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The Euripides Enigma
Author: Larry Horsfield
Date: 2022
ADRIFT 5


Reviewed by Denk

DISCLAIMER: I beta-tested this game. As a beta-tester I couldn't rate this game during ParserComp so I waited to publish this review until the competition was over. Brief background info (skip it if you don't care):

Spoiler
I have come to realise that this kind of game is only for a limited group of parser players. The big emphasis on hidden objects (LOOK UNDER and BEHIND, X WALL etc) is not everyone's cup of tea. It has other puzzles too but this is a significant part of the game. However, I also want to clarify that this is the author's style, not something related to ADRIFT. ADRIFT games can be very different. I have a very wide taste in parser IF and found this game to be my favourite in ParserComp 2022. If someone played an early, very buggy version online, I can tell you that the game has now been updated so hopefully, there are no serious bugs left.

This is the fourth sci-fi game where you take on the role of Mike Erlin. This time you have to investigate a research base where the crew has gone missing. There is an inventory limit but you will soon find a rucksack so it is hardly a problem. I think the game would be even better without e.g. inventory limits but it doesn't really bother me as you will quickly find the remedy.

Parser: 8
I think that the parser is pretty good, though there may be a few bugs/guess-the-verb issues I haven't noticed, which can happen in such a big game.

Atmosphere: 8
I think the writing gives a thrilling atmosphere. It isn't world class literature but that isn't the point. After all this is a game that is here to entertain.

Cruelty: Cruel
If we take the zarfian cruelty scale literally, I would say the game is cruel as you can proceed without having found all objects and then you can't get back without those objects. This game isn't extremely long and you should save often (multiple save files). Then it is probably not a big issue but you should be aware that this might happen.

Puzzles: 8
There are a several good puzzles in this one. But you should know that finding objects might be 20% of the puzzles. Besides examine, you must search, look under, behind and move stuff.

Overall: 9
This is a game where story and puzzles go very well together so the final product is better than the individual parts. I said something similar about "Things That Happened In Houghtonbridge". These two games were my favourite games in ParserComp 2022. But as mentioned at the top, this game is not everyone's cup of tea as finding objects (LOOK UNDER, BEHIND etc) is a big part of the game.I beta-tested this game. As a beta-tester I couldn't rate this game during ParserComp so I waited to publish this review until the competition was over. Brief background info (skip it if you don't care):


Reveiwed by hawkbyte

The Euripides Enigma is a science-fiction action adventure where you play a badass space marine. Overall, I found the game severely flawed, but it certainly delivers on the badass space marine action.

The author clearly has much love for the military setting, and I’d like to see a shorter game in a more realistic army/navy plot.

Writing
The descriptions are very sparse and utilitarian. That’s a perfectly defensible choice: it successfully shows a no-nonsense, mission-focused character, it’s reminiscent of the old style of games many of us are nostalgic for, and it keeps up the pace in a rather long game. But ultimately I think it’s the wrong choice for this game. If I’m on an alien planet, I hope to see exotic scenery and not just the parts of it relevant to the mission.

In some places, the narration dictates what the player character does (“so you order Lieutenant Zen to investigate”, “so you decide to ignore it for now”) or feels (“to your amazement”). I’m not sure why this choice was made, but it definitely pulled me out of the story.

Story
Definitely action-focused! You’re in space, there’s hidden dangers, strange happenings, futuristic weapons, heroic cliffhangers, nick-of-time action sequences.

I especially liked a rather somber moment around the middle of the game.

Characters
The full marine squad is introduced right from the beginning of the game, but the game doesn’t end up spending much time developing them, so they stay rather flat. The squad is also very top-heavy, with each character commanding exactly one other, which is quite odd. I think the squad could be reduced to a fire team of 2-3 privates plus the PC in command. On the other hand, it did prompt me to spend a night reading up on the USMC’s command structure, so that was a lot of fun.

The PC, presumably the subtitular(?) skipper Mike Erlin, has a very focused personality which successfully comes through very strongly. It’s not a personality I like, I resent how they won’t think about anything beside immediate necessity, but they certainly make sense as a person and are a good fit for the mission.

Implementation
This is by far the largest flaw of the game. I ran into a game-breaking bug early, restarted, and eventually turned to the walkthrough — which contains multiple errors ranging from minor (dropping an object not picked up yet) to outright blocking.

The game also completely lacks implicit actions. Where another game might simply write “You close the door behind you.” or have an NPC do it, this game refuses to let you move without closing the door, and will scold you for writing “close door” rather than “press button”. Searching a container, taking an object, and using it always take three separate commands. I realise that implicit actions make timed puzzles much harder to implement, and that realistic nitty-gritty heightens the pressure of a hostile environment, but come on, that’s just annoying.

