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A Party to Murder Reviews
Author: David Good (as DuoDave)
Date: 2002
ADRIFT 4.0


Reviewed by Dan Shiovitz

This is not an infocom-style mystery, which is fine by me. Those seem to revolve around guess-the-topic ASK/TELL conversations and situations that require exact timing, whereas this one revolves around wandering around somebody's house during a party stealing their stuff because, hey, it's just sitting there and I'm the PC, so I'm entitled. There was also some kind of mystery going on which I was collecting clues for, but I couldn't seem to stop the game from ending before I got very far, and anyway the map didn't seem to be working and so I kept getting lost, and so what it came down to was I just decided to borrow all their office supplies. 


Reviewed by David Whyld

Well above average 

DuoDave's entry for the 2002 IFComp, A Party To Murder is a thoughtful, well-written piece of interactive fiction which is nicely accessible from the word go. Indeed, most of the locations can be reached with a minimum of trouble. The puzzles lie in other directions. 

Starting with an introduction which sets the feel of the game well, A Party To Murder comes across firstly as a straightforward murder mystery. Tony Ravine, the head of the local homeowners' association, has been hitting you, the player, with penalties and fines for years and his latest move is to put a lien on your house. A party thrown at Ravine's house seemed as good an opportunity as any to speak to him and get the matter sorted out. Only now you find yourself sitting in a police station being questioned in relation to Ravine's murder. Needless to say, things are not as they appear… 

The majority of the game is set within the confines of Tony Ravine's house, a fairly large number of locations populated by the other guests attending Tony's party. Describing locations which are all pretty much the same (i.e. a room in a house) is never easy, but the writer pulls the feat off with ease. Clever use is made of static items, with a good number of dynamic items (often essential to the plot) hidden carefully away in places you might not at first think to look. 

As with Menagerie, the puzzles are logical, though often not that easy to figure out. One involving placing certain books on certain bookshelves had me stumped until I took a look at the walkthru, because while putting books on bookshelves might be the sort of thing you'd do in real life, it's not really what you expect to do in a text adventure. 

A Party To Murder boasts quite a range of characters, a few of whom have the annoying habit of wandering off to different locations when you're trying to speak to them. The majority of the characters do not really have anything essential to contribute to the plot but it's a nice feature that they are all outfitted with a proper set of conversations so you can interact with them. So many times, characters are only included in games when they have something vital to add to the plot; the characters in A Party To Murder are there to add depth to the game and this is a feat they handle easily. Some hidden extras involving certain characters (flirting with the detective and losing yourself points, flirting with Bunny and gaining points) added some humour to the game and also made attaining the maximum possible score more difficult than finding out who murdered Tony Ravine. 

A few more than difficult puzzles (placing the books on the bookshelves) did little to mar an otherwise excellent game. 

Logic: 6 out of 10 
An impressive use of static and dynamic objects equalling a nicely logical game, although there were certain events (reading the letter at the wrong time) that left me scratching my head and thinking "what?" 

Problems: 10 out of 10 (10 = no problems) 
Fortunately none. 

Story: 7 out of 10 
While the murder mystery idea is hardly new it's an interesting one all the same and beginning the adventure with the implication that maybe you are the killer adds a neat twist. 

Characters: 7 out of 10 
Interaction is possible with all of the characters in the game and they're both well drawn and believable. 

Writing: 8 out of 10 
As is usual in Duo's games, well above average. 

Game: 7 out of 10 
All in all, I didn't enjoy this game as much as Menagerie but it's still a superior piece of interactive fiction. 

Overall: 45 out of 60


Reviewed by Demian Katz

Another decent Adrift game; I'm shocked. I still don't like the interpreter very much, but it's good to see that people are putting it to decent use. This is a mystery game of sorts using a flashback mechanism reminiscent of (but simpler than) the one found in the Zarf classic Spider & Web. The game has its flaws, and it would have really benefit from a hint system instead of a full walkthrough, but I think that mystery fans could have some fun with this.


