Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Nihongo Word Processor v1.10

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 20, 2014

The second X68k word processor I’ll look at is the “SHARP X68000 日本語ワードプロセッサ Ver 1.10″, produced circa 1990 by Sharp itself. It is credited with programming by H. Nakamoto and management by H. Tanaka.

Nihongo Word Processor v1.10

For being only about two years newer, Sharp’s Nihongo Word Processor (henceforth, NWP) looks much nicer than EW. Its interface reminds me very much of classic Macintosh programs. Coincidentally, the Mac also used a Motorola 68000 CPU, though somehow I doubt it influenced interface design.

Besides being pretty, NWP is a perfectly serviceable word processor, with the standard features, plus one very neat divergence from the norm: on the right side of the screen is a pinboard with two notes attached to it. These represent the dual clipboard arrangement NWP uses. The left clipboard holds text which has been cut, and the right text which has been copied. There are separate paste commands for each.

It’s a minor thing, perhaps, but it’s exactly the kind of uniqueness that makes me interested in software from this era. At this time, the clipboard functionality was provided by each program individually, rather than by the operating system (and its associated standard libraries), so the implementation is a conscious choice by the developer.

As you look further back in software history, you can see different interface paradigms contending against one another for mindshare, each representing a different developer’s idea about how the interface ought to be. Single clipboard with no history won this particular battle, though there are outliers like emacs’s kill ring or the various ‘clipboard managers’ that provide something extra for the power user.

It looks like NWP shipped with certain models of the X68k. A positive bargain!

Posted in 1990, Word Processor, X68000 | Leave a Comment »

EW

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 19, 2014

Now that I’ve looked at the two major players on PC, let’s take a look at some word processors for other platforms, beginning with the Sharp X68000.

EWThis word processor is identified as “X68000 Word Processor << EW >> Version 1.20O”, a 1988 release by EAST Co., Ltd. (which company still exists, by the way).

EW looks quite similar to other word processors from the eighties: simply and ugly, including the (inexplicable!) choice to display hard returns on screen. Its ruler also measures not the size of the text on the page, but the number of columns occupied by the text. Fully 96 (half-width) columns are available.

You interact with the program’s extended features by either pressing escape to select from the menu, or pressing control key combinations to access other functions.

EW doesn’t have quite the feature set of WordPerfect, but it’s much lighter–roughly 900k, of which 388k is the dictionary. Being small may not be sufficient excuse for being ugly and limited, though: if my brief foray into historic Japanese sources (vintage 1989/1990–practically ancient!) doesn’t mislead me, EW wasn’t a well-regarded piece of software.

Posted in 1988, Word Processor, X68000 | 6 Comments »

Microsoft Word 5.0 (DOS) & Microsoft Word 1.1 (Windows)

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 19, 2014

Like the last post, this one is a double feature. Sadly, unlike WordPerfect 5.1, which was released for both DOS and Windows with the same version number, MS Word used different numbers for is DOS and Windows version. So I’ve arbitrarily picked a DOS and Windows version each released at around the same time as WordPerfect 5.1 to look at.

word_001

On first glance, MS Word 5.0 for DOS, released in 1989, looks fairly similar to WordPerfect 5.1. It’s a big blue screen with some status info at the bottom. But that’s not quite all. In Word, the toolbar is constantly visible at the bottom, taking up several lines, and the text entry area is surrounded by a box. This box isn’t just for show, though: you can choose to split the view into many different windows, which each may contain different documents. In practice, splitting the screen into more than two windows is probably not very useful, since the available space will be tiny, but it’s still a nice feature.

As for the toolbar at the bottom, though, that’s a waste of space. They should have just devoted a bit of space on the bottom line to say “Menu: Esc”, or something, instead. I give them half credit for the interface.

krnl386_004

MS Word 1.1 for Windows, released in 1990, looks more like what we’re familiar with from Word. With the standard menu-and-toolbar interface, it’s a fairly usable word processor, even if it has some quirks in the display.

