IFDB page: Of Forms Unknown
Final placement: 20th place (of 26) in the 1996 Interactive Fiction Competition
Potential for an interesting game totally ruined by buggy coding. The game was put together in 3 weeks, and I’m afraid it shows. The author wisely admits that the game is highly derivative of So Far — this would be fine if not for the fact that So Far actually worked, and Of Forms Unknown does not. I quit after wrestling extensively with the illogic built into the game’s coding structure and finally going to the hints, following the explicit instructions for solving a puzzle (the frame, rope, and light bar), and finding that even after following the instructions, the puzzle remained unsolved.
Prose: Struggling to reach Plotkin level. The pieces of prose which are the most successful are the ones most imitative of Plotkin. The rest is utilitarian, with the exception of the prose which makes no sense at all.
Difficulty: Impossible. The game’s buggy coding made progress impossible for me well before I got to the bug the author discussed on rec.arts.int-fiction. Of course, this means that the point at which I quit actually was a passable point, but to my mind if the walkthrough doesn’t get you where you need to be, the game is impossible.
Technical (coding): Extremely poor. From small points like the lack of a new_line after some inventory calls to rather glaring problems such as the broken frame puzzle (try tying a rope to the frame, then tying something to the rope, then walking away holding the tied object — works mighty easily!) and the fact that dropped objects all seem to become concealed somehow.
Technical (writing): No errors that leaped out at me. However, to be fair, I didn’t see the whole game.
Plot: In So Far, the lack of a coherent plot was a bit frustrating to me, but I could hold my frustration in abeyance because of the game’s many fine features. This game offers no such redemption, and suffers greatly from being an imitation springing from a cliché (the college dorm room as starting point).
Puzzles: Ranging from highly illogical to basically logical but impossible to complete. For example, lighting a dark room (whose description reads “You can’t see a thing”) by saying “turn on light” not only goes against the logic of the description (isn’t the light switch one of the things you can’t see?), but also against one of the most standard conventions of interactive fiction, which suggests that even a light switch in a dark room is inaccessible without a faint light by which to discern it. Delusions had the answer to this — Forms does not. Another example is the dials in the shaft — what is the logic behind setting them all to 0? Only the arbitrary logic of the game, such as the decision that for some reason bringing a light source into a cave through the door extinguishes that source for no good reason.
OVERALL — A 1.5