I still have affectionate memories of the old Infocom games, which were my first introduction to interactive fiction. Unlike other games in this competition that try to modernize that style of game, “Diddlebucker!” is a faithful recreation of it.

Gameplay: The gameplay strongly resembles that of Infocomp’s “Hollywood Hijinx”: exploring a realistic, modern setting and solving inventory and set-piece puzzles to win a large cash prize. There’s enough of a plot to keep the game interesting without distracting from the puzzles, and they include riddles and some NPC interaction to break up the inventory ones. 7/10.

Mechanics: The puzzles are fair overall, but the difficulty curve is a bit uneven in the earlier (post-introduction) part of the game. A few of the inventory puzzles are more difficult than average; on the other hand, there are a couple of puzzles about finding the right item in a list based on clues (e.g., which variety of coffee to pick up or which presidential memorbilia to give to a collector) that are much easier than average. No particular puzzle stands out to me as being amazingly clever or inventive, but none stands out as being particularly obscure or derivative either. 7/10.

Presentation: The game captured the feeling of a playing a scavenger hunt, which, as someone who occasionally plays puzzle hunts and similar competitions, I recognized and appreciated. There isn’t a lot of NPC interaction, but it’s more than most puzzle-heavy works like this one have. The game is parser-based, and interacting was it was smooth aside from a few minor guess-the-verb issues with the lighter. (I’m also unsure why TRAVEL TO [place] is’t recognized; instead, the correct syntax is just TRAVEL, which brings up a prompt for you to type in the destination.) Glimpses of competing teams with late-80s gimmicks gave the game a bit of flavor, but they’re frequent enough that the joke wears thin quickly. 7/10.

You might be interested in this game if: You liked “Hollywood Hijinx.”

Score: 7

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