IFComp 2008: Trein

Spoilers follow the break.

The king’s spy! That’s you, skulking around deserted battlements by moonlight, garbed in black. It’s a good role to play. You’re investigating disappearances in a vassal’s domain, disappearances associated with the Festival of the Dead. The author plays a nice game with that, keeping it vague whether this is ultimately going to be a ghost story or not, but ultimately it turns out to all be the actions of a thuggish chamberlain, who you have to collect evidence against.

The evidence is easy to identify: at the end of a room description, it says “You see a Chamberlain’s door and an Evidence here.” This is almost too easy to make fun of. (I was sent to find evidence, and there it was. I knew the moment I looked at it: that there, I said to myself, is an evidence, alright.) Actually, the weirder part of that is that it explicitly mentions the door in the room’s object list. In most games, furnishings of that sort would be scenery objects, but I can only assume that this author doesn’t know how to do that in Inform, because all referenceable objects wind up listed in a lump like this, even if they’re already mentioned in the room description. And, while there are no major problems with gameplay, there are lots of little omissions. There’s an unlit torch that, when you try to light it, gives the default “This dangerous act would achieve little”. There’s an empty torch bracket that you can’t put the torch in — ultimately you have to put it on the bracket instead. Ideally, the game should accept both commands, and others besides.

This may seem like small stuff, but it winds up affecting how I plays the game, because it means I can’t fully trust the responses to my commands. In two places, there are tapestries listed in the room’s contents. Like any experienced adventurer, my first thought is to check behind them for secret passages — this is the perfect setting for secret passages, after all. But even when I find nothing, I’m left wondering if there actually wasn’t one, or if I just used the wrong phrasing.

I’d really encourage the author to learn how to better take advantage of Inform (or some other language if preferred), because there’s some good ambience here, and the overall design isn’t bad.

Rating: 4

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