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A Day in the Life of a Super Hero Reviews
Author: David Whyld
Reviewed by Andrew Krywaniuk
First impression: The second superhero game of the comp. I like the premise, and based on the introduction, I'm prepared to be impressed.
I like the idea of starting the game with a menu. It gives you the option to read the introduction, credits, etc, and by implication it also tells you that they exist. It seems to me that this should satisfy the needs of the anally retentive crowd who occasionally complain about the line "first time players should type about" appearing at the top of the screen.
So everything is going great. I enjoyed the first scene; now I'm back in my
apartment looking for clues. But something wierd happens:
> talk to parrot
A fusty smell pervades your apartment. It's probably a mixture of you never getting around to cleaning it and that time the Slug Monster was here to kill you.
You see, my room is a bit smelly and the parrot is also called smelly, and apparently the terp is somehow interpreting "talk to parrot" as "x smell" or something like that. That's the risk you take when you choose one of the lesser-known authoring systems. Last year's Sophie's Big Adventure had similarly mind-boggling bugs that appeared to derive from the interpreter (e.g. "save" being interpreted as "south", restored game files being corrupt, etc), and this author appears to have learned nothing from the experience. FWIW, I gave the game a chance. I even downloaded the latest adrift runner, but the bug was still there.
ADitLoaS comes with a built-in walkthrough (you just type "gimme the walkthrough"), and you will definitely need it. But it's an odd walkthrough. Not only does it contain a few commands that give errors, but it also contains a fair number of "undo" operations. That's just bizarre! (I suppose they could be there to give you some context, but they really don't.
Unfortunately, this game is so buggy that it is basically unplayable. (So was Sophie's Big Adventure, but in that case the most serious bugs only became apparent after I had been playing for more than 2 hours.) I played through the game with the walkthrough and I concluded that even without the parser problems, I still wouldn't give the story and gameplay more than a 5-6. Still, the "guess the odd syntax" puzzles and inexplicable connections between events are one thing, but how could even a minimal amount of testing fail to reveal the obvious problems with the parser?
Reviewed by Andrew Plotkin
This interpreter is kind of weak. No command history. It keeps showing abbreviation translations. Em-dashes show up as O with an umlaut. And I can't get at the fonts.
"read paper" produces "You can't read the newspaper!" I take it this is the famous Adrift abstraction failure at work. Oh, and you can examine stuff in the dark (or with your eyes closed).
The first time I died, the game forgot to present me with a "game over" prompt. I just kept playing. Convenient, I guess.
The second time I died, I tried the hint system, but it didn't tell me anything useful -- even though I walked all over the city typing "help". So I went to the walkthrough. (Amusingly, I had to restart the game to figure out how to get the walkthrough, since the usual "about" and "info" commands weren't set up.)
Well, none of the puzzles are solvable, and the plot just throws you from place to place when you guess the right command. But the patter is amusing.
Oh, I see the game isn't solvable with this interpreter. I mean literally not solvable -- I can't enter the letter "c". (The game abandons the text parser completely in the endgame, giving you menus instead. The interpreter gets confused at this.)
Reviewed by Avrom Faderman
The intro starts out pretty well, but "...the sudden action setting you to swinging"? What sudden action? And there's something wrong with the idiom here... "Setting you swinging," not "setting you to swinging." It seems like a really minor issue, but again--this is the intro, the *first* exposure the player will have to the game. It needs to be really, really polished.
That said, the writing's generally starting off reasonably strong--it has a real
voice, a style that's slightly idiosynchratic but not distracting. It would do well for a good proofreading generally--I'm spotting missing commas pretty regularly--but that's easier to fix than actual bad writing.
Wait...I'm confused. I just died, but...I'm still here? Hanging from the bridge? I can't yet tell if this is a deliberate programming trick (basically, an auto-RESTART) or a plain-and-simple bug, but it was disorienting.
OK, this is a little annoying. The "Things You Should Know" section explicitly lists two formats for conversation commands: "TALK TO X" and "ASK X ABOUT Y". "ASK X FOR Y" is *not* among them, yet seems to be a required part of solving the *first puzzle in the game*. This is, in its own way, a guess-the-verb puzzle: While the command you have to type is a perfectly reasonable imperative sentence in English, it's something we've been led to expect won't work in this game.
