A Quiet Night At Home: For enhanced happiness, hit the head before you play this one.

And now we have “A Quiet Evening At Home”, a z-code game by anonymous.  I’ve noticed over the years that this “anonymous” character authors a whole lot of games, and the quality varies incredibly from one to the next.  If you’ve never played a game by anonymous, some of their hallmarks as an author include locked rooms which you must escape from, normal houses, weird implementation, and occasionally joke games that tend to really piss people off.  Truly a versatile author and I am excited to see what they have whipped up this time.

We actually had a bit of discussion amongst ourselves as to what this game would hold.  “A Quiet Night At Home” is exactly what I’d name a game filled with all the nightmare-inducing horrors I could dredge from my poor brain.  Jenni over at Pissy Little Sausages also had some jocular conjecture along those lines, but I will not repeat that conjecture here because someone might actually make it into a game (*shiver*).

Anyway, let’s play this thing, shall we?

After a boring day at work, a slow, annoying commute on the subway, and a tiring slog, you have finally arrived home sweet home. As usual, you’ve got an urgent need to use the restroom.
Michael Bay and J. J. Abrams may not be fighting over the screenplay rights, but I have to admit that this is the first time I’ve actually seen “you have to use the loo” as an early-game motivator.

Also, man I hope this really is my house in front of me.  **You have been arrested for dropping a deuce in a stranger’s water closet** ?  That is the worst game-ending failure message I can ever conceive of, with the only possible exception being **You have been arrested for dropping a deuce in a stranger’s water closet.  AGAIN.**

Note to author: It would be nice to have more than “A short flight of stairs leads to the front door”.  What direction do those stairs go?  Up, down?  Do you enter them?  Do they lead a direction some how?  Give us a clue, especially when our character is facing explosive bladder decompression in T-minus Now.

you’ve got to use the restroom!
The subliminal power of this game is amazing, that’s all I’m going to say here.

> unlock door
(with the backpack)
That doesn’t seem to fit the lock.
The mental image of someone doing the little “holding it in” dance while they depserately try to unlock the door with their backpack is hilarious, unintentional or not.  “Gotta go gotta go will this work please please NOOOOOO”

> move mat
It is fixed in place.
“Honey, I superglued the door mat to the patio!  That’ll show the tenants who’s boss when we rent this bitch!”

I’m going to go ahead and assume that there’s not actually a pee-timer here, and leisurely read this magazine from my mailbox while I figure out what to do.  Oh shit, the message just changed!  My god, did someone actually make a game where the goal is to get inside your home before you piss yourself?  Will this be the entire game?

Wait, let me try something:

> pee
That’s not a verb I recognize.
I highly doubt this is true, given the current circumstances!

Hmm, no idea what to do here… messages are getting more frantic…

> unlock door with key
(first taking the copper key)
stop screwing around with your stuff and get to the bathroom.
This message, right here?  This is the kiss of death for a game.

And I have pissed myself.  Glorious.

I’m torn here.  Part of me wants to put this game down and walk away from it, never to speak of it again.  The other part is laughing its half of my ass off.  In the name of science or something, let’s restart and continue this turkey.  First step is to finesse our way through the door:

> open door
It seems to be locked.
Yes!  Yes it does!  That’s the problem!

> unlock door
What do you want to unlock the front door with?
The key!  The frikkin key I have in MY HAND!

> copper key
You unlock the front door.
Thank you!!

GODDAMN IT WHICH DIRECTION IS THE OPEN DOOR IN??  Nothing has a direction on it in this game, and  I refuse to piss my pants again! Okay, made it into the house after bumping around into railings for two turns like a blindfolded invalid.

On the table are a cage (closed) (in which is a hamster) and a rodent ball (empty).
bahahaha, Hamster… hamster, help daddy…. help daddy find the can.

Oh my god, where the hell is the bathroom?!

The short backbone of your house. Doors open to the west, east, north and northeast. There are photographs of water on rocks along the wall
This is MY freaking house!  Why would I not know where the doors lead??

> x photographs
You remember the day you took them like it was… five years ago, because it was.
This is the exact point in the playthrough where I started laughing so hard I was yelled at by a neighbor.

