IFComp 2016: Slicker City

Spoilers follow the break.

This is this year’s entry by Andrew Schultz, who I know mainly as the author of Shuffling Around and Threediopolis, both highly-focused works based around specific kinds of word puzzles. He seems to have gotten away from that pattern a little. That is, Slicker City is still tightly focused on a single form of wordplay — this time, it’s reversals of familiar phrases, like “Protection Cavity” and “Town Ghost” and “Artist Con”. But unlike earlier Schultz, you’re not primarily solving wordplay puzzles, you’re just solving adventure-game puzzles in a setting made of wordplay. I find the effect is that I don’t really pay much attention to the reversals unless I specifically remind myself to notice them. In fact, now that I look at the walkthrough, I realize that there were a few puzzles where the solution was to use a command that’s a reversed phrase and I didn’t even notice. I just thought the game was being weirdly picky about what commands it would accept.

But if the gimmick didn’t have much of a direct impact on me, it certainly affected the author. Use wordplay as your writing prompts, and the inevitable effect seems to be a wacky and random work, set in a dreamworld where any outlandish thing can happen without a lot of justification as long as it’s described the right way.

It’s a fairly short piece even for the Comp, but has some replayability due to multiple paths through the midsection, and I’m quite impressed with the endnotes. In addition to the traditional “amusing things to try”, it offers to explain all the reversals (or just the room names, or just the ones you didn’t see), gives you some special commands to skip through the earlier parts, and a few other things. Very thorough.

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