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Chix Dig Jerks Reviews 

Author: Robb Sherwin
Date: 1999

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 Adam Cadre (SPAG #19 -- January 14, 2000)


So, does anyone disagree that this game contains the best writing of any game in the comp? Oh, you do? Hrm. Well, I think you're wrong. See, I'm not talking about the oh-so-very-hip ranting patter, or the universe of next year's slang, but rather about the frequent turns of phrase that make you say, "Yes! See, this is why language was invented." I'm talking about strings of words that are: (a) new, never before seen by either myself or Ezra Pound; (b) interesting, containing words one wouldn't expect to see together, yet which somehow match; and (c) evocative, creating a very precise mental image. Phrases like:

* "bathed in a honeycomb" Bathing in honey is vaguely interesting as an  image, but it brings to mind a marquise in the court of Louis XVI  reading "Tales of Ribaldry"; bathing in a huge-ass honeycomb, on the  other hand, is both fresher and more specific, beautiful in its own way   yet bizarre enough to avoid becoming saccharine.

* "chunks of desperate bride" "Bride" is a fairly charged word, and  "desperate" is on the powerful side in its own right -- putting the two together is a nice afternoon's work, but sticking "chunks of" in front  makes for an impressive coup de grace. And it even teaches some  valuable life lessons: nothing jams up blender blades like pieces of  Lisa.

* "enough bad habits to poorly clothe every single nun on the continent"  Without "poorly", this is lame. With it, it's freakin' hilarious.

And yeah, as that last entry indicates, this is clearly someone who has the goods. Discipline can be learned; much harder to learn is precisely why "yellowjackets" is the only word that will work in a certain spot and "bees" or "hornets" just will not do.

Sherwin also has his comedic chops down pat. The early line about the sneezing, the late line about getting out of bed in the morning... these are just a couple lines I'm finding randomly flipping through the TXD dump. There's one on every screen. Did I laugh, as with
King Arthur? Nah. It's a different kind of comedy. The King Arthur brand I laugh at, then forget; this is the sort that makes me sort of pause and nod and think, "Hmm -- that's *really* funny. Have to remember that one."

Moving outward, what about the game beyond sentence level? Here things aren't quite as strong. The instincts are good: combining disparate elements is usually a reasonably reliable formula for success. Graverobbers have been done; singles bars have been done; but graverobbers at singles bars? That's a new one (and a fricking *great* one.) I didn't even mind the left turn between the bar scene and the cemetery scene. But things do fall apart a bit after the bar scene draws to a close; the cutscene is just ridiculously overlong, and the sequence that follows is sort of a train wreck -- but hey, at least that implies the existence of a speeding train, rather than a Ford Aspire sputtering up a hill. And it is nice that so much of the game is character-based rather than centered around fixing air conditioners and such. The fact that the characters come off as characters rather than switch statements is an especially nice bonus.

That said -- you can have all the talent in the world, and you're still not going to turn out anything more than promising slush unless you buckle down and acquire the discipline referred to earlier. I would have loved to give this game a ten, but the sad fact is that it's buggier than a corpse left out in a swamp for three days. I understand the time constraints of the comp, but still, weird time-loop bugs and unfinishable climaxes are just not the sort of things that even a forgiving reviewer can completely overlook. In the end, the author ends up looking like a playground hoops legend: you can dazzle with your talent and jazzy crossover and whatnot, but you've got to put in a whole different kind of work to make the pros.

A footnote: this is one of *two* Comp99 games set in Fort Collins, Colorado. New York or Los Angeles or London I could understand as the settings for multiple games -- hell, even Seattle I could see -- but *Fort Collins*??

Score: EIGHT.

Reviewed by Bryan

As I write this review, I face a dilemma. I mean, it's friggin' obvious that I'm not going to blast my fellow Trotting Krip's game - even if he had written the next Detective I'd have to find some way to be kind. But the thing is that this game, that just happens to have been written by one of the webmasters of this site, really is something special: I've never played a game quite like it before. It drew me in from the start like no other game in the competition has so far. Very accessible, very playable, very funny. It kicks! It's not a matter of the game being average and me being biased. The game is excellent and I'd be a fan of it whether I'd ever heard of Robb Sherwin before or not. It's zat goot!

First of all, I should note that as I write this review I'm assuming there is going to be a post-comp release which fixes the bugs which really screw the comp version up (Robb's said there will be one.). So I'm just going to pretend the bugs don't exist there's only one which really bothers me, anyway). This will be nicer for all those involved, plus it means I won't have to change this review after the post-comp release. Hey, I'm lazy. So, the game is about this guy, and his friends, and lots of chicks, and some zombies and crap. You start off in a bar with your bud Keegan, who suggests trying to pick up chicks - seems like a sensible thing to do when in a bar with your bud, right? Sure. Then the game starts getting interesting. Utilizing the dialogue menu first developed by Adam Cadre for his game Photopia (you select what you want to say to a particular person by picking a line from several different choices - each choice naturally brings a different result. It's sort of like the interface in Martian Memorandum), you must chat up as many chicks as you can find with the express purpose of getting a couple phone numbers. Cool, huh? So get going! Even if you mess up by choosing obviously improper lines (a good bit of fun can be had by doing this on purpose, actually) there are always more girls to talk to. Even the monkey from Pass the Banana could figure it out! If you do succeed in getting the two phone numbers, there shall be more to do, of course. I won't say anything about it other than that a pickup truck and a graveyard are involved.

