IFDB page: Little girl in the big world
Final placement: 24th place (of 30) in the 2003 Interactive Fiction Competition
NOTE: Based on the readme file, the author wishes to keep the PC’s identity unspoiled for people who haven’t played the game. I don’t really see the reason for this, since the identity doesn’t really make a lot of sense, so I’m going to be spoiling it in this review. Consider yourself warned.
Little Girl In The Big World must be titled ironically, because the game’s world is anything but big. It’s just five rooms, three of which are pretty much bare. Not only that, the entire thing takes place in a standard house, and leaving the house (to go out into the big world) ends the game. I wish I could say that some interesting stuff at least happens in this little gameworld, but… not really. There’s no particular plot to speak of, and the whole thing can be finished in 20 minutes, easy.
Even from a coding viewpoint, the StoryFactory parser and world model has lots of serious problems, or perhaps just blatant deficiencies compared to established first-tier systems. It’s got a leg up on many homemade games in that its error messages are not snide, but they are sometimes unhelpful. For instance:
> get key
[ I will get the rusty key ]
That didn't work.
“That didn’t work” doesn’t really tell me enough of what I need to know, and it’s the game’s standard failure message. The text in brackets at least signals that my command was understood, but I need much more specific feedback when a command fails. Happily, the parser politely and willingly admits when it doesn’t understand something, and doesn’t ask any questions it isn’t prepared to answer (it doesn’t ask any questions at all), but its ability to understand input is quite minimal, it usually chokes on commands of three words or more, and it doesn’t seem to have any concept of pronouns at all. Oh, and there’s no SAVE or RESTORE functionality, which is a minor drag in this game and would be a major problem in a larger one.
As for the world model, a couple of its most serious flaws are its lack of basic IF concepts, such as inventory, and its irritating habit of only printing the room description after a LOOK command. Even at the very beginning of the game, or when the PC moves into new territory, StoryFactory doesn’t care to tell the player anything about the location. Add to these issues the fact that the prose is hampered by a considerable number of spelling and grammar problems (English isn’t the author’s first language, so it’s understandable but no less unsatisfactory) and you have a game whose implementation is seriously troubled.
LGITBW does have one interesting aspect, which is the fact that it has a strange sort of split PC. You play, apparently, a rat who is living with a little girl named Alice. However, most of the time Alice is with you, the parser will interpret your commands as orders to her, which she will usually carry out. You can specify the actor before the command in order to remove any ambiguity — I EAT THE CHEESE or ALICE EAT THE CHEESE. Now, because it’s a rat and a little girl, my personal inclination is to find this somewhat creepy, especially since Alice is so lifeless an NPC that she seems to behave as some sort of Stepford automaton, eerily under the sway of her pet rat’s will. I dunno, maybe it’s just too close to Halloween.
Anyway, creepiness aside, it’s a noble attempt to provide a team PC. Alice can do things the rat cannot, though the reverse isn’t true (not when it comes to anything useful, anyway.) There’s more ground to be broken in this area, and indeed I hope to break some of it, but LGITBW at least provides a signpost. Pity it does so ensconced in such a poor parser and inconsequential game.