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IFCOMP 2005 - Hello Sword

Game #27: Hello Sword, by Andrea Rezzonico
Played On: 11/01/2005 (12:10 PM to 1:20 PM and 1:50 PM to 2:10 PM)
Unofficial Score: 3.0 (2.0 base with +1.0 skew)

     First impression – the washed-out white-on-blue pastel display looks great.

     Second impression – It’s very poorly translated. It’s far better than I’d do if I attempted to translate English to Italian, but that doesn’t make it any easier to read. It felt almost as if the author had translated his original text using something akin to the Alta Vista babelfish website (http://babelfish.altavista.com). This doesn’t seem to be the case, as babelfish makes an even worse mess of the translation. Details found in the “info” menu suggest that the author wrote his own translation, as a courtesy to English-speaking players.

     I have to wonder if the game would have fared better without the English translation? Does the competition allow for that? I find nothing to the contrary in the rules. If judges were fair and skipped voting on a game that couldn’t be played at all (it’s in another language, after all), this would leave only the Italian-speaking voters. Perhaps this isn’t a large enough group to qualify the game (if I recall correctly, games have to get five or ten votes to qualify); but if it is, Hello Sword might have ranked higher.

     The translation isn’t bad enough that the game doesn’t make sense, which is fortunate, because this means it can be understood, completed, and even enjoyed to some extent. It seems light-hearted, but humor comes from the quirky grammar rather than witty writing:

You feel a nauseating smell, so you ask to Wallen: «Where is this smell from?»
«Hey, the fault isn't mine!»
You don't answer, letting him to realize that he's without hope.
«In any case... Surelly we are near the swamps... Well.»

     Nothing original there, but the bad translation makes an old joke funnier.

     Although the translation is the most obvious problem with the game, it’s not the only problem. Some of the puzzles – most of them, in fact – just aren’t clued very well. Sometimes, it’s necessary to wait – not just hang out somewhere wasting turns, but actually “wait” to trigger an event. Sometimes, the same task (especially looking at some things) has to be done several times in a row, without enough feedback the first time that something is likely to change (talking to NPCs doesn’t count here, since it’s assumed that the conversation will continue). Unless some alternative phrasings are available, I’d never have figured out how to defeat the guard hiding in the inn. At the beginning, two strange errors (identifying themselves as “BUGs”) are shown as “shopgirl” and “mendicant” dialogue. This was very odd, and it didn’t seem intentional.

     Third impression – it’s a worthy attempt. With the walkthrough, I was able to beat the game. It’s appropriately competition-sized (maybe even a little too short), which means the game covers just the introduction to what seems like a larger epic. The author has given Hello Sword a combat and magic system, but this is useful in only two or three spots. What’s here doesn’t make good use of these extensions, and the story isn’t unique enough to draw attention away from that. It’s all pretty standard: real-world everyman gets unwittingly recruited to be a fantasy-world hero by a magic-wielding wizard. The fantasy setting reminded me a little of the first Wheel of Time book (the only one I’ve read) for some strange reason, although the author’s inspiration is probably Lord of the Rings (this is mentioned near the beginning).

     The Italian version of Hello Sword probably deserves higher than the 2.0 base I’m scoring the English version. The added effort of providing an English translation, though, deserves a bonus point – even though it’s not a very good translation.

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