IFComp 2011: Playing Games

Spoilers follow the break.

This one’s a puzzle piece. I described another game this Comp as likely to  polarize opinion simply on the basis that a lot of people would think it didn’t qualify as IF. That’s even more true here. Most of the interaction with this game consists of manipulating a series of three simple puzzles in wooden frames, and furthermore, they’re all basically the same puzzle at different levels of difficulty. They’re all about pushing a stone around in a grid maze with invisible walls. The overall shape of the maze, and the stone’s position in it, are displayed as an ASCII-art diagram after each move. As such, you’re not even really interacting with text most of the time. So this is really mainly a graphical puzzle game with a bit of IF wrapped around it.

The frame-tale makes this out to be a sort of initiatory ordeal for an exclusive puzzle society, which is certainly a good premise if you like puzzles. A twist at the end reveals that you were never supposed to be able to finish it, that the hooded figure who shows up at the beginning and hands you a crucial piece wasn’t part of the test. So it starts with puzzles and ends in mystery. I could really like this story, if there were more to do in it.

One possible point of special interest: the implementation of those mazes. Although they’re described as existing in a frame in front of you, you can manipulate them with the N/S/E/W commands normally used for travel. A conditional override on what the command does? Or is it actually moving the player around in something that looks like one room but is really many? The latter approach seems extravagant, but it’s possible that the most straightforward way to implement a maze like these in Inform is to make it out of rooms, or something like rooms. Implementing this game would be an interesting puzzle — probably more interesting than the puzzles that result from it.

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