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Buffy: Before the Date Reviews
Author: Archer
Date: 2011

Reviewed by ExLibris

Buffy: Before the Date puts the player in the role of Xander, who Willow has given the task of seducing Buffy. It's hard to work out at which point in the series this game is supposed to be set. The readme says it's in the latter half of season two, which is supported by the fact that Xander is on the swim team and going out with Cordelia. But if Willow realised she liked girls that early in the series (rather than in season 4) you have to explain why she spends most of the next two seasons in a relationship with Oz. Another problem I had is that I simply can't imagine Willow ever saying "I haven't completely {sic} given up on cock". Not in a million zillion years. At least Xander also thinks it's out of character.

Stripped of the fanfic elements, I don't think the concept is a very strong one, particularly since Xander is supposed to be acting as Willow's proxy so that she can vicariously fulfil her fantasy of having sex with Buffy. I would have preferred it if the author had cut out the middleman and made Willow the PC. Dialogue is a problem in the sense that there's not enough of it. Buffy and Willow have maybe three or four conversation topics each. Asking them about the other characters from the show, for instance, is mostly met with blank stares. The dialogue also doesn't do much to establish any kind of attraction or romantic interest from Buffy's side.

Descriptions are another weakness of this game, with some objects not being mentioned in the room descriptions (entertainment centre, oven), other objects being mentioned but not implemented (coffee table, stove), and yet other objects being implemented but not described (branch). There are also issues with synonyms, such as 'x shelves' working, but 'search shelves' not working. It seems superfluous to add that there are a lot of spelling mistakes as well.

The game's strength is the number of different sex scenes that it's possible to set up. That sets Buffy apart from the other games in this year's minicomp, and is why I ended up ranking it first in that area. Granted, none of the scenes are particularly deeply implemented. The 'Xander dominant' scene, which was the first I found, lasts a grand total of four actions, which was disappointing. The 'friends with benefits' one is a bit better, but I would never have gotten it without a walkthrough since it requires you to cut an object that doesn't have a description and without having anything to cut it with, open an object that's not mentioned in the room description, and use a verb that's not mentioned in the readme.

This was probably the most frustrating game in this year's minicomp. It's not lacking ambition (as evidenced by the multiple scenes) but it's let down by poor execution. In fact the multiple endings inadvertently lowered my opinion of the game by encouraging me to replay it several times, during which I was exposed to more and more of its problems. That's reflected by the fact that although I ranked it highly in one area, Buffy scored poorly everywhere else. I hope it's not the only game the author ever makes, because he does show a lot of promise, but his next game needs a lot more testing.

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