The Pickpocket / Alex Weldon (2000)

Casey Weldon's Verdict: I always thought I was a ten-time pro bowler in my own personal Weldonia, matey.

The Borg's Verdict: A game where the author's intent for the PC did not spectacularly over-ride a player's personal immersion.

My Verdict: This is a game that could use a splash of horror -- or something along those lines -- to keep up the player's interest.

Game Information

Game Type: Inform

Author Info: He is not, apparently, the Prince of Weldonia.

Other Games By This Author: None known.

Download Link:


The Review...

Okay, I at first thought that I was going to be... a  pickpocket. I feel I should mention that. Many of the competition games had to deal with my initial expectations right off the bat and I feel, here, that I should mention it. When I then learned that I was trying to, instead, hunt one down, I must confess to being slightly disappointed. It isn't fair to the game -- I get that -- and maybe I should have read the game's blurb beforehand, but I didn't have it handy where I ended up playing it. (Not that I would ever, ever consider playing a video game at work. That's like stealing, and I intend to write this review, not embark on a life of crime!.) Pushing that aside, I do feel I was then able to tackle The Pickpocket with an open mind.

Taken as a whole, there just seemed to be something... missing from this game. A sense of urgency, I think. Is this because I thought I was going to be committing vile acts of theft? I confess that perhaps that is why. To its credit, it's competently programmed (of that there is not much doubt) but I think the writing could have benefited from having a spot of characterization... or perhaps a narrator with an axe to grind. Something that came through to the surface. As it was, it just seemed too normal. The guy was trailing the pickpocket around an Arabian town, empty-handed and in his sandals. In that sense, the game reminded me of some kind of lonely Zorkian mission. But one of the things that the Zork universe did so well was mix in obvious hatred for its player through descriptions ("an ugly person is looking back at you..." ) with an assortment of fabulous items, treasures and objects. Maybe I would have warmed up to the game more if the player character had a crossbow  or a bazooka on him or something. The PC didn't, and as a result the game had trouble keeping my interest in the early stages.

I got stuck on the roof after taking the piece of wood that was holding its door up. Mimesis, for me, was broken when I tried "put wood against door" and the game didn't understand that. I knew that it was a Timer Thang, I knew that I didn't have many moves to muck about, but I didn't know how to phrase what I wanted to do, exactly. And since I am historically awful at saving my place in games, (not just for IF -- I'd say that 30% of my time in an any given RPG is wasted because I forget to save after a tough battle and have to do it all over again) when I plummeting to my death from the roof, I was faced with having to much of it all over again... sure, there is the "undo" command. I've generally conditioned myself into the habit of avoiding it.

But overall, I'd say the puzzles themselves are fair, if somewhat mundane -- I thought the puzzle using the briefcase to smash open the window was well-implemented. It told me that I'd bust my bare hands in doing so, so I, as any good IFer, immediately thought "where can I get some jelly-jam and brown paper"? But then I took a swing with the (metal!) briefcase and it was all good. Sure, the game would have lost serious points with me had it not implemented such an action -- certainly more than it gained for doing so -- but it's in scenes like that where I develop faith in my author / programmer.

Recent discussions on the IF newsgroups reveal that this is Weldon's first game -- although I have tried to develop a serious case of black nightrage so that such information will not affect my reviews, I must say that he's got the technical part of writing interactive fiction down fairly well -- some glitches in this game here and there, but nothing I found glaring or offensive. Should he manage to bottle up some inspiration or some sizzle for his next game, therefore keeping his player captivated during a game's (inevitable?) slow points, he's got an entertaining future ahead of him.



Simple Rating: 5 / 10

Complicated Rating:

Story: 6.5 / 10

Writing: 4 / 10 (there's nothing wrong with the writing... it simply didn't affect me emotionally)

Playability: 8 / 10 (quite approachable)

Puzzle Quality: 7 / 10

Parser Responsiveness: 7.5 / 10 (a mixed bag, in some cases...)

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