Reviewed by Emily Short

This game has some problems with implementation: 'you can't go that way' messages that list incorrect directions, for instance; books that arespposed to be present, but that don't react to your attempts to take them (and give confusing messages about not being where the descriptions say they are); and so on. There are occasional spelling errors as well, though not so pervasive as in some games. Some of the things that annoy me about Adrift in general were in their traditional form here: for instance, the autocompletion of words sometimes gave away more information than I approved of or caused peculiarities if the player kept typing — "S" autocompleting to "SOUTH" before the player continued typing "...WIM," for instance, so you wound up with an unparseable "SOUTHWIM." 

For reasons I'm not certain of, the designer disabled the auto-map-making abilities of the system; though I am not crazy about auto-mapping in general, this game requires enough exploration that I might have found it useful. He did choose to make use of a particularly annoying ability of Adrift, namely text that pauses briefly before dumping out more text. Part of the problem here was that I was reading over my friend's shoulder for much of the game, and it was hard enough to track without this jerking about. But I don't think I would've liked it anyway. On the other hand, this is probably a more ambitious game than I've seen executed in Adrift before. The NPCs wander around and converse independently, for instance. 

Leaving aside the features of the system, though, the game's kind of baffling. You can wander around and find a certain number of pieces of evidence; you can even ask NPCs about them and (sometimes) elicit a reaction (though in many cases GIVE and SHOW produce complete indifference to items when ASK ABOUT will get a customized message). After a while, though, one runs out of space to explore, and it's not clear how to go on. People's conversation suggests a certain amount of information — there are some obvious sources of motivation and grievance — 
but they are none of them terribly forthcoming. Mostly we could only get them to talk about things we already knew. Perhaps we were just approaching it wrong. 

We eventually found a way to trigger the end of the game, but it wasn't nearly a winning state, and we couldn't discover any other ways to progress with our investigation than by entering the area that seemed to provoke problems. Nor could we figure out a way to find any homeowners' files. The experience with the game ending was so arbitrary and sudden that we were not inclined to go back and replay with the walkthrough to find out what we had missed. Possibly in another circumstance I would've been more forgiving about that, but I was getting bored. 

Points for the cheeses, though. Mmm, cheese. 


Reviewed by Jessica Knoch

What a great title. It works on so many levels. I’d never played an ADRIFT game before this one, but I’d seen the flame wars on R*IF so I was a little unsure about what to expect. And I was pleasantly surprised. 

Yes, the author’s choice of game language is influential in how good his game is, and yes, how well the parser works is part of the final score. So, Inform and TADS games get “an advantage” only over games whose parsers suck. “A Party To Murder” had a parser that did not suck; and as a bonus, the game completed some of my typing for me (more on that later) and had nifty pop-up windows that I liked, and I didn’t have any more problems with syntax, etc, than any other game I’ve played so far. ADRIFT, we salute you! 

Now that the language discussion is out of the way, let’s talk about the game. It was quite a bit of fun, all in all. This is a good, old-fashioned murder 
mystery “plus.” By that I mean that this is more than just a murder mystery: the player character’s driving force is not to solve the murder but to find out if the lien on his house can be removed. Between that and the framing (you start off talking to a detective after the fact, and what you do in the game is what you tell him about the night), I already know at the beginning of the “real” game what my character wants and how he might act. This is wonderful. 

I had a little trouble figuring out some other plot-related things that may have made a difference in how I acted: for instance, I wasn’t sure if I was invited to the party, or just crashing it. Also, I didn’t know who the people were. I met Bunny, who is “helping with the food” and “making sure everyone is having a good time,” so I assumed she was the hostess and therefore Tony’s wife. You can imagine my consternation later when I showed her evidence of Tony’s affair, only to be told she wasn’t interested. In retrospect, she had no real reason to be, since Tony’s wife is a woman named Susan. To help with these issues, the game had answers to certain questions, like “Who is Susan?” But the answer was “Susan 
is the woman,” which didn’t really tell me a whole lot. Even less enlightening was the answer to “Who is Tony?”: “Tony is the Tony Ravine.” But the game’s “Where is” was much more practical: when I wanted to talk to someone, I could find out which room they had wandered to just by asking. Great touch. 

