IFRO

Change in a trice the lilies and languors of virtue for the raptures and roses of vice.
Algernon Charles Swinburne


Login | Register


Username:
Password:

Who is Online

We have 671 registered Members.

There are no Members online.

There are 9 Guests online.

8 Stars IFReview Rating Mingsheng

IFReviewed by Paul OBrian on 2006-07-21 06:42 

Game Profile

Author
Deane Saunders

Idiom
English

Authoring System
Inform6

Release Year
2004

IFR Overall Rating
7 Stars IFR Overall Rating
Separator
Less than plot or character, Mingsheng is about a place and a mood. The mood-setting begins before the game even starts, with the inclusion of a nicely-formatted PDF feelie, replete with Chinese characters and martial arts diagrams. This document explains that the game is based on a myth about the origins of Taiji, or as I've always known it, T'ai Chi -- thus all the Chinese martial arts stuff. I appreciated the care that was put into this accessory, and I also liked the fact that the same information was available in a PDF, as a text file, and within the game. It made me grin when I realized that somebody had trumped me in the "ABOUT text in multiple spots" department. The Chinese feel continues in the formatting of the game, which includes the option of Unicode Chinese characters as "flavor text". These characters appear mostly in room titles, and apparently just repeat the room name in Chinese, so if you miss them, all you're missing is a mood enhancer. And a lucky thing, too, because they require a font that supports Chinese characters. The author suggests a font called Simsun, which I don't have installed on my PC. I would have appreciated a pointer to where I could download a compatible font; instead, I floundered for a while, combing the unhelpful results of googling on "simsun font" and finally giving up. [Note: After the comp, the author provided a link.] The game gives the option of transliterating the Chinese characters (complete with numerical tone markers), but it's really not the same. Past the meta-game stuff, the game sets a lovely tone with its room and object descriptions. Mingsheng calls on some lovely imagery -- the tableau of perfectly still lake and crane, the worn-down pagoda, the six-thousand-step staircase carved into mountain rock. A particular favorite of mine is the path flanked by animal statues, statues that are implemented several levels deep. The game did an excellent job of making me feel like I was wandering through an Asian painting, enmeshed within a mythical realm.

As I said, tone is the game's emphasis, and there's not much of a story to go along with it. A plot summary would be something like "guy solves a bunch of puzzles and along the way attains enlightenment." Many of those puzzles are pretty straightforward. That's not a criticism -- I'm a fan of straightforward puzzles. Struggling too long at any particular obstacle would likely break the mood that Mingsheng works so hard to set. There was one puzzle, though, that annoyed me in a way I don't remember having seen before in IF. Actually, it wasn't so much the puzzle that bothered me as the implementation of the solution. The conceit is that the PC must learn something by observation before being allowed to pass a particular barrier. Several puzzles must be solved in order to set up the situation where the PC is able to observe and learn. However, once I'd accomplished this, I figured I'd learned what I needed to know, and headed straight to the barrier, which was only two moves away. However, when I tried to pass it, I couldn't. I was flummoxed, feeling sure that I'd seen what I needed to see. However, as I wandered around trying to figure out what I'd missed, the game kept popping up messages every turn or two along the lines of "Now that you think of it, you realize X." After no less than four of these messages, they finally stopped, and when I went back to the barrier, I was able to cross it. I found this technique irritating. Not only would an "all-at-once" realization be a bit more dramatic, it would also be a major improvement from a gameplay standpoint. I don't want to have to wait for the PC to catch up with me when I figure something out, and wandering around or typing "Z.Z.Z.Z." while I'm waiting is mighty dull. Another puzzle quibble: there's an object that requires "a great deal of force" to be applied to it. The solution to this puzzle is cool, and I liked it very much. However, there's an alternate solution which the game actually implements, but doesn't seem to want to count as enough force, when it should be easily the match of the working solution. This alternate path should either be included fully or not at all.

Small criticisms aside, I thought Mingsheng was well worth my time, especially for what time it took -- the game is pretty short, and when I finished, I felt like I hadn't actually done that much. Alongside the brevity, though, there's something else that made it feel not quite complete. Actually, though I rarely say this, I think this is a game that could be greatly improved with the inclusion of some quality graphics. Certainly some visual depictions of key locations, a la Trading Punches, could have helped deepen the mood and setting even further. However, the place they'd really be useful is when the game gets to describing actual martial arts poses. For instance, after a certain point in the game the PC gains the ability to practice stances (which are named after elements) by typing the name of the stance, like so:


>earth
You are not in combat at the moment, but you rehearse the stance
anyway.

