IF Comp 2010: East Grove Hills

I am bored and sleepy. So sleepy. I got a perfectly reasonable amount of sleep last night, and there is no real reason I should be sleepy, but all I want is a nap. I finally got my sleep schedule back around to normal-person time, though, and a nap would certainly fuck that right up. So what do I do? Play an IF game, obviously. Surely “foggy bleariness” is the perfect state of mind in which to undertake such an operation.

So let’s have some East Grove Hills, by someone writing under the nom de plume of XYZ. Or, you know, maybe it’s just their initials. Xavier Yarston Zanderfield, I’m wise to your schemes.

EastGroveHills.zblorb is 418 kB, and was written with Inform 7 (build 5Z71). I really have no idea why I continue to make note of this info. Spoilers begin after probably some sort of scenic landscape.


Well, it’s a landscape anyway. ‘Scenic’ is debatable.

I should note that, like the subliminal ferret from “A Quiet Evening at Home”, this game flashed some kind of sepia-tinted picture at me when it loaded. I was actually looking this time, but it went past too quickly for me to be able to tell what I was looking at. Hope it wasn’t important.

It was five minutes before the end of the world. Well, the end of the world for us, anyway. Yue, Jenny, and I spent those five minutes trying to barely scrape by on some sort of presentation in AP Lit.

Man, if you don’t even know what kind of presentation it was meant to be, it’s no wonder you were barely scraping by. Or trying to. “Doing your best is for suckers. We’re shooting for ‘almost failing’. It’s like trying to guess the actual retail price of the Showcase Showdown without going over.”

Yue looked very awkward as she shuffled papers on the lectern.

I would trot out some sort of Yue/you “Who’s on first” bit here, but honestly it probably isn’t worth it.

> x me
My name is Thomas Wu. If you don’t really care for your life, you can call me “Tom.” What about me? I’m 16. I’m a junior at East Grove Hills High School. Which sort of doesn’t exist anymore, except it does.

If this were a game, I would have restarted already.

What? Okay, whatever. Rolling with the punches here.

Man, this is some gloomy shit. What’s more exciting than a teenager constantly reiterating what an utterly debilitated social outcast he is? The list starts with “1) Tonsillectomy”. Oh and by the way, everyone is going to die somehow, or maybe they already did, but it doesn’t matter.

Another thing: I totally loves me some self-reference, but opening your text adventure game with three instances of “text adventures are crap” is not what you call a strong sales pitch.

When I first moved here, I was already a little too old for the playground. That might have been part of why I’m so antisocial now. I was deprived of a critical bonding opportunity with my fellow children.

It might also be because you’re kind of a prick. Jesus.

“That doesn’t matter right now, okay? The point is, you’re the only person I want to talk to right now. So, are you doing okay?” She returns to the generic “how are you”-type question. I hate these questions.

[1] “I’m still functioning on a basic level, if that’s what you want to hear.”
[2] Say nothing

“You’re bummed out about the apocalypse. I’m an asshole. What else is new?”

Okay, from World’s Worst Conversation we flash back to a shootout. Bets on whether I actually get to do anything exciting, or even interesting?

Nope. Hang on a sec while I restart and see if I can affect the outcome of that by getting out from under the desk as soon as possible instead of talking to Yue.

Surprisingly, it turns out you can — you can kill the two shooters, instead of waiting for them to suicide. This changes nothing.

Oh hey, here’s some more self-reference. It’s about how the main character wrote a shitty text adventure and… it’s the shitty text adventure you’re playing now! The phone call is coming from inside the house!

“How about let’s form a club to challenge the school’s social paradigms?

Oh god, that’s it. I’m out of here. The game ends here anyway, but still. “You can’t fire me, I quit!”

You know what ‘IF’ stands for? “Interactive Fiction”. This was interactive only in the barest technical sense, and as fiction it was a fourth-rate extra-bitter Catcher in the Rye wanna-be. Hateful.

I suppose I was meant to feel sorry for Thomas losing his sister, the only person in the world he cared about other than himself. But “She’s kind of creepy. We both suck. Oh but I love her I guess.” does not actually convey anything worthy of sympathy. You can say he cared about her all you want, but with absolutely no evidence in that regard I’m not buying it. The entire game thing is spent emphasizing how unlikeable the characters are, and the fact that this text adventure is terrible. Guess what? You’re right on both counts.

If it wasn’t competently implemented, I’d give it a 3. Instead, it gets a 4.

