Oh, yes, "burn note" seems to crash Frotz, but it's okay in JZip, which this game is designed to be run with. This game is buggy enough to effectively keep hidden its better qualities from the majority of the interactive fiction playing public - far buggier than "Chicks Dig Jerks", it unfortunately is better linked to a game like 4 Seconds from last year's competition. Right now, that seems to be Robb's Achilles' heel as a game designer: if he can't kill these bugs off pre-release, his games will never get the recognition they deserve. I can understand why this game is buggy, though, because it's my impression it was created on a limited schedule in order to coincide with a mini-comp deadline. It's easy to understand why it comes off seeming rushed and undertested in light of that. But still, unfortunate. This game could've been my favorite of the Dinocomp entrants were it only designed a wee bit better.

Sizewise, Revenger is a typically small mini-comp game, but it actually took me maybe an hour and a half in total playing time to win(that accounts for about four or five different gameplay sessions). Mostly, that's due to the bugs, but a decent amount of time is spent conversing with the NPCs. Like "Chicks Dig Jerks", this game also uses that "Photopia" dialogue menu. It's my general opinion that the dialogue menu is a good thing as long as not too many people use it in their games. It makes conversing with NPCs something fun and easy, and eliminates tedious "ask NPC about _noun_" type annoyances. Unfortunately, it also can serve to make the game seem less interactive than it otherwise might - in this game, for instance, the player's conversation with Clack follows a very constrained, set course. Yes, the conversation is integral to the story, but in essence you're just pressing numbers to advance gameplay. Something we all, I'm sure, despise. Later, the dialogue menu returns and is used to much better effect, however.

I think what I liked best about Revenger were the multiple endings. It was fun to initally get a lesser ending, then load up my save file in order to get the optimal ending, and then to load up the save file again and get another lesser ending. I really enjoy things like that. The more ways to play IF the better. This added feature of replayability comboed with the inventive story and fine writing would've made this game an A grade winner, if only this were a perfect, bugfree world. Sigh. All in all, Revenger is still well worth playing if you're not a wussy scared of some itty, bitty bugs; the patient and perseverant will enjoy the writing, the story, and the multiple endings so much that they will be able to ignore the poor game design.

Meanwhile, the game I'm looking forward to is Robb's next full length opus, tentatively entitled Magic Jar. It will be better designed than this, I'm sure of it. Third time's the charm. Or at least that's what Rybread always said.

And Rybread, you know, he's never wrong.

But he never said "third time's the charm" as far as I know. That was a neat little game by Ben Parrish, however. Check it out today!

Simple Rating: 5/10

Complicated Rating: 24/50

Story: 7/10

Writing: 7/10

Playability: 3/10

Parser Responsiveness: 3/10

Puzzle Quality: 4/10

Reader Remarks

Robb sprach the following on April 22nd, 2000

A long time ago, Freddie Mercury did a solo album and covered the song "In My Defence" (sic). Class, please play said selection right now.

(Also keep in mind that I am vacationing in New York right now and using the old man's keyboard which is one of those shitty, shitty Dell ones and split into two distinct parts. One for each hand. Is this the worst piece of hardware ever made?)

My design philosophy for the mini-comp games, admittedly, is different than that of a "real" release or the IF Comp release. Not that you'd know it by the original version of CDJ, natch. But throwing non-standard items about is a double-edged sword: on one hand, having them makes your game slightly more memorable but it also makes it more complex by several factorials. Or something.

And while fire is the devil's only friend, it is without question a bane for any IF designer. Fire sucks. =)

Also, I think "look at deans" will list all their names.

Ben Parrish sprach the following on June 5th, 2000:

I enjoy being mentioned. More, please!

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