IFDB page: Ruined Robots
Final placement: 34th place (of 36) in the 2004 Interactive Fiction Competition
Okay, I’m not sure how to review this game without sounding like an ogre. Per the credits and a quick perusal of the web page, it looks like Ruined Robots was written by two kids and one adult, so I hardly want to come off like a big bully, but there’s just no getting around the fact that this game is terrible. Being charitable, it feels like a child’s drawing that’s been taken off the refrigerator and entered into a competition filled with talented painters and sketch artists. In one context, it’s something to be proud of, but in the other, it can’t be anything but bad. I mean, there are a couple of cool features — some of the ambient sounds are nice, and the little “common commands” toolbar could be useful to players with a different style from mine. But the crux of the game — the writing and the coding — is just really poor.
Detailed analysis of everything wrong with Ruined Robots would be belaboring the point, and though point-belaboring is one of my hobbies, I’ll try to steer clear of it this time, and instead just mention a few ways in which this game could be improved:
- Get rid of the hunger timer. It is pointless. (By the way, what is it with TADS and hunger puzzles? Are they the default in the TADS library or something?)
- Figure out what’s causing the freaky line of double-strikethrough letter Ys next to all the room titles, and fix that.
- It’s = it is. Its = belonging to it.
- Proofread in general. Pretend you’re turning it in for school and will get marked down for every English error or something.
- Get your game beta-tested. If your testers can’t figure out the puzzles, decipher the prose, or finish the game without your help, fix whatever’s confusing them.
- Try to have the puzzle-solving actions make sense. You can’t expect players to perform some random action you’ve given them no reason to try.
- Speaking of randomness, cut it out with the million-and-one random objects that break mimesis and serve no purpose. If there’s a snowman on the lawn in the middle of spring, for instance, there’d better be a good and interesting reason for that. I don’t want to hear, “The snowman isn’t important.”
Finally, if you’re going to provide a walkthrough, please make sure it actually works to solve your game with. Otherwise, you’ll have judges who decide that your game is totally unplayable and deserves a 1.