ParserComp 2022: Of Their Shadows Deep

Oh, this one’s nice. Pastoral and poetic in tone, its main mechanic, the core of all its puzzles, is literary-style riddles — riddles that, once answered, turn into the things their answers name, but are still somehow made of words. That’s the power of abstraction you get from text — although the same transformations are also powered by concrete poetry, words arranged to make shapes, sometimes in very clever ways. (Admirably, the author has taken special care to make this not interfere with screen readers, for those who use them.)

That makes it all sound very cerebral, but the heart of the story — and its inspiration, according to the endnotes — is that the riddles are a metaphor for the struggles of an old woman with dementia, losing her vocabulary. Solving them is a sort of quest to help her preserve what she’s losing. It puts a layer of sadness on every puzzle, and nicely connects theme and mechanics.

Riddles are perilous territory for adventure games, because of how they can stop a game dead: where a well-implemented object-based puzzle can give you more cues about what you’re supposed to be doing with each near miss, riddles tend to be all-or-nothing. Fortunately, the riddles here are easy, and on top of that, the in-game hints are pretty good.

In addition, the prose describing the environment is delightful, filled with randomized wildlife. I think this is the most satisfactory game I’ve seen in this Comp so far.

1 Comment so far

  1. Amanda Walker on 26 Jul 2022

    Thanks so much for this lovely review of my little game, Carl! I really appreciate your taking the time to play the comp games and review them– I’m enjoying all your reviews!

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