There was a bit of boom in the 1980s in treasure-hunt style text adventures. In addition to the commercial ones (the most famous one being Zork I, but the Infocom game Hollywood Hijinx is squarely in the same category), many games were released as listings in books or magazines. “Acid Rain” is based on one such game, but the author has not just ported it to a modern interpreter. Instead, he’s recreated it based on his notes from playing the original game. The result is a solidly 1980s-style game that nevertheless has a few of its rougher edges smoothed off.

Gameplay: This game is fundamentally an early-1980-style treasure hunt, with all of the gameplay features and styles that evokes. The game’s map is much larger than it needs to be, and it’s full of empty hallways and eigenrooms: rooms containing exactly one object of interest, used exactly once and then subsequently ignored. It’s sizable for a game of that era, and it’s comparable in room count and possibly move count to a modern IFComp entry. It’s a puzzle-based game, yet almost all of the puzzles are simply a matter of picking up one freely-available object and using it in a different place. 5/10.

Mechanics: Keeping with its origin, the game is fundamentally a treasure hunt in which the protagonist wanders around an abandoned mansion and finds the random mechanical components needed to construct a means of escaping it. None of the puzzles are frustrating or difficult, but none are particularly memorable either. Some minor annoyances from that era of game, such as strict inventory limits and hunger demons (in this case, flashlight batteries), are inevitably present, but the author has taken steps to minimize them. Items can be left in hub locations without any penalty, and replacement batteries are available shortly after entering the mansion.

The arbitrary and unintuitive puzzles from that era (e.g., naming the gnome in King’s Quest, or the Bank of Zork puzzle from Zork II) are also present. There’s a cryptic message written on toilet paper for no particular reason, for example, that isn’t even much of a puzzle. This item was presumably part of the original game, and the author is at least able to lampshade it, but it’s still awkward. On the other hand, objects in the game were generally where I expected them to be. If was looking for a screwdriver, for example, it was in its logical place in the equipment room, not hidden under the cushions in the lounge or under a pile of laundry. That sort of haphazard, scavenger-hunt-style placement of ordinary items was common in games of that era (see the 1980s game Shadowgate, for example), but Acid Rain avoids it. 6/10.

Presentation: The author does a great job of improving the game with modern sensibilities in mind, but it’s still fundmentally a game about wandering through a map, picking up treasures, and solving some basic puzzles. It’s enjoyable as throwback to a very different era and style of game, and players with more nostalgia from that time may have a better time with it than I did. There were a few minor guess-the-verb issues: MOVE SHEETS works, but LOOK UNDER SHEETS or LOOK IN BED does not, and the code on the keypad only works in lowercase. There were no serious problems, though, and the author was effective in improving the interface from games of that period.

The writing in the game is typically sparse. I personally didn’t find its jokes, such as the Magnetic Scrolls reference or the annoying macaw or the indescribable monster, to be that funny. They’re definitely the sort of humor this genre had, though, and they fit nicely into the game. 6/10.

You might be interested in this game if: You have fond memories of 80s games, but you want to play one with more care and polish than is usual from games of that era.

Score: 6

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