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The Camping Trip Reviews
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
Reviewed by Grimm Sharlak
Playing the role of a teenager who’s just completed his driving test, you, your
friend Mike and your respective girlfriends, Becky and Melissa, head out on a
camping trip. The lack of adult supervision gives you ideas for finally scoring
with Becky, while Mike and Melissa seem to be all over each other!
Things soon take a turn, however, as you and Mike enter a bet to see who can bed
Becky first (just to encourage you, of course), with Melissa as fair game as
well. The winner gets laid, the loser has to forfeit something to the winner…
GoblinBoy has made a worthy follow-up to The Baron’s Plot (although the real
sequel is coming) with a game that while in a somewhat familiar setting; horny
teens go off to camp, is an innovative and exciting game.
Camping Trip is never too taxing, puzzle wise, and the game flows nicely. The
camping area is small and self-contained, and most puzzles are solved by knowing
what to ask – indicated by
bolded text. As such, I was able to complete the game in quite an easy fashion,
without any hold-ups to speak of.
While some might think that having only two girls in the game would limit
things, but there are number of interesting situations, and both girls are built
up as being highly desirable throughout the course of the game, and not to
mention that the end game rewards are great…
The technical side of the game is handled well. The only bug I found (as this is
version 1.3) was you could end up wearing both your swimming trunks and regular
clothes at the same time. Not a problem except for in the game of spin the
bottle, but still noticeable.
The aforementioned spin the bottle game can get a bit grating, especially if
you’re going for the alternate plotlines.
The alternate plotlines, however, are handled well and I really enjoyed seeing
them. Not to mention what happens if you choose to go to sleep at different
times without anything interesting having happened with the girls yet…
The Camping Trip, while short, is a fun little romp with a surprising amount of
depth to it. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by BBBen (Inside
Erin Volume 4 Number 5 - May 2008)
You are going camping with your virgin girlfriend Becky, your best friend Mike,
and his slutty girlfriend Melissa. Mike issues a challenge to you - each of you
has to try and score with the other's girlfriend. Who will win, and who will
claim Becky's virginity?
Despite the praise and awards that other games by GoblinBoy have achieved, this
is actually my favourite of his games. It is, I think, the hottest one he's put
together and as a consequence (and because of the branching story paths) I have
replayed this one. There aren't too many AIF games that tend to warrant replay,
so that's pretty high praise.
There's definitely a dark side to this game - it has the twisted and
anti-romantic approach that GoblinBoy regularly employs, to give more of a
depraved sexual thrill than a wholesome one. This is particularly embodied in
the amount of sex the main character, potentially, watches his innocent
girlfriend have with Mike. It's not the kind of thing that I've ever had the
stomach to write myself, in past, but I can see why it's popular, and in many
ways stands out among AIF games.
This game gives the player two main, branching story paths. This is very
interesting, and probably the most impressive thing about the game. Figuring out
the puzzles to advance the plot or choose the plot direction isn't too hard, but
there are hidden things to find and a good level of interactivity.
There are some well executed moments, like the spin the bottle game, that mix up
the conventional AIF SSS gameplay, and give different approaches to similar
situations depending on the player's choices.
The sex is, unsurprisingly, the focus of the game. It works very well, though as
I commented before it's a little bit more perverted than some AIF sex. The 'wife
swapping' theme (though it's really girlfriend swapping, but you know what I
mean) throughout the game is explored quite thoroughly, as well as a fair bit of
teen/underage type sex. If those kinks work for you then this will be a very hot
game; if not then I'd avoid it, as you're definitely going to run into stuff you
won't enjoy, even on the 'good' path (where you win with Becky).
As I also said before, there's a lot of sex in the game, particularly at the
end, incorporating a mix of traditional SSSs, restricted sexual situations, sex
toys and a few commands that you cannot normally use in a game.
There may have been a few minor bugs in the first release, but as the game is
quite sophisticated that's excusable, and I believe the latest version is
technically clean. It's reasonably technically ambitious and still polished, so
that's very good.
There's a definite feeling of the author being really inspired in the writing of
this game, and that's very enjoyable to read. Of course, with the amount of
content GoblinBoy has produced recently he doesn't seem to have much lack of
inspiration, but this work is the one in which I particularly felt there were no
real 'going through the motions' moments, that will tend to creep into a repeat
author's games. This was GoblinBoy's second released game but apparently his
first AIF project, so it has the freshness of someone coming newly to the scene
with good ideas.
Every new author that comes along and really makes a mark in AIF always has a
few less inhibitions in certain areas than the authors that came before. This
can unleash a floodgate of imitators in some cases as the community accepts that
a certain kink is now okay. It hasn't happened too many times recently, and
hasn't really happened even with GoblinBoy, but I definitely did get the feeling
with The Camping Trip in particular that GoblinBoy was pushing certain
boundaries that had grown up in AIF. He's pushed them further since, but to my
mind this was the game that had the biggest impact.
