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October 31st
Author: Finn Rosenløv
Date: 2022
ADRIFT 5


Reviewed by Denk

DISCLAIMER: I beta-tested this game months before release but not the final version. As a beta-tester I couldn't rate this game during the competition.

Though I had been a beta-tester, I played this game during ParserComp as I was curious. Unfortunately, the first version had some major bugs and I ended up in an "unwinnable situation" due to bugs. A bugfix was released shortly after but it still had some serious bugs. After a second bugfix, the major bugs seem to be gone or I just got lucky. So if you found the first version too buggy, you might have better luck with the newest version. However, the early bugfixes could indicate that the game wasn't tested enough so there could be more bugs left.

I always rate the last version I've played. So this review is based on the third release (2nd bugfix) during ParserComp 2022. I release this review right after the competition has ended and I see that a post-comp release is now available.

In this game you have to spend the night in a haunted house due to a bet. Roughly, this game is about hunting and killing five monsters without getting yourself killed.

Parser: 6
The parser is decent most of the time though I noticed a few problems such as different responses when the player uses the word "it" instead of the noun. However, "it" seems to be working in most cases. Other easy improvements would be to make the books in the library be referred to by their titles in addition to "leather book" and their full 'names' such as "witch hunt book" as well as "witch hunt", "witch" or "witch book" which should have worked too.

Atmosphere: 8
The descriptions are thorough but not too long and gives a good atmosphere, especially when the player is hunted by a monster. As my mother tongue is not English it may be that I overlook some grammatical errors etc.

Cruelty: tough
You can get in unwinnable situations if you release a monster and meet it in the wrong place without the items needed to kill it so save often. However, it will normally be obvious when this happens.

Puzzles: 7
The puzzles were overall fine and fits with the setting. A few of them stand out by being better whereas some of the others are "well known classics" and hence not so original.

Overall: 7
The gameplay is fun and the monsters can almost be killed in any order. A few niggles: I think there are too many doors to open (most are not important to the gameplay) and the implementation could be better. In this 3rd release (i.e. 2nd bugfix) I saw no serious problems. If I had, my score would have been lower.



Reviewed by hawkbyte

October 31st is a puzzle adventure set in a house full of monsters. Overall, I enjoyed the game, but found its mechanical flaws frustrating.

Writing
Many of the descriptions are rather unclear: for example, I couldn’t tell whether the description of a door at the top of stairs had the door between me and the stairs, or the stairs in one direction and the door in another.

The game often attempts horror, but misses the mark: the writing gets overwrought, or tells me that something is scary rather than convey the actual feeling. That didn’t detract much from my enjoyment since it’s so heavily puzzle-oriented, except at the very last action, which IMO should be spread over a longer multi-command scene rather than delivered in one chunk.

Story and characters
Clearly not the focus: the game is meant to be an old-style puzzle romp. I’m very fond of those, so I don’t mind. The story is a thin pretext: the character came to the house for a bet and finds themselves trapped. The NPCs, whether friends or foes, are rather transparently mechanical and there to serve a puzzle.

In such a game, I’d expect the PC would be a blank cipher, and they mostly are, but a bit of personality comes through in their description: they think of themselves as handsome and kissable, with “piercing eyes” and a “chiseled jaw”. I expected a follow-up to that, and was looking forward to seeing the vain little jerk get taken down a peg, but apparently not. Also, they have no appreciation for good aged cheese.

Implementation
Serious guess-the-verb problems. For example, “dig” and “dig ground” and “hit ground” won’t do, only “break ground”. Likewise, “press fixed thing with portable thing” doesn’t work, only “press portable thing against fixed thing”.

The lack of implicit actions was infuriating. Why do I need to explicitly open every door every time? Why do I need to say “take leather book” and can’t refer to it any other way including by its title?

I’m told these are considered acceptable in the Adrift community, but I still don’t like them.

I did however appreciate that many small details are implemented, especially in the garden, where everything is gorgeously described.

Puzzles
The individual puzzles are fairly classic. My favourite was the kitchen one — still a classic, but a very different kind, followed by the one involving meat, which has an interesting twist in the mechanics (not sure if random or if I just couldn’t figure out the pattern).

They can be solved in any order except at the very beginning and end. However, my enjoyment was spoilt by guess-the-verb problems. Also, many puzzles don’t make sense for the character, who logically ought to leave well alone instead of inviting danger.

Help and hints
Very complete adaptive hints, and a helpful walkthrough. Having those definitely let me enjoy the game much more than I would have otherwise.


