A Monster’s Expedition: A Final Kindness

I’ve found myself devoting more time to A Monster’s Expedition. Not as much as Steam thinks I have, mind you. This is a game without urgency, and that seems to make me willing to alt-tab out and leave it running in the background while I check my email, or watch a movie, or take a nap. But also, I’m still finding passages to new islands frequently enough to make mere wandering around appealing.

One big way the game encourages this behavior: After you’ve won, it inverts its cloud policy. At the start of the game, there’s cloud cover obscuring your view of the world everywhere except for the islands you’ve visited and the sea lanes you’ve passed, and a little margin around that. Sometimes, if an island is close enough, you can barely glimpse its edges through the mist. Sometimes they’re completely obscured until you find them. But after you’ve won the game, the rule changes from “Clouds everywhere, except known islands” to “Clouds only over unknown islands”. The map is now mostly clear, except in spots that, because of the clouds, you know must have islands in them. This gives the game a certain Pac-Man-like appeal as you try to clear the board of every last crumb of cloud, but it also provides guidance. If I think I might be able to build and launch a raft in some spot, I can trace where it would go and decide if it’s going to hit anything of interest or not before I spend time trying.

I’m at the point where most of the remaining puzzles are probably the larger sort, involving multiple islands together. I haven’t been keeping good track of this, but I’m pretty sure that some of the puzzles I’ve solved have required time travel, in the sense of solving an island one way, then resetting it and solving it another way that uses a log or raft or even just an alternate entrance that you used the first solution to obtain. Checking puzzle dependencies on a thing of this size must have been a large undertaking. But the clouds make it all seem just a little bit more approachable.

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