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Friday, October 4, 2013

Review - Threediopolis

Hey gang! Are you ready for some Z-code?? I sure am! Wow. It seems like just a few short years ago nearly ALL of the Comp games were written in Inform. And now here we are. This is the fifth game I've reviewed and not only is it the first Z-code game, it's the first game that will actually involve me typing anything (unless you count me typing my name at the very beginning of Mrs. Tipsy and the Cantaloupe Bungalow). Strange times we live in. Strange times. Oh well, I'm glad that this is going to be the first traditional IF to review as it allowed me to yammer about that in this paragraph as opposed to trying to come up with something to say about the title, because...I mean...yeesh. Look at it. Threediopolis. What does that even mean? Hopefully I'll have cleared some of that up when I come back and review the game. Join me after the jump!

Quick Take Review: Amusing game puzzle game with one big twist. Short, light, and fun.

Oh man. This feels better. You know, typing in words, having the computer respond. Phew. Back to good old text adventure games.

Not that Threediopolis was a typical adventure game. For one, if you haven't played it I'd really encourage you to stop reading this. It's a short game with one major twist and it's much more fun to discover the twist for yourself than having it spoiled for you.

So you're in the future in a large city that's composed of a three dimensional grid of blocks, meaning that you can go not just north, south, east, and west but you also can go up and down. And you do so. Very frequently. At the start of the game you are hired as a gopher by a businessman named Ed Dunn. (if I'd been paying attention to his name, I'd have figured out the central conceit a lot sooner) He gives you a set of tasks. A HUGE set of tasks. You're supposed to traipse all over the city and visit over forty different people. Luckily, the tasks themselves are not an issue. This is not your typical adventure game fare of you need the casserole dish but in order to get you have to bribe the pregnant lady with the ants on the log but in order to do that you have to steal the celery from the bartender's bloody mary which requires napkins, intricate timing, and a whole lot of spilled drinks. (who'd make a puzzle that convoluted? Yowza!) No, the tasks are easy. It's getting to the tasks that is the entirety of the challenge.
In the future, cities will be a taller version of Salt Lake City.

At first I was suspicious. Oh great, I thought. A maze game. Goody. Of course on your enormous task list are the coordinates to each of the locations, and every room you're in h
as a three digit address that corresponds with the three directions you can travel. BUT just getting to the right coordinates doesn't always work. Moreover if you wander around too far or for too long you'll be teleported right back to the middle of the grid. What the hell? Thinks I.

And then I stumble across the very first task. Not sure how. As I'm in the middle of trying to go to the next person's house I consult my list again, and notice that the completed task has been replaced by the person's name: Dee. Dee... I think back. From my starting position, that's actually the path I took to get to the coordinates. Down. East. East. Of course anyone who's spent any time playing traditional parser IF is used to the convention of abbreviating the cardinal directions with their initial letters. D. E. E. And of course that's the solution.

Speaking of lipograms: You should read this.
Each of the tasks are basically clues to words (or names) that can only be spelled using the six letters: E,W,S,N,U, and D. That doesn't seem like a lot to work with, but there are a surprising number of words you can come up with. And more than 45. There were several times when I typed in words which did not complete a task but DID get a response from the game. (my favorite: try going west, east, east, west, east, east. Ha ha.) I will say that I did not manage to get all of my tasks done. I got over thirty though, and I was pretty proud of myself before I went back and got Ed Dunn's assessment of my work. (he also thought I did a pretty good job) and it is highly likely that I'll go back and see if I can't complete the whole damn thing with a bit more rigor.

There's really no story to speak of, and the central puzzle, once solved, is really all there is to the game. I kept hoping that possibly there were going to be added elements or things to complicate the mechanic, but it's pretty much once you figure it out you figure it out. But it was a nice and funny moment of Eureka and it's a device I can't remember ever having seen in another game. Also, I love word puzzles, so I deeply enjoyed divining the crossword like clues and coming up with different variations of words in this lipogramatic challenge.

It did everything it aspired to and also the writing, while terse and to the point, was also pretty amusing and funny throughout. I'm intrigued, as someone who has coded (I should say ONLY coded) with Inform, how he had the computer check to see what words you were spelling as you moved about. Neat trick.

So summary judgement: definitely enjoyed myself and while not a work of emotive depth or cranium crushing challenge, it met every one of its ambitions. I have to say, even looking back to the first two games I played, the quality of this competition is pretty good thus far. (I didn't like the first two more because of the form or style than the actual quality of the work) It makes me definitely excited to see what's next.

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