The Loneliness of A Long Distance Runner by Jason McWright(2000)

The Evil, Ugly Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: The snotgreen background featured in this game reminded me of home. Oh, sweet Eire, how I long for thee.

The Nice, Handsome Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: Violence is never the answer. Two thumbs down.

My Verdict: It's hard to truly dislike this game, but,'s kinda hard to truly like it, too.

Game Information

Game Type: Hugo

Author Info: He's the kind of depraved mofo who enters mini-competitions for the excitement of the challenge. You definitely do not want to run into this guy in a dark alley, lemme tell you.

Other Games By This Author: Zork , Enchanter...oh, wait a minute. Wrong guy. Sorry. This fellow's a newbie.

Download Link: Will be here when the DinoComp entries are relocated to their permanent places of residence on GMD.

The Review...

Hmm. I guess I see why they call these things "mini" comps. In this three point game entered into the year 2000 Dino-Comp, you play a caveman long distance runner fleeing for his life. Fast in pursuit of the PC is a ravenous tyrannosaurus rex who has a certain fondness for the "other other" white meat, if you get my drift. Conceptually, this game is a little similar to Bob Reeves' They're After You, except it's even smaller than that game and not quite as good. Essentially, there are three actions you must perform in order to achieve victory. These actions are not necessarily the most obvious actions considering the situations where they are required, but if you simply run through the standard list of adventure game commands you'll win eventually after a lot of saving/restoring. So, on a gameplay level, this is definitely not going to be rivalling Civilization any time soon. Indeed, the game as a game didn't really interest me all that much. What did make this game rise rapidly in my estimation was my encountering of a certain scene that completely took me off guard. It was not the sort of scene I expected to find in a mini-comp game, especially not this one. Seeing as this particular scene is the most powerful part of this game I really don't want to spoil it for you: let it suffice to say that in order to win this you have to make a very questionable moral decision early on. If this was a larger game, I would be using this space to clamor for the author to include some sort of alternate path choice that would allow the player to continue with the game without performing this very questionable moral action, because it really is almost "A Moment of Hope"ish in the way it forces the player to act in a way they may well not wish to - in a way that is not only repulsive to them, but against their very natures. But as it is I can't say I really expected to find an another route to victory in such a small, uncomplex game most likely written as a fun programming excercise, and I didn't. (Of course, it is conceivable that there is an alternative route to victory I simply failed to discover - if this is the case I'd really like somebody to let me know.) The philosophical discussions surrounding this scene could make for a very interesting r.a.i-f thread, but only if the game was longer and fully fleshed out, sadly.

I would guess that the author of this game played and enjoyed Dave Ahl Jr.'s(Andrew Plotkin? Whozat?) entertaining comp entry Hunter, In Darkness from last year quite a bit. The two games share some marked similarities, not only in terms of the player having to make questionable moral decisions at vital points in the game, but also in a big way in terms of atmosphere. The writing in this game is extremely minimalistic, with one to two sentence descriptions the norm throughout. This enables the game's action to take center stage. Hell, if I've got a dinosaur on my back I don't have time to read a lot of show-offy description. Jason McWright did a really excellent job of keeping potential distractions out of his game; when you play The Loneliness of A Long Distance Runner, you're going to be focused on getting the hell away from that dinosaur on yer heels, and nothing else. When you do see some text, it's going to be about that damned reptile and how close he is and how threatening he looks. Run, run! Run! Due to this game's shortness, it fails to achieve quite the same level of intensity that Hunter, In Darkness does, but the dino-chase is definitely exciting and involving. It may not show McWright off to be a particularly great writer because he picks his words so cautiously, but they do show him to be a good game designer. The game is a solid simulation of what it would be like to be a caveman running for your life with a fearsome ancient reptile a few steps behind you, its jaws opened wide, prepared to swallow you whole. That's the sort of imagery I was hoping to see done in the Dino-Comp often, so all in all I'm pretty pleased with it, though I hope everyone will understand why I can't give it a higher rating than I'm going to.

What made me decide to finish this game first out of all the entrants(I took a quick look at Robb's and Quentin's entries, hastily decided that neither were representative of their author's best work, and then I picked up this one and played it to the end) was probably the fact that it was written in Hugo. I've long been a big supporter of underused game development systems, and Hugo in particular seems to be as powerful and usable as the "big two" , Inform and TADS. This game doesn't take advantage of too many of Hugo's advanced features, but at least it has color(including a green background - shades of AGT!), two NPCs, and some time oriented events. I considered playing this game to be good practice towards me getting more comfortable playing Hugo games - I still can't quite get used to the help menuing system after playing Inform games for so long, even though they're basically alike. It just seems strange to me. It's just hard to get used to something new, I guess, even when it's not really all that new.

No matter what things I might say in this review, the fact remains that this game is still too frigging short. The only people who desperately need to play this are those who thought King Arthur's Night Out was too long and hard. O.K., I know mini-comp games are as a rule short, which is partially the reason why I stopped playing mini-comp games long ago (My reasoning was that the last thing the IF world needs is text adventures that are shorter than the usual when we already have too many short games and not enough good long games.), but I think this game is really quite small even for mini-comp standards. The other two Dino-Comp games I've played so far have a lot more meat to them than this one does - I know this without even playing those others to the end yet. Hopefully, this game will serve as the springboard from which Jason McWright's IF career will be launched...I'm very much looking forward to playing a longer game from this talented game designer. As it is, this mini-comp entry is well worth playing for a quarter of an hour, but I'm guessing that it's really just "biding time" till McWright can give us a more challenging, worthy opus to wrap our brains around. This was an excellent way to introduce himself to the IF world, though. I hope he gets some recognition for his work(aside from this review, that is).

Simple Rating: 4/10

Complicated Rating: 19/50

Writing: 4/10

Story: 5/10

Playability: 3/10

Puzzle Quality: 5/10

Parser Responsiveness: 2/10

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