June 21st, 2010

Loose Leaf Stories Reviews My Short Story "Cats in Victory"

Here's a review of "Cats in Victory" from Loose Leaf Stories:

Another short story from Lightspeed Magazine, "Cats in Victory"! Don’t let the first sections mislead you, "Cats in Victory" is science fiction, not fantasy. I loved Tailchaser’s Song, so I’m naturally fine with cats – or catmen – as characters. "Cats in Victory" is written by David Barr Kirtley, a chronic and incorrigible contributor to sci-fi publications. It’s a pretty good story, very much in the spirit of Planet of the Apes. I won’t be saving it off to my hard drive or anything, but it was a fun read and I’d certainly give anything else by Kirtley a shot! Lightspeed offers "Cats in Victory" both in print and podcast. Happy reading!

One thing I'm wondering is what exactly qualifies an author as "chronic"? Is that sort of like "prolific"? Jeff Carlson just referred to me as "prolific" too, which sort of surprised me, since I've been managing about two short stories a year lately, which doesn't seem like that much to me. Or is it "chronic" meaning like "badass?" -- like "You are totally chronic, man, totally." Is that something the kids are saying these days? In any event, I'm happy to be referred to as chronic, since I confess I've always sort of liked to think of myself as like the gout of science fiction.

Stupid Adventure Game Puzzles - King's Quest IV

Okay, so here are some more of the stupidest adventure game puzzles of all time, this time from the King's Quest series.

At the very,very beginning of King's Quest IV, you stumble across this house in the woods:

King's Quest IV screenshot

When you go inside you find that the place seems to be the home of seven bachelors, and boy are they slobs. Aha, you think, I recognize this, and so you set to work cleaning up the joint. Soon the occupants return, grab some grub, and thank you for cleaning up after them. When they're gone, you notice that they've left a present for you on the kitchen table -- a bag of diamonds! Great, you think, I know a poor fisherman and his wife who could really use these. So then you give the diamonds to the fisherman and he rewards you with a fishing pole. Great, you're really on your way now.

Except you've just LOST THE GAME. Yeah, that's right, you lost the game and you don't even know it, and you'll play for hours and hours and hours until you're almost at the very, very end, and then you'll get to a dark cave and have no way to get through, and then you'll play for hours and hours more, completely frustrated, trying to figure out just what the hell you're supposed to do now.

Turns out what you have to do is start the game over from the very beginning. See, you know earlier when it seemed like those dwarves were giving you a bag of diamonds? Actually what happened is that they just accidentally left a bag of diamonds sitting around on the table during lunch (WTF?) and what you're supposed to do is try to return it to them, in which case they say, "Nah, keep 'em," and also give you a lantern that you can't beat the game without. Oh my god, what SADISTIC FREAK designed this game?

Okay, I was actually planning to list two more, but now I'm so angry just from thinking about that one that I need a break. Back in a bit.

Stupid Adventure Game Puzzles - King's Quest V

Okay we're back, this time with some stupid puzzles from King's Quest V. King's Quest V was the first game of its kind to be in VGA (256 colors), and it's absolutely gorgeous. It's so gorgeous in fact that the designers seem to have decided that it would be excessively generous to make it logical and playable as well. The thing is just chock-full of dead ends and nonsensical puzzles. Here are two of the worst:

At one point you have to venture into a spooky forest and vanquish an evil witch. When you try to depart the forest however, you find that you're trapped in a magical sort of time-space loop, treading the same paths over and over. Take a minute to imagine how you might escape from this predicament. Got any ideas?

If so, I'm 100% sure one of them was not, "Pour some peanut butter on the ground, and then drop jewels in the peanut butter, so that a greedy fairy who you've never heard of before will rush out of the bushes and get himself stuck in the peanut butter. If you free him, he'll help you out."

King's Quest 5 screenshot

Yeah, no joke. That's actually what you have to do. And even if you somehow get it into your head to pour peanut butter on the ground, it only works in one particular spot -- one totally arbitrary spot. Good luck figuring that one out.

Later in the game you're crossing some snowy mountains. As you pass a cave mouth, a yeti comes racing toward you, and you have about two seconds to react before being disemboweled. So basically you die, restore your game, and have enough time to try using one inventory item against the yeti before you die and have to restore again, etc. Almost certainly the very last object in your inventory that you would think to use is your fresh-baked pie:

King's Quest 5 screenshot

Yeah, that's right, the solution to the yeti "puzzle" is to give him the old pie-in-the-face. What the hell? Okay, using a mirror against Medusa, that makes sense. Using a crucifix against a vampire, fine. But using a freaking pie against a yeti? WTF?

Stupid Adventure Game Puzzles - King's Quest II

Oh wow, I guess I had managed to completely block out this next stupid-ass puzzle, but now I have -- unfortunately -- remembered it. This is from King's Quest II, which is perhaps the weakest in the series, for reasons which will shortly become apparent.

So you arrive at this highly contrived geography with cliffs on either side and boulders blocking all but a narrow path guarded by a poisonous snake:

King's quest ii screenshot

Nothing works that you think to try -- like maybe just scrambling over the low rocks and circling around the snake -- until you realize that you're carrying a ... a ... oh god I'm embarrassed to even write this down ... a bridle. Yeah, that kind of bridle, the kind you put on a horse, and so of course you type "put bridle on snake." Makes sense, right?

And then the snake turns into Pegasus, who explains that he was transformed into a snake by an evil wizard, and that this magic bridle is the only thing that could restore him to his proper form, and then he offers you a lift to your next destination.

No, I am not making this up.

Has there been any indication up to this point that the bridle is magic, or that Pegasus exists, or that the snake is anything besides just a normal snake? None whatsoever.

Puzzle design, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!