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Irvine Quik & the Search for the Fish of Traglea
Author: Duncan Bowsman
Date: 2012

Reviewed by Brian Rushton as "MathBrush"

This game is big and complex, with 6 chapters (albeit some very short), real-time sequences, and a special helper robot.

But in all of its complicatedness, the game frequently falls short. Too many interacting states go unchecked. I couldn't progress past the challenge to the champion, and others have reported many other bugs (although several have played to completion).

You are the last human, a mouse-like man named Irvine. You have to help the cat-aliens (who have a system that reminds me of Star Trek), and prove yourself to them.

Reviewed by Wade Clarke

In a competition close shave, I completed Irvine Quik & the Search for the Fish of Traglea in exactly two hours. This absurdist space adventure, whose title causes my mouth to do everything it doesn't want to do at once if I say it aloud, puts the player in the role of its eponymous goofball as he and the Interstellar League of Planetary Advocacy try to save an endangered fish in order to save an endangered planet in a universe mostly populated by cat people. With its distinct aesthetic of cute humour, diverse environments, a big roster of NPCs (including a fully staffed ship) and cat-fu karate sequences, this adventure is potentially one of my favourites this year, but I have to temper that statement with observations of its moderate bugginess and the attendant difficulties. The only ADRIFT-based game I've played with a bigger scope than this one was last year's mighty Cursed, and perhaps in a similar manner to Cursed, it's the ambitiousness of Irvine Quik which opens it up to a greater range of bug possibilities. I played the game using the aging Mac Spatterlight interpreter, which I've noted is solid for ADRIFT 4 games (ADRIFT 4 is now a static development platform) but which was incapable of recording any transcripts in the case of this particular game.

IQ, as I'm now going to call it, makes a strong impression of novelty and helpfulness through its opening screens. Alliterative taglines that would work well on sci-fi B movie posters describe the options available. It is surprising to find that you can start playing from any one of the game's six chapters. If you admit that you don't know how to use a HiRBy (your floating, grabbing robot pal in IQ) the first chapter will begin to play itself, slowly typing out the introductory commands before your eyes to show you what to do. On the other hand, if you answer "No" to the broader "Have you played interactive fiction before?" question, you seem to get almost no additional tuition at all, but the game does offer a VERB command which will list a minimum set of commands needed in the current chapter.

The first significant puzzle, helping the captain land the ship, meow, has an impressive five possible solutions according to the nicely presented PDF walkthrough. At least one of those solutions is a mini game involving quick memorisation and typing of numbers. Offering this much variety is obviously a pretty industrial strength way to start the game. In fact, the presence of a whole explorable spaceship for the good guys to live in is a pretty industrial strength gesture, and could almost be regarded as strange, considering that this ship is not where the bulk of the action takes place – except that this gesture is (a) neat, and (b) will probably be of use for any sequels, EG the one promised by the game's outro.

IQ is written in the third person, an interesting choice which seems to amplify the clumsiness of the hero and of the game's humour in general, as if Irvine is being viewed omnisciently and pitilessly from a distance above. My own playing troubles really began in Chapter 3, in which Irvine explores the jungly planet of Tragear with the broad purpose of trying to solve the case of the missing fish. The puzzle involving the coat-stealing tree monkey had all kinds of bugs in it. One time the solution didn't work, so I thought I was stuck. After restoring a game, the solution did work but I didn't know that it had because the game still said "The monkey refuses to give Irvine the tiger coat!" A fruit I had previously taken from the monkey was also capable of teleporting back into the monkey's hands. Before I broke out the walkthrough for the first time, and as I continued to wring my hands at my troubles, I went back to the ship to talk to other characters in hopes of getting some help from them. Here I found that the captain was still talking about my chance to pilot the ship, the story from the previous chapter. In summary, it's apparent that IQ has many different states and events whose interrelationships it needs to keep track of, but it currently isn't on top of a lot of them.