Word 1.1 does have a big flaw, though: when I tried to open in Word 1.1 the document I made in Word for DOS, it actually crashed DOSBox! It did successfully open the document I made in WordPerfect 5.1, though… I think I’m going to have to give this point to WordPerfect.

2014-09-18_22-17-59

Furthermore, opening the documents I made in either the DOS or Windows version of Word in Libreoffice yields a bunch of garbage. I know that technically it’s not Word’s fault if a piece of software written a quarter century later doesn’t properly import its documents, but it’s still a sad lack of longevity.

In short, 1989’s version of MS Word had some neat tricks with the multi-window interface, but I prefer the minimalist (and less-space-wasting) WordPerfect interface. WordPerfect 5.1 for Windows looks better than Word 1.1 for Windows, too, though both were apparently rather buggy, so they’ll be winning no awards: above all, software must work, after all.

WordPerfect was still king of word processors at this point, but over the course of the 90s, its crown would be stolen by Word, leaving the once-mighty application little more than an also-ran, relegated to filling out the OEM software stack of budget PCs.

Posted in 1989, 1990, DOS, Windows, Word Processor | Leave a Comment »

WordPerfect 5.1

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 16, 2014

Technically, this blog is meant to be about video games. But I’ve written about hardware and magazines and books and whatever this is, so I figure anything fitting broadly under the retrocomputing banner is fair game.

wp_000

This one may be familiar to you. WordPerfect 5.1, released in 1989, was quite a popular word processor, and it persisted for many years. In fact, it seems that people still want to use it to this day. It was used in my keyboarding class, in high school, so this is a bit of nostalgia for me.

wp_001

When you first open WordPerfect 5.1, you’re greeted with a blank, blue screen, plus some details about the current position of the cursor. I’m fairly sure this violates a few interface design principles. On the other hand, considering that WordPerfect cost hundreds of dollars, perhaps they expected people to be willing to read the manual.

wp_002

Once you know how to use it, WordPerfect 5.1 is a powerful word processor, capable of doing pretty much anything you’d like. More modern word processors may be prettier, but all of the basic functions were there. The image above is what WordPerfect calls draft mode–a semi-WYSIWYG display suitable for general use. You could also turn on ‘reveal codes’ mode, which displays markup in a manner reminiscent of HTML or BBCode:

A blank, blue screen is just so… [Italc On]inviting[Italc Off]… wouldn’t you say?[HRt]

Naturally, when printed, the document would actually use italic or bold text, or whatever other formatting was selected. WordPerfect was intended, after all, for preparing documents for print, not for display on a computer screen. All of the various options could be accessed either though a menu (activated with Alt+=) or through some combination of modifier and function keys.

krnl386_001

The Windows version of WordPerfect 5.1, released in 1991, defaults to a WYSIWYG view that should seem familiar modern computer users. It does still support draft mode and ‘reveal codes’ mode, for those who long for the (shall we say) simplicity of the DOS version.

I never used the Windows version of WordPerfect 5.1, back in the nineties. The word on the internet seems to be that it’s very buggy, which is a shame, since it seems like a fairly usable word processor, otherwise.

2014-09-15_19-49-43

Just for fun, I tried just double-clicking the document I saved in WP 5.1 for DOS, opening it in LibreOffice. As you can see, it opens and renders flawlessly, despite the programs being released 25 years apart–a true standard-bearer for backwards compatibility! It makes me wonder if the present incarnation of WordPerfect could do the same.

I could spend pages discussing all the features of WordPerfect 5.1, but I really just wanted a quick look at it, to allow for comparison, so this much will suffice. I’ll write similar overviews of other contemporary word processors (Coming soon! Maybe.) and other applications, to show some of the variety in software on the market. There was a great deal of evolution in a fairly short time, so it should be interesting to see how they compare.

