Strangers in the Night by Rich Pizor(1999)

The Evil, Ugly Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: Holy crap, this is the best game I've EVER played. Good evening, Madame, I vould like to zuck on your...vlood!

The Nice, Handsome Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: I found this game disturbing and morally questionable. Works of IF like this one encourage anti-social behavior among the younguns. Call Tipper!

My Verdict: This game's a trip.

The Review...

I basically enjoyed this game during the time in which I played it, but I did feel the gameplay could be improved in several ways in order for it to become even better. Even as it is, I like it a lot. It's got a bit of a goofy're a vampire! You go around biting people in an authentic urban environment! How many games like that have you played? Vampires might be overplayed in movies and fiction, but they're a relatively rare commodity in IF. While the prospect of a game which encourages such behavior as going up to complete strangers and sucking their life force from them may strike some as being a trifle counter-cultural, I do believe Rich wrote this game with a spirit of love and understanding. Good fun, at least. The really neat thing about this game is that it could easily be expanded into a much larger work. The city is already in place, with a number of different venues worth exploring already intact - it's all nicely mapped out, in fact. I could definitely see this game expanded into a several day vampire assault upon the city's inhabitants. How cool would that be? As it is, the game is pretty small - not tiny, but small. Took me around thirty minutes to solve. The goal of the game is to have your suave vampire self score three victims and return to your apartment before sun up(there is a timer, of course). If the sun rises before you return, you die. If you return to your apartment without killing anybody and the sun rises, you also die, it seems. It's a limited plot line. The game geographically, on the other hand, is a bit larger than you would expect for such a small game. It's an authentic city, after all, which as I mentioned before, is nicely and carefully laid out. I did find it a bit off-putting that the streets lacked room descriptions. I realize it's not the easiest thing in the world to describe a lot of streets that look alike, but most game authors nowadays do at least make an effort at doing this. Anchorhead, for instance, had great street descriptions. So street descriptions would have been nice, and they also would have made the city a little easier to navigate. For instance, I totally forgot what street my apartment was on, so I got lost and died. I didn't like this, but the game interested me enough to load it up again. The gameplay is pretty intuitive - your victims are pretty obvious. For those daring souls who wish to try to murder everything that moves, there's at least one NPC who'll jab a stake through your black heart fore you can cry "Lycanthropic laodicean lizard!" This death scene is superb. It even sports the best line in the game: "That's the only problem with this city, too many fucking vampires." I really get a kick out of that for some reason. I hope it's not just the swearing that makes me enjoy it so. Oh yes, the writing is pretty average throughout, but solid enough. Certainly not a drawback, but not a great strength, either. It might have helped if Rich had tried to put more of a "Gothic" atmosphere into more of the descriptions. Then again, it might not have!

What about technical stuff? Basically, all is well and wonderous. There are a couple of typos(the horror! the horror!), but nobody's perfect unless their name is Graham Nelson or Andrew Plotkin(hey, scratch that. I just read a Usenet post by Andrew in which he mistyped "to" as "ti"). The design of the game is a teensy bit buggy. Like I mentioned before, I died even when I ran back to my apartment after feeding on two victims, ostensibly killed by the sun. This should not have happened. I should have either died from hunger, or been allowed to live, with some sort of "You screwed up!" game ending covering me with shame. But some of the other triggers work really nicely. I especially like the store clerk trigger in the grocery store. That implementation really struck me as being totally neat and likable. Parser was a little poor, refusing to acknowledge several reasonable social interaction inputs, which leads me to another gripe: you can't interact much with the NPCs! Basically, this is an AGT style game(it's actually written in TADS) - you go around to each of the NPCs, you can look at them, you can maybe ask them about one or two things at the most, and you can try maybe one other input with 'em(in this case, bite 'em.) It acts all funny when you try to give something to them or talk about more esoteric matters with them, for instance. You can't even kiss either of the two gorgeous ladies whom you welcome into the wonderful world of vampirism(I assume you can't kiss the guy, either, but I didn't try), revealing that this game was not coded by Robb Sherwin or any other half way romantic sort of soul. But did I really mind this? Not at all!

All in all, though, this game is well recommended. Of course, it's not even remotely close to be any sort of classic, but it's a good enough little comp game.

Simple Rating: 6/10

Complicated Rating: 25/50

Story: 6/10

Writing: 5/10

Playability: 5/10

Puzzle Quality: 5/10

Parser Responsiveness: 4/10

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