IFComp 2011: Ted Paladin and the Case of the Abandoned House

Spoilers follow the break.

This is this year’s sole entry written in Alan, one of the usual minority IF languages. Alan has its enthusiasts, and is apparently still being actively developed, but nonetheless, it’s forgotten enough by the largely-Inform-centric community that it seems kind of appropriate for the Alan folder this year to be empty aside from “abandoned.a3c”. And in fact this sets an appropriately meta tone for the piece to come. Despite what you might be expecting from the title, Ted Paladin is not yet another private eye, but rather he’s an adventure gamer, called in because of his vast experience in exploring abandoned houses.

It’s basically a riddle-game. The house contains three important rooms, each containing a puzzle that uses the medium of IF in a novel way. First there’s a room whose description is missing, and has to be filled in, sentence by sentence, by examining objects that you know to be present, either a priori or from seeing them mentioned explicitly in response to your commands. Across the hall from this is a room containing several objects described only in something approximating cryptic crossword clues until you call them out. Downstairs, there’s a room that’s actually two rooms you exist in simultaneously, your commands going to both, provided they’re valid in both contexts.

That last idea is one that I think has occurred to a lot of people — certainly it’s something I’ve contemplated writing, although I never put in the effort to working out how to do it properly. As such, having imagined the potential of such a trick, I find its use here disappointing: there’s really only one action you have to take in both rooms, and the restriction works only one way, preventing actions that only work in the living room from affecting the kitchen but not vice versa.

The game invites comparison to both Ad Verbum and Infocom’s Nord and Bert, and comes out the loser in both cases. It’s just not as substantial, and I encountered a couple of pretty disconcerting bugs for a work of its size. But I do dearly love this sort of blatantly unreal riddle-world, and the few tricks on display here are pretty good ones.

No Comments

Leave a reply