Posted in 1989, 1991, DOS, Windows 3.x, Word Processor | Leave a Comment »

Bishōjo Senshi Sailor Moon S: Quiz Taiketsu! Sailor Power Shūketsu!!

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 16, 2014

Today, I’ve got something else obscure to look at: Bishōjo Senshi Sailor Moon S: Quiz Taiketsu! Sailor Power Shūketsu!! (original title: 美少女戦士セーラームーン S – クイズ対決! セーラーパワー集結!!), a Sailor Moon quiz game for the Bandai Playdia.

Sailor Moon S Quiz (Playdia) - cover

Once again quoting my description on MobyGames:

Tsukino Usagi and her friends, the Sailor Senshi, are attending a lecture by a picture book author, Misaki Asako, when a Daimon called Quiz appears to steal Asako’s pure heart crystal.

There is one stage for each of the five Sailor Senshi (Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury, Sailor Venus, Sailor Mars, and Sailor Jupiter), which may be played in any order. In each stage, the player must answer a series of twenty multiple-choice questions, testing his or her knowledge of the Sailor Moon anime, which represents a battle against a sub-boss. Upon successfully completing a stage by answering at least 16 questions correctly, the sub-boss is defeated, and the player receives a password, after which another stage may be selected.

Upon receiving all five passwords, the player may restart the game and enter the passwords, unlocking the final stage, in which the five Sailor Senshi are joined by Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune for a final twenty question quiz.

Throughout the game, there are clips of animation in the style of the anime. Upon completing the game, a karaoke version of the anime’s opening theme is played over clips from the game.

Playdia-Console-Set” by Evan-AmosOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

A few words about the Playdia itself would not be amiss, I think. It was a CD-based console, released in Japan in 1994, reminiscent of the (similarly doomed) CD-i. Most of the console’s library (according to Wikipedia, which has a list) was quiz or edutainment software, and much of it seems to be licensed titles based on anime. The first three games (according to GDR), released on 1994-09-23, were based on Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon S, and SD Gundam. The Playdia currently has no emulator available, so the only way to play these games is to buy the console. It looks like they’re around $150 on eBay, and this particular game will set you back a further $50, so I don’t recommend it.

I based my description on a scan of the manual and a video playthrough, both provided by SailorVGame.org. They are also the source of the screenshots in this post.

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-00h50m44s102

Title screen

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-00h52m00s121

Opening movie

The game opens with a brief animated movie setting up the plot. I’ll not recapitulate that here–you can read the description above. The quality of the animation is quite on par with the TV anime. It is perhaps a little more static than the anime, but it’s well drawn and the video output by the game is of good quality.

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-00h58m03s238

The first thing the the player must do is decide whether to begin at the beginning of the game, or to enter a password and skip the first five stages, going straight to the final quiz. This is, I suppose, because the Playdia doesn’t appear to support any kind of saved games. Passwords are the only option. The password is in the form of five pictures which the game reveals, one after each successfully-completed stage.

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-01h01m32s210

The player can choose the order in which to take on the first five stages, but all five must be completed before proceeding to the final stage. Unless, of course, the password  has been gotten some other way.

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-01h00m59s11

The game itself is simply a series of multiple-choice trivia questions. There are twenty per stage, and six stages (counting the final stage), making 120 questions per complete playthrough. The back cover of the game boasts 300 questions, so I assume that they are randomized. Questions are generally read aloud by some character in the game.

The questions on Usagi’s stage are related to the Sailor Moon anime. The question above, “「つきにかわて、おしおきよ」は、だれのせりふ?” (“In the name of the Moon, I will punish you” is whose line?), is very simple, but they do get progressively harder. The nineteenth question on Usagi’s stage asks for the name of Prince Demand’s younger brother. Demand was a character in the previous season (Sailor Moon R), which had recently finished airing. Despite its title, this game was released right in the middle of Sailor Moon S, so it’s no surprise if it’s not filled with questions about the still-airing season.

