The Online Interactive Fiction Review Site
Game: Dutch Dapper IV: The Final Journey
By: Harry Hol
If you've read many of my reviews of IF games, you may have noticed that I am very much in favor of hint systems. I prefer very thorough, explicit hints, preferably as part of the game, either through some contrived in-game device (which tend not to to be very explicit or thorough) or menus. What game, I pondered at one point, could be *harmed* by the inclusion of a wonderful hint system? It could never detract from enjoyment; only enhance it! Right?
Well, no. I admit it, however sheepishly: I enjoyed Dutch Dapper IV: The Final Voyage (DDIV) very much because it didn't have a hint system. If it did, I would have turned to the hints as soon as I ran into trouble, and the puzzles in DDIV aren't really that difficult. Because I had all the time in the world to play it, and there weren't any hints, I just set the game aside for a few days and came back to it to try something new. All right, there was one point where I had to e-mail the author for help because I really was stuck, but it turned out I had used two words where the author combined them in a compound word. So I came away from this playing experience with the satisfaction of solving all the puzzles myself. Hurrah!
Unfortunately, some of that puzzle-solving joy was diluted by the difficulties of dealing with some of the objects in the game. The biggest problem was with the liquids: I still have no idea how I actually solved the puzzle, because it was next to impossible to do anything I wanted to do with the different cups of liquids. The author himself, in an article for XYZZYnews, admitted that introducing liquids was one of the hardest things to code. I'll agree: if I had as much trouble as I did in the final version, I can't imagine how buggy it was the first few times around.
However, despite the occasional glitch or seemingly impossible arrangement of objects in my inventory or game-ending crash, the game was coded surprisingly well. Lots of extra actions were accounted for, and new appropriate verbs were also added. It would have been nice if some of the new verbs, especially those required to solve a puzzle, had been better documented ahead of time, but they were intuitive enough for me to eventually figure them out, which is the important thing.
The setting of the game hangs together very well: you start on (presumably) Earth, in your own home, and you travel to the alien resort planet of Jor on a mission. The writing is reminscent of Douglas Adams, which is what the author was trying for, and there are occasional outright references to things from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy text adventure. The first time you visit many locations, you are treated to a sort of omniscient commentary about the place: for example, the first time you enter Glabulo's Fabulous Zorch Burger Restaurant, you get the following text:
It is interesting to note that there are structures that exist all over the universe. Every species everywhere sometimes just doesn't want to provide for its own food. Whether it is the Greblivirk from Mamurg III who is tired of having to regurgitate his freshly caught Zarf six times before it's done every night, or the Nib-Nib from Hilmimi Himmi who feels like having someone else liquefy her fresh Goob, there is always demand for a good restaurant. And then there are places like Glabulo's Fabulous Zorch Burger Restaurant, that serve quickly prepared flavourless meals with a high calorie count that make you feel hungry an hour after you ate.After that comes the regular description of what the place looks like, what items you can see, etc. It feels very much like you actually have a Hitchhiker's Guide, filling in some of the details of the culture of the Universe, making comments on the different aliens you see. The writing isn't trying to be literary as much as it wants to be funny, and overall it succeeds at that. There are a few awkward phrases, and one error of the infamous "it's/its" brand, but overall the humor and lighthearted tone really shine through.
In addition to the humor present in the text, there are also actions that produce funny results. The author has kindly included a long list of amusing things to do, some of which are better than others, but all are worth walking through to see all the responses.
If there were anything DDIV could improve, it would be the ending. After accomplishing fun, convulated tasks in the seaside resort town on Jor, you are taken through the spaceport (which you could not access on your own) and through a good deal of text before finally arriving at the end of the story. There are a few actions you have to perform to finish everything off, but they are quite obvious, and provide no real challenge. You (the player character) are shown an immense, bewildering, empty structure that you have no chance to explore, and you, the player, are given huge chunks of text to digest, and then the whole mission is explained. Now, I'm all for wrapping up loose ends, but this feels like the first half of the game is implemented fine, while the second half is following along and reading the text. Even this doesn't detract much from the overall enjoyment of the game, and the story is interesting, so I can't say I mind much.
Overall, Dutch Dapper himself is an entertaining character, and DDIV is an enjoyable game. If you like Douglas Adams' writing, or liked the HHGG IF game, or if you're really bad at puzzles and are looking for something that you can do without hints, give this one a try. Even if we never see an adventure set in the same world again, I do hope we see more from a promising author!