The walkthrough suggests that if you collect evidence without having seen the body, the other guests will get suspicious. I didn’t see anything different, no matter how much evidence I collected. Even giving the murderer the evidence that would specifically point to him/her elicits no response. I do like, however, that if you have no reason to be snooping (i.e., haven’t found the body), then the game will prompt you with a “Don’t you feel funny, pawing through someone else’s belongings?” yet will allow the action if you insist. This is the perfect way to handle “IF behavior” in a more modern setting. Of course, once you know murder has happened, you are authorized by the game to do any snooping you wish. 

This game has lots of extras: you can play on the computer (and enjoy it!), you can pee, you can flirt with the guests (and more!), you can walk in on a teenage couple gettin’ it on, you can view cheeses like Asiago and Grueyere (although sampling them is more difficult -- and isn't it "Gruyere"?). And I actually like the framing device better here than in Spider and Web (as much as I enjoyed it there). In Spider and Web, you act out what you are “telling” the other person, but you might get it wrong and have to redo it. Here, whatever you act out IS what happened, whether you get the bad guys or not! It lets the player truly decide what happened in the evening, and that makes it a lot of fun. 

Oh, sure, there’s the occasional typo (“flegling” should be “fledgling”), missing punctuation mark (examining the easy chair), and unimplemented verb 
(like “knock” when confronted with a closed and locked bathroom door). And sure, some of the syntax is a little tricky, you can’t “show” someone something, the NPCs are a little unresponsive, and you can’t “turn flashlight off,” only “turn off flashlight.” But I don’t mind. The puzzles requiring a little authorial omniscience I do mind, but not too much. I’m used to using walkthroughs, being the poor puzzler that I am, so it doesn’t bother me a lot to find out what you have to do in order to get the keys from Susan. 

Two more quick notes before we wrap up this review and get on to the scores. First of all, the sentence completion thing has its ups and downs. The ups (if unintended) are that I am aware of many things in the room that I may not have been before. Just try out some letters and see if anything new pops up in the command line; you may learn something. The downs are, well, maybe that wasn’t intended. Also it doesn’t always complete the same combination of letters, which is puzzling. 

Second note: there’s one object in the game I object to. The post-it note in the hall bath should really, in my opinion, just be taken out of the game 
completely. On it, the author intrudes on my gaming experience by leaving a post-it note, a “Memo from the Author,” in the medicine cabinet to do nothing more than tell me why there’s nothing exciting in the medicine cabinet. Now I know that medicine cabinets are a pain in the rear, because they’re in almost every bathroom and they usually contain all sorts of little, fiddly objects. But please, I’d rather see a bare cabinet than a note from the author in an otherwise-serious game telling me why he didn’t stock the cabinet. It isn’t funny, but it does destroy the (otherwise quite interesting) mood you’ve created up to this point. 

All right, the score: 

Story: 7. Two parts cliché, one part original, mix well and refrigerate until 
set. 

Writing: 6. Generally fine, with some typos and missing (or extra) punctuation. 

Puzzles: 6. Passable, some omniscience required to figure out what to do (but not how to do it). 

Coding: 7. Good, some fun actions specially implemented, a few quirks (and not enough NPC responses). 

Parser: 8. I didn’t really miss the verb “show” since so often it’s synonymous with “give” anyways. This is a high quality parser, for all practical purposes. 

Humor/Enjoyment: 6. Some of the NPCs are quite funny and/or enjoyable at times, if you know what I mean. But overall, the game isn’t very humorous at all. 

Participation: 6. Not bad, but disturbed by the post-it and by having to serve as a shelving librarian for ten minutes. 

Lack of Annoyance: 7. I assume ADRIFT doesn’t list what items are on supporters, generally speaking. This is somewhat annoying (not to mention misleading). 

General Idea: 6. 

Wildcard: 5. In the end, the game really isn’t that memorable. It’s worth a play, but probably not disk space. 

