Posted by: Ben | October 8, 2009

if: Beta Tester

A Z-code game in IF Comp 09 by Darren Ingram

Reviewed below.  Also, the secret of great comedy revealed.  Be as funny as real-life comedians with the information the professionals don’t want you to know.

“Aha!  Um…oh ho!” she stammers as she stands up.  She looks to be a woman of average size who takes green as her color as she’s wearing an emerald colored blouse and pants.  “Ah yes!  Now, ummmm…”  She pushes her head into a nod as if she’s having trouble with the motion.  “A visitor!  Oh yes…umm…a toy!”  She proudly displays a toy in her hands.  “I was just, um…”  pushes her head through a thought, “getting a toy from the floor.”  She considers the toy for a moment and then grins at you.

I’m not playing your game, Darren Ingram.  Well, obviously I am, but what I mean is I’m not beta testing your game for you just because you’ve called it Beta Tester and implied that it hasn’t already been beta tested.  This is a review, not a test report.

There’s an awful lot of text to read, and it feels like even more because virtually every time something happens the prompt Pause appears and you have to press any key.  The effect is that of attending the author’s daughter’s wedding and getting steadily more drunk as he reads his hour-long speech off a whole box of index cards, leaving a beat after every half-sentence to give the assembled guests a chance to applaud another of the fine bons mots that litter his dreadful anecdotes about people you don’t know and wouldn’t like if you did.  He really does love the sound of his own inner voice, which is not a crime in itself, but I lost count of the number of times I started typing a command only to find the game was still waiting for me to press a key.  In some scenes this happens every single turn (for example when the comedian turns up) but more commonly it happens dozens of times between turns as the extensive cutscenes play out, or rather drag out.

Some sections do have a certain naïve charm.  The opening puzzle with the hamster was kind of endearing.  Once you’ve solved that, you can attempt the rest of the puzzles, but there isn’t any real reason to do so apart from a general suggestion that this might be an interesting environment to explore.  There’s a whimsical and innocent quality to the writing that makes the game difficult to hate.  When a character says “The Virtual Properties Division of CogCo Industries, Incorporated would like to welcome you to the Toybox and wishes for you to simply enjoy yourself,” you fear the author might just mean it.  There’s a forced atmosphere of merriment which is also not unlike a wedding.

So let’s just call it harmless, and leave it at that.  And the secret of great comedy? Timing.

Rating: Good

Next: The Believable Adventures Of An Invisible Man



  1. Ha ha. It is — but you’re supposed to blurt it out just when whomever you’re talking to has digested the question (about half a second) and is about to take a guess. Doesn’t translate well into text. 🙂

  2. That’s true but the variant I prefer is when you leave a really long awkward pause and finally give the answer when the other person is just about to start backing nervously away from you. Not to be used on strangers, or anyone you want to impress.

  3. Timing!

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