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Humbug Reviews
Author: Campbell Wild (original by Graham Cluley)
Date: 2003
ADRIFT 4.0


Reviewed by David Whyld

In Humbug, you play the part of Sidney Widdershins who has been packed off to his Grandad's house for the school holidays. You arrive here not knowing much but it soon becomes clear that everything is not all it should be at Attervist Manor. Humbug is a sparsely written game for the most part but still manages to derive considerable amusement value from the brief descriptions, although quite a few left me wishing a little extra effort had been expended to give them more depth. The kitchen for example reads:

"I am in a long rectangular room with a heavy wooden table. The walls are covered with pans, dishes and china plates. There is a shallow doorway to my west labelled "Pantry", whist an open archway leads southwards back into the dining room. A kennel sits in one corner of the kitchen. There is a door to my east. Exits are south and west."

Nothing really wrong with this but the literary soul inside of me would have liked the description to be a little less businesslike and a little more interesting. That said, the descriptions are good for the most part and, while not flashy, accurately show what is going on.

Like the writer's previous game, Jacaranda Jim, Humbug is a remake of a Graham Cluley game, although how closely it mirrors the original I couldn't say as I haven't played it. But, as with Jacaranda Jim, the writer seems to have done a pretty good job of porting the game to Adrift and I liked this quite a bit more than most recent Adrift games I've played. However, enjoyable as it was, it would be nice to play a completely new game instead of a remake. In a way, this was a new game for me as I'd never played the original but for many I imagine it would seem like playing a game they've already played through before with a slightly difference interface. But I guess if you're going to port a game to Adrift, you might as well pick a good one. And Humbug is certainly that.

Alas, it didn't come without its problems. There were quite a few missing examinable items quite early in the game - a long bramble hedge covered in frosty cobwebs couldn't be examined or interacted with. Nor could the cobwebs. Likewise a Viking longboat thrusting up through the ice was unexaminable. As was the ice. Whether these were remnants from the original games or bugs restricted solely to this version, it was hard to imagine how they had been missed in testing. I don't tend to go through games looking for things that should have been implemented but haven't but these sort of things tended to jump out at me.

There were some guess-the-verb issues along the way, the worst culprit being on the Viking longboat where a rope is hanging from the side of the longboat. All attempts to climb the rope fail miserably yet "down" works fine. It also killed me, which I was a tad annoyed about considering there wasn't any kind of warning that this would happen (or if there was a warning it must have been a very vague one because I never saw it).

The puzzles hark back to the text adventures I used to play back in the 80's and most involve finding an item (the majority of which just seem to be lying around for the player to stumble across) and then discovering what needs to be done with them. Most, fortunately, are relatively straightforward and an excellent hints system is there for those who might be struggling to figure out how to defeat the slug (harder that you might think because obvious commands like "kill slug" just hit you with the default Adrift response of "Now that isn't very nice". Maybe not nice but it would have been easier than defeating it the way you have to in the game. And also not nice that a new response wasn't programmed for what was, in my opinion, the obvious action to take at such time.) Explore the numerous locations (it boasts a daunting 99 of which I've reached perhaps 30) and you'll come across a Viking ship buried in the ice, complete with an uncommunicative Viking called Sven. Uncommunicative in the sense that conversation is handled in the standard Adrift format of "ask [character] about [subject]" and it's often difficult to know in these circumstances just what subjects certain characters need asking about.

In conclusion, Humbug is a wry and witty game, at least the parts I've reached so far, and while a new game would have been more welcome it's nevertheless well worth playing.

Logic: 7 out of 10
Little made sense here, although Humbug isn't intended as a sensible game.

Problems: 6 out of 10 (10 = no problems)
Guess the verb struck in quite a few places (always a bad sign) as well as there being quite a few instances of items not being examinable. Maybe these were flaws in the original game but, if so, it would have been nice if they had been fixed in this remake. 

Story: 6 out of 10
Very little background to speak of but once things get underway you probably won't notice. And the introduction, while short, does a good job of setting the scene.

Characters: 3 out of 10
I've encountered several so far but been unable to strike up a conversation with any of them. They're amusingly described yet I felt a little more conversation (or any conversation) would have been nice.

Writing: 6 out of 10
Above average throughout, though lengthier and less formal descriptions could have improved the game.

Game: 7 out of 10
A worthy remake.

Overall: 35 out of 60


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