Home About Me

DELRON

The Home of Otter Interactive Fiction

LAIR of the Cyber-Cow Reviews
Author: Harry Wilson
Date: 2008
ADRIFT 3.9


Reviewed by Jimmy Mahler

ADRIFT games always seem to find new ways to welcome and delight me.  Upon firing this one up with my dutifully upgraded ADRIFT runner -- upgraded since I've learned the hard way in previous Comps that ADRIFT does not do proper version-checking of its stories, but rather just runs stories produced with newer versions of the system incorrectly -- I was informed that it was made with ADRIFT version 3.90, and could not be run with the version 4.00 Runner I was using.  Sigh.  Is it that hard to make your system backward compatible with itself?  Even Microsoft manages that (for the most part).  I was told to use a "Converter" to make this story 4.00 compatible, but since I assume I have to pay for that particular tool I instead just downloaded an old Runner from 2001 and got down to the business of playing.

The game I found wasn't really worth the effort.  This one is written and coded on about a Scott Adams level of sophistication.  Its plot involves a cyber-cow (?) which is apparently terrorizing a childhood friend of yours.  You thus return to your old house -- which contains one room, one sofa,  one bowl, and one flashlight; apparently your family are quite the ascetics -- to save the day.  

I didn't get too far into this one.  The endless parser frustrations, nonintuive puzzles, and hopelessly bland writing and setting put me off pretty quickly.  The game has such egregious guess-the-verb issues that some of its hints run along the lines of "What is the specific command to...", for those who have figured out what to do but haven't figured out the magical combination of words to make the game understand their intentions.  Cyber-Cow isn't loaded with bugs or typos like many that I score poorly in the Comp.  It's just so primitive, and so bland, and so weighted down with the worst traits of old-school text adventures that it held absolutely no interest for me.

Score: 3 out of 10.

 


Reviewed by Mike Snyder

Game’s Blurb:
One of the few games in the neglected Farm Noir genre, LAIR of the CyberCow takes a stylishly chilling, ambivalently moral look at the social themes of our times -- or, does it? Play it now: don't wait for the movie. (Requires ADRIFT 3.9)

>xyzzy
That kind of humor will get you nowhere.

One can tell from the blurb that LAIR is going to have problems. One can tell that it’s going for absurdity and humor, but that it’s likely to be more amusing to the author than to anybody else.

Sadly, that does seem to be the case with LAIR. It’s a complete game, showing obvious effort and moderate attention to detail; don’t mistake it for a joke entry. But at the same time, it falls flat in many ways. The humor doesn’t work well when it’s being drowned by implementation problems. (However, I do find it more amusing in the transcript, and I can see better what the author had in mind.) The absurdity is downplayed to the extent that it sometimes feels as though the story is supposed to be taken seriously. Some puzzles work and some don’t, and it’s possible to make the game unwinnable in several ways. The writing is sometimes okay, but often suffers from clunky phrasings. In general, it fails to describe things well enough to be satisfying and believable (sometimes, you won’t even know more about a thing after you’ve examined it because the description is too vague).

Among its biggest problems is that it’s easily broken. I found two place -- at least two -- where the game can be rendered unwinnable. I tried to hit the fairy, and when the game assumed I meant to use the plans, the fairy just sort of disappeared. I restored an earlier save. Later, near the end, I got stuck riding in something that never did reach the top of where it was supposed to be going. Nothing happened, until after several turns when I “woke up” back in the house, went down the well, and could no longer leave. Again, I had to restore a prior save.

Better beta-testing should have rooted out these kinds of problems. Even when not completely broken, things are made more difficult by inconsistent daemon messages (“daemons” being automatic tasks that run within the game, usually independent of the player’s actions). A message announces the fairy’s arrival or departure only if you’re not doing something else, making it more difficult to track her down. Sometimes when night turned to day, the game didn’t tell me (which made it odd when it turned to night again). “Moving” and “lifting” one large object with another doesn’t work (and even seems to suggest it’s not possible), yet “prying” and “flipping” it works.

Whenever Adrift 3.9 (or, perhaps, this game in particular) would impress me with something cleverly implemented (“get all from couch” works, for instance), it would almost immediately disappoint me on some other technical point (“undo” says it works, but only seems capable of sending you one turn back, despite multiple uses). It still runs the gamut of issues inherent to the Adrift parser, but on the whole this didn’t pose as big a problem as it has in other Adrift games I’ve played...

...With one notable exception. I’ll spoil this puzzle (and believe me, you’re better off for it) with quotes from my transcript:

>look under couch
The couch is a pale green velvety plaid, suitable for most purposes. One of these modern, lightweight deals.

>move couch
Moving the couch reveals a cleverly-hidden trapdoor!

Those commands didn’t come consecutively. After not finding the trapdoor to begin with (because the game ignored “under”) I spent many long and fruitless minutes doing other stuff. At one point, when I felt I was stuck beyond all hope, I peeked at the walkthrough. I was supposed to push the couch. Well, silly me. There was nothing special about the couch; no clue, except that it was described as “lightweight.” In a better game (as callous as this may sound), the author would have anticipated that if a player were to look under the couch, it would make sense to reveal the existence of the trapdoor.

