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Beanstalk the and Jack Reviews 

Author: David Welbourn
Date: 2008
ADRIFT 4.0


Reviewed by Emily Short

The content of this story won't be a surprise to anyone, and it's pretty light on puzzles, too: this is Jack and the Beanstalk told backwards. At each turn, you have to guess the move that Jack took to get to the present situation.

The resulting game is necessarily pretty linear, though not quite as straitjacketed as you might expect -- it's possible to wander around looking at things and taking other non-world-changing actions, as long as your next significant act is the correct one. The actual puzzle of figuring out what to do next is usually not that hard, given (a) the knowledge of the game state it produced and (b) familiarity with the original story, which means that the story goes by quickly and doesn't wear out its welcome. The peculiar reverse-causality remains entertaining throughout.

The implementation is pretty smooth overall -- I ran into only one or two moments where I had trouble with unrecognized commands that I thought ought to make sense. In particular, I tried a bunch of variations of >ENTER OVEN, GET IN OVEN, OPEN OVEN, and the like, before realizing that I needed IN to hide there.

On the whole, this game doesn't have much to offer beyond its gimmick, but that's enough to amuse for the fifteen minutes or so it takes to play. And it's definitely an interesting take on treatment of time in IF.

 


Reviewed by David Whyld

At first, this seemed frustratingly buggy. There were little annoyances like trying to close an open window and being told it was open and the listed exits being wrong in every location. Later on, after much muttering and cursing, I realised this was actually the point. If the title of the game hadn’t clued me in already (and no, it hadn’t), the game plays in reverse, e.g. you start at the end of the game and have to retrace (backwards) the steps you took to get there. So if there's an exit to the east, you need to approach it by going west; if something is closed, it can only be opened with the close command; you'll often be told what you need to do next *after* you’ve done it; and so on… Quite an inspired idea, but annoying till you figure out what is going on and almost had me quitting.

I didn’t make a whole lot of progress with the game under my own steam. Trying to figure out the command I needed to type – or the *previous* command I needed to type – got me beat most of the time and instead I spent the majority of the game just randomly trying things until something finally worked. A trio of puzzles about midway through the game are essentially the same puzzle just repeated three times, but it wasn’t until I was on the third of them that I realised this. No doubt if I’d realised it a bit sooner, I wouldn’t have had anywhere near as many problems as I did. Fortunately, the game isn't password protected so I was able to sneak a peek in the Generator (a more polite way of saying I cheated something rotten) every time I got stuck.

Considering this game was written in the unregistered version of ADRIFT 4, complete with all the nasty restrictions meant to give you a taste of what the system is capable of without allowing you to actually producing anything worthwhile, there's a surprisingly complex game here and the idea of starting at the end of the story and working your way to the start is certainly an interesting one. The restrictions make themselves apparent in a few places and there are definitely some rough edges that could have been ironed out with the registered version, but all in all Beanstalk and the Jack is a far more accomplished game than I’d have expected one written with the unregistered version to be.
 


Reviewed by Various (InsideADRIFT Newsletter 38)

Evaluator 1:
I don't know what it is, but there's just something about fairy tales that makes them a natural fit for IF. And while I'm sure a game based on Jack and the Beanstalk has been done before, the gimmick here (which I won't spell out to avoid spoilers in case this gets posted on the forums) puts a fun little twist on the whole thing.

One of the Big Rules of IF is that every object mentioned in a room should be described, and while this game had problems in that area, on the whole the writing was good and 'Beanstalk' was clearly the most thoroughly tested of all the entries. I'm looking at my notes for it right now and under 'cons', besides the undescribed objects the only thing I have listed is that the mother NPC is completely unresponsive and just stands around like a zombie. This is especially impressive considering that from his forum posts I got the impression the author had to rush to get the game in by the deadline. Definitely my favorite game of the comp.I don't know what it is, but there's just something about fairy tales that makes them a natural fit for IF. And while I'm sure a game based on Jack and the Beanstalk has been done before, the gimmick here (which I won't spell out to avoid spoilers in case this gets posted on the forums) puts a fun little twist on the whole thing. One of the Big Rules of IF is that every object mentioned in a room should be described, and while this game had problems in that area, on the whole the writing was good and 'Beanstalk' was clearly the most thoroughly tested of all the entries. I'm looking at my notes for it right now and under 'cons', besides the undescribed objects the only thing I have listed is that the mother NPC is completely unresponsive and just stands around like a zombie. This is especially impressive considering that from his forum posts I got the impression the author had to rush to get the game in by the deadline.

