Diddlebucker!

cover (19)

Potential spoilers in the following.

Your team mates have let you down. It’s the annual Diddlebucker Run, and now you’re on your own. The resulting puzzly parser adventure has you collecting treasures, finding clues and generally trying to win the $1million Diddlebucker prize.

The game is split into a number of areas – each of one of which is revealed through working out the answer to a riddle. Solving the puzzles and clues that leading to getting the next riddle forms the main game mechanic. And it’s very nicely done. This world opens up gradually – the puzzles seem to escalate in difficulty. It’s pretty easy to get the first riddle, but then the second is much more involved – the third I haven’t got yet.

The text is strong. It’s light and humorous – there are some nice little touches there. Other teams scurry about either one step ahead or behind you. The hint system is nicely done and encourages play. This world is well realized – the prose might be sparse, but it delivers what it needs to. The game image is a pastiche of an old Infocom game box, and in many ways – the prose voice, the style, the type of puzzle, and the gradual reveal of the world around puzzles – this does very much remind me of an Infocom game.

Conversation with other characters is limited, and mainly directed to puzzle solutions. It would have been nice had the various NPC’s had some flavor responses to bring some life to them.

While I didn’t experience any significant implementation issues, there are some odd omissions. You can’t give something to someone – you need to show it. You can’t call a taxi, you need to hail it. It’s not a huge thing, but allowing alternate actions and synonyms really does smooth the way for the player. It would be nice if the game allowed just verb noun if the player is carrying the right thing instead of having to specify what you want to light it with or what you want to buy it with. This is easy to implement and, again, it just adds that little touch of ease of use. The game is sometimes unnecessarily exact. Ask Cindy about button – we need to be so specific. ‘Ask cindy about purple button’ in my case. I would have expected ‘breathe on mirror’ to be an acceptable alternate solution to one of the earlier puzzles. ‘x me’ results in a stock response.

In general I found the puzzles pretty fair. However, I did feel that some of them were undirected somewhat. For example, the firework – I realized I would need to fire it at some point – the items I needed were all there and with some thought it became obvious what I needed to do. But I was never sure ‘why’ until after the fact. Then it dawned on me – Ah! I thought…..I get it. Because of the way directions are blocked off in the game in general, I assumed the location that opens up was just an ‘edge of map’ response. I liked the puzzle, but I would have liked to have understood why I was solving it before I solved it. If that makes sense.

Then I got properly stuck. I had the second riddle, but had no idea what my new area was called.

OK – I got the first riddle straight away. I like a riddle. As long as the games plays fair. The second riddle I did not get. Not even close. I had to read all the hints for it. I would not have got that. I mentioned in a previous review that a pinch-point puzzle like this is a problematic thing. It can be easy, as the player, to get frustrated and wander round in circles and never experience the rest of the game. Having said that, the hint system is very good.

And now my time with this game hits 2 hours. I’ve just finished mapping the third area which again feels a little un-directed – I’m not entirely sure what I need to do (and it is quite a big area).

The blurb claims this is a 2 hour game! Sheesh. Either I’m just really bad (a distinct possibility) or this game is really big. Overall, I’m enjoying it very much. I might have been a bit picky, but hopefully in a way that’s constructive. I’m engaged enough that I do want to complete it and see what happens. 8/10.

 

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