Often, the game just didn’t give enough information. It took a while to discover that Vluurinik was actually a fairy, and I only realized it after the game started referring to her as one. A puzzle involving her capture is made almost unsolvable (without a peek at the hints), not only because there’s no indication of what she wants, but because getting what she likes requires a suspicious leap in logic. (Cover your eyes here, if you want to avoid another puzzle spoiler.) If you want me to milk the cow, don’t make me think the cow is hostile. And, while you’re at it, remind me that cows have nipples when I look at it, instead of telling me it’s a totally customized, unique kind of cow. Milking it becomes the last thing I’d ever think of! This puzzle was kind of clued in the bowl’s description, but only to the extent that I thought I might need to find some cereal. I never connected the dots from cereal to milk, and milk to cow. But maybe that’s my fault.

The plot never commits itself to being ridiculous, yet neither is it serious. This makes the internal logic hard to figure out. Many situations crop up that seem fitting of the silly scenario, yet have all the trappings of an accident. For instance, you can’t carry a huge metal cross up a ladder for obvious reasons, yet you can climb up and down a rope with it. The PC sticks his toe in the bell’s crack, but presumably is wearing shoes throughout the adventure (this could, I think, just be a case of ambiguous wording). You can wake up back at the cottage without ever explicitly going there. No explanation is given as to why the cottage consists of only a living room. It’s possible to pick up an object without realizing it, because the “you pick it up” message, reworded as simply “still hot!”, convinced me that I wasn’t able to pick it up.

The author sometimes uses a dramatic pause as a means of delaying bits of information. The game actually freezes for a few seconds, and as far as I found, you can only wait until the text continues. It seems overused, but to be honest, I’m not sure even a single use was necessary. Allowing a keypress to move forward would have been nice.

Yet all this, and I still liked it. I can’t recommend it, but it has a charm that makes it palpable in the context of the competition. I’m voting it a “4.” I’m probably creating my own cliché here, but I would like to see more from this author in the future. Key thing, though: beta-testing. Play the top games from prior competitions, too, and read plenty of reviews (both for the top games, and for the lower-ranking ones). Most IF authors who keep at it do better and better with practice. Next year, raise the bar.
 


Reviewed by Dark Star (SPAG ISSUE #53 - November 16, 2008)

LAIR Of The CyberCow is a strange game at best, with a collection of eclectic characters borrowed from fantasy and science fiction. The game is poorly implemented to the point that the player has to frequently turn to the walkthrough to get through it.

The first problem I ran into is that the file won't play under the latest ADRIFT Runner, and I had to convert it using the ADRIFT Generator. Not a good sign. Apparently even converting the file is a bad thing, and you'll have to find an older interpreter to run it.

Well the game starts out at a bus stop, but gives the player no real direction to go in. It should at least mention that the PC has received a letter, but the letter is no real help either. The layout of the game is small enough that you don't need a map, and it was kind of fun to wander around checking out the surroundings, but when it came to actual game play it feel apart real fast. For example, the description for the chapel yard is useless:

Chapel Yard. 
It is daytime.  You can move north, east, south and west.

It doesn't describe what's around, let alone that fact that there's a well right in the middle of it. I had to go to the meadow in order to see the well. This makes the game all but unplayable. The game also needs to have better responses for negative actions. "The parser didn't understand that..." makes it sound like the action can't be done, but under the right circumstances it can.

Overall the game is practically unplayable, and you'll have to turn to the walkthrough to get through it. The story makes no sense, and leaves you asking questions like: what is a CyberCow, why is it at the bottom of the well, and why does it have a well furnished, teak modeled, lair. In the end, I'd give this one a pass.

 


Reviewed by George Dorn

I'd never really paid attention to ADRIFT before. It's a minor player in the IF languages game, quite a ways behind Inform and Glulx and Tads. This year, there were only two ADRIFT entries; this one, and A Date with Death.

ADRIFT isn't really a language. It's like the Bard's Tale Construction Set of the IF world; the author plays around with a GUI for a while and eventually ends up with a game. This takes a lot of the prgramming load off the author, but makes it far more difficult to write complex things.

A Date with Death managed to go pretty far despite being hobbled. Lair of the Cybercow did not.

First, it lacked descriptions for most items and the rooms themselves were mostly bare. Without context or clues, most of the puzzles were unfairly difficult guess-the-verb nightmares. I found I needed to resort to the hint system and/or walkthroughs for much of the game, up to the point where I gave up.

For example, at one point you come across a bell in a church. The rope has broken and it is laying at the bottom of the belltower. To advance the plot, you need to get something from within the bell (this fact alone is not clear or even hinted at; I wouldn't have known this if I hadn't read some of the hints first.) It was fairly clear that you would need leverage to lift the bell. At another point, I broke the large cross off the top of the church, making it basically the only suitable thing to use for leverage.

> PUSH BELL WITH CROSS
You push the bell with the heavy cross, but nothing happens. (That is, I couldn't parse this to the game situation, so I'm bluffing).

> LIFT BELL WITH CROSS
You can't lift the bell with the heavy cross.

> MOVE BELL WITH CROSS
You can't move the bell with the heavy cross.

A sane player might assume that this is just not the solution, that there's some other way to move the bell. A stubborn player who wanted to win without consulting the walkthrough or hint system would probably assume the bell cannot, in fact, be moved at all and might even be a red herring.

