The Bible Retold: Following a Star
Justin Morgan (2010)
In Following A Star you play as one of the three wise men that are about to set off for Judea. Starting off in Babylon, the game walks the player through the first few scenes, which turns out to be dialog heavy and automated, but eventually the game opens up allowing the player to move around freely.
When you get to the first settlement, youíre sent out to buy the three gifts for the new born king. The first problem is you have to get the money converted, and youíre told to look for the best deal. So Iím thinking that thereís someone shady around that might give me a better deal than Romans, knowing I needed money, and not knowing how much, I was forced to turn to the walkthrough for the best rate. At least there are hints built in for shekels.
But then youíre presented with the second problem, and a huge one for IF games. You have to go out and buy stuff with the money. You have a limited amount, and thereís more stuff than you can afford. You have no idea what you should or shouldnít get, and it becomes paralyzing. Iíve seen this in other games, and the only answer is to turn to walkthrough, or you feel that you could be playing a broken game after that. You have to remember that in an amateur market thereís no guarantee that the game youíre playing wonít end up broken. The last thing the player is going to do is break it knowingly.
The game is written with a bit humor that feels a little forced in spots, and itís even used when you run into the walls instead of telling the player the available exits. This is a pet peeve of mine, and I realize that there were exit symbols in the graphical section, but Iím not use to looking up there for help with navigation and ended up running into a lot of walls during the beginning of the game.
Another thing that I liked was that this game uses both the TALK verb, and the ASK/TELL method to communicate with NPCs. This is a great way to add a bit of depth to a character, yet giving the player a way to try to express the most important stuff even though they donít know how to phrase it. I didnít get into these characters very deep, but what I did see made me feel that they were well implemented.
And even though thereís a bit of good stuff here, for me, the game ended up totally broken. And that will cost a game severally in a competition. I couldnít get past the myrrh puzzle. I tried it a number of times, maybe I did something out of order the first time. I even dressed up, and the priest noticed that I was dressed up, but he still wouldnít let me have the myrrh with the right stuff in place. I tried everything I could think of, including the walkthrough and hints, but I just couldnít get around it. I also couldnít see the end of the story, and that will hurt the score too.
What I saw of Following A Star was a good game, solidly put together up until I couldnít get past the myrrh puzzle no matter what I did. Maybe some more play testing wouldíve help, I have a transcript for the author if he wants it, but a broken game is going to take a hit on so many sides. I did like a few things, the writing, story, and puzzles. But in the end I scored it a 5.