The PK Girl / Rob "One B" Goodwin (2002)

Review by Paul Kostock

Otaku Fred's Verdict:
Adrift Runner's Verdict:
This Adventure file (4.00) is a greater version than 3.90.  You will need to upgrade to a newer version of ADRIFT Runner.
My Verdict:
At once a charming game and a somewhat disquieting peek into the future of American geekdom.  But where are the tentacles?

Game Information

Game Type:
Author Info:
If Rob has another game floating around out there, I am unaware of it.  A cursory Google search turned up nothing of relevance, and the only unexpected piece of information on his website ( is that the author is a Mormon.  This, at least, explains the lack of tentacles.
Download Link:  This is the latest version.

I think it says something about something that, of all the no doubt wonderful games submitted to the 2002 interactive fiction competition, a comp designed to celebrate the purity of text adventures free from the dishonest misdirection of high-tech graphics and sound, I only managed to play to completion the game whose key features were lots of pretty pictures and a midi soundtrack.  Or maybe it just says that I instinctively fired up the game that featured my initials.  Either way, but I suspect ten years down the line there will be a bunch of wannabe luddites dedicating themselves to reproducing 3D action games and complaining about how everything that came out after 2004 was all just empty bells and whistles.

Anyway, on to the game itself.  You play a thoroughly unremarkable man named Garrett (the default name, but you are given the option to input "Paul" or "Dave" or "Grand Dragon Imperial Poopiehead" or whatever suits you at the start of a new game) whose trip to the local mall to eat ice cream and not speak to attractive young women is interrupted by a kidnapping.  Garrett quickly rushes to the rescue, and manages to embroil himself in a tale of telepathic powers, government conspiracies, and more completely helpless and dependant women than you can shake your copy of the SCUM Manifesto at.

At this point, it would be apropos to pause for a moment and discuss the whole sexism issue.  Paul O'Brian, in his review, remarked "...the game reminded me distinctly of another branch of animation, the Disney feature film: technically impressive and proficient while remaining on the political level utterly, utterly reactionary."  Of course, Paul O'Brian is also the one who thoroughly trashed Chix Dig Jerks as a disgusting piece of misogynistic filth, but this time he's rather underestimating the issue.   Or, more likely, rather overestimating the conservatism of Disney films.

What's odd about the game, is not so much it's attitude towards the fairer sex, nor it's willingness to be blatant about said attitude, but rather its seemingly blissful ignorance about the fact that not everyone would agree with it.  The game doesn't preach or argue, it simply treats the subject of the subservient role of women the way another game might offhandedly mention that dogs make good pets.  At one point, Garrett, upon discovering that one of his (female) companions is a high-powered telekinetic, wonders aloud quite reasonably why she would need a thoroughly ordinary specimen of humanity like himself along.  She simply laughs at him and remarks that he "doesn't know much about women".  At first, I figured this attitude was just another side-effect of the game's cultural emulation of Japan, but now I figure it's more likely a Mormon thing.  I know both assumptions are rather ethnocentric, but I am pretty sure that no member of mainstream American culture thinks this way, at least not aloud.

On the other hand, I found the whole thing so low key that I was rather more amused than offended by its backwardness, and it didn't hurt my enjoyment of the game.  Women who skew to the sensitive/politically minded side of things, however, should probably stay away.  Ditto, men who think getting worked up in defense of feminism is a good way to get laid.

Otherwise, the writing is pretty pretty good.  Strangely awkward in places, but perfectly serviceable, and free of visible errors.  If the characters are all completely one-dimensional, they're colorful enough to make up for it.  If the plot is a bit hackneyed, it's well-paced, fairly involving, and just plain fun.  None of this would qualify as high art, and it would likely be a stretch even for a summer movie, of course, but fun.  I thoroughly despise using the phrase "good by computer game standards", but really there you go.

One thing the game does remarkably well (for a turn-based text adventure where it is impossible to die) is action.  Early on, you'll be chased by guards inside a mysterious office complex, then face off in fisticuffs against three goons in black suits.  Although you're in no real danger, the combination of music and a frantic pacing of events were enough to find me typing responses in really quickly, as if it would have an effect on my ability to elude my pursuers.  When you get to the fight scene, you actually will have to make the correct decisions in the space of a turn or so, or lose the fight.  In a model used to good effect throughout the game, losing simply means you have to rely on someone else (usually one of the women) to step in and rescue your sorry ass rather than getting to play the hero yourself.  So there's motivation, but none of the frustration of dying over and over again before you hit on the solution.

As to the puzzles themselves, there's nothing likely to give you too many headaches.  Simply beating the game generally requires very little other than doing the obvious and waiting for events to sort themselves.  The actual challenge comes in getting the "special endings".

Basically, there are somewhere in the vicinity of exactly eight female characters in the game, all of whom are at least a little attracted to our hero.  Depending on how you react to situations and whether or not you bother with the game's many optional puzzles, you can cause them to be more attracted to him.  This is all reflected in the game's "score" function, which has lead more than one smarmy reviewer trying to be funny to reflect on the fact that you are "scoring" with the women.  Actually, only one review I read actually made that joke, I'm just still pissed about the absence of tentacles and venting.  In any event, getting a high enough score will qualify you for a special ending where Garrett and the girl in question fall madly in love and live happily ever after.  Also, you get a letter of the alphabet.  Apparently, these letters spell out the code word to unlock the game's source code.  So, there's your replayability right there.  I played through the game twice and managed to get two of the eight endings.   It's doubtful I'll ever go back to figure out the other six, but I'm sure someone will.