But no, it's just a hunt the verb problem, and the walkthrough has the solution:
> FLIP BELL WITH CROSS

This seems to be par for the course for ADRIFT games.

I never did find out if there was a plot, or if it involved a cow that was maybe a cyborg who had a cool lair.

3/10 It was a game, it basically worked, whatever.
 



Reviewed by Jacqueline A. Lott

At first there was seemingly no plot except exploring our childhood home. The author was hoping to introduce the urgency of the plot by thinking that >INVENTORY would be one of my first commands. But it wasn't, for some reason. I suppose it's because my first command was >X ME, which revealed that the character is described as "A standard adventurer," and I just lost the nerve for the other standard first commands.

If you want to create a sense of urgency, you should do it in more than one way so as to not lose some players. I wasn't intrigued or curious, but the spelling and grammar were okay, so I spent a bit of time wandering around merely because it's a competition entry and I felt like I had to play it for at least a few minutes if I had any hope of actually writing any sort of review. However, that's the only reason I looked around—the setting and descriptions were similarly unremarkable. This is here, that is there, you move this direction then you move that direction.

Maybe the author had a cool plot in his head, and if so, he missed a lot of opportunities to reveal bits of it here and there as I moved around the map. He did very little to try to win my attention. Is that why people enter these sorts of games in the competition? Because they realize that if they release a game like this outside the competition people won't stick with the tedium quite so long? There was also no list of beta testers, something which always scares me.

In short, I wasn't hooked, there are 35 games to play, and I have a life beyond interactive fiction, so I can't waste time on games that aren't very enjoyable. I'm even mildly peeved that I had to download a retro release of ADRIFT just to play this, only to find that the limited bandwidth I wasted wasn't worth it.
 


Reviewed by Jake Wildstrom

ADRIFT, amazingly, has no backwards compatibility. The 4.00 runner will not work on ADRIFT 3.90 games. I don't know ADRIFT well enough to know whether this is because of a serious VM overhaul (compare TADS 2 vs. TADS 3, or Z-code vs. Glulx), or whether the system's just lazily designed. Either way, it's an irritating foot to start off on. Oddly, this game dodges (after a fashion) the most irritating aspect of ADRIFT, which is pretending to understand when it does not:

>pull rgerg
You pull, but nothing happens. (That is, I couldn't parse this to the game situation, so I'm bluffing.)

I'd prefer a real error to the parenthetical, but, still, this is better. Less excellent from a technical standpoint are the long inexplicable pauses.

"Also here is the robot." is a very incongruous thing to read in a room description. Implementation is sparse, with many nouns and alternative command-phrasings not implemented (particularly for the damn bell). Actions are fairly arbitrary (fairies like milk? cows eat snails? Am I just ignorant, or did the author make this shit up?).

I then got stuck in a situation which I thought I knew how to escape from, and the hints suggested was escapable in the manner I tried, but it didn't work. Bah.

Rating: 3
 


Reviewed by George Shannon (newlin)

Another short review: I think this game is someone’s first game-writing practice, given the puzzles and the non-sensical happenings. “Vluurinik” seems specifically designed to encourage typos in player input, and a couple guess-the-verb puzzles tended to blunt an otherwise standard walk-around-and-pick-things-up kind of game. Surely ‘lift’ should substitute for ‘flip’ considering the context.

I did complete it, but only in the sense that I got to the ending. It’s mostly competent, I guess. But it is inexcusable that I couldn’t escape the flood in the roll-top desk.

Technical: Well, everything seems to be implemented, at least, but I did have to install an old version of Adrift in order to play. Hasn’t 4 been out for, like, years and years? A good number of nouns work, which is nice. Vluurinik sometimes doesn’t say when she’s leaving the room, which is really annoying. I also managed to crash the game at the end. Hooray!

Writing: Pretty standard, but it was more competent than some of the games. A few typos outweighed by good phrases here and there. The frequent pauses in gameplay - more towards the end - are just annoying. They don’t add anything to the game, dude, except filler time.

Fun: Another game where I kind of went on autopilot, and needed the walkthrough quite a few times. I did finish it, though. It’s got that going for it. I’m just not sure why it’s in the comp.

Do I hope that the author writes more IF? I wonder if the author will implement some more Adrift tutorials in his next game. Perhaps something beyond “Hey, I wonder if I can get random-movement NPCs in my test game.” Eh, I’d give it a shot. I am happy to play ADRIFT games that don’t make me want to sandpaper my eyeballs.

 


Reviewed by Emily Short

Short version: I think this is pretty broken as a game, but since it is also clearly a bit broken by dint of the fact that I’m playing it on a non-standard interpreter, I am not going to score it in the comp.

Spatterlight really doesn’t like this one: if I try to do pretty much anything at all, I get the response

Thanks for commenting.

So I quit Spatterlight and tried under Zoom.

Zoom allows me actually to perform commands, though it offers an ominous warning that the ADRIFT Battle System will not be operational for this game. So I get started, but I am not too clear on what I am supposed to be doing. I try following the walkthrough, not all of which works as seems to be intended, and some of which involves verbs I am pretty sure I would not have thought of on my own. (FLIP?)

Vespers would be doing something cool with all this chapel-desecration.

