IFComp 2020: Ferryman’s Gate

A venerable IF premise: The freak inheritance where you have to search a deceased great-uncle’s house solving his puzzles, subtype: the deceased had secret magics at his command. But this this time it’s combined with another genre: Edutainment. Old uncle Ferryman was obsessed with proper comma usage, ascribing even mystical significance to it, and most of his trials quiz you on it in one way or another. At one point, you have to insert a comma-shaped key into one of several keyholes at different points in a sentence in a wall. At another, you navigate a maze of caves, guided by which sentences are correctly punctuated. That sort of thing. It’s one of those subjects that isn’t really amenable to practical demonstration, so all that the adventure game format can really do with it is dress up the quizzes in different ways.

Oh, there’s a treasure-hunt aspect too. You need to find a collection of metal plates hidden throughout the grounds, bearing ominous lines of poetry. But once you have them all, the most important thing about them is which ones have commas in the right places. And I emphasize that it really is just about comma placement, not about punctuation in general. As educational games go, it’s very, very focused.

Also, pretty elementary. The quiz component is pitched at a middle-school level, and the protagonist is appropriately aged — you were brought to the mansion by your family, who are available for conversation but don’t have a whole lot to say. Even so, the game doesn’t talk down to the player. The feel is fairly gothic, really. The mansion’s ultimate secret is a portal to Hades, which your mastery of commas proves you worthy to watch over. Letters from the deceased uncle implore you to find its key and perform a ritual to hide it from the world and keep it safe. The key is found right next to the portal — raising questions about the circumstances in which Mr. Ferryman was forced to leave it there.

1 Comment so far

  1. RavenWorks on 20 Nov 2020

    and here I was expecting it would be some kind of t-remover puzzle of the “eats, shoots, and leaves” variety…

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