I can't say that I really want to lose myself in GoblinBoy's world - it's too
evil - but it's definitely hot, and that's really the most important thing. I
debated whether to give this game an A+, but I think I'll leave that score open
for GoblinBoy's works in progress, to give him something to shoot for... Anyway,
top marks for effort, innovation and skill; this game is a keeper.
Reviewed by unknown.
I wrote the first draft of this review in 2009, in anticipation of the release of the
illustrated Camping Trip, which was then 'imminent'. A year later, when it was clear that it was no such thing, I cleaned it up a bit and posted
it on this blog. Recently a poster on aifarchive decided to ask what had
happened to it, which developed into a discussion of the School Dream series in
general. That motivated me to actually replay Camping Trip again and I ended up revising some of my opinions so
I've decided to revise the review as well.
Pared down to its bare essentials, the plot of Camping Trip
presents its protagonist with a classic problem. Should he wait for the pure
and innocent blonde that he has real feelings for, or should he go with the
slutty red-headed sexbomb who’s willing to put out right now?
Prior to the release of Camping
Trip, most AIF didn't see that as a problem, and the PC was typically
allowed to live the fantasy of having his cake and eating it too. However, in Camping Trip it's a meaningful choice
for two reasons. The first is that it sends the story down one of two divergent
branches (although they ultimately re-converge at the end), which in 2006 was a
radical innovation. I remember being blown away by the concept, and it was
certainly my dominant memory of Camping
Trip when I first came to replay after the release of SD3.
The second reason is that the decision potentially has negative
consequences for the PC. Previously in AIF, if the PC cheated on his girlfriend
she either never found out about it (eg. Last
Hurrah) or she was actively encouraging it (eg. Gamma Girls). In Camping Trip,
not only can Becky find out, but it drives her into the arms of the PC's rival,
which is a dramatically powerful moment. The idea that decisions have
consequences is a distinguishing feature of many of Goblinboy's games, and I
think is part of what lifts them above being simple wish fulfilment tales.
Although these factors ensured Camping
Trip's place in AIF history, I think they're executed better in Goblinboy's
later games. Looked at objectively, the choice confronting the PC isn't in the
same class as 'Betty or Veronica?'. Becky is the girl the PC has had a crush on
for ages, while Melissa is the school bike (and presumably the PC could have
had a ride by now if he wanted). However, the protagonist's age makes it
somewhat believable, and doesn't alter the fact that it is a significant choice
within the context of the game.
The problem is that that's almost the only choice the player ever gets
to make. It would be facetious but literally true to describe Camping Trip as a character-driven game,
as the NPCs are always telling the PC what to do next. Mike suggests the bet
and spying on the girls, Melissa suggests playing spin the bottle and going on
a hike, Becky tells the PC when they're going to have a meaningful
conversation, and so on. In effect the player is railroaded through the story.
Sometimes the plot train even stops at a station and the player has to wait
patiently for one of the NPCs to announce the next destination.
Camping Trip succeeds brilliantly in the one place where it's
non-linear, but I found the rest of the plot to be much less satisfying and
compared to SD3 it feels extremely restrictive. Fortunately the basic story is
interesting and eventful, which makes the passivity it forces on the player
Mike is probably the strongest character in Camping Trip, which is reflected by the Best Male NPC Erin that he
won. That award described him as a character you "love to hate",
which begs the question of why the PC is friends with him. After all, Mike gets
the PC to agree to a bet despite the terms being wholly to Mike's advantage.
Would you really give someone else permission to hit on your girlfriend just as
you were getting somewhere with her, bet or no? Again, the PC's age gives this
situation a veneer of believability, but the fact that the player can probably
see that Mike is taking advantage of the PC makes Mike an unlikeable character,
as well as increasing the distance between player and protagonist.
Typically, Goblinboy's preference is to leave the PC as undetailed as
possible, which can be both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing in a game
like SD3 where the player has a lot of different options open to them, and can
thus personalise the PC by the choices they have him make. However, in the case
of Camping Trip where the player is
straitjacketed by the plot, I think it's more of a curse. Given the actions the
plot forces the PC to take, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that he has a
very similar outlook to Mike and doesn't have any deep feelings for Becky
(which makes the PC's 'anger' after catching her with Mike seem much more
manipulative), so there's really little point in keeping him undetailed. The
only other possibility that occurs to me is that the PC is simply not very
bright, and is therefore oblivious to how Mike manipulates him. That's
inadvertently supported by how rarely the plot allows the PC to do anything of
his own initiative.
Melissa is the closest to being a straight stereotype. That isn't
problematic in itself as 'types' are a convenient characterisation shorthand,
but the plot requires us to believe that she and "prim and proper, Miss
Becky Johnson" know and like each other well enough to have a side bet of
their own going. Given what Melissa says about Becky when she's not around,
that hardly seems likely. Those comments wouldn't endear her to someone who
likes Becky either, but Melissa’s nasty streak is one of the things that lifts
her above being a mere stereotype.
Looking at Becky now, I find it hard to avoid seeing her through the
prism of SD3. That was certainly a trap I fell into when I first wrote this
review and described her as "more rounded and believable" than
Melissa. It is true that Becky is superficially the more realistic character,
especially once Melissa starts telling the PC about some of her exploits.
