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Crazy Old Bag Lady Reviews
Author: Sprite
Date: 2005

Reviewed by David Whyld

You can often tell a lot about a game by its title, and certainly Crazy Old Bag Lady is no exception. If you're looking for a serious or thoughtful game, look elsewhere. If you're in the mood for a laugh, keep playing.

It’s the story of, you guessed it, an old bag lady who’s a bit on the barmy side and her quest to find, of all things, a golden trolley. You see, she's been pushing around an ordinary trolley for years now and thinks it’s high time she found herself something classier. Hence the ‘Quest for the Golden Trolley’ kicks off.

This could have been an idea that backfired badly. Some mad old biddy hunting for a golden trolley doesn’t sound like the sort of premise that would produce a decent game. It sounds kind of… y’know embarrassing. And a bit childish. And downright silly. But, fortunately, it’s none of those. (Well, actually it’s very silly but that’s part of its appeal.) It’s very funny in parts and quite well written, with a difficulty factor set just high enough to make you think about things without ever becoming so hard you don’t have a clue what you're supposed to do next. For a game written by a newbie, it’s surprisingly good.

But not without its flaws. The first version of the game I played had a fatal bug which made it crash the moment the player entered the location directly to the west of the start location. This version, number two, has that bug sorted out but several still seem to have been missed during the testing stage. (Then again, I'm kind of wondering how the fatal crashing bug could have been missed during testing – it’s the type of incredibly obvious in your face bug that’s pretty difficult to avoid, and as it crashes the game for you, it’s not likely you could encounter it and not notice. That sort of thing indicates that whatever testing the game went through, it was minimal at best. Or maybe the writer decided to change things after the testers had finished. I think I’d sooner believe this last one because it goes a way towards explaining how such an error made its way into the game.) I spoke to one of my fellow homeless people – the amusingly named Ollie the Magic Hobo – and he asked me to find something for him. This was close by but harder to find than it might otherwise have been because the location I found it in was one I’d already searched before. Turns out the item in question doesn’t show up until after you’ve been asked to find it. Anyway… I found it, gave it to him, and then spoke to him again. And he asked me to find him the item. Despite the fact that I’d just given it to him. As I couldn’t perform another task later in the game without his aid, and I'm pretty sure there's no other way to get him on your side, it looks like this might well be another fatal bug. Funnily enough, when you examine Ollie, it actually tells you he’s carrying the item!

The hints system helps out quite often when you become stuck, although the game uses the built-in Adrift hints system which is a little flawed to say the least. It has the habit of providing you with hints about things you haven't come across yet and potentially spoiling parts of the game later on. Okay, it’s a fair point that if you're resorting to the hints and you haven't got the willpower to avoid clicking on a hint for something you haven't come across yet, then really it’s your own fault if you see something that spoils parts of the game for you, but I still think a custom-built hints system would have worked better. Aside from anything else, I've never been fond of the little box that pops up on screen to provide you with hints.

Crazy Old Bag Lady is populated by a few NPCs. Some of them – in particular your fellow homeless people – are quite interesting characters, full of delusions, mad characteristics (Scary Mumbling Man likes frightening youngsters to keep truancy down) and, ultimately, completely barmy. However, the non-homeless people leave a bit to be desired. They have names like Shop Gal and Shop Guy and getting anything out of them is difficult to say the least. Asking Shop Gal about Shop Guy indicates that she thinks he’s cute, but how you go about getting them together I've no idea.

Items covered in the scenery seem to be pretty much hit and miss. In some locations, you can examine just about everything. And I mean everything. In particular, in the first location there was virtually nothing visible to the player that I wasn’t able to examine, and the descriptions were all amusingly written. In other locations, the most basic items are missing. This adds another level of complexity to the game as examining your surroundings in one location yields nothing of any importance – indeed you get the Adrift default of YOU SEE NO SUCH THING flashing up on screen on numerous occasions – whereas in another it brings out an item you actually need. In the end, I found a good few items by the simple brute force method: just examine everything and see what shows up. Other times I ran into the problem of the game sometimes assuming EXAMINE [ITEM] and LOOK UNDER [ITEM] were the same thing and sometimes assuming they were different. So if there’s something hidden under, say, the sofa, you won’t find it by merely looking at it, you'll need to look under it as well. Elsewhere, you can find what you need by merely looking at things.