You quickly get into the earth stance:

You balance your weight evenly upon both legs, both slightly bent to
keep your stance grounded. Your right hand is held out in front of
you, fingers open, palm facing directly forward. Your left hand is
also held palm open, but at your side - facing forwards at a slight
downward angle.

Now, I can carefully read through this description, act it out a little bit, and get a pretty clear mental picture, but I have to really stop and work at it. However, if a diagram of the stance had been included, I'd understand it much more quickly, and the flow of the game would continue far more smoothly. This isn't a complaint, but rather a hopeful suggestion. Even without graphics, Mingsheng draws some lovely pictures.

Paul OBrian Profile

Name Paul OBrian
Gender Male

Also IFReviewed by

Sam Kabo Ashwell
Andrew Plotkin

This IFReviewer IFReviews

- 1-2-3...
- 2112
- A Bear
- A Crimson Spring
- A Day for Soft Food
- A Day In The Life Of A Superhero
- A Good Breakfast
- A Light's Tale
- A Moment of Hope
- A New Day
- A Night Guest
- A Paper Moon
- A Party to Murder
- Aayela
- Acid Whiplash
- Ad Verbum
- Adoo's Stinky Story
- Aftermath
- Al Otro Lado
- Alien Abduction?
- All Things Devours
- Amnesia
- an apple from nowhere
- And the Waves Choke the Wind
- Arrival, or Attack of the B-Movie Cliches
- Asendent
- At Wit's End
- Augustine
- Aunt Nancy's House
- Babel
- Baluthar
- Bane of the Builders
- Beat the Devil
- Begegnung am Fluss
- Being Andrew Plotkin
- Bellclap
- Best of Three
- Bio
- Blade Sentinel
- Blink
- Bliss
- Blue Chairs
- Blue Sky
- BOFH
- Breaking the Code
- CaffeiNation
- Calliope
- Carma
- CASK
- Castle Amnos
- Cattus Atrox
- CC
- Cerulean Stowaway
- Chaos
- Chicks Dig Jerks
- Chronicle Play Torn
- coffee quest II
- Color and Number
- Colours
- Coming Home
- Comp00ter Game
- Concrete Paradise
- Congratulations!
- Constraints
- Crusade
- Curse of Eldor
- Curse of Manorland
- Death to my Enemies
- Delusions
- Desert Heat: A Romance Of Sorts
- Dinner with Andre
- Domicile
- Don't Be Late
- Down
- Downtown Tokyo, Present Day
- E-Mailbox
- Elements
- Enlightenment
- Enlisted
- Episode In The Life Of An Artist
- Erehwon
- Eric's Gift
- Escape from Crulistan
- Evacuate
- Exhibition
- Fear
- Fifteen
- Film at Eleven
- Fine Tuned
- For a Change
- Fort Aegea
- Four in One
- Four Mile Island
- Four Seconds
- Friday Afternoon
- Fusillade
- Futz Mutz
- Getting Back To Sleep
- Glowgrass
- Goofy
- Goose, Egg, Badger
- Got ID?
- Gourmet
- Grayscale
- Guard Duty
- Guess the Verb!
- Halothane
- Hell: A Comedy of Errors
- Hercules First Labor
- Heroes
- House of the Stalker
- Human Resources Stories
- Hunter, in Darkness
- I Didn't Know You Could Yodel
- I Must Play
- Identity
- Identity Thief
- In the End
- In the Spotlight
- Informatory
- Internal Documents
- Invasion of the Angora-fetish Transvestites from the Graveyards of Jupiter
- Jacks or Better to Murder, Aces to Win
- Jane
- Janitor
- Jarod's Journey
- Journey from an Islet
- Jump
- Kaged
- Kallisti
- King Arthur's Night Out
- Kissing the Buddha's Feet
- Koan
- Kurusu City
- Leaves
- Letters from Home
- Life on Beal Street
- Lightiania
- Lists and Lists
- Little Billy
- Little Blue Men
- little girl in the big world
- Lomalow
- Lovesong
- Lunatix
- Lurk. Unite. Die. Invent. Think. Expire.
- Madame L'Estrange and the Troubled Spirit
