IFComp 2007: Gathered in Darkness

Next we have a horror story written in Quest. Spoilers follow the break.

Ah, Quest. One of those little-used systems, it’s kind of like Adrift in some ways, only moreso. There have been Quest games entered in the comp before, but never more than one per year. This isn’t saying much, but this is definitely the best Quest game I’ve ever played: what I saw of it is coherent and explorable, and has decent if unremarkable puzzles and a backstory revealed through a good combination of different techniques (flashbacks, journal entires, physical evidence).

In fact, in some respects the game is too ambitious for the Quest system. Lacking a better way to subdivide that journal, the author implemented it as a room containing “entry” objects; reading the journal transports you to that room, and using the “exit” commans sends you back where you came from. The author has taken care to prevent you from dropping the journal in that room or picking up the entry objects, but other items can be dropped there.

It’s likely that I wouldn’t have noticed that oversight if I hadn’t recently seen a similar thing in a different game. But then, when the very first word in the game is misspelled (“Prolog”, and not referring to the programming language), you know it’s not going to be perfect. Elsewhere there’s a “cheese grader”, which strikes me as a wonderful concept. I imagine it as a spectacled man scrutinizing a wedge of brie with a magnifying glass and making notes on a clipboard. What’s especially weird about this spelling is that the game accepts “grater” as a synonym. Clearly the author has seen it spelled right, but prefers his way. One more bit of snarkiness about the prose before I move on, and not about spelling this time: when I read a note found by my bedside early in the game, its content was preceded by the comment “The penmanship is remarkable and the message could not be any clearer.” This made me giggle: I imagine the PC, still alarmed by being awakened in the middle of the night by a mysterious cloaked figure, snatching up the note and exclaiming “My god! What remarkable penmanship!” This would be a very easy game to MiST.

It even has MST-appropriate content. The premise is pure cheese, graded B. You’re trapped in an abandoned island resort by a mad scientist who’s doing something involving genetic engineering, except that he can’t imbue his twisted creations with living souls through science alone, so he’s turned to demonology. It doesn’t feel like deliberate camp — not entirely, anyway. I even caught a whiff of what might be an Agenda in there, when a display in the madman’s museum of his own accomplishments mentions his work on stem cells.

I only got as far as the second of this game’s three chapters, just far enough to start encountering my first twisted abominations (apparently “[b]ased on the genetic traits of a badger, a labrador, and a walrus”), so I don’t know how it all comes out. But then, neither does anyone else at this point. The author is quite clear that this is just part of a larger work, the rest of which will be released after the comp.

Rating: 4

3 Comments so far

  1. malkav11 on 3 Nov 2007

    That sounds like a fearsome creature indeed. A most lethal waddle, and the face-licking? Perilous to even the most hardened psyche.

  2. malkav11 on 9 Nov 2007

    Played most of the way into the third chapter (at least according to the walkthrough). Then I took an action that was obviously a bad idea just to see what would happen. I felt safe in doing so because all the other ways to die I’d so far encountered allowed one to undo after the death message. Whoops. Not this one. And I hadn’t saved in…well, since I started the game back up, actually. I certainly don’t feel like doing all of that again, so…bleh.

    The plot’s cheesy, but yeah, the puzzles are okay and I felt a certain satisfaction in progressing. Unfortunately, the game has a major, crippling flaw in the decision to provide the full room description only once when first entering. Ninety percent of the terse descriptions don’t offer any way to tell what significant nouns might be present in the room to interact with, which would almost certainly make the game impossible to complete from a savegame in which one hadn’t done everything one needed to do in all entered rooms.

  3. paul on 19 Oct 2011

    True cheese grader story: I visited a friend in Wisconsin once and there was a cheese-tasting event going on. We got free cheese samples and there were world cheese experts gathered to grade cheese. Each table had a giant cheese wheel from which the graders took core samples; they then tasted the cheeses and scribbled notes (grades, presumably).

    Each cheese had two graders, often strangely paired. For instance, on one side of one table was an old, well-dressed Japanese man with several assistants who scurried to do his bidding. On the other side of the table was a pot-bellied guy with a Kraft trucker hat.

    We imagined the Kraft guy saying, “This aged brie is fine, I guess; but how would it taste sprinkled over macaroni?”

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