Review of "Dreary Lands"

Dreary Lands is a Z-code 5 interactive fiction game written with Inform 6 and is © 2005 by Paul Lee.

Review by David Welbourn

As first games go, this isn't too horrible. My own first game, heck, even my second game was far worse than this. Even so, Dreary Lands really isn't good enough for the big leagues of The Annual Interactive Fiction Competition.

There are several problems, and the most noticable is also the easiest to fix: the bad spelling. Get a dictionary and use it. Get someone to proofread your text, then edit it. This alone would improve your game significantly.

The next problem to address is the prose. A sentence like:

As far as the eye can see in every direction this landscape continues.

is just torturous to read, nor does it convey any useful information. Try reading the game's text a few days after you wrote it. Get a friend to read it and make suggestions. And try writing more often. It doesn't have to be IF. Any practice will help.

The third problem is a lack of imagination. This is especially unfortunate in a puzzle box game that's trying to be surreal. For proof, consider the main villian's evilness. He's supposed to be really really evil, but the only evil that I saw was an animate tree that claimed to be evil and an interior decorating scheme that uses contrasting colours of paint. Like, c'mon. If bad decor is the worst evil you can think of, well, lucky you, but it's just not that evil.

This leads us into show, don't tell. Don't tell me that the tree is evil. Show me. For example, have the tree scoop out a frog from the swamp, hold it up in a claw-like branch, and then casually crush it to death in front of my face, the frog's guts dripping messily onto the black surface of the swamp. Such a gesture is a far more effective way of convincing me that the tree is evil without the game saying so explicitly.

Last, but not least, fix the bugs. The arrows are obviously coded poorly; 'nuff said. I managed to crash the game by attempting to go northwest in the swamp. And I discovered that I could start the car even though I was merely beside it, not in it.

Rating: 2

✍️🏻 See my handwritten notes.