Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp Review: The Wizard’s Apprentice

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: Alex Freeman

Format: TADS2

This is a short spell-based puzzle game that’s rather tricky. The first few puzzles were well-constructed, offering an apparently solid dungeon cell but rewarding careful examination. There were a few things even in that first room that didn’t seem quite as consistent, though. For instance, the bars on the door had a “rust-proof coating” but the chains used to hold prisoners didn’t.

Once I solved the key puzzle, I got the key and unlocked the door and escaped automatically. I’m all for automatically unlocking doors when I have the key, but that was kind of too much of an automatic sequence. Making the potion was another very automatic sequence, described in excruciating detail. This was probably better than having to manually go through the entire 15-step process of making it (according to the instructions), but the way it was reported was basically a wall of text instead of a summary of the end result.

The rest of the game is less polished, though. Trying to ask Gwydion about any of the spell names results in a TADS error: “TADS-1023: invalid type for built-in function” and a “You can’t” result. Besides that, he doesn’t seem to have anything interesting to say. A few exits are non-obvious, as are several actions. The list of tasks has finding the metal rod as the last one, but the game expects it to be done before the third task for some reason, and won’t let you do the third task before you do the last one.

On the other hand, returning the rod results in a great classic Adventure reference. Given that, a previously non-obvious action which I only found via the walkthrough makes more sense. And the ending scene is short but tightly plotted; it reminded me of some of the action sequences in the Earth and Sky games where one wrong move is fatal (or arguably a fate worse than death, in this case). There’s not much here, but it’s cute and probably worth playing. If you get stuck (which is likely), the walkthrough is solid.

Score: 7
Scoring: base 7, -1 for conversation and task bugs, +1 for classic references

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