[IF Competition] The Duel that Spanned the Ages

I made another recipe with pumpkin yesterday. It is apparently of Cuban origins, but enough has been changed in order to meet ingredient availability that its probably no longer recognisable as such. I got it from Madhur Jaffrey's incredible vegetarian cookbook.
Cook pumpkin with white beans (I get my beans pre-cooked from a jar; if you have raw beans, cook them first, because they'll take much longer than the pumpkin) and some water. Add lemongrass when it's about half-done. (It takes maybe 20 minutes.) Pour away any left-over water once the pumpkin is done.
Meanwhile, fry garlic, an onion, a liberal sprinkling of cumin, some salt and a green paprika bell pepper. (Good that I looked that up on Wikipedia!) Add them to the pumpkin.
That's all. Serve with green salad, cheese and pita bread. You could also serve it with rice, if you prefer a less messy eating experience. I also served this with two spicy side dishes: (1) fried green peppers, garlic and onion; (2) fried red peppers, garlic and mustard seeds. For the second side dish: start with the mustard seeds and use a lid. That stuff is like popcorn. Also, when I say "peppers", I mean the thin hot things. When I say "fry", I mean using a frying pan and a little oil, not deep frying.
Now, a review of The Duel that Spanned the Ages. It's Half-life in text! And I love it.

What we have here is real action IF: after the somewhat long introduction is over, you get to run across a small meteor, cut open a space ship with a laser, shoot a mechanical zombie, run across the meteor again while a large machine is trying to kill you, jump into an ascending space craft, battle it out with the large machine, and jump out of a crashing space craft, all within ten minutes. And it's smooth, well implemented, and generally exciting. (The inclusion of a map, including "these spaces provide cover" notes, was a very wise decision on the part of the author.)

After that things slow down a bit as the number of puzzles increases. Sometimes they slow down a little too much: when I first awoke, I had no idea what to do, and only the hints got me to notice the part of my equipment that could help me. This could be made a little more obvious, perhaps.

But in general, the puzzles are good if not terribly innovative, and we get to battle mechanical spiders (headcrabs, anyone?), program automatic turrets, wear heavy armour and--yes!--open a locked door by firing a big missile at it. Years of frustrating IF experiences channelled into one act of violence => big smile.

I had some trouble with the lasers, because the frequent Half-life references made me suppose that they worked like the lasers in Half-life: I tried to throw something in their path, so the explosives would go off. Turns out these are lasers of the "I'll cut your legs off" variety. Anyway, the hints were excellent.

The game would have benefitted from increasing the excitement level a little more as we progressed. As it stands, the first minutes are full of action (as in any good action movie), then we have a more quiet episode (again, as in any good action movie), but we never return to the hectic stuff of the first minutes (unlike those good action movies). Perhaps the upper facility could be overrun by machines as the episode draws to a close? We need some actions sequences to lead up to the final boss battle.

It is obvious that subsequent episodes will have to offer more in terms of story, and a somewhat more diverse playing experience as well. Still, this is an excellent first game, and one of very few sucessful IF games in the action genre. One of the best in this competition so far.


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