Review by JIrish

Reviewed: 04/24/03 | Updated: 04/24/03

Amusement comes in many shapes…

Gamers have seen some strange things. From an orange nose with feet jumping around on a pyramid to sheep dancing to disco music, video games are truly a theatre of the bizarre. And yet nothing could quite prepare me for the only game I’ve ever seen that is truly non-interactive.

Progress Quest. There probably aren’t very many games quite like this one. Apparently spawned by the years of role playing game clichés, starting with Dungeons and Dragons and going all the way up to Diablo II, Progress Quest has you create a character, which can be anything from a Half-Human Toungeblade to a Crested Dwarf Voodoo Princess to even a Double-Wookie Puma Burglar. I swear I’m not making this up, and that goes for everything else that I’m about to say in this review, too. There are races even I would have never imagined, including Enchanted Motorcycles and Demicanadians, and that’s not even the beginning of the bent humor in this “game.” You roll up your player statistics, which are the classic Advanced Dungeons and Dragons six: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. Once you have stats that suit your desires, and have entered a name (the default is Grumdrig), you begin the game!

Or not…

The “game” is really one big spreadsheet. The top-left corner is your character’s name, level, class and race. Under that are all the stats, namely the six you rolled earlier, as well as maximum hit points and maximum magic points. Right under that is your experience, measured by a bar, but you’ll get a number for how much you need for the next level, and how much you have towards that number by rolling your cursor under it. Under that is your spell book, empty at first but it soon fills with weird spells like Hastiness, Slime Finger and Grogner’s Big Day Off. To the direct right on the top is your equipment list, which usually starts with a sharp stick, but soon fills up with oddness like –3 Motheaten Ring Mail Greaves and +4 Festooned Polished Pleather Brassairts. Right under that is your inventory of gold and trophies you get for killing creatures and achieving some quests. You can carry as many items as you have encumbrance, which is your Strength plus 10, and is measured in a bar underneath the inventory. When your inventory is filled, you go back to town to sell the loot, and it’s value is exactly that of your current character level, except for special items which multiply that number an apparently random value.

Moving right along, on the top right is the Plot Development, which is measured by time spent “playing” the game. You can see how much time is left to finish the act you’re in by rolling the mouse over the bar. Under that is the quest log, which records exploits such as fetching bunnies, exterminating beholders, placating girl scouts and what not. The progress of the current quest is measured by the same type of bar as experience and the like, and the numbers are seen the same way. Underneath all this is one line of text telling you what is happening at that very moment in the story, and bar showing you how long that’s taking to happen.

After having described all this, your head must be swimming. All these numbers and words, what about the gameplay? Well, that’s just it, there is NO gameplay! This game sits on your desktop, running your character through all manner of tasks and combat situations, including baby Beer Golems and imaginary Apes, and you have absolutely no control over what happens. It just… happens. This is less a game than it is an exercise in watching a game in progress. This is all determined, like many things in games like this, by mathematical equations and variables in the code that I could never for the life of me figure out even if the answers were right in front of me.

The challenge in this game really isn’t. The graphics are just a spreadsheet of text and blue bars. There is no sound whatsoever. This is not a game we can judge by the usual standards, folks. A lot of people wouldn’t even call it a game in the first place!

So how can a product like this be judged? By it’s fanbase, for one thing, and Progress Quest has quite a devoted fanbase going for it. This is a freeware product, you just download it and let the sucker do its thing. And it’s a thing a lot of people like, as there are all manner of communities, fan pages and even strategy guides that detail such things as what modifiers like “Holey” and “Stabbity” mean for your equipment. And this “game” is one that can be played on-line, complete with player rankings based on character level and other variables. Apparently, there are a lot of people who really do get the joke that the developers are making with Progress Quest.

And that’s probably the most that can be said about this piece of software. You either get the joke, or you don’t. If you’re even reading this review, you probably have a computer that will run it, so download it and see if you’re amused by it or not. If you’re not amused, you’ll probably have only lost an hour or so. If you are, well, welcome to the club.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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