The other stages have questions on other topics. Minako’s question number seven, for example, asks who was born from a flower: Oyayubi-hime (Thumbelina), Kaguya-hime (from a Japanese folktale), or Shirayuki-hime (Snow White). Ami’s question number one asks what kind of shoes to wear on a rainy day: rubber boots, slippers, or sandals.

After ten questions, a clip of the currently-selected character’s transformation sequence (straight out of the anime) is played, followed by the remaining ten questions. If the player has answered at least sixteen questions correctly, the password from that stage is revealed. Otherwise, the player is encouraged to try again. Either way, a clip is played of the stage’s boss being defeated.

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-01h34m27s13

Upon successfully completing all five stages, the player may restart the game and choose to enter the password. A series of five doors are presented, each offering a choice of four pictures, one of which is the correct password for that door. After the correct password is entered, another anime clip plays, in which Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune join the others, and the final stage begins. More Sailor Moon trivia is in store (question 10: What was the name of Chibiusa’s first love, the genius artist?).

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-01h41m22s29

Incidentally, the questions are not purely text based. In the above case, the Daimon asks who is displayed in those pictures.

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-01h44m02s125

Following the completion of the game, a short closing animation is played, followed by a karaoke version of Sailor Moon‘s opening theme, “Moonlight Densetsu”.

And that’s the game! It’s actually not that bad, I suppose, as trivia games go. Certainly far too easy for any but fairly young children, but I suppose that young fans of the series might have enjoyed the game.

It looks like there were actually four games for the Playdia based on Sailor Moon. Considering that there were only about thirty games in total, that’s a pretty substantial amount. Fortunately, SailorVGame.org has manual scans and gameplay videos for those available, as well, so I’ll probably write something about them, in the future. It’d be nice to be able to write about the console’s complete library, but I suspect that it’ll not be so easy to get details on all of the games. I won’t shy away from the detective work, though, so we’ll see how it goes.

Posted in 1994, Bandai Playdia, Decent, Full Review, Trivia | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Presentation Manager Robots

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 27, 2014

Another OS/2 game: Presentation Manager Robots, a port of BSD Robots to the OS/2 Presentation Manager. Incidentally, I’ve taken the screenshots in OS/2 2.1, this time, so enjoy the increased authenticity over my previous posts.

pmrobots-about

Quoting my pending MobyGames description:

Presentation Manager Robots is an implementation of BSD Robots. The player controls Smiley, who must avoid being destroyed by the Evil Killer Robots. On each turn, Smiley can either stand still or move into any of the eight adjacent positions, and the robots will move directly toward Smiley. If a robot catches Smiley by moving onto his position, the game is over. If two robots crash into each other, they are destroyed, leaving behind a heap of broken robots. If a robot crashes into a heap, it’s also destroyed.

The player has two options, if the robots surround Smiley. First, the player may choose, once per level, to use the Sonic Screwdriver, which will destroy all the robots adjacent to Smiley. Second, the player may choose to teleport to a random location in the level. This is not without risk, though, since Smiley may teleport beside a robot and lose.

The level is won when no robots remain. Later levels begin with more robots.

pmrobots-level1

Presentation Manager Robots is a pretty standard port. It starts out easy, with just five robots on the first level, but rapidly increases in difficulty.

pmrobots-level6

I made it to level 6 on my second try, which I suppose isn’t too bad.

There’s one annoyance to this port: no keyboard support. In order to move, you’ve got to click in the direction you want to go, and you click on Smiley to stand still for a turn. Robots is much better controlled with the keyboard, and I can’t imagine why this version doesn’t support that.

Other than the input issue, the game as much fun as Robots usually is. Worth a play, for sure! The game is actually still being distributed by its author, Kent Lundberg, from his homepage. It’s up to version 1.3 now (pictured above is 1.1), which he released under the GPL in May 2002, about nine years after its initial release in July 1993.

