IFComp 2011: The Ship of Whimsy

Spoilers follow the break.

Another very short one. You’re on a moored ship crewed by fairies and goblins and the like, amusingly including a tengu in the crow’s nest, and you have a couple of simple tasks to perform to get it ready to sail. It’s pretty minimalist, with only two takeable objects and no real interactive dialogue.

The game makes the odd choice of mixing compass directions and nautical ones (port, starboard, etc.), making you use the one aboard and the other adock. I found this surprisingly difficult to deal with; my brain kept getting locked into one mode or the other and forgetting to switch. I suppose that enforcing this distinction was something of a minor technical achievement for the author, but it doesn’t seem like one worth achieving. All the old Infocom games that used nautical directions accepted compass directions as well.

It ends pretty abruptly. I say that the goal of the game is to make the ship ready to sail, but the player really has no warning that that’s all you get to do. And neither does the player character. The PC has apparently been looking forward to being on the Ship of Whimsy for some time — “you might even say your entire life has brought you to the moment you are existing in”, the game tells us — but gets left behind when it takes off. Or at least, that’s how it’s supposed to go. I managed to climb back on board just before it left, but it seems this is only possible due to a bug: you can mount the gangplank by going either east or up, and only east is blocked. Others have complained that the ending was a slap in the face, but watching the ship recede into the distance while standing on its deck blunted this effect for me.

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