IFComp 2011: Cold Iron

So I say I’m going to blog the Comp, and then it takes me a matter of days to write my first post. Let’s rectify that. First up is Cold Iron by Lyman Clive Charles. Spoilers follow the break.

Well, if all the games are this short, I won’t have any trouble finishing them all by month’s end. This is a sketch of a story, quite linear and constrained, with few interactions available beyond the necessary.

There’s some sort of multi-leveled narrative going on here. You start off as a simple farmer in the middle ages looking for an axe that he fears has been stolen by “piskeys”. Under the player’s control, he repeatedly turns to a book of fairy tales for advice. (Yes, it would be unusual for a farmer in the middle ages to be literate. The game acknowledges this.) I thought at first that he was being set up as a fool, but no, his fantasies prove consistently reproducible. Up to a certain point, anyway. The moment you touch cold iron, traditional bane of enchantments, the game switches you without announcement to a different and less enchanted character, someone who’s apparently just trying to imagine the superstitions that a medieval farmer would apply to his situation. The game ends shortly after that switch, apparently satisfied that it has made its point. But I honestly don’t know what point it thinks it was making. Did the farmer in the first part only exist in the other fellow’s imagination? It’s unclear. And a confusingly-written opening paragraph suggests that the author might be in the habit of overestimating the reader’s ability to pick up on what he’s trying to imply.

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