Posted in 1993, Freeware, Full Review, Good, OS/2, Strategy | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Dungeon Chess

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 25, 2014

I promised to write about some more interesting OS/2 games, so here’s one I thought was really neat: Dungeon Chess by Craig M. Seavey, Computer Scientist.

Yes, he credits himself as "Craig M. Seavey, Computer Scientist".

Yes, he credits himself as “Craig M. Seavey, Computer Scientist”.

This one’s a quite interesting variation on chess. I’ll just quote the description I used on MobyGames here:

Dungeon Chess is a board game similar to chess, played on an 8×8 board, called the dungeon. The player has access to sixteen weapons of five different types: eight Circs and two each of Arcs, Trigs, Rects, and Stars. Each weapon moves differently: Circs can move one room in any direction; Arcs move like knights in chess; Trigs, like chess bishops, move along diagonals; Rects, like chess rooks, move along the rows and columns; and Stars, like chess queens, can move any number of rooms either diagonally or along the rows and columns.

Circs and Trigs also have special abilities. Circs, like pawns in chess, can be morphed into any other type of weapon upon reaching the opponent’s home row. If a Trig is the last weapon available, it gains the ability to move like a Circ, so that it can access the whole dungeon.

When starting a new game, the player has the option of starting with an empty dungeon and placing his weapons manually when and where he chooses, or starting with the weapons already placed on the first two rows in a similar manner to the initial configuration of chess pieces.

Dungeon Chess keeps score, but only as an indicator for how the game is going. The game is won when all the opponent’s weapons have been captured–there is no checkmate in Dungeon Chess.

One major difference from chess is that the player can only see those rooms of the dungeon which one of his weapons can access. If, for example, the player has only a Rect left, then only the row and column the Rect occupies will be visible–and the view will be blocked by any weapons that are in the way of movement.

Two game modes are offered: Master and GrandMaster. In Master mode, the grid of the dungeon is clearly marked and visible rooms are colored differently. In GrandMaster mode, the dungeon is solid black, and the rooms that are visible aren’t marked, so the player must carefully inspect the positioning of the weapons to determine which rooms are definitely empty and which are simply out of view.

OS2 4.52-2014-06-24-13-21-08You can see in the above screenshot that there are three enemy Circs visible and a number of dark blue squares which may or may not contain enemy weapons, but which aren’t visible to me. This makes the game quite difficult! I’m reminded of Stratego, where you don’t know the rank of the enemy pieces until you attack them. The game of chess is quite different without perfect information.

Dungeon Chess is still sort of a parlour game, but it’s much more interesting than the bland conversions of Connect Four and such that I’ve been seeing. It’s a game that can only really work on a computer, since it wouldn’t be practical to play it on physical boards. You could do it with two boards and a moderator, but it’d be a pain.

This is something I really like to see: doing things in computer games that wouldn’t be possible for a physical game. For example, if you’re playing a computer pinball game, why not have effects that couldn’t be done on an electromechanical table? It can be done badly, of course, and there’s something to be said for accurate simulation of real-world games and toys, but I like to see people exploring the possibilities.

OS2 4.52-2014-06-24-13-23-42

GrandMaster mode is substantially harder, since the game doesn’t indicate which rooms are visible. Frankly, I prefer Master mode–it’s just too much trouble to work out which rooms are empty and which are just invisible, at least for me. Maybe some people who are more into strategy games would feel differently.

Dungeon Chess is single player, but it seems that it’s based on a multiplayer (network) game called ChessNet. There’s a chess game for Windows with that title from the right time period, but I think it’s not the same one. I’d like to see the multiplayer version of this game–it ought to be great fun.

There is actually still a version of this game around. Behold the modern homepage of Dungeon Chess. From the description, I suspect the modern version is really a different (if similar) game from this old one. I’m not shelling out $15 to find out, though.

Posted in 1993, Chess, Freeware, Full Review, Good, OS/2 | 2 Comments »

OS/2 parlour games by Peter Wansch

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 23, 2014

Continuing in the grand tradition of this blog, I’ve let time pass me by for a while with no updates. I’ve not been idle, though.

