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Author: Matthew Sawchuk
Date: 2017

Reviewed by Jack Welch

This is a lightly implemented parser game written in Adrift. I found gameplay impossible without the walkthrough, and the walkthrough itself contains errors. I bailed after about fifteen minutes, so my evaluation is limited. This is one of those games that I think a lot of reviewers would have summarily skipped: no instructions to players, about, credits, help, or hints. Standard responses. Minimal Descriptions. Lack of Proofing.

There is the briefest frame story around what I suppose are a series of dream sequences, each taking as a theme one of the four humors. Just an observation: why does IF so frequently make sets like this a central theme? The seven colors of the rainbow (Rainbow Bridge, The Wand, The Cube In The Cavern), the four elements (Domestic Elementalism, The Cube In The Cavern), and the four humors (Temperamentum)?

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

I don’t see why this author went through the effort of implementing this game in a parser, when so many of the possible actions that a player will take will meet with unhelpful responses: default replies, empty descriptions, or messages that block the attempted action. For example, there is pond. It is fair to anticipate that players will try to do some typical things with a body of water:

A small pond has formed here. The water is cool to the touch. A large ancient tree lies to the south.

> enter pond
You can't go inside the water!

> swim
I did not understand the word "swim".

> drink
Drink what?

> drink water
You can't drink the water!

Partial points for understanding water as the pond, but if the players actions are blocked, I would have preferred just a touch more of an explanation about why: In the pond uninviting, murky, and buzzing with mosquitoes?

The first place I ran into a problem was in the village, where there is a distinguished man and several baby-toting women. The women are written off immediately as having nothing to say, and while I guessed by process of elimination that I needed to talk to the man, the game is looking for a very specific phrasing to get the ball rolling. I never would have hit it without a look at the walkthrough:

Huts line the outskirts of the encampment. In the center is a small bonfire. The forest opens up to the southeast. Standing next to the bonfire is a older but distinguished looking man. Outside the huts, there are some women holding their babies.

> talk to man
I'm not sure who you are referring to.

> talk to distinguished
I'm not sure who you are referring to.

> talk to man
I'm not sure who you are referring to.

> ask man about women
The chief doesn't appear to understand you.

> talk to chief
The chief ignores you.

> greet chief
I did not understand the word "greet".

> say "bob" to chief
The chief ignores you.

> say "hello" to chief
The chief ignores you.

> say "hi" to chief
The chief ignores you.

> say hi to chief
"Molimo. Need molimo."

> ask chief about molimo
"Need molimo. Elder has died. That means forest is asleep. Need to wake up forest with molimo. Molimo is high up, very high. Need molimo."

> ask women about molimo
The women doesn't appear to understand you.

Most of the parser-based games I have played have been based on inform, and maybe the tool influences how authors choose to implement dialogs — is “say” the usual idiom for Adrift games? I am used to “talk to [person]” or ask/tell [person] about [something]”. I have seen “say [something]” used in games, but that introduces the need to parse whatever is said. In this case, I would have thought that hello would have been equivalent to hi. Also, since I’m not aware that there is a strong convention about using quotation marks, I would have expected “hi” to be equivalent to hi.

Following along in the walkthrough, the next thing the player is supposed to ask the chief about is the vials. What vials? The word “chief” does not appear in any description, but it at least shows up in a response, and I guess we are supposed to infer his rank because he is “distinguished”. However, “vial” comes totally out of the blue. It looks like the walkthrough and game files got out of synch at some point in editing.

The same can be said of map directions – at one point, the walkthrough says to move in a direction that does not exist. Taken alone, not a big deal, but it’s obvious that neither the game nor the walkthrough have received much effort in terms of proofreading.

I threw my hands up and moved to the next game when I came across this final bit of parser fun:

Click to enlarge.


Story: 3

Voice: 2

Play: 1

Polish: 3

Technical: 3


Preliminary Score: 2.4

Reviewed by Christopher Huang

This is a pretty simple game with bare-bones implementation. Having read an article about the ancient belief in bodily humours as the cause of illness, we now go through a sequence of dreams based around each humour. There's more to the story, though: apparently we're also dealing with certain issues in our waking life, and these dreams are a means of coming to terms with them.

So far so good. The puzzles are of the basic, old-school variety: get X, use X. But perhaps the implementation is a little too narrow: I don't know if it's been fixed since the beginning of the comp, but I was annoyed to discover that communication in the game starts with very non-standard "say hi to X" instead of the much more standard "talk to X". (Even if your game uses the "ask/tell" standard instead, "talk to" should at least give you an idea of how communication works.) Also, there was this one moment where I had to use "get all" to figure out what the "wooden instrument" in the description was, since the game didn't recognise "instrument" as a noun.

I did think the progression of the story was nice. We start the game knowing only that we're troubled by a nightmare, and the real thing that's troubling us emerges only gradually with the conclusion of each dream. There is one point which normally would annoy me: faced with a black box, we're told we (the character in the game) know what it is, though we (the player) have not been told. In this case, I think it worked, because by this time we'd seen enough to know that one more dream would make the characteristics of the box plain and clear to us; and also because the main character knows things that the player doesn't, and can make guesses based on this knowledge that the player can't. There'd be no mystery and no story progression otherwise, and this sort of thing, taken in very small doses, can add a certain piquancy to your dish.