 Reviewed by Mike Russo

Welp, that’s done it. Having likened ADRIFT afficionados to sex deviants in my Euripides Enigma review, sniggering through my sleeve all the while, I’m eminently deserving of karmic retribution, and the gods of the ParserComp queue (it’s an important job, there have to be several of them) have seen fit to reward me with another ADRIFT game as a chaser. This time, instead of generic sci-fi plot #4, it’s generic horror plot #7 – spend a night in a spooky mansion – and there are once again definite warning signs in the introductory text (the distinction between EXAMINE and SEARCH is emphasized). But while the setting is just as generic as the premise, and there are some wonky puzzles, including some guess-the-verb fiddliness and read-the-author’s-mind shenanigans, I actually got along fairly well with October 31st. Partially this is down to personally finding Halloween monster-mashes more appealing than po-faced sci-fi bug hunts, but the game also paces out its challenges well, and provides both a hint menu and a walkthrough to help players get over some of the rougher patches.

The game starts out with some appropriately spooky build-up, as you slowly and trepidatiously make your way to the grim manse where the adventure is set. The prose nails a campy but still slightly spooky tone, which helps build anticipation for what’s to come – like, when you open the gate to the mansion’s grounds, you’re told that “almost reluctantly it swings open with the sound of a thousand tormented souls.” Fortunately, X ME discloses that we’re quite the matinee hero, and definitely up to the challenge: “your piercing eyes are set in a face with a straight nose and lips quite a few girls find very kissable.” Indeed – it’s not our fault that all said girls live in Canada!

Er, regardless, it quickly becomes clear that rather than simply snoozing your way through the night, you’ll need to take on and defeat a series of classic monsters – a witch, a skeleton, a mummy, etc. – before going up against their boss (Count Dracula, obviously). Oh, and there’s a ghost too, but he’s cool (he’s a well-implemented NPC, in fact, and I enjoyed my chats with him). Each baddie inhabits a different precinct of the mansion, and defeating each requires running through a short self-contained puzzle chain. This structure gives the player agency in deciding who to go after first, and also keeps the game’s pace up, since every time you get to a new part of the mansion you’ll do some initial exploration, then encounter the foe, then get the climax of beating them, before moving on. While the lack of interdependence does sometimes lead to moments of illogic in the puzzles – in particular, there’s a bit where you’re doing the classic newspaper-under-the-door trick, but you can’t use a short piece of wire to poke out the key because you got that in a different branch, so you need to find a comparable item in the nearby environment instead – it does work to cabin things, meaning I usually had a reasonable sense of which locations and which items I needed to poke at in order to make progress.

The puzzles are simple fare, but often with a small twist that makes them more fun – like, no points for guessing what you’ll need to do with the bit of cheese you find, but there’s an extra step you need to perform that means the puzzle doesn’t feel utterly generic. Per my complaints earlier in this review, there are definitely moments that had me running for the hints, though: there’s one place where EXAMINing a bit of writing tells you what’s written there, so I didn’t realize I had to separately READ it as well, and there’s a spot of gravedigging that’s rendered more challenging than it needs to be by the parser being overly persnickety about your word choice. This is an issue in several places, in fact – I guessed that there was something weird about the clock in the library, but could never figure out what precise syntax was needed to interact with it, and I wasn’t able to put a key object in a receptacle clearly designed for it until, running out of more plausible approaches, I tried PUSH KEY OBJECT WITH RECEPTACLE, which doesn’t make much sense. And I wasn’t able to actually win the game, despite getting to the final confrontation being pretty sure of what I’m meant to do, with the hints and walkthrough not providing the help I needed (and contradicting each other to boot). Still, for every iffy puzzle, there was another that worked well.

I can’t help listing the annoyances, but still, I enjoyed my time with October 31st regardless of some of these spikier bits, with the evocative writing, campy monsters, and fun-but-shonky puzzling carrying me through. I’m guessing the real classic text-adventure afficionados will find it more lightweight than something like the Euripides Enigma, but for the rest of us this is a nice, less-painful way to experiment with the style.

UPDATE: The author has confirmed that the issue highlighted in this review about not being able to finishing the game has been rectified.


Reviewed by Dorian Passer

Summary
On the outskirt of town on All Hollows’ Eve, I wander the grounds of an old manor, slowly learning about the grim history of its inhabitants. Then all of a sudden, before even entering the mansion, I receive a fright so terrible that I cease to exist!

