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The Perfect Spy Reviews 

Author: Blackmaster
Date: 2008

Reviewed by David Whyld

The first thing I thought when starting this game was “effing hell, that’s one big wall of text”. As I was playing in a minimised window, the introductory wall of text I was hit with sprawled to just over five screens. Ouch. Hitting someone with *that* mother right at the start of the game just isn't a good idea.

After the wall of text – complete with numerous typos and commas in the wrong place – was past, I got on with the game itself. The storyline is a nice enough idea – scientists trying to create a super spy have discovered how to transform humans into various animals – but it isn't handled very well. Another huge wall of text when changing into a tiger is just so over the top that my eyes glazed over when I saw it.

There are a number of bugs, most involving changing back and forth between human and animal. As a mouse, I was able to carry around some tools (yes, very strong these mice) and at other times, exits would only become available if I was in one form yet be invisible in others. This meant there tended to be a lot of changing back and forth between various forms to see if there was anything hidden. In some locations, the CHANGE command won’t work and instead returns an error message, no doubt the author only intended it to work in certain places and didn’t account for people trying it elsewhere. Worst bug of the lot, though, and the one that really brought the game to a crashing halt, was the author’s strange decision to hide a key item. In one location, there's a certain item you need to take to progress further, only for a reason I can’t quite fathom the author has chosen to hide it away and not make it possible to discover. This makes the game unfinishable without a cheating look into the Generator.

Then again, the puzzle with the ball of yarn (yes, I've given away the name of the item there, but as you won’t finish the game without cheating this isn't likely to spoil anything for you) shouldn’t really be necessary anyway. I was able to change back into a human inside the hole – despite the room description assuming I'm still a mouse – so surely a fully grown human should be able to see off one little cat?

Overall, a bit disappointing. Not the worst game by a newbie I've ever played, but the puzzles need a good reworking and the text some serious rewriting before I could recommend it.

Reviewed by Various (InsideADRIFT Newsletter 38)

Evaluator 1:
I once played a game I quite liked called Dwenodon that also made use of the 'change into an animal' gimmick, so I was looking forward to some interesting puzzles once the premise of The Perfect Spy became clear. Unfortunately, it turned out to be an otherwise  decent game marred by bugs and the dreaded GTV. I got stuck early on because of the latter (the command to get the blue keycard isn't hinted very well, and it didn't help that the game kept confusing it with the red one, even when it was in a different room), and as I wandered around trying to figure out what to do I'd often run into a game-breaking 'You can't go in any direction!' message while simply trying to walk in a hallway I'd been up and down several times before.

The potential for a good game is here, but it needs some more bug-testing and polish first.

Evaluator 2:
Was choosing the name "Stephen Rogers" a deliberate reference to Captain America?

The dog form was completely useless. The idea was good in its own right, but was far too ambitious to do with the unregistered generator; most of the problems could easily be corrected without those restraints.

Evaluator 3:
This was a well written game with some clever puzzles. The lack of development time in such a short comp was apparent though, as I was able to do some things that didn't make any sense. For example, I was able to turn into a human from a mouse while inside a small hole with no ill effects, and even as a tiger the cat chases me back into the hole. Also, I'm not certain how a tiny mouse is able to carry electricians tools or throw a ball of yarn, and sometimes, in some forms, the game told me that I couldn't move in a certain direction, when the description says that I can.

Changing into different animals was the most innovative feature of this game, and in one puzzle (The one where you climb the guards leg as a mouse to retrieve the keycard.), it was used very well, but beyond this, it fell kind of flat. The dog transformation had no purpose whatsoever, for example.

On a better note, the game was well written, with descriptive writing and a relatively smart plot. With some polishing, this game could be fantastic.

Evaluator 4:
After the sparse information that you get upon starting 'Pieces of Eden' it was something of a shock to start this game and get a text dump. The introduction sets up the back story, motivation and goal very clearly - unlike 'Pieces of Eden'. I thought that the different ways that GhostofDanzig and Blackmaster introduced their games was an internally satisfying way of showing two different but equally legitimate ways of beginning. I played this one in the ADRIFT Runner, as Gargoyle doesn't like text dumps.

Of all of the entries this game was the most 'traditional', in that it was a clear 'adventure' game with a series of lock/key puzzles standing between the player and his escape. In this case the 'gimmick' was a device that lets the player change into one of four different forms. It's a game mechanic that I've come across before in an as-of-yet unreleased game and one that I considered a variant of in an idea that I had. It's a nice idea (and shows more imagination than the usual inventory-based puzzles I come up with) but really needs to be implemented well to work. I think this kind of ambition suffers when you're working within the limits of an unregistered version of ADRIFT. There are a lot of different combinations of form/environment that deserve a better response than they get.

For example, the game begins (like 'Pieces of Eden') with you having to act before time runs out. The puzzle is solved by choosing the correct form before the scientists push you into a room. The end-game messages makes perfect sense if you do nothing and remain as a human, but you get the same message even if you change form.
"What? You're pushing me into the room for a meeting? Haven't you guys noticed that I'm a *mouse*?"

Another part of the game has you entering a hole in the wall, which you can only do so as a mouse. There's nothing, however, to stop you changing form once you're in the hole. This resulted in me entering the hole as a mouse, leaving as a dog and *still* being chased off by a cat. The correct solution is to use a ball of twine to distract the cat, but given the nature of the game it seemed a perfectly legitimate answer to turn into a dog and scare it off.

Furthermore, like 'Pieces of Eden', there are some 'guess the verb' moments that resulted in me having to examine the code to proceed through the game. Maybe I'm just blaming the authors for my poor skillz, but tasks being operated by very specific, unforgiving parser commands is one of the things that annoys people most about ADRIFT.

A similar problem occurs with the keycard. Because there are two keycards in the game, it's compulsory to refer to them as 'the red keycard' and 'the blue keycard' even when you are only carrying one of them and do not even know of the existence of the other.

If you can get past these implementation errors (no doubt caused by the limit on tasks that the unregistered version provides) and suspend your disbelief (a mouse that can carry key cards and tools? Awesome!) then you'll enjoy what goes on here. Like 'The Forest House' in the last Three Hour Comp, I thought that this was a great example of how to start writing IF. It's a small game with a well-thought out series of puzzles and a story that, at least, makes sense and does the job of providing clear motivation and a goal.

Also, it seemed to me that one of the forms is a 'red herring' in that it served no purpose in the game. I thought that, assuming that it was intentional, this was actually quite a mature design decision and worked well.

THINGS I LIKED: A solid, traditional IF without any pretentious examination of a tormented inner psyche. I like that Blackmaster tried to do something a bit different (and tricky to code) and thought he pulled it off well.

THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE: Again, tricky parser problems leading me to investigate the code in the Generator.

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