Another positive: The error messages are *very* well thought out. I haven't yet seen a single parser default in this game, which is nice, and the replacements are entertaining.
A really minor nitpick, but it's bugging me: "Superhero" is one word.
Um...I can't talk to my parrot in my appartment. It keeps on assuming I want to "SMELL", even if I refer to him as "PARROT". This may be a limitation of ADRIFT, but if that's the case, I need to strongly recommend against using ADRIFT.
A verbal tic to watch out for:
"X is the first word that springs to mind when..." "X is a good way of describing..."
It's witty the first couple of times it's used, but it gets repetitive pretty quickly.
And now the game has forgotten that it promised me I could use "TALK TO GUARD"...it insists I use "ASK X ABOUT Y" instead...grumble. And...huh? I can't talk to the guard at all?
OK, I'm about to give up, because of all the bugs. I can't talk to Bumble--the game, for some reason, assumes I'm trying to talk to the guards. I think it's time for the hint system.
All right...I missed an important thing from my apartment, because the hint system there was misleading. This is a game with a lot of clever writing in it, but was it tested at *all*?
And the only way to get from one part of the game to another is via my *apartment*? Why? How was I to know this?
Even with the hints, I wasn't able to finish this in the allotted time. And I couldn't find a walkthrough.
Strengths: The style, the sense of humor. Weaknesses: Just plain undertested. Lots of weird little bugs, lots of trivial but distracting typos and grammatical errors, and an utterly unusable hint
Overall: What a shame. This could have been a really, really good game.
Biggest suggestion: More beta-testing. And just generally, a sense that the author had used a level of care to match his not-insignificant talent.
Reviewed by Dan Shiovitz
This isn't really Whyld's fault, but I have reached the point in my life where it is not inherently funny for a superhero to 1) have a goofy name 2) have a lame superpower or 3) be incompetent. Since the premise of A Day In The Life Of A Super Hero is that you're a semi-competent superhero running around battling semi-competent supervillains with goofy names and/or lame superpowers, I didn't get as much out of it as I could have. That said, the concept was executed fairly competently. I found a few minor bugs, the menu-based location navigation was a little peculiar, and the game came off more as a series of setpieces than as a single meaningful story, but I still thought it was ok, and someone who likes the basic premise better would probably like it a little better than ok.
Reviewed by DIY Games
This is one of the many superhero parodies that seem to be so popular among the interactive fiction crowd. The title is one of the better ones, with superheroes worthy the Whose Line is it Anyway show, such as The Taxman and The Wash Machine Gang. The writing is very good and flows smoothly, and at times it is quite suspenseful. Too bad that occasionally it is too loose, leaving you wondering what you were supposed to do next.
Reviewed by Jacqueline A. Lott
I began writing my thoughts on this game by placing my fingers at the home row of the keyboard, staring off toward the wall, smirking, and shaking my head slowly. That's how I usually react to Whyld's games. He is a silly man, and he writes silly games. They're like extremely well-polished speed IFs: lacking in excessive plot but chock full of humor, and fun to play but good for no more than a few minutes of diversion.
I would say the game possesses an original concept, were it not for the fact that I myself wrote once a speed IF once that parallels this one in a profound way. There was, however, only one way for my character to die, and David's character supposedly has twenty-eight causes of death, so I guess he beat me hands down in that respect. Then again, my game was written in a fraction of a day and David appears to have spent some real time on this, so it's hardly a fair contest. Not that we're having a contest here. Not really.
Okay. It's not a serious game, I'm sure Whyld knows it's not a comp winner, but I'm glad he submitted it to the comp; I enjoyed it, and it came up in the queue after several very bad, very draining games, and perked me up. Based merely on the fact that I laughed several times, he gets a six, which is the bare minimum I give games that I actually enjoy on any level.
Reviewed by Jake Wildstrom
A little roughly written, but fairly consistent tonewise. Superheroics and particularly comic superheroics have been done before, and done better. The fact that the protagonist is a slob is hammered home a bit too heavily. There are a couple weird parser bugs, which I chalk up to ADRIFT, not this particular game, but which nonetheless marred my play-session. There are a couple of bugs, or things which appear to be bugs, and I don't think "manic" means what you think it means.
