The place to discuss the ADRIFT Interactive Fiction toolkit

The Big Scoop

A forum where new and old games can be reviewed - an alternative to the reviews on the Adventures page of the main ADRIFT site. Also the place to ask for any assistance if you are stuck playing a particular game.

Postby davidw » Tue Nov 16, 2004 7:24 am

Game: The Big Scoop

Author: Johan Berntsson

I have to admit that I didn't warm to this game at first and I actually came very close to quitting within the first few minutes. But after a while I seemed to quite get hooked into the storyline, minimal though it is.

It started, not very impressively, with the player waking up in an apartment which lacks descriptions for a whole load of items and for those that do have descriptions, they're often nothing to shout about. I wandered about the apartment, trying to pick things up, examine things and generally getting a feel for the game. At the time I didn't like it much. It seemed pretty uninspired stuff and the writing, while adequate, was never anything special. Then the police beat down the door and in a line or two of text I was told I had been arrested and sent to prison for a crime I didn't commit.

I almost gave up then but, as I'd only been playing a couple of minutes at the time, I decided I'd persevere and give it another go. This time I found a few more things I hadn't the first time and even thought I might succeed in getting out of the apartment before the police showed up as I discovered a window I could open and a tree outside that I thought I should be able to jump to. But no such luck. The police broke into the apartment, saw me in the tree and promptly arrested me again and threw me in prison for a crime I didn't commit.

The third time I hit pay dirt. I won't tell you how because that would pretty much spoil the puzzle for any potential players and it's a fairly decent puzzle.

Once I was out of the apartment, the game opened up properly. There was a switch from the starting character to another one, a reporter, which unfortunately wasn't very well done. Reading a letter sent to her by the starting character led the two to a meeting. Conversation with the starting character was poorly done in that I wasn't actually able to converse with her at all, but instead I had to sit there meekly and just type "wait" a few times until she told me what she wanted.

Was the game any good? I'm in two minds. It wasn't very well written and the characters had so little depth that they might as well have been made of cardboard, but there was a nice balance as far as the difficulty factor was concerned. Aside from the opening sequence where it seems you die far too quickly and far too often for my liking, the rest of the game had the difficulty set just right. A number of times I came up against problems that I couldn't for the life of me figure a way of bypassing but after spending some time thinking about it, it was obvious what needed doing. This isn't a game weighed down by unnecessary objects and if you happen to find a hose in one location and a chair in another, it's a sure bet that you're going to need both of them before too much longer.

On the down side, there are a considerable number of locations that seem to have been added for the sake of it. They tend to be a line or two long description-wise and contain nothing to do. A smaller, more compact area might have been a better idea.

My main quibble would be with the hints system. Now I generally try and shy away from using the hints until I get really stuck with a game or, in the case of a game I'm trying to finish in two hours to meet the Comp requirements, until I feel that I definitely need to look at the hints to get me past a point that otherwise I might still be struggling with at the two hour stage. The only problem here is that some of the information you need to actually progress through the game - namely driving about and questioning people about various topics - can only be accessed through the hints system. A much better idea might have been to have the information in a separate README file or neatly displayed at the start of the game. Of course, it could be argued that this is information you could figure out for yourself but I still think it would have been better to give the player this information right from the start and not accessible via the hints menu.

In conclusion this was a game which fell somewhere between good and bad. The descriptions were too sparse and the writing lacked depth, but set against that was the nice difficulty balance I commented on before and the fact that the game moves along at a decent pace once you get past the overly hard opening sequence. With more serious polish applied, this might be a fairly decent game.

5 out of 10
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