IFReviewed by Greg Boettcher on 2006-05-22 08:30
If you played the games in IF Comp 2005, you may have played Paul Allen Panks' game Ninja 2, which took last place in the comp. It begins with a dragon who is programming a PDP-1 computer and shouting "Spacewar!" If you looked at this and thought it was sort of weird and irrelevant, then you may not have realized that the "Spacewar!" remark was a reference to this game. Well, okay, it was still pointless and irrelevant. Nevertheless, just in case you're interested, it was a reference to this game. So what is this game like?
Some people complain that Panks' games are all full of generic fantasy clichés. If you are among these people, then you should know that this game is not in some castle or dungeon, but is set solidly in the real world -- specifically, on the M.I.T. campus in the year 1962. The goal of the game is to locate a tape of the then-new computer game Spacewar and find a way to play it on M.I.T.'s PDP-1 mainframe computer. Of course, to do that, you have to kill a dragon that inhabits M.I.T., and maybe deal with the campus werewolf too. But mind you, such combat is only the means to an end. The main purpose here is to play Spacewar. In such a way does this game depart from the usual dragon-slaying conventions of Paul Allen Panks.
Oh yes, and I forgot. In this game, you are Master O'Ryoko, a "ninja of peace." Also, sometimes another ninja will come from out of nowhere to fight you. Therefore, let no one say that this game does nothing to escape from the drab, boring atmosphere often to be found in games set on college campuses.
I wish I could say that this game is better implemented than many of Panks' earlier efforts, but I'm afraid I can't. Few verbs are recognized, and none of the items mentioned in room descriptions can be interacted with at all, unless they are listed individually as something "you see." Basically, if you can't take it or kill it, you can't do anything with it, with only two exceptions. This is a step down from the likes of The Golden French Fry, which Panks at least had beta-testers for.
Maybe the weirdest thing about this game is the scoring system. Sometimes your score goes up or down based on your achievements, but more often it depends on verb usage. If you want to boost your score, just take something and drop it repeatedly. Each time you do, you get ten points for taking it and four more for dropping it. Taking inventory gets you two points every time, and examining anything is good for three points (even if you just type "examine asdf" or just "examine"). However, be sure not to use a verb the game doesn't know, such as "wait" or "listen" or "put," because then your score goes down by ten points.
In conclusion, if you liked Ninja 2, you'll probably love Space War!... and the PDP-1. But, oh wait, based on IF Comp statistics, there is roughly a 0% chance that you liked Ninja 2. Well, anyway.