Tom Murrin (2009)
Spelunker's Quest is some sort of Adventure/Zork Hybrid where you find yourself in the middle of cave system looking for a way out. But I found it an enjoyable read, open ended enough to not lock you out, though a bit poorly designed, relying on search too much to hide important objects. Something that's been done away with in the modern era.
One of the first things that I've noticed is that automation seems to have fallen out of favor this year, not that it's needed, but it makes for smoother game play. Like when I had to open the chest. I had the key, but of course I have to unlock the chest first before opening it. It doesn't need to be like this, but maybe it's harder to do in Inform 7.
Another thing you need to keep in mind is that there are a few sudden deaths, but they all seem undoable, though you might still want to save often.
Towards the end of the game I found searching the water for the stone a bit obscure, but I should've been able to find it on all three lake shores, not just one. But since the stone is such an important tool I don't think that it should be hidden behind a search at all, and it should be in plain sight, right at the player's feet. Also the description needs to be reworked to let the player know how to use it, something like, "it sparkles with life and maybe rubbing it will unlock it."
The last puzzle is really poorly designed, keeping you on the rails without multiple solutions. I knew that I needed to blow up the rock pile, but figuring out how to light the dynamite was beyond hard. You should be able to put the dynamite on the pile, take a torch, light the fuse, and get the hell out of there. But nothing like this was implemented. The other solution is fine, though obscure, but give your puzzles some wiggle room with an alternative solution or two.
Also, give the game a bit of life. I wanted to throw something into the lake, arousing the monster so I could fight him. I mean, so much of the scoring is base on killing I just felt like it need to be done. But the game had trouble recognizing what I was trying to do. It takes some time and makes for a bigger file, but additional actions fill things out, something that surfaces during beta testing.
I score this game a 7. There were no technical errors, but the puzzle design needed some more work. The writing was enjoyable, though it didn't tie anything up, and even though the puzzles were easy, there was just something that I liked about the game. Maybe it chose the right elements from Zork and Adventure, or maybe it was the ability I had to play around a bit, not getting the standard responses. It's not the best game, I consider 8 and above a must play, but it was a cozy little adventure with a conclusion that came around full circle.