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Stiffy Makane: The Undiscovered Country Reviews 

Author: Adam Thornton as "One Of The Bruces"
Date: 2001
Inform


What does AIF stand for? Adult Interactive Fiction. If you likely to be offended by games with sexual content, you are advised not to open these files.


Reviewed Paul O'Brian

Note: If you're offended by obscenity, profanity, depravity, and what have you, please don't read this review. In fact, if you are such a person, please avoid any further encounters with anything that has the word "Stiffy" in the title, up to and including this review and (for God's sake) this game.

The original Stiffy Makane, a game authored by Mark Ryan and occasionally known by its full title, "The Incredible Erotic Adventures of Stiffy Makane", earned its place in the annals of... er, in the history of IF by being fairly vile in subject, extremely terrible in execution, and very (unintentionally) funny. It became the standard by which all other awful, poorly implemented, ridiculously puerile "adult" IF is measured. It even inspired a MSTing co-authored by one "Drunken Bastard" who, one gathers, may go by a number of other aliases as well. In short, this was not a game crying out for a sequel. Yet, here we have it. SMTUC is extremely vile in subject, fairly good in execution, and very (intentionally) funny, which makes it a real treat for anybody who can stomach an extremely vile game for the sake of humor. For those of you in this category, I'm loathe to spoil any of the game's wonderful, awful surprises, and I encourage you to heartily ignore any whispers of "moose cock" and suchlike that you may hear around the less reputable corners of the newsgroups. At least, ignore them until you play the game, and then don't hesitate to join in. For those of you not in this category: listen, I already warned you once, so just stop reading already!

SMTUC opened my eyes to several things that I could have happily lived my entire life without seeing, and put several images in my head that will no doubt haunt me to my grave, but it was a good time for all that. For one thing, it lovingly parodies not only the original Stiffy (not a tough target), but also an entire subgenre of games, the redheaded stepchild of IF: "X Trek" (also not a tough target, but what the hey.) These would be pornographic pieces of IF, mostly written in AGT, devoted to detailing the sexual adventures of Star Trek characters. Such things, I'm told, exist -- I've never sought or played one, due no doubt to my timid and puritan spirit. In fact, there's even an entire newsgroup devoted to them, alt.games.xtrek. I've never visited (see above for reasons), but rumors have filtered down to me that it's become a hotbed... er, a haven for attempts to write legitimate IF erotica, a form of which I have never seen a successful example, though I'll grant I haven't looked very... er, searched with much diligence. SMTUC is not an attempt at erotica, but rather a gleeful poke (okay, I can't keep avoiding it -- double entendres ahoy from this point forward) at "adult" IF as it stands. There's the requisite Horny Chick, whose uniform is just ever so "hot and chafey", and who, when coaxed out of it, is more than happy to perform the most obliging acts on the PC. One of my favorite lines of hers:

>feed rohypnol to terri
"No thanks, I already took some."

There's the aptly named Hot Chick, whose function the game makes clear:
The Hot Chick here is, as you have come to realize after innumerable runs through the holodeck, the reward for your puzzle. The logic is simple and always the same: jump through some hoops, get to fuck the girl. If only real life were so easy!

Indeed. Up to this point, the game is a standard, serviceable parody of AIF, with a few gleeful jabs at people on the periphery of the r*if community, such as Espen Aarseth, Chris Crawford, and Brandon Van Every. I'm not sure which I liked more, the IF-related parodies or the AIF-related ones.

However. The game does continue beyond this point, and it's here where we really cross the boundary into "the undiscovered" (at least by Stiffy, anyway.) I hate to spoil anything (and the following will be a medium-level plot spoiler, for those of you who care), but it's essential to the point I want to make that following these two fairly standard AIF bangs, Stiffy fucks (and is fucked by) a giant, hairy, male Space Moose. This Moose is Stiffy's mentor in the brave new world of homoeroticism, and thanks to the adroit manipulations of a not-at-all- neutral author, Stiffy has no choice but to enjoy it. And so we come to the thing I liked best about SMTUC: the game's (brace yourself) feminism. Yes, we get two scenes of the standard AIF objectification of female sexuality, though even these are subverted somewhat, given that one of the "women" is actually a rather unenthusiastic robotic hologram, and the other expresses strong dissatisfaction with the experience ("Barcelona sighs deeply, pushes you out into the hallway and snarls, ''Scuse me. I gotta go tickle the Elmo. Bye now.'") After this, though, the Moose makes Stiffy his bitch, and suddenly the predatory PC gets scored upon rather than scoring. (Well, he still scores -- one point, to be precise -- but you know what I mean.) By upending the traditionally male exercise of porno IF and making its PC the object as well as the subject of penetration (and penetration by a moose, no less), SMTUC takes a sly swipe at what's really offensive about most AIF: the fact that it takes one of our most intimate, personal human behaviors, and reduces it to an exercise in hoop-jumping, involving thoroughly dehumanized players. Honestly, I have no idea whether this was at all Adam's (oh sorry, "Bruce's") intention, but that's how it struck me. Is it some kind of revolution or great step forward? Nah, but it was fun to see (and hear, and read about) Stiffy hoisted, as the saying goes, by his own petard.

[Oh, I'm out of paragraphs and forgot to mention the music and graphics. So: Yay music! Yay graphics! (Well, except for one particular graphic that, however appropriate it may have been, I just can't say yay to. You know the one.)]

