ParserComp 2023: Late-Imperial Sky Witches Star In: Meet Cute

And right off the bat, here we have a freestyle entry that’s old-school-IF-like but doesn’t really have a parser (or even a command line): it’s written in Gruescript, Robin Johnson‘s system for hypertext games with an underlying parser-game-like world model. But while Johnson basically uses his system to provide a more modern interface to a traditional rooms-and-inventory adventure game, this piece is entirely about an interrogation, where inventory objects are chiefly topics to be asked about. In fact, it doesn’t distinguish between physical inventory and abstractions like the “her name” and “poetic bullshit” — they all go into the same inventory, and can be dropped. In a less enigmatic game, I’d assume this was a bug. Here, I can believe it’s a deliberate effect, a “this world works differently from yours” thing. For it’s clear from a dozen offhand references that there’s world-building going on just offscreen, where we can barely glimpse it. There’s something to be said for the parallelism of the player character prying into the captive’s secrets while the player effectively interrogates the game, trying every trick to loosen its lips about its setting and mechanics.

It’s very short, and doesn’t have a satisfying ending. I thought for sure that I had gotten the game into a stuck state, from which I could only access inconclusive conclusions, but the source code shows that, while there were in fact some easy-to-miss conditional effects I had failed to find, they don’t have any material effect. I kind of suspect it’s a “Uh-oh, the deadline is almost up, I’d better just slap an ending on and submit what I’ve got” job.

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