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The Isle Reviews
Reviewed by The Amazing Poodle Boy
(Review may contain slight spoilers)
Seeking an idle hour's amusement, I betook myself to the ADRIFT Adventures download page to peruse the latest offerings. About halfway down the first page I spotted a genuine rarity; one that wasn't by David Whyld. Eager to assess the new talent, I eagerly downloaded it, pausing only to buy a new external hard drive to accommodate its whopping two kilobytes.
On the adventures page I noticed the game was credited to Mooroo. Upon downloading and typing 'about', I was further informed that the game is entitled 'untitled', its author 'anonymous'. It was only then that I realised what I had stumbled upon. An author who wishes to remain anonymous? An obvious pseudonym? My heart raced as I realised what I had found - a brand new game by Andrew Plotkin! And written with ADRIFT, at that! Who would have thought it, that sly old dog! And now that I come to think of it, 'Mooroo' is almost an anagram of 'Andrew Plotkin' if you turn some of the letters upside down and exchange most of the others for different ones. With hungry eyes I turned back to the screen.
As the game opens, you are prompted for your name and sex. I duly entered 'Frederick Altamont Cornwalis Twistleton, fifth Earl of Ickenham', feeling that, in the character of dear old Uncle Fred, I would feel more confident in tackling Plotkin's fiendish puzzles. Thus emboldened, I embarked upon what promised to be a rollicking journey into IF.
The first sentence spells out your predicament without ado, cleverly segueing from back-story to present-day by abruptly switching tense mid-sentence. When play begins you are inside a fish that has been washed up on the shore of a mysterious island. There being nothing much to do inside the fish, such as for instance reading a description of it, I wasted no time in vacating. I now found myself on a beach, accompanied by the very fish I had so recently occupied. Curious to know more about the prodigious creature whose belly had been my home for so many months, I examined it to find it described as "A tasty fish. mmm... fish" Evidently the beast had atrophied somewhat since I was not only able to pick it up but also to eat it, a neat reversal of fortunes! How deliciously Plotkinesque that probably is.
Poetic justice having been served, I set out to explore the rest of the island in search of civilisation. I don't have to search for long; the first thing I encounter is a hut surrounded by a pretty flower garden. Inside the hut is "the Gold" and a man named Johnnie. Upon examining Johnnie I am told 'Johnnie is Johnnie', which I ought to have known, really. Somewhat chastened, I try to engage Johnnie in conversation. He doesn't respond to most questions, but when asked about the island he calls me a moose. Somewhat irked, I decide to see how Johnnie will react if I make off with his gold.
He doesn't. Not a peep. Johnnie may be many things, but he is clearly not a man for whom the glittering things of this world hold much attraction. One can only admire that kind of cool detachment.
Further along I encounter a boat piloted by a similarly taciturn 'Boatmaster' and another hut occupied by a none-too-talkative girl called Sarah. In the spirit of romance I offer Sarah some flowers I've culled from Johnnie's garden, but Sarah doesn't seem interested in the flowers. Now I've yet to meet the girl who doesn't respond to flowers, either with smiles and kisses or by throwing them back in your face, so I checked the source code to find out what I was doing wrong. Apparently the correct wording is not 'give flowers to Sarah', but 'give flowers onsarah'. Curse my conventional wisdom! One really has to think out of the box to play this game, and I'm beginning to think Plotkin was out of his when he wrote it. Anyhow, the correct command gives the response '"Johnnie already gave me some" Sarah said.' Oh well, I thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained; better to have loved and lost, and all that.
But then! What if...
...there was no...
What if I did away with him using that dirty great sword 'A sharp sword, perfect for killing' that I found lying around earlier...?
To cut a l. story s., that's precisely what you have to do to complete the game with maximum points. Steal Johnnie's flowers. Steal Johnnie's gold. Kill Johnnie, leaving him dead on the floor in a pool of blood (but strangely still able to call you a moose if provoked.) Steal Johnnie's girl and elope with her in the Boatmaster's boat.
Well, he did call me a moose, after all.
Oddly, despite typing my name at the start of the game I was not once referred to by it. Out of curiosity I decided to play the game again as a female (using the first female name that came to mind, 'Mrs. Gloria Teasdale') to see if perhaps, as a woman, one had to murder Sarah and give the flowers to Johnnie. In short, no. Presumably Sarah swings both ways, and will happily run off with someone of either sex provided they are a cold-blooded killer.
In all, not one of Plotkin's better efforts. But when you're the author of 'So Far' and 'Spider and Web' I guess you can afford to have the occasional off-day.
9 and two-thirds / 10.
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