IF Comp 2012 – In A Manor Of Speaking

Manor is a Glulx game, and the start is promising enough: it looks edited and has a good list of beta testers. After playing for fifteen minutes, though, I have to wonder if the testers were too focused on form rather than content and play.

The game is a series of disjoint locations and events. Unlike Howling Dogs, where this is a strength and contributes to a surreal feel, the lack of connection between scenes gives the player nothing to stitch this game together, aside from the puns, most of which are revealed only upon death. I shouldn’t say that the locations and props are entirely unrelated, as there are several instances of acquiring a key item in one area for use in another, but these connections are very strained.

The puns are the wincing kind, rather than the clever and wincing kind. The cheeky parser voice is instantly annoying – the poke in the ribs when turning around and walking into a wall is just annoying. Getting the parser voice right is a tricky subject, and one that has been done so often that it’s a liability when the game doesn’t manage to do it deftly. The default neutral library responses have been replaced with generally more annoying version. Points, I suppose, for customizing the messages, but the replacement doesn’t make the game expereince better.

There are a lot of ways to die in this game, most ways are not sensical or forewarned, and each rewarded with a pun. I guess that is the point of this game. At least it is easy to undo from this state.

Some spoilers after this point

The about text mentions a conversation system, and any attempt to talk to NPCs elicits criticsm of your conversational skills. However, if you follow the instructions an attempt to use ask/tell, you generally don’t get any further with the NPCs. Maybe the author ran out of time and did not implement this function.

Lair of Salazar
You have entered the lair of Salazar, the legendary sad hermit. He sits in the middle of the cavern, looking like a gigantic pile of misery. Drawings cover the walls.

You can see Salazar here.

>talk to salazar
Good gravy, you’re a terrible conversationalist! Try asking about something, for something or telling them about something!

>ask salazar about sadness
He makes a series of unintelligible mooping noises.

>ask salazar about cave
He makes a series of unintelligible wooping noises.

>ask salazar about planes
He makes a series of unintelligible dooping noises.

>ask salazar about all
He makes a series of unintelligible mooping noises.

>ask salazar about salazar
He makes a series of unintelligible wooping noises.

>ask salazar about himself
He makes a series of unintelligible mooping noises.

>ask salazar about triangle
He makes a series of unintelligible dooping noises.

Story: 4
The framing story of landing your Sopwith Camel in the Bermuda Triangle doesn’t seem to have much to do with the subsequent adventure, although I must admit that I did not play the game all the way through following the walkthrough. Maybe there is more continuity later, related to delivery of the package. The somewhat random walk of the player to various locations to reveal items and trigger puns was not engaging enough for me to continue playing.

Voice: 4
There is no dominant voice of either PC or NPC. The author/parser intends a playful flavor, but comes across as snarky and, at times, mean.

Play: 4
The lack of direction and meaningful interaction lowered my interest in this game; coupled with snarky parser replies and puns, this game just isn’t my cup of tea.

Polish: 5
The implementation does not have gaping holes, but its depth is limited.

Technical: 6
The game does provide a context-specific hint system of limited capacity, and does cover the bases of having text for about, help, etc. The game has tweaked default responses, and it looks like there is some capacity for ask/tell, although it must be limited in only specific and limited cases.

Average: 4.6

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