Oh man, finally made it.  You know what?  Whatever the rest of this game is, nothing can top The Badly-Implemented PeeQuest of Aught-Ten.  That was epic, I tell you.  EP-IC.  Unfortunately, now I have no idea what to do.  Have a quiet night at home, I guess?

Guest Bedroom
Such a pleasant place, you want to sleep here yourself sometimes. A sliding glass door in the north wall leads outside. There is a light switch next to the door.
Okay, take a look at this room description and tell me what’s missing.  Hint: I didn’t come into the room through the sliding glass door and I would like to go back the way I came (which, scrolling up, was not one of the cardinal directions).  Pretty much the whole house is like this, and it’s really messing with my chi.

> x hamster
She’s got round ears, cheeks full of seeds and is very soft.  She looks like she could use some exercise.
D’awwww.  Let’s exercise the hamster, presumably by en-balling it.

the hamster rolls to the Hall.

I have fed myself, garbage is taken out, basically done all the author’s chores for them… and now I am off for a peek at the walkthrough, because I’m not sure what to do here.  Apparently the answer is “kill time until bed time”.  Allllrighty.

> get in bed
you feel like there’s something you’ve forgotten to do. Are you sure you took out the trash

> get in bed
you feel like there’s something you’ve forgotten to do. Are you sure you turned everything off

> get in bed
you feel like there’s something you’ve forgotten to do. Are you sure you closed and locked all the doors
I have done all your stuff!!  I have paid the household gods with sweat and labor! What do you want from me?!?

> get in bed
you feel like there’s something you’ve forgotten to do. Are you sure you put away the hamster

I wanted to do a little thing here where I twisted around the text to “Goodnight Moon”, but “hamster” doesn’t rhyme with anything.  Good night room.  Good night moon.  Good night hamster I just put away.  See?  It doesn’t work.

> sleep
You drift off to sleep and you have an awesome dream about being an alien spy. It’s going to be a great day.
This character has a weird brain, but I knew that when he/she tried to open the locked door with a backpack and then wet themselves.  I think we’re done here.

Part Two: The Rundown

First off, unintentional props to the author for unintentionally making me laugh my ass off in the first part.  The combination of a serious lack of some basic implementation (visible exits, the stuff with the key) and the “don’t wet yourself” quest actually somehow meshed together, for me, into something that was fairly frantic and simulated that actual feeling which we all, unfortunately, know so well.  I realize I may well be in the minority there, but I had fun.

Note to any other aspiring or current authors, I cannot in good conscience ever recommend this as an intentional tension-creating device.  Just go get the Locksmith or Implicit Action extensions.

It’s fairly obvious that this is the author’s first game (or an early game, at the least).  It has several hallmarks (cliches) of the “first level of implementation”: set in what’s probably the author’s house, based around day-to-day actions, many actions don’t work quite as well as they should, descriptions are missing because the author didn’t consider them important (probably because they know the space so well themselves), etc.  I imagine it’s an easy trap to fall into, given that most new authors probably haven’t played a whole lot of “new author games”, because those games don’t tend to be recommended for playing.

One thing that was done right was giving the player a solid early motivation to do something.  This is important in most games.  Unfortunately totally went away once the task was finished, and the player is left to wander aimlessly.  If the environs are exciting enough, this can sometimes be okay.  But you can’t count on people to go “ooo, a house, this is exciting to explore!” because most of us have seen that exact set-up a whole bunch.  I ended up feeling like I’d just done a bunch of someone else’s chores in an unfamiliar house.

The room exits thing… I’m okay with remembering where I just came from, *except* in the case of the non-cardinal directions (ne, nw, se, sw).  And I’m also not very good at finding my way into a door that has no listed direction.  This is pretty inexcusable.  If that’s not in the room description outright, you need to at least put them in an “exits” command, or put them in the status bar at the top, or list them when the player bumps into a wall… there’s a gazillion ways to handle it, but it must be handled.

I did like the hamster bit.

So yeah… an okay first outing, nothing too terrible (beyond the usual beginner mistakes/tropes), but nothing that stands out at all.  I hope the anonymous author keeps trying, learns to add the next layer of implementation, and establishes their own solid voice.


One Response to “A Quiet Night At Home: For enhanced happiness, hit the head before you play this one.”

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