I did however appreciate how lovingly the military equipment is implemented, including details of individual parts of objects.

Puzzles
The early puzzles are mostly unfair. One requires examining the walls of a room even though the other rooms have no description for walls, suggesting that the IF convention of ignoring walls applies. Another requires a specific noun rather than another that would logically make as much sense.

The later puzzles are much better. In particular I really liked the sequence where the PC finds different ways of exploring a cliffside.


 Reviewed by Mike Russo

With its enthusiastic space-adventure opening crawl, including a prominently-featured “Chapter 4”, The Euripides Enigma makes a fun, friendly first impression. Sure, there’ll be danger and excitement here – it doesn’t take long to realize that we’re in general sci-fi plot #4, AKA an Aliens rip-off – but the helpful introductory text and instructions seem to promise smooth sailing, even if there are a few discordant notes of foreboding (in addition to examining objects “you can also SEARCH and LOOK IN, BEHIND, and BENEATH things”; “there are lots of buttons to press or push in this game”). I pushed fears away upon launching the game, appreciating the nicely-implemented preliminaries of engaging with your squad and making my way into the requisite derelict base’s airlock, and enjoying the endearing way that the producers of this particular movie seemed really focused on saving money (only one marine has a speaking role, and the whole squad is moved off-screen absurdly quickly – guess even paying scale was a stretch – while the alien monsters are invisible most of the time, really easing the CGI budget, and the whole thing could be shot on the cheap on a repurposed Star Trek soundstage).

Then I faceplanted on the first real puzzle, hard. I’m going to spoil it, because if you’re in this game’s target audience, you’d have solved it easily anyway, and if you aren’t, you’d have needed to run to the hints and I’m just saving you some keystrokes. You’re in a small control room, and need to get the power back on, but you quickly realize that there’s a broken on/off switch on the environment control console. Fortunately, exploration reveals that there’s a storeroom right down the hall, with trays of spare parts, so for this nice easy opening puzzle you must just need to poke through the shelves, right? After every combination of EXAMINE, SEARCH, etc. I could think of failed to bear fruit, I took a step back and re-inventoried my surroundings, realizing that there was another console whose functioning on/off switch was conspicuously mentioned. Aha, thought I, all I need to do is abstract this one and plug it into the other console, and we’re off to the races.

But it was not to be, and after another 15 minutes of banging my head against the puzzle, I had recourse to the hints, which told me I had to LOOK UNDER the environment control console – sure enough, there was a compartment there with a spare switch. Happy to be making progress, I was prepared to overlook the fact that nothing in the room or console descriptions prompted this kind of further searching in the slightest. But flipping the switch didn’t accomplish much, because I also needed to fix a second console to restore emergency power to the base. Once again, flailing got me nowhere, though I went to the hints much quicker this time – the answer was to EXAMINE WALL to discover a relay box, again with no prompting indicating there was anything of interest worth looking at there.

At this point the game’s map opened up and I was able to explore the rest of the moon base. Friends, it was chock-a-block with equipment shelves, sofas, chemical stores, bunks, tables, desks, and more, and while I was able to hoover up a few inventory items and get a sense of the game’s ultimate challenges, it was clear I was missing a lot. Regular abuse of the hint function helped me figure out some of these pieces – I had to LOOK BEHIND some cushions on a chair, EXAMINE THE FLOOR in one room to discover that the vending machine could be pulled out, and of course LOOK UNDER one of the bunks in one of the half-dozen identical rooms of living quarters. After about an hour, I was out of hints – they appear to be room-specific, rather than speaking to your overall progress – and when I looked at the walkthrough, it was a solid fifteen pages of zero-context commands, and while those in the back half looked fun, a dispiritingly large proportion of the rest were all about SEARCHing and various flavors of prepositional looking, and realizing that finishing the game was going to mean paging back and forth through the walkthrough to figure out where I was, then just following it puzzle by puzzle, I decided to give up instead.

What looking at the walkthrough made clear is that this use-all-the-verbs-on-all-the-nouns stuff in the first scene isn’t a momentary lapse of player-unfriendliness – this is a positive design ethos, the author having clearly decided that this sci-fi action premise is best served by gating the meat behind a marathon, furniture-centric scavenger hunt. I’ve encountered this kind of approach in several ADRIFT games before (though you see it in other systems too), I think the product of a sub-subculture that largely looks to 80s games outside the Infocom canon and prides themselves on writing text adventures, not interactive fiction – and who hold high difficulty and tedious, mine-sweeping gameplay as virtues, much as S&M people are really into stuff that seems really quite alarming to us vanilla folks. And while EE is undeniably well-crafted, with terse but effective prose, a big but not overwhelming map with major puzzles clearly signposted, and not a bug in sight, it feels very much by, of, and for said sub-subculture.

