Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp Review: Mazredugin

Posted by Reiko on November 1, 2013

This is a review of one of the games from the 2013 Interactive Fiction Competition. (Posted in 2014 and backdated.) Scoring criteria can be found here.

Author: Jim Q. Pfygx-Vobk

Format: Glulx

The opening is somewhat trippy, with some questions that seem to determine what kind of character you play as. The first puzzle failed to hold my trust in the parser, though, as the idea was to build a fire, but “build” as a verb was not recognized at all, the somewhat suggested “add [more] wood” was not recognized, and the actual wording was to put the next set of wood “on” the first set. It was a puzzle for the sake of having a puzzle, and not for the sake of actually saying much about the character or the situation. Later on, you have to tell the parser to put a large, heavy object “on” a small object that another character is holding, which I think is even less realistic.So I turned to the walkthrough early on because I couldn’t work out the first puzzle, and then the entire third puzzle (getting the ship repaired) wasn’t even mentioned in the walkthrough at all. That time I was able to work out what was needed, because each of the four characters had to do something, but there was no way to do anything directly except my own character’s task; I had to ask each of the other characters about the right things to get them to do their tasks.

The main conceit of having the player able to choose one of four characters that each plays a part in a combined puzzle was kind of interesting, particularly as a coding challenge. But as an actual story, there’s just not much point. The four characters are all incredibly shallow, and it just takes away a lot of the player’s agency. It would have been a much more interesting puzzle-game if there had been only one character that experienced all four initial puzzles, gathered the amulet, and proceeded to carry out all of the necessary tasks directly.

Also, for being a dream, it was a rather mundane sort of dream; the only unusual item was the amulet, which only one of the characters actually gets to use. All the other tasks were completely ordinary: fire-starting, sailing, etc. There’s a tiny bit at the beginning and end about the experience helped the character with learning to appreciate school more or some such, but it was really rather pointless. With the multiple characters, it ought to be good for a replay or two, but there’s just not enough there to inspire me to do so.

Score: 5
Scoring: base 7, +1 for multiple characters/viewpoints, -1 for misleading parser responses, -1 for broken walkthrough, -1 for shortness

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