IFComp 2007: Ghost of the Fireflies

So, now that the rules of the Interactive Fiction Competition allow blogging about comp games during the judging period, let’s get started. Choosing my first game at random, I got Ghost of the Fireflies by Paul Allen Panks. This did not bode well. Spoilers follow the break.

I should state right off that knowing the author is Panks prejudices me against the game. This is a person with a long history of writing BASIC text adventures with meagre world models, pointless and badly-written descriptions, randomized combat that the player can’t actually affect at all, bugs that he tries to excuse as jokes, and honest attempts at jokes made with a sense of humor as inscrutable as a six-year-old’s. I don’t even want to be too catty about him here — he’s taken plenty of abuse from the IF community over the years, and there’s some evidence that he’s mentally ill and not fully responsible for his design decisions.

Still, I felt honor-bound to give this game a chance. So in I dove: overlong instructions, overlong intro, some commands result in inappropriate error messages (any unknown verb produces “You are not in the enchanted forest (Oibara Inn)!”), there’s a magic system in there, that’s new for him, didn’t really understand how to use it from the overlong instructions but maybe it’ll make more sense in context. Or maybe not. Playing the game, I wandered around picking up loose objects and trying to ignore his prose for a while. I wound up at a waterfall that allegedly had some kind of “lily pad puzzle”, but couldn’t figure out how to interact with it at all; supposedly I was supposed to touch some pads of different colors in a specific order, but the colors weren’t mentioned, and commands like “touch blue pad” produced no output whatever. 1 Trying it again while researching this blog post, I found that I was supposed to type “touch pads”, at which point it would offer me a menu of colors. Should have known better than to think there would be more than a two-word parser.

Then I took inventory and was told that I was carrying:

A Large Ice Dragon, breathing fire paradoxically (dragon)
A Large Ice Dragon, breathing fire paradoxically (dragon)
A Large Ice Dragon, breathing fire paradoxically (dragon)

Well, I said I’d give it a chance. By my lights, it just used up that chance. This is a serious bug that anyone playing the game would notice. So, clearly, the author never played his own game. And if he can’t be bothered to play it, neither can I.

Rating: 1

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1. Trying it again while researching this blog post, I found that I was supposed to type “touch pads”, at which point it would offer me a menu of colors. Should have known better than to think there would be more than a two-word parser.

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