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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2004 7:27 am
by davidw
Game: Ninja

Author: Paul Allen Panks

Well, my list of games to play started off with Paul Panks' entry so clearly I was off to a bad start. But, in the interests of trying to judge everything fairly, I decided to give it a go.

Big problems hit right from the start. Standards commands like 'x' or 'exam' aren't implemented so if you want to look at something you have to type 'examine' in full. Now, while this kind of thing was something I was quite happy to put up with back in the 80's, it's pretty unforgivable in a modern game. Worse was to come. 'L' doesn't work so if you want to know where you are you have to type 'look' in full. And, as you might have guessed, it's 'inventory' if you want to know what you're carrying. Bad, bad, bad.

The first location left a lot to be desired and if I wasn't intending to review all the games for the Comp, I'd have shot this one off to the recycle bin right off and looked for something better. The first location? It's a classic: "It is dark. You see a Shinto shrine. The mountains of Tokyo hover behind you. The city rises to the east." Okay, a couple of points here. First of all, hover? How can a mountain hover? And if it's dark how can I see the shrine or the mountains or the city? It gets even worse when you try to move from the start location. Even though an exit is clearly labelled in the room description (to the east), attempting to go that way hits you with the strange message: "You are by the Shinto shrine to the east". Yes, I know that. How do I leave? Despite being by the shrine, I'm not able to use the 'in' command to enter it (neither 'in' or 'out' are covered) but instead have to type 'enter shrine'. Clearly this is a game written by someone who wouldn't touch a beta-tester with a ten foot pole let alone set them to work on his game.

I'd like to say things get better after the disappointing start. But they don't. They just get more disappointing. Examine the shrine and you're told it's a heavenly structure pointing upwards to the heavens above. Birds apparently fly above "scattering the sky with a distant breeze". Now if I was an English teacher and one of my students wrote that, I might wonder if they were on drugs. In a work of IF, it's just bad. Painfully bad.

The game ends with the ninja of the title jumping out and killing you without even the opportunity to fight back. Fortunately by the time this happened I was eager to quit anyway and if I hadn't just died, I'd have probably slit my wrists a moment later.

The game understands a minimal set of commands, of which several of the listed ones don't even produce a proper response. Typing 'quit' (my first reaction upon seeing how bad the game was) hit me with a message saying that I hadn't completed the game yet. 'Score' returns "only the kami know!" 'Climb' is apparently implemented but as I was able to climb neither the mountains nor the shrine I'm not sure what it was implemented for. Perhaps later on you might come across something climbable but it's highly doubtful anyone will still be playing by that stage.

Ninja has all the hallmarks of a game written by a complete newcomer to the field, one who really doesn't have a clue what an IF game should be about and any idea how to go about writing one. That it comes from something who has written over twenty games in the past is even more surprising. How can someone write so many games and not have learnt anything from past mistakes?

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