Composite score: 6.4 (Comp score: 6) 


Reviewed by Mel S


Although I will recommend the game, I was disappointed by A Party to Murder. The game was written well, and the characters were fleshed out quite nicely, but I found the puzzles in the game, mostly involving books, to be tedious and a little out of place. The main problem I had with the game, is that it's a little on the dull side, I wish there could have been a little more variert in the puzzles, but I'm still going to recommend the game, I was just a little disappointed. 

6/10


Reviewed by Paul O'Brian

I will say this for it: A Party To Murder is the best ADRIFT game I've ever played. Unfortunately, that's not saying much. Even if it were written in a 
first-tier IF language, APTM would have some problems to overcome, but is it is, it's hopelessly lumbered by the terrible, terrible ADRIFT parser. We're talking about a mystery game here, reminiscent of Suspect -- you play a guest at a party where a murder is discovered, and you must extricate yourself from suspicion. A mystery game, okay? You might think that, in a mystery game, you'd be able to SEARCH things. Not this one -- it doesn't recognize SEARCH, LOOK IN, or LOOK THROUGH. Worse, with the latter two it parses them as LOOK rather than just admitting that it doesn't recognize them. Same with LOOK UNDER and LOOK BEHIND. Hint: ignoring prepositions doesn't make them go away, it just makes your response more likely to be wrong. Perhaps, in a mystery game, you might want to SHOW things to NPCs. You can't here. Even if you hold a completely damning piece of evidence and want to show it to the person whom it damns, all you get from the ADRIFT parser is "I don't understand what you want me to do with the letter." Maybe, in a mystery game, you might even want to TELL someone about something. In this game, you can't. All these very basic verbs, absolutely standard with any first-tier system, are unavailable in ADRIFT, and their absence absolutely slaughters this game. In fact, from a very early stage, whenever I encountered one of the game's many containers, I got in the habit of trying to GET ALL FROM it, because that was the only reliable way I could get the game to tell me whether there was anything inside. Needless to say, I wasn't exactly feeling immersed in the story while doing so. 

As I said above, even if all these problems were resolved, APTM still wouldn't be a great game. Part of the reason for this is the fact that the game seems to operate on its own inscrutable logic rather than any sort of recognizable sense of cause-and-effect. For instance, there's a portion of the game where access to a useful item is being controlled by one of the NPCs. The only way to persuade this NPC to let you have the object is to perform a long series of apparently arbitrary tasks, and the NPC doesn't really indicate that it wants these tasks performed. The only way I found out was via the walkthrough, and I'd be surprised if anybody figured it out any other way. Of course, by that time I was going straight from the walkthrough anyway, because in my initial playthrough of the game, I never found that NPC at all -- it seems she only appears after a particular item has been discovered, even though that item is more or less unrelated to her absence. Oh, and that item is only accessible by using an object whose primary logical use is unimplemented in the game. For the sake of spoilers, I won't name what that object is, but just for example, if you found a knife, and the game didn't understand the word CUT, you might think that knife was a red herring (and that the game was lazily implemented). Wouldn't you be surprised to find out from the walkthrough that even though CUT isn't implemented, you still need the knife to, oh I don't know, scrape the mud off a stone tablet or something? Something analogous occurs in this game. See what I mean about inscrutable logic? In addition to logic problems, there are certain implementation errors as well. For example, most of the game consists of a flashback, but typing X ME while still in the frame story depicts the PC as if the flashback was already happening. 

So after all this, what makes APTM the best ADRIFT game I've ever played? Well, for one thing, despite the occasional glitch, it does have a decent depth of implementation. Most first-level nouns are described, and the setting is rather richly detailed. I spent an inordinate number of hours with Suspect when I was younger, and at times this game brought back pleasant memories of that experience. The writing gets its job done with a minimum of errors, and the NPCs are coded to handle a reasonable number of inquiries. In fact, a couple of times during the game I asked an NPC about a somewhat extraneous topic, and was happily surprised to discover that the response had been implemented. Another point in favor of the NPCs is that they will sometimes react sensibly to strange actions on the player's part; for instance, walking into the teenage daughter's bedroom while she's making out with the neighbor elicits angry responses from both of them, escalating in intensity the longer the PC hangs around. Snooping around the objects in the house, though it's necessary, also provokes suspicion from some of the NPCs. Then again, nobody gives you a second glance when you walk through the house carrying an 8-foot ladder, so this realistic implementation is really rather patchy. Overall, APTM would be a seaworthy craft, but between the logic holes in its hull and the tsunamis of ADRIFT inadequacy, it sinks dismally fast. 

