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Gorxungula’s Curse Reviews
Author: Duncan Bowsman
J. J. Guest
How Gorxungula’s Curse came seventh out nine entries in Abbie Park's Odd Competition, I'll never understand. Eight years have passed, and apart from the one I wrote, it's the only entry I remember. It remains one of my favourite Duncan Bowsman games. I suppose we gravitate to people we admire, and not long after the Odd Competition I got in touch with Mr Bowsman and mooted the idea of collaborating on a game - sadly that association has yet to bear fruit, but I live in hope.
Duncan is a prose stylist who varies his style according to the needs of each project. Here, he writes in the herky-jerky fashion of a carnival ghost train. Abruptly changing direction and crashing through our expectations like bang doors, his writing leaves the reader with the same weightless feeling in the stomach as a thrill-ride. You never know what's coming up next, but it's always the last thing you expected. Bowsman possesses the admirable talent of being able to take elements that have no business being together and forge them into a seamless whole. It looks effortless, but I suspect that this is an illusion, and like the proverbial swan Bowsman’s legs are going like the clappers beneath the surface of the pond.
Gorxungula’s Curse might look at first glance like something thrown together in five minutes, but then you look at the detail, and it’s like a Fabergé Egg, albeit one made from odds and ends from a wizard’s attic. He’s a consummate wordsmith, raiding the second-hand stores of literary history for forgotten treasures and stringing them together like a Dadaist shish kabob that somehow tastes… delicious. He is not afraid of inventing a new word when nothing in the dictionary will suffice, or of resurrecting some archaic term to do his bidding like an Atlantian mummy in a Clark Ashton Smith story. It’s this love of words, and the sheer joy of jamming them together that give his work such energy and colour.
Don’t get me wrong. Bowsman is quite capable of writing a straight story with beginning, middle and end all present and correct and in the right order. Irvine Quik, though quirky, is a great example of this. But it’s these bold experiments of his that I enjoy the most. They’re the text adventure equivalents of Captain Beefheart songs, and in a medium increasingly full of audience-pleasing pabulum, that’s sometimes exactly what we need.
Reviewed by Abbi Park
Gorxungula's Curse, by Duncan
Bowsman (5 rooms, 7 objects, 11 tasks, 9 events, 3 characters)
1. What was your initial impression of the game, when you first opened it up, and how did the game compare?
Nice intro screen. I hoped I wouldn't have to type "gorxungula" very much. Uh... the game seemed weird. And it was.
2. How did the author do within the restrictions?
Fine. The room descriptions and directions/movement were put together kind of confusingly, but overall, the use of things was fine.
3. How were the puzzles and/or storyline?
Other than one, simple. That one? Pretty much invisible to me. The story was strange and disjointed, but I suppose it was meant to be, whether I accept that as an excuse or not.
4. What did you like best about the game?
After looking at the hints, I now appreciate the cleverness of the thing I would never have thought to do.
5. What did you like least about the game, and how could this be fixed?
I never would have figured the last thing out. Perhaps make it a teensy bit more obvious somehow?
6. What stood out most to you from/about this game?
The game's strangeness, and the unique puzzle I mentioned.
7. How did this game compare with the others in the competition and/or what set it apart?
Oddest descriptions. I guess that kinda fits the title of the competition.
Any other comments?
The very-end-ending didn't quite fit. It almost did; I wanted it to... yet it didn't. Not quite.
I wanted the rabbits to have more involvement in the game than they had.
Reviewed by revgiblet
You don't have to be mad to work here, but it
AWARD: The "Well, I thought it was funny" Award
Another game with a nice title page. I'm pleased that so many of the authors bothered to try and make their games look nice. Have a balloon.
The award says it all really. I can imagine a few raised eyebrows and "meh"s when this game gets played. It's pretty simple and lacks the bold vision of some of the other entries. The restrictions of the competition are probably mostly obvious in this game. In fact, it could even be construed as a joke entry, with such IF conventions as telling you that you shouldn't go west and instantly killing you (with no explanation as to why or how) if you do, but blow all that for a game of soldiers. My notes say "Anarchic and wonderful" so I'm going with that.
In fact, there's a puzzle in this game that essentially rewards you for being rubbish. It might seem unfair and obscure, and I don't plan on making it any clearer for the reader, but needless to say that I completed this game without needing to cheat despite not knowing how the gold coin ended up in my inventory. Because I tend to be poor at IF, I applaud this stroke of condescension.
And yes, I did find it funny. Uncertain Toast is a brilliant room, and I defy anyone to disagree. OK, it's hard to describe this as a 'great' piece of IF - and the ending which was clearly supposed to try and add a little sanity to the proceeding didn't really do it for me - but it's the humour that counts for this piece. I totally recommend playing it while listening to Soul Coughing's Bus to Beelzebub. I preferred this to author's other entry, but then I think that Return of the Jedi is under-rated, and I suppose that I'm easily pleased.
Reviewed by Dan Blazquez
A very strange journey into the
depths of the author's imagination. The world of Rabbits is populated with weird
characters and even weirder locations, all described with a highly unique
writing style. The plot is obtuse, with a clear understanding of what you
have to do, but not why - a decision that I think helped fuel the
craziness of this game. I think Gorxungula's Curse is one of the more clever
games in the competition, although the game is hard to swallow at first. The
style of the prose is inspired and really grew on me as I began to make sense of
this highly surreal game.
Overall, some really awesome ideas were thrown in. The Uncertain Toast room was the best part, hands down. That had me laughing out loud at just how bizarre this piece of interactive fiction is. One of the puzzles is a wicked curveball of a thing that had me grinnin' when I figured it out (without hints, ha!), but other than that the proceedings are very simple and linear.
It is rough around the edges, though. Coding is not a strong suit of this adventure, but thankfully the game moves along nicely, unhindered by tough puzzles or atypical commands. It felt disjointed, perhaps rushed? Duncan's other entry shows that he can clearly craft a polished adventure, leaving me with the idea that Gorxungula's Curse was created later and without as much TLC.
What really makes Gorxungula's Curse stand out among the competition games (in my opinion) is the presentation - the writing style, humorous characters and bizarre locations all add up to make a game that is highly original and a breath of fresh air... no canned sci-fi or fantasy setting here! Something about this nibble of fiction really tugs at my inner love of writing and reading. Great use of alliteration and other creative writing tricks shows off the author's handle on the english language.
A bite-sized wonderfully imaginative work that leaves a bit to be desired in terms of length and technical fluency, though how much of this is due to the restrictions is unknown. For a player like myself Gorxungula is great - exciting, completely unique, and memorable.
Reviews should be considered copyrighted by their respective authors.
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