Posted by: Ben | October 31, 2009

if: zork, buried chaos

A Z-code game in IF Comp 09 by bloodbath

From the sublime to the ridiculous.

You light the dynamite with the ligghter and drop it down the slide. It explodes at the bottom and blows a hole through the rubble. You slide down it and find yourself in a cellar. You open the trap door and go up through the trap door and find yourself in the living room. You walk into the kitchen and out through the window. You escaped!

I include this text to demonstrate that I am one of about 0.05% of players of zork, buried chaos who actually got to see the ending.  All I needed was the walkthrough, a save file, gallons of patience and the game’s helpful tendency to move the player to a random room upon dying.  However unlike a certain dog-poor game from last year I am not going to give it any extra points for my unfortunate tendency to derive any satisfaction from this sort of thing.  And yet derive satisfaction from it I do.  I also enjoy watching TV shows in which wannabe singers perform standards from the pop canon and the public has to call a premium rate number to vote for the best one.  I do not, however, enjoy watching TV shows about celebrities dancing.  This is not because I have good taste.  I am simply not very interested in celebrities, or dancing.

My old Mum used to tell me that if I couldn’t say anything nice about something I oughtn’t to say anything at all.  That was lousy advice.  Stupid old bat.  To remain silent about this game would be disrespectful to myself, the game’s author, and anyone interested in reading a review of it that gives away the ending in the first paragraph.

So: zork, buried chaos is weak.  This much is beyond argument.  The setting lacks imagination and is not well described, the objects don’t do what they’re supposed to, timed puzzles and changes to the game world are only half-implemented, and even the walkthrough is broken.  The question is, what flavour of bad game is it?  Unintentional (in which case constructive criticism is in order) or deliberate?

From playing, it appears the author is familiar with Zork and not much else.  Now Zork is not an especially recent game, and sure, anyone can download it for free from the internet but it would be far from the obvious choice for anyone coming to IF for the first time after 1983.  Playing the game, it feels genuine.  It feels the right shape as a game.  It has a beginning, a middle and an end.  It has puzzles.  It also has some really rather peculiar ideas, like the code for the door being “4”, and the whole random-room-resurrection thing.  Then, and especially early on, there are the features that seem to have been included with the intention of generating annoyance, like the “sereal” number, and the utterly useless map.

But it really doesn’t matter.  If the author cares enough to take the time to visit and familiarise themself with IF conventions, they ought to be able to work out the difference between this and a good game.  And if not, well, nobody’s lost anything, have they?

Rating: Grim
Next: Earl Grey

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