The Curse Of Eldor by Stuart Allen [Comp96]

IFDB page: Curse Of Eldor
Final placement: 21st place (of 26) in the 1996 Interactive Fiction Competition

Well, this is a case of what could have been. What could have made for a fun, enjoyable game was brought down by a few fatal flaws: buggy coding, poor writing, and some clichéd settings and puzzles. I gave up on the game after about an hour, looked for the walkthrough and couldn’t find it. (I’m assuming there was one and I’m just too blind to figure out where it was. However, I didn’t appreciate the fact that the help info said to type “HELP” and then the topic I needed help with, but didn’t ever seem to respond to that command structure) Looking at the source code, I see there was a councillor who gives me the details of my mission — unfortunately, this councillor never showed up when I ran the game. Also, while I commend the author for writing an engine that comes as close as it does to emulating Infocom, it was missing some key features, such as “verbose”. Fix up the code, proof the writing, and you could have yourself a playable game. Unfortunately, the version that was entered in the competition is no such animal.

Prose: Once in a while the prose would reach a level where I enjoyed reading it. All too often, though, it was simply one trite cliché after another (A dragon regards you sleepily, the men are gathered around the roaring fire, etc.) The other problem with the prose was its uneven level of detail. Some things in room descriptions were described at length — some other obvious features (a twelve foot pit, for example) were not described at all. Also, some simple errors (a room description which tells of an exit leading east when the exit really leads west) lead me to believe that the game was not well beta-tested.

Difficulty: Well, considering that from the outset something I needed to complete the game was hidden by buggy coding, I’d rate the difficulty right at “impossible.”

Technical (coding): As I’ve said, quite spotty. Not to take away from the author’s accomplishment of creating a free-standing text adventure engine — this is obviously quite respectable. However, it’s not all that respectable if it doesn’t work. Example bugs are (of course) the councillor, the “help” command that doesn’t help, and the fact that basic commands like “verbose” and “again” are unavailable.

Technical (writing): Unfortunately, the writing was littered with quite a few errors, especially spelling errors and simple grammar errors. For example, lots of it’s/its errors, which is a pet peeve of mine. Clearly this work was not proofread (at least, I hope it wasn’t proofread!).

Plot: I found it too difficult to get past the bugs to find the development of anything I could reasonably call a plot.

Puzzles: Once again, the real puzzle was figuring out where the bugs are in the game’s code. From looking at the source code, the puzzles I looked at were fairly well-worn (picking a lock with a wire, making an animal sneeze). However, to be fair I didn’t come across all that many puzzles on my own, so there may be some better ones that I missed. Gee, a walkthrough or hints would have helped!


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