IFComp ’09: Star Hunter

Star Hunter by Chris Kenworthy describes itself as “A Cool Space Relics Adventure.” Well… the space part’s right.

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You play a space guy who’s main objective is, according to the help command, “to discover treasures, especially the fabled lying bear of Deneb.” I am curious to what this lying bear is, but the game is too long, too boring, and the puzzles too obscure. I couldn’t make it to the end.

To find this bear you fly your spaceship from planet to planet, beaming down to collect treasure, with which to buy courdinates for new planets. These coordinates exist on cassette tapes which much be inserted into your ship’s tape deck. That’s right, this interstellar spaceship is analog. If the game were more self aware I would think that this was a fun jab at sci-fi conventions, but as it stands it’s just another thing in a game full of ideas that don’t live up to their potential.

Once you fly to a planet you also have to have the correct chip to install in your teleporter in order to beam down. The chips are lying all over the place (items in Space Hunter are just lying around with no rhyme or reason) waiting to be found. The tapes are harder to get.

In oder to obtain new tapes (and thus new places to explore) you have to visit the Android Bazaar. Here you trade found treasure for any number of items. There are four different android stalls and each is filled with items for sale. There’s no indication what you need to buy and what is useless. One stall is dedicated to new tapes. Its description reads:

Blue station
The corridor dead-ends here, with the only exit back to the west.

You can see a Blue android and a Blue table (on which is a Blue fishbowl (which is closed) (in which are a hatched tape, a shaded tape, a rainbowed tape, a spotted tape, a plain tape and a Boss key)) here.”

There’s no way to tell how much a tape costs, how much a treasure is worth (but there are definite values as any given piece of treasure can not be traded for every tape), or what tape is the correct one to buy. When I first reached this point I was stuned with the sudden flood of choices. If not for the walkthough I would have given up as soon as I came to the Blue Station. The walkthrough reveals that showing a chip to the android will prompt him into telling you the corresponding tape, but there’s no way of knowing this in-game. And considering how under implemented the game is the assumption that it’s impossible to interact with the android is entirely reasonable.

It’s this lack of implementation that kills Star Hunters. Only things you have to interact with to complete the game are implimented and only items are described. Not even this android, who is so crucial to moving forward, is given a discription. Though this lack of description does lead to some funny exchanges:

Canyon view
From this lookout point, you can enjoy a great view of a treacherous rocky canyon. The camp is back south.

>x canyon
You can’t see any such thing.

>x view
You can’t see any such thing.

Guess the view isn’t that great after all.

It’s a shame places aren’t described in more detail. There’s several locations that would be interesting and fun to explore if they weren’t just a collection of empty rooms. An android bazaar is a great setting for an IF game. I imagine a busy mess of strange wares and excentric characters. The color coded starkness of the android bazaar in this game is not a fun place to visit. Later in the game you explore the inside of a giant statue of some long forgotten hero. Again, this would be a great place to explore if it wasn’t just a string of empty rooms.

Sword tip
You are standing in a small observation gallery at the top of a flight of stairs. Looking out, you can see the ruins of an old city downtown area.

Needless to say there’s no description for the sword, ruins, city, or gallery. What makes this section especially bizarre is that the room names tell you where you are in the statue but the room descriptions assume that the PC doesn’t know where he is.

The Head
You are standing in a large spherical chamber filled with interlocking gears and corroded electronic circuits. There is an odd pattern of holes in the wall, through which some light shines. There are staircases up and down.

Can the PC really not recognize the pattern of a face–a pattern so recognizable that humans see it in everything from electrical outlets to tacos?

At this point I looked at the walkthrough to see how much further I had to go. There are at least five more planets and a trip back to the bazaar between each one. I couldn’t put up with that many more empty rooms and wrote the game off as a lost cause. I’d be surprised if anyone would be able to get through this is less than two hours. It’s too bad this game is so big and boring. It’s competently programmed and bug free. Maybe after the comp I’ll come back and follow the walkthrough to the end. I do want to see what this lying bear is all about after all.

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