Too Much Free Time

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

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Posted by Tracy Poff on March 27, 2020

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Posted by Tracy Poff on November 12, 2016

Undo by Neil deMause (credited in the game as “null dogmas”) is a 1995 interactive fiction game, entered in the first annual interactive fiction competition. The premise is that when the game opens, you’ve just finished the last puzzle in a buggy, corrupted interactive fiction game, and have only to reach the exit to win.

The game is very brief–I spent about ten minutes beating it, exploring everything as thoroughly as possible–but it has a few entertaining bits. For example, if you check your inventory, you’re told that “You have everything that you need.”, and in the Binary Room you can take 0 (or take nothing) and your inventory will change to “You have nothing.” If you take other objects, e.g. take 1, then “You have nothing and a 1.” You can drop nothing and then “You have a 1 and everything that you need.” Inspired by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, if I’m not mistaken, quite appropriate for a piece of IF which is about a piece of IF.

The game’s solution more or less makes sense, though you’re more likely to stumble across it than to reason it out. I’ve written some invisiclues-style hints for the game, if you’re stuck.

Undo has a few neat ideas and an interesting premise, but it doesn’t really do anything with them, and feels more like Speed-IF than a real game. It can safely remain a relic of the past.

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Sonic 4 is Disappointing

Posted by Tracy Poff on October 12, 2010

I’ve been looking forward to Sonic 4 for several months now. The fact that a new, but retro-styled Sonic game would be coming to the Wii seemed like a dream come true. It was only a few months ago that I dusted off Sonic 3 & Knuckles for a play-through; it’s always a fun way to spend a few hours.

Sadly, Sonic 4 doesn’t live up to its predecessor–not by a long shot. It just does so many things wrong: the physics is bad, the game looks perpetually zoomed in, and the levels are unoriginal and rely on the homing attack thing way too much.

The physics: Sonic stops moving when you stop pressing forward. It doesn’t matter if you were running full speed and made a leap to get over a pit–when you let go of the forward button, Sonic drops like a hedgehog-shaped rock. Why? In the old games, a good part of the fun was getting up to full speed and bouncing over or past enemies so you never have to slow down. And on the topic of speed: it feels like Sonic takes far too long to speed up, and moving slowly is boring.

The ‘zoomed in’ look: Sonic is huge in the middle of the screen, and you can only see a few steps on either side of you. When you’re running at full speed (always remembering not to let go of the forward button), you have no time to react to enemies suddenly popping up in front of you. There go your rings, and, more importantly, your speed. Time to crawl back up to speed again. It seems like the game is designed to have you slowly walking up to enemies, killing them with the homing attack, and then moving on to the next segment, at least, when you aren’t being moved about by the dozens of boosters liberally scattered around. And speaking of such things…

The levels and the homing attack: the levels in many ways feel like inferior copies of classic Sonic levels. I guess that they were just making an homage to those games, which is fine, but there are way too many similarities. I’d have been happy with just the wrecking-ball type of boss fight from Sonic 1, for that. There are lots of repetitive segments, too, which is odd for a Sonic game–I’ve always felt that the diversity of the levels was one of the great things about the earlier games. In Sonic 4, it sometimes felt like the only time the level changed up was when they were about to fling you blindly into a bunch of enemies you’re supposed to mash on the homing attack button to defeat. Yeah, I get it. Sonic can attack them from mid-air and cross gaps and things. Lovely. But how many times am I going to be pulling off the same trick? I’ve got a lot of more specific criticisms of the levels, but I think those should probably wait until I’ve played a bit more.

Basically, Sonic 4 is just disappointing. I was hoping for–and, naively, expecting–a great game, but what I got was just an okay platform game with none of the charm of the older games. I really don’t think it’s worth the $15, which is a shame.

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