Round about the time I am taking a packet from inside a bell which I flipped over for I don’t know what reason, it occurs to me:

Where is the Cybercow? I was promised a Cybercow.

Sometimes the game stops for no reason I can work out. A little while later it resumes working. Are these intentional realtime pauses? I guess so. Why are they there? They are not enhancing my experience of the game. Of course, my experience of the game is mostly typing in the walkthrough, so I do not like pauses that impede my progress.

Ah, here is the Cybercow. CyberCow, I should say.

It is roughly at the point where I give the snail to the cow that my will to continue gives out. I do not understand what is going on, puzzles don’t make sense, story is nonexistent, the pauses make even typing in the walkthrough a bit laborious. Meh. And I feel sorry for the snail.

Might be better on the real ADRIFT runner, though, so I am not going to score this one.
 



Reviewed by Michael Martin

This game takes itself exactly as seriously as you would expect a game called LAIR of the CyberCow to take itself.

It is also not a particularly good game, but after the cavalcade of horror I've walked through, it's also not a particularly bad one. There's a plot, of sorts. There are puzzles. Many of them are even clued. I only had to fail over to the walkthrough once, and that was because I was an idiot and didn't read the room description carefully.

ADRIFT games often have horrible parser failures, but I never really ran into any more serious than getting a default message instead of the intended custom one depending on phrasing. Either this was a well-specified game or I'm getting better at dodging ADRIFT's infelicities.

Specific bad things: There's totally no excuse for not letting me UNFOLD THE PACKAGE in the location I find it. Timed pauses in the output are likewise unforgivably obnoxious. Even [press a key] pauses grate if they're too common. I'm literate; I'm totally happy with reading at my own pace. Give me all the text to read at once, please.

I also got the general impression that there was a lot more backstory involving the fairies that I never reached and that was never explained. It could have been there; the CyberCow's definitely was. But you had to examine just the right objects during a brutally timed sequence to get it. Both could be mainstreamed more.

In conclusion, this is about the minimum amount of work you can do and not be a waste of time... but it wasn't a waste of time.

 


Reviewed by Another Mr Lizard

The game gets off to a thoroughly unpromising beginning, with the player stuck in the world’s smallest town. Unless you can read the author’s mind, you won’t know what to do and will wander around trashing the church because that seems to be the only action allowed.

So you turn to the walkthrough, which opens the gates to another version of the game entirely, a dreamlike, otherworldly realm where nothing is quite as it seems and whimsy is king.

This isn’t a game by any reasonable definition, the illogical puzzles are unsolvable without clues or any motivation for the player character. But it reads nice, and I don’t regret the time I spent with it.
 


Reviewed by Wesley Osam

What is Lair of the Cybercow? A gag? Just a really bad game? I have no idea, and that’s the only reason it’s getting its own post. Spoilers past the link.

I wasn’t sure whether to give Lair of the Cybercow a post—I’ll be doing another dismissive post later about some games that were just clear, blatant insults. LotC looks suspiciously like a half-assed time-waster… cheap idiot-grade surrealism, random elements thrown together with no thought or theme.

Then again, it’s in ADRIFT. I’ve never played an ADRIFT game that was any good at all, so maybe the format dragged this thing down. In the end I decided to give LotC the benefit of the doubt.

Of course, all that means is that I’m giving it a 2 instead of a 1. Here’s all you need to know about LotC: The first commands I type in any game are EXAMINE ME and INVENTORY. I type INVENTORY and the game tells me “you lost it all in that crazy bit in the well.” What well? It turns out there’s a well in the area, which you discover when you examine the cottage and the game tells you it’s “just east of the well.” Then I get to the Chapel Yard and the game says “Vluurinik flits around” as though I’m supposed to know who or what Vluurinik is. And then I pick up some items, and when I take inventory the game still tells me “you lost it all in that crazy bit in the well.”

Not only was Lair of the Cybercow not beta tested, but the author—one Harry Wilson—didn’t even bother to play through the thing himself. Even the slightest, most cursory text run would have found these problems. There are only two possible explanations for this game. The first is that the thing was a deliberate insult, in which case the author can go take a flying leap into his own well. The other possibility is that the author is so far off in his own little world that he doesn’t know what a finished game is supposed to look like. In which case, Harry, wait a few years before you try to submit anything else, okay?
 


Reviewed by Merk

>xyzzy
That kind of humor will get you nowhere.

One can tell from the blurb that LAIR is going to have problems. One can tell that it’s going for absurdity and humor, but that it’s likely to be more amusing to the author than to anybody else.

Sadly, that does seem to be the case with LAIR. It’s a complete game, showing obvious effort and moderate attention to detail; don’t mistake it for a joke entry. But at the same time, it falls flat in many ways. The humor doesn’t work well when it’s being drowned by implementation problems. (However, I do find it more amusing in the transcript, and I can see better what the author had in mind.) The absurdity is downplayed to the extent that it sometimes feels as though the story is supposed to be taken seriously. Some puzzles work and some don’t, and it’s possible to make the game unwinnable in several ways. The writing is sometimes okay, but often suffers from clunky phrasings. In general, it fails to describe things well enough to be satisfying and believable (sometimes, you won’t even know more about a thing after you’ve examined it because the description is too vague).

