I would initially say that this game is made to torture people who refuse to quit. I tried the first couple of times on my own, and got to about 89 points. I ended up looking at six different guides and following three pretty closely several times. Needless to say, I was quite happy when I finally managed to combine two decent guides with some ingenuity and knowledge gained through a great deal of trial and error and actually got 350/350 points.
Firstly, I’ve never played text adventure games before. I played D&D for the first time last semester, and thought it was fun. But that might be more due to the fact that I had a great group of fellow players who were more open to cracking jokes and stacking dice than actually playing seriously and intensely, as well as a DM who was very open to even the craziest suggestions, and rules that were greatly toned down from anything “hard-core” D&D players might use. I didn’t much know what to expect with this besides “oh, it’s text-based, it’s probably easy”. I was wrong.
I admire a number of the cutesy bits put into the game. There aren’t many games where you can say that you beat a dragon with your bare hands. That I have to take my hat off to. I also admire the many avenues of exploration and the opportunity for secrets collection (reminiscent of games like “Tomb Raider” and “Super Mario Bros). Also, the tame bear was quite cute. Also, telling the user that “violence isn’t the answer” and that violence is also “futile” are very amusing to see. The many different ways of moving around and doing things are also quite neat, especially for something as “early” as this was.
I can also find parallels to more complicated, visual games like “World of Warcraft”, where drops for certain things are random and rely mainly on luck. Perhaps my biggest problem was the “luck” factor. While I played, I considered myself lucky to not be attacked by a little dwarf for seven steps or not have to restart from my last save because all my stuff got pirated when I was trying to get somewhere. Games like WoW possess this factor as well: drops for certain things, especially vanity items, are random and drop rates for the best things are often incredibly low, whereas in CCA, getting attacked is relatively high. When I compare CCA to visual games, I mean to say that someone else (like me) who isn’t used to text-adventure games needn’t fear: we can connect, too!
Another parallel to be drawn is to games like “Tomb Raider” (or really anything that involves some sort of dungeon and lacks an in-game map), where your best bet is to draw a map or seven while playing, to figure out where things are. I admire the way “Colossal Cave Adventure” is actually like a real cave and doesn’t simply go forward or back (or N/E/S/W, depending on where you are). My Dad is a GREAT person to ask for in-game map creation, especially when the makers of “Tomb Raider” just LOVE their underwater tunnel systems.
There are also parallels to draw to games like “Super Mario Bros.” or “Sonic the Hedgehog”, or really any game that involves saving. I actually really like the save/restore tool. It came in very handy, in comparison to games like Super Mario or “Oni” where you don’t get the option to save or have to reach checkpoints. I’ve always wondered on the preference for one or the other: a game that saves automatically at specific checkpoints level changes versus a game that lets the player save when they want. On the one hand, if you can’t choose yourself, you risk restarting over and over and over again and accumulating hours and hours of frustration as you go over parts you may know perfectly in order to get to those you don’t, etc. On the other, you risk not saving at the right times and still having that frustration as you start from way, way, WAY back.
The game might be trying to teach you to think on your toes. Certainly, games that do not change or have strategies that don’t change (unless glitches occur) are “relatively” easy to beat once you learn those strategies, or have access to the no-doubt plethora of guides available to you on them. If you play the game often enough, you’ll find that even unexpected bits like the little dwarf appearing every other step and harassing you or the pirate randomly stealing your treasures while trying to move somewhere can be easily beatable because you figure out patterns. Or you just save every time you collect something.
My second difficulty (well, besides connecting the dots “oh, I have keys, MAYBE they unlock the grate”) was finding the right vocabulary to use. I liked the variability and the ease, since you didn’t have to type out “run south” or “walk south” or “go south” or even “south”. You could just type in simple things like “n, e, s, w” and even “u, d” for “up” and “down” (here’s to laziness!). I have to wonder if there was a way to insert commas, since I tried a couple of times. I wish there had been a way to pick up the axe AND throw it at the little dwarf in one move, instead of risking death twice to throw and miss, and then pick it up. It also would have been nice to deposit everything you wanted to at the same time instead of “drop jewelry”, “drop rug”, etc. This was mainly annoying because the list filled the screen, and I had to pull my inventory back up to make sure I dropped everything on me (twice I forgot to drop something and had to go back and forth to take care of it, using up precious lamp oil).
An interesting adventure with a great deal of frustration (as most games, and even books, have). Text-based games (if they’re all somewhat close to this) clearly require a lot (or just a little, maybe, depending on who you are; I think I sit at the “a lot” end of the spectrum) of imagination and allow for more variability than I initially thought. If you get to the endgame… well, it’s worth it.