Pest by Jonathan4

[IMPORTANT: Seems like there are some errors when playing the game in browser that could prevent you from finishing the game. I recommend downloading it for the best experience!]

The year is 1350. The location is England. The Black Plague, one of the most devastating outbreaks of disease in human history, is finally beginning to show signs of subsiding.

You are a rat.

You just want to make some new friends.

Use your vermin senses and abilities to solve puzzles, confront your fears, find your old friends, and make some new ones!

If you manage to keep a level head, you could end up a hero.

Or you could just be a pest.

(Type 'help' in game for general tips. If you get really stuck, tweet me at @Quence and I'll be happy to throw a hint in your face.)

UPDATE: v.1.1. Streamlined an early section of the game, axed a puzzle that wasn't really working, fixed the ladle mistake.

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Review by ASchultz
12 Jul 2013
I don't know how much more I can add to other reviews except that I admit I unzipped the ASL game from the Quest file (I downloaded the game to play locally) and looked through the XML for a solution to get by the tunnel--and got some later puzzles spoilered, which actually wasn't all bad, as I struggled about midway through and it was good to see where the author's imagination led the game. Plus I learned a lot about Quest and what it can do and how, which was very interesting.

The game has a strong interesting beginning where you rely on your senses runs into trouble later. Unfortunately I got a bit lost in the dead end--I saved and reloaded to avoid getting caught, which backed me up--and I took a while to find how to leave the area by the two shelters. It's neat to need to look, feel and smell and listen--I don't think it disrupts the narrative too much, because the game doesn't throw a ton of objects to feel/smell/listen.

I got the twig but couldn't pry the rocks--I tried using all possible verbs on both.

5/10, with maybe even three extra if it gets revised. And I encourage the author to, because I'd love to play the update. I suspect the errors are mostly due to blind-spots or omissions from relatively new writing or from not finding enough testers.

(Btw: USE TWIG gave an error in my standalone quest player--I would be glad to send a transcript if I could figure how Quest works it. If Quest doesn't allow them, it really should. It's invaluable for testing.)

Review by sarah4
07 Jul 2013
Having come back to the site for the first time in a while yesterday, I noticed that I appear to have completely missed the news that a Quest competition was happening! So, I downloaded the games yesterday and hope that I am not too late to submit my review. Pest was the only one of the two competition entries I have been able to play so I will review it on its own merit rather than in relation to the other competition entry.

Firstly, the game concept and choice of protagonist were intriguing, innovative, and, largely, well implemented. The 'rat's eye' view of the world was fairly well realised and the rat's situation was sympathetically portrayed. The introductory escape from an unseen pursuer is well-constructed and builds tension quite effectively. However, this idea is perhaps used a little too extensively and subsequent nightmare chases become increasingly less suspenseful as the player is quite aware by this point that the danger is imaginary and the stakes, consequently, low.

The puzzles were well-integrated into the game and were perfectly soluble with a little lateral rodent thinking! As far as I could tell it was impossible to lock yourself into an unwinnable situation which is always a bonus. The puzzle involving blocking off the rat's sense of smell and hearing in order to enable it to approach the visitor is a particularly beautifully conceived puzzle.

Though the game was largely played from a rat's perspective, there were a few occasions where the player is able to do and see things which would not have been possible given the height and size of a rat.

There were also a few occasions where it was possible to perform actions out of order leading to confusing and non-sensical responses. For example, if you pull the tapestry down before having knocked over the bag of groceries and distracted the woman from her sweeping, you are told that the falling tapestry has put out the fire under the pot, even though the woman has not started cooking yet.

There are a couple of other small errors such as a phantom second ball of wax appearing at one point of the game and the fact you can climb up the table but not down. The historical detail didn't seem too bad from what I saw, though I very much doubt that a doctor would have been using a hypodermic syringe in 1350, at least in conjunction with a needle, I may be wrong about this though as I'm not an expert in medical history!

Despite all this nit-picking, I thought this was a thoroughly enjoyable game. I played it through from beginning to end in about two hours, and, although I did get stuck a couple of times, I was never so entirely stumped that I lost interest or momentum. The end was a little too dark for my personal tastes, but that is not a criticism of the game per se, though it does perhaps seem a little out of kilter with the earlier tone of the game. However, this was an interesting, well planned and executed game with an engaging premise and protagonist and some ingenious puzzles with a great deal to recommend it and I look forward to your future games!

