The Meteor, the Stone, and a Long Glass of Sherbet by Graham Nelson as Angela M. Horns [Comp96]

IFDB page: The Meteor, the Stone, and a Long Glass of Sherbet
Final placement: 1st place (of 26) in the 1996 Interactive Fiction Competition

I was very impressed with Sherbet, a highly inventive adventure which puts yet another imaginative spin on the Zork mythos. The game’s prose is at a very high level of quality, its world is very well-designed, and several aspects of the documentation (the context-sensitive hints and the diplomatic “briefing”) were very well done indeed. I didn’t get through the entire game in the two hours allotted, and I found myself resorting to the hints quite a lot. Often, this was because a logical puzzle had me stumped, but the first two times were due to puzzles which didn’t offer enough alternative syntax. Unfortunately, these two situations inured me to looking at the hints, thinking perhaps that my other obstacles were due to syntax problems as well. Apart from this one flaw, Sherbet was a truly excellent piece of work — well-plotted with clever puzzles, a strong sense of unfolding narrative, and rife with the pleasures of revisiting an old friend in a new context.

Prose: The game’s writing consistently maintains an exceptional level of quality. The vacuous’ Amilia’s ramblings serve exquisitely to define her character, and the “briefings” concisely draw the player’s diplomatic situation while quietly evoking Zorkian echoes. I found myself just a little confused by some of the cave descriptions, but this was mainly due to the sense of scope which the author unerringly conveys.

Difficulty: As I mentioned, the game was too difficult (and large) for me to complete in the two hours allotted for judging time, and part of this difficulty arose from problems with the first two puzzles. After finally summoning the bird of paradise, I spent a good fifteen minutes trying to pour, put, rub, insert, or otherwise attach the sherbet to the elephant before finally resorting to the hints only to discover that the game demanded I “throw” the sherbet glass. However, in other spots the difficulty of the game was quite legitimate and logical, as in the instance of the ladder problem, which was another solution I found in the hints rather than finding it myself.

Technical (coding): On the whole, the game was very well coded, and I never found the kind of irrational flaws which can snap the suspension of disbelief in interactive fiction. There were a few spots where the game suffered from a lack of synonyms, especially the elephant (as described above) and the hook (one must again “throw rope over hook” but cannot stand on the table or hamper, lasso the hook, simply “throw rope” , “put rope on hook”, or even “throw rope onto hook”.) When these problems are eliminated , the game will be very strong indeed.

Technical (writing): Sherbet is a well-written and well-proofed piece of work in which I don’t recall noticing any technical mistakes.

Plot: It was a great pleasure to get embroiled in the plot, and the premise of the main character as a diplomat rather than an adventurer provided a break from cliché married with a plausible reason for the snooping called for by the game’s structure. I’m looking forward to the endgame, which I hope will offer a tie between the game’s diplomatic beginnings and its Zorklike middle.

Puzzles Mostly discussed above in “Technical (coding)” and “Difficulty.” Many of the puzzles were real pleasures (panning and the ladder come to mind) and the twist on treasure collecting (giving all the treasures to the Zork adventurer) was brilliant. Once the puzzles are better coded the game will be really first-rate.


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