Reviewed by Keith Campbell in Retro Gamer
You're the Masked Defender, greatest Superhero the world has known, yet you find yourself hanging from a bridge by your ankles, fifty feet above ground. A crowd gathers to watch, taking bets on whether they can hit you with a pebble. A seagull starts opecking away at the rope...
Smelly, your faithful parrot, flies on to the scene. "You're gonna make a dent in that there concrete if you don't do something pdq," he warns. "You know I don't like it when you use abbreviations!" you rebuke him. "Do something about the seagull!"
"That's a Mongolian Killer Seagull, that is," says Smelly. "Vicious swine! Have the head off a horse it would given half the chance. I ain't messing with it!"
When you've worked out how to escape your predicament, you head for your grotty apartment (no telly - had to sell it to buy your Masked Defender costume) with a mission to track down a bunch of Super Villains, the Paper Boys and the Tax Collector.
I found a couple of minor bugs whilst playing, but they were worth putting up with for the rich humour in the text, somewhat reminiscent of Magnetic Scrolls' Jinxter. Try it, as it's guaranteed to bring a smile to your face!
Reviewed by Michael Chapman Martin
This is superhero parody, not the serious stuff. The backstory can't seem to decide between "sure, superheroes are everywhere and you're one of them" (from Frenetic Five at the low end of superheroism through City of Heroes at the high end) and "You poor deluded fool, thinking you're a superhero." Really, I prefer the first to the second, but the inconsistency is particularly jarring and ends up getting you the worst of both worlds.
I begin tied up to the top of a bridge. Despite being tied up, I can still take the seagull that's pecking through the rope. Despite the fact that I've taken him, though, the death-timer in the first scene keeps going. Then I still seem to be able to take actions after dying. And this is just the first scene.
Oh. That reminds me. If you have a section in the about text saying the game is never unfinishable (albeit possible, if you try really hard, to not get the best ending), don't include 28 ways to die. Especially not when one of them involves letting a timer run out in the first scene.
The conversation/menu system was incredibly buggy in SCARE, sometimes giving the generic "I don't recognize that sentence" error for the game in response to menu options, and sometimes selecting one at random for you without ever giving you a prompt. An unfortunate side effect of this was that I couldn't get the walkthrough to work, and thus never saw the actual end of the game. I do believe I made it to the final confrontation, though.
I can't comment reasonably on most of the puzzles; most seemed to be clued by "this happens, and you missed your chance, so restore and do it right", but it's hard to tell because I spent the first 90 minutes just in the first couple of scenes, and then spent the remaining 30 with the walkthrough.
I would suggest, first, that the author decide on a specific tone and world-model for his work, and keep it consistent through the game. It's more important to have a clear reason not only to do the things you do directly to solve the puzzles, but also to do the things that make it possible to do those things. (That is, the Big Goal puzzles are well motivated, but they require access to items that you do not have motivations to acquire.)
Reviewed by Paul O'Brian
By now, my affection for superheroes is no secret. I love a good superhero game, and I love a good superhero parody. A Day In the Life Of A Super Hero is a good superhero parody, but unfortunately not a very good superhero game. Its greatest strength by far is its writing -- there were many spots that made me laugh, and many more that made me smile. Super Hero's satire isn't quite as finely honed as that found in Neil DeMause's Frenetic Five games, but it's lots of fun nevertheless. Along with the typical comedy juice available from silly supervillain names like The Gardener and The Pizza Delivery Kid, Super Hero does a lovely job at conveying a boundless gee-whiz enthusiasm on the part of the PC. Near as I can tell, the titular hero actually has no discernible superpowers, and nor do any of the supervillains -- they just adopt the exaggerated poses and outlandish names of the genre in the service of jazzing up their personalities. I also found it amusing that the game features no less than 28 ways for the hero
to meet an unfortunate and ignominious defeat, and encourages you to collect 'em all, like bad-luck action figures. Moreover, Super Hero surprised me at times with its thorough coverage of unlikely verbs, and its witty responses thereto. For instance, when suspended above a crowd of people:
spit on crowd That's the sort of thing super villains would do, not super heroes.