Speaking of dishes, I'd guess that this, as breakfast, might be cereal (Cheerios, probably) with milk and instant coffee, taken at five in the morning while we're still half asleep. It does the job. There's a certain late-night melancholy about it, but we've got to get up and get our day started

Reviewed by Aziraphale

This game is hard to spell and harder to play.

Sometimes I play a game and think that it’s obvious the author didn’t have it beta-tested, because there’s things that wouldn’t have become apparent if only the author played it. Then there’s games like this, where I wonder if even the author tried to play it all the way through.

I only made it through the first area; maybe it significantly improves after that? This is my experience with it, though: I’m in a rainforest. There’s a tribe of people. You can’t talk to them with the standard “talk to” commands; the walkthrough explains you have to “say hi.” That’s a super odd command to require, especially since you don’t even know if you speak the same language as these people, but okay. Because of this I assumed the standard “ask person about thing” commands wouldn’t work (because so many standard commands don’t; even “take” is broken), but no, you do in fact need to ask him about some specific things. Then, you need to get up a mountain. How do you get up a mountain?

You find a mirror a young girl is looking at, throw some mud at it to get her to go away, wash it off, put the mirror on a stone table, which will somehow reflect enough sunlight that the cloudy path up the mountain is completely clear.

Obviously. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it! I don’t think it’s impossible to reach this series of events, especially because of the limited area and number of objects, but “eventually the player will try it out of desperation” is not a good basis for a puzzle. The parser and the limited commands make it a chore to play, even when there aren’t things like the game requiring you to divine nouns for things it never tells you about. As for ADRIFT: the only thing I like in the interface is the map, which I always appreciate, especially when it lets you easily click between objects. I could do without the music I couldn’t turn off, the obnoxiously bright text on black background, and the auto-complete parser that was more annoying than helpful.

As for the story? I’m not a fan of dreams used as a background. It’s the equivalent of “the game is taking place inside a video game” or “a story the protagonist is telling” in that it’s usually an excuse to present unrelated imagery with a tidy reason for not having to tie it all together; after all, it’s a dream! Dreams usually have clear, logical imagery, right? My dreams tend to be about people I went to middle school with in places that are similar but not identical to my grandparent’s old house, but maybe I’m just missing out. I’m especially not fond of dream stories where the dreams become perfect allegories for the suffering the dreamer is having, which feels even lazier and more implausible.

In this case, the suffering is a child the female protagonist has lost. I checked the walkthrough to confirm that, but it’s not hard to figure out, with the room in the house she can’t bear to go near without spontaneously passing out into metaphorical dreams, and that she spends a decent amount of these dreams complaining about why do THOSE women get to have babies?!

I instinctively bristle at stories like this, because it seems like all too often “not getting to have babies” is the only tragedy women are allowed to have (sometimes with a side of also losing a husband or a uterus, but it always comes back to babies.) I bristle more when I see it’s a man who decided to write about this subject. I don’t know if the subject matter was chosen due to a personal event in the author’s life, but if not, it bothers me when this particular loss is mined by people who haven’t experienced it ~for the drama~, and this came across as a very un-nuanced and stereotypical take on the subject.

Rating: 2

Reviewed by xenoglossy

Ultimate Escape Room: IF City, My Night, Temperamentum

I'm lumping these together, despite their wildly different genres, because ultimately they all have pretty similar issues. I don't want to be too hard on them, because they all seem to have been made by people who are pretty new to making IF, but they sorely lacked polish. The implementation was pretty thin, leading to some instances of guess-the-verb and synonym issues along with all the "You see nothing special about the ____." None of the games had really mastered the art of subtly shepherding the player in the direction of puzzle solutions, and Temperamentum particularly had issues in places with the player's goal being entirely unclear. (Okay, the old man wants me to give him a molimo before he gives me this vial that I need. What is a molimo? Where would a molimo be found? I don't know, and the game's not inclined to tell me, so I end up taking actions because they seem like the only thing I can do at the moment, without any sense of gradually building towards overcoming all the obstacles between me and the thing I want.) I'm not going to dissect their problems further because, again, it seems cruel, but I really think these authors would benefit from doing a few games outside the context of comps in general, or at least for smaller comps, before trying IFComp again. Also, more thorough beta-testing would go a long way.

Okay, okay, one more thing--My Night's description suggests it's set in the '90s, but the teenage protagonist not only has a cell phone, but has a cell phone that can be used as a light source. What's up with that?

Reviewed by MathBrush

This game reminds me of Pilgrimage by Victor Ojuel. Both are symbolic games with female protagonists based on the 4 humors: sanguine, phlegmatic, bilious, and melancholic.

Beyond that, though, they diverge significantly. Temperamentum has a 'real world' and 4 different worlds themed on the idea of hot/cold, wet/dry associated to the 4 humors.

The game is heavy, about loss. I enjoyed it, but parts of it are almost impossible without the walkthrough, and the walkthrough itself is unreliable in parts (for instance, west and east are switched at one point, and in another, it uses the word 'woman' when only 'her' works).



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