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2 Stars IFReview Rating The Last Just Cause

IFReviewed by Paul OBrian on 2006-07-20 09:40 

Game Profile

Author
Jeremy Carey-Dressler

Idiom
English

Authoring System
Ms-Dos

Release Year
2001

IFR Overall Rating
2 Stars IFR Overall Rating
Separator
Hoo boy. I'm not sure how to approach this one. OK, let me start here. If I had downloaded this game by itself from, I don't know, download.com or something, I think I would have approached it differently. I might have taken, for example, its more or less complete lack of a parser more in stride. However, this is my 20th text adventure in 17 days, and all the others -- even the homebrewed Windows ones -- at least made some pretense at approaching the ability to understand basic language input. Consequently, I approached TLJC like another text adventure. It isn't. This game doesn't even come close to the level of understanding displayed by even something like Angora Fetish. I typed "x lantern", and here's what happened:

You have used 0 turns... What do you want to do next? x lantern


That might be foolish, try something else...

Your HP is 104 percent. You're in room 1. Your MP is 44.
You have used 1 turns... What do you want to do next?

That might be foolish, try something else...

Your HP is 104 percent. You're in room 1. Your MP is 44.
You have used 2 turns... What do you want to do next?

What I determined, after a bit more confused thrashing about, is that the game only understands one word at a time, and that its vocabulary is limited to a couple dozen words. After being immersed in modern, sophisticated text adventures, this game suddenly made me feel like I had time-warped back to 1982, and that one of my 12-year-old colleagues had just unveiled their rockin' new game to me.

I just keep coming back to it: programming an IF game from scratch may make for a better (or at least more educational) experience for the programmer, but it almost always provides a much worse experience for the player. Not that this game would necessarily have benefited greatly from being written in an advanced IF language. Its shape is extremely simplistic, it has very little story, its writing lacks coherency (as well as a number of other virtues), and... well, I could go on, but what's the point? TLJC (which, by the way, never mentions causes of any kind, be they just or unjust) has the feel of a bad early-eighties console game, with very primitive action, only a few items, and rooms that vary for appearances' sake only, with no regard whatsoever to creating a believable or even consistent gameworld. It also falls into what I'm beginning to recognize as a standard trap of beginning IF authors: mocking the player for no good reason. The very first room gives us this:

You are in a cave... Now that you have light, you see there is a
spider on your leg you go screaming like a little child!

Okay, setting aside the egregious punctuation problems for just a second, I still have to ask just what this wants to accomplish. Is the game giving me some bit of characterization about the PC? Is it trying to establish that the narrative voice will be a harsh, unfriendly Hans-and-Franz kind of presence, mocking the little girlyman throughout the game? Nah, it's just there -- it seems to be little more than free association.

TLJC is one of those games that it's hard to imagine anyone enjoying who isn't the author. It doesn't offer good writing. It doesn't offer interesting technical achievements. Lord knows it doesn't offer fun gameplay, instead serving up mind-numbing tedium of battle after battle with one (undescribed and made-up) monster, all of which feel like waiting around while various dicerolls happen without you. (Although I did greatly enjoy when the game asked if I wanted to use the "lighting" spell, and upon my assent cried "I call upon the Power of lighting!" That'll make an excellent line for turning on lamps.) Its puzzles (such as they are) make very little sense. Oh, there is an implementation of blackjack that felt like it had received the most care and interest of any feature in the game. I guess that goes to show that as sheer programming exercises go, it's probably better to make card games than interactive fiction. It's hard enough to make good IF even when you have every advanced tool in the world on your side. It's a problem that encompasses design ability, writing ability, and programming ability too. With a card game, the first is taken care of, and the second is irrelevant, so it's only the third that gets challenged. I think I'd have a lot more fun playing a first-time programmer's version of blackjack than I would playing their homebrewed IF. That was certainly the case this time.

Paul OBrian Profile

Name Paul OBrian
Gender Male

This IFReviewer IFReviews

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- SURREAL
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