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2 Stars IFReview Rating Stone Cell

IFReviewed by Andrew Plotkin on 2006-07-01 04:46 

Game Profile

Author
Steve Kodat

Idiom
English

Authoring System
Tads2

Release Year
1999

IFR Overall Rating
4 Stars IFR Overall Rating
Separator
The plot is simple: in a medieval setting, you are a young girl, who is thrown in jail for, um, for showing up at church in the wrong clothes. I'm afraid I didn't find this very convincing, which made the whole game sort of awkward. The whole thing pretty much went on like that. All the plot events sort of made sense, but not plausible sense.

And the language gets just a bit overblown, as well. "Overhead, the tortuous staircase ascends in a miasmal miracle, ready to be dispelled by the first step...." Oh dear.

As long as I'm picking out problems...

The famous "yes/no prompt" bug, which I seem to explain over and over. At one point, you're asked a question. The normal game prompt appears; but it's actually a modal prompt, to which you can only answer "yes" or "no". This is horribly confusing, because (1) any random command you type, such as "look" or even "save", is interpreted as a "no" without any indication, and (2) it messes up the undo sequence. ("undo" at that point is ignored, and "undo" a move later seems to undo two moves.)

Moral: implement "yes" and "no" as regular verbs, as well as variants such as "say yes" and "woman, yes". If you're absolutely unwilling to make this effort, at least put in a blatant prompt: "How do you answer? [yes/no]"

Also on interface: in several places, the game prints some text and then immediately clears the screen. This is a really bad idea. I don't know whether the author tried to put in a fixed delay, or whether he expected the screen to clear by printing a bunch of blank lines, but either assumption is a mistake. Either explicitly pause and wait for a keystroke, or don't clear the screen.

The description is sometimes confusing, particular at the beginning, when you overhear a conversation between two people. At first the voices are described as "Male" and "Female", which is fine, but on each successive turn the labels change: "Treble/Bass", "Smooth/Rough", etc. The implication is that the voices are different each time, which of course they're not. In fact, by the end, I had trouble guessing which was which. More clarity, less cleverness here.

The arrangement of the cell changes after you go to sleep. (It expands to several game-rooms, with much more detail.) This is a good idea for game-pacing -- you reassess the situation after a night's sleep -- but it's badly executed. I explored the cell thoroughly before I slept, and was thoroughly confused before I realized that all the knowledge I'd gained was wrong. Perhaps a more aggressive restriction at the parser level would help -- refuse to do much looking or examining before sleeping.

The intent of the puzzle-design is clearly that I should explore the cell thoroughly, examining and searching everything. I can't argue; that's what a prisoner would do. But I ran into a few descriptions out of order (a feature was described as familiar the first time I encountered it.)

Then I couldn't get past the first tough spot without the walkthrough. I've solved more obscure puzzles, but this had a combination of an unnoticed object and a peculiar object interaction that I don't think I would have gotten, no matter how much time I had. Anyway, from there on I followed the walkthrough. I think I would have had trouble at every step without it. Implausible, as I said, and not much authorial cluing about the way the game was supposed to run -- although I may have missed a lot by not exploring on my own, so I can't be certain of that.

Oh yeah: isn't pig iron only produced by modern blast-furnace methods? Must look that up.

Andrew Plotkin Profile

IFReviewer Rating
9 Stars IFReviewer Overall Rating

Name Andrew Plotkin
Gender Male

Also IFReviewed by

Paul OBrian

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