In some ways, 1893‘s size works against it. First and most trivially, more text means more opportunity for mistakes, and greater difficulty in proofreading it all. I’ve seen “way” for “weigh”, “oxen” used as singular, one exhibitor who’s described as both male and female — nothing big, but there it is. I don’t think errors of this sort occur more frequently here than in a typical text adventure, but there are more errors simply because there’s more text.
More significantly, the profusion of nouns mentioned in the descriptions of the exhibits means that a lot of them are left unimplemented, and sometimes not even recognized as nouns for input (the difference between “That’s not important” and “I don’t recognize that word” — not that the game often resorts to messages as generic as “That’s not important”). This sort of thing may have been typical in the text adventure’s golden age, but by 2002, when this game was written, the better amateurs were holding their works to higher standards. Even here, there’s an impressive amount of irrelevant detail, but that makes it all the more disappointing in those areas where it’s lacking.
But it’s not all bad: having lots of stuff to play with makes for good gameplay. I’m finding it’s hard to feel like I’m ever stuck, even when I’m out of ideas for how to make progress in finding the diamonds and catching the thieves. Being stuck in an adventure game isn’t so much a matter of not being able to solve puzzles as it is a matter of running out of things to do, and that doesn’t happen quickly in an environment so full of curiosities and distractions. Even when I know where I’m going and what I’m going to do there, on the way I’ll suddenly find myself in the presence the world’s largest cheese, or a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge constructed entirely of soap1 , and have to delay my goals while I take a gander. I can’t even think of these things as red herrings, as I would in a smaller game. They’re part of the fabric of the place, and it would feel artificial if they were left out.
I wonder why there aren’t more adventure games set in exhibitions and galleries and museums and the like? It seems like a good fit to the typical adventure experience: wandering around a bunch of tableaux that don’t change until you interact with them, lots of unique objects, frequent use of the “examine” verb, etc. But I can think of only a handful of examples: The Dagger of Amon Ra, Temüjin, Ian Finley’s Exhibition, a couple of other less-familiar titles.
- The game provides photographic evidence of the historical authenticity of both of these examples. [↩]