IFComp 2008: Magic

A game by Geoff Fortytwo. (Amazingly, that’s not a pseudonym. He legally changed his name to Fortytwo ten years ago.) Spoilers follow the break.

In this one, you’re a down-on-your-luck stage magician who seems to wind up battling a rabbit rebellion in a small urban area where rabbits are unaccountably revered. It’s got a very adventure-gamey feel to it, all broad strokes and minimal geography and implausible set-ups, sprinkled with Monty Python references. This may sound like a condemnation, but honestly it’s not. To complain about lack of realism here would be like complaining that the coyote really shouldn’t be able to survive the fall from that cliff.

The main conceit of the game seems to be the one piece of genuine magic you obtain early on: a spell that lets you transform things into other things that are (a) comparable to them in some way and (b) have some kind of representative nearby. What exactly this means varies with the situation, and is determined entirely by the needs of the puzzles. To take an extreme case, a rickety drainpipe can be compared to a bean to turn it into a climbable beanstalk. (It’s better-clued than I’m making it sound. This is one of the puzzles I solved without consulting the hints.)

This whole mechanic invites comparison to the “linking” magic in Emily Short’s Savoir-Faire, which is also dependent on finding exploitable similarities between objects. And that’s kind of unfortunate for this game, because it’s going to come out worse in such a comparison. Where Savoir-Faire took pains to put its magic into a framework of general properties, allowing the player to link any two objects were reasonably linkable, Magic seems to only handle those pairings that are necessary for the game’s puzzles. I wasn’t even able to compare the king of spades from a deck of cards to the king of clubs from the same deck — too similar, perhaps? I suppose that makes a kind of sense: unlike in Savoir-Faire, the most important resemblances here seem to be metaphorical ones rather than physical ones.

I didn’t finish this game during the judging period. There came a point when I was consulting the hint menu too much to get the most out of the game, and that seemed like a good point to stop trying to rush through things and leave the rest for later. But at least the things I was seeing in the hints didn’t make me think that the game couldn’t be figured out — most often, it turned out that I was more or less on the right track and just missing a crucial detail.

Rating: 6

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