IF Comp 2010: A Quiet Evening at Home

So I’m coming down off a major Minecraft bender — I built a huge monorail, which ate my entire stash of iron, so I had to go spelunking to build my stocks back up, and man, once you break into a large cavern, it’s just the entire day gone, you know? But anyway, I’m in a bit of a lull at the moment, with no immediate plans for new building projects, nor drive to find another cave to scrape, so… let’s play some IF, I guess!

Next on the list is A Quiet Evening at Home, which is cool, because playing it means I’ll get to read Jenni and Chris’s reviews of it finally. The impression I got from their conversation in KoL chat was that Jenni was nervous about playing it, because she was afraid it was going to be morbid and traumatic, but it turned out to be merely dull. So hey! I’m in for a winner I guess.

You are in your home. It is quiet. Your computer is here.
***You have won!***

Shut up, I’m not addicted.

A Quiet Evening at Home is by Anonymous, written with Inform 7 (build 6E72). A Quiet Evening At Home.zblorb is 401 kB in size.

Spoilers begin after… well, it’s anyone’s guess, really.


Man, that search had more porn at the top of the results than you would expect. Or at least more than I would expect; I don’t know about your particular image searching habits.

I was looking at the wrong monitor while the game loaded. I think I saw a ferret? I guess I could re-open the game and find out for sure, but I am kind of enjoying the mystery. Did A Quiet Evening At Home contain a subliminal ferret? I will never know for certain.

After a boring day at work, a slow, annoying commute on the subway, and a tiring slog, you have finally arrived home sweet home.  As usual, you’ve got an urgent need to use the restroom.

You are standing on a densely-settled residential street in front of a beige house with red trim.  A short flight of stairs leads to the front door

Goal: Pee.
Location: Beige.
Punctuation at the end of the initial room description: Missing.

This game is gonna be awesome, I can tell.

That’s not a verb I recognize.

That’s not a verb I recognize.

>x me
You feel like you need to go to the bathroom

If my goal in playing this game was to have fun playing an IF game, this is the point at which I would quit.

>open backpack
You open the backpack, revealing a copper key.

>x key
your house key.

gotta go! gotta go!

My (presumably modern) house key is made of copper? That seems unlikely. The short additional pause indicates to me that the game isn’t really sure about that either.

First obstacle in Mission: Urinate: The front door is not implemented as a scenery object, and there is no indication of what direction it is in. It takes four turns worth of flailing before I discover that it is to the north.

Having found the stoop, I have a slight dilemma: Do I stop to check the mailbox and wipe my feet on the colorful rubber mat provided for the purpose? Or do I go straight inside, assuming that my need for a piss really is as urgent as the game is telling me?

>open mailbox
You open the mailbox, revealing a magazine and a Netflix envelope.

>wipe feet
You can’t see any such thing.

>open door
It seems to be locked.

gotta go! gotta go!

>unlock door
What do you want to unlock the front door with?

You unlock the front door.

you’ve got to use the restroom!

>open door
You open the front door.

gotta go! gotta go!

You know, game, if it’s really such a goddamn emergency, you could have handled some of those exciting door-opening steps implicitly. Just saying.

…What’s a “half staircase”? Do it only go halfway to the basement?*

Okay, well, I found a bathroom. There doesn’t appear to actually be a toilet in here, and I’m not having much success guessing the verb necessary to use it, if there was.

A Quiet Evening At Home gets a 2. First rule of IF Comp: Do not submit your goddamn “I’m learning how to use Inform 7!” game to the IF Comp.

Edit: Jenni has pointed out to me that the game automatically pees for you when you enter the bathroom. Somehow I missed the message. Will it surprise you if I say I don’t actually care?

Edit 2: I just now noticed that the easy-chair in that photograph is tiny tiger cub-sized! Where do you buy a tiny tiger cub-sized easy-chair? I mean I guess I don’t really know how big a tiger cub is, but surely that’s not a fully human-size easy-chair.

* This is actually a real thing, it turns out, but the explanation isn’t very interesting.

IF Comp 2010: Ninja’s Fate

Okay, let’s do one more of these, so that I can feel like I accomplished something today before I spend the rest of the night screwing around in Minecraft single-player, which is possibly the most compelling yet utterly pointless activity ever.

Ninja’s Fate is by Hannes Schueller, written with Inform 7 (build 6E72). ninjas_fate.z8 weighs 324 kB.

Spoilers begin after what will undoubtedly be a picture of a ninja. Probably from some video game or other.

Yup. Dang, man. Grisly.

