Saturday, 19 March 2016

Maupiti Island - Final Rating

By Ilmari

I think I have not yet faced any game, not regular nor a Missed Classic, that I would have so ambivalent feelings for. The game had many things I really liked, but also important elements that were so incompetently done. I am not sure which way the scales will tip, so let’s just begin scoring.

Puzzles and Solvability

I am still of the opinion that in a Deadline-style game solving the mystery should be counted as one puzzle, and it is doubly so in a game like Maupiti Island, in which you have to answer some questions about central plot events. In the main, this part of the game felt rather satisfying. Most of the plot pieces fit in rather well and finding out the relevant information was mostly a fair process. The only exception was the need to crack the code of the secret messages in the piano - the use of the chess book was just on the limits of a fair game and one name (The Wind) could only be learned from these messages. Still, I liked the puzzle with the piano itself so much that I am willing to ignore this one fault.


Like a piece of good puzzle, I might add


But then the other major line of puzzles in the game… that is, how to get into the pirate cave… Where should I begin? I am a bit wary on the use of the zodiac symbols, since I know that Trickster failed to recognise the planetary symbols in the previous Lankhor game - it just assumes a bit too much from the player. But even worse is the earlier puzzle involving all sorts of contrived transformations of number sequences. It verges on being unresolvable, and I can imagine that it was just my plain stubbornness that made me able to get through it. It is not so surprising that all the walkthroughs of the game I have found so far have not accounted why the numbers work. My suggestions in the previous post seem the likeliest explanation, but I am still far from being sure. I am afraid that since this puzzle was so central to the game, I will have to give a very low score for this category.
Journey through the circles of hell more likely

Rating: 2

Interface and Inventory

Trickster struggled with the interface in the Mortville Manor, because the menu just had too many options, which were not that well distinguished and which most definitely were not intuitive to use. It seems that the menu system had been streamlined quite a lot for Maupiti Island - there appeared to be less options to choose from and I don’t think there was any command that wouldn’t have been at least potentially useful. Even so, the interface was still a bit cumbersome, especially as most of the game play consisted of using every possible action for every possible object I could think of.


Unlike in some other games, even smelling gave occasionally hints:
you could smell the odour of tranquilizer in a teacup

The inventory was also a bit difficult to evaluate. There was lot of stuff to be found, but you were obviously not meant to collect it all, because inventory limit prevented carrying everything around. This might be thought as a fault, but I would disagree, since the main point of the game was so clearly not in any usual inventory puzzles. Instead, objects were there mostly for investigation, like in a good detective adventure they should be. So, I am feeling fairly positive here.

Rating: 4

Story and Setting

This is where Maupiti Island shines. When you are playing the game, you might think it’s all just a mishmash of random events going on, but when you put all the plot points together, they do cohere rather well and reveal an intriguing story, in which prostitution, communism, drugs and arms dealing, all have some part to play. And in a good detective story fashion, the true villain isn’t the most obvious culprit. The final solution is a classic Agatha Christie -trick, in which the supposed victim is finally shown to be the criminal mastermind. Sure there are some plot lines that are never explained, like the mysterious strongbox, but not all things need to be explained, even in a detective story. The only element I disliked was the whole pirate treasure subplot. True, it was an obvious shout out to Poe’s Gold-Bug, but it still felt quite extraneous to the whole story (I mean, there’s a potential murder to solve and our hero just looks for some gold).


Even if it is extraneous subplot, it is nicely detailed

Rating: 6

Sounds and Graphics

There’s a feeling of mediocrity in this department. True, the pictures are more beautiful than in the Mortville Manor, and there are lot of nice details hidden in the screenshots - and some of our readers have said the art is gorgeous. There aren’t that many rooms, but then there’s a day-and-night -cycle going on, which increases the amount of screenshots a lot - I especially like the swampy pool, which looks quite different at different times of the day, because the water level keeps changing. The character portraits also make the people of the island feel like distinct personalities. Yet, a feeling of flatness is all around. Maybe it’s the lack of animation or the fact that the characters have only a few facial expressions, but I just didn’t feel any awe while looking at the game.


This does look atmospheric


And this isn't bad either. Note how the two pictures share many details


There aren’t that many sound effects, but there are couple of nice jazzy tunes playing and they definitely were left ringing in my ears after quitting a game session. There’s also a nice non-use of sound: during the second day, after the gunshots are fired (one of the rare sound effects), the music stops and the game becomes suddenly silent, like emphasising the more serious turn of the events.


The final moments of the game repeat John Cage's masterpiece

Rating: 5

Environment and Atmosphere

One of the main things I like about Deadline-style of games are the dynamic characters - it’s just so fun to see whether accusing the butler of the murder might change his behaviour. Here, I just felt there wasn’t enough of this type of interaction. I could interrogate the suspects, contradict their statements, show them incriminating evidence, even bribe and bully them, but in the end, all I could achieve with that was to get some more information - or be thrown out of the island. The plot was intriguing, but it all felt more like the hero was forced to watch a play, which he could not affect in any manner.


And if you try to break the limits of the play, you'll get hurt

Rating: 4

Dialogue and Acting

Maupiti Island still uses the synthesised speech familiar from Mortville Manor. Trickster described it as a brave approach, but I think he was a bit too kind - imagine a movie, in which every character sounds like a variation of Stephen Hawking. Then again, I had never any worries of not understanding what the characters said, but I did have subtitles to help me.