After Irvine acquires karate in a sensei sequence with a Mr Moji in the city, he can bust it out as required. It's a fun system combining a bit of random damage with the not overtly stressful demand that you learn which of your four moves particular opponents are immune to. Chapter 5 is a 100% combat chapter set in a tunnel, and pretty exciting for it, though I swear there was a moment when I was reduced to 0 hit points but still alive and kicking. As for the passcode which got me through the locked door into this area, I don't know where that number actually occurs in the game. After I learned of it from the walkthrough, I went looking for it but failed to find it. Running out of time to clear this game in under two hours, I caved in and just typed in the code which-I-still-don't-know-where-it-came-from. This typing wasn't easy, either. I accept in retrospect that the game did define the PRESS command for pressing buttons, but none of PRESS KEYPAD, UNLOCK KEYPAD, (the number itself) or PRESS NUMBERS worked.

In spite of all its bumps, which kept making me worse and worse at the game as I approached its finale, what IQ possesses is a very charming and coherent aesthetic which seems to extend beyond the already decent chunk of universe presented in this game. Even though communication with the other characters could be better programmed, each character seems to have his or her own concerns and purpose, and there are a good number of characters. And while the cat people are highly capable in their roles, it is left to the human outsider, Irvine, to falteringly observe the silliness of this world which is invisible to them. That the highly sought after fish is asleep nearly all of the time, that the characters who claim to be giving instruction barely give any, or that the villain's ultimate rant explaining his motivations doesn't make a lot of sense.

I found the funniest and cutest scene to be the one where Irvine helps a kitten which is fishing(!) in a brook. Given the general absurdity of this game, I really thought that the fish I was looking for might turn out to be the one in the water here, since its description said it was. But it turned out to be a Red Herring instead. This moment sums up the feel of the game for me.

If I could snap my fingers to instantly debugify and smooth out any game from the comp so far, it would be this one. I haven't talked about my scoring system in this blog to date because I find it boring to do so; what I write is far more important than the number I assign according to my weird invisible rules. In some ways Irvine is my favourite game so far at the halfway point of the comp, but its bugs did slow me up and hamper my experience of it. A lot of me struggling to finish this in under two hours was due to me rewinding to earlier points because of uncertainty about the game state. But the world of this game is a wonderful creation, and I will line up for a more polished version of this game or a sequel.


Reviewed by Deirdra Kiai

A wacky, light sci-fi romp in which you are a space cadet on a mission to save an endangered species of fish on a distant planet in the distant future. Everyone has strange names [2] and there are cat people. (meow) Oh, and also, you have a robot companion whose function is to retrieve things for you from hard-to-reach places. As a short person, I’d love to have one of those in real life.

This is the kind of game you can tell has had a lot of work put into it. Tutorial puzzles with multiple solutions of varying difficulty, a clever combat system, maps included with the game for easy reference, and even a pretty PDF version of a walkthrough. It also, perhaps due to me running the game on a Mac in Gargoyle instead of the recommended Adrift 4 Runner, had a few bugs. I died when duelling with a guard and found said guard continuing to chase me after I wound up in the infirmary — even when it didn’t make any sense for said guard to still be after me. I also, following the hints, got my robot to retrieve a tiger-print coat for me, only to have it refuse to let go of said coat. So much for being helpful, robot companion. Needless to say, I made liberal use of the “chapter selection” screen to get around such problems.

As a game, I felt like this is the kind of thing I generally prefer to play as a graphical adventure — it would go quite well with some cartoon illustrations, I think. Especially where the cat people (meow) are concerned. Speaking of people, there are so many characters in the game, and once again, no proper “talk to” command. I was particularly missing this on the spaceship, which seemed like it could have plenty of opportunity for Mass Effect-like crew banter. [3]

Oh, and the robot companion dies at the end, but it gets better. And there’s probably going to be a sequel.

1. This is why I generally dislike most “ask/tell”-style interfaces in IF — it’s guess-the-noun, which, if such a thing is possible, is more annoying than guess-the-verb. ↩
2. Says the weirdo who’s working on a project with a protagonist named “Dominique Pamplemousse”.
3. Although, perhaps not going as far as romance options.