Rating: 4.6 


Reviewed by Quintin Stone

Score: 6 

"A Party To Murder" takes on the tricky task of a murder mystery and falls a bit short. That's not surprising though, as I feel that mysteries are one of the more difficult realms of IF to create. The game starts off with a long cut scene involving numerous pauses and conversation that you can't control. It's a bit long and frustrating to sit through more than once. 

From there, you move on to the actual party, where you interact with multiple guests and the furnishings of the house. It starts off well enough, but then devolves into a morass of confusion as you try to figure out what in the heck to do next. There's a hidden piece of evidence you find and according to the walkthrough, if you examine too closely at the wrong time, you can't win the game. Then there's the bizarre final puzzle, where the only way to get the information you need from an NPC is to perform a completely unrelated series of actions. Mind you, there is no basis at all for believing that doing so will produce ANY kind of result. This puzzle is a good example of a "guess what the author is thinking", especially considering that when I examined the items involved, the game's reply was that they "don't interest me." 

Then there were the other technical problems I encountered. An attempt to examine a woman led to this helpful disambiguation message: "Which woman. The woman or the woman?" My attempt to "ask billy about the piece of paper" netted me the response: "You can't talk to that." 

At least the guests were interesting. For example, the couple making out in the laundry room make their way into the girl's bedroom for a little privacy. Interrupting them may be rude, but damn is it funny. 

Too bad scenes like that couldn't carry the rest of the game. A good mystery is a very formidable beast to create and while I can see that a lot of effort was put into "A Party To Murder", the author should have taken a longer look at the game overall before releasing it. 


Reviewed by Superplonker

Overall, a very nice game. 

The only niggle I have is with that business with the letter. There isn't really any clue that reading that letter causes the game to end abruptly. I spent ages working out why I couldn't search the body without the game ending. 

Apart from that, a lovely, well-written and tightly packaged game with no apparent bugs or flaws. 

Well done.


Reviewed by TDS

Once I first passed this game it didn't interest me, but after reading reviews of how good it was I decided to give it a try. Now to the review.

You are at a party and you must discover who is the murderer of Tony Ravine. The premise is simple, but poorly executed. The game has bare bones descriptions of all the rooms, so bad I start to realize a pattern in his room descriptions. Room descriptions vary from

Master Bedroom
Just by looking at the master bedroom it is obvious that the people who live here are rather picky about being neat. The room is dominated by a queen-sized bed, next to which is an austere nightstand. Above the bed, attached to the pale green wall, is a faux vine. There's a television on the west wall, next to which is a dresser. A bookshelf is to the south, next to which is a desk. The north wall has a window that overlooks the porch. The master bathroom door to the east is closed, and you can return to the family room to the west.

to 

Gallery
The entrance hallway to the house has some photos on the walls and a small table on the west wall. To the east is a den, and to the north the hall opens to the dining room and living room. You hear music playing.

The latter being more common. For the most part the rooms are generic and are described by what items are in them, in a dull way. 

This isn't helped by the personality-less npcs that are not interactive at all. Very little description here too.

There are a couple bugs but none glaring or interrupting the game real bad. The puzzles consist of examining everything in all the rooms and some puzzles I would've never thought to have done if it weren't for the walkthrough. This wouldn't have been so bad if I could use the map. I hate when authors disable the map, especially when there are many rooms in a game.

The idea of the game is great but it just wasn't carried out too well. But if you like murder mystery games this may be worth your time.

4/10 


Reviewed by  MathBrush

In this game, you play someone exploring a house during a party, trying to find paperwork on a lien on your house.

There is a death. You want to learn more about it.

The game has some odd touches (some strong profanity from a goth, for intance), especially the fact that you go through every area of the house in front of the unhappy occupants and they don't stop you.

Otherwise, though, this is one of the best Adrift implementations I've seen.


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