in Comp96

Reverberations by Russell Glasser [Comp96]

IFDB page: Reverberations
Final placement: 13th place (of 26) in the 1996 Interactive Fiction Competition

This game was strong on good intentions, but rather weak on execution. The plot of the pizza delivery boy who foils the giant conspiracy was clever and lots of fun to play through, but the enjoyment was dampened by several technical problems in the game’s interface. Witty remarks abounded, and some unlikely actions were anticipated quite hilariously, but the positive effect of these features was counterbalanced by some logical errors in the game’s construction. It was a fun game, and with some polishing could be a real gem of IF, but in the state it was in for the competition, its great ideas were bogged down by flawed coding and language.

Prose: In some areas the prose was outstanding — economical descriptions which brought off the flavor of an object or area without getting mired in detail. In other areas the prose failed to note rather important aspects of a scene (the most grievous offense occurring at the very first room of the game.) Finding the clever responses was the greatest pleasure in the game, though sometimes the “SoCal” references felt quite self-conscious; overall the game’s prose was like the game itself: strong ideas weakened by problems in key areas.

Difficulty: I never found myself resorting to the hints, but I was occasionally forced to solve problems in the game by exploiting the logical errors in its structure. For example, the beginning sequence gives no indication that a pizza needs to be delivered — I didn’t find out until I tried to leave town and the game told me “You aren’t leaving town until you deliver that pizza.” What pizza? Why, the one never mentioned in the initial room description! Consequently, the game was somewhat difficult, but for the wrong reasons.

Technical (coding): The game suffered from several coding problems, including not only the one mentioned above, but a disappearing door (to the mayor’s office), a store manager who only notices stealing when it conflicts with the plot, a pizza box and note which drift from room to room, and several rooms which do not contain text for items mentioned in their description. On the other hand, there are some shining moments in the coding as well, such as tailored responses to YES and NO.

Technical (writing): The writing’s occasional proofing errors provide a bit of unintentional humor, such as when the game describes the district attorney as being “only… uh, ten years old than you!”

Plot: The plot of the game was great! The fun and zaniness of foiling the conspiracy made the game’s technical errors much more forgivable. Several moments in the plot were even quite inspired, and felt intuitively right in the unfolding story. Examples include kicking the window while hanging on the ledge and throwing the bomb in the sewer.

Puzzles: Some of the puzzles (such as getting past the security guard and getting rid of the bomb) were quite good and managed to achieve the subtle balance between the problem logically blocking the narrative and the solution advancing it. The puzzles that presented real problems were based on coding flaws rather than conceptual ones, such as the initial pizza problem and the final rope problem, which defeats so many attempted verbs that one feels like jumping off the building.


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