IFComp 2011: Return to Camelot

Spoilers follow the break.

And it’s another private detective in novel circumstances! Seriously, if this hasn’t been established as a distinct sub-genre already, this Comp alone provides enough instances to do the job.

The novel circumstances this time around: a minion of Merlin transports you back in time to the court of King Arthur. There are numerous mentions of your previous visit, so I’m assuming that this game is a sequel to another one that I haven’t played. Your job this time around is to protect Guinevere from kidnappers, although you do a miserable job of it and presumably have to rescue her afterward. Why Launcelot isn’t on the job, I don’t know. Rescuing Guinevere from kidnappers was pretty much his thing back in Chretien de Troyes’ day.

Apart from the opening in your office, the entire game, or as much as I saw of it, takes place on the grounds of Arthur’s castle. There’s some nice magic that works by discoverable rules, and a couple of secret passages, although one of them is confusingly mentioned in a room description before you find it. This may be a symptom of a general problem with things that should be displayed conditionally ignoring their conditions; I noticed a number of things mentioned multiple times in room descriptions as well.

I wish I could report on just how the whole gumshoe-in-Camelot idea is developed here, but I didn’t really get very far. I found it very hard to even get started on this due to guess-the-conversation-topic problems. When you initially arrive in Merlin’s tower, you’re locked in with no ability to exit until you ask Merlin about “JOB”, and while there is a nudge in that direction in the voluminous output text, it wasn’t nearly strong enough for me. I got past that by means of a walkthrough, only to find similar problems later on. Talking to people about the right keywords is the game’s main challenge, it seems, and it’s not a challenge I much enjoy.

Incedentally, this is the first game I’ve played in Adrift 5. I don’t know what kind of improvements it has over Adrift 4 for authors, but the one big change I see on the player side is that the automap is now 3D, and can be rotated freely by clicking and dragging.

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