Of course, we’re talking about different flavors of parser IF, in space-year 2022 – in other words, we’re all into one niche fetish or another round here, so it’s little rich for me to dismiss Euripides Enigma, especially since for all I know the old-school text adventure fanciers could outnumber the people I’m positioning as more mainstream. This is fair! But still, I feel, there are degrees. If, invited back for a night of fun, one’s intended introduces some light tickle play, even if that’s not the thing that gets one’s engine revving, I’d guess that more likely than not one will simply go along for the ride. It’s a different matter where one’s inamorata greets one at the door wearing a leather mask and oiling up a marlinspike – for some, this might be the sum of earthly bliss, and truly, God bless ‘em. But I can’t count myself among their number, and having tried the flogging for an hour and found it not to my taste, hopefully I can be forgiven for skipping out before giving the nipple tenderizer a go.


Reviewed by Heasm66

Mini Review

Author: Larry Horsfield
System: ADRIFT
Duration: Over six hours
Available online: Yes
Available offline: Yes

This is a big game that very much is like the games from the golden age (80s). It plays like a classic sci-fi adventure where it is up to you to rescue a research base that encountered some alien species and gone silent. Unfortunately it also have a lot of the bad features from the 80s era. Not everything is visible in the room description and you have to find hidden things by examining walls, look behind/in/under objects and searching objects. There is also a lot of inventory handling and you have to do a lot of mundane things in detail. It is realistic that you have to drop everything and then remove and drop every part of your current space suit before you can wear a new one, you even have to adjust the straps of the rucksack to make it fit, but it is a bit tedious. It is Small favor that you don’t need to remove the rucksack and put it on the ground to put things in it or remove things from it (Infidel style). I played about halfway before the inventory juggling got to me and made me finish the second half of the game with the walkthrough.


Reviewed by Dorian Passer

Summary
After bumbling around a damaged facility, slowly making my way through darkened corridors, I get separated from my squad, and then I eventually become stuck in a control room. No one hears my screams for help.

What is a Mountain of Fun?
I use Barrett’s concepts of an allostatic-interoceptive brain to inspire a new model of fun, which I’m calling the mountain of fun. In a nutshell, this model compares and contrasts past and present experiences. But please keep in mind that since variation is the norm with people, there is a degree of subjectivity when using this model to describe one’s experience.

Brain too little just right too much
Sensory Input blocked focused unfiltered
Predictions offline online overloaded


blocked or offline = too many similarities to past experiences = UNDERWHELM
unfiltered or overloaded = too many differences from past experiences = OVERWHELM
focused or online = manageable amount of differences or similarities from past experiences = FUN

Ref Sensory Input Prediction Past Experiences Phenomenon Mountain
1 too little too little blocked, online UNDERWHELM foot
2 too little too much blocked, overloaded UNDERWHELN-OVERWHELM slope
3 too little just right blocked, online UNDERWHELM-FUN slope
4 just right too little focused, offline FUN-UNDERWHELM slope
5 just right just right focused, online FUN (a.k.a. learning) peak
6 too much just right focused, overloaded FUN-OVERWHELM slope
7 too much just right unfiltered, online OVERWHELM-FUN slope
8 too much too little unfiltered, offline OVERWHELM-UNDERWHELM slope
9 too much too much unfiltered, overloaded OVERWHELM foot


Area 1 and Area 9 are moments that are not fun.
Area 2 and Area 8 are moments that just pass the time.
Area 3 and Area 4 are fun moments that eventually become underwhelming.
Area 6 and Area 7 are fun moments that eventually become overwhelming.
Area 5 are moments that are fun!

 
Discussion
Maybe it’s because I haven’t read the previous chapters, but I didn’t find myself draw in at the beginning. The hints from Zen helped to suspend my disbelief. I was bummed when I was separated from Zen and could no longer seek his assistance.

The VOCAB command was very helpful! But I was soon overwhelmed scanning over the list of commands every time I ran into a delay, which for me was frequent. I found myself experiencing a mix of both sensory overload and prediction overload. I take the blame for this due to my inexperience with the genre.

I feel like the sparse descriptions didn’t give me enough sensory information to nudge me in the right direction. I examined the electronic components and the trays, but I didn’t know how to find or take a spare switch with me. Again, I take the blame for this.

I think I’d place my general experience near the bottom slope of the mountain, around Area 2 and Area 8, but there were a few moments I felt that I was in Area 3.

Conclusion
I got stuck around the control room and couldn’t figure out how to repair the ESCC switch with the electronic components from the storeroom.

Many thanks to Larry Horsfield for making Euripides Enigma and congratulations for being part of ParserComp 2022!!


Reviews should be considered copyrighted by their respective authors.