Escape from Dinosaur Island

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Authors, if you have a puzzle, or you require an unusual verb or noun, then someone will get stuck. I guarantee it.  Provide a walkthrough! Or some of your players will never see half of your lovingly crafted game!

There have been several attempts, in this competition alone to deliver a bespoke parser experience. Some more successful than others. I very much enjoyed Flowers of Mysteria for example. I couldn’t get Nightmare Adventure to run (yet). I liked the delivery mechanisms of StupidRPG. Dilemma frustrated me. Dialog, the platform for Tethered was impressive.

EfDI is a somewhat frustrating experience. On the one hand I do quite like a retro adventure. It’s pleasingly designed with a nice 8-bitty interface. In general, most of the simple commands I enter are recognized. On the other hand, it’s also under implemented, even for the standards of the time, I have to guess the verb and noun on multiple occasions, I can’t do simple commands I’d expect (swim, climb). If I’m wrong on something I get spurious error messages like “I don’t understand that.”.

The outline of this game is simple, and in keeping with its retro feel. You were in a balloon that crashed on a desert island, now you need to escape – it’s based on Conan Doyle’s ‘The Lost World’. Again, with all the elements – they all hark back to the hey-day and are well done for this style of game. Locations are simply described. Exits are spelled out. Object are in a list. Two word parser. Don’t bother trying to examine the scenery. It feels right – an important thing for a retro game.

Spoilery next paragraph.

I actually liked the puzzles. It makes good use of the Make verb – a thing which not many games do, and the items you need to make are (up to this point) well telegraphed by the game. However, I am now stuck. I have the requisite materials for making a fire, I think, but I need something else. Then I have a sneaky peek at the intfiction board to see if anyone has posted any clues. Ah! I need to be in the underwater cavern (This really really needs fixing. I would class it as a ‘killer’ bug, the fact it’s telling me I’ve not got the right stuff rather than I’m in the wrong location – I spent AGES wandering around looking for other stuff and trying and holding various combinations of things.). I’m guessing the entrance is under the lagoon, but can’t work out what I need to make in order to get in there. I’m guessing its something to do with the Quartz. I try a bunch of nouns. None of them work. 2 hours is up. I wish there were a walkthrough.

I do think this platform needs a little more work. Especially around alternate verbs, error messages to the player synonymous with state of play, more synonyms. It’s nice playing a retro game, but parser IF has come so far – take the good stuff. Help the player. 5/10.


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