IF Comp 2010: The Chronicler

Okay, let’s do this. We’re starting with The Chronicler, by John Evans. chronicler0.z5 weighs in at 70 kB, and was written in Inform 6. As is standard for my reviews, this will not be a coherent review so much as a stream-of-consciousness — I’m leaving this window open as I play, and will type stuff as stuff occurs to me.

Spoilers begin after the first non-porn image GIS gives me for “The Chronicler”.



As per normal, my first* command (after >ABOUT) is:

>x me
As good-looking as ever.

Default answer, bah. There really isn’t any excuse for not putting something in for the PC’s description. Give me a little backstory, or describe my outfit, or whatever, but put something.

* Actually, my first command is >XYZZY, but that’s an old gag and I don’t really expect modern IF to have a witty response to it.

The writing seems fine (pleasingly descriptive with no spelling or grammatical errors so far), but the implementation is sparse with lots of scenery objects missing. Plus, (To press the button, simply “use” or “activate” the device.) is a little bit wonky. Why not implement a pushable button, which is one of the most standard IF objects ever? I guess I shouldn’t expect much in 70k.

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

No, I guess I wouldn’t.

Ooooh, a time-travel gizmo. Am I in for a fun time-travel puzzle? I should warn you, The Chronicler, that if you leave me with time-travel blue balls, I will be upset.

I am somewhat disappointed that the device takes me back to the Transfer Room rather than sending me through time at my current location. It seems that this is necessary for the first puzzle, though, so I won’t gripe too much about it.

(implementation error: the light fixture remains screwed to the Closet wall in the description, even though I’ve unscrewed it and taken it elsewhere.)

Hmm. I am stymied, and worried that by having my form hurtled in a direction I couldn’t understand before I fully explored the initial hallway, I may have gotten myself stuck. Let’s RESTART and check that. … okay, no, the other room was just empty.

Oh, I was missing an exit from the Bare Room. Derp a-derp, I am reading comprehension!

I note that the green button is pushable. Surely having a pushable button on a portable device wasn’t a big deal in Inform 6? Having only ever dealt with 7, I’ll withhold judgement, but still…

gabbro [n] A dark granular igneous rock composed essentially of labradorite and augite.

I learned something new today!

…Huh, so the time-travel gizmo is sort of checkpointed? That’s odd. I would expect it to either always take me to a particular room, or always leave me in my current location. For it to sometimes leave me where I am and sometimes take me to some other nearby location… that’s unright.

The security door refuses to open as you approach. It must require you to be carrying a keychip!

Oh my!

Man, the time-travel is starting to confuse me. Time to bust out a map.

If that light fixture stays on the floor where I’ve left it for however many years, then where has the staircase between the Bare Room and Hallway 0 gone? Rubble is blocking the way south, but it doesn’t say anything about there being a stairwell full of wreckage as well. And anyway, someone has thoughtfully installed a teleport button to get me downstairs, and presumably that happened before everything was wrecked? How did the stairs vanish, thus necessitating this?

The knives should have a disambiguating adjective, for when you manage to trick the game into letting you have both of them. Cleverly, it apparently checks for paradoxical objects when you time-travel, and eliminates one of them. A message about the one thing warping away or something would be nice to see though.

Oooh, that’s my uniform burned up on the floor. Creepy! Time to save.

Using the device in Machine always warps me forward; in addition, it looks like simply going north from the Machine in the future is moving me into the past. I mean, it could simply be that this machine is warping time on its own, but if that’s the case there should be some indication, to keep me from just assuming it’s a bug. Which I am.

>use device

[** Programming error: Hallway (object number 77)  has no property time_period to read **]
You activate the device and have a distinct sensation of rushing “forward”. Things swirl around you and seem very different then they were a moment ago.

This is after powering up the machines, and leaving to the east back to the original hallway. Incidentally, this makes the game unwinnable — if you then go from the Transfer Room (where the device sends you) back to the Great Machine, the doors are all locked again, and the power core sockets are empty, in both time periods.

Fortunately, I saw both (I assume there’s just the two?) endings before this happened to me. The one where you go back to your ship is sort of “Well, okay then.” The other one is utterly non-sequitur. Seriously, huh?

I’ll give The Chronicler… oh, about a 6. It’s better than ‘meh’, but mostly what it has is potential. Fix the bugs, prevent the unwinnable state (perhaps disable the device if you exit through the hallway door?), implement the scenery. It also needs more time-travel based puzzles — other than “find a route around the [b]locked door”, there was only one, and it wasn’t tricky in the least. I thought the moveable light fixture was going to be a puzzle, but I guess it turned out to just be a red herring? I didn’t find a use for the knife either.

So there you go.

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