One other thing that rather surprised me about the game is the fact that, although made in ADRIFT, the game's parser does not, in fact, have it's mouth wrapped around the phallus of a donkey.  Mr. Goodwin seems to have rebuilt the parser from the ground up into something you can use without that rising urge to kill that usually goes hand in hand with trying to guess the syntax for an ADRIFT puzzle.  There were a couple moments of frustration, such as having to download a whole new version of the runner to play a game made on a .1 upgrade and learning that at least some of the 3.9 and early games don't work right on 4.0, so now I have to have 2 versions of Adrift on my computer.  Also, disambiguation can be a pain when you have two unnamed characters of the same gender in the room.  Suppose there's a fat and hairy girl talking to a gaunt, acne-ridden girl, and you wish to interact with the former.  Typing "fat girl" or "hairy girl" will not work.   You have to type "fat and hairy girl", which is rather annoying, especially before you figure out the trick to it.  Also, restarting the game without exiting and then reloading the Runner doesn't work right.  At all.   Otherwise, the only reason you'd know this was an ADRIFT game is the incredibly useful automap and aforementioned pretty pictures (hint: set your Runner's layout to the way Rob suggests at the start of the game, it makes things go much smoother).

So, that covers everything, except for the part that rather disturbed me.   No, not the sexism thing.  The Japanese thing.  Anyone who has watched a moderate amount of anime or even played a lot of Squaresoft games will likely realize that the Japanese emulation goes beyond drawing style or casual indifference to age of consent laws.  Anyone who knows Japanese imports well enough to recognize the whole "points to get women to fall in love with you" gimmick from Seasons of Sakura will not only be thoroughly ashamed of themselves in a few years if they aren't already, but also recognize a lot of what goes on in these games as being distinctly "in genre".

There's this weird thing in anime where an overly loud and friendly character treats strangers like they are his best friends and makes really weird requests without bothering to explain themselves.  There's one of those in here.  Remember how I mentioned the writing was a bit awkward?   Well, it reads most like it was written by someone who was well educated, but for whom English wasn't their first language, or who was otherwise translate something foreign.  There's an unfriendly girl with a mysterious past who carries around a katana for no adequately explained reason.  All the characters (including the evil villain who is the head of a government agency) are of some indeterminate age between their teenage years and early adulthood where they don't have to hold down jobs, often make special stops for ice cream, and still deal with things like rich bullies, and yet they all live alone and can spend three nights at the house of someone they just met without anyone being the least bit concerned about their whereabouts.   In fact, the very idea of "a bunch of women with various incredible talents and abilities who nonetheless have to rely on the world's most uninteresting and mediocre male to get *anything* done, and, oh yeah, they're all secretly in love with him" is right out of the anime plotbook.

Had this game actually come out of Japan, all these things would be easily explained away by the cultural gap.  Coming from an American Mormon, it comes off almost like one of those movies like L.A. Confidential that tries to emulate the techniques of a specific time and place, where even the inexplicable bits are left in in order to be true to the source material.   Except that the time and place are so contemporary that I can't imaging it was intentional.  Rather, I'd venture to guess this simply comes from viewing a lot of anime to the exclusion of other media, rather like a sci-fi author who grew up on Star Trek instinctively including a bunch of forehead aliens.  It then occurred to me that, domestically, there has been exactly nothing to fill the geek obsession void since Babylon 5 ended it's original run.  LotR, Enterprise, the new Star Wars Trilogy, it's all just rehashing of stuff older geeks liked when they were kids.

And not to be unnecessarily jingoistic, but it saddens me to realize that right now hundreds of thousands of young men and women are hitting their teen years and coming to the abrupt dual realization that they are interested in the opposite (or whatever) gender, and that the opposite (or, again, whatever) gender feels for them some emotion ranging from "friendly disinterest" to "outright disgust", and they will have no outlet for their escapist fantasies other than high-priced imported DVDs and the fiftieth consecutive run of Dragon Ball Z on the Cartoon Network.  This saddens me in a way that simple chauvinism never will.

As to the game itself, do I recommend it?  Yeah, actually, I find I like it quite a bit.  With the exception of Jonsey's work, the majority of IF tends to either be avante-guarde artistic stuff (Photopia), pure farce (SMtUC), or poorly coded crap (Bobby's Really Cool Space Adventure!, Episode 1).   Playing through a fun, competently designed action-adventure escapist piece was a refreshing change of pace, in spite of my reservations.  Don't ever let it be said that the Mormons never did anything for me.

Recommended for anyone who doesn't actively dislike anime and can look past the game's chauvinistic undertones.

Simple Rating
8.5 / 10

Sure, I had my minor qualms, but this game is obviously a labor of love and a lot of fun to play.  Would have been a 9.0, except for the absence of tentacles.

8.5 / 10

The plot's quite the escapist romp, and the pacing keeps you from noticing it's occasionally glaring weak points until after the fact.

8 / 10

The second paragraph of the game contains the line "This is that time when friends are want to meet together and pursue wholesome recreation in and around the grounds of the mall."  This type of inexplicable stiltedness abounds, but there are no technical errors and you always know what is being said.

7 / 10

I'd deduct more for the simple fact that you can only play ADRIFT games in Windows, but, unlike most of my contemporaries, I have absolutely no qualms about being Bill Gates's bitch.

Puzzle Quality
9 / 10

Anyone can beat the game no problem on the one hand, on the other after two and a half playthroughs, I still haven't nearly solved everything.

Parser Responsiveness
8.5 / 10

A couple weird quirks, but an absolute dream by ADRIFT standards.

Reader Comments:

April 25th, 2003

About the whole submissive women issue (i'm thinking specifically of the "if you have telekinetic abilities and all this wonderful kung fu grip and Incredible Chi Powerz, why the heck do ya need me?" "You just don't understand women..." thing) I have only three words to say. If you don't get them, check out Those words are: Evil Princess Sarah

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