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IFComp 09: Spelunker's Quest

I started Spelunker’s Quest (Tom Murrin) more or less hating. It’s a Zork/Adventure-styled cavern crawl with an unsophisticated premise, uninspiring writing and kind of half-assed implementation.“You see nothing special about Spelunker’s Quest!”. Lots of description, but entirely unimplemented objects. Who cares if there’s a sofa with 3 cushions if I can neither sit on it, build a fort out of the cushions or even examine it? Oh, wait, I can search it (and find something). Well, I guess that’s something. The author could have done the player a favor by using the two levels of ‘examine’ and ‘search’ to imply that there might be something more to an object than ‘nothing special’. Also, and this is just a bad-mooded nitpick, sofa is great, but synonyms are nice, too. “Couch”?

Interactive fiction is lively more or less only when the world appears even somehow plausible, if objects and environment can be manipulated for the sheer do-ability of it. If there’s a chair, let me sit in it! If there’s a torch, let me hold it (I understand, in retrospect, why the torch couldn’t be held, for the sake of the central puzzle, but arbitrary limitations like that annoy me). SQ features a spare environment, full of objects that are more or less off-limits. To its credit, the most annoying objects that aren’t manipulatable (see above, torch) have something to do with the puzzle landscape of the work, and I’ll give it some credit for that.

I managed to get through this game in about 20 minutes with the non-complete score (I have to admit, I appreciated the ridiculous implausibility of the last 8 points, since it completely affirms what I wrote in the previous paragraph — if you can arbitrarily interact with the environment, then hide stuff where most players are unlikely to look, as long as those things are unnecessary to the completion of the game), but I needed a partial hint on the final puzzle (once I found the object, I figured out how to use it without further help, although I misunderstood what it was for at first).

So, this game is not great, has 0 replay value, doesn’t really inspire with its puzzle design or writing. As a quick, escape-from-a-cave lunchtime diversion, it probably does its thing, but I generally am looking for something with a bit more oomph, either in the story, puzzle, atmosphere or writing department.

Finally, the use of ‘!’ when announcing that you’ve found something gets old kind of fast. Ecstatic announcements aren’t really necessary. Grump grump.

Spelunker’s Quest

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