Yon Astounding Castle! of some sort Review

Mm, okay.  When I double-click to start this game, I get five error dialogue boxes, and Adrift fails to load the game.  Then when I go through the menu system, Adrift loads it fine.

I have a problem with Adrift.  Largely due to smouldering resentment at the bugginess an earlier version introduced to my Comp entry of last year.

(I wonder if Emily Short, Victor G. and all those real IF writers who are boycotting un-beta-tested games will play this one.  It lists no beta testers, but it runs pretty smoothly; at least, in the Windows version of Adrift.)

Yon Astounding Castle! of some sort is a fine game on the classic Zorklike game model.  You go around taking items and doing things with them, collecting treasure, and manipulating devices and magic items, gradually upping your score and gaining access to new rooms, until you win.

The tone is what makes YACoss unique.  Really the title says it all.  The game is written in faux-Middle English, with much silliness in the way it presents the Dungeons-and-Dragons bent of the game.

And, artistically, this choice of tone is a good one:  Rather than hide the inherent silliness of the RPG thing, the author features it.

I got stuck — yes, even YACoss is apparently beyond me — and the walkthrough is in an MS Word .doc file, which irritated me.

I got stuck because I didn’t notice an exit in one of the rooms — typing EXITS would have forestalled this — and eventually resorted to the walkthrough.  I almost gave up on the game, but decided that would be lazy.

This is a very courteous game, with in-game hints offered when you EXAMINE things.  Maybe too much.  But it really does make up for the minor irritations and lamenesses of a Zork-type game in its style.  I mean:

Lo, ’tis yon device for ye resizing of all manner of belts & belt-like things.  If ye wisheth to resizeth ye belt with yon device, ye could placeth ye belt upon yon device and pulleth upon yon belt resizing lever.  Ye magic belt and ye resizing wheel cronkle are on yon belt resizing device.

Ye pulleth upon ye lever and yon belt resizer doth yon thing which is its– that is, it doth practition or thereby executheth yon method which thereby reduceth ye magic belt by one size.

…and yet, for all this the game is entertaining without actually being fun.  I have the converse complaint of the one I leveled against _Earl Grey_:  there’s not enough story.

It seems that because this is a Zorklike game, the silliness of the narrative voice, while entertaining, creates too much distance for me care about it, qua game.

I remember once, as a grown-up, I tried playing one of these combat-based battle RPGs — _Warhammer_, or something.  And it left me cold.  And I looked around at the other guys at the table, and they were all into it:  they stared at the game table with these spaced-out looks, really putting themselves into that world.

Afterward, someone very close to me, whose husband was in the game, asked if I’d enjoyed it.  And I told her, “Yeah, it was okay.  I mean, it’s basically toy soldiers.”  When you can’t get into a game like that, you spend your time watching what’s actually going on — watching the other people play the game, and going through the motions yourself.

That’s where I was with Yon Astounding Castle! of some sort.  The problem here was the the very cleverness and entertainingness of the writer’s narrative voice drew me into that emotional space; and the emotional space the writer wrote the game from was too much a reflection on Zorklike games, very much outside the emotional zone of the game-world itself.

For this to have worked as a game, the writer would have needed to bring his considerable writing skill to bear on making the game-world vivid, lively, and emotionally meaningful to the player.  Instead, there was so much meta-humor, and what was going on in the game-story itself was unremarkable enough, that it popped me out of the game.

(I greatly liked the part with the gnome, tho.  And you get the idea the author would be very cool to hang out with.)

This game will probably score high in the IF Comp:  around an 8.  That’s simply because it’s so well done, and it so follows the rules and conventions of classic IF, that nobody will want to rate it lower.  And, frankly, it well deserves a high rating.  But the author needs to learn to create an emotional investment in the substance of the game, and I suspect that would begin with him finding a story that he himself feels emotionally invested in.

Published in: on October 7, 2009 at 11:40 am  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “… Victor G. and all those real IF writers who are boycotting un-beta-tested games”

    Didn’t play this game yet, but I’m not boycotting any games. Of the four comp games I’ve played, at least two were not beta-tested, two were in ADRIFT, and one was in a homebrew language.

    In fact, I am planning on playing this game as well.

  2. Hmm… I pretty quickly filed this one under the category of “Games Whose Authors Are Nowhere Near as Funny as They Think They Are.” It’s essentially just one joke, which (assuming I found it funny in the first place)is always going to be a real problem to sustain over the course of entire game.

    I feel like I know the tendencies of Comp judges pretty well at this point, and I’d be very shocked if this one manages an average score anywhere near 8.

  3. Update: I’ve figured out where I’m stuck, and I’ll be taking another crack at this.

    And I’m told it *does* list beta-testers, if you type CREDITS.

    Victor — apologies for giving out disinformation; I must’ve misremembered something on your blog.


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