It’s a little ominous when a game has multiple errors in its first paragraph, and that’s exactly what happens in The Evil Sorcerer:
Well George, you've finally done it. You've drank so much you have no
idea where you are. It doesn't take much of a survey to realize you
are lying in some else's bed, in someone else's home.
“You’ve drank”? “Some else’s bed”? Obviously not the product of solid proofreading, these paragraphs warned me to be ready for the worst. What I found sometimes confirmed those expectations, but happily, sometimes fell short of them. (Or exceeded them, depending on how you look at it.) The Evil Sorcerer is a fairly routine adventure, in which the PC gets transported to a Magical Land, recruited to fight a Malign Presence, dispatched to collect a bunch of Enchanted Ingredients for an Occult Recipe, and finally finds himself in a Climactic Battle (which, in my play session anyway, turned out to be rather anticlimactic.)
Really, there’s nothing wrong with any of these elements, but without some freshening influence, a game composed of them can start to feel a little humdrum. There were hints here and there that things might turn out to be not quite what they seem, or that there might be a compelling twist or two in the plot, but as it turns out… nope. After my first 15 minutes with the game, I felt like I could already see the ending coming up Fifth Avenue, and when it arrived, it brought no surprise and little joy.
Compounding the game’s predictability was its bugginess. Mind you, compared to some comp games I’ve played, Evil Sorcerer‘s implementation was rather solid, but there were definitely areas where it stumbled. For one thing, the first paragraph wasn’t the only place where the prose was error-prone. Many of the writing errors were simply typos, but grammar problems were present too, including the NASTY FOUL IT’S/ITS ERROR. That last one always gets my inner grammarian up in arms. Mistakes weren’t everywhere, but they were still far too common.
Alongside the hampered prose were a few of programming problems, including one doozy of a crash, which brought down the whole interpreter. Besides these categories, there were a number of outright logic errors, resulting in nonsensical output. For example, the PC would suddenly gain a piece of knowledge with no apparent explanation for having acquired it. Sometimes object descriptions would offer information that the PC couldn’t possibly have (like what’s on each side of a coin, even though the coin has never been picked up). And perhaps my favorite one of all, the PC finds a coin and when he asks an NPC about it, she replies:
"My people's currency. One marc is worth 216 arc. One armarc is worth
about 216 marc. The arc is worth about $3.33 US."
So… there’s an exchange rate? You had to use a special potion and cast a little spell to take just one person to this wacky homeland, and yet you’re still able to take your arcs to the bank and change them for dollars?
Somehow, the whole thing seemed to be the product of some fairly surface thinking. As a result, I never felt particularly immersed in the game. It’s not that it was terribly offensive or outright bad, but its various problems and its by-the-numbers nature kept me at arm’s length. Given that these were more or less the exact criticisms leveled at my first game, I understand very well how they can happen, and I’m optimistic that the author’s next work can build on this game’s strengths while addressing its weaknesses.