ParserComp: Three Days of Night

threedaysof

So hey guys I have this cover idea

Final game of ParserComp: Three Days of Night (spaceflounder).

Story: Gwendolyn Starling is a radio astronomer on a moon base; the game opens with an announcement that a first-contact is about to be made. Then disaster strikes, and Gwendolyn finds herself alone in a malfunctioning space base. (Let it never be said that ParserComp broke with tradition.)

There is a great deal of SF of a certain era which is basically the result of geeky engineers trying to reconcile themselves to the existence of the hippies they were presently partying with, with varying levels of awkwardness. This feels very much like something of that tradition; in the first half you are dealing with a Space Station Crisis by doing astronaut tech things (I am ever so slightly tired of these by this point), and in the second you are influenced by Super Advanced Hippy Alien Magic and enter a curtain of light and go into an imaginary allegorical faux-afterlife with gazebos and harps.

At the end, if you don’t die, the aliens reveal themselves and declare non-specific peace unto mankind (which I never find immensely comforting given that this is generally the first thing you say to people you plan to brutally colonise). This is kind of abrupt, as endings go – aliens are pretty much the secular deus ex machina, plotwise.

On the whole, this didn’t do an awesome job of distinguishing itself from Space Problems Game #19061, or offer much by way of satisfying resolution. 2.

Writing: Mostly this is pretty functional. Early on there are hints that this might be more character-driven – we get a named PC, and her contemporaries are given sketched beginnings of personality – but this is never tackled with much more than surface detail. The great majority of writing is, well, fine: but it’s being asked to describe pretty extraordinary circumstances, and doesn’t rise to the challenge.

I hit the following early on, which was a bad omen.

>x cylinder
The base of the Neujmin dish has a hatch in it’s side.

>open hatch
There’s the problem. The primary coil is out of it’s slot.

Basic errors like this don’t feature prominently in the rest of the game, though, which is a relief – except for the final line: “Not that you’re feeling inclined stay.” I conclude that the author just had really bad luck to leave errors in really crucial places. 3.

Puzzles: In the early section, the puzzles are mostly a matter of being told ‘OK, your next job is to do this’, which usually turns out to be pretty straightforward; the one thing which approximates an actual puzzle is a thing where you have to cross-reference things in a notebook to get their index number before requisitioning them from a requisitions robot.

Later, in the space gazebo dream land, things get a bit less directed and unmotivated.

This is, I think, a weak 3, strong 2. Field’s relatively strong here so I’m going to call it 2, on the basis that none of it ever felt like much more than a chore.

Theme: Of the space-base games in this comp, this is the one where I was least conscious of the sunrise. Here the threat isn’t that the sun will fuck everything up, but that its absence makes it harder to repair the base because the solar panels are no help. And the plot development rapidly makes the issue irrelevant. (Perhaps if you never enter the curtain things go differently? But I couldn’t see what else I might do.)

I can sort of see the game that this might have been planned as – a game about husbanding scarce power to squeak by, a game about cold, dark, silence, waiting, solitude; but we only really get the overture to this before alien ex machina takes over. This is a ‘fine, I guess.’ 3.

Technical: Scenery implementation is not completely bare-bones, but misses a few fairly crucial things – if my crewmates have mysteriously died of something that leaves their bodies covered with a network of tiny black scars, I’d like a closer look at those scars.

A horrendous bug makes LOOK UP actions only work if the game is not presently autocorrecting a command. My opinion of TADS autocorrect declines further; this isn’t game-killing, exactly, but if someone wasn’t relying on the hints that directly tell you to do this, it could really send them off on the wrong track.

>look up fuel in notebook
(the spiral bound book)
There doesn’t appear to be anything in the book like that.

>look up fuel in notepad
(the spiral bound book)
There doesn’t appear to be anything in the book like that.

>look up fuel in book
SPARE FUEL CYLINDERS: LOADER ROBOT RETRIEVAL NUMBER 64810

That said, there is a hint system and it’s appropriately context-sensitive. And mostly it does the job fine. 3.

Overall: This feels as though the author had some big ideas and then cut them back a little too aggressively – or, perhaps, too uniformly, cutting back on everything rather than focusing on one element to invest in. 2.

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This entry was posted in interactive fiction, parser-based, review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to ParserComp: Three Days of Night

  1. Pingback: ParserComp Summary | These Heterogenous Tasks

  2. dougorleans says:

    For what it’s worth there’s a completely different alien contact scene (with completely different aliens?) if you interact with the command console instead of going through the curtains. Not sure it would significantly change your opinion of the game but you might find it of interest.

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