Reviewed by Sam Kabo Ashwell

As the title makes pretty clear, this is a Douglas Adams-y wacky sci-fi adventure with old-school sensibilities. There are many, many wacky Douglas Adams-y things in IF, and I hate pretty much all of them. Adams himself is fine; I used to quite like him before I started engaging in geek culture and found it utterly swamped with Adams fanboys. But oh god, if there's anything I hate more than wacky wizards, it's Adams homages. So this is going to be an uphill struggle.

The titular hero's narrative role is very definitely Brave Little Tailor. He's a short, skinny, bespectacled, clumsy, foppishly dressed space cadet. He doesn't really know what he's doing. When he encounters a culture of cat-aliens, they classify him as a mouse. The chapter titles suggest that later on he learns karate and saves the day, but I ran out of steam before I made it that far. The social dynamics of the world are all kind of snippy: Irvine's superiors push him about or abandon him to difficult tasks, and he gripes about it. The inhabitants of Traglea are similarly abrasive. It's hard for a game to feel good-natured and zany when every character interaction is basically kind of unpleasant; yeah, the HHGtG formula involves a whiny everyman protagonist, but there should also be characters whose role is to offset that.

Another random thing I hate: games with literal red herrings. Literal red herrings tend to serve as a bellwether for a game's sense of humour; if the author thinks they're funny, I will not find anything in the entire game funny. (I'm sure counterexamples exist, but none spring to mind.) Given how often it's used, there are clearly people who think this joke is funny and chuckle merrily to themselves every time they encounter it, then chuckle again when the herrings turn out to be useful. This is a game for them. It's distinctly not a game for me.

It also seems to run pretty slowly on lower-end machines; I've been playing most of the comp games on a netbook, but on that system every command in Irvine Quik had an appreciable lag. I was able to switch to a desktop that handled it fine, but by that point I was already finding things somewhat grating.

So it was not fortuitous that Irvine Quik's gameplay has a lot of friction even without performance issues. The first puzzle was mostly fine, although it could have been streamlined by making the robot-control formula less restrictive. The second (landing the ship) got off to a decidedly rocky start. There are a number of ways you can do it, of which two are mentioned in-game: remember and re-enter a sequence of numbers that's flashed up on the screen, or deal with the flight panel. The latter option seemed very simple, but nothing I did made it actually work. After beating my head against the keyboard for a while, I consulted the keyboard. The switch which I had assumed did nothing yet was, in fact, the key to the whole thing, and the command to operate it was FLICK. (Buttons, meanwhile, respond to PRESS but not PUSH). This is really not excusable behaviour for a modern game. If you have switches and toggles and levers, you need a wide range of synonyms for operating them, or your players will flounder. 'Push' should always be among them. Similarly, the keypad and locked need about a dozen synonym verbs. >TALK TO tells you to use >ASK ABOUT, and >ASK ABOUT tells you that >ASK ABOUT usually won't work. UNDO seems broken under some circumstances.

There's a moderately large map that's described partly in shipboard directions. The parser voice sometimes directs you to ASK FOR HELP at times when this doesn't work at all. There's a chase scene with Grastor the Champion which is broken in a number of ways. (He continues chasing you after you've been incapacitated. This may have been fixed in a later version, but now I'm not sure how you actually win; the win condition doesn't get triggered in the way the walkthrough suggests, or if it does then it doesn't mention anything. Grastor continues to pursue you, but doesn't attack.) After a certain amount of struggling to work out how this was meant to be solved, I lost the will to continue.

A good deal of work has gone into the presentation of this: there are maps and a appropriately-themed walkthrough document. There's a helpful start screen of options, which enables you to jump to different points of the plot. The spaceship is a good deal larger, and contains more NPCs, than are strictly required by the mechanics of the game; I get the sense that a cast is being developed here for further adventures, or that the author just really wanted a strong sense of world. But a good deal more work needs to be done on making the game reliably playable. And even if the gameplay was polished up, it still wouldn't really be my kind of thing.