Definitely my favorite game of the comp.

Evaluator 2:
The winner. While the beginning is confusing, everything makes sense in the end. It's well-implemented throughout. It's a bit repetitive, but that's forgivable given the fairytale nature of the story.

Evaluator 3:
Beanstalk and the Jack was well written to fit the theme. It read like a children's book, which in this case is a good thing. It had an interesting concept, in that it was written in the past tense. All events took place before the beginning of the game, which isn't something you see in IF very often.

The only real problem I ran into was probably more of an oversight than a real problem. Many of the directions were accidentally reversed. You had to go "down" in order to climb up the ladder. And you had to go "up" to get back down from the attic. Also, the game says that the town is to the East, only when you go East, you end up in the house, which is to the West. The opposite of this is also true. Looking at the source code, I also noticed that opening the window sets it to closed, and vice versa. These things could be easily fixed with extra development time, and were probably a result of the strict deadline/mild dyslexia, so I'm not going to judge them too harshly.

Overall, I enjoyed the game.

Evaluator 4:
This game went the 'Pieces of Eden' route and begins with minimal details about who you are what you are supposed to be doing. It's all in there, but doesn't become obvious until you've played for a while. This game also seemed a bit more polished than the other two, with mention of a play tester being involved. Hmmmmm. That's promising.

At first I was a little confused. The directions I was being offered in the room descriptions didn't seem to correlate with the actual directions I was going. I was told, for example, that a certain location was the the east but I could only get there by heading *west*. Easily done, I thought. I've made that mistake myself a few times. But then I noticed that this was happening in every location. And immediately my brain registered with what the author was trying to do, the title and the hint given in the opening about retracing your steps. I was doing everything backwards. I went into my bedroom. The window was open. I tried closing it. Nothing. I tried opening it and was told that I opened the window. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Once I had the nature of the game sorted it worked out quite well. It was like watching a video of 'Jack and the Beanstalk' in fast reverse. David had stuck very closely to the original fairy tale and it worked really well. I thought it was imaginative, well implemented and written and generally a great piece of Interactive Fiction considered
within the restraints. At times it felt a little repetitive, following the same series of commands with only slight changes depending on the item you were stealing from the
ogre, but it was still a lot of fun.

The only problem I had was with David trying to over-ride the default drop command (to prevent the player abusing it or making a mistake), meaning that reasonable commands like 'drop axe' didn't work. You had to tell the character to put the axe down instead. This whole set-up makes SCARE throw a hissy-fit and results in the game being unplayable in Gargoyle. Another one for the Runner.

This game quickly became my favourite, and not just for this competition. I thought it was one of the best pieces of writing from a new author I had seen in a while. However, I ended up docking this game points because I wasn't able to finish it. I got most of the way through the game, but when I climbed down the beanstalk with the
bag of coins and came to part where, I assumed, that I would have to backwards plant the Beanstalk I found that I couldn't do anything.

According to my inventory I was carrying 'Prize0'. I examined my mother only be told [mom=0]. A bit harsh, I felt. OK, she'd not really done anything throughout the game, but calling her a zero? With my immense experience at messing things up I instantly recognised an ALR/Variable combo problem. Rummaging around in the code didn't help at all. I started again, but hit the same problem. I couldn't complete the game and was left frustrated.

In my previous judging capacity I had penalised games that I couldn't finish, so felt honour-bound to do the same to this effort - despite the fact that I thought this game was superb and deserved to win. Integrity won out, and I posted a penalised score for this game, thought I felt guilty and annoyed about it.

In correspondence with my fellow judges I discovered that none of them had the same problem. Just me. Typical. The end result is that 'Beanstalk' won anyway, a result that I am happy about and think is thoroughly deserved.

Apologies to David for tarring his game with the 'broken' brush when it seems that it's me that's broken. Maybe it's Vista. Yes, that's right. I'm blaming Vista - just like everyone else does.

THINGS I LIKED: An awful lot. A nice spin on a traditional fairy tale, well-told and enjoyable to play.

THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE: That I couldn't finish the game.

 


 

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