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A Dog's Life Reviews 

Author: Gary Plume
Date: 2012
Inform


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 Rip_CPU

I just wanted to congratulate Gary on a very well made entry. It's obvious you put a lot of effort into this game, and I think in terms of mechanics and concept this is one of the most impressive games in this year's mini-comp. Looking back at it, it definitely fits all the size requirements for the comp, but it doesn't FEEL like a "mini" game, it is fleshed out enough that it feels like a full game, which is quite a feat.

The only major problem with the game is, I think, the difficulty. Part of it is intentional difficulty, but part of it is also poor communication or poor design. In the majority of AIFs, it's rare you can game over, and even more rare for the player to die. If you ARE put into a situation where it's life or death, the game is usually quite clear on that, and also fairly clear what you need to do in order not to die.

In "A Dog's Life", it's far too easy to die. Now, in some parts this is pretty well implemented. For example, during the part when Devan breaks in. If you don't deal with him correctly, you die, but we are explicitedly given a number of options in how to deal with the intruder, if one method doesn't work we know exactly what else to try.

But there are a number of other places where the game over comes suddenly and completely unexpectedly. For example, at the very beginning of the game. If you don't find the correct way of dealing with Devan, you die in 3 turns. If you figure out that you're supposed to bite the tie (not too difficult), then you have precisely ONE turn to correctly enter the proper command before you once again, game over. That was frustration due to poor design. Most IF you expect to be able to look around, to examine things, to experiment with commands to see what works. In this case, we're given very little context at the start of the game, and before we have time to look around we game over. The guess the verb problem common to most IF games didn't help. (it wasn't obvious that "drop tie" was the correct syntax. I tried "stop biting" "let go", "release tie", "release Devan" and also tried to bite other body parts.) In this case, it would've been much less frustrating if you had given say, five or six turns before Devan choked to death, allowing some time for players to experiment. Or alternatively, just put both parts into the initial "bite tie" command, no need for a separate "drop tie".

The next part in the game where death was too unexpected was right after the run in the park. In this case, the puzzle was well designed. Once I figured out what to do it felt very clever. But the problem was that there was that the game never communicated to us this is why we're dying. I imagine that there is a point threshold? That if you don't earn enough points while in the park, you die. But the characters never tell us this, and the game doesn't tell us this. Most players get through the tricks portion perfectly, Kayden is laughing and praising us, and then suddenly after we run back it's all tears and "Sorry, we're putting you to sleep.". Not only was it difficult for players to tell where we went wrong... it also felt like a ridiculous break of character. One thing you could've done to help players understand where they're going wrong is if Kayden got more obviously upset when you don't keep up. Also, and there may be a technical reason, but could it not have been possible to use "run slowly, run briskly, run quickly" etc? Stroll, trot, lope... etc are not the most intuitive commands. Even after I figured out what to do I had to write it all down and constantly refer back to it to see which one does what.

Aside from some problems with execution though, the game really is quite well made, and as I said it's extremely clever and creative. Bestiality isn't everyone's cup of tea, but this is still a very nice little game. Keep up the good work, I hope we see more games from you in the future!


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