Reviewed by Lynnea Dally

I know wacky adventures are a staple of IF Games, but I'm not a terribly big fan. Or at least, I have more precise standards for something to impress me and not just feel overly cheesey. Also I feel that wacky adventures tend to lack consistency or rules, where anything goes and the solutions don't make much sense. I feel that perhaps Quik maintains that necessary consistency (it went through the trouble of introducing me to game mechanics) I wasn't really taken in by the writing or the mechanics. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions when it came to HiRBy. First I was kind of annoyed by having to "take" things twice, then I was excited that perhaps this was a plot device that would allow me to take things out of my reach, and carry things way past my physical limit. That hope was dashed when my character reached his inventory limit. I thought perhaps HiRBy would redeem himself by being endearing. Then I ran into a situation where HiRBy wouldn't give me a sheet, and it wouldn't say why. The game seemed to imply that HiRBy was playing coy with me, or perhaps I had run into an inventory full issue, but at any rate, I felt like I was struggling against the game mechanics to do what I wanted, instead of feeling like feeling like the game was working with me. Then the captain fainted, and it all felt a little too silly for me to suspend disbelief or get into, and I decided to move on. First unfinished (on purpose) game of the season. Sorry! :(

Reviewed by George Dorn

The title is accurate. You play Irvine Quik, and your job is to find a fish.

This is an ADRIFT game, which has for many years won the award for "Engine Most Likely Chosen For Worst IFComp Entries" though it may possibly be unseated in the next few years by ChoiceScript.

The game starts with a menu implemented as a list of verbs. Of note is >SPECIAL COMMANDS which reveals a custom set of awkward-to-remember verbs, as ADRIFT is generally not smart enough to use the same verb (e.g. push) in two contexts (push a button vs push a boulder).

Also a bad sign:

Displays Irvine's current carry weight and inventory limits numerically.

Unless there's a good reason, inventory puzzles are 80s-era player abuse. It turns out that this doesn't come into play, at least during the two hours of frustration I spent with the game, but it didn't need mentioning in the first place.

Anyway, as Irvine, incompetent space cadet (I envisioned an even ganglier Wesley Crusher), destroyer of planets, you are followed around by a floating inventory-puzzle-turned-parser-annoyance named HiRBy, short for Hovering Robot or something. Dunno what the 'i' stands for. This is awkwardly implemented; when HiRBy's pincer arms extended (via >DEPLOY) the >TAKE command is executed by the robot. But the >DROP command is always executed by the player; if you want HiRBy to drop something, you use the custom verb >PLOP. I'm sure that this is due to a limitation in ADRIFT, but man that's awkward. I'd much rather have given HiRBy orders, e.g. >HIRBY, TAKE MONKEY.

Overall, the game seems to suffer not only from the ADRIFT engine but also a lack of thorough beta testing. The walkthrough basically works, but deviate from it and you'll experience deep parser confusion. Several examples follow:

At one point, the captain passes out. My first reaction was >WAKE CAPTAIN which was flat-out refused by the parser (doesn't know >WAKE). I followed with:

>poke captain
Irvine pokes Captain Gatts Grupen. he says, "Quit that."


Then your next challenge is to land the ship. This puzzle consists of reading 6-digit numbers and typing them back in. I gather from the walkthrough that this was meant to be a memorization puzzle, so maybe on some platforms (other than scare on linux) it might not show the number on the same screen as the prompt? Still, a pretty stupid puzzle and inadequately tested. There also is no narration explaining why you are doing this; you wake up the captain and a number appears.

Throughout the ship, descriptions are all given as starboard/port/fore/aft, but the engine responds to >EXITS or failed moves with everything as n/s/e/w. Again, probably an ADRIFT limitation, but it would have been better to stick with n/s/e/w if you couldn't make it behave consistently.

Finally, there's the seriously broken "monkey vs robot vs gravity" puzzle. Perhaps it's not broken on other platforms? I had to dive into the walkthrough to verify that I was doing the right thing, as the >HINT system was also broken on scare.

>take fruit
The monkey refuses to give Irvine the red fruit!

Irvine presses HiRBy's deploy button. A pair of needle-thick arms with
pincers unfold from inside HiRBy.

>take fruit
HiRBy takes the red fruit in its pincers.

