ParserComp 2023: Finn’s Big Adventure

The story here: Finngor Blackmoon, a six-year-old son of a duke in a fantasy kingdom, sneaks out of his castle room at night in pursuit of secret passages and adventure. There’s probably more to it than that, but it looks like I’m not finishing this one. It is big and it is obtuse, and I’ve gotten fairly severely stuck in the game’s third section, the forgotten catacombs, with 95 points out of a maximum of 500. The game has contextual hints, but they mainly just give you gentle nudges about what your goals are. In a lot of games, I’d praise that. Here, it just means they’re not enough.

This game was written in Adrift, which I’ve commented on before in my IFComp posts. It’s never been the most widely-used IF system, especially in today’s age, but it still has its adherents. One thing I’ve always found notable about Adrift games is that they tend to just have lot more stuff in them, more filler rooms and scenery objects, verbosely described in often pointless ways, than is typical for games written other systems. I don’t know if this is the result of a technical difference, like a UI that encourages authors to keep on adding more without asking why, or if it’s just the standards of the Adrift community. Whatever the cause, it certainly affects this game. Every single article of clothing worn by the player character is implemented. It even expects the player to look under furniture and examine walls with no motivation other than a warning in the intro that you’re going to have to do so to solve the puzzles. Kudos for making it clear what to expect.

I’d like to go on a brief tangent about the description of the player character: it feels a lot like the result of generating a D&D character. That is, you do get a certain amount of narratively-relevant characterization, but it’s nestled in a bunch of details like your height, eye and hair color, and the fact that “[y]ou are also very strong for your age and have unusually high stamina”. The eye color in particular is worth remarking on: this is something that’s impossible for Finn to actually observe without a mirror handy, so it’s kind of implicitly slipping out of his POV for that moment. Again, I blame D&D and similar systems for telling so many young writers that this is just a datum you’re supposed to include. I suppose it’s meant to help us visualize. That’s probably a fair summary of the entire game, and indeed what most Adrift games are going for: it’s all about visualization, and seeking more details to visualize.

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