Monday, March 3, 2008


I remember playing Boulderdash on my old XT in CGA. Epiphany is supposed to be a clone of Boulderdash but... well, it's a bit broken and inconsistent. I had a devil of a time beating level one, due to some issues discussed below. Read on!

The concept is simple: run into squares on the field of play to 'eat' them (i.e. make them disappear) if possible, or push them if they're inedible. Or, alternately, if they're part of the level's structure, they're neither edible nor movable. If something falls on you, it kills you, so you have to dig in such a way as to gain access to all the edible gemstones without having anything fall on you. The level is over when you consume the requisite number of gems, and make your way to the exit.

The first level seems to randomly load in one of two ways: the less common way is depicted above. See all those red dots? If you make a rock fall on one of them, they all blow up, which opens the path to the exit. That way, the level is solvable. It started loading like that after a good dozen tries the other way it loads: without the bombs, and without the brick wall which needs to be blown up and without the right number of gems. I would run through it, pick up all the gems, and just wander around waiting for time to run out, so I could die and start again.

I was about to quit, and call the game completely and utterly unplayable, when it inexplicably started loading that level the right way, and I was able to solve it. I have no idea what caused it to start loading properly, and no idea why it still sometimes doesn't load that level properly. Given that there's a good chance, as far as I know, that any given level will load in an unsolvable state, the game is still unplayable as far as I'm concerned, but more forgiving and patient folks who just have to play a Boulderdash clone may derive some amusement.

Of course, even without that problem, there's still the issue of controls. The game requires precision, and the controls don't allow it. Epiphany seems to suffer from a problem reminiscent of Gnometris: it sort of keeps a record of repeated keystrokes when you hold down a movement button, but does it in a flawed way which will randomly leave you stopping short or going to far. Sure, it adds to the challenge factor, but in an arbitrary way that leaves the player wondering why he's bothering. If games don't play fair, they're no fun to play.

Fix that, and whatever wonky issues it has with loading levels properly, consistently, and you've still got an ugly game with crappy sound, but by today's standards, the original was an ugly game with crappy sound. The core mechanics are challenging and fun, and they do bring back memories, so the graphics aren't that big an issue. But if it's going to be ugly, it should at least work, and if it's going to play crappy, it should at least be pretty. Don't bother with this one until the kinks are worked out.

NOTE: The version the Ubuntu packages install is 0.5.0 - there are four newer versions available on SourceForge, so some of these issues may have been fixed. This blog reviews games as available via the packages, not as available to compile - if I did every game available for free on the internet, it would be infinite. This is the second time I've encountered this issue, though, and while this is not as bad as the first one (the newer version of that had been out for a year or two), this is still kinda crappy. It's been 4 months since the most recent version was uploaded.

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