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Pieces of Eden Reviews
Reviewed by Various (InsideADRIFT Newsletter 38)
Pieces of Eden started off so well. (Assuming you could ignore the painfully tiny text...) The intro was intriguing, the plot sort of reminded me of David's 'In the Mind of the Master'...but then it all came apart.
To begin with, (though I'm willing to let this slide since it requires what I'd consider an 'advanced' trick and this is a comp for newbies) considering how easy it is to die in this game, it would have been courteous to at least something up to allow the player to 'undo' instead of throwing them into ADRIFTs annoying default pop-up box highscore thingy again and again.
To end with, the command required to win the game is rather GTVish and quite frankly just doesn't make much sense. To make things more difficult, the object you need to examine to even have a chance at figuring it out is easy to overlook, as anything other than literally typing out 'look at' or 'examine' will result in the default 'You see no such thing.' message.
In between the beginning and end are a handful of other small annoyances, such as the fact that all room descriptions seem to contain <waitkeys> and have you doing things like bursting through doors and interacting with NPCs again and again when all you're trying to do is 'look', or the fact that when you come to a CYOA-like choice, you have to type out something like 1.) or 1a.) instead of a simple 1 or 2. (for awhile I thought I was dealing with a broken tasks, and when I did figure it out the game seemed dead-ended anyway due to the aforementioned GTV issue).
But the above easy-to-make newbie mistakes aside, the number one problem with the game turned out to be the one that would have been the easiest to fix. Namely, the lack of proof-reading. The punctuation is kind of...bad, and that just makes it look like the author rushed through all the writing. (The most glaring mistake in this department was "your" being used instead of "you're", over and over throughout the entire game...)
And of course now I feel sort of bad having typed out four solid paragraphs ripping apart a newbie's first game, but I probably wouldn't have bothered if I hadn't seen so much potential here to begin with. Like I said in the beginning, the game started off SO well. The author definitely knows how to write scenes with atmosphere and tension, and I suspect with a little more practice with ADRIFT and some more time put into polishing their games they could be cranking out some awesome spy/action/thriller IF in no time.
First, for some reason, it displayed the main text smaller than usual. My eyes hurt. I'm really not sure what was going on; the game would need heavy redesign to improve.
Going east after having paid gave a "you didn't pay" error.
Responding to the man required a specific "1.)" instead of the customary "1".
"examine number" is different from "x number"
This work is quite short, though this can be expected for this type of comp. Though still, I feel that it could still have been longer considering the time allotted. It took me only seven turns to actually finish this work.
The writing and prose has some shining moments. The intro in particular is well written, and sets up the whole story and scenery well. Beyond the first room though, the rest seems cobbled together and rushed, which is disappointing, because there was some good detail in the first room.
Some commands don't quite cover enough possibilities. For example, when paying the owner of a diner, you must input "pay Steve." It doesn't understand "pay owner" or "give coins to steve." This little piece of hunt-the-verb could have been avoided by adding a few more input possibilities.
The very end of the game is a broken mess. I'm unsure as to what was even happening, and it used a rather messy choice menu for the final moments of the game. The final, game winning command had no rhyme or reason as to why it even needed to be entered into the parser, and it referenced a coin that I could not possibly have even known about, as it was never mentioned. I had to look into Generator to discover the solution, and even after viewing the source, I still couldn't figure out what the author's intention was.
If the beginning of this game is any indication of the author's IF writing ability, then there is some definite potential, but more time needs to be spent on things, and things need to be thought out better. The choice menu needs a complete overhaul as well.
The first thing that I noticed about this game was that GhostofDanzig (henceforth referred to Ghost) had decided to mess around with the default font. I applaud efforts to tinker with the display to make the game a little more unique. David Whyld has often put this to good use in his games. The problem was that Ghost had chosen to shrink the size of the font, making it really hard to read. I think it would have done my head in to play the game in this font, so I ran it through Gargoyle. That was much better.
Now, the game itself. I liked Ghost's Film Noir style of writing, which was effective in setting up the old "Hmmm, I have to play the game before I find out what's going on" player motivation - though I did spot a couple of typos. They sneak in everywhere. Like Heer.
The game started with a fairly simple (but unforgiving) time-based puzzle. It set up the scene and the tension nicely, though I would recommend Ghost gives the protagonist a few more turns to play with. Failure is handled well, with the game spelling out your mistake clearly (and in context) and making replay an easy choice.
I didn't particularly like the way that the unconscious police officer was handled. Although the player character may have no idea why there's a KO'd Law Enforcement Officer outside the cafe, I think that such a discovery deserves more than "The Unconscious Police Officer is here". It was a bit of a "What the...?" moment for me, and his purpose seemed a bit Deus Ex Machina.
When I emerged from the alley, I got stuck. The mysterious figure offered me two options and I found that neither '1' or '2' worked. I had a look at the code in Generator
and saw that Ghost actually required me to answer '1)." or "2).". If you're going to give the player a list of options, don't make it too obscure for him/her to actually make a choice. ADRIFT gives you the option of having multiple triggers for a task, so use them to make it as easy as possible for the player.
I figured out how to complete this game ALL BY MYSELF,
which made me feel good. This game ends unresolved and is clearly not a
stand-alone work, expressed by the ending in which Ghost refers to a 'Part 2'.
As such this 'game' feels more like an entry for the Intro Comp. This is just an
observation, and not a criticism. As it was, although the set-up cannot claim to
be original (it reminded me of 'In the Mind of the Master' for one thing), I
certainly enjoyed this game enough to want to see what happened next. I don't
know if this was Ghost's first game, but I think it is one that he should
continue to work on. I'd be really happy to see 'Part 2', for example.
THINGS I LIKED: The writing was very good, and the plot was intriguing enough to make me want to see more.
THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE: The unconscious police officer puzzle broke the spell. Having to go into the Generator to solve one of the puzzles.
Reviews should be considered copyrighted by their respective authors.
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