Among its biggest problems is that it’s easily broken. I found two place -- at least two -- where the game can be rendered unwinnable. I tried to hit the fairy, and when the game assumed I meant to use the plans, the fairy just sort of disappeared. I restored an earlier save. Later, near the end, I got stuck riding in something that never did reach the top of where it was supposed to be going. Nothing happened, until after several turns when I “woke up” back in the house, went down the well, and could no longer leave. Again, I had to restore a prior save.

Better beta-testing should have rooted out these kinds of problems. Even when not completely broken, things are made more difficult by inconsistent daemon messages (“daemons” being automatic tasks that run within the game, usually independent of the player’s actions). A message announces the fairy’s arrival or departure only if you’re not doing something else, making it more difficult to track her down. Sometimes when night turned to day, the game didn’t tell me (which made it odd when it turned to night again). “Moving” and “lifting” one large object with another doesn’t work (and even seems to suggest it’s not possible), yet “prying” and “flipping” it works.

Whenever Adrift 3.9 (or, perhaps, this game in particular) would impress me with something cleverly implemented (“get all from couch” works, for instance), it would almost immediately disappoint me on some other technical point (“undo” says it works, but only seems capable of sending you one turn back, despite multiple uses). It still runs the gamut of issues inherent to the Adrift parser, but on the whole this didn’t pose as big a problem as it has in other Adrift games I’ve played...

...With one notable exception. I’ll spoil this puzzle (and believe me, you’re better off for it) with quotes from my transcript:

>look under couch
The couch is a pale green velvety plaid, suitable for most purposes. One of these modern, lightweight deals.

>move couch
Moving the couch reveals a cleverly-hidden trapdoor!

Those commands didn’t come consecutively. After not finding the trapdoor to begin with (because the game ignored “under”) I spent many long and fruitless minutes doing other stuff. At one point, when I felt I was stuck beyond all hope, I peeked at the walkthrough. I was supposed to push the couch. Well, silly me. There was nothing special about the couch; no clue, except that it was described as “lightweight.” In a better game (as callous as this may sound), the author would have anticipated that if a player were to look under the couch, it would make sense to reveal the existence of the trapdoor.

Often, the game just didn’t give enough information. It took a while to discover that Vluurinik was actually a fairy, and I only realized it after the game started referring to her as one. A puzzle involving her capture is made almost unsolvable (without a peek at the hints), not only because there’s no indication of what she wants, but because getting what she likes requires a suspicious leap in logic. (Cover your eyes here, if you want to avoid another puzzle spoiler.) If you want me to milk the cow, don’t make me think the cow is hostile. And, while you’re at it, remind me that cows have nipples when I look at it, instead of telling me it’s a totally customized, unique kind of cow. Milking it becomes the last thing I’d ever think of! This puzzle was kind of clued in the bowl’s description, but only to the extent that I thought I might need to find some cereal. I never connected the dots from cereal to milk, and milk to cow. But maybe that’s my fault.

The plot never commits itself to being ridiculous, yet neither is it serious. This makes the internal logic hard to figure out. Many situations crop up that seem fitting of the silly scenario, yet have all the trappings of an accident. For instance, you can’t carry a huge metal cross up a ladder for obvious reasons, yet you can climb up and down a rope with it. The PC sticks his toe in the bell’s crack, but presumably is wearing shoes throughout the adventure (this could, I think, just be a case of ambiguous wording). You can wake up back at the cottage without ever explicitly going there. No explanation is given as to why the cottage consists of only a living room. It’s possible to pick up an object without realizing it, because the “you pick it up” message, reworded as simply “still hot!”, convinced me that I wasn’t able to pick it up.

The author sometimes uses a dramatic pause as a means of delaying bits of information. The game actually freezes for a few seconds, and as far as I found, you can only wait until the text continues. It seems overused, but to be honest, I’m not sure even a single use was necessary. Allowing a keypress to move forward would have been nice.

Yet all this, and I still liked it. I can’t recommend it, but it has a charm that makes it palpable in the context of the competition. I’m voting it a “4.” I’m probably creating my own cliché here, but I would like to see more from this author in the future. Key thing, though: beta-testing. Play the top games from prior competitions, too, and read plenty of reviews (both for the top games, and for the lower-ranking ones). Most IF authors who keep at it do better and better with practice. Next year, raise the bar.
 


Reviewed by Jenni Polodna

Update the however manyth this happens to be: Right. Okay. On my desk, I have a brand new Canadian computer. In this brand new Canadian computer, I have an Adrift 3.9 runner and a copy of Lair of the CyberCow, which I was somewhat cruel to on the grounds that it didn’t do very much. I have been assured that this was entirely my own damn fault for not running it in the 3.9 runner, although I prefer to blame Splattergroit, Steve Jobs, Andrew Plotkin, and my friend Ben who works for Microsoft and is therefore just generally blameable.

I’m’a just throw the updates to this review in with the old review, with, like, a note or something. Let’s see if this game can be improved by actually working.

[spoilers start here]

Clearly we are not in Wisconsin, or there would be a bar right next to the chapel. Where does the occupant of the cottage go to drink?

You are at the well. You have fond childhood memories of this well, although none of them are occurring to you right now.
They say that every time you remember a memory you’re replacing the actual memory with your memory of the memory, but replacing a memory with the fact that you have a memory strikes me as silly.

