IFComp 2023: Bright Brave Knight Knave

Andrew Schultz is a very familiar name to Comp judges — as this game notes at one incongruously introspective moment, he’s actually managed to surpass Paul Panks in sheer quantity of Comp entries over the years. I’ve only covered a few of his games on this blog, but his general MO is games based entirely around some single sort of wordplay (although he’s also branched out into chess problems recently). You’d think he’d have run out of types of wordplay to exploit by now, but he keeps coming up with new ones.

This time around, the idea is pairs of words that begin with the same letter or letters, and which rhyme with other such pairs. That’s not a very clear description, so I refer you to the title for an example. Every room and object has a two-word name, and can be either transformed or otherwise manipulated by entering two words that rhyme with it. For example, the room called “Bass Bath” has no exits until you enter the command “pass path”, causing pathways to appear. This puts serious constraints on the game content, on what rooms and objects and actions are possible, with the predictable result of wacky surrealism, just like in most of Schultz’s games.

I always find games of this sort fairly compelling, as they exercise my word-brain in unaccustomed ways. But this frankly seems like one of the lesser ones. The “pass path” puzzle is one of the most straightforward ones, where there’s an obvious connection between your goals and the commands you have to type. Most of the game isn’t like that. Sure, the game draws connections after the fact, but mostly I just typed in any rhyme I could find just in case it did something. And in fact the game encourages this behavior: if you enter a rhyme that’s wrong but that it recognizes as a good guess, made of valid and meaningful words that just happen to not be among the ones it’s looking for, it slowly adds charges to a cheat device you can use to find effective rhymes instantly. So this is basically a game about wild guessing, with enough formal constraint to make it feasible.

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