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The Birthday Reviews
Author: Johnny Reb
Date: 2003

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 by David Whyld

In some ways, The Birthday harks back to the text adventures I remember playing in the 80's - a new illustration for each location - but for the most part it's firmly in the adult interactive fiction market of today. The premise is a simple one: your girlfriend is losing interest in you and you've got to find a way to win her back.

Graphics play a large part in this game, often concealing clues that are otherwise missing from the text. Unfortunately, a lot of what is in the graphics is misleading in the extreme as in quite a few locations at the start of The Birthday there are beds, desks, tables, etc that don't seem to exist in the locations themselves. Indeed, trying to examine them brings up a response that they aren't there! But they are. Definitely so. I can see them in the graphic so I know they are. In theory, this could have been a pretty neat idea - read through the room description then look at the graphic and see what you need to be examining. In practice, it doesn't work anywhere near as well. If the time was spent to draw the items in the graphic then time should also have been expended to put them in the location.

Another frustrating aspect of the game were, unfortunately, the bugs. And there were quite a few annoying ones. Trying to open a window led to me getting killed, and the text informed me that I had died because I had already opened the window fasteners (this I was told whether I'd opened them or not!) Another time, it was possible to look through a window and see my girlfriend in the room beyond, yet upon entering the room via the door there was no sign of her. Head back to the window and look through again and she has mysteriously reappeared! Strangest of all: entering the bedroom shows an empty bedroom yet if you knock on the door beforehand, your girlfriend is there! All this hinted at a game that was, perhaps, a little rushed in the writing and without enough due care and attention given to testing it out beforehand.

The score is one thing I found a little confusing. The maximum is 153 yet when I finished I had achieved well over 160 - this despite the fact that there were a few things I wasn't able to do!

A smattering of guess-the-verb puzzles were evident throughout. In one location "unlock drawer" worked yet "open drawer" didn't. Probably a matter of personal opinion as to whether this should make a difference but I, for one, felt that the two should be the same. There were also a couple of times when logic took a flying leap out of the window. In the shed I could clearly see a ladder hanging on the wall yet was unable to take it. Upon figuring out a way to light the shed I saw another ladder under the sofa yet was still unable to take it until I had produced still more light. Trying to move or lift the sofa didn't produce any noticeable response.

Overall I found The Birthday to be quite an easy and straightforward game for the most part. Items can mostly be found by examining what you see, although the use of all the items isn't always at first obvious. Indeed, by the time I finished the game, I had several items left over and no idea what to do with them. Fortunately there is a pretty good hints system at work here for when you run into those proverbial brick walls, and this, more than anything, got me through the trickier parts of the game.

Logic: 6 out of 10
The game had a frustrating habit of not describing countless numbers of static items. Then there was the strange problem in the shed when I could see a ladder yet was unable to take it without looking under the sofa. Why was this necessary if I knew the ladder was there and I was able to see it?

Problems: 3 out of 10 (10 = no problems)
I found quite a few things with the game that could clearly do with work on. Missing descriptions for static items, as stated above, were a big problem and the text being littered with spelling mistakes didn't help matters either. There were also quite a few times when I'd be told there was a cabinet/bed/desk/etc in the room description yet upon trying to examine it I'd get a message that such-and-such an item wasn't there! Another time the text tells me I've been given some money but my inventory disagrees. It's only upon opening my wallet (which I don't even have to be carrying at the time!) that I find the money.

Story: 4 out of 10
The storyline is one of The Birthday's weaker points. The general idea is to win back the love of your life and while there's a reasonably detailed background for setting the scene, there's precious little in the game storyline-wise.

Characters: 5 out of 10
Average for the most part. None really stood out but then none were particularly bad either. Lack of conversation was a major failing. For the most part, I didn't seem to be able to strike up a conversation with any of the characters. Talking to them advises me to try the "ask [character] about [subject]" mode of conversation, yet I was stumped about what to ask.

Writing: 5 out of 10
The style of writing varied from the good to the not-so-good. At times it was clear that English wasn't the writer's first language yet, saying that, there was nothing horribly wrong and nothing so glaringly bad that I was tempted to give up.

Game: 6 out of 10
Good points and bad points, but I felt the good points won out in the end. The Birthday isn't a masterpiece of a game but it is worth playing and the illustrations, while not masterpieces themselves, are good enough to make their presence here worthwhile.

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