IFComp ’12: J’dal

J’dal is a fantasy adventure by Ryan Kinsman. He tells us it’s his first game. Now I wouldn’t enter my first game into the Comp (hint: I’m totally planning on it), but if I did I wouldn’t proclaim it in the ABOUT command. If Ryan hadn’t told us this was his first I don’t know if I would have guessed it. J’dal is a little more polished than what I’m used to for first games, but it still has plenty of flaws that outshine the good bits.

J’dal has a sparse style that for the most part serves the game well. There’s just enough description to create some interest in the setting, just enough detail to separate it from generic Fantasyland. For example, due to her sensitive eyes the main character carries a blindfold in order to “sleep on this side of the sunset.” Now that could be a fancy was of saying “in the daytime,” but the impresion I got was that this setting was a little more unusual, like that the sun never set or days were really really long or something. The same for the PC’s special sight or the beart or that mages are called “experimenters.” Just enough detail to create interest. I liked the sparseness of some of the exchanges as well. I particularly liked

>ask dad about himself

“You alright Dad?” I ask.

“Yeah,” he says.

However, it doesn’t always work.

Renburg Town Square

The square’s full of people doing stuff.

has got to be in the running for laziest room description ever. The problems start when the sparseness becomes under implementation. There were plenty of times when a conversation topic returned a blank, not even a default reply. There were several instances where an named object wasn’t implemented at all.

Riverside

There’s a stream here. It’s flowing well, must be from the rain yesterday. Our tent’s here – It’s where Dad and I stay mostly, unless we’ve come into some money.

>x tent

I can’t see any such thing.

As the game went on guess the verb problems became frequent. To the point where for the final puzzles required quite a lot of hint abuse. The last puzzle was especially bad. Throwing the rock at Stolas resulted in a game over. Throwing it at anything else got the response “Futile.” (Why is it futile? Who knows. It’s futile to think about apparently.)  The unconventional hint system wasn’t a help because it was only returning hints for an earlier puzzle that took place in the same room. Checking the walkthrough revealed that the correct command was THROW ROCK. The credits lists several beta testers but its hard to imagine something like this slipping by.

If J’dal had been gone over a couple more times, been beta tested a little it more thoroughly, it would have been respectable. As it is, it’s just too under-baked.

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