Mark Musante's Mini Reviews

For the Games Entered in
Adam Cadre's
1998 Chicken Comp


0. Greetings

Hi!

1. Intro

This is a list of mini-reviews of all the games that were released as part of Adam Cadre's "Chicken Competition" of 1998. At the time of this writing, the games are all stored on the great IF repository known as GMD. Note that this site is in Germany. For a mirror site in the USA, go to http://ifarchive.org/.

The actual zip file which contains all the games is on GMD and on the USA mirror as well.

These reviews are necessarily biased. Biased by my quirks and my point of view. Biased by 31 years of both dealing with and trying to escape from the real world. Biased by the fact that I was recently given the first speeding ticket of my life, and I was only going 7 mph over the speed limit. What the hell was wrong with that cop anyway? Oh, sure, he SAID I was doing 76 in a 65, but I had the cruise control locked in at just over 70. He probably did that so his co-coppers wouldn't laugh at him for being so desperate to make his quota.

Also they're biased because one of the games is my own.

Having said that, let me now state that I liked most of the games. That implies that I didn't care for some of them. To those of you who got negative reviews: really, it's okay. I'm only one person and, fortunately for the human race, my opinions don't matter all that much. I'm still glad you entered the competition; all of the people who entered showed they had great IF skills, even if some games weren't to my liking.

To those of you who got positive reviews: boy, the rest of them sucked, didn't they?

Please-- I'm kidding. No offense.

2. Outline

The order in which the games are listed is alphabetically by the author's initials. Why? Ask Adam.

2.1. Surprise

To my surprise, not all the games met the premise of the competition: A chicken crossing a road. In a couple of the games, there aren't even roads.

2.1.1. Too Much Time On His Hands

The breakdown of the roads in the games is as follows:

East-west: 8
Starting on south side: 5
Starting on north side: 2
Unspcified : 1

North-South: 4
Starting on west side: 1
Starting on east side: 2
Unspecified : 1

No road at all: 2

Road, but no explicit direction: 5

2.2. Scoring

The games are rated on a scale of 1-10, with 1 indicating the worst game that could possibly have been made in response to Adam's posting, and 10 indicating an incredibly imaginative and enjoyable game.

My basis of ranking can be broken down as follows:

  1. Did the game entertain or amuse me?
  2. Was the writing good?
  3. Was the plot good?
  4. How faithfully did it adhere to the spirit of the competition?

I'm not commenting on spelling or grammar errors in these reviews. For longer games, like the ones in the annual competitions, it makes sense to do so. But these are more like "gamelets" and I don't really see the point of being excessivly picky.


3. Ado

And so, without further ado, here is some spoiler space:

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And here is a control-L character:

And here there be dragons.


3.1. "Chicken and Egg", by Adam Thornton, Serial No. 980608, Release 1
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-at.z5 Inform 59.5k Yes. None 10
This game is a grest send-up of Andrew Plotkin's "Spider and Web". Strapped to an interrogation chair, you have to answer questions or be put to death. Of course, if you haven't played Andrew's game, this one won't be quite as funny. In any case, you know you're in for a good time when the credits include the line "Chicken by God."

3.2. "The X Chicken", by David A. Cornelson, Serial No. 980614, Release 5
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-dc.z5 Inform 59.5k Yes. East-west. 5
A vague X-Files parody. A scar seems to flit from neck to neck, and it all ends in death. I seem to have missed the point of the story, I'm afraid. And the plot as well. The only thing mildly interesting was interacting with the NPC's: straight-laced caracatures of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Being an X-Files fan, that appealed to me. Unfortunately, the ifMUD in-joke ("mamster" written in the corn) is not enough to offset the lack of plot.

3.3. "Unity", by G. C. Ewing, Serial No. (not given), Release (not given)
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-ge.acd,
chkn-ge.dat
Alan 65k,
27k
No. Yes. 7
The funniest part of this game is that, while the author remembered to prevent someone from saying 'get phone booth', he seems to have forgotten 'pick up phone booth'. And no, you don't die. :-) Whereas the majority of the games in this competition made the chicken crossing the road an integral part of the plot, in this game it's incidental. Once you manage to use the phonebooth properly, you're thrust into a fantasy world with enterable looking-glasses, transportation huts, magic wands and giant toads. I was unable to complete this game, unfortunately, being stymied by the Alan runtime. Every time I restored a game all the game objects would disappear on me. :-( I really would love to play this game out, as it appeals to me greatly, but I feer I've spent too much time on it already. Also, I've been anxious to to get this posted.

3.4. "CHICKEN!", by Gunther Schmidl, Serial No. 980616, Release 1
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-gs.z5 Inform 47k No. East-west,
start: south
5
This is a very short game, requiring three actions to win. It does include a chicken, and it does involve crossing the road. But that's about it, I'm afraid. Its subtitle is "A Journey in Three Clucks", and that's exactly what you get. The author says he wrote it in 45 minutes, though, so that's impressively quick work. Dan "inky" Shiovitz has called it "a triumph of minimalist chicken IF" and I can't argue with that.

