Swiss Family Robinson is a computer game based on the 1812 novel by Johann David Wyss. Players take the role of Fritz, the eldest brother of a Swiss family that has been shipwrecked in the oceans of the East Indies en route to Port Jackson, Australia.
As the game begins, it is your goal to find a way off of the ship, onto the deserted island, and build a shelter to survive. Numerous challenges await Fritz as he has to defend against tropical storms, hostile animals, and the mischievous antics of his youngest brother Francis, which can sometimes hinder the player's progress.
Swiss Family Robinson is a classic-style text adventure game, using basic word commands and phrases to talk to your family, take action, or accomplish goals. As with most games of the the time, you have to explore the details of the scenery in order to find clues and items that will aid your survival.
There are some "help" features in the game to give a player additional info. such as a "Help" key, a mapping/navigation system, and an actual "Guide to Nature" book that contains detailed information on island flora and fauna, as well as basic survival skills.
A fun adventure based on a popular children's tale about a shipwrecked family, Swiss Family Robinson was designed for young adventurers, ages 7 to 12. As such, it is a commendable attempt that is unfortunately marred by a poorly designed and picky parser that will frustrate all but the most patient players.
The game follows the novel's storyline very closely: you are Fritz, the most resourceful of the Robinson family, and your job is to first get everyone safely ashore from the shipwreck, then survive the various dangers on the island. You perform actions via a standard verb-noun parser, although the novelty here is that the game will try to guess what word you are trying to type, then complete it for you if you just type a few letters and press SPACEBAR. It will also automatically fill in prepositions for commonly used nouns, e.g. ABOUT when you type TELL. Although this is very helpful for budding adventurers the game was designed for, this feature is implemented to the hilarious extreme, since the game will try to complete the word even when you've typed only *one* letter :) The parser also suffers a bad case of "guess the verb" syndrome, where you know what you want to say but the game will not understand anything except the precise sentence the designer had in mind. You must, for example, TELL characters ABOUT actions you want them to perform, but cannot ASK them to do it (the verb ASK isn't understood at all); GO BELOW is understood, but DOWN isn't. This precision makes gameplay needlessly frustrating, and will likely discourage young gamers -- even experienced IF players will probably get stuck a few times.
Despite parser blues, the game does have several fun features that help alleviate the problem. Every object or person you can interact with is represented as an icon on the screen, so you won't have to guess which word in the room description is interactive. You can also interact with any one of your family members, although they don't usually know much, and will respond to most TELL ABOUT... sentences with "Fritz, that's good to know." Franz, your youngest brother, is the only family member whose help you need to complete the game. The game also includes a great on-line nature guide that you will often refer to for hints to solving nature-related puzzles.
Speaking of puzzles, most of them are a lot of fun despite the pickiness of parser I spoke about earlier. They mostly involve real-life improvisation that fans of MacGuyver will enjoy, such as building a makeshift raft, finding a way to crack a coconut, and so on. Because some of these puzzles are from the novel, anyone who has read the story will find them a bit too predictable. Overall, Swiss Family Robinson is recommended for fans of the book and anyone who likes real-life puzzles. The game's quirky parser makes it too hard for the age group it was designed for, so parents should play along with their children to minimize frustration. Highly recommended, with some reservations.
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