What is a Mountain of Fun?
I use Barrett’s concepts of an allostatic-interoceptive brain to inspire a new model of fun, which I’m calling the mountain of fun. In a nutshell, this model compares and contrasts past and present experiences. But please keep in mind that since variation is the norm with people, there is a degree of subjectivity when using this model to describe one’s experience.

Brain too little just right too much
Sensory Input blocked focused unfiltered
Predictions offline online overloaded


blocked or offline = too many similarities to past experiences = UNDERWHELM
unfiltered or overloaded = too many differences from past experiences = OVERWHELM
focused or online = manageable amount of differences or similarities from past experiences = FUN

Ref Sensory Input Prediction Past Experiences Phenomenon Mountain
1 too little too little blocked, online UNDERWHELM foot
2 too little too much blocked, overloaded UNDERWHELN-OVERWHELM slope
3 too little just right blocked, online UNDERWHELM-FUN slope
4 just right too little focused, offline FUN-UNDERWHELM slope
5 just right just right focused, online FUN (a.k.a. learning) peak
6 too much just right focused, overloaded FUN-OVERWHELM slope
7 too much just right unfiltered, online OVERWHELM-FUN slope
8 too much too little unfiltered, offline OVERWHELM-UNDERWHELM slope
9 too much too much unfiltered, overloaded OVERWHELM foot


Area 1 and Area 9 are moments that are not fun.
Area 2 and Area 8 are moments that just pass the time.
Area 3 and Area 4 are fun moments that eventually become underwhelming.
Area 6 and Area 7 are fun moments that eventually become overwhelming.
Area 5 are moments that are fun!

Discussion
The introduction got me into a state of suspended disbelief. I was ready to walk through those manor gates to start exploring that spooky old mansion!

I liked the input’s autocomplete feature because it reduced delays for me. I don’t remember seeing this feature in Horsfield’s Euripides Enigma, but I played that game in a browser, so I don’t know if that made a difference.

The integrated hints kept my momentum going. For example, when I tried to , the system mapped my expectations to the affordances of the system. These integrated hints, combined with the author’s prose, gave me just enough sensory input as to not overload my predictions. For these moments, I feel that I am at the peak of the mountain at Area 5. I’m having fun!

Eventually, my inexperience with the genre’s conventions causes delays to occur more frequently, and I begin to seek more guidance from the comprehensive menu-driven hint system. To me, this hint system seemed like a metaleptic 1 character that took a conversational approach to gradually reveal its hints. It’s well implemented! (And I can’t help but think how it reminds me of my own approach to stateful media.) However, the hint system has a multi-step process to exit the system, and this process fast becomes tedious to execute; I find myself slipping down the slope into Area 4. Because this is mostly due to my inexperience, I’ll take the blame for this.

Finally, Windows 11 cuts short my reading time after Windows Security deletes the executable for the game.

Conclusion
I stopped after Windows Security on Windows 11 flagged and quarantined the game executable as a virus. Even though I presume this is a false positive, I was scared enough to stop. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to play anymore non-browser-based games for these competitions. Here’s a screenshot of the alert:

oct31_false_positive (not included on this page)

Despite this final surprise, I was enjoying my time around the manor grounds while it lasted.

Many thanks to Finn Rosenløv for making Oct 31st. and congratulations for being part of ParserComp 2022!!


Reviewed by Stack

Here’s another one it looks like I’m not finishing. The whole idea is that you’re spending the night in a spooky house full of Halloween monsters — at the very least, there’s a werewolf, a skeleton, and a mummy, and on the basis of the garlic and wooden stake in my inventory I’m going to go ahead and say there’s probably a vampire as well. Monsters are killed or escaped in time-limited chase sequences that can come without warning, so saving frequently is crucial. Other than that, it’s a largish exploration game with locked doors and secret passages. It has a bit of a problem with recognizing alternate phrasings, but nothing that an old hand like myself can’t power through with the aid of the in-game hint menu — very often, all I needed from the hints was confirmation that what I had attempted was the right thing, and all I needed to was to rephrase it until it worked. There’s my advice to the author: Accept more phrasings.

On the other hand, phrasing isn’t always the problem. Some of the puzzles are a bit too read-the-author’s-mind-ish, and I found myself playing mostly from the hints after a while. The reason I’m giving up on it at a mere 40% completion is that I finally hit a point that the hints don’t adequately cover — they advise recovering a ring stolen by a mouse by trading some cheese for it, but the mouse won’t take the cheese and I don’t know why.

Seems like it wouldn’t take a lot of reworking to turn this into a decent puzzle-based adventure game, though. It’s written in Adrift, but avoids the most common pitfalls of Adrift games, like overdescribing rooms.


 

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