It’s a good-sized chunk missing out of the bell’s rim: you fit your toe into it exprimentally.
This raises so many questions. Which toe, for starters? I would assume my big toe, but that isn’t actually specified. Also, am I not wearing shoes? I’d think I’d have shoes on, since I just got off a bus, which would mean I took them off in order to stick my toe in a bellhole. Are they easily slip-offable, or are they big ol’ thigh-high combat boots that I had to crouch down and unlace? Am I wearing socks? If so, did I take them off also? In real life, I would leave them on, since I don’t know where this bell’s been… then again, in real life, I don’t think I’d be sticking my toes into bellholes. Also, and this is the important bit: what were the results of my experimental toe-fitting? Did my toe fit?

There is not much going on in this game, otherwise the toe-on-bell action would not have ranked a paragraph. Hopefully things’ll pick up once I’ve discovered the titular Lair of the CyberCow.

> climb rope
There are stairs right there!
Sorry!

Up here, it’s as if you’re suddenly a priest.
Also here is the book.
I’m going to need more details on that sudden priestlike sensation. Am I celibate in this room? Was I not celibate in the other rooms? Was there sex in this game and I missed it? Is this about my toe?

Y’know what would’ve been really cool? If when the book (not a book, the book) told me to see table 7-12b, and I typed SEE TABLE 7-12B, something had been implemented. Anything. That would’ve earned this game many bonus points that I am beginning to suspect it’s going to need.

Oh, there’s a fairy or something. Vluurinik the fairy. If I had a fairy, I would totally name it Vluurinik. This is why I’m not allowed to have fairies.

There is a cupboard here, which you recall generally not having cookies.
I ALWAYS HATED THAT CUPBOARD

Inside the cupboard is the bowl and the flashlight.
New, from the people who brought you The Book!

> move couch
Moving the couch reveals a cleverly-hidden trapdoor!
Trust me, anything I am able to find is not cleverly-hidden. Especially if it’s hidden under one of the only three objects in the room… hey, wait, where’s the rest of my childhood home? Did we really only have a living room? How very Charlie and the Chocolate Factory of us! No wonder we never had cookies!

Door mechanics are automatic in LAIR of the CyberCow! (A sure sign of top quality.)
Actually, Lair of the CyberCow, I appreciate the fuck out of that. Thank you.

From the makers of The Book, The Bowl, and The Flashlight… introducing… The Robot! (Cheers and applause.)

The partially completed robot lying here on the table is made mostly out of cardboard boxes and styrofoam, duck taped and wired together. The controls have been drawn on carefully with black magic marker. It only needs a little more work.
> complete robot
Building invincible robots isn’t in your line. You’d need some instructions or something.
I am the first to admit that I’m no rocket scientist, but I can duct-tape the shit outta some Styrofoam. With or without instructions.

I can so see the ladder, unless this is a Phoenix Wright reference and it’s really a stepladder.

> read note
Player – climb the tower – I taped it to the inside of th
Either my old friend realizes we’re in a game or my name happens to be Player. Or, more likely, I get hella the poontang. Schwing!
(Working Version Update: This was a bug caused by the “enter your name” prompt not popping up properly. I do not get hella the poontang. I am saddened by this.)

Vluurinik is super useless. I’m not sure why we even have a Vluurinik.
(Working Version Update: As far as I can tell, nope, Vluurinik does not get much less useless.)

Well, the hint system is nice. What big cross, though? Is it… somewhere in the chapel? Should I have brought my own? Wait, did I bring my own?

> i
You are carrying nothing… you lost it all in that crazy bit in the well, while trying not to drown.
Wha?!

Yay! I found the CyberCow!

…who is about as useless as Vluurinik. Harry Wilson, if you’re going to have a conversation system, please code more responses. Actually this goes for everyone who may or may not be Harry Wilson. Thank you.
(Working Version Update: CyberCow did not become more conversational, although probably that is my fault for assuming it could talk. It’s a cow. The fuck do I want?)

Ah. I didn’t bother to look at the steeple because I assumed it was unexaminable wallpaper.

Okay, Lair of the CyberCow, I am done, and the next time I see you I want you fleshed out. You were very strange in a couple of places, but that’s not nearly as much of an issue as the lack of there that was there. Giving you a five plus one entire extra bonus point for the automatic door-opening. I love automatic door-opening.
(Working Version Update: Y’know, I was sort of expecting more there to be here in the actual working version? But there wasn’t? You know?)
 


Reviewed by Riff Conner

Now that I’ve finished the Z-code games, I figure I’ll pick games with interesting-sounding titles until I’ve either played everything, or the Comp ends. And by ‘interesting’, I of course mean ‘likely to result in a funny blog post’.

The game uses ADRIFT’s Battle System, something not fully supported by this release of SCARE. (Followed by an elaboration on why this might screw things up). I don’t know what this means. Is SCARE a particular interpreter for ADRIFT games, similar to Zoom for zcode? Google says… yes. I also discover that Spatterlight (which is what I’m using) contains SCARE. So this game may turn out to be unplayable. Hopefully hilariously unplayable.

