Epic Origins of CamelGirl revisited, and Spring Thing conclusion

I had already played the opening of “Epic Origins of CamelGirl!”, but it turned out that the bug I encountered was due to interpreter problems, not the game, so I went back and gave it another chance with a different interpreter (under Windows XP).

I’ll continue with some more comments and my overall impressions of Spring Thing after the cut; but if you’ve played the games at all, remember to vote! The deadline is Wednesday, April 25. Spring Thing sometimes suffers from a relatively low number of votes and reviews, which is too bad, because the games tend to be interesting and more fully developed than the average IF Comp game; so if you have a chance to play and vote, please do so.

So my impression from my first playthrough of of Epic Origins of CamelGirl! was fairly unappreciative up until the moment just before the bug hit; I was momentarily having more fun just when the game became unplayable.

Unfortunately, the rest of the game was (for me) mostly like the first part. Some of my unenthusiasm comes from the humor not always being much to my taste; humor is hard to do well, I realize, and different people have different senses thereof, so other people may enjoy it more. It just didn’t quite work for me.

But on the game-play side, I felt like a number of the actions weren’t hinted enough, and our heroine’s superpowers in particular — which come into play only at the end of the game — weren’t sufficiently developed. I was under something of a time crunch playing through the end of the game, so I resorted to the walkthrough a little more readily than I might have otherwise, and the walkthrough didn’t always help either. Or rather: it showed me how to solve puzzles and move forward, but it didn’t always demonstrate *why* I was doing what I was doing. At what point in there was my character supposed to switch from her nominal goal (of leaving to rescue her friends from jail) to her actual goal (uncovering the secret plot in progress in the basement)? And where and how did I learn the verbs controlling my super-abilities?

The game also missed some polish. In the final scene, I’m strapped to a table by a fiendish villain, but I’m not allowed to bite him — not because I can’t reach (which would have been a reasonable response) but because it would be cruel and unhygienic. Under the circumstances, I don’t think those reasons would have bothered me too much.

I’m also noticing something of a trend in superhero IF games where the superpowers are disappointing. Superpowers are like magic: they let the player do all sorts of fun stuff that wouldn’t be possible in real life, and (if coherently thought up) they make possible a whole range of novel puzzle solutions. But “Epic Origins…” doesn’t really do anything with any of that: we don’t use our powers much until the end, and most of the game is spent solving entirely typical lock-and-key sorts of puzzles in entirely typical ways. There are three separate physical keys in the game, and one combination puzzle of the sort where the combination is just hidden somewhere quirky. This strikes me as a lot for such a relatively small puzzle structure.

Anyway. This was structurally solid and not demonstrably buggy other than in one place which was not necessarily the author’s fault. None of the puzzles were particularly standouts, though, and the writing and humor didn’t do much for me. So I wound up preferring this to the Star-Trek-esque “Starship Volant” (which I didn’t finish), but not liking it as well as “Reluctant Resurrectee” (which had some fun gameplay) or “Fate” (my favorite of the competition).

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