With most parser-based games these days using a variant of Inform, it’s good to see one that tackles the difficult problem of writing a parser from scratch. “Nightmare Adventure” is a short, puzzle-oriented game reminiscent of an older generation of interactive fiction. In it, the player travels through a standard fantasy town and a more abstract oneiric landscape in order to break the magic spell that has put everyone to sleep.

Gameplay: The game is sparsely populated, and the few objects and characters that are present have limited functionality. The setting is not detailed, but it’s clear what to do throughout, and I didn’t have any trouble interacting with the NPCs or items I ran across. 4/10.

Mechanics: What makes this game unique is its custom parser. It’s functional, but it doesn’t have the functionality of even the earliest Infocom parsers. Questions (e.g., “Who is Jorryn?”) aren’t understood; abbreviations (e.g., “x door”) aren’t allowed; shortening commands like “go east” to simply “east” isn’t understood; mistyped commands like “look at parent” (as opposed to “look at parents”) are parsed as just “look”; and so on. Of course, writing a decent parser is hard, especially when you’re not paid to do it as a full-time job. It’s hard to see what the advantage is to writing one from (apparently) scratch is, though, when there are more polished ones freely available.

Despite that, the game is straightforward enough that any problems I had with the parser were easy to circumvent. There are three simple puzzles, and the game avoids a potential guess-the-verb problem with the last one by both providing a list of verbs and having one character explicitly tell the player character the correct (and entirely reasonable) syntax. 3/10.

Presentation: Descriptions throughout the game are simple and sparse. The spacing is often odd in the text, including many extraneous blank lines in the inventory listing. Objects with which the player can interact are called out in the text by brackets to distinguish them from scenery that isn’t interactive. While I personally found it to be a bit jarring, it could be a useful feature for players who are new to parser-based games or who just have a lower tolerance for unrecognized vocabulary in the parser. 3/10.

You might be interested in this game if: You’re interested in seeing a variety of parsers, particularly if you want to write a custom one yourself. You’re curious about the mechanic of noting interactive objects explicitly, and you want to see how it works in practice.

Score: 3

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