Too Much Free Time

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

Posts Tagged ‘wordplay’

First Impressions: Super Scribblenauts

Posted by Tracy Poff on April 9, 2011

Super Scribblenauts is a puzzle game for the Nintendo DS, developed by 5th Cell Media and released on 2010-10-12.

The gameplay is fairly simple: write words in Maxwell’s notebook to create objects, and use those objects to solve the puzzles. Sometimes the puzzles are simply of the ‘think of a word that fits’ variety, and sometimes they require a little more effort. I should say here that I’m not very far through the game, yet, so I suspect the later puzzles will generally be more challenging and less ‘name a part of car’.

You enter each puzzle from the constellation map screen. Having selected a constellation, you’re presented with a list of puzzles contained in that constellation; later puzzles are unlocked by completing earlier ones.

The stars with crowns are intended to be replayed: if you solve the puzzle three times in a row, each time with a different solution, the crown turns from silver to gold, as you see above. This is a pretty great feature, because a lot of the fun is in thinking of outlandish ways to solve puzzles, and the developers clearly knew this. I only wish I could see a list of my previous solutions, but that’s unfortunately unavailable. Probably, it would have been too difficult to make it meaningful–not only the selection of objects but also their placement and what you do with Maxwell can be important.

The puzzles are often amusing, even when they’re not difficult: you can kill the dinosaurs in the above screenshot in any number of ways–I particularly enjoyed using a black hole.

A surprisingly large number of objects are implemented, so feel free to let your imagination go wild. Super Scribblenauts keeps track of how many distinct objects you’ve created, and how many distinct adjectives you’ve used, too, so you can measure just how creative you are, if you’re so inclined. Personally, I’m keeping a list of my solutions for each level, just to see how many ways I can solve them.

Not all of the puzzles are particularly inspired, and some seem a bit obtuse to me, but in general, the game seems to be great fun. I definitely plan on finishing this one.

Posted in 2010, First Impressions, Good, Nintendo DS, Puzzle | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

IFComp 2010: Under, In Erebus

Posted by Tracy Poff on October 21, 2010

Under, In Erebus by Brian Rapp is an interactive fiction game entered in the 2010 interactive fiction competition. You’ve accidentally boarded the wrong train, and when it stops, you’re in a dark and unusual place. How will you get home?

(This post contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.)

Erebus is severely under-hinted. I solved very few of the puzzles without using the hints. Actually, I didn’t even figure out that the booths were used for spelling out objects until I read the hints. It wasn’t even entirely clear that you were trying to escape. For all I knew, you were supposed to make friends with the cyclops and learn his secret of eternal life.

Some of the puzzles felt positively obtuse. Spelling out PUB in order to get a drink? Was there some hint that I missed? Making a cup and a tub were pretty obvious, but that’s pretty much all I managed alone. And the ending puzzle is absolutely impossible to guess, as far as I can tell. “You could use some assistance in escaping from Erebus. A student who will follow your instructions would be ideal.” Why would I even consider that?

There were some other problems, too. It was necessary to repeatedly travel around collecting ingredients (or, rather, letters) to try out puzzle solutions. Every time I needed a pea I had to go get one, open the pod, then use it. Eventually I just collected a big stack of bees and peas and dropped them near the booths, but I still had to make trips for the tea, ewes, and eye. I get that, from an in-game perspective, there should only be one eye at a time (though it reappearing sort of ruins that), but there could have been a whole flock of sheep I could herd to the booths, and I could have poured a small amount of tea out of the tub, leaving it little diminished. It was also a pain to have to take things out of the pack repeatedly. I’m of the opinion that if there’s no good reason to restrict the player’s inventory size, you shouldn’t do it–I believe players will forgive at least that failure of realism in service to playability.

Erebus wasn’t all bad, though: there were some nice responses; the various ‘bonus’ words you could make were amusing–though not amusing enough to make me want to make them all, given the painfully large amount of work involved in making just one word; the changes in the response to examining yourself were nice; the fact that the backpack became a wristpack was a nice bit of attention to detail.

I guess there were some things I didn’t explore. I couldn’t work out how to explore the pit, though the ten points I got for making it would seem to indicate there’s more to it. Maybe I should have tried “TILT”? But it’s too late now, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to it.

I regret that Erebus‘s shortcomings so outweighed its successes. The environment seemed like it might be fun, and I do enjoy wordplay–Ad Verbum is one of my favorite games. But everything I did in Erebus just felt like slow work. With better hinting and an easier way to create the words, Erebus could be a pretty solid game. As it stands, though, it’s just more trouble than it’s worth.

Posted in 2010, Full Review, Interactive Fiction, Platform Independent | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »