in Comp96

Stargazer: An Adventure In Outfitting by Jonathan Fry [Comp96]

IFDB page: Stargazer
Final placement: 19th place (of 26) in the 1996 Interactive Fiction Competition

Stargazer worked quite well as a prologue, but I’m not sure I cared for it much as a stand-alone game. Just about the time I thought the action was about to start, the entire game ended. This made for a rather anticlimactic experience, especially since I worked through the game in well under the two hours allotted. Also, the game’s brevity worked at cross purposes to its genre; confusing references and unfamiliar objects can usually be let slide in fantasy since they are sure to be explained later. Not so in Stargazer. Aside from these problems, however, the piece was fairly enjoyable. There were a few technical problems, but nothing too great, and the author created a world I wanted to learn more about, which is certainly a step in the right direction. Stargazer worked well as a prologue — I look forward to the game.

Prose: Aside from the sometimes awkward or convoluted sentence structure (“One reason for this is that this is also…”, “…any other senses you may have.”), the prose worked fairly well. I got a nice sense of the turbulence of the river, and I thought the dialogue worked fairly well. Nothing was wonderfully well-crafted, but most was certainly serviceable.

Difficulty: I found the game quite easy — I finished it in about 40 minutes. Unfortunately, this ease aided the sense of anticlimax triggered by the game’s abrupt ending.

Technical (coding): Overall the coding was strong, though there were a few weak points. These points included: two separate moss/lichen objects which shared names, so that in one location “X MOSS” yielded “Which do you mean, the moss or the lichen?” over and over again; an object which is on a rock across a rushing river, yet which can still be touched or moved, a god who demands a sacrifice when the verb “sacrifice” isn’t in the game’s vocabulary, and a dusty lens which responded to “X DUST” with “You can’t see any such thing.”

Technical (writing): The writing was sometimes rather awkward, but it was generally correct in spelling and grammar.

Plot: Well, Stargazer didn’t contain much plot, though it did have the beginnings of one, and probably contained a lot of foreshadowing (though it’s difficult to tell without seeing the story ahead). What was there was an intriguing beginning, but not much more.

Puzzles: While quite easy, the puzzles moved the story along well, and were very well integrated with the storyline. I’ll be interested to see what challenges the author has in store in the actual game.


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