- Magocracy
- Maiden of the Moonlight
- Marooned
- Masquerade
- Metamorphoses
- Moments Out of Time: Explorer Type
- Moonbase
- Murder At The Aero Club
- Muse: An Autumn Romance
- Music Education
- My Angel
- My First Stupid Game
- Mystery Manor
- MythTale
- Nevermore
- Ninja V1.30
- No Room
- No Time to Squeal
- Not Much Time
- Of Forms Unknown
- On the Farm
- Only After Dark
- Order
- Out of the Study
- Outsided
- Pass the Banana
- Persistence of Memory
- Phlegm
- Photograph: A Portrait of Reflection
- Photopia
- Phred Phontious and the Quest for Pizza
- Piece of Mind
- Pintown
- Planet of the Infinite Minds
- Poor Zefron's Almanac
- Prized Possession
- Prodly the Puffin
- PTBAD 3
- Punk Points
- Punkirita Quest 1: Liquid
- Purple
- Ralph
- Rameses
- Ramon and Jonathan
- Rape, Pillage, Galore!
- Redeye
- Remembrance
- Rent-A-Spy
- Research Dig
- Return to Zork: Another Story
- Reverberations
- Rippled Flesh
- Risorgimento Represso
- Ritual of Purification
- Ruined Robots
- Sardoria
- Scary House Amulet!
- Scavenger
- Schroedinger's Cat
- Screen
- Shade
- Shadows on the Mirror
- She's Got a Thing for a Spring
- Silicon Castles
- Sins Against Mimesis
- Six Stories
- Skyranch
- Slouching Towards Bedlam
- Small World
- SNOSAE
- Sophie's Adventure
- Spacestation
- Splashdown
- Spodgeville Murphy and the Jewelled Eye of Wossname
- Square Circle
- Stack Overflow
- Stargazer: An Adventure In Outfitting
- Stick It to the Man
- Stiffy Makane: The Undiscovered Country
- Sting Of The Wasp
- Stone Cell
- Stranded
- Strangers in the Night
- Stupid Kittens
- Sun and Moon
- Sunset Over Savannah
- SURREAL
- Sweet Dreams
- Sylenius Mysterium
- Symetry
- Tapestry
- Temple of Kaos
- Temple of the Orc Mage
- Terrible Lizards
- The Adventures of the President Of The United States
- The Atomic Heart
- The Beetmonger's Journal
- The Best Man
- The Big Mama
- The Big Scoop
- The Case of Samuel Gregor
- The Cave of Morpheus
- The Chasing
- The City
- The Clock
- The Coast House
- The Commute
- The Cruise
- The Djinni Chronicles
- The Edifice
- The End Means Escape
- The Erudition Chamber
- The Evil Sorcerer
- The Fat Lardo and the Rubber Ducky
- The Frenetic Five vs. Sturm und Drang
- The Gostak
- The Granite Book
- The Great Xavio
- The HeBGB Horror!
- The Isolato Incident
- The Land Beyond the Picket Fence
- The Last Just Cause
- The Lost Spellmaker
- The Masque of the Last Faeries
- The Meteor, The Stone And A Long Glass Of Sherbet
- The Moonlit Tower
- The Newcomer
- The Obscene Quest of Dr. Aardvarkbarf
- The Orion Agenda
- The Pickpocket
- The PK Girl
- The Plant
- The Realm
- The Recruit
- The Tempest
- The Temple
- The Test
- The Town Dragon
- The Trip
- The Water Bird
- Thorfinn's Realm
- Threading the Labyrinth
- Till Death Makes a Monk-Fish Out of Me!
- Timeout
- To Otherwhere and Back
- Tookie's Song
- Trading Punches
- Transfer
- Trapped in a One-Room Dilly
- Travels in the Land of Erden
- Triune
- Typo
- Unholy Grail
- Unnkulia X: Escape of the Sacrificed
- Unraveling God
- Vicious Cycles
- VirtuaTech
- VOID: CORPORATION
- Volcano Isle
- What-IF?
- When Help Collides
- Where Evil Dwells
- Who Created That Monster?
- Winter Wonderland
- Withdrawal Symptoms
- Wrecked
- Yes, Another Game With A Dragon!
- You Are Here
- You Were Doomed From the Start
- Zero One
- Zero Sum Game
- Zombie!