IF Comp ’09 Review: Star Hunter

This year, I’ve decided on a new system for choosing which games I play: I opened the zcode directory, sorted the folders by size, and I’m playing them in order from smallest to largest. Does this mean that I’ll be playing the shittiest games first, on the assumption that the least-thought out and least-implemented games will be the smallest ones? Maybe! Then again, what was that game last year, the one where I had a tunnel dug into my north of me, and no matter where I took the bloody rope, one end of it was always in the bathroom? That game was fucking terrible, and it was huge. So who knows? Anything could happen!

My default disclaimer is here. It’s the post right underneath this one.

So! Our first candidate: Star Hunter, by Chris Kenworthy.

Non-spoiler evaluation: Not good enough to play, not bad enough to be amusing.

Spoilers after this photograph circa 1881 of a mule having its head asploded with six ounces of dynamite (courtesy Metafilter (the picture, not the dynamite)).


For the sake of tradition:

> xyzzy
That’s not a verb I recognise.

Aww. No points deducted, but it always makes me a little sad.

> x me
As good-looking as ever.

However, this year I’m going to deduct a point for having a default response to this. I mean, if you’re going to describe anything at all, it should be the main character. Even if I’m meant to be playing myself and you don’t know what I look like, there should be some words to that effect. If you don’t have anything here, I know right away that the rest of the game is going to be poorly-implemented.

Five points for picking up the shiny gizmo that’s lying on the floor in the room I start out in? This must be one hell of a gizmo. (Get bent, Firefox — ‘gizmo’ is totally a word, and neither ‘Giza’, ‘Gizela’, ‘gizzard’, nor ‘Gilmore’ is an acceptable substitute.)

> x gizmo
This metallic device is small enough to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. It can be pushed like a button.
The surface of the gizmo gleams with a pale silver color.

> push gizmo
Nothing happens. What were you expecting??

Well shit, I don’t know. You told me I could push it, so I did. No need to get all snarky at me. I don’t even know what the damn thing is.

I picked up another object, and got another five points. This game is easy!

> score
You have so far scored 10 out of a possible 300, in 20 turns.

Oh. Well, still, that’s only 58 more objects to go!

Oh wait, I should look at the help/about screens, huh?

> help
Hi, and welcome to this interactive fiction text adventure game.
The main objective is to discover treasures, especially the fabled lying bear of Deneb.

The… what?
“Hey! You’re not a bear! You’re just some asshole in a bear suit!”
“No man, I’m a bear! Grawr! Give me honey! Roar! …See? I’m so totally a bear.”
“Well, if you’re a bear, then where’re your ice skates?”
“I, uh, left them in my locker at the hockey rink.”
“Aha! I caught you! Bears don’t play ice hockey!

After Darren was found horribly mauled to death, a huge bounty was placed on the head of the fabled Lying Bear of Deneb, which is still sought after by treasure-hunters today.

Missing a period at the end of the “Storage room” description. Which is very sparse. Everything in this game is very sparse, so far. Here’s a good example:

Forward cargo bay
This is your forward cargo storage bay.

Here’s a room that actually has a little bit of description. But…

Work clearing
This open area apparently was used as a working area for the surveyors. Rocks have been set up as bench seats, and a few scattered tools are in evidence. The tents are west, portable south, dry river east, and to the north you can see a canyon lookout.

> x tools
You can’t see any such thing.

> x rocks
You can’t see any such thing.

> n
You don’t want to go that way… might split your skull open

Who might? You? Are you threatening me, game? Bring it!

… I seem to have run out of places to go and things to do in them, with no obvious puzzles to try and solve, except maybe how to open a locked door, for which no logical attempt worked. Since this game is not very interesting at all, it’s walkthrough time.

…Oh, of course. Now’s when I push the gizmo, and it’ll beam me back up to the ship. That makes sense, I suppose. I’m a little irked, though, that none of this technology that obviously belongs to me (the character), has any indication at all on it of what the hell it does or what’s it’s for, for the benefit me (the player). If this device is my ship’s remote teleport control, I would obviously be aware of this fact, and therefore it should not be called a goddamn “shiny gizmo”.

> push gizmo
Nothing happens. What were you expecting??

> x gizmo
This metallic device is small enough to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. It can be pushed like a button.
The surface of the gizmo gleams with a pale silver color.

> push gizmo
Nothing happens. What were you expecting??

Well, uh, I was expecting to beam back up to my ship. Like it says in the goddamn walkthrough.

Further exploration reveals that the gizmo works in about half of the rooms in this area, but not in the others. There is no reason given for this, if indeed there is a reason at all. I suspect that there isn’t.

This game is pushing my boredom threshhold, but I’ll soldier on a bit further…

Here’s another example of terrible implementation regarding my own technology on my own ship: if I push an unlabeled button that cancels a navigation order that I’ve given my ship, the proper response to my pushing of that button is not “Nothing obvious happens.”, thus leaving me wandering around wondering why I haven’t gotten anywhere despite having laid in a new course. This is my ship and my gear. The functioning of it should not be a mystery to me!

Anyway, I’m done. This game is too boring to play, but not bad enough to torture myself with for the sake of laughs.

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