What is truly astonishing about this game is how free flowing it is. Most interactive fiction games are "pretty good" - many IF games are "really good" - a few IF games are "great" or even "brilliant", but most of them don't succeed in transcending reality to the point where the player can become completely involved in the game and forget for a few moments that he/she is just playing another lousy computer game. To a certain extent, Chicks Dig Jerks does this by placing the player in a friendly, open environment wherein he is allowed to roam unchained and unrestricted by the author. The game is straightforward and reasonably simple. There's maybe one "puzzle" according the Infocommian definition, but it makes a lot of sense, really, and you ought to be able to figure it out without too much trouble. In order words, this is not the sort of game to incite such remarks from its players' as "Damn this parser!" or "This puzzle is too friggin' hard!" The author has chosen to sacrifice challenge for gameplay (not a bad idea for a comp game, really), and I suspect most of his audience will appreciate it. We need good games that newbies can play to the end, y'know.

The plot of the game is kinda screwy. I think it is supposed to be making some sort of social comment about how people waste their lives chasing after the opposite sex when life as they know it is threatened by evil forces unnoticed, but I didn't really pay much attention. I like the plot, anyway. The writing is great. Funny, slangy, entertainy, sometimes digressive, sometimes straight and to the point. There's some swearing, too, but nothing terribly offensive. Likewise, there is some sexual content present but it's not really very offensive - less so than Sierra's Leisure Suit Larry series at least cuz there aren't any pixellated boobies or anything like that. (Sorry, I've always wanted to include the term "pixellated boobies" in an interactive fiction review. Ah, now I have! "Lizabeeth, I'm comin' to join yeh!") It definitely sets new standards for "adult" shareware interactive fiction after the horrendous series of AGT games (Susan, A Night With Troi etc) destroyed the genre's already non-existent credibility. In short, you should expect to have a hell of a half hour with this game. And who knows what other wonders Robb has in the development stage? It's scary to think about it.

Simple Rating: 8/10

Complicated Rating:

Story: 6/10

Writing: 8/10

Playability: 10/10

Puzzle Quality: 5/10

Parser Responsiveness: 9/10

Complicated Rating: 38/50

Reviewed by Ben

Rating: C+ (6/10)

Let me say up front that, other than certain references to specific elements within the game itself, I would give Apartment F209 nearly the same review as I'm about to give Chicks Dig Jerks. At one point I was going to review my own game, but I think this will suffice nicely.

Robb Sherwin is one of the greatest writers I've ever met through the internet. His unmistakably quirky style -- chock full of expertly wielded, deftly mutated street slang, juxtaposed wildly with obscure references to ancient, forgotten video games, all wrapped up in a pliable membrane of barely supressed, hormonally charged anger -- is undeniably irresistable. Plus, he's the funniest mufucka I know. It was primarily due to this that Chicks Dig Jerks was the very first 1999 IF Comp game I played.

Within thirty seconds of firing it up, it's obvious that Robb is in top form here. The first scene, in which the lowlife protagonist and his equally shady partner attempt to cull a list of phone numbers from girls at a nightclub, is rich, ripe material for Robb's venerable wit. The laughs come fast and furious as you engage in various stylized, crafted conversations with your buddy... and your prey.

Judged only on these qualities, the game is an absolute winner. Anyone wishing to be entertained needn't think twice. However, as the pre-eminent IF analyst of my time, I feel it necessary to review the game as a whole, rather than some of its parts.

As a game, CDJ does not hack it. The first half plays like a polished version of Human Resources Stories, as you spend most of your time picking prefabricated responses from dynamic lists in order to continue dialogues with the fine ladies. As long as you're not intentionally trying to incite a riot, it's very difficult to pick the "wrong" answers, and the story (such as it is) moves along quickly. However, the game begins to feel more like an SAT test (make sure to completely fill in the oval!) than an adventure game.

If CDJ simply stuck with this M.O., it would be easier to accept, but halfway through the game, the scene shifts wildly to a completely unrelated situation, with completely unrelated goals (note: they might not actually be completely unrelated, but... well, see below.) It is as if Robb wrote one game, said what he wanted to say, and then tacked on another game at the end to beef up the contest entry.

There is essentially one significant puzzle here, in the last half of the game. Bryan has praised it as being logical, and not succumbing to "guess the verb" syndrome. However, I required a walkthrough, because I couldn't guess the verb. In retrospect, I should have, so perhaps this is my fault. If I haven't said this before, let me make it clear, I'm not very good at text adventures. And it certainly could have been worse, what with the author being responsible for perhaps the worst "guess the verb" puzzle in the history of IF.

Both the author and a previous reviewer have commented on the number of bugs present in the game, so I won't harp on that, except to say that I was unable to finish the game, because towards the end, there is a bad guy who the player must kill, but before I could accomplish this, the bad guy mysteriously disappeared (although he was somehow able to keep shooting at me... figure that one out.) This relates to what I said above. The first half and the last half of the game might indeed be completely, rationally, logically related, and an epiphany may await in the closing chapter of the game, causing the player to reflect on what he has been through, then fall to his knees in a gesture of utter awe at the unmitigated brilliance displayed by the genius implementor...

...but I couldn't get to that part, so I couldn't tell you.

So that's it. As pure entertainment, CDJ hits the mark (though it suffers a bit from Full Metal Jacket Disease, in that the first half is markedly superior to the last half), and as a game, well, let's just say it won't win any competitions.

And F209 sucks too.


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