Of course, taking a scattershot approach with the jokes as it does, Super Hero misfires every so often as well. Sometimes it throws out a joke so old as to have lost all its appeal. Other times, it's guilty of running a gag into the ground -- one "bad odor" joke might be funny, but ten of them will not be. Still, judged on its writing alone, Super Hero is a rollicking good time.
Unhappily, the game's interactivity does not support its prose, and much of that
is the fault of Adrift. The unmodified Adrift parser is already quite weak, but somehow in this game it seemed even worse than usual. For starters, Adrift
frequently falls victim to its asinine policy of ignoring input that surrounds a
keyword, resulting in gems like parsing "look behind couch" as the same command as "look at couch." But the problem seemed to come up way more than normal in
this game. For instance, when the PC tries to address his animal sidekick, Smelly The Parrot:
ask smelly about soldier
A fusty smell pervades your apartment. It's probably a mixture of you never getting around to cleaning it and that time the Slug Monster was here to kill you.
The first time this happened, I went, "Huh?" After several tries, I finally figured out that the parser must be stupidly pulling "smell" out of that string and pretending that my command was "smell." At least, that's my theory for what it was doing, and repetition of the principle in other instances seems to bear that out. Conversely, the parser can be weirdly uptight about addressing items with their full name:
x rag You see no such thing.
x city rag The City Rag is the city's worst paper, one that specialises in writing slanderous and libellous stories...
x muggle You see no such thing.
x mrs muggle You've seen her sort before: old, grumpy, permanently displeased about something unspecified...
For a player like me, accustomed to other parsers' much more sensible approach of treating all pieces of an object's name the same, these responses are infuriating. Also infuriating is when the parser stubbornly and willfully misunderstands input:
ask erik about singer "Sorry, can't talk," says the singer. "Genius at work. Ohhhohohohohoh!"
But most infuriating of all is when the parser out-and-out lies, and lies in such a way as to make winning the game extremely unlikely. For example, at one point, it told me it didn't know the verb SHOW, when in fact that verb is crucial to solving one of the game's puzzles. When there are a number of free IF tools that provide much, much better parsers, my patience for substandard parsing like this is limited indeed, and this game would have been so much stronger had it not been hampered by such silly flaws.
However, sad to say, not all of Super Hero's problems can be ascribed to Adrift. For one thing, there are all kinds of bizarre typos that I can only chalk up to carelessness:
"You mean as in give him a damn goof biffing till he clears off and leaves you be?" says Smelly.
A damn goof biffing? Secondly, like Whyld's Comp03 entry, this game seems quite a bit too large to complete in 2 hours, which is something I really dislike in a comp game. Of course, perhaps much of my inability to complete Super Hero stems from its aggravating tendency toward read-the-author's-mind puzzles. To blithely spoil one of these, the PC's apartment has a half-dozen pieces of furniture, and moving *one* of them reveals a crucial item. Nothing in the room or object description suggests that moving it or moving anything else will be useful. And so on. At bottom, Super Hero is entertaining writing trapped in excruciating code. I fervently hope that other talented IF writers can avoid this dastardly predicament.
Reviewed by Rob Menke
Good, an option to skip the introduction. Not that the introduction is long, mind you, but having the option is nice.
Uh oh, looks like a charset problem… getting odd characters here and there; could be the game, could be the interpreter.
Abbreviations are different from acronyms. Acronyms are almost always in full caps.
This is like a low-budget version of The Tick but it works.
“Miscellaneous junk”? Way to go with the descriptions…
Ah, yes. Everyone’s favorite enemy, the Tax Collector.
Read paper returns the insulting You can’t read the newspaper!—either that, or the author was lazy.
The iron is in the fridge. In the fridge! Finally, someone who has captured the true essence of bachelorhood!
Mrs Clean, chronic housekeeper, captured for a mere $18 million. Heh. Reminds me of Angle Grinder Man.
Your jeans is… Ouch.
Well, the game definitely has a British tone, and the introduction of Mrs Muggle clinches it.
Heh. The “Use By” date joke. Love it. Waiting around in this game is half the fun.
Moving the fridge around multiple times results in a humorous message.