3.5. "The Chicken's Dilemma", by Jason Dyer, Serial No. (not given), Release (not given)
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-jd.hex Hugo 47.5k No. None. 5
Other than the title, this game doesn't include a chicken, let alone a chicken crossing a road (the response to "x me" is "You don't seem to be in your usual chicken state. You look indistinct, and you have two arms which you know weren't there before."). It contains a straightforward logic puzzle reminiscent of Smullyan's popular works. The puzzle IS a fun one to figure out. The author claims it to be original, so there's a coolness factor there too.

3.6. "POLLO Y CAMINO", by Jay Goemmer, Serial No. 980615, Release 1,
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-jg.z5 Inform 52k Yes. Yes. 5
You're spit. You are, in the words of the winning statement, "only so much saliva." The chicken does cross the road and, for some reason, a scientist examines you as you evaporate. Little point. Little plot. The solution to the only puzzle is manifestly clear to the most casual observer.

3.7. "*Sisychickenphus*", by Lelah Conrad, Serial No. (not given), Release 1
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-lc.gam TADS 56k Yes. East-west,
start: south
7
I was initially stymied by this game because all the NPC's seemed as though they were there just for show (and for the puns-for-names). After some nudging, I managed to figure out the right way to interact with the NPC's (there is only one way in this game). The idea is to cross the road and try to see what the different chickens think about the Eternal Question: "Why did the chicken cross the road." It's short, cute and amusing. There's some odd formatting right at the end (which may be a WinFrotz bug) but, other than that, it's a great submission in the competition.

3.8. "Chickens of Distinction", by Liza Daly Serial No. 980615 Release 1
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-ld.z5 Inform 56.5k Yes. Yes. 9
A day in the life of a fast food restaurant greeter. Well, not a DAY so much as a few minutes. Fortunately, a bank robbery breaks up the monotony of your existence and gives you an excuse to get out of your chicken costume. One thing I really liked about this was the elimination of the compass directions. The plot itself was very funny, and some of the responses were good for a chuckle as well. An all-around enjoyable little game.

3.9. "The Chicken Under The Window", by Lucian Smith Serial No. 980616 Release 1
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-ls.z5 Inform 51.5k No. Yes. 8
This game is a play on Andrew Plotkin's "The Space Under The Window" game, a most unusual work of interactive fiction. By typing a word that appears in the narritave so far, you can either expand the story or contract it. Knowing which words will move the narritave forward is a matter of guessing, which can be frustrating at times since certain words will restart the story on you. Once you get the right sequence, the chicken does cross the road. The imagry of a dancing chicken passed my chuckle test quite handily.

3.10. "Learning to Cross", by Mark J. Musante Serial No. 19980527 Release 1
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-mm.gam TADS 94.7k Yes. East-west,
start: north
-
The astute reader will notice that this particular game is my own. It's a very long and complex game, second in size only to Greg Ewing's, and that's not necessarily a good thing. A hiker on a cross-country trip, you determine that you need to stop at a local farm (could you get any less immaginative for a setting here?) to get some food. But then, once you manage to capture the chicken (avoiding the bugs like the clever player you are), you are compelled to Cross The Road(TM) and things go horribly, horribly wrong. At this point I'd like to say "wackyness ensues," but there's about as much wackyness in this game as there is in a speech by Newt Gingrich. The only thing that made this game marginally better than staring at a powered-off CRT was the excellent input of all my betatesters.

3.11. "Are you Too Chicken to Make a Deal?", by Mitchell Taylor Serial No. 980609 Release 1
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-mt.z5 Inform 54k No. Yes. 7
A sort of chicken version of the gameshow "The Price is Right". Choose to play and you're presented with three roads to cross, only one of which is the best. Very short but worth a laugh.

3.12. "THE STORY OF MORRIS THE CHICKEN BEING HELPED BY A SQUIRREL", by Mikko Vuorinen Serial No. (not given) Release (not given)
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-mv.acd
chkn-mv.dat
Alan 31k
8k
Yes. North-south,
start: west
7
I always get a kick out of games whose authors add funny responses to unlikely actions, and this has several clever ones. Like most of the games in this competition, it's short and amusing. You play a squirrel whose task, it seems, is to help the chicken get across the road. Not only that, but you apparently get to exact your revenge on the big monsters that have been squishing your family flat for lo these many years. A fun game.

