IFComp ’09: Spelunker’s Quest

The first law in the Player’s Bill of Rights is don’t kill the player without warning. Spelunker’s Quest by Tom Murrin breaks this rule over and over.

The game starts with the protagonist waking in a cave with no memory of how he got there (where have I seen this before?). This time it’s revealed that he was caving with some friends in Brazil. This explains why the caverns has rooms like this:

Living Room
You are in a fair-sized, circular cavern, which appears  “>to be a crudely decorated living room.  The eastern portion of the cavern contains a sofa with three cushions, while the southwestern portion contains a large, comfy-looking recliner and a small, wooden table.  The walls are adorned with several torches; they are providing ample illumination.  Three passageways lead out of the cavern; the narrowest leads north, the widest leads west, and another leads southeast.

I mean, where else but Brazil, right? Not only are these caves home to living room sets but also goblins, giant rodents, swords, and machine guns. It’s quite the anachronism stew.

The game is deeply unfair. It’s possible to get stuck in no-win situations with no warning. At one point you walk into a bedroom where a goblin charges you with an axe. You have one turn to stop him. Fair enough. However, if you came in unprepared and try to back out of the room:

>s

Hallway
The goblin has followed you!

The goblin lunges at you with his axe!  The goblin’s axe strikes you forcefully, mortally wounding you!

Yup. He follows you out of the room and kills you. If you happened to find the bedroom before the item needed to beat him you’re out of luck. It’s game over. There’s several more creatures you have to defeat and they behave similarly. Also, it’s easy to get yourself locked out of one region of the game with no way back and without the items you need to continue. This all makes a very frustrating game and if it wasn’t so short I wouldn’t have restarted the three times I needed to complete it.

What’s more, most of the important items are hidden out of sight with no clue to their whereabouts. There’s an essential item for the endgame hidden in part of an underground lake. This lake spans three rooms and there’s absolutely no sign that there’s something hidden in it. Looking in the lake (including the right spot) reveals nothing. It’s only when you SEARCH the lake, at one specific spot, does the item show itself. Again, this is more than unfair. I would have never found the item if not for the hints. And even then it took awhile before I realized I had to search instead of look. There’s a bonus treasure hidden elsewhere that’s even more obscure and un-clued. I’ll be amazed if anyone finds it on their own.

With a little tweaking this game could be playable. But there’s nothing here that’s worth the effort. This is just another treasure hunt in a cave. At least it doesn’t have a maze.

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