>x me
Although you practically blend in with the night, you know you’re in perfect shape.

You pray for guidance, but nothing happens.

Terse but effective. Just like a ninja.

[Your score has just gone up by forty-two points.]

What the—

You have so far scored 42 out of a possible 1000, in 29 turns.

Woah! Dang, man.

The very next move:

>x bust
It is the head of a man in his early 30s. A plaque is affixed below. Western people usually want to indicate reverence with this kind of thing, so this must be the image of a very important person.

[Your score has just gone up by two hundred and three points.]

I don’t know whether to be baffled or amused. Bamaffled.

Turns out the bust is of Paul Allen Panks, to whom this game is dedicated, according to the ABOUT. The northern wing appears to be devoted to games he coded. I get the feeling that, not having the foggiest notion of who Paul Allen Panks is, I’m not likely to have much clue what’s going on here.

Well, I got ending 1 of 6. Went looking for a second one, and found a maze that is full of either random nonsense, or random references to things I have no knowledge of. Not interested.

This game is competent, if thin. It might be cool for someone who knows what it’s about. I’m not that person. I give it a 5.

IF Comp 2010: Death Off the Cuff

All right, let’s try another one here, and hope I can avoid failure this time. Next on the list is Death Off the Cuff, by Simon Christiansen. Death Off the Cuff.zblorb is 311 kB in size, and was coded with Inform 7 (build 6E72).

Spoilers begin after… actually I haven’t got any idea what this one might turn out to be. I’ll guess a Grim Reaper of some sort.


…Huh! Well okay then.

Oh man, this looks like it could be a fun one. I’m a fan of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Columbo, so this seems right up my alley.

 >x me
You are as good looking as ever, but your confident demeanor hides a gnawing uncertainty. Hopefully, no one will notice. You are wearing your trademark black bowler hat, and your moustache is impeccably groomed.

You don’t need magic to solve the case; only logic.

Very nice.

Your brain is all that you need.

Hell yeah it is.

Some nicknames for the characters would be appreciated. Both of Jonathan Allington’s names are long, and I can’t call him ‘Jon’.

Gasp! A revelation! Intrigue! You know, I’m kind of impressed with the subtle guidance given toward inspecting people’s facial hair. Hmm, but now what…

You know, it seems a bit too limiting, not being able to discuss things that aren’t in the room. I want to talk about the Colonel, and the hotel, and Shane’s book. I know this isn’t an engine limitation, because I’ve done something similar in the game I’m working on. (Possibly it required an extension the author might not be aware of, though. I don’t remember for certain.)

Man, stymied. What am I missing… Aha! More intrigue!

[…]Perhaps his German nemesis had managed to track him down. Or maybe his illegitimate son had decided to seek revenge for being abandoned. I continued my investigations with renewed vigor.”

Wait a minute, wait a minute. How did I know the previously-mentioned abandoned illegitimate child is a *son*?

Oh huh, the doctor seems to have moved while I wasn’t looking.

>x jonathan
His emotionless facade has dropped and he is now looking tenderly at Shane. His nose squats from his face like a beak.

Huh? That’s a weird mixup of tone.

>x nose
You never noticed how long Jonathans nose was before. His uncharacteristic display of emotion somehow makes it stand out more.

What? You know, it bothers me a little the way important things sometimes appear with no warning or reason like that. Another example is suddenly being able to look at the detective’s coat. It’s plain that the player can’t be allowed to hit these triggers early, or the story won’t work, but there has to be a more graceful way to accomplish this.

Woohoo, and the case is solved. I could do with a little more fanfare at the end, actually. A little more preening and moustache-twirling.

All in all, this is a damn sweet little game. I can’t give it a 10, due to occasional little grammatical errors and the slight clumsiness of the plot railroad, but it is certainly a strong 9. I completely love the concept of a classic consulting detective totally bluffing his way through the big reveal. Well done, Simon Christiansen.

IF Comp 2010: Pen and Paint

Well, fuck. I was playing Pen and Paint, and I had a pretty good post going, because the implementation in this game is terrible, so I had a lot of different things to be snarky about. But naturally, Firefox crashed and I lost it all. I’m not going to replay through the game to jog my memory of what I had said, because it isn’t worth it. Thematically, it has promise, but the execution is miserable. The final straw (presumably for Firefox as well as myself since this is when the browser crashed), was discovering, via the walkthrough, that the object you need to enter the last painting is not actually mentioned anywhere in the room it is in.

Pen and Paint gets a 3.