So we've established that monkeys have a natural affinity for robots. Later, after escaping from an annoying semi-random combat scene, you have to cheat (ignore the giant cat mask which is the second red herring [the first being a literal and quite tired red herring]), which requires a giant, unassisted leap of logic (known as a walkthrough). Several iterations later, you're back at monkey vs robot vs gravity:

>take coat
The monkey refuses to give Irvine the tiger coat!

Irvine presses HiRBy's deploy button. HiRBy's arms fold back in.

>take coat
Irvine jumps and reaches as far as he can, but he can't reach anywhere near the top of the tree or that fuzzy, little monkey.

"Dang it," says Irvine. "Just... j-just come down from there! I'll give you a banana or something."

>climb crate
Irvine clambers atop the crate.

Irvine presses HiRBy's deploy button. A pair of needle-thick arms with pincers unfold from inside HiRBy.

>take coat
HiRBy hovers up to the monkey, who turns slack-jawed and marvels at the bot in a stunned monkey sort of way. In its gawking, the monkey's grip loosens on the exciting fur coat, so that it is hanging by just a few digits. HiRBy gingerly relieves the monkey of it and cheerfully floats back down to Irvine's shoulder level.

Previously, the robot was able to snatch the red fruit from the monkey, but now the interpreter ignores that the robot is deployed and fails to suggest that not only are you too low to grab the coat, the robot is also unable to fly high enough to take it. It's not that the monkey won't give it to the robot (after pushing a crate over and standing on it, the robot will fly higher) it's that the clues given for this rather complicated physics puzzle are highly misleading. This strikes me as something that adequate beta testing would have discovered.

Then, once the coat is in HiRBy's posession:

>plop coat
HiRBy is confused by your command.

Can you try again in two-word syntax without using a pronoun?


I was unable to get past this point, as I couldn't convince HiRBy to drop the plot-advancing item.

4/10. Astonishingly high for an ADRIFT game. The author really tried to get the engine to behave, but in the end the engine's cross-platform inconsistencies and the author's lack of deep beta testing conspired to produce game-ending bugs. And some of the puzzles made no sense.

At this point, I'm counting instances of actual red herrings as player abuse.

Reviewed by lunula

The title pretty much sums it up: you are Irvine Quik, space dude, and you’re on a madcap mission to hunt down the nearly extinct Great Sleeping Fish on the planet Traglea so that it can be cloned. This will supposedly prevent great economic collapse in that area of the galaxy.

I got stuck pretty early on in this one. I can’t be entirely certain, but I think that the memory-code/ship-landing puzzle is a little broken, because… my memory is not that bad. Thankfully, there were a couple alternative solutions. It’s kind of weird, because on the one hand, the game includes a lot of nice features for new users, like mini-tutorials and chapter selection (which allows you to bypass some of the clunkier sections). On the other, I had a rather frustrating experience with the walkthrough, which is more of a collection of puzzle hints/solutions than a step-by-step listing of commands. Still, in spite of this and some adventures in parser wrestling, I was able to muddle my way through, and I did have a bit of fun along the way.

The story itself is light-hearted and silly (as one would probably expect, given the title). There’s a cat in a top hat, a monkey thief, and a literal red herring. It wasn’t really my humor, but I rather enjoyed the fighting sequences.

Overall, for this one, I think a little tightening up would go a long way.

Reviewed by Steven Odhner.

Play order: #15

Irvine Quik & the Search for the Fish of Traglea looks like it's going to be somewhat silly while still not going into the surreal territory that some comedy games default to. It feels pretty polished but we'll see. It also feels long. We'll see that too.

Did you know that the annoyingly high shelf in the first room is also technically the top bunk? Makes you wonder about who Irvine's bunkmate is. Mystery! On the one hand I think that it's nice that the little drone does stuff for you, but on the other hand it goes against my instincts for IF. I want to issue commands to the thing directly, not type as if I'm doing it myself. That leads to this:

> HiRBy, get glasses
I don’t understand what you want to do with HiRBy.

HiRBy takes the pair of glasses in its pincers.

