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S Tar Dus T Reviews
Author: Amzie
Date: 2006

Reviewed by Lumin

I was glancing through the games listed on the main site, and I came across one written with 3.9 and released way back in October that I'd never heard mention of on the forum, with an author, Amzie, who was equally unfamiliar to me. On a whim I decided to download it, and thus began my S Tar Dus T experience. (Henceforth referred to as Star Dust, for the sake of both my sanity and the reader's eyes)

Now I'm not ashamed to say that I loaded up the thing expecting the worst, because, well, newbie author and all, but while Star Dust DID have a number of flaws that I'll soon go into, on the whole it showed a lot more promise than most other 'My First Adventure' games I've attempted to play.

The premise seems to be the somewhat tired 'thrust the PC into surreal surroundings where they solve random puzzles just because they're there' cliché; specifically, you play a teenage girl named Jillian who one day got bashed over the head by a crazy old woman and woke up on a giant checkerboard underneath a strange night sky. Heading off in the cardinal directions just adds to the strangeness, leading you to an assortment of completely unrelated locations. Definitely not everyone's cup of tea, and those who insist on mimesis are likely already typing QUIT, but I admit the odd 'Alice in Wonderland'-esque setting started to sort of grow on me before too long. I think it was the pink tea pot and the ominous warning sign that did it.

That's nice, I hear you saying, but how is the actual gameplay? Well...this is where the flaws come in, I'm afraid.

Star Dust doesn't SEEM to contain any obvious game-breaking bugs, and the description insists that it is playable, but unfortunately this seems to be one of those games where 'READ AUTHOR'S MIND' is a necessary command if you want to have a hope of finishing it. That's right, GtV problems abound; I could easily see what needed to be done to solve at least a few of the puzzles, (leading the old man to a certain location, getting an item from the merchant, etc.) but after trying every command I could think of I was no better off than when I started. There are no hints and using the Generator isn't an option due to password protection, so after struggling for about half an hour with no progress I was forced to give up.

Adding to my frustration were the sparsely implemented NPCs. Each of them just sort of stood in their respective locations and didn't respond to much of anything, not even the most obvious topics. For example, when you TALK TO an old man, you get the following:

As you approach the old man, you can hear him babbling to himself. "... back in the day I killed me an army o' demons, zombies, vampires, weres, and the like, and I was the king of the slayers, and everybody loved and respected me, and now all I have is this Old Nanner, she's been my only friend for decades, and I don't know what I'da done without her, 'cause ..."

Wow, looks like there might be a lot to ask him about, right? Wrong. Asking about any of the above gets you a standard 'Old Man does not respond to your question' reply. He doesn't even have a thing to say about 'Old Nanner' the strange statue that seems rather important to him and is the only distinguishing feature in the room he occupies. In fact, it seems like the only thing he DOES care about is something that's in another room entirely, and that you don't have any real reason to ask him about in the first place. (The only reason I found out about it at all is because I originally played the converted version of the game in the 4.0 runner, which broke a couple of things, including giving away the related puzzle's solution in a room description...though unfortunately it didn't also give away the COMMAND needed to get to that point or I might have actually been able to accomplish something.) It would also have been nice to have been able to ask small unimportant questions like where the heck I was or how I could get home, but hey, baby steps.

There were other small problems and annoyances, (common commands like 'search' and 'show' not being implemented, etc.) but most of them were trivial in comparison.

But as I said in the beginning, despite a number of problems, Star Dust has promise. Or more specifically the AUTHOR does. I stated earlier that I kept playing for quite awhile even after it became clear to me I'd beat my head against the wall in every location and wasn't going to accomplish anything further. Why did I bother? Because the writing was actually GOOD, and if there was equally good gameplay hidden in there I wanted to find it. Well... granted, the merely serviceable and perfunctory plot was nothing to get all excited about, but the meat and potatoes of IF, the scenery and descriptions were well done, charming and amusing and just generally leaps and bounds ahead of what I'm used to seeing in a newbie game. There were a few omissions, but for the most part every major object mentioned in a room had a description, and a nice one at that.

And this is why I hope to see more from Amzie in the future, because the writing is the hardest part, and she's already got that down. The rest just takes a little experience; playing more games by other people, knowing to go to the forums to get help or ask for a beta tester, and just generally brushing up on the technical aspects of writing IF. So even though I have my reservations about recommending Star Dust, I'm sure that once the author spends a bit more time getting the hang of Adrift she'll be capable of producing something really enjoyable and fun.

Reviewed by Duncan Bowsman

While playing S Tar Dus T, I keep constantly thinking, "This would be great if...

... I could get the NPCs to respond to me reliably.
... the author would just tell me how I can use this item.
... this game had a hint system.
... I could read the author's mind."
(and so on)

S Tar Dus T has a compelling narrative tone and interesting descriptions that bespeak the skill of a talented amateur writer. It drew me in. I found the environment delightfully surreal (as opposed to "jumbled mish-mash non sequitur surreal), vaguely reminiscent of Lewis Carroll. Even non-responsive, the NPCs in the game are colourful and seem to promise something unique, but the characters and writing are let down by the game's obscure construction.

Unfortunately, the game offers no hints or help to allow players meaningful progress, I haven't been able to find a walkthrough, and the code is password protected. So, until a walkthrough comes around or someone posts the password or the author publishes a revision, I can only rate this one a disappointment. This is all the worse because I really do want to finish it.

Sorry, cannot recommend this game.

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