Alan Interactive Fiction Language

Alan Interactive Fiction Language

Alan Interactive Fiction Language

Adventure Writing for Everyone

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Game review: A Very Hairy Fish-Mess by Byron Alexander Campbell

WARNING: CONTAINS SLIGHT SPOILERS

“Have you ever wondered what Christmas would be like if it were run by your horrible cat, who also happened to be a timeless Lovecraftian horror? Find out in this bloody festive holiday treat!”

This is the blurb for Byron Alexander Campbell’s ALAN3 game which was published in 2009.  The tone of the game is light-hearted, especially compared to the author’s other game released at about the same time, “Room 206”. This time around, the task is to catch a fish for your pet cat which turns out to be the great Cthulhu itself (!). Despite the Lovecraftian connection, the game is humorous throughout, even if macabre elements abound.

You find an underground world which turns out to be quite large. Locations and objects are implemented usually well and with competent prose, but sometimes you’ll come across cases when you wish some synonyms could have been used. E.g. early into the game you discover something described as a ‘creature’  but you have to refer to it as ‘fairy’. (To be fair, the creature introduces itself as a ‘fairy’, but it is described as a creature nevertheless.) At some points, commands may be hard to figure out; e.g. to look under your bed early in the game, you’ll have to type ‘x under bed’.  But usually the words and commands have been implemented well enough that situations like these are not very frequent.

At times you might encounter random, unwarned death which is fine in the early stages of the game, but can be annoying when you have proceeded a bit further. However, undoing is always an option so this is not too big a problem.

Maybe the biggest obstacle for finishing the game is the vast amount of objects and locations you will encounter.  It is quite impossible to figure out on your own what you should do next, or how to use the different objects with each other, and in which location. If you forget to pick something up, it can be a tough job to retreat all the way to the location where you should pick the object up. Sometimes there is obvious misbehavior in the game: picking up something you shouldn’t be able to, is possible when you use “take all”.

(***SPOILER***: I was able to take the turducken from the oven this way when it wasn’t possible to do it by just typing “take turducken”. ***END SPOILER***).

This might be more of an interpreter problem, however, than something to do with coding the game. Due to the large number of objects, and the fact that it is often wholly un-clued as to how or where they should be used, I had to play the game from about halfway to the finish using the walkthrough. Cluing the objects a bit better might help a long way in figuring out the next step on one’s own.

As already mentioned, light-hearted humor is present all through the story. However, macabre, even disgusting elements are ever-present, as well, in concordance with this being a horror parody anyway. In this way the game world is coherent, but it can happen that after playing for a while a certain feeling of overdose gets over you. There are repeatedly scenes and objects which, according to the descriptions, make the player character horrified or wanting to vomit. Some elements in the game could in reality be off-putting to some players, *** SPOILER*** e.g. you have to kill a kitten in an incinerator to proceed in the game. ***END SPOILER***

All in all, this is a long game and has a great number of objects and locations which on the whole have been well-implemented. The puzzles are well thought out and make sense, the only problem is that they are clued often inadequately. The prose is fine and uses versatile vocabulary. If you don’t like the macabre kind of humor, this might not be for you. Anyway, it is a coherent and well-written game so you should give it a try in any case.

Verdict: 3,5 / 5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 December 2011 08:12  

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