Which actually works, so that's okay I guess. Anyway now there's someone at the door but I can't let them in. The game explains that the door is automatic, so I should just walk towards it - but I don't want to leave, I just want to open the door because someone is buzzing at it. This is how we answer the door in the future I guess. Someone knocks (buzzes, whatever) and we walk out of our room into the hallway because there's no 'open' setting to the doors. Welcome to the future, where doors stay open for as short a time as possible. There's a door on the other side of the room from me as I write this and it's open even though nobody is actively passing through the doorway. It makes me feel so outdated. So obsolete. I'm practically a fossil over here. Hang on, I have to close this thing before it gives me a complex.

Much better.

Okay, so once in the hallway I'm told to go do something. I don't feel like it though. To explore! Let's see if I can cause catastrophic damage to the ship before the game even starts - the game has already made it clear that I am a disaster so this should be possible. I start by disabling the janitor-bot, and then hit a minor snag with a missing room connection. No, wait, it's not missing. I'm just not in the room I thought I was... I think that's a bug. I think I wasn't supposed to be able to get in here. Well, I might as well steal everything that's not nailed down.

> take porthole
The aft window is built into the wall. Besides, that would be ridiculously suicidal.

Aww. That would have accomplished my goals nicely. Hey, did you know that drinking a soda causes the empty soda can to teleport to your location? This would be a good way to send messages.

> kill chef
Did you have a specific method in mind?

> no
A negative attitude won’t help much here.

> kill chef with pen
Did you have a specific method in mind?

> yes
A positive attitude won’t help much here.


Bah! I fiddle around some more, but the rooms are all constructed via futuristic cut-and-paste technology and the nautical directions get on my nerves. Fine, on to the bridge. I have to really insist in order to bring the Tiger Coat with me, but I am persistent. I guess I'm supposed to enter these codes that keep flashing up on the screen but I keep missing them so I type 80085 over and over until the game gives up on me. Heh. 80085.

So, the other option is to use the big panel of controls. Man, this sheet tells me how to evacuate the atmosphere, but it doesn't work! In fact, none of these seem to do anything at all. Oh. Did you know that in the future we'll flick switches rather than flipping them? True fact. Personally, I prefer to flip switches.

Lame, this captain won't let me ruin everything. I should get on with it before I burn all two hours on goofing off. Down to the planet, where I'm told I can't come on the mission. Wise decision, everyone! I will ruin everything I touch! I will, for example, get the fancy suit I wasn't supposed to have stolen by a monkey. I am the worst! No point in climbing the trees? Seriously, game? Because I was hoping to not get court martialed. Or will this bit of fruit be an acceptable substitution for the expensive coat thing?

Hmm. I get the feeling I'll need that coat to be counted as a cat. Let's kick this monkey's ass. I can't just grab the coat, the monkey isn't interested in any of the million items I have available. If only I had some sort of flying drone that could grab things... oh, wait! I totally do. Huh, no. That didn't work either. Already tried climbing the trees. Let's push the crate over and stand on it. Nope, still can't reach. Seems like I'll need the crate and something else along with it. What else can I stand on?

Meh. I think I'm going to check the walkthrough. Hmm... looks like the flying drone can grab the coat but only while I'm standing on a crate. I... don't understand that at all. That's pretty much bullshit. Oh, and now this lovely turn of events:

> get coat
HiRBy refuses to give Irvine the tiger coat!

Screw you, HiRBy. You saw how I ripped the batteries out of that janitor bot. I'll do the same to you. He won't respond to the 'plop' command, either. Is there something I'm missing? The walkthrough indicates not. My standard procedure after the walkthrough fails me is to read a few reviews to see if others have had this problem. Short answer is yes, long answer is that this is only one of many bugs. Also, I think at this point I'm not going to have time to finish anyway. Bleh. More fatally bugged games

Reviewed by Jack Welch

It is worth making a special effort to play Irvine Quik and the Search for the Fish of Traglea. For me, it meant downloading the Adrift 4 player and running it under Parallels on my Mac. This story is on par with the best of the parser-based games that I’ve played in this year’s IFcomp, although humor doesn’t always work across broad audience, and this might not suit everyone’s taste. In this story, your back story is impossible,the characters you encounter are strange and your mission ridiculous, but somehow it all works.

