An Amical Bet by Eve Cabanié (2021)

The Little Ugly, Evil Guy On My Shoulder’s Verdict:

I’m hoping the sequel will focus more on the hot lesbian action and less on the item gathering.

The Little Nice, Handsome Guy On My Shoulder’s Verdict:

A cell phone? Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?

My Verdict:

It certainly has its charms, but the gameplay is more basic than pumpkin spice. It is more basic than sodium hydroxide. I’d even go so far as to say it is more basic than 10 PRINT “HELLO WORLD” 20 GOTO 10 which is rather basic indeed.

Game Information

Game Type: Quest

Author Info: Eve Cabanié is a French game designer, graphic artist, and student. You can view her art on ArtStation and Instagram or buy prints from Displate. You can also play her other games on her though sadly An Amical Bet seems to be her only text adventure so far.

Download Link:

Other Games By This Author: Free Ticket, CUBI

My first thought I had while playing this game is that it was probably the author’s first text adventure. It has that feel of having been created by someone who is still experimenting with the form and who is creating rooms, NPCs, and objects on the fly largely because she can. I don’t hold that against the game — we all have to start somewhere, and sometimes our early beginnings are interesting in their own right. We must first learn and become comfortable with the basics before we can improve and achieve mastery. It’s all part of the process. Taken as a first game, An Amical Bet is not even close to being the worst of its kind that I’ve played, but playing it feels more like you are looking at a hastily put together sketch in an artist’s sketchbook rather than viewing a fully realized, polished masterpiece in an art gallery.

The game has an interesting enough concept. You play Svetlana Asimov, a noted thief, who is living it up in an Italian villa with her romantic and business partner Jodie following a successful joint heist. Jodie has an interesting challenge for you that for once doesn’t involve your cunnilingus skills. Your paramour wants you to steal an item or a group of items that meets three criteria: there should be something shiny, something useful, and something unexpected. If you were to add a goat’s head to the collection, you would have everything you need to make a bride of Satan’s special day truly memorable. There’s a large villa with interesting objects available for the taking. Go forth and steal, young lady!

There’s a parallel universe where this game takes place in a VILLA OF SECRETS. There young Svetlana must dodge guards, traps, and the suspicious wealthy to complete her death-defying mission. Unfortunately, in our universe the game takes place in a villa of yawns. It is mostly empty, and our intrepid thief faces no opposition whatsoever to her stealing whatever she wants. Indeed, there are no puzzles to solve or obstacles to overcome here. You simply go from room to room and gather whatever you need. No item is hidden. There’s no secret passageway behind the bookcase and no trap door under the rug. It is the most straightforward and simple text adventure you’ll ever play. Quest’s built-in mapping feature and clickable objects and verbs make it even more trivial to solve than it would be otherwise. The best Quest games hide verbs that are unusual but essential to completing puzzles so as to not make solutions obvious, but An Amical Bet only recognizes a handful of verbs and you can easily click your way to victory. Things that are mentioned in the room descriptions but aren’t listed as objects can never be examined or otherwise interacted with.

The only thing that keeps the game from being a total snoozefest is Eve Cabanié’s lively and often humorous writing. There are some hilarious one-liners when you try to pick up or otherwise interact with certain objects, particularly the ones you don’t need for your quest. At times, it feels like Svetlana (and by association Eve) is having a conversation with the player. When you try to pick up a vase, you get told, “And where do I put it ?… Don’t answer that.” There’s a statue you can try to talk to; the response is, ‘”Having fun ?”. Of course, no answer. “What a bitch.” Joke’s on you, cause she probably speaks latin.’ When you read lines like that, you know this game isn’t really THAT far from being good even if it doesn’t quite make it. Eve has style, a great sense of humor, and verve which are all qualities that are not easily taught and which many IF authors lack. She uses a word in this game I’ve never seen before and which I immediately assumed was a typo or an English fail until I actually bothered to look it up. This is probably the only text adventure in the world which has a fastuous corridor and it is fucking fantastic. There are some genuine typos and grammatical errors around like “somptuous” being used instead of “sumptuous” but they hardly seem worth mentioning considering Eve correctly used the word fastuous in a sentence and as such is automatically better at English than I will ever be.

Ultimately, this game would need a lot more depth and challenge to be truly recommendable. As it is, the gameplay is just too shallow and simple. Even the quality writing can’t make a game where all you are doing is essentially walking around and picking up objects in plain sight interesting. A game without real puzzles like this one would at the very least need to give the player a lot more freedom to interact with the environment and offer more things to do to be entertaining. Even when it comes to the writing, I feel like there isn’t quite enough of it because portions of the game are quite underdescribed. It needs a little more of everything.

