IFDB page: Maiden of the Moonlight
Final placement: 7th place (of 26) in the 1996 Interactive Fiction Competition
This is a game that has a great deal going for it, but unfortunately has a few downfalls as well. First, the positives: the accompanying text file does an excellent job of setting the scene, and the prose is atmospheric and shadowy enough to produce some genuine chills from the experience of exploring the haunted manor. I enjoyed piecing the story together from the text fragments found in various places in the manse, and felt a genuine interest in how the story was going to turn out. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find out in the two hours allotted, and therein lie some of the problems. Some of the puzzles are quite unfair, the most grievous offender being a room which delivers the equivalent of instant death — destruction without warning of the player’s light source, and no mechanism provided for stumbling about in the dark. That same light source must be used with painstaking care, or it sputters out frustratingly early, and the author provides no alternative (or at least, none that I could find.) This was especially maddening so soon after seeing how well Aayela manipulated the same trope. Maiden is both exciting and irritating — it promises drama and intrigue, but many of the obstacles to be overcome along the way are simply brute force barriers, with none of the subtlety of the best interactive fiction.
Prose: The author’s prose does a very nice job of conveying the desolate, decrepit mansion. Descriptions of rooms, objects, and the moonlight peeking into various locations were all quite literate and strong. Also, the Baron’s notes gave his voice a credible Victorian timbre — of course, the Baron was supposed to have lived in the 17th century, so maybe that isn’t such a good thing.
Difficulty: Well, some parts of the work were quite easy to get through, and the pace flowed through them quite smoothly. However, they were stopped dead by the light source puzzles, which made a first-run solution of the game basically impossible.
Technical (coding): Everything was quite smoothly coded. I can’t think of any problems I encountered.
Technical (writing): I’m writing this review a few days after last having played the game, so my memory may be faulty on this count, but I don’t recall any faulty grammar or spelling.
Plot: As I mentioned above, I found Maiden‘s unraveling plot quite engrossing, which made it all the more frustrating to have to be continually restarting the game after my lamp sputtered out. Still, I’m looking forward to returning to the game after the judging period ends in order to find out how I can break the Baron’s curse over his daughter and her paramour.
Puzzles: Addressed in “difficulty”; some were very straightforward, and others were quite impossible. One which I found particularly thorny was the problem of the spikes atop the iron fence. The way I had envisioned the fence was with tall, sharp spikes, while the solution to the puzzle was more suited to something along the lines of barbed wire. Perhaps a more vivid description here would alleviate the problem.
OVERALL — An 8.3