3.13. "The Landing", by N. K. Guy Serial No. (not given) Release 1
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-ng.gam TADS 104k Yes. North-south,
start: unknown
7
There's not much more to this game than using the 'z' and 'enter' keys. Neil was only able to get the non-HTML TADS version into the competition .zip file, but I'm looking forward to the multimedia enhancements that the HTML version contains. The writing is good and engrosing, and the humor is very well done but, as I indicated, the 'game' portion of this entry seems to have gone missing.

3.14. "Hey, I'm Supposed to Be Free Range", by Opal O'Donnell Serial No. 980614 Release 1
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-oo.z5 Inform 48k No. East-west,
start: south
7
Like most good puzzles, the one in this game requires that you think "outside the box" in order to solve it. You're a chicken who crosses the road daily but, due to some road construction, you discover that traffic cones are blocking your way. Can you figure out how to navigate them in order to find your way across? A solidly programmed entry.

3.15. "THE LESSON OF THE CHICKEN", by R. Noyes Serial No. 980616 Release 1
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-rn.z5 Inform 62k Yes. Yes. 10
This is easily the best game of the lot. Or should I say "best of the peep"? A mild parody of G. Kevin "Whizzard" Wilson's "The Lesson of the Tortoise", this game takes the concept of decapitation to new heights (heh) and throws in a plethora of puns to spice it up even further. If you play no other game that was entered, play this one. (If you have to play two, Adam Thornton's is a very close second).

3.16. "Saied", by Robb Sherwin Serial No. 980608 Release 1
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-rs.z5 Inform 55.5k Yes. East-west,
start: south
6
You gotta like a game that has 'gooey splorg' in it. And the plot is certainly an interesting twist on the 'chicken crossing the road' phrase. But the excessive prose (huge chunks of it) gets in the way of the game. Actually, this is more like a very short story than a work of interactive fiction, although there are two endings. There is one puzzle, figuring out how to get out of bed, but there are sufficient hints through the prose in order to make it an easy one.

3.17. "The one about the chicken, the lion and the monkey?", by Sam Barlow Serial No. 980610 Release 1
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-sb.z5 Inform 81.5k Yes. East-west,
start: south
7
This one was quite amusing indeed, but two counterintuitive actions (and one knowledge-by-death puzzle) mar it. The plot is to somehow get a pair of earrings for your girlfriend but the only vendor around will only take US dollars (of which you have none). Fortunately there's some fine print that saves you. But how the author expected us to find the gutter (and, for Kunkel's sake, the final move) is a mystery to me. Fortunately there are built-in hints.

3.18. "BEHAVIOR", by William J. Shlaer Serial No. 980611 Release 1
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-wsb.z5 Inform 49.5k No. North-south,
start: east
5
Sparse descriptions, instant death, few objects actually programmed. The object here is to re-capture your chicken. You're a grad student studying the nocturnal behavior of chickens and, last night, it escaped. There is some amusement value here but the sparseness of the game world makes for a frustrating experience.

3.19. "ORPINGTON", by William J. "City Boy" Shlaer Serial No. 980611 Release 1
Filename Platform Size Xyzzy Road Rating
chkn-wso.z5 Inform 52k No. North-south,
start: east
7
What an unusual experiment. You play a chicken but, apparently, your brain has forgotten how to walk. Somehow you have to manage to find the love of your life (you can play either a male or female chicken, but this doesn't really affect the outcome). The odd part is having to individually command the chicken's legs, walking through a farmyard & down the road. Too much of this would be very tedious. Fortunately the game is short. Unfortunately, the game suffers from its sparse descriptions and the fact that objects mentioned in those descriptions are not implemented. This makes it somewhat frustrating to play.

4. Summary

Rated 10:
"Chicken and Egg", by Adam Thornton
"THE LESSON OF THE CHICKEN", by R. Noyes

Rated 9:
"Chickens of Distinction", by Liza Daly

Rated 8:
"The Chicken Under The Window", by Lucian Smith

Rated 7:
"Unity", by G. C. Ewing
"*Sisychickenphus*", by Lelah Conrad
"Are you Too Chicken to Make a Deal?", by Mitchell Taylor
"THE STORY OF MORRIS THE CHICKEN BEING HELPED BY A SQUIRREL", by Mikko Vuorinen
"The Landing", by N. K. Guy
"Hey, I'm Supposed to Be Free Range", by Opal O'Donnell
"The one about the chicken, the lion and the monkey?", by Sam Barlow
"ORPINGTON", by William J. "City Boy" Shlaer

Rated 6 and below:
"The X Chicken", by David A. Cornelson
"CHICKEN!", by Gunther Schmidl
"The Chicken's Dilemma", by Jason Dyer
"POLLO Y CAMINO", by Jay Goemmer
"Saied", by Robb Sherwin
"BEHAVIOR", by William J. Shlaer

4.1. Made ya look!

Oh, and yes I did leave out number 22 from the spoiler space up above. Good catch.


Originally posted on 23-Jun-1998
Last update: 20-Sep-1999 by Mark J. Musante