Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ice Station Nerdly, Theory, Etc. [1 of 3]

I played Radiant and Best Friends today, as well as Jungle Adventure. All of these happened at Ice Station Nerdly, which was a rousing success! Not as many people as I'd seen before, but every game I played in was pretty full.

First, reviews of the games I played!
In no particular order - - Jungle Adventure is basically a text-based adventure game, with command line, realized in a tabletop game. The GM is the Parser, or the entity that receives carefully phrased commands from the player(s) and declares the effects of those commands in rote fashion.
Seriously - for each of the limited options available in a given locale in the scenario, there is a specific response the Parser is required to give. For example, in the Native Village, if you interact with the Witch Doctor in a way not covered by the options, the Parser reads you the line "The Witch Doctor glares at you." Every time, actually - our Parser got to the point where he started saying only the relevant verb - "glare" - to save time.
This was pretty much a straight-up puzzle game, though pre-knowledge of that style of computer game made adapting to the format a lot easier - one of our players was less of a computer person, perhaps, and would phrase things in a way that wasn't specific enough for the Parser's instructions.
After a while, though, the puzzles became a little frustrating - did we need to wear the necklace in location X to cause something to happen, or did we just need to have it in hand at that point? Fortunately, the joy of getting a new and different response from the Parser in a familiar "screen", such as "The Witch Doctor crouches to the ground and draws a map in the dirt!", instead of glaring at us again, made the head-scratching worth it. It's a bit of a language game, in a way, in that you have to use the correct verbs to entice the Parser into cooperating most readily. Also, you can save your game, and whenever you're killed (or if you win, presumably), you receive a point rating from 1-100, based on how much of the game you successfully discovered.
I think this is the first pure Sim game I've ever played - Exploration is definitely the biggest, most central point of it all, as there's really no competition to speak of and the story, as befits the source material, is completely fixed and handed out in tiny, semi-autonomous chunks. Yes, the game is quite challenging, but there's hardly anything that directly serves as an in-game indicator of progress or success - - you don't find out your point score til you win or die, so the point system seems to be a friendly pat on the back, after the fact, for your uncovering cool stuff.

Next: Best Friends, Gay Hairdressers Edition!

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