> verbose
You must use the menu system to toggle verbose/brief mode. Go to OPTIONS > VERBOSE.
> options
The parser didn’t understand that…

Neither did the player. Is this an Adrift thing? I don’t appear to have an OPTIONS menu in Spatterlight. You know, it seems like every time I play a non-zcode game, I am reminded of why I only play zcode games.

You can only move south.
Lest you assume that I got this message after trying to move, say, east: this was part of the room description. Not a good start. Yes, it’s marginally better than
>n
You can’t go that way.
>e
You can’t go that way.
>w
You can’t go that way.
but you know what? Saving me some trouble by telling me you didn’t bother to write any descriptive text doesn’t make me any more impressed by your lack of descriptive text.

Vluurinik flies in from the west.
Wha?! No, seriously… “Vluurinik”?

My house has only one room, the Living Room. I think I sleep in the cupboard.

> open cupboard
You open the cupboard. Inside the cupboard is the bowl and the flashlight.
I’m getting increasingly petty here, but I’d like to point out that if it’s THE bowl, then I should get at least a point for picking it up. “You found The Bowl! We are saved!”

In the Chapel
You are inside the local House of God.
> x god
You see no such thing.
(rimshot)

Man, not having VERBOSE is really cramping my shit here.

Suddenly and abruptly, it’s night-time. This does not appear to have changed anything.

> i
You are carrying nothing… you lost it all in that crazy bit in the well, while trying not to drown.
Wait, what? When? You never said a single goddamn thing about any crazy bit, or nearly drowning, or losing all my inventory!

Oh wait — I didn’t lose my inventory. I’m still carrying everything. I can put stuff down, pick it back up, and examine it. But I’m “carrying nothing”, because of the nonexistant drowning event. Awesome.

After reading many hints:
In the Bell
You are in the huge cracked churchbell. (Step careful here: it rolls dangerously.) You can see something taped to the inside of the bell.
> get taped
Take what?
> get all
There is nothing to pick up here.
> look at something
You see no such thing.
> x something
It’s a packet of some kind that’s been taped to the inside of the bell.
You are seriously pissing me off, game.

> x packet
This is the packet you found taped to the inside of the church bell. It looks like you could unfold it.
> unfold packet
I don’t understand what you want me to do with the packet.
> open packet
You can’t open the packet!
Oh my fucking god.

I have read more hints. Look at this:

You need to find the plans. They’re in a PACKET which you need to UNFOLD. It’s taped inside the bell.

> unfold packet
I don’t understand what you want me to do with the packet.

Do you understand this?: Fuck you, game.

 


Reviewed by Carl Muckenhoupt

The first thing this game provides us is some annoyance with the format. The Adrift 4.0 runner — the one you need in order to run this Comp’s other Adrift game — apaprently isn’t backward-compatible with ADRIFT 3.9, although it does come with a tool to convert 3.9 data files to 4.0 format. This is strangely roundabout. I don’t see any Z-code terps demanding that you use a separate tool to convert your .z5 files to .z8 before running them. But this isn’t the author’s fault, except, of course, in that the author chose Adrift. I said the same thing about A Date with Death, and I expect I’ll be saying it about more Adrift games in the future.

This is a small game in the “wacky” anything-can-happen mode, and pretty shoddily put together. One of the first things I see after I get off the bus is a character called “Vluurinik”. Examining Vluurinik reveals that she’s a fairy. Okay, are fairies something I’m supposed to be expecting? Apparently the player character knows her name, but we never learn anything else about any history they might or might not have. One location, called “Chapel Yard”, has a description consisting solely of the words “Chapel Yard.” There’s a crucially important well in that location, but you only learn it exists when it’s mentioned in reaction to things you do elsewhere. Pehaps this was the result of mistake — I can easily imagine accidentally overwriting the room-description field in the Adrift authoring tool. But if so it’s the kind of mistake that anyone playing through the game would notice, and therefore not the sort of thing that should wind up in a released game. The in-game help asserts that asking characters about things is a “good source of information”, but it’s not; the only responses I ever got from any NPC were gestures of various sorts.

Input is shaky, too. There’s one bit where you have to lever up a church bell, and only one command out of a variety of imaginable synonymous works. The only way I managed to get through that part was by reading the hints. And what are we to make of this exchange?

> x packet
This is the packet you found taped to the inside of the church bell. It looks like you could unfold it.

> unfold it
(the packet)
I don’t understand what you want me to do with the packet.

> unfold packet
The packet unfolds into plans for building an invincible robot. According to this, construction is all but complete.

ADRIFT has a feature whereby the author can tell it to pause in the middle of printing text. I don’t mean making the game wait for the player to press a key, I mean making the player wait for a second or two, and not accepting input of any kind during that time. I’m not convinced that it’s ever actually a good idea to use this feature. But even if you think it can be used well, you have to admit that it can also be overused, and that’s definitely what happens here, especially toward the end.

The last line in the game, “It wasn’t her”, is a complete enigma. What wasn’t who? Was I supposed to understand that? Was it even printed on purpose, or was the preceding paragraph supposed to be the last thing I saw?

That’s a lot of criticism, but I still feel like there’s an OK game in here which could be salvaged with some work. I did like the absurdly over-the-top nature of the ultimate revelations in the Cyber-Cow’s inner sanctum. (Unfortunately, the game only gives you a limited number of turns in there, and it isn’t enough time to examine everything.) But it’s pretty clear that the game received no testing whatever, and the Comp has higher standards than that. It would have made a decent Speed-IF, though.