As for the dialogue itself, there’s a lot of it, as is to be expected in a game based on questioning people. Then again, there were quite too many stock lines repeated over and over again, and even the more informative lines had a bit of a contrived feel. Major reason was probably that this game was translated from French. I never had any trouble understanding what was going on, but you could see and hear that the translation wasn’t done by a native English speaker.


Yeah, I know, you've said that a lot

Rating: 3

2 + 4 + 6 + 5 + 4 + 3 = 24, which divided by 0.6 makes 40. But I must say I truly understand why this game has a cult status - the amount of plot details, the somewhat unusual style, in which you have to play the game, and even the crazy puzzles, all sum up to an experience, which the devoted fans are sure to love, although no one outside the circle can never understand why. This is completely subjective, but I really have a soft spot in my heart for these oddball games that try to do something different, so I am going to give Maupiti Island one bonus point. Hence, the final score will be 41, which is quite good, when you think its predecessor got only 27. Did anyone guess the score? No, but Lupus Yonderboy got very close and wins the prize!




But is 41 a just rating for the game? Since we've had lot of discussion about ratings lately, I feel like I need to somehow explain how Maupiti Island could score so well in comparison with Mortville Manor. Firstly, I am fairly positive that there has been some progress. The graphics are clearly better and interface seems more streamlined. Even the translation of the game appears more competent - it is a bit awkward, but at least comprehensible, unlike its predecessor.

Then again, I am fairly positive that some difference in the scores must be accounted by the different experiences of me and Trickster. While Maupiti Island fails in puzzles, the high point of the game is its intricate plot. Unlike in many adventure games, it is something easy to miss, more like a jigsaw puzzle you have to piece yourself together. If you cannot put all the pieces together, all you get is fragments of a plot, a muddled blur of colours with no visible pattern. I'd guess that Trickster didn't get further than this fragmentary phase - and the awful translation probably made it even more difficult to put all the pieces together. If I had faced similar problems, I might have given worse scores for the plot and then the numbers would be closer to Les Manley. But this game certainly deserves better, even if it still has its failings.

I think this is enough analysis. For my part, this gaming year is over. I might return later with some Missed Classics, and I will definitely return to regular games, when 1992 begins. Speaking of which, should we soon decide what games to play? Just wait for it...

CAP Distribution

100 CAPs for Ilmari
  • Blogger Award - 100 CAPs - For playing Maupiti Island and blogging about it
20 CAPs for Lupus Yonderboy
  • Almost Psychic Award - 20 CAPs - For having a closest guess for the score
15 CAPs for Charles
  • "You Wanted to See Me" Award - 5 CAPs - For imprinting his brain with robotic speech
  • Language Assistance Award - 10 CAPs - For translating a Spanish text for me
5 CAPs for Andy Panthro
  • Die Hard Award - 5 CAPs - For reminding me of a similar puzzle in a great movie
5 CAPs for Laertes
  • Grammar Nazi Award - 5 CAPs - For having to suffer bad Spanish
5 CAPs for Laukku
  • Art Critic Award - 5 CAPs - For some expert evaluation of the game art
5 CAPs for TBD
  • Little Reading Award - 5 CAPs - For noting an obvious contradiction

Rankings of 1991 games

1. Conquests of the Longbow - 73 points
2. Space Quest 4 - 65 points
3. Willy Beamish - 61 points
4. Larry 1 Remake - 60 points
5. Space Quest 1 Remake - 58 points
6. Spellcasting 201 - 51 points
7. Martian Memorandum - 50 points
8.-10. Timequest, Larry 5 and Police Quest 3 - 47 points
11. Castle of Dr. Brain - 46 points
12. Maupiti Island - 41 points
13. Les Manley 2 - 31 points
14. Free D.C.! - 30 points
15. Hugo II - 18 points

The Ranking Guess Spreadsheet has also been updated. Charles holds still the first position on Top 5 - category, but Laertes stole his place on Bottom 5. Fry is still the best contestant on Full House, but there are people just few decimals away from him.

8 comments:

  1. LOL, we call that Grammar Taliban in Spain!

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  2. CAP sheet and Leaderboard updated. No significant changes in the latter, but Lupus Yonderboy got significant boost on the overall rankings.

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  3. Nice;). What can i do again with CAPs?

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    Replies
    1. Let's just say that one way to use them will become evident in the next post.

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  4. Interesting! 41 is higher than I expected, but I think your rating proves that the PISSED scale does a good job of accounting for and highlighting both the good and bad portions of a game. You seem to be in the "near masterpiece" camp. Perhaps "masterpiece" is too strong a word, but I get the sense that the flaws obscure what could have been a very well-crafted mystery with a lot of interesting gameplay and design elements. Overly obscure puzzles never help a game's score, though.

    But the real question is: between this and Free D.C., are you ready for a vacation????

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    Replies
    1. Yes, the total score tells in some cases almost nothing by itself, but together with individual ratings for each category it can show the good and the bad in each game. Near masterpiece might be an exaggeration, perhaps more like an almost decent game ruined by some design flaws.

      And yes, I am definitely ready for some vacation!

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  5. Too bad there are no other games like it.

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    Replies
    1. I completely agree with you! Although Maupiti Island had its frustrating parts, it was a unique experience.

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