Recently, MobyGames started accepting OS/2 games, so I’ve been spending a bit of time looking at old freeware titles for OS/2. There are an absolutely shocking number of parlour games for that platform! Here’s a quick look at a few I’ve added to MobyGames lately, all by Peter Wansch.

2014-06-15_12-17-59

First, Connect Four. It’s a straightforward implementation of the Milton Bradley game. You can see me losing, above.

OS2 4.52-2014-06-18-09-32-30

Second, Master Mind. Pretty straightforward as well, though this one does offer a Beginner difficulty, on which the four colors chosen must be distinct.

OS2 4.52-2014-06-23-10-38-03

Finally (and still pending approval, just now), Tic Tac Toe. This one is more interesting, because in addition to the regular 3×3 game board you see above, you can play on 3x3x3 or 4x4x4 boards.

OS2 4.52-2014-06-23-10-22-46

Pretty cool! Not exactly a new idea, of course. In 1978 alone, MobyGames lists two different games called “3-D Tic-Tac-Toe” and one called “Qubic”, which is a translation of the board game of the same name–a 4x4x4 version of Tic Tac Toe. Even if it’s not novel, it’s still more fun than playing the 3×3 game to a draw a hundred times.

All three of these were released in a compilation of games made OS/2 2.0 and above, Entertainment Pack for OS/2, and some of them (including these three) seem to have had separate releases of updated versions.

There’s one big flaw with these games: they’re single player only! I can’t understand why Wansch didn’t just let you turn off the AI and play with a friend. I mean, I realize that Master Mind is really better off as a single player game, but the other two are perfect for multiplayer games.

Wansch may have contributed a couple of dozen parlour games to OS/2 by himself, but there are many more. I haven’t really explored the available games in depth, but it looks to me like OS/2 has a much higher proportion of parlour games than, for example, Windows 3.1. I wonder why.

It’s not all checkers and Parcheesi, though. I’ll get some reviews of the more interesting games up, once I’ve added them to MobyGames. It’ll be a nice break–it’s surprisingly exhausting writing descriptions for simple games. I dread writing yet another explanation of how Tetris or Conway’s Game of Life works.

These games can be downloaded from this page, if you’re interested. Of course, you’d probably spend more time getting OS/2 installed than playing the games, so caveat ludor.

Posted in 1993, 1994, Connect Four, First Impressions, Freeware, Mastermind, OS/2, Tic Tac Toe | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Shufflecomp: Sparkle

Posted by Tracy Poff on May 19, 2014

Sparkle by Karly Di Caprio is an entry in Shufflecomp 2014. If you’re planning on playing and voting for games in this competition, you should probably stop reading now. And I should say that I intend to mention some serious spoilers, even more than usual, so be warned.

Compared to Nova Heart, the last game I played, Sparkle is a much more traditional piece of interactive fiction. Not merely because it’s parser-based and written in Inform–it has very much the traditional feel of interactive fiction. The introduction ends with “The road ends here at an abandoned cable car platform. The cableway leads directly to my destination. I must get it running, somehow.”, and inspecting the cable car reveals that it is locked to the platform with an iron bar, which is attached to the platform with bolts. I will need a wrench!

With this as motivation, I explored the surroundings, coming to a gate guarded by a dog. Then the game instructed me to “Find a quiet place to MEDITATE.” I’d just seen such a place, so I did as instructed, and the game revealed a piece of information–“dog equals flute”–and a new mechanic: “With this information I can CHANGE things INTO their counterpart identities. I can also THINK to recall previously learned information.”

I was fairly excited by the possibilities, at this point, but I’m afraid that Sparkle didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The rest of the game involves solving some pretty standard puzzles with the aid of the new mechanic. That’s all pretty solid, but the only way to learn which objects can be changed into which others is to inspect some objects, and then meditate. Some of the objects you’ve examined may work with the new command. Or maybe not.

