IF Competition 2008 Review #1: The Absolute Worst IF Game In History

Name: The Absolute Worst IF Game in History
Author: Dean Menezes
Review Date: 6 Oct 2008
Parser: Z-Code
Availability: IFComp 2008 Entrant
URL: http://www.ifcomp.org/
Version: Competition Version

Plot: 0/10 – Get through a maze to get a treasure.  That literally is the entirety of the plot, given to you in one line at the start of the game.
Atmosphere: 0/10 – There is only one repeated location, described classically – “You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike”.
Writing:  1/10 – There were no glaring errors.  Probably not a great achievement given there was only about 20 words used in total.
Game play:  0/10 – Just… no.
Characters:  0/10 – None other than a generic main character with no description.
Puzzles: 0/10 – An apparently completely random, description-less twisty passage maze.  Game ends abruptly with no warning.
Overall:  0/10 – I only wish I could give it a lower score.

Full Review (Warning: Spoilers)

I really was asking for trouble when I added this game to the list wasn’t I.  As I said in the introduction post, I really couldn’t resist the title, and even though I was going in expecting a terrible game – I was still disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, the title makes no promise it doesn’t live up to.  This is a truly bad.. thing.  I hesitate to even call it a game.  I have a question for the community at large – what exactly is the appeal of the “this is a horrible game” genre of games that crop up from time to time.  This is the second year I’ve sat down to review the IFComp and the second time that the first game off the block is this type of self-referential ‘bad’ game. (The first was PTGood, which scored a respectable dead last in IFComp06.  Don’t look for it.)

The reason I keep picking these up is simple.  They should be funny.  Really and truly they should, there is a place for satire in every art form and the Interactive Fiction community has existed long enough for many many tropes, cliches and mistakes to become common knowledge and indeed cultural jokes – the maze of twisty passages being one such example.  Satire mocking an art-form is, at the heart, indicative of a rich and thriving artistic foundation and should be cause for celebration; instead, I despair each time I pick up one of these games.

How is it that after so many tries, with so much talent in this community, we have so far been unable to master this particular art?  With the Emily Shorts and Adam Cadres expanding the boundaries of what we can accomplish, why does a simple satire fall short?  This game is short, pointless and utterly boring.  It -is- what it set out to be, a bad game, simply because it is utterly unmemorable.  It took all of 2 minutes to play, which I suspect was a minute longer than it took to program, and simply reproduced a stupid maze puzzle that was a tiny, though memorable, portion of a classic of the genre.

The game itself wasn’t even that bad.  PTGood at least was that, so utterly horrible that even the parser seemed broken – and with the blurb associated with it there was an irony almost beautiful in the sheer bile it evinced.  This game just offends with is sheer blandness.

I do look forward to the day I pick up one of these so called “Bad games” and find what I am actually looking to find, that elusive thing that keeps me coming back to them like a masochist nuzzling the whipping post.  A true satire – a good game that is merely pretending to be a bad one.

For that is the point at the heart of this art-form.  No matter what direction it takes, with the toys, annoyances and artistic experiments, we can’t forget where we started.  These were, and are, games; and games are meant to be entertaining.

The Absolute Worst IF Game in History is not entertaining, and I have done myself a disservice wasting so much time and words on it. Do yourself a favour and think of it nevermore.


2 thoughts on “IF Competition 2008 Review #1: The Absolute Worst IF Game In History

  1. Actually, it is rather clever, in one very specific way.

    It’s bad in the obvious ways, of course: a maze, sudden random death, no room descriptions, no real way to map the maze.

    It *is* a game: I got to the end of the maze once. Couldn’t ever find it again.

    But there, I discovered something great.

    The whatever-it-is you’re supposed to get at the end of the maze? It’s a “scarabaeus”. Except that that “ae” is a funny Unicode ligature. And of course “scarabaeus” is NOT a word recognized by the game. You can cut-and-paste the one-with-the-Unicode-character from the text window, though, and that works.

    So in addition to being awful in all the classical ways, it finds a brand-new, very modern, way to suck.

    So for that I’ll give it 2/10 rather than 1/10.


  2. I must admit I didn’t see that – I assumed I’d gotten to the end of the maze too when it suddenly, with no explanation, told me I’d won the game.

    While it’s true that that is a completely new way to suck (at least, I haven’t seen it before), I don’t think its enough to raise the level of entertainment even a little. One long stupid maze is just boring and I expected something more from the self-proclaimed worst game in history.

    I’m still left wishing there was a lesser mark to given than 1.

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