IFComp 2011: Vestiges

Spoilers follow the break.

You wake up in a crypt, and there’s this talking cat, and, well, look, I don’t even want to bother talking about this game’s plot. The plot is kind of sketchy anyway, but it’s completely overshadowed in the game experience by the bugs, particularly the parser issues.

For example, there’s a locked gate that you have to break open with a magic sword. You can’t do this with the verb “BREAK” or “HIT” or “CUT”. Only “UNLOCK GATE WITH SWORD” is accepted. A player is likely to try a different verb before that, and be told that it doesn’t work, and think that using the sword is the wrong approach. There’s a bunch of things like that in this game, things where the range of accepted commands is just unreasonably narrow.

I think the most flabbergasting example is the business of the keys. You have a red key and a blue key. You’re expected to think of combining them to make a purple key. As far as I can tell, the only hint of this in the game is a mention of some strange grooves in the description of one of the keys (and only one). The only accepted syntax for even trying is “PUT TOGETHER BLUE KEY WITH RED KEY”. Listing the keys in the opposite order does not work. And the walkthrough gets it wrong: it says “put together red and blue keys”.

One more thing I want to complain about: the glint. Glints are one of those IF tropes I’d like to see go away. They’re a way for the author to signal the presence of something important without telling you outright what it is, which is always a little disconcerting, because it means I’m never quite sure how to refer to that object. Usually something along the lines of “EXAMINE GLINT” works, but it’s an uncomfortable moment. Well, guess what? This game puts a glint in the description of a tombstone and doesn’t let you refer to it directly at all. Only after multiple failures did I try “LOOK NEXT TO TOMBSTONE” and get a usable noun. OK, I’m done now.

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