ParserComp 2022: Radio Tower

Another novel engine: this one was made in Godot, a system not usually used for text adventures, but apparently just as capable of supporting them as any other Turing-complete programming language. Despite using a newish engine, the game is old-school, and the parsing is fairly primitive: you get two-word commands, a mere handful of verbs, and no abbreviations or synonyms whatever — if you want to go north, you have to type “go north” in full, and if you want to examine something, then I’m sorry but the accepted verb is “inspect”. In general, the only words that are available for use at a given moment are ones currently displayed on the screen, either in the output text or in a sidebar containing a verb list and your inventory, in colors indicating their function: blue for verbs, green for takeable objects, brown for inspectable room features, red for directions. Colored words embedded in the output text look enough like hyperlinks that I really want to click on them, but that functionality doesn’t exist. There are some context-specific verbs that only show up when they’re doable, but most object interaction is done with a generic USE.

It’s mainly exploration-based, telling its story environmentally, although there’s a strong temptation to ignore the environmental storytelling and only pay attention to the colored words. The basic idea is that you go to check up on a friend when the radio tower next to his house is hit by lightning, and in the process you discover the mad science stuff he was tinkering with and get attacked by wandering monsters. The monsters at least form an additional game mechanic, based around healing items and ad hoc weapons that can only be used once, forcing you to keep finding more of them. The inflexible two-word parser and the multiple weapons combine in a weird way: you have to phrase your attacks as “attack hatchet” or whatever. I feel like there must be a way of phrasing this that doesn’t make it sound like you’re picking fights with your inventory.

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