The object of your desire – the golden trolley – isn't difficult to find but it is difficult to retrieve. The game won’t let you retrieve it on your own, giving the somewhat implausible answer that you'll need to drop all your possessions or risk drowning in the process. Unfortunately, it also says this if you have dropped all your possessions.

I don’t really want to criticise this game too harshly because I liked it and I'm aware it was the first game by a newcomer to the Adrift scene. Bashing games by newbies is often remarkably easy – like shooting fish in a barrel, you could say – but at heart there's a very funny game here and, despite its many flaws, it’s still one of the better games that I've played this year. But it’s also quite a way from being well and truly finished. The fatal bugs aside, there are a number of guess the verb issues that should either have been picked up by the writer during testing – assuming the game was tested which, considering the fatal bugs, is perhaps doubtful – or at least by a beta-tester before release*. There are also quite a few obvious commands missed out** and another instance of the game crashing if you ask for help***. And something else really strange**** that might or might not be a bug. I can’t decide.

* The dumpster can only be opened with a certain item, yet OPEN DUMPSTER WITH [ITEM] won’t work whereas OPEN DUMPSTER will. There's a whistle with SMM on the side but trying to give it to Scary Mumbling Man or, indeed, anyone else in the game, results in you attempting to blow the whistle instead. If there's a way past this error, I never found out what it was.

** You can’t buy anything in the shop or the supermarket and keep being told that whatever you want to buy isn't for sale. Also, trying to take anything off the shelves hits you with a message stating that the shelves themselves can’t be taken.

*** The first time you get a few lines telling you off for asking for help; the second time you get an error message and then the game crashes.

**** Bend the paperclip and the game ends. Weird, huh?

On the plus side, Crazy Old Bag Lady has more than enough charm to gloss over its faults. It’s a silly game and has silliness throughout it: in the descriptions of every item you come across, the NPCs, the little quests, and so forth. If you don’t like silly games, you'll probably find the humour somewhat puerile but if you're a big kid at heart, you'll doubtless have a grin fixed to your face for most of the time.

Some of its faults can be attributed to sheer newbieness, i.e. not knowing what to cover, missing out things that someone with a few more games under their belt would have spotted, eliminating the dreaded guess the verb. Some of them unfortunately are down to simple carelessness. I'm only guessing here but I'd bet money on the fact that the writer never actually played it through to completion before releasing it. If she had, she’d certainly have caught most of the bugs I've listed above.

Fix the bugs and this would be a pretty impressive game. Still silly, of course, but then whoever said that text adventures had to be serious? The bugs, alas, stop me from really recommending it but hopefully by the time you read this review, they will have been fixed. All in all, it’s a funny, amusing little game let down by a number of bugs that definitely should have been caught prior to it being released.

5 out of 10 (was going to be 7 but then I knocked a couple off for the bugs) 

Reviewed by Robert Street

A not very serious concept, which pokes fun at the IF convention of picking up any objects that you see, even if there is no use for them. In fact it makes jokes about the title character being a computer game player gone bad. Now she just collects objects for no reason, but still doesn't like dropping anything. The starting inventory is an amusing collection of useless junk. 

Of course if the joke was only that there was a random picking up of objects, it wouldn't be enough to sustain a game. So, she actually has to solve puzzles as well with these objects. Actually, very few of the objects, apart from those that you start with, are red herrings. Almost all of them are used towards solving the aim of the game, which is the search for the golden trolley. I was almost hoping for a few more funny red herrings, but I admit that it would take a lot more work. 

Where this game is strong is in the humour and writing, with this game being very funny. The names especially are amusing. Just look at the title of the game for an example. Unfortunately there are quite a few problems, which blight this game. There are a number of spelling mistakes, which is something I am always very fussy about. There are points where the scenery could be a bit better implemented, especially in the corner shop where there seem to be no objects at all. A small bug is that the conversation with Ollie does not change after the task he asked for is completed. The worst bug is obviously a game killing bug with the newspapers, where no newspaper appears after the task is completed. This bug appears to be fairly late in the game. It is a pity, as I was enjoying it before my game playing experience came to an abrupt halt. 

Due to the good writing, I would like to give a higher score to this game, but with the current level of bugs, I can't. The low score below mainly reflects the game killing bug, rather than the rest of the game, which I would rate closer to a 6. Hopefully, the author will fix up some of the remaining problems. If she does, I look forward to completing the game in the future. 

SCORE - 3/10

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