Huh. The interpreter interprets every attempt to examine Smelly the Parrot as
Damn it, poisoning the vat of milk is a major hunt-the-verb puzzle, and it’s pissing me off. There’s no walk-through, and the hints are only general.
It’s unfortunate that there were so many places in the game that were blocked off because of a lack of vocabulary, since the author had a strong sense of the absurd when writing for the post-modernist super hero. A lack of sophistication has been a criticism of Adrift games in the past and unfortunately the situation has not improved.
Reviewed by Sidney Merk
My vague plan for playing all the competition games has been to start with the ones that reside in a category of their own. Being the only Adrift game, I chose it next. It's a very ambitious game, full of puzzles and events to keep things lively. It's a good game, despite receiving a lower score -- it's just not very polished. I couldn't finish it in two hours, and I suspect I have a long ways still to go, having "defeated" only two super-villains and learning nothing from either in the process. My guess is, the author ran into the same problems I did -- a lack of time prior to the deadline, and too much to get done. It seems like a good game that was simply rushed to finish. Later in this review, I'll recap the problems I found in my two hours. I'd like to see an updated version, because I'm still interested in continuing the game.
Having just played another "super hero" game -- a shorter, more polished one --
I found myself wondering what my character's powers are. Maybe that's a big mystery to be uncovered later in the game, I don't know. One reference to "super
speed" was given, but I found no way to really put this to good advantage. More than anything, I felt like a detective rather than a superhero -- and not a very
good one, at that. I've always been a fan of puzzle games. Unfortunately, it seems I'm not very good at solving them. I got stuck on numerous occasions,
including the introduction, resorting to as much help as the hint system would provide in several places.
Although frustrated at my lack of progress, and by what I believe to be a spot where I may have saved my game in an unwinnable state, I liked the concept, and I liked the writing. Some British terms were lost on me -- I had to look up "lorry" to know for sure what it was. David has a great imagination, and the puzzles, dialogue, and descriptions seemed clever. My two chief complaints are that I felt too dependent upon the hints (maybe my fault), and that the game seemed to have been rushed to completion.
You may skip the next paragraph if you're just a casual reader.
Some of the problems I encountered were sentences with missing commas, other typos ("lessions" instead of "lessons"; a little "while" lie; Mirkhaven's description presumably missing a word or two; commonplace was written as two words; the name of the shop rings a "bill" -- unless that's a British variation, shouldn't it be "bell?"), some inconsistent descriptions (The Cat is asleep, but the room description says he's licking his paws and regarding me with malice; I found soap, searched again, and was told I already found the "marble"; I returned to my apartment but was then shown text regarding Bumble approaching the guards; a kid asks "have you got any real filth?" and the section is repeated), misinterpreted intentions (trying to talk to or show things to Bumble results in the guards responding instead), problems with the talk system (In the apartment, asking or talking to Smelly would give me the "fusty smell" message; sometimes, especially if auto-text would appear right after a conversation list, typing my choice number wouldn't work; "talk" would sometimes not work at all). Adrift's "Undo" seems to be a little quirky as well. I was able to get killed by The Cat, and any attempt to undo would see me dead again. In the presence of Mrs. Muggle, "X Muggle" says she's not there. Hitting the guards results in nothing (not even a flinch). Still, I offer this to be constructive, and hopefully to inspire an improved post-comp version. Having found at least fifteen problems in my own game just in the three days since it was submitted, I'm not trying to break the proverbial glass house by throwing the proverbial stone. :)
Then, we have sudden death. :) The interesting thing here is, the author makes it a challenge. I found #1, #2, #3, and #9 in my two hours of adventuring, leaving plenty more yet to be discovered. That's a clever way to go about it, and except for not being unable to get "undo" to work correctly in some cases, I didn't even mind it. I kind of felt that it was my superhero's duty in life to fail and fail again. It seemed a less optimistic version of "Mystery Men", and I wonder if that was part of David's inspiration for the game?
To sum it up, the game has quite a few problems, but the makings of a really good game are still there. I'd like to play it when a new-and-improved post-comp version comes out. If I make the rounds through the other games in time, I may return to this one even without an update. Even though I liked this game, it would fall between 6 and 7 on the scale I set for my rankings. Still, because I can see an epic in the making, and David's style is so enjoyable, I'm going to skew it up a full point.
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