IFComp 2011: Professor Frank

Spoilers follow the break.

Professor Frank’s Mysterious Adventure is the sort of game that tells us that it’s funny instead of actually being funny; the author apparently considers the mere fact that the titular professor is an expert on newts to be enough of a joke to offset it with a “…” and a “!”. The premise is that you’re trapped in a library, but it turns into a mostly-linear jaunt through various adventure-game worlds, such as a castle full of wizards and an Egyptian tomb. The author probably thinks of these sub-scenarios as parodies.

Even though it was written in Inform 7, it gives the impression of being an old AGT game from the Compuserve Gamers Forum era. Lots of color-coded lock-and-key puzzles. Lots of color-coded objects in general, in fact; it’s as if the author felt obliged to fill in the AGT “adjective” field on every interactable object, but couldn’t think of any adjectives other than colors. It even has an approximation of AGT monsters: some rooms have people that burst out and attack you unless you use the appropriate item on them first (usually a foodstuff to bribe them with). If you don’t, you lose a life.

Yes, this game has limited lives in an age when even action games have pretty much abandoned that notion. And it’s pretty pointless here, because you can always restore or undo, but for some reason the author thinks you’ll want to not do that. Let me quote the ABOUT text:

If you enjoy playing the game, then once you have played a few times try this for the “ideal game”. 1. Do NOT use the magic word UNDO at all this time. 2. Play so that you use up all eight “extra lives”; you will now see RESCUES LEFT: 0 at the top right of the screen ( thus being on the brink of being knocked out of the game if you make a blunder)…

“Once you have played a few times”? There are games I want to play more than once — I’ve seen a couple in this Comp already — but they’re all games that provide a large degree of variability, so that one play-through will be different from the next in important ways. The notion that we’d want to play a game like this one more than once really cements the idea that it’s a time capsule from 1986, when new IF was scarce enough that we played everything multiple times.

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