Review by Adam Holbrook
06 Jul 2013
*Some Spoilers*

There is a very solid concept here, and it shines through in a lot of places. Unfortunately, I'm hopelessly stuck and I'd rather not let the review wait any longer for the competition, or else I'd ask for help.
Pest is a game in which you play as a rat. The beginning sets a dark tone (and it does so well) while teaching you the most fundamental concept behind the game: as rat, your sight alone is not enough, and you will have to use your other senses to figure out how to overcome the many obstacles in your way.
The game uses this mechanic well, and you'll find that the way the world is presented to you is very much from the rat's point of view. Unfortunately, I found this to be a bit jarring in contrast to the fact that the way you interact with the world is sometimes less rat-like.
For instance, upon completing the opening sequence in the game (which is purposefully stressful in a way that left me with mixed feelings) you'll use your senses to find your way to obstacle which now requires a tool--something you've never used before and also something that a rat wouldn't normally be able to use.
Of course, for works of fiction it isn't uncommon for this sort of thing, but with the mechanic that had been established I found myself typing "take twig" a minute or so later without much confidence.

I was stopped not much later, again finding a clever description of something through a rat's eyes, but with the rat easily navigating through a setting that was made for humans. Like when I found I had to climb up a bag that was on the cupboard, after blindly stumbling onto the fact that I didn't have to climb the cupboard the bag was on. I didn't get far enough to find if the game would ever force me to climb the table, or assume that I was able to reach the table.

Being stuck did a lot to exacerbate this, but I still found it jarring when I ran into the problem of being able to repeat permanent actions I had taken previously. Once I've taken the bread out of the bag, I shouldn't be able to take the bread out of the bag again. This is something I saw a few times.

These are simple things, small things, and they are things you wouldn't even notice if you knew how it was all supposed to fit together, but I can't find a way to get that lady to stop sweeping, even though she has a haunted bag of groceries that keeps falling over. Pest has a lot of rough edges that need a little smoothing out, but I feel like it has a lot going for it once it gets past those.

For the QuestComp score, I give it a 5/10, and I'm interested enough that I'll probably come back to it soon to give it another shot.

Review by The Pixie
01 Jul 2013
*** This has mild spoilers ***

There was a lot to like about Pest, but it did have some annoying aspects too.

Although I did not finish it (it really is a good idea to include a walk-through for competition games), there was significantly more to this than Worship the Pig, the other competition game, which I played first.

It starts off with a lot of "Press any key" that does get a bit wearing, followed by a fair bit of time playing "guess the verb" only to discover there was no verb, which was annoying too. There were bits later that were real guess the verbs, and did eventually cause me to give up (so be aware this review is based on a part of the adventure - I got as far as getting a twig).

Like WtP this was a linear game (as much as I played anyway), though I think that is more forgivable in a text adventure, rather than a CYOA. On the plus side, it was well put together. It was free from spelling and grammar mistakes as far as I could see, and no obvious bugs (aside from needing more synonyms).

What was good was the use of a rat as the protagonist. Sure, being an animal is not completely original, but it did give a nice twist to the theme (and I think that that is a benefit of having a theme; it encourages people to have that twist). The use of smell and listen were done well to enhance the "rattiness" of the story.

Overall, I would give it 8/10.

Review by Liam315
23 Jun 2013
Pest is, overall, quite a decent Quest game, with many things going for it. It is not without its flaws, some of which more extensive beta testing may have overcome, and others which come down to design decisions. I would venture however that an approaching competition deadline was a factor in this and a 2.0 release would probably be welcomed.

What I liked most about the game was the way in which your other senses really do play a part in interacting with the environment. As a rat, your eyesight is not the best and piecing together clues from your other senses to solve puzzles was enjoyable. The use of first person perspective in the writing was also extremely effective at capturing the isolation and confusion of the protagonist, as was the switching between the real and dreamed storylines.

I also disagree with Wade's review that "...the rat's constant ruminations on his fate while [the teaching] is going on are mostly at odds with the move to build suspense." I found the rat's internal monologue in the dream sequences well spaced and engaging, which is exactly what you want to be happening while also slipping in a tutorial about what commands are important in the game and how they work. Pressing the key for every line of dialogue works well in the places it happens as it builds suspense by making you actually read and anticipate what is going to happen, rather than shoving a text dump at you to skim over.

What I do agree with however, is the assertion about the modelling of the physical environment in certain areas. There are some occasions where a room is described from what I would call a human perspective, in that all objects are assumed to be easily reachable when in reality, a rat would have a lot of trouble seeing or reaching the objects described. The scenarios are about the rat's spacial relationship to these objects, so it can be jarring to "feel" an object but then not be able to "take" it because you can get past something between you and the object. I also got confused trying to climb up a lot of objects, as it was a verb that was implemented inconsistently.