There are games I don’t enjoy which make me want to never play anything by that author again because I would not want to voluntarily experience that kind of mind-atrophying misery ever again. This is not one of those games. If I heard there was another Eve Cabanié game out, I would immediately go and play it. She has genuine writing talent, and the factors that keep An Amical Bet from being good could be remedied easily enough if she keeps honing her craft. This one won’t go down as a great game, but Eve is a young IF creator to watch in my view.

Simple Rating: 4/10

Complicated Rating:

Story: 5/10

Writing: 7/10

Playability: 6/10

Puzzle Quality: 1/10

Parser Responsiveness: 3/10

Arctic Adventure by Harry McKracken (1981/2021)

Tweet Review:

A harmless, enjoyable, and mostly logical text adventure written for the TRS-80 in 1981 and reworked as a browser-based game 40 years later.

Full Review:

Every discussion regarding early text adventures eventually leads to Scott Adams. Adventureland, Adams’ first commercial release, is considered to be the first text adventure released for personal computers. Adams, along with his company Adventure International, released more than a dozen text adventures for 8-bit computers. These games were not only enjoyable to play, but they also inspired many budding programmers to create their own adventures.

Harry McKracken was one of those kids. A high school student in the early 80s, McKracken was inspired by Adams’ early games to create his own text adventure, Arctic Adventure. The game was originally released as a BASIC listing included in the book “The Captain 80 Book of BASIC Adventures” alongside an author’s biography that McKracken describes as being mostly incorrect. After a very limited release as part of a “tapezine,” Arctic Adventure quickly melted from existence. McKracken wrote a few more games, none of which saw commercial releases, and the only feedback he ever received in regards to Artic Adventure was from a disgruntled player claiming that the listing published in Captain 80’s book had a bug rendering the game unplayable — a fact McKracken was unable to confirm as he never received a copy of the book!

Fast forward forty years. McKracken finally tracked down a copy of the book through the internet and confirmed that the published copy of his code did indeed contain a fatal flaw. McKracken spent the summer of 2021 retyping his own code, this time feeding the game into a browser-based TRS-80 emulator. McKracken’s original code was updated to incorporate another BASIC game he had written (a simple slot machine) into the game. After making a few cosmetic changes, McKracken re-released his updated adventure 40 years after the original was published.

Arctic Adventure uses a pretty primitive parser, not unlike others from that era. All commands are verb-noun combinations, and common abbreviations (“E” for “GO EAST”) work. Like most early parsers, the game only checks the first three letters of each word. (“EXA SHO” is the same as “EXAMINE SHOVEL”, as far as the TRS-80 is concerned.) From memory, I think the game uses less than ten verbs in all.

The game begins with you, the player, inside an igloo along with a shovel and a coat. Every item in the game has a single use, so once you use it you’ll probably want to discard it as your character has a staggeringly limited number of things they can carry. After a while I began dumping everything I found next to the igloo, coming back for items as needed.

The browser-based emulator supports one saved game at a time. At any point along your icy journey you can type “SAVE” and your progress will be saved. Likewise, you can type “LOAD” (or simply “L” after dying) to revert back to your last saved position.

Like many early text adventures, Arctic Adventure is dying to kill you. Enter a location carrying the wrong item? Game over. Enter a different location without a specific item? Game over. Hang around a specific location for more than a couple of moves? Game over. Unlike modern interactive fiction games that offer UNDO features, death is swift and permanent in this game. Play like every move might be your last, because it probably will be.

For me, the most frustrating part of the game was the casino, in which players must win a certain amount of money in order to purchase a required item later in the game. The slot machine appears to be completely random, which means that players have to press the spacebar dozens of times in hopes of winning enough cash. I don’t know what happens if the player completely runs out of money but there were several times in which I thought I was going to find out.

Some of these old text adventures contain logic flaws that would take more code to fix than they’re worth. In at least two different areas, examining an item causes another item to appear, and examining the original item again causes the discovered item to respawn. That being said, while playing the game over the course of a week I found and reported two game-halting bugs which Mr. McKracken fixed almost immediately.

Unlike games of interactive fiction that allow players the opportunity to weave original stories and create their own narrative, text adventures were, for the most part, simple games where players maneuvered through maps, found objects, encountered puzzles, and solved those puzzles using the objects they found. In a nutshell, that’s Arctic Adventure. Explore all the locations, find all the things, and eventually the puzzles will solve themselves. (And if they don’t, there’s a radio waiting to nudge you in the right direction.) If you want to see what text adventures were like forty years ago without having to deal with floppy disks or emulators, put on your warmest pair of mittens and check out Arctic Adventure.

Note: the website below contains more of the game’s back stor, and a version of the game playable within your computer’s browser.