The Newcomer by Jason Love [Comp01]

IFDB page: The Newcomer
Final placement: 49th place (of 51) in the 2001 Interactive Fiction Competition

This is a joke game, right? Please say it’s a joke game. I mean, just add a few misspellings, subtract the setting, shake well, and you’ve got Comp00ter Game. I’m not kidding. Look, here’s one of the room descriptions: “$$$”. Or how about this dazzling piece of interaction:

You can't, since the iron door is in the way.

>x iron door
You can't see any such thing.

I think that was in Comp00ter Game.

Oh, but the game isn’t unwinnable. As I found out from the newsgroup, there’s a Rybread-style solution available if one performs actions that make pretty much no sense in the context of what story there is.

The sad thing is, I don’t think it’s a joke. Or if it is a joke, it’s subtler and even less funny than Comp00ter Game and Asendent. But if it’s not a joke, how could anybody think this game is ready to be played? No, it has to be a joke. A lame, unfunny joke, but a joke nonetheless. It is a joke. Isn’t it?

Rating: 1.4

Asendent by Nate Cull and Doug Jones as Sourdoh Farenheit and Kelvin Flatbred [Comp00]

IFDB page: Asendent
Final placement: 51st place (of 53) in the 2000 Interactive Fiction Competition

It’s the little things in life that help me keep my sense of irony. Like this: right after I finish a game that pays tribute to Graham Nelson, I get this game, which is apparently a tribute to Rybread Celsius. A tribute to Rybread Celsius. The world never ceases to baffle me. As I’ve written before about Rybread, he seems to have a devoted cult of followers, but I’ll never be one of them. I guess I’m just old fashioned enough to like my games with error-free prose and code, and I also sort of like them to, y’know, make some kind of sense. Asendent is, if anything, actually worse than anything Rybread ever produced. Certainly the spelling is worse, especially compared to the later Rybread (see L.U.D.I.T.E.) The code is also quite horribly buggy, though it thankfully leaves the debug verbs available, so players can be sure they’re not missing anything.

As with Comp00ter Game, Asendent looks like it might have some point to make, but just like Comp00ter Game, that point was lost on me. To me, it just seemed like a really horrible game. What’s the point of producing such a thing, especially on purpose? The intro seems to suggest it’s hallucinatory, and Rybread games certainly are that, though they don’t tend to trumpet the fact themselves. But it’s not the terrible spelling that makes them hallucinatory. It’s the imagery. Asendent can’t compare to a real Rybread game when it comes to startling images, and its imitation seems pale indeed. The purpose of its imitation is a mystery. A tribute to Rybread Celsius. People are so odd.

Asendent took me about 10 minutes, at the end of which I shook my head and got ready for the next entry. Hey, just like a real Rybread game!

Rating: 0.8

Comp00ter Game by Brendan Barnwell as Austin Thorvald [Comp00]

IFDB page: Comp00ter Game
Final placement: 49th place (of 53) in the 2000 Interactive Fiction Competition

I’m pretty sure that Comp00ter Game wants to be a parody of bad games, or bad authors, or something. At least, let me put it this way: I really really really hope that’s what it wants. It is (again, I hope) far too bad not to be intentionally bad. You know, misspelled words, broken code, leaving debug mode on, that kind of thing.

Here’s the thing about satire, though: you can’t satirize stupidity just by acting stupid yourself. You’ve got to have something, somewhere, that indicates that you and your target are separate things. Otherwise, it’s kind of like the prose equivalent of imitating somebody’s words in a high, nasally voice. That’s not satire. It’s not even funny. It’s just sort of irritating. Even if you make a few offhand references to Joyce or something.

That’s the deal with Comp00ter Game. It made me laugh a couple of times, but as far as I can tell, it is as awful a game as has ever been produced. Now, this being interactive fiction, it’s entirely possible that I missed some proper action or magic word or something that puts the whole terrible part into some clever perspective. The file is 150K, after all, and I spent a fair bit of time trying to figure out what could possibly be taking up all that space. I finally concluded that it must be the Infix stuff, which the author left in — I haven’t started a new Inform project since Infix was introduced, so I’m not sure how much it bloats a file, but it seems logical that it would add a fair amount.

I did type “tree”, and managed to crash the whole game with a fatal error, so that left me pretty convinced that the game isn’t clever, just very very broken. It certainly didn’t come with any walkthrough, and I don’t have access to the net at the moment (to check Deja for rgif postings), nor to txd, so that’s the conclusion I’m resting with. The upside is that I didn’t spend much time playing it, nor writing this review, which brings me that much closer to my goal of actually finishing all the games by the deadline. That’s worth something, at least.

Rating: 1.1