IFComp 2020: Stuff of Legend

Here we have the tale of a village idiot attempting a career change: a conversation with an eight-year-old child convinces him that he should become a knight, so he dons improvised armor like Don Quixote and asks everyone around the farm he’s staying at to give him quests. It’s a short game that blends story with puzzle well, and while it gets most of its humor from asking us to laugh at the protagonist’s foolishness, it’s fairly gentle about it, and keeps him sympathetic. He does succeed in his little quests in the end, even if the quests are all about fixing things that were his fault to begin with.

The thing is, he’s a very clever sort of idiot. Almost too clever for me — some of the puzzles want very exact and unlikely solutions that no one but him would think of unaided, but the game persistently nudges you towards them. There are entire puzzles composed entirely of nudges, where you have to pick up on the pattern of how the livestock reacts to your actions. Indeed, in the end, it’s this rapport with animals that inspires his next career move.

So it’s all very broad comedy, including a light sprinkling of bad puns some moments of slapstick, which land pretty well — I’m starting to think the key to physical comedy in text games is to keep it snappy, to not dwell on it, and to keep the focus on narrative, on the causes and consequences of falling out of a tree rather than the mere fact of the fall. Although it’s not exactly a fantasy, there’s one major source of fantastical elements: the farmer is also an inventor, whose inventions venture into mad-science territory — which, again, fits into the broad comedy.

It’s interesting how it deals with player knowledge vs character knowledge. The player knows things that are beyond an idiot’s grasp, and the game eagerly points this out to emphasize his idiocy. But it keeps it at a very superficial level. When it comes to puzzle content, he knows no less than you. If anything, making him an idiot mainly serves to excuse the player’s confused fumblings.

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