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6 Stars IFReview Rating Aunts and Butlers

IFReviewed by David Whyld on 2006-11-19 11:13 

Game Profile

Author
Robin Douglas Johnson

Idiom
English

Authoring System
Web-based

Release Year
2006

IFR Overall Rating
6 Stars IFR Overall Rating
Separator
I initially passed this one by as it was a web-based game and my past experience with them hasn’t tended to be favourable. At best, I'm left with the opinion that the game was okay (for a web-based game) but would have been a lot better if it had been written with a proper IF system. But after a conversation (well, dialogue on IFMUD) with the author, I decided I’d at least give it a try.

Normally I don’t bother commenting on the system itself when reviewing a game, but I’ll make an exception here. For some of the time, the system works well and it’s occasionally possible to forget that you're playing a web-based game and not one written in a standard interpreter. But only some of the time. On the positive side of thing, the game understands the UNDO (although only one UNDO at a time is allowed) and SAVE commands, which is certainly refreshing as most web-based games don’t. On the down side, there is no transcript command and the scrollback window only allows about a screen and a half of text, so while I usually make a transcript of the game during play and base my review off that transcript, here I'm writing part of this review whilst playing the game and the other part from memory. I *could*, if I was so minded, simply copy and paste every screen of text into a Word document or something similar, but this isn't much fun and seems entirely too much trouble to bother with.

The parser is better than average, going on my limited experience with web-based games, but seems pretty temperamental. Sometimes I’m able to refer to an item by its name and then afterwards as ‘it’, like:

> X BOTTLE
A CONICAL BOTTLE FOR SUPERIOR-GRADE BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE. IT IS EMPTY.

> DRINK IT
(A VINAIGRETTE BOTTLE)
YOU HAVE ALREADY DONE SO. THE BOTTLE IS EMPTY.


But at times it doesn’t work properly:

> X PIANO
A HUGE, THREE-LEGGED BEAST THAT BELONGED TO YOUR FATHER, BUILT FROM WOOD DREDGED FROM THE SMOKING REMAINS OF ENDANGERED RAINFORESTS AND IVORY HACKED FROM THE BLEEDING CARCASSES OF MAJESTIC AFRICAN ANIMALS. YOU KEEP IT FOR THE AIR OF CULTURE IT LENDS TO THE ROOM.

> PLAY IT
SORRY, YOU CAN'T DO THAT.

> PLAY PIANO
*PLINK* *PLUNK* *PLONK* *PER-LUNK!*


You're also limited to just one command per line. No big deal really as it’s seldom I ever enter more than one command, but most interpreters can handle this sort of thing. I'm also not able to repeat the previous command by using the up arrow. And the time-saving GET ALL command doesn’t work.

But what of the game itself?

Most of the time, it’s well-implemented and shows a fairly high level of testing. But at others, little bugs/errors have crept in. Examining me showed I was wearing a suit, but attempts to examine the suit had the game think I was referring to a suitcase. There are also items frequently mentioned in room descriptions that can’t be examined, or which carry descriptions that look like they're meant for another item:

> X DRESSING TABLE
A CONICAL BOTTLE FOR SUPERIOR-GRADE BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE. IT IS EMPTY.


The storyline is nicely comical, with the kind of over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek humour that I've always found appealing. Aunt Cedilla’s nephew, the gun-toting Jirgule, could have stepped right out of a Monty Python sketch.

The game is easy enough to begin with but seems to become harder very quickly. Some of the tasks I'm required to perform – the hat for one – weren’t obvious and doing them seemed to be a case of doing them for the sake of it or because there was nothing else to do than because I found a genuine reason for it. Saying that, I managed to get a decent way into the game before dying and then resorting to the accompanying walkthrough. This was the unfair moment involving Jirgule, his gun and an unfortunate case of mistaken identity that left me dead a moment later and the UNDO command didn’t undo anything. I suppose it’s my own fault for not saving, but in modern IF, with the wonderful UNDO command at my disposal, I seldom remember to save most of the time anyway. When you're limited to an UNDO command which only works with a single command, and then only seems to work patchily, you find yourself wishing for a proper IF system.

So in summing up, I'm left with the feeling that, while this is definitely a step up from any other web-based game I've ever played, it still suffers from not being written in a standard interpreter. There were errors in the game but it’s difficult with some of them to know whether these were errors with the game itself or errors with the system. In the end I'm left thinking what I thought at the start of this review: the game was okay (for a web-based game) but would have been a lot better if it had been written with a proper IF system. One of the best games in the Comp? Maybe… if written in a standard interpreter.

David Whyld Profile

IFReviewer Rating
7 Stars IFReviewer Overall Rating

Name David Whyld
Gender Male