My biggest disappointment with this game is that the changing-things-into-things mechanic turns out not to actually be a puzzle. The game tells you, of this mechanic, that “the key to true enlightenment is to observe the Pattern and to understand it,” but that’s a red herring. The pattern is that there is no pattern–according to the game, anything can be changed into anything. That’s not actually true, though: objects can only actually be turned into the counterparts the game specifies, and only after the game tells you that you can, too–nothing clever happens on repeated playthroughs.

Despite my disappointment with the game’s unique mechanic, Sparkle does have a few things to recommend it. There are a number of optional puzzles, listed by the game as achievements. I didn’t get all of them, but they seem to be well-integrated into the game. For example, during one event, you’re told that your clothes get wet, and later you discover an umbrella–the obvious thing is to (on a subsequent playthrough) get the umbrella first, and protect your clothes. And, indeed, this yields an achievement–nice. The achievement system does seem to be  little buggy, though–I got some achievements that I didn’t actually complete, and I think it didn’t always notify me when I got one.

Also, Sparkle is written in first person, but can optionally be put into second person, which is a neat gimmick.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with this game. If it gets a post-comp release fixing the trouble with the achievements system, I might like to go back and try to complete some of the optional puzzles.

Play time: about 45 minutes.

Posted in 2014, Freeware, Full Review, Good, Interactive Fiction, Platform Independent | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Shufflecomp: Nova Heart: Don’t Be Standing Around While the Earth Dies Screaming, or: Who Is To Blame When the Owls Leave Candy Jail?

Posted by Tracy Poff on May 18, 2014

Nova Heart: Don’t Be Standing Around While the Earth Dies Screaming, or: Who Is To Blame When the Owls Leave Candy Jail? by Zenith J Clangor is an entry in Shufflecomp 2014. If you’re planning on playing and voting for games in this competition, you should probably stop reading now.

A bit of background: for Shufflecomp, prospective authors submitted a list of songs, which the organizer shuffled and sent back out. Authors were then to write a game inspired by (at least) one of the songs they were assigned (details). Nova Heart is inspired by seven songs.

I found Nova Heart‘s story to have a disjointed feel. There are sudden transitions and shifts in perspective, and the whole thing is rather bizarre. Intentionally, I assume.

Interesting language and vivid imagery are Nova Heart‘s strongest points.

You are in a woman’s clean white utopic apartment, one hundred floors above the city.

The wailing sirens of the deathpaddywagons are drawing closer. You have to run.

Run now.

There’s something forceful and immediate about this that I like. Between each paragraph, the game pauses, requiring a click (or press of the enter key) to proceed. I was more impressed by this before I saw the next line: “To run, type ‘run’ in the command box.” Indeed, typing ‘run’ is the only way to proceed from that point.

Nova Heart uses (what seems to me to be) a purpose-built javascript engine, and is played using a web browser (NB: the accompanying music doesn’t seem to play unless the game is played online). This engine allows the game to use both a text parser and mouse-based interaction. This would seem to allow for some very interesting modes of interaction, and the game does have a fairly nice bit where the PC is editing a news story, but that’s the high point.

The interactivity in Nova Heart is, for the most part, false. In the situation I described above, only typing ‘run’ allows the game to proceed, and no other command has any effect. This is generally true: at each moment, if any command is possible, only one command is possible. Nova Heart does not simulate a world; it just uses customized ‘continue’ commands. There are a couple of times in the game when the player may input a command sooner or later to get slightly different text, but the only real choice in the game is at the very end. There are, I think, six possible endings, though each is only a few paragraphs of text.

I think I’d like to play a game that has something of the style of Nova Heart, but more developed. Nova Heart is interesting as an experiment, but I wouldn’t generally recommend it as a game.

Posted in 2014, Freeware, Full Review, Interactive Fiction, Platform Independent | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.