The Scoundrel in Review: Nostalgia Isn’t Always Great

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I remember when a PC monitor only displayed 16 colors, and the Mac was an odd rectangular device with a black and white screen. I dare say these are even fond memories, because for me many of these experiences were technical revolutions, and not just footnotes in the history of where we are today. As such I’ve been a big fan of the retro movement, as developers and publishers try to give us a glimpse into the past of computer and console gaming. Sometimes it works, but then there are those instances where it feels like maybe a particular game or era should have been left to bask in the glow of our rose colored glasses. Unfortunately for me, I think The Scoundrel falls under the latter category.

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The premise is simple – explore a manor and find the killer before they find you. The problem is that so far the only thing I’ve encountered is a bunch of empty rooms. I did get killed once, but that was a cheap shot from behind so I’m not really sure what happened, other than the fact that the game informed me I was dead. This was the only time I’ve heard any voices in the game as well, but at least I know the sound actually works; more on that later.

In traditional first generation graphical adventure game fashion, the upper portion of the screen is filled with a visual of the room that you currently occupy, or at least in one case with the contents of an object that you can actually look in. Right underneath that is a “description” of the room, though I use that term loosely because it simply provides a title for the room (ex: “the count’s and countess’ bedroom” or “the hall”). Now given that you have a graphic for each room you would think that would be enough, but often it’s hard to tell what objects you can actually interact with or if something is in the image just for the sake of decoration.

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At the bottom of the screen is a prompt where you can enter the command you’d like to execute. I teeter back and forth between “this really isn’t that bad on my phone” and “this kind of interface only belongs on a computer”, but as long as you’re half way decent with your phone’s keyboard you should get through it okay. On phones that support it you can also speak to fill in the prompt. What really gets to be an issue, however, is not using the prompt but what you actually put into the prompt. This game came out during the era of Infocom, so I know they had some pretty sophisticated text parsers back then, yet the most frequent response I see in this game is “I do not understand”. This even comes from trying to perform simple actions like looking at the various objects that are pictured in the room.

Trying to follow the examples in the help file proved to be fruitless as well. It explains that you have up to 100 characters to describe what you want to do, and as an example it shows several ornate ways to enter the mansion. However, even when I type in the simple phrase “enter mansion” the game returns “to enter type N”. If the game already knows what you want to do, why not just do it? Overall I was extremely underwhelmed with the parser, and I felt like I was spinning my wheels exploring each room because so many of my inquires were meet with the generic “I do not understand” response. I also found it odd that even though there were supposed to be people for me to question, I never ran across anyone except for the time that I apparently got ambushed from behind.

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You can actually save your game, but do keep in mind that saving is a manual process, and the game will never remind you that your progress has not been saved when you quit. It does appear that you can have multiple save games at the same time, though the description of each game is only a date and time stamp, which is not very useful. There are also a few options, mostly related to setting various background and text colors. You can toggle the sound on and off, but the only sound seems to be when you encounter someone, and as I mentioned earlier that happens rarely from my experience.

The graphics are cool mainly in the fact that they bring back a sense of nostalgia. As I’ve mentioned before it’s not always easy to tell what everything is, so trying to examine your surroundings can be a chore. While I would not want to see the graphics go away, it would be really helpful if you could enter something basic like “look” without any object and have the game give you a quick text description of the room. As for sound, there basically is none, other than apparently when the game wants to notify you that you’ve died. There is no background music nor are there any sort of ambient sound effects. I get that this is an early Mac game, but even most of my old Apple IIc games were more sophisticated than this.

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This is one of those times when I wish I could skip the closing remarks, but my review wouldn’t feel complete without them. I really wanted to enjoy this game, and there are other adventure games from this era that have been ported to mobile platforms that did satisfy my appetite for nostalgia. Unfortunately, The Scoundrel never left me with the desire to go back for more after I’d close it out and move on to something else. A sub-par text parser, seemingly little to actually do, and several crashes really turned me off. If you’re a fan of the original game you might get a kick out of this trip down memory lane, but I’m not really sure who else this would be suited for.

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App Summary
Title: The Scoundrel Developer: Durant pierre
Reviewed Ver: 1.7.2 Min OS Req:  Android OS 6.0
Price: $2.49 App Size: 26MB
  • The graphics were nifty in a retro sort of way
  • Poor text parser
  • Interface wasn’t very friendly
  • Hard to figure out what to do
  • No music, little sound
  • Crashed several times

Get it on Google Play