The Online Interactive Fiction Review Site
Game: Adventurer's Consumer Guide
By: Øyvind Thorsby
Adventurer's Consumer Guide ("ACG") starts with the premise that you are a product reviewer for adventuring products and must take an assortment of gadgets on a quest in order to test them out. I confess that I'm not generally a fan of this kind of meta-premise; it feels a bit worn, and I tend to prefer something with a freshly invented universe or a well-researched historical setting, rather than a rehashed parody of an old one.
I wonder whether other people feel the same way, and if so, whether the premise may be deterring players a bit, because I haven't seen as much discussion about the game as I would have expected, given that it's the kind of piece that lends itself to hint requests and player discussion.
Another possible deterrent lies in a quirk of implementation: ACG
is written by Øyvind Thorsby, the author of Attack of the Yeti
Robot Zombies and, like that game, it disables
I didn't mind this effect too much in the deliberately fast-paced
first-person-shooter-style environment of Attack of the Yeti Robot
Zombies. ACG is paced much more like a
conventional IF game, with many rooms and detailed puzzles. In that
context, not having the ability to examine things gets tired really
quickly. I am so used to it that I typed
But even setting my IF reflexes aside, there are lots of times when
it would be useful to be able to check on the status of a single
object without having to trawl through paragraphs of text. Because
there are no object descriptions, everything has to be described
ACG also got quite a brief announcement on rec.games.int-fiction — I know there's a community prejudice against aggressive self-promotion, but it doesn't hurt to write a slightly longer blurb about a game that you want to encourage people to play.
I speculate about all this because ACG deserves a much bigger audience than I've seen it getting so far. It's not a literary piece and it doesn't offer a coherent backstory or a deeply characterized protagonist, but that's not the point. I strongly recommend this one to fans of light-hearted puzzle games, especially to people who liked The Janitor, Augmented Fourth, and Zork. ACG is much fairer than Zork, but shares some of its goofy attitude and anachronistic combinations of objects. It does these things so well that even if you are not initially excited by the premise, you may find you enjoy the game.
Even if you've played a few moves and given up, I'd recommend
having another try. The irritation of having no
Once I was thoroughly into the game, I found it delightful. ACG is a moderate-sized piece — compared to the average release recently it may even deserve to be called large. At any rate, it took me most of an afternoon and early evening to play, and I received some hints in the later stages. And it's a quality piece of work, well-tested, with a wide variety of responses to unusual conditions. There are a few things you can do that will have a large-scale effect on the environment, and when these happen, they're implemented in subtle and imaginative detail, with small changes throughout most of the rooms. I encountered no bugs. There are some unfortunate punctuation problems scattered through, and a couple of typos, but I noticed these things less and less as I became more engrossed in the game, and they were never terribly severe in any case.
The map fits my game-playing prejudices as well: it's large enough to be interesting, with new areas that continue to open up over the course of play, but it's not so large or so complicated that there's any real need for note-taking. There are also several times when the relation between areas becomes clear in a new way, or where you get to see the same object from a new perspective — a trick I've seen before, certainly, but it continues to satisfy. The only real drawback from my perspective is the fact that room names are very similar; this was probably meant humorously but it did mean that they began to blend together in my mind, and I remembered places more for what they contained than for what they were called.
As for the puzzles, they're generally fair, and many are quite ingenious: the objects you've been given at the beginning of the game can be used in a satisfying variety of ways. There are very few filler puzzles with obvious solutions, few re-capitulations of old standards: no passwords, no lock-and-key puzzles, and no light source problems — and certainly no mazes, inventory juggling, or hunger puzzles. There are one or two timed passages, but the timing is generous and needs no tedious optimization once you know what you need to do. Almost every solution requires that you not only find the right props but that you apply them with some degree of imagination. There were perhaps a couple of solutions that felt a bit too similar to one another, but I feel as though I'm nitpicking now. Overall, Thorsby keeps the challenges novel and inventive and seldom seems to have stuck in a mediocre puzzle merely because he needed to block an area and didn't have any better ideas. The result is a game that often feels old-fashioned in spirit but offers fresh and novel game-play.
The puzzle structure — the way in which puzzles relate to each other — is also quite well designed, so that there are usually several things that you can be working on, but at the same time it's rare to encounter a puzzle a long time before you have the means to solve it. This keeps frustration relatively low. And even when your sidekick doesn't have explicit solutions to offer you, he can often give some guidance about where you should be focusing your attentions.
Non-player characters exist largely in support of the puzzles, and
are implemented so that they respond only to commands and
It is possible to get stuck in the game, and, I think, to lock
yourself out of victory. There are also elements of randomness.
Save frequently. Expect to
A final word of warning: there are a few bits of the game that are bizarrely gory. The violence is cartoonish, but if this sort of thing bothers you, don't play while eating.