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Spring Thing ’12 – Jim Aikin’s The White Bull!

April 16, 2012

I gotta say, I am looking forward to the hint system in this game.  Jim Aikin is to hint systems what Tom Selleck is to moustaches.

[spoilers begin here]

The music is pretty good so far.  No VVVVVV, but few things are.

This idea that she’ll discover the Labyrinth of King Minos on this obscure speck of an island, when the entire scholarly community is sure Minos ruled (if he ever lived at all) hundreds of miles from here, on Crete …
Man, when you put it like that, it’s guaranteed she’s going to find the Labyrinth.  Whenever you’ve got the entire scholarly community vs. a plucky (and beautiful) archaeologist with a crazy-sounding pet theory, the scholarly community might as well accept their defeat by mail and save on plane fare.

Fawn’s beauty is of an ethereal nature. At times her delicate features seem almost translucent. Her clothing is suitable for hiking.
I laughed there.  I don’t know if I was supposed to.  You guys think there are going to be any non-beautiful women in this game?

Leo is about your age, and he obviously spends a lot of time at the gym. His curly black hair is carefully uncombed, and somehow he always seems to have exactly three days’ growth of beard. His tight tee-shirt shows of his pectoral development.
At least it’s not just the women.

Okay, this music is pretty great.

“Oh, I’m sure we’ll find some fabulous spiritual meaning here,” she replies. “Something that will change our lives. Or my life, anyway.[…]”
There you go, New Age philosophy in a nutshell.  I can’t be responsible for your life as long as you refuse to afford the proper respect to crystals.

Hmm, just received a prophecy from a strange old woman in a cave.  You know, like you do.  This game has my interest.

I am not sure what to do at this point.  Wait!  I’m playing a Jim Aikin game!  There will be a marvelous hint for me in the marvelous hint system!

>knock on shack
There seems to be little reason to knock on the inhabited shack.
Oh, it wanted KNOCK ON DOOR.

Wow, I never would have thought of drinking from this pond to get an NPC I had no idea existed to show up and help me string this lyre.  Never ever ever.  I had this problem with the puzzles in A Flustered Duck, too, the required actions being not at all anticipatible.  This reinforces my theory that Jim Aikin only writes games to showcase his hint systems.

>show skull to girl
“Yes, you showed me that before,” she says.
No I didn’t!  We only just met!

There don’t seem to be any hints concerning where to get a bowl to give to Icarus so he can save me some fire.  (You know how if you’re nice to Icarus and then give him a bowl, he will save you some fire?  That is apparently a thing that happens.)  Hmmm.

The three-headed hound is lying curled on the floor, snoring stertorously.
Stertorously?  Lemme look that up.  Oh, it means “snoringly.”  The dog is snoring snoringly.  Good to know.

Among the trees you catch glimpses of exotically beautiful young women clad in diaphanous gowns.
Beautiful women again.  I’d trade this lump of wax for an average-looking one, but I think it might be a puzzle solution.  Well, actually, I have no idea.

*** You have been torn apart by harpies. ***
Well, fuck.

Hmm.  I think I am hosed, ’cause I never got the bowl full of fire from Icarus.  I would be disappointed in myself, but it’s easier to blame the hint system.  These 33 animals are all very disappointed in you, hint system.

Oh, you’re shittin’ me, I was supposed to look behind the altar?  I wonder if that was clued in the prophecy I got from that weird old woman.  No.  Was that clued anywhere else and I missed it?  Anyway, I have the bowl now, and you can pry it out of my big black dick.  I mean cold dead hands.

“The light I put in the bowl for you — it is gone?” His brow furrows. “I fear I can provide such a gift only once. I can only hope you put the light to good use, before it failed.”
Aw, fuck.  Let’s reload an earlier save, then.  I am less than delighted with these puzzles.  (Also, he never put the light in the bowl for me, ’cause I didn’t have a bowl.  Eh, details.)

Oooh, creepy poling-across-the-river-Styx music.

Which ball do you mean, the radiant ball of light and warmth, or the ball of twine?
Man, if you put it like that, you’ll give the ball of twine an inadequacy complex.  How about we call it the ball of twine that everyone loves just the way it is?  (For the record, though, I meant the radiant ball of light and warmth.  Why would I examine twine?  Please.)

>ask cyclops about himself
“Hungry,” the cyclops says. “Eat you.”
The cyclops is refreshingly forward.  I bet he does very well for himself in the dating scene.
>ask cyclops about hobbies
The cyclops scratches himself and belches.
>ask cyclops about blowing this joint and going back to my place
The cyclops grunts.
I wonder if that’s a yes.

The catwalk itself is long and narrow, and walking along it would be extremely dangerous, as a number of large, razor-edged pendulums are swinging back and forth across the path at dizzyingly irregular intervals.
There’s one of these catwalks, with the razor-sharp pendulums?  That’s hilarious!  Why do people build those things?

What the Minotaur flings aside is no longer Leo, but only a bloody, broken bundle of meat. It lands on the floor with a heavy, wet thud.
Um.  Ew?

Huh.  Apparently that’s inevitable.  Sorry, Leo.

I am the divine and natural ruler of your world, little man.
This is a great line to use when you’re out getting bagels, or you’re hassled by a meter maid, or, y’know, whenever.  (Although I am discovering now it’s kind of hard to say out loud, like a piece of George Lucas dialogue.  I sensed your foul stench when first I was brought on board, little man.)

Okay, so these teeth will grow into soldiers, if I remember my mythology correctly.  How exactly do I get them to do that?  Hint system, do you know?  I love you, hint system.  You are my best and only friend.  People say I rely on you too much but those people don’t know what love is.

DRINK NECTAR and DRINK FROM CHALICE should probably work, even though they’re both terrible ideas.  Well, the same terrible idea.

*** You have unleashed endless horror upon the world. ***
Man!  Not again!

*** You have saved the world from unguessable evil … for a while, anyway. ***
Well, that’s nice.  Let’s try to break down how we felt about that game.

Writing:  Pretty good, if maybe trying too hard in places (stertorously, I’m looking at you here).  No complaints.
Setting:  We’re on well-trodden territory here, but there were some interesting anachronisms (clockwork room, weird mechanical device).
Story:  Okay, I think?  I didn’t really care about any of the
Characters:  Flat.  Not even fully realized as one-dimensional stereotypes.  I was bored to tears not only by the other NPCs, but by my girlfriend and myself.
Puzzles:  Man, fuck these puzzles.  Seriously.  Okay, some of them were actually perfectly fine — I have no complaints about the earwax solution, for example — but having to drink from the pond or look behind the altar with no apparent reason to do so really chaps my frosting.
Level of implementation:  Fine.  There were lots of rooms, which makes it less reasonable to expect much depth in each one.  (I wish people would make games with fewer, deeper rooms, but it’s not like I’m going to go to their houses and, what, hide their breakfast cereal?  Tell them my finger is a gun?  My finger is a gun, by the way.)
Hint system:  Glorious as usual, except I couldn’t find the bit with that damn bowl.
Music:  Loved it.
Technical competence:  Yes.
Amount of work that probably went into it:  Middling to high.
Amount of fun I had while playing:  Low to middling.

I have yet to play that egg game, and I don’t want to put votes in the mouths of other people, but I’d say The White Bull has a fair shot of taking home the Thingatrophy in recognition of its size and general competence level.  Personally, I found The Rocket Man from the Sea more compelling, if smaller and hintless.  Yes, this is me scoring an absolutely hintless game more highly than a game with a Jim Aikin hint system.  I do not know what is wrong with me either.

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