Rating: 3 (Although when I think about those forced pauses, I think I should have given it a 2.)

 


Reviewed by Dan Shiovitz

This is surprisingly smooth for an ADRIFT game, in the sense that the bumps I ran into were read-the-author's-mind and guess-the-verb things that could have happened in any game, not weird ADRIFT-induced guess-the-syntax things. That said, c'mon, >FLIP? Really? Anyway, the story is cute but feels like the author left out the vital 10% that would make it all make sense.
 


Reviewed by Jacqueline A. Lott

At first there was seemingly no plot except exploring our childhood home. The author was hoping to introduce the urgency of the plot by thinking that >INVENTORY would be one of my first commands. But it wasn't, for some reason. I suppose it's because my first command was >X ME, which revealed that the character is described as "A standard adventurer," and I just lost the nerve for the other standard first commands.

If you want to create a sense of urgency, you should do it in more than one way so as to not lose some players. I wasn't intrigued or curious, but the spelling and grammar were okay, so I spent a bit of time wandering around merely because it's a competition entry and I felt like I had to play it for at least a few minutes if I had any hope of actually writing any sort of review. However, that's the only reason I looked around—the setting and descriptions were similarly unremarkable. This is here, that is there, you move this direction then you move that direction.

Maybe the author had a cool plot in his head, and if so, he missed a lot of opportunities to reveal bits of it here and there as I moved around the map. He did very little to try to win my attention. Is that why people enter these sorts of games in the competition? Because they realize that if they release a game like this outside the competition people won't stick with the tedium quite so long? There was also no list of beta testers, something which always scares me.

In short, I wasn't hooked, there are 35 games to play, and I have a life beyond interactive fiction, so I can't waste time on games that aren't very enjoyable. I'm even mildly peeved that I had to download a retro release of ADRIFT just to play this, only to find that the limited bandwidth I wasted wasn't worth it.
 


Reviewed by David Fletcher

When describing things for the first time, this game always seems to assume I already know about them. "You are carrying the desperate letter" - what letter? "Also here is the book" - what book?

Oh, and "The CyberCow is here." Yeah, that's how you meet the CyberCow of the title. "The CyberCow is here." Wow.

Descriptions are minimal:

In the Chapel
You are inside the local House of God. You can move north, east and south.
Although it does insist on continually telling you "It is daytime" for some reason.

"Also here are the heavy cross."

There are a large number of irritating pauses that you can't skip.

I was supposed to guess to milk the cow? Looks unplayable without the walkthrough.

Three points.


Reviewed by Wesley Osam
 

What is Lair of the Cybercow? A gag? Just a really bad game? I have no idea, and that’s the only reason it’s getting its own post. Spoilers past the link.

I wasn’t sure whether to give Lair of the Cybercow a post—I’ll be doing another dismissive post later about some games that were just clear, blatant insults. LotC looks suspiciously like a half-assed time-waster… cheap idiot-grade surrealism, random elements thrown together with no thought or theme.

Then again, it’s in ADRIFT. I’ve never played an ADRIFT game that was any good at all, so maybe the format dragged this thing down. In the end I decided to give LotC the benefit of the doubt.

Of course, all that means is that I’m giving it a 2 instead of a 1. Here’s all you need to know about LotC: The first commands I type in any game are EXAMINE ME and INVENTORY. I type INVENTORY and the game tells me “you lost it all in that crazy bit in the well.” What well? It turns out there’s a well in the area, which you discover when you examine the cottage and the game tells you it’s “just east of the well.” Then I get to the Chapel Yard and the game says “Vluurinik flits around” as though I’m supposed to know who or what Vluurinik is. And then I pick up some items, and when I take inventory the game still tells me “you lost it all in that crazy bit in the well.”

Not only was Lair of the Cybercow not beta tested, but the author—one Harry Wilson—didn’t even bother to play through the thing himself. Even the slightest, most cursory text run would have found these problems. There are only two possible explanations for this game. The first is that the thing was a deliberate insult, in which case the author can go take a flying leap into his own well. The other possibility is that the author is so far off in his own little world that he doesn’t know what a finished game is supposed to look like. In which case, Harry, wait a few years before you try to submit anything else, okay?
 


Reviewed by Mike Rubin (Rubes)

I can't really say much about this game, to be honest. No extra information is included with the game, and the ABOUT screen is minimal. I start at a bus stop, with the only exit up a hill to the south, where there is a chapel and a small cottage. I am carrying nothing. No introduction, no background. The writing is terse and purely descriptive, with little embellishment.

No glaring issues or problems, just not much to attract me.

Capture Score: 3. Needs more of a reason to play it.


Reviewed by  MathBrush

This is an ADRIFT game from 2008, and like most ADRIFT games (especially from that time), it has quite a few bugs.

It's not terrible; it has some fun moments as you wander around a bizarre, goofy landscape. But eventually, the bugs pile up and it gets too hard to play.


Reviews should be considered copyrighted by their respective authors.

 

Any donation would be much appreciated to help keep the site online and growing.
To help make your donation quicker and easier just click the "Donate" button and you
will be taken to the secure Paypal donation page.
    Home  |  About Me