Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mean Streets, by BadDog

It's neat to see not just Inform games in the comp. This is an effort from BadDog, who is new on the scene. It's set in Grittyville (Aw, man! Now I should've totally written my introcomp game last year. It was called Grubbyville. I may or may not have to change it now. You snooze, you loose) and advertises itself as a sort of noir adventure.

Unfortunately, it plays a bit like an introductory effort: a sprawling map, lots of unimplemented stuff in the room description, not enough synonyms, and even a place where I got caught because my usual plow-through methods don't work (TADS lets you X ALL, SEARCH ALL and L UNDER ALL.) The rejection methods are a bit weak, with "ATTACK RAMON" giving "You don't know how to do that." This isn't a creative fault of itself, but it does force the player to be familiar with text adventure tropes. And if they are, they'll probably be familiar enough with other things that the game never gives any surprise. The thing is--a synonym doesn't make a game by itself, but you miss a few, and the player has trouble.

And while there are no obvious howlers, it's a bit too predictable. I sort of figured everyone was in on it, and the people there to help me felt paper thin. Marla and Ella are...just names. The score is based on killing people, including one insane person. And what's worse, you never do see your status. There are plenty of foods to eat to replenish your health, but you don't have a health bar anywhere (you need to type SCORE, which gives your enemies a free attack, as does X ENEMY to get their hit points,) and when you grab the police chief's burger during that big fight and the game comments it tastes good, it's the wrong sort of stoicness.

But I think this game has decent organization. It's better than the IFComp 2014 TADS game Slasher Swamp, which sort of checked off on the various elements of a swamp/horror movie and gave you a lot of locations without going into detail. Mean Streets is more orderly and constrained, without anything disbelievable, or painful mapping where going east twice leads you back where you were. It's just--when I was told I couldn't go somewhere, I figured, oh, I need to figure why person X is in on it. Hm, who else is? There was some fiddly stuff with ENTER GREEN disambiguating to the green key or green door? And not having directions to enter the door. And the formula of finding an X KEY in a drawer, using it to unlock an X, and moving on.

The game feels free of basic bugs. But it doesn't really have a pulse, and it only feels noir because it told me so. It's a bit paint-by-numbers, which is nothing to be ashamed of, and I hope I'm not being too harsh. I'd like to be able to ask Ella about more, or Marla, or even Samson. It's too tidy how he commits suicide. We don't have enough of Dirk's back story. So I wound up checking off on what to do instead of wondering what Dirk does next.

We need these sorts of efforts to learn on. This may be particularly harsh. I'd like to see a lot more attention to detail in a remake. From IFDB, it seems the author has already made progress, and that's good. The author has contacted me, and I think they'll be trying a bit more, later. I look forward to them making a post-comp release. I think one big thing about that first release is that you don't realize what can or should be done, but if you'd known... and ParserComp seems to allow you to fix this in a less competitive environment than IFComp.

No comments:

Post a Comment