Rating: 9.2
 


Reviewed by Robb

After an hour of playing Stiffy Makane: The Undiscovered Country, I feel like I've been swimming in sewage.

OK, OK -- not at all, but blast it, that needs to be said by somebody about some game each year the interactive fiction competition exists, and we missed out on that last November. So I'll take one for the team this year.

The character "Stiffy Makane" is rather infamous within the dark, oft-shunted alleyways of interactive fiction that no-one likes to talk about. Occasionally -- if you're fast enough! -- you might catch a glimpse or hear a whisper about one of the previous games that feature this text adventure stalwart over on alt.games.xtrek... either The Incredibly Erotic Adventures of Stiffy Makane or the MSTKing of it that came out a while later. Stiffy has always been a man with a mission: whereas in The Incredibly Erotic Adventures it was to pop a lovely lady named Public Pussy Pamela, your mission this time seems to be more along the lines of seeking out new life and civilizations and sexxing up your crew members. It is with great pleasure that I am able to report that Stiffy Makane: The Undiscovered Country does its previous lineage proud, and not surprisingly, surpasses previous efforts (at WARP FACTOR 10 H4W H4W H4W!).

Though the reason it is successful has nothing to do with the Star Trek bits. It has nothing to do with the porn bits. Don't get me wrong -- those are usually two great tastes that, whether you like to admit it or not, often go great together. C'mon! Face it. There's a pretty good chance that if you found this page you've at least once comforted yourself with visions of being held within the manly grope of Kirk or Picard, or else comforted yourself with doing some groping towards Deanna or Seven. No dishonor there, this isn't a website that casts shame. But, no, I fell hard for this thing due to its mid-game which features one of the most hilarious mini-adventures I've ever found myself involved in with any game, commercial or freeware.

The scene takes place on the holodeck, which as every Trek fan knows, is a piece of technology designed to simulate a false reality and then attempt to override the ship's computers as soon as possible in order to kill everybody aboard, until Wil Wheaton can save the day with his overwhelming lack of personal charisma. Author Bruce has instead decided to deliver some serious ass-kicking to those angry, enraged denizens that have populated the rec.arts.int-fiction newsgroup over the last few years. The fellows depicted -- much like Worf when he found himself in the Robin Hood holosim -- are not exactly merry men.

It comes out of nowhere, yes. It's a non-sequitur. It's in-jokey. It contains dialogue that Stiffy has not previously been depicted as intelligent enough to hold, but it doesn't matter because it's a shock, it all comes together with so much craft and care, and it's just long enough to never get tedious. As it's based on computer game theory, it's rather predictable that I would personally be a big fan of it. But to that I say, simply: "well done" -- with all the games I encountered in the 2001 competition, this was the one that most played to what I'd already been in the mood for. It captured the zeitgeist of what I wanted out of entertainment software at this point in time. That's priceless.

And it must be said that carving a permanent grin on my face was necessary for me to finish up the game -- the Glulx interpreter I used to play it on Windows 98 had a bug where it would not accept text entry after a sound was played unless the scrollback button was pressed. As there are sound effects quite regularly throughout the game, it became quite a chore to keep going back and forth on that workaround. Strangely, the game didn't exhibit that behavior while in NT 4.0. Playing it on that operating system wasn't exactly an option as I only have access to it at work, and this is not the kind of game you want running on your system when somebody drops by to check on those TPS reports. It's a credit to the game itself that I didn't care -- while I am mostly easy-going with freeware games because they are usually created through a twisted merge of insanity and passion, a terp glitch like that would normally be a show-stopper. Er, except I kept furiously hitting my trakball in order to get the thing going again. But I'm confident that whatever problems the interpreter has will be sorted out sooner rather than later. There's enough momentum to the terp design where it won't be a problem in the long run, and there's enough comedy in the ware itself where it fails to become anything more than a minor distraction.

I must confess absolute wonder as to what place this particular game will finish in this year's comp. I see it as having the greatest standard deviation, as there's a good chance that Author Bruce will become both lionized and the new poster boy of immoral IF. But Stiffy Makane: The Undiscovered Country is ultimately wholly recommendable because it knows exactly when to fire off a snappy, witty retort and when to flash depictions of an infected gaping anus. This is the kind of delicate balance that most games can not hope to hold. I don't think, for instance, that our dearly departed Quentin Thomson would want to kill the designer of this one, as he kind of alluded to with the first Stiffy adventure. More impressively, with it being the third game in the Stiffy Makane line, it proves without question that not all odd-numbered Star Trek-based ventures completely suck ass. A wicked gem.



Simple Rating 9.1 / 10
This game got my first-place vote for the 2001 IF Competition.

Story 4 / 10
Let's face it, nobody's playing this thing because of the plot.

Writing 9.5 / 10
Chock full of comedic goodness.

Playability 7.5 / 10
My problems with the Glulx terp almost rendered it wholly unplayable -- literally, not from some pseudo-intellectual standpoint -- but that's a terp thing that I didn't even see on NT, for instance. As it's too much to expect that I'll come back and update this when they fix the interpreter, I'll meet it halfway.

Puzzle Quality 9 / 10
Anybody who wonders if I'd like the puzzle in the holodeck evidently needs to read a few more of these reviews.

Parser Responsiveness 7 / 10

 


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