IF Comp 2009 – GATOR-ON, Friend to Wetlands!

Spoiler prevention text:
I briefly wondered whether this would turn out to be about Charlotte Roche’s recent novel, but it’s more about this:
Periphyton is a complex mixture of algae, cyanobacteria, heterotrophic microbes, and detritus that is attached to submerged surfaces in most aquatic ecosystems. It serves as an important food source for invertebrates, tadpoles, and some fish. It can also absorb contaminants; removing them from the watercolumn and limiting their movement through the environment. The periphyton is also an important indicator of water quality […]. (Wikipedia)

My spoiler-free opinion of “GATOR-ON“: Fun, but it had some flaws concerning implementation detail and guess-the-verb situations, and it could be longer.

(Warning! Spoilers follow!)

GATOR-ON, Friend to Wetlands!

by Dave Horlick
System: Z-code
Blurb: None.

First thought: Party on, Wayne Dave Horlick!

This game subverted my expectations several times, which is not a bad thing. The title promised zaniness. Then, after a short and equally wacky intro text, I found myself sitting in a tourist tram, listening to a tour guide. I was intrigued, since this seemed pretty down-to-earth, and I guessed the map might be modeled after a real location in the Everglades. The hero was elegantly characterised as a knowledgeable wetland friend via his perception of the tour guide.

As the tram went on and on, and my pencilled map threatened to go off the page, I wondered whether it would ever arrive or whether I was supposed to do something. After getting out at the visitor center, where I seemingly earned a point for encountering a crow, I ventured south into the wetlands. It was a bit disappointing that there were a lot of rooms with identical descriptions, and that the things mentioned in these descriptions were not implemented. This would have been an excellent opportunity for the author to show more of his knowledge of the Everglades, for example by making the response to >X BIRDS go through a randomized variety of bird species’ descriptions. Less rooms and more detail would have been the way to go here.

When I used the homing beacon to find a hatch leading underground, I thought I’d wasted a piece of paper by unnecessarily mapping some parts of the area. Then I realized that I had to move the transmitter to solve the following, well-done puzzle, and I was glad that I’d mapped the path between the visitor center and the hatch.

The final part of the game was well-written, joyful silliness. The only problem was that the game told me that “[v]iolence isn’t the answer to this one” in the middle of a fight sequence, and I had to resort first to the hints, which were not explicit enough for me, and then to the walkthrough. Also, I would have liked to talk to my Gator Task Force colleagues.

Summary: Crazy in a good way; funny; but ultimately too short. I’m eager to see Gator-on’s further adventures!

A transcript of my playing session is available upon request, just drop me an e-mail at michaelNOSPAMnealNOSPAMtenuisATgmail.com. (Replace the NOSPAM with “.” and, obviously, the AT with the @ sign).

— Michael

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