ParserComp 2022: The Muse

Here we have a sort of religious horror story that’s also a riddle. It’s a translation from Spanish, and it’s a good translation; I have no complaints about the prose. In structure, it’s a series of vignettes. An evil muse makes you relive moments of sin from your past and then write verses about them in a book, delighting in your transgressions. The vignettes are pretty minimal: most require just a single command to complete, although it’s not always obvious at first what that command is. Writing a verse consists of choosing a single word, and any word you type in will be accepted, although picking something meaningful and relevant can provide hints to the larger puzzle of who you are and why you’re in this situation. Here the game uses the parser interface to its strengths, making input completely freeform so as to avoid constraining your guesses.

The same can be said for the ending. There’s no natural ending built into the story: the vignettes cycle after a while, and the only way to escape the cycle is by asking God for forgiveness. This can be done in more than one way, and can be done at any time, including before you’ve seen the entire story. My first play-through ended prematurely when I wrote the word “mercy” into the book, thinking not “Lord, have mercy on me”, but “I was pretty merciless in that last bit. Maybe I can counteract that a little.” Another premature ending happened when I was told to start an animal sacrifice ritual, and had no idea what to do, and thought “Maybe we start with a prayer?” And it’s a bit of a shame that this happens, because ending the game provides revelations that would otherwise be built up to slowly over the course of the story.

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