in Comp97

Aunt Nancy’s House by Nate Schwartzman [Comp97]

IFDB page: Aunt Nancy’s House
Final placement: 33rd place (of 34) in the 1997 Interactive Fiction Competition

When I began learning Inform, one of the first things I did was to put together a little simulation of the cottage I was living in at the time. It was great fun making a text adventure out of my current environment, adding both magic and realism as I saw fit. That Inform program would have easily been finished in time for submission to the 1995 IF competition, but I didn’t submit it. My reasoning at the time was that even though it was fun for me to walk around my virtual cottage, it would be really boring for other people. Now that I’ve played Aunt Nancy’s House (hereafter called ANH), I know I made the right decision.

According to its author, “Aunt Nancy’s House is actually based on my aunt’s (soon-to-be-former) house, and was created as a way of teaching myself Inform. There are no puzzles, the idea is mainly to wander about in an interactive environment and have fun.” Well, “wander” was certainly there, but “fun” wasn’t, at least not for me. Basically ANH simulates an empty house. That’s it. I have no doubt that creating this simulation was pretty exciting for the author, but without that connection to the subject material, other players are going to be bored.

ANH taught its author how to use Inform — I look forward to when he applies that knowledge to the creation of a game.

Prose: The game’s prose wasn’t outstanding, but it served its purpose.

Plot: ANH has no plot.

Puzzles: ANH has no puzzles. (Hey, puzzleless IF!)

Technical (writing): I spotted a few grammatical errors in the game, which I’ve passed along to the author.

Technical (coding): ANH has a number of bugs, which I’ve also forwarded to the author, but for a first exercise in learning Inform, it was put together pretty well.

OVERALL: A 2.9

[Postscript from 2020 — This game inspired one of my favorite reviews ever from Andrew Plotkin, one I still recall to this day. Relevant excerpt: “…somehow I get the impression that the author has spent a lot of time being bored in this house. I mean — I wandered around, I turned on the tv and the video game machine, I turned them back off, I poured myself a soda. Then I went back upstairs. Yeah, I’ve spent a lot of time at relatives’ houses that way.”]

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