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10 Days of Front Panel Testing (or why I’m Not a Games Reviewer)

10 Days of Front Panel Testing  (or why I’m Not a Games Reviewer)

It can be hard to appreciate how unwelcoming and difficult games reviewing can be. Recently our intrepid writer Lois dipped her toes into dangerous waters…

This was always going to be an arduous process, trying to get somewhere inaccessible like that. It is just how it is. But unlike trying to climb a rapidly downward moving escalator or scale shifting Saharan sands, I didn’t know that this game wasn’t going to be played. So I made a game of trying to play it, and all in all it was fun, and as a non-gamer, quite possibly more fun than if I had played it!

So what happened? Well first of all my dear friend, ever reliable Tom made it clear that there was a game to be reviewed. I accepted the challenge. Well, I more insisted on taking it. No one would have thought that it was for me. Except me.

I excitedly received the links, the use of which would lead me to the game I was to review. This was going to be technical, but I was keen on seeing what I could do. First of all the FTP link alerted me to the fact there were web pages that didn’t start with the letters “H T T P”, so this was already a learning experience. And I was delighted when on using the user name and password to access the page. I felt I had entered a secret web-world.

And so from within this slimy walled, dark and cavernous kingdom of gamers – on a page which, to be honest, was mostly white with four tiny yellow folders – I looked around and I knew that from among these sparse pale golden treasures, I would find the game. After a brief click on the press kit I decided on the setup.exe option. And Score!!! “Downloading in 2hours”. Nice.

Two hours later and download was complete. I had read around this type of game. I’d seen reviews of Point and Click games from the 90’s until today. I’d heard people’s takes on their top ten ever, and I knew that this was going to be hard pressed to match the likes of Siberia II or Full Throttle. But it didn’t have to, it only needed to be played and reviewed. Unfortunately at this point it disappeared. I found it again, an icon nonchalantly sitting on my desktop and clicked. And this time when I clicked for it to start my whole screen flashed blank. Windows (XP SP3, though at the time I didn’t know that) then reappeared vertically on my horizontal 2006 model laptop before the screen again flashed and normality was resumed. Despite this being unsettling, I repeated the attempt to open the game and went through this small ordeal again.

Something was up, and like the detective in the game I was supposed to be playing, I had to find out what. I spoke to a helpful gamer in New York. A man who felt that taking more than four minuets for responding to an online message warranted an apology (i.e. he was always online). I assumed that he did require the occasional use of washrooms, even if I was loathe to admit it. And perhaps that he took his laptop in a waterproof cover into the shower. Making no further comment on his timely response beyond “thank you” I discussed the situation.

Admittedly, I had seen the system requirements in that cavernous portal. It was there as a label on one of those tiny yellow folders. Now I was going to have to read it. Only problem was, and this was the same reason I had not read it earlier: I wouldn’t know if the system on my laptop matched the requirements because I didn’t know my specifications. Time for help source number two. A more local friend talked me through it and I was soon aware that my laptop wasn’t going to play the game because it was short on some RAM, or something.

I thought about other computers which I could use and the same friend offered to download it to their own. They took a thirty minuet train journey and arrived laptop-in-rucksack, only to find that I didn’t know the network key for my wifi and that the person who did was flying planes at a summer aviation course. So we had tea and the next day I went to the laptop owner’s home and using their own internet tried to again reach the Caves of Point and Click.

To summarize, caves didn’t show up and although the help desk at Hoodwink headquarters were able to remedy that, when we finally downloaded the game the only part that worked was a small snippet of the introduction to the futuristic spy-themed story line. Even on this fully system requirement-meeting machine it simply self exited leaving nothing but that small Borsalino – hat wearing icon. Hoodwinked indeed.



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