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Author: Blue Roses
Reviewed by Lumin
Recently there's been some discussion on the forum about whether more adult themes could successfully be integrated into regular IF, and of course the topic naturally turned to AIF. I'd played a couple of AIF games in the past that left me with no absolutely no desire to ever play another, but after all the talk I decided to give the genre another chance.
At the AIF Yahoo group there seemed to be a lot of buzz about one game in particular; most of the discussion seemed to about hints, but since not a single person complained or mentioned any flaws, I assumed this was a pretty standard example of modern AIF, and went ahead and downloaded it. "The Cabin", by Blue Roses, starts o ff with the PC, a famous AIF author, renting a cabin in the woods to get away from the media and his many fans for a little while. As an intro, it's rather sparse and feels tacked on, but there's nothing overtly awful about it, so I soldiered on. The first thing I notice is that for all the money this rich and famous PC must have, he's apparently rented the most boring cabin in the world. Room descriptions are the very basic 'list the objects, list the exits' variety, which struck me as a huge missed opportunity, as I'd imagine that if the author had taken the trouble, a lonely cabin in the woods could have added a lot of atmosphere in a game like this. Objects are even worse, with some not even described and the rest with one-line descriptions that barely tell you anything about what you're looking at.
For example: x couch
It's a nice couch, a bit old perhaps.
It's a normal table.
They are cheap looking chairs.
The fireplace is already filled with wood.
Etc, etc. Lighting the fireplace changes the description to "The wood in the fireplace is burning." Wow, how romantic. Not. And where's the bearskin rug, dang it?
Well okay, that's unfair. It's pretty obvious that romance wasn't what the author meant for the game to be about, though in my opinion what it is about is much less interesting.
The game really starts when a woman comes into your cabin (without knocking, how rude) to give you a neighborly hello. A very neighborly hello as it turns out, as after exchanging about two sentences with you, a man she's never met before in her life, she's ready to go to bed with you with no preliminaries whatsoever. Though in this case "go to bed" is only a figure of speech, as in actuality she's ready to do it right there on the living room floor. Oh yes, I had a new neighbor move in last week and I assure you that that's exactly how it works. Baking cookies is so 1950's. (On another note, if "show [part of anatomy] to woman" is considered an acceptable way for a guy to let a girl know he likes her, then I'm not nearly as scared of that half of the species as I should be…)
The rest of the "encounters" are just as believable as the first, so suffice to say that things like "plot" or "character development" are not on the menu. But then again, this is AIF, so it's not like I was expecting it to be freakin' Gone With the Wind to begin with. I would assume that most fans of the genre would probably be happy with well-written sex scenes, and screw everything else. (Pardon the pun.) The thing is, they're not well written. In fact, I couldn't find much in this game that was well written at all.
A glance at the readme file will reveal three interesting points. The author says they didn't beta-test (obviously), but they used a spellchecker (doubtful). They also say they aren't a native English-speaker. That actually surprised me, because usually I can tell if a person isn't used to the language or not by the wonky syntax, but at the point I'd gotten to in the game so far, the only strange wording I'd come across was the subtitle, "Inspiration does not come standard," whatever that means.
Personally, I'm of the belief that an author, whether of regular static fiction or interactive fiction, should be responsible for knowing how to write properly in the language they've chosen to write in. (Which is while you'll never catch me trying to write in Spanish, despite being fairly familiar with it.) Even then, though, I'd be likely to cut a game a little slack if I knew the author was a non-native speaker. But that's just a side note. The truth is, Blue Roses knows English surprisingly well. The problem is that he (or she) just doesn't seem inspired to do very much with it.
You see, I'm pretty sure that things like punctuation are pretty standardized no matter what language you're speaking. Sure, there may be small differences, but I believe that most people will be familiar with concepts like "putting a period at the end of a sentence," and "proofreading your work for obvious errors."
Punctuation is probably the worst problem here, and acts as a constant
distraction and annoyance. The dialogue is especially bad, as the game seems to contain everything from:
["Blah blah blah." She said.] to ["blah blah blah" she said.] to ["Blah blah blah." she said.]
Once or twice I did spot a correct use of dialogue tags, but it still seemed like the author was either not paying any attention to what they were typing
whatsoever, or else they had no idea how dialogue tags worked and were just trying a little of everything in hopes of getting something right. (Hint: Try picking up any novel you can find and opening it to a place where the characters are talking to each other. The first page, for instance.)
For this reviewer, at least, things like this, as well as some guess-the-verb and a myriad of smaller annoyances and inconsistencies were enough to put the final nail in this game's coffin.
Still, I hear you ask, was it really that horribly, painfully bad? Well, it was pretty bad, but then again, I've played worse. The reason I may be being a
little harsh is because I take the author's comment on how they didn't get "The Cabin" beta-tested as a tacit admission that they knew the game was unfinished when they released it. And even if they hadn't had beta-testers, I get the impression the majority of the errors could have been avoided even if they'd played through the game even once or twice by themselves. My only conclusion is that this game is bad due to sloppiness, and in a non-comp game with no deadline there's simply no excuse for it.
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