A Stegosaur's Night Out by Quentin D. Thompson(2000)

The Evil, Ugly Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: I liked all the swearing in this game. Fucking asshole!

The Nice, Handsome Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: Well, some of the material in this game is a trifle unseemly. What happened to the days when you could gather the whole family around the computer and simply enjoy a quiet, meaningful evening of family togetherness and text adventuring?

My Verdict: Quentin strikes again! I think the parser took the lion's share of the damage, though.

Game Information:

Game Type: Inform

Author Info: Quentin D. Thompson is the pseudonym of Ravi Philip Rajkumar, a medical student from India who writes text adventures in his spare time. He's also about my favorite IF author at the moment, for what that is worth.

Other Games By This Author: A Bloody Life, Myopia, Halothane

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

The Review...

This one turned out to be a lot better than I expected it to be. Set in the Varicella universe in the aftermath of Primo Varicella's assassinating spree, A Stegosaur's Night Out is both an interesting followup to Adam Cadre's Varicella and an entertaining satire of the said game. The player character is...well...unusual. You're a toy. A plastic dinosaur toy. A TOY. Okay, okay, you're the plastic toy stegosaurus from Varicella, but let's not pretend that that makes it too much more appealing. I mean, come on: who really WANTS to be a toy? You'll just get picked up by some intolerable infant, kicked around, maybe have your ears chewed a bit, and then be tossed into the closet to mildew. What an intolerable existence! I wouldn't want it for my life - I don't want it in my text adventures. Rest assured, however, that this is no ordinary toy. It is a toy gifted with sentience, and possessed with a diabolical intent; namely, to assassinate the not-so-good Prince Charles of Piedmont. This is definitely the coolest toy ever. The goal of the player, then, is to make the stegosaurus' dreams come true. It shall not prove to be an easy task.

And in comes the satire! Varicella was a pretty difficult game all around, but it was especially challenging due to the tight time limit which didn't tolerate a whole lot of wasted moves from the player. A Stegosaurus' Night Out is basically Varicella on a much smaller scale, and appropriately it has an even tigher time limit than Varicella did. Any moment of indecision, any wrong verb, any wrong step on the part of the player...and presto! You're finished! There's hardly even any time in which to examine your surroundings. Obviously, you'll need to lose a few times, trying different things each time, before stumbling upon the true way to win, but I see the organization of this game as a slight dig on Varicella. At some point it becomes RIDICULOUS to have to plan out each and every step you make in advance, carefully measuring out each and every command you are to perform, knowing that if you fail to do the thing exactly right, it'll be the end of you. It is a thrilling game experience, yes, but so maddeningly unfair! The save/restore commands are vital to victory as the player wins, more or less, by the process of elimination. This is Varicella taken to the extreme - a very effective, subtle satire, if you ask me. The xyzzy response(ooh! spoiler!) is also an amusing send up of both typical silly xyzzy responses in text adventures and the "time has run out" message in Varicella.

In the end, however, I think that Quentin, like me, does ultimately quite enjoy Varicella all things considered - sure, it is frustratingly difficult and the time limit is unforgiving, but it is still one of the more interesting, novel text adventures we've seen in the past couple of years, and that is what is really, really important. If you look at this game from a different angle, you can see that it is a tribute to Varicella as much as it is a sendup. The authentic Piedmontian atmosphere of the game makes the player feel right at home from the start(if they've played Varicella already, anyway), and the in-character guest performances from such beloved Varicella characters as Prince Charles, Miss Sierra, the Queen Mother, and Bonfleche further connect the two games. Not that even these guest appearances are completely free from satirical allusions, but this satire has no venom. It stings, but it has no venom. All in all, then, I think that this is a game quite worth playing - if you've already played and won Varicella. Otherwise, I'm not sure you'd be able to really understand it...it really does assume some knowledge of the Varicellan landscape.

A final word before I go: this game's parser responsiveness sucks. Lots of things aren't described at all, and worst of all even theoretically correct inputs are sometimes rejected because only a dumbed down version of the said input will work. For example: "tie rope to truck" will NOT work, but "tie rope" will even though you are indeed trying to tie the rope to the effing truck! (N.B.: This is not an actual example taken from the game. Wouldn't want to spoil the game for anybody, or nothin'.) I thought the days of two word command inputs were long dead and buried. Oh, two word command inputs...they linger on. Spirits of the night, they haunt us still. Laughing in the dark, whistling in the wind, they sneak upon us when we least expect them. Do you fear them? Do you hide? Do you try to run away?



Simple Rating: 6/10

Complicated Rating: 23/50

Story: 6/10

Writing: 6/10

Playability: 4/10

Puzzle Quality: 5/10

Parser Responsiveness: 2/10

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