Review of "Psyche's Lament: An Interactive Geek Myth"

Psyche's Lament: An Interactive Geek Myth is a Z-code 5 interactive fiction game written with Inform 6 and is © 2005 by John Sichi and Lara Sichi.

Review by David Welbourn

The short review: Nice idea. Poor execution.

The long review: This was a wonderful idea to make a game about. I'm fond of myths and fairy tales, and the story of Psyche, which contains several trials for her to overcome, is a natural choice to be retold in the medium of interactive fiction. This is a gentle retelling. All the danger from the tale has been removed and the game doesn't take itself too seriously.

The bad news is, there are some design flaws and coding problems.

The first problem I noticed was that the initial setup isn't as well explained as it could be. For example, someone unfamiliar with the myth might not understand who you are, where you are, or why you have a knife and lamp. This lack of detail and feedback continues in the rest of the game; there are many unimplemented and unexaminable scenery items. One item that is examinable is a metal triangle. I had no idea what to do with it. Even after looking at the walkthrough, I still don't understand what the triangle is or what it does.

A related problem: the game mishandles alternate ways of phrasing a command. For example, "zap mouse" works, but "wave wand at mouse" does not. Or, "aphrodite, number" may work, but "say number" does not. The response to the latter is worse than wrong; it's misleading.

My initial fond impressions weakened somewhat when I had to use the anachronistic gadgets. Did anyone else wince when Aphrodite refers to "debugging"? It would be far less jarring to replace the technological items with magical ones.

Solving Aphrodite's first test requires scrolling a massively repeating text dump. That's very bad, and should be replaced with a collapsed summary of what happened. I must also point out that in the second test, it's possible to generate an infinitely repeating text dump. That's extremely bad. I had no option except to kill the program when that happened.

I fear I must also ask that if you must put in a puzzle where ASCII graphics are important, to please display them in a monospaced font to prevent them from looking squashed and unrecognizable.

There were other problems I could rant about, but I'll stop here. Despite the problems, I did like the basic premise of the game. But get some beta-testers. Listen to them. Improve your coding skills. Ask questions if you don't know how to code something. Your next game will be a lot better for it.

Rating: 3

✍️🏻 See my handwritten notes.