However, in my opinion what stops Becky from being a believable character is
the extent to which her actions are driven by the demands of the plot. For
instance, the player is forced to believe that she's both a shy virgin and the sort
of girl who lets another guy stick his hand down her shirt if you turn your
back on her for ten minutes. Yes, it's a plot device to suggest that Mike has a
chance of winning the bet, but it's far from believable. Even less believable
is the way she hurls herself at Mike if she catches the PC with Melissa, a
reaction that made me fear for her mental state. If their positions are
reversed, Becky seems desperate to earn the PC's forgiveness, which is
ultimately why she gives up her virginity to him. Hardly the most romantic of
situations, and it doesn't paint Becky in the most flattering of lights either.
The whole thing is rendered less believable by the fact that it's never
revealed why the PC inspires such devotion. In fact, it's just conceivable that
Becky's behaviour is merely an act she's using to help her win her bet with
For their time, the NPCs of Camping Trip were well implemented. However, I think that
Goblinboy's ability to write characters for interactive fiction improved
greatly over the next three years. Like the plot, the characters of Camping
Trip are a mixture of good and bad. The troughs aren't as deep, but the
peaks aren't as high either.
If Camping Trip has an obvious weakness it's probably the room
descriptions, which are functional in that they tell you what the room is and
where the exits are, but don't add anything to the game. Descriptions of
characters are likewise minimalist, giving you enough detail to distinguish a
voluptuous redhead from a slender blonde but not much more. This is one area
where the addition of pictures could improve the game. A picture isn't
necessarily worth a thousand words, but it's certainly more evocative than a
bland two sentence description. Seeing Mike in his full Hawaiian-shirted glory
would count as something of a mixed blessing though.
I don’t think that Camping Trip’s weaknesses in this area were
due to Goblinboy being a poor writer, although he's certainly improved over the
last six years. However, it’s fairly clear that non-sexual description is the
part of making a game that he has the least interest in.
Although it looks like there's a lot of sex in Camping Trip,
there's actually slightly less than you might think as quite a bit of text gets
reused in multiple scenes (I even noticed a few lines that make a return
appearance in SD3). A side effect of the arousal system used in Camping Trip
(and most AIF at the time) is that the player will see a lot of repetitions of
the same lines anyway, so using them in different scenes doesn't make things that
much worse (and a man who implements a foursome has some excuse for taking
shortcuts elsewhere). This is another area in which adding pictures could
improve the experience for the player. Different pictures would reinforce the
fact that they're different scenes, even if some of the text was the same.
However, I didn’t find any of the scenes as involving as I might have,
which I think is a consequence of the passive role that the player is forced to
take. The player doesn’t so much pursue the two girls as wait patiently until
the plot delivers them. It didn’t help that I don’t find either Mike or Melissa
to be likeable characters, which is probably why I’d nominate the foursome as
the scene I had the least interest in. It’s a kind of epilogue, so it doesn’t
relate to the main story in any way and, like the bet, the plot train runs over
the PC. He’s in a mÃ©nage a quatre now, like it or not. Still, you can't deny
that it's technically impressive. Then, as now, foursomes were rare commodities
and it probably deserved the Erin it won on
Trip lacks much in the way of non-sexual gameplay. As
mentioned above, there's only one point where the player is given any freedom
to act. Otherwise, he's just led around by the nose since the game (in the
shape of the NPCs) always provides clear instructions regarding what the player
should do next. Likewise, outside of the sex scenes, the gameworld provides
very little that can be interacted with.
From small things like being able to unbutton or lift clothing to more
obvious technical flourishes like the dynamically generated daydreams, Camping
Trip is a highly accomplished game. It's all the more impressive when you
remember that it was only Goblinboy's second release.
Of course, nothing is ever perfect. In particular, the daydreams seem
like a waste of effort given how unerotic they are. It would also have been
nice if Becky's response to be asked about Mike changed after the PC catches
her with him. And the decision not to at least implement a response to trying
to hit Mike frankly mystifies me. But those little quibbles can't overshadow
just how strong Camping Trip is in a technical sense.
Camping Trip was undoubtedly the game that made Goblinboy one
of the AIF community's pre-eminent writers, although he quickly surpassed it
with Key To Eternity. Camping Trip's main strength is its design
and the amount of effort that went into converting that design into a reality,
something that's become a Goblinboy hallmark. The weaknesses are perfunctory
descriptions and a plot in which the PC is largely a passenger.
Although Camping Trip is a sentimental favourite of many, it's
now six years old and it just doesn't measure up to Goblinboy's more recent
works. For that reason, my gut reaction is against rereleasing it with pictures
because that would only invite closer comparisons with SD3. A 'gold version'
that improved the writing, plotting and gameplay would be the preferable option
in my opinion, especially since some rewriting would be required anyway, since Camping Trip explicitly states that many
of SD3's characters are underage. However, given how much work that would
require, I'm unconvinced that it would be worth the effort.
Camping Trip has earned its place in
AIF history, but ultimately it is history now. Let it rest in peace.
Overall score = 66%
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