of the Stalker by Jason Clayton White (1996)
Review by Jonathan Blask
Rating: 6 / 10
"It would be a REAL coincidence to hear the crash at the same time Mr. Loony gets on the loose." --
Jason White, House of the Stalker
There are a lot of text games already being forgotten, despite the fact that they're available from our lovable IF archive and all of its incorrigibly wacky mirrors. I mean, who plays gems like
Cosmoserve these days? Not many, I'd think, and for every
Cosmoserve, there's a dozen games that never made any sort of impact on the IF community in any way. These games are snapshots in time. We play them, and we marvel at how far IF has come or note what the games did right or how they failed. Sometimes, with games like Jason Clayton White's
House of the Stalker, we can't help but wonder, what was the author smoking?
It's rare that I include game text in a review (okay, I've just never done it before), but with this game, I feel that I must:
You are in your attic, scared out of your wits. The killer may be down there waiting for you, or he may not know you're there at all. Then there's always the chance that it was your cat rustling on the kitchen table or something, in which case you would laugh and slap up the kitty a bit. There is something about this situation, though, that sets your heart racing.
Of course, death looms around every corner, but it's not always at the hands of a homicidal maniac with the fear-inspiring name of "Keith Alfonzo." Sometimes it's in the form of a bowling ball to the head when one foolishly opens up a closet door, releasing piles of junk.
We learn that the PC lives in an empty house (well, except for the cat) with an empty heart, still saddened by the departure of his spouse and kids. Fortunately, he has a mini-disc player that plays "Ride of the Valkyries" deafeningly loud to help him forget his troubles.
When playing horror games, I always expect the killer to jump out in two turns, at which point it's all carefully timed `guess the verb' head-banging frustration.
House of the Stalker only partly succumbs to this. The killer doesn't appear until you go out of your way to find him, almost to the point where you want to grab the PC and say, "dude, what are you freaking out about?" When you do eventually confront the killer, yeah, it becomes a death fest. I'm pretty sure (ok, I admit that I'm writing this review a year or so after I last played the game) that I resorted to a walkthrough or text dump. Of course, the response to >KICK MAN ("Don't go violent on the the
killer!") is quite entertaining, but even more interesting is the way that your character disarms and completely pacifies our friend Keith before killing him.
I presume the remaining question is, is the game worth playing? On one hand, the execution leaves something to be desired. The writing is sloppy (although the style cracked me up) and the code, buggy. I actually refrained from including other bits of text because I didn't want to spoil all of its `jokes', which aren't as numerous as I recalled. Still, as clichéd as games like these are, they carry that spark of inspiration that most `this is my apartment' and `treasure quest' games lack, and sometimes that's enough to win a place in your heart.