Review – Amazing Quest

This is listed as a choice-based game, and it very literally is: the player is presented with a series of very short prompts and can answer yes or not to each. After a certain number of responses, the end of the game is reached.

There isn’t much to say about writing within the game proper — terse is an understatement, but the introduction and strategy guide are well-written, and the game is random in deciding whether players choices will be successful or not (so, I suppose it is up to the gods after all).

The introduction promises success if the player can get in the right frame of mind, which presumably is to follow the advice presented in both the blurb and above the main text window within the game “I must decide as if it all depends on me, trust as if it all depends on the gods”. The intro warns that it may at first be frustrating and require several plays to get the hang of it. I found that the advice was only somewhat helpful and I did not really fully grasp the criterion for good versus bad choices, but by playing repeatedly, I felt like I was able after a while to pick the right choices even if I wasn’t sure exactly why they were correct. Perhaps the gods were with me.

The main game screen looks old school – big chunky characters with limited screen width, reminiscent of mid-80’s computers outputting a composite signal to a television set. Reading the strategy guide and some additional material at the bottom of the guide, the reason for this is clear. Aesthetically, I enjoyed this presentation, but I would have preferred to have been able to scroll backwards (I realize that is at odds with the authenticity of the display, though, so no points off for that).

For me, the best part of the game was when it was over and I was presented with a “READY” prompt — the sort you used to get within the BASIC interpreter on early microcomputers. Reflexively, I typed “LIST” and was rewarded with the program iteslf, a nicely compact bit of BASIC code. The real kicker is that it can be modified and run. I inserted a line, added my own responses and ran it. I even tried “LOAD” and was instructed to press play on the tape machine! I was really hoping that this was a fake game on top of a deeper game that could be loaded and run, but no.

In rating IFComp games, I reward writing and the play experience. There is very little writing or content in the game itself, and I can’t characterize the repeated hitting of Y/N as much fun, so this game will score relatively low, but not at the very bottom: it deserves some bonus points for innovation. This work is more an art piece, but it resonated with me.

Review – Shadow In The Snow

I was a little put off by the blurb: a dark picture, horror genre, described as bloody. An awkward choice to follow Stuff of Legend, like orange juice after mint toothpaste.

Structurally, this is a short Twine piece with two main forks that can merge, several possible endings. Its format encourages reply, which after a couple passes allows the player to get a picture of what is going on and figure out how to reach the most successful ending.

The story goes a good job of creating atmosphere, but there is little time for character development. The text is well edited, and my only minor gripe is that for a brief bit it lapses out of present and into past tense.

The horror aspect shouldn’t be that off-putting, yes there is blood and such, but nothing you haven’t seen on a monster -of-the-week episode of Supernatural.

Review – Stuff of Legend

This parser-based story channels some of flavor of Buster Hudson’s Wizard Sniffer, although it is a smaller, faster game with about a dozen locations and one central puzzle. The game has a nice rhythm of lighthearted banter, internal thoughts, and appropriately painful puns. Overall, it is well written and edited. While the game is not huge, everything is deeply implemented and the author (and likely testers) should be credited for supplying customized responses for most things the player might try.

The game employs a menu-based conversation mechanic that in a couple places updates based on plot developments. I would have liked to have seen more of this but that would not really have fit with the games duration. The blurb says two hours, but I completed it in about an hour.

The central puzzle is well-designed and adequately hinted, the only snag for me was my own fault for perseverating too long on a solution that was not working. There is a second puzzle at the end of the game that I found more difficult. The basis for that puzzle was a natural extension of the experience in the story, but I will admit that I had to look at the hints to complete that portion of the game.

The author has made an effort to make the game playable, with the inclusion of background material, and a built-in hint system that progressively reveals clues to try to avoid spoilers.

SOTA 5B/CY-024: Karramoudi

This a four-point peak about an hour and forty-five minute drive from Nicosia. There are a few other peaks “in the neighborhood”, so if one wanted to string together some activations, it looks like CY-030 is about 25 minutes away, then a 40 minute rite to CY-031, and then another 25 minutes to CY-029, all of which look like they have road or trail access near their peaks. However, it was a hot day, and I decided to put my time in at one peak and try a few bands rather than rush around.

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SOTA 5B/CY-021: Zalakas

I expected the sun to make the day difficult in terms of mid-Summer Cyprus heat, but I had not planned on having such poor propagation conditions, which I blame on a coronal hole stirring up the magnetosphere. In almost two hours on this summit I barely managed to get the bare minimum four contacts required for a valid activation (merci à F8DGF et F5LKW qui m’en ont sauvé la peau).

The final antenna configuration late in the day on 17 meters. The bush at left was the “operating position”.
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SOTA 5B/CY-014: Sella

This six-point peak is near the town of Omodos, known for its wine production, right along the Limassol-Paphos border. It is about an hour and a half drive from Nicosia whether you choose to go through the mountains or along the coast. However, although my GPS was able to plot a route right next to the peak, it took me two visits to reach the peak. Why? It looks like you can just pull over and then cut across a field, right? No. The dark line running along the edge of that field is the shadow cast by sheer stone cliffs a couple hundred meters high.

Google wasn’t wrong… it just wasn’t helpful.
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SOTA 5B/CY-041: Moutti tou Lorovounou

I set out for this two-point peak from 5B/CY-027. Although they look close on the map, it took more than an hour to get from one to the other. Most of that driving was towards the coast, and I began to doubt my GPS since it said I was about ten minutes away from the peak, but I was just about at sea level along the coastal highway. However, it is true: the road turns back up into the mountains and ten minutes later you find yourself at a park with a military monument of some sort and a few dirt roads heading off at various angles. The steepest road one is the one to take.

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SOTA 5B/CY-027, Moutti tou Khondrou

I had initially planned to activate this mountain on the same day as 5B/CY-005, but following my GPS instructions, I ended up way off course along some tenuous mountain roads and scrubbed the activation. Instead, I headed for the Kykkos Monastery and took in the museum, which had recently reopened to visitors. Today, however, I managed to make it to the top.

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SOTA 5B/CY-005, Moutti tis Tremethousaras

This is a ten point peak towards the northwest corner of the island. There is a road that goes right to the peak, but vehicles are not permitted up the road, which is maintained by the Forestry Department. I believe the road is also part of the national hiking trail network, as I saw an “E6” sign post along the way. The base of the road is at the yellow arrow, just off route E740. There is plenty of room to park on the side of the road there near signs that provide some nature information. A pivoting green metal bar blocks the bottom of the road, but you can walk around it. The trail up is a well-maintained packed dirt road and rises about 240m over a distance of about 2.6km. It is somewhat steep in a couple places, but also has long runs with very mild slope.

5B4APL

It occurs to me that I got ahead of myself with my last post about operating on six meters from Cyprus — I forgot to mention that about six weeks ago, I acquired a Cypriot callsign: 5B4APL. Up to this point, I had been operating as 5B/AI4SV, but in February I sat the licensing exam. The new callsign is not that much shorter, but it is much more appropriate since I will be based in Cyprus for at least the next two years. Many thanks to CARS (Cyprus Amateur Radio Society) for guidance on how to prepare for and take the exam. I think there were twelve of us who took the exam that day, and I’ve already met a couple of them on the air.

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