In it's current state, there are a few bugs that while they don't stop you from being able to win, they make you question whether something has gone wrong and that's why you can't complete a puzzle- something which is very counter-productive for a player. I myself resorted a couple of times to look for hints by searching the code of the game and seeing what actions would trigger an event, because the bugs that I had encountered made me sure I had done something wrong.

I would have liked to have seen better verb implementation, like many Quest games there is an over-reliance on the "use object1 on object2" command, although there were many places in this game where it actually was appropriate. There were also a few descriptions and scenery objects that could have been bolstered up a bit, but even when the writing was brief, the content was quite satisfactory.

Overall I'd give the game a 6/10, I enjoyed playing it and appreciated its well mixed portions of puzzles and plot, but it definitely has potential to be improved upon with an updated release.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy the game while playing it - I did, and continued to enjoy it through to the end - but there were a few time when one too many bugs became a point of distraction.

Review by Wade
21 Jun 2013
A review for Questcomp 2013. WARNING - The review will have some spoilers.

Pest has the makings of a thorough puzzler, but is hampered in its current form by a fair few technical and writing oversights. The former manifest as bugs, the latter just make the gameworld that much harder to understand, which in turn makes the puzzles harder to overcome. I laid down my adventure solving tools after what I would describe as the second major scene. I would have liked to continue, but I'd spent a lot of time on the game already, including a couple of forum interactions with the author. Summarily, I like the game's scaffolding but I don't think the building is stable yet.

An introductory sequence in which you flee from an unseen pursuer teaches the use of the various sense commands your rat protagonist can use (smell, listen, feel). The teaching works, but the rat's constant ruminations on his fate while this is going on are mostly at odds with the move to build suspense. There's too much repetition of material, or perhaps the repetition would work better if the player wasn't required to press a key to advance through every line of dialogue, which is pace-sluggening.

Pest needs to go for detail in its physical model of the world because it's about a small rat adequately positioning himself in relation to various people and objects, and interacting with them in clever mechanical ways. The scene in the stone dwelling shows the promise of this kind of thing, with different pieces of furniture at different heights which can be used to access each other, move around the room or draw the attention of its inhabitant, the broom-wielding Matlid.

What's missing from this scene is more exacting programming and prose. The physical relationships between the objects aren't adequately described, and these details are often crucial for visualising / conceptualising where things are and which courses of action may be fruitful. For instance, since the bag was on top of the cupboard, I didn't expect to be able to do anything with it, given that I was on the floor. But FEELing the bag turned out to be a big step forward. Paradoxically, the table is described in a manner suggesting you can get onto it. I never was able to do so, and its description only emphasised the fact that I was on the floor. Other bugs interacted with each other here; I was able to pick up things I shouldn't have been able to (EG the ladle?) and perform one-shot actions twice. I suspect the latter issue might have screwed up my game state.

Quest also seems to offer some real time event scripting, but the import of it wasn't clear to me. I distracted the lady and she moved, which gave me the impression I might need to type the next important action before being told she'd moved back. However, the quick typing didn't work, and I don't know if the timing was the reason it didn't work because I never cleared this scene.

I enjoyed what little I played of Pest, and from what I've seen it promises more interesting design if you like solving physical puzzles when you're really small, but it definitely needs more work on its implementation to reach a level of stability and trustworthiness that will compel more players to persevere. (And ideally to not even be thinking in terms like: 'Should I perservere?' in the first place.)

There are other broad areas which could use more thought. When an atypical command like GO BEHIND (something) is an important way to advance in a game, this fact should be drawn to the play's attention in an introduction, or as soon as it's relevant, not left to an optional help menu. Quest games still don't have a culture of including actual hints in the game. This is probably because the author base is pretty fresh, and a lot of the games aren't sturdy enough for this to have become a concern yet, but the history of IF to date resoundingly says that players will need some kind of hint or advice system in the majority of their games. I appreciate the author's invitation to tweet him (which I declined in favour of a comment back'n'forth) but Quest authors need to start thinking longer term. As soon as you make a game that's decent, it's going to be around for a long time or forever, and some guys might try to play it years from now, and those guys won't want to have to tweet you, even if you are alive (sorry for the morbidity). And they'll have even less patience than we have today. They'll want built-in adaptive hints or something similar which they can get at as soon as they're needed.

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Written for Quest 5.4
Published 11 Jun 2013
Updated 15 Jul 2013

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