All joking aside, there is a lot of structure to this piece. There is a quick bit of exposition at the start: enough to set the tone, but not screen dumps of back story. The game is broken into five chapters, which play seamlessly if you run through them in sequence, but could allow a player to skip around, for instance, to replay a specific chapter.

More after the spoiler break

The first chapter introduces the way the game handles verbs, what to expect in terms of conversation in the game, and how to interact with Hirby, your floating robotic companion. Hirby’s ability to fly to different heights and retrieve items with its pincers is put to good use in a number of puzzles later in the story.

One of the middle chapters is all about learning how to fight. It sets the stage for a subsequent chapter in which the story takes on an RPG slant, with HP displayed at the bottom of the screen, and combat rounds required to advance through a hostile environment, leading up to what can only be described as a boss encounter. The chapter in which the PC, Irvine, learns to fight seems a little contrived. After a couple chapters that describe in depth every room on your spaceship and every area between the space ship and the city, the city itself seems stark: there is a path that leads to a dojo, and another that turns towards the palace. Does everyone entering the city stop by the dojo? Maybe, as it does seems to be a martial civilization.

Many games that stray into RPG territory don’t fare this well because they become too much like a D&D simulator, and lose track of story. This game strikes a reasonable balance, providing some fun fight scenes, but not getting carried away.

Story: 9

This is a get-the-item story, but there’s a long and indirect journey between knowing the goal and realizing it. The PC in this story reminds me of the 4th Doctor, another scarf-wearing intergalactic traveller whose mental flexibility (some would say borderline insanity) allows him to do well in a perverse universe.

Voice: 9

The author’s voice is strong and consistent throughout the game. Irvine also has a distinct, somewhat persecuted voice. What sets this game apart from many others is that the bit players get their own personalities, despite having only a few lines of dialogue. Even Hirby, who is silent, has is own behaviour and by the end of the game, there is a bond between Hirby and Irvine.

Play: 9

This game is laid out well in terms of introducing concepts and building on player knowledge about the game mechanics and world. However, at a couple of points, I broke the game and the only way I could get the game back on track was to restart from either a saved position or the beginning. I think a multi-level undo was to blame for the most severe breakage, but in other instances, I might have done something that the game didn’t expect and couldn’t handle.

One other minor criticism: I found directional navigation inside the ship to be confusing because of the overlay of ship directions (forward, aft, port, starboard) and compass directions (n,s,e,w). A given paragraph could state that the bridge is forward, but that Hirby arrives from the south. There is a correspondence between these direction systems, but it is not the one that is expected: forward does not map to north. It’s entirely reasonable that the ship is not “pointed” north, but it would make everything more intuitive if that were the case, particularly for people who bring up the control panel, which shows directions as north, south, east, and west. I don’t know if it is even possible within Adrift, but ideally, these directions would be labelled with shipboard directions while the player is in the ship.

In a few places, I had difficulty picturing relationships based on their descriptions. In some instances, if I hadn’t had the control panel up, I might not have realized what directions were available from the text alone. I can’t really see how I could stuff the tiger suit into the “baseball-sized” robot, Hirby. Similarly, how did it help me to climb on a crate to get items back from the monkey, when I used my flying robot to do the grabbing?

Polish: 9

This game is polished not only in the paragraph-by-paragraph sense of being well written and edited, but in the sense that the higher order structure of the game is well thought out. Aside from the programmatic issues that I encountered, the game was of top quality.

Technical: 7

I am not familiar with Adrift, but I was impressed by what could be done using this game engine. Nonetheless, some bugs I encountered were game breaking. Thankfully, the ability to restart from a saved position or to start fresh with each chapter allowed me to complete the game. This is an ambitious game, and anytime there is multiplicity of interactions and game states, there’s the likelihood that bugs will creep in. This game appears to have had extensive beta-testing, but some bugs persist nonetheless. I hope the author will undertake a post-comp release, as this game is worth fixing before it gets archived.

Average: 8.6


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