The place to discuss the ADRIFT Interactive Fiction toolkit

Xen: The Contest

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 David Whyld » Wed Nov 16, 2005 7:21 am

Xen: The Contest by Xentor

Guess the verb hit this game. And hit it hard. One of the first locations I found myself in was the cafeteria where I was advised to get some food. Unfortunately upon trying GET FOOD I was advised that “the food isn't important”. I tried examining a few of the things I could see but as it happened I couldn’t see any of them as the author hadn’t bothered including a description for them. BUY FOOD didn’t work. Nor did BUY BURGER or PURCHASE BURGER. By the time I finally resorted to the walkthrough and saw that ASK CHEF FOR BURGER was required, I was half convinced this was some kind of cleverly hidden joke entry. After that, thankfully, the game got quite a bit better.

There were a few things I liked about the game: the room descriptions were lengthy and nicely written and the style of writing was certainly okay. But my enthusiasm waned a bit whenever I tried to examine some of the scenery and found I couldn’t. Most of the items described in any given room description can’t be examined, which left me with the impression that this game had either been written by someone in a great hurry or someone who hadn’t bothered testing it afterwards. Or maybe both. Oh, and the description of the bookstore displays the description of the bookstore clerk. The store itself doesn’t even have a description.

For a while I just wandered around the game and saw what there was to do. Which didn’t seem to be a whole lot. With the majority of items mentioned in room descriptions being of the non-examinable sort, that left me with not much to do as the game isn't one of those with huge amounts of activity packed into each location.

In the end, and as time was pressing, I went to the walkthrough. It advised me to try something I’d already tried once: knocking on Kevin’s door. The response I’d got to begin with was that he wasn’t in, so I’d figured I needed to do something else first. Which led me to one of the game’s main flaws: guessing what’s in the author’s head. It turns out Kevin doesn’t show up in his room until a couple of other completely unrelated events have taken place – buying some books and meeting your roommate and his friends. I suppose it’s possible you could hit upon this by sheer luck, but I always prefer puzzles that actually make sense and can be figured out if you take the time to do so.

I didn’t play much more of the game afternoon that as I was rapidly approaching the two hour deadline for Comp games, but while the game had a certain charm to it, the subject matter so far hadn’t interested me a whole lot. Maybe there's more to it than simply starting your first day at university but, if so, it might have been an idea to begin the game with this rather than simply eating a burger, buying books and finding out your roommate’s a bit of a thug.

5 out of 10
David Whyld
Posts: 7004
Joined: Sat Dec 18, 2004 5:15 pm
Location: United Kingdom
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