IFComp 2008: The Ngah Angah School of Forbidden Wisdom

A game by Anssi Räisänen written in the Alan adventure language. Spoilers follow the break.

This is a very short but solidly-implemented game, consisting of three tests (the entrance examination for the remote and secretive school of the title), wrapped in a romance frame-story to give the whole pursuit a little emotional oomph. Each test takes place in a single room with only a handful of referenceable objects (most of which are scenery), so getting through the challenges is fairly easy. One challenge requires some difficult judgement calls about which glyph in an enclosed image file most resembles a fish-spear and which most resembles a weed, but that can be narrowed down through process of elimination.

I did get stuck for a while, though, when I entered the second test chamber and received no indication of what I was supposed to do. The solution to this problem was to download a more recent version of the Alan interpreter. It’s been some time since I played an Alan game — there were none in last year’s Comp. Alan is one of those adventure systems that’s not used very much, like Hugo and Quest. I don’t really know its virtues as a language, except that, unlike Quest, it doesn’t result in a notably bad user experience. Since it’s still being developed (as indicated by the incompatibility of new games with old interpreters), it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s basically just as capable as the more popular TADS and Inform. Nonetheless, the mere fact that it isn’t used very much makes it less useful as a system, because it means that it doesn’t have a large body of existing code, modules and libraries created for it, or people sharing techniques and advice. Perhaps as a consequence, pretty much every Alan game I’ve ever played feels like the little demo games people write as tests of either the system’s capabilities or the author’s. This one is no exception.

Raing: 4

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