IFComp 2007: A Matter of Importance

Still trying to get caught up in these posts. Next up is a piece by newcomer Nestor I. McNaugh, concerning an arrogant gentleman thief in a modern setting. (It actually took me a while to realize that it wasn’t a fantasy setting, as the first element of the setting you hear about is a Thieves’ Guild.) Spoilers follow the break.

What we basically have here is a nice little absurd-puzzles comedy, although it’s too easy to get stuck, and even has some deliberate guess-the-verb moments. I resorted to the built-in hints twice.

The endnotes comment on the game’s inspiration: apparently it was intended to be organized around the concept of making seemingly-important things into “scenery objects” that the player isn’t allowed to interact with. That is, you’d try to perform an action, be told that the object of that action is something you don’t need to refer to, and try to figure out a way to perform the action without referring to that object. This wasn’t really carried out to a noticable degree, though, and it’s just as well. The main relic of the idea is that there are an awful lot of objects that have lengthy text descriptions ending in a statement to the effect that it’s unimportant and you don’t need to refer to it. This comes off as fourth-wall breaking. Objects are necessarily described from the player character’s POV, so the description is in the PC’s voice (if the PC has a strong voice, anyway, which he does in this case), but it’s merged with the “You don’t need to refer to that”, which is more in the nature of a system message — an observation about the limitations of the world model, made by the game system and addressed to the player without any fictional characters needing to be involved. Come to think of it, system messages of this sort are often put in the PC’s voice, but somehow that doesn’t seem as meta as mixing them with actual game content.

Rating: 4

2 Comments so far

  1. Leslie Viljoen on 30 Oct 2007

    HaHa, maybe it says something about me but I really liked this game. For entertainment value, it’s the best of the IFComp games I have played so far (eight or so).

    Sure the English is a little strange and there are many wrong-word and wrong-word-order problems in the text, but in a strange way they add to the charm of the game, since you could imagine the main character making those mistakes.

    I also used the hints twice, once where I didn’t notice the Cash Register and Desk were different objects, and the other time for the Football puzzle. Nowhere did I think the puzzles were unfair – though maybe I was lucky with my verbs. (The crossing of the road I got almost immediately and then later wondered if I’d just succeeded with a good guess).

    All in all, the best so far!

  2. Merk on 2 Nov 2007

    In the credits, he thanks Jimmy Maher for help in getting it to read write for native English speakers (all things considered, a job well done).

    I crossed the road without hints too, but it took a few minutes. I guess when something *works* — even if you can’t figure out how it could have — it’s a credit to the author.

    I liked this one too, and I’m nearing the end of my list. I hope it makes the top-10 (and I think it will, considering the lower number of entries). It’s a pretty fun game.

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