review by Emily Short
"Ron Weasley and the Quest for Hermione" is not the kind of IF that tends to get attention from rec.games.int-fiction. First of all, it's
a work of adult IF, with numerous and extended pornographic scenes;
second, it's derivative of a piece of copyright literature, which would exclude it from eligibility in many IF competitions. In fact,
it's more an IF version of Harry Potter fan fiction than it is a
direct adaptation of any of J. K. Rowling's own work: the characters
are flattened and simplified versions, without any of the sly comedy-of-manners dialogue one finds in the original; the relationship plots come to the fore and every other theme is ignored; and I think we are
supposed to understand that time has ratcheted forward so that all
the young people are of legal age and Voldemort is no longer a
threat, which is the sort of dodge one finds in fanfic where the
author wants to use the characters for a bit of smutty business but
is uncomfortable writing what might be construed as child pornography.
The protagonist is a young Ron Weasley, out to win the affections of Hermione Granger in the way AIF player characters generally win the affections of women -- by carrying out tedious tasks for them -- but he's not too picky to seduce every other woman in Hogwarts Castle as well, if he thinks he can get away with it. (The author seems to have drawn the line at slashfic: if there's a way to get busy with Draco or Harry or, heaven help us, Hagrid, I never found it. The male NPCs mostly exist as impediments, the female characters as goals.)
The game is not very good, on several widely-accepted measures of craft. It suffers from the usual curses of the ADRIFT parser: apparently identical commands don't work quite the same way; variant names of nouns are not always recognized, but the non-recognition is inconsistent. The puzzles are implemented on the assumption that the player will encounter them in a specific order, but there's nothing about the game structure that actually guarantees this. I ran into many NPCs who referred to things that hadn't happened yet, for instance, or who assumed I was working on missions that I had never been given. And to make matters worse, the key NPC, Hermione, object of Ron's youthful desires, is particularly unresponsive and doesn't seem to acknowledge partial completion of your goals: at one point I thought I had possibly gotten stuck in the game due to a bug, when the truth was that I simply had one more puzzle to solve and the game's minimal feedback wasn't letting me know this.
I'm not going to critique the sex sequences, either: I generally find even the most carefully-simulated adult-IF scenes rather mechanical and tedious, which is one reason why I don't play much of this subgenre, so I'm not really in the best position to compare the quality of the porn with other similar porn. I will note merely that it is possible to skip most of these sequences if they don't appeal, save only the final interaction with Hermione that is the goal of the game.
The thing is, though, that in one respect this game is reasonably successful as an IF adaptation of a static-fiction work: it uses Rowling's worldbuilding as the basis of all the non-sexual interaction. The characters and territory are all familiar; score is kept with frequent reference to house points, though they don't exactly correlate; the puzzles are based around the player's use of canonical spells. The author helpfully provides a list of the Harry Potter spells that are implemented in his game, to spare the player trying to guess or remember spellings, but there is at least one puzzle that would probably be difficult to complete unless the player knows the series: I'm not sure it's fully clued within the game.
A more thorough author could have done a better job of exploring the ramifications of this worldbuilding. There are quite a few spells that don't work where you might expect them to. I see no reason, for instance, that the player shouldn't be able to ACCIO anything he could ordinarily TAKE: I don't recall the books ever saying that one can't summon objects that are within reach, and it wouldn't even have been very hard to program this, from an IF perspective. And spells of destruction and mending work somewhat capriciously where the author felt like implementing them.
Even so, what is there is pretty fun to play with. There are few silly easter eggs to be found, things to cast spells on that have no relevance to the rest of the game. There is a certain pleasure in navigating territory that one already finds familiar. I didn't have to explore to know that the Potions classroom would be in the basement.
I found myself comparing the work with several other, more mainstream IF adaptations that have come out recently: Peter Nepstad's two adaptations of stories by Lord Dunsany, and Tor Andersson's "Tower of the Elephant." All three of those games had the texture of the original prose (often simply by using a lot of it straight up) and replicated the original plot-line, but missed conveying some essential feeling of the original world: what it would be like to *be* Conan, or a king in Dunsany's tale. "Ebb and Flow of the Tide", with its dreamy inactive quality suitable to the corpse PC, is most successful, but largely because the original story is about not being able to do anything. "Ron Weasley and the Quest for Hermione" isn't as well-crafted as any of those; it doesn't try to emulate Rowling's prose style (which is less distinctive in any case); and it arguably flubs much of the characterization. But despite its flaws, I found "Ron Weasley" more fun to play, and I derived much of my enjoyment from a sense of connection with the original work.
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