Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp 2015 Review: Sub Rosa

Posted by Reiko on November 20, 2015

This is a review of a game from the 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

Sub Rosa
Author: Joey Jones & Melvin Rangasamy
Format: Glulx

This is a quirky and sprawling (for a comp game) puzzle game set in a multi-planar world where lead is valuable (and gold is worthless) because it powers devices. The PC seems not to be human, which is an odd quirk, but has a vendetta against a particular (human) nobleman. The goal is to find all seven secrets of the nobleman in order to completely expose him and ruin his reputation. Part of that is accomplished by trawling through the estate’s vast library, which is implemented more thoroughly than I think I’ve seen any other IF library, with literally a hundred titles (I counted 101) available to pull off the shelf and examine. Many are just silly, but all have at least a paragraph summary, and several are consultable on multiple topics. The depth of the worldbuilding in this piece is extensive.

Unfortunately, I was not able to finish the game in the two hours allowed. I spent the full time and even turned to the walkthrough when I got stuck, but the walkthrough was not an actual command-level walkthrough; merely a summary of puzzles and how to solve them. This should have been sufficient, but one of the early items says “Getting through the brick wall”. What brick wall? I ended up metaphorically banging my head against this brick wall because I carefully checked through every room I could access and could find no trace of a brick wall anywhere.

The seventh secret involves a dungeon which I also could not find, so I suspect the dungeon is behind this brick wall, wherever it is. Clearly I missed something somewhere. The room descriptions are rather terse, usually only a sentence or two, which makes it easy to overlook things, since important items are often buried within the furniture. But no room even responded to the command “x brick” so wherever this wall is, it’s hidden somehow and not in scope by default.

I’m scoring this well despite not finishing because I’m a sucker for great worldbuilding, and the puzzles are generally logical and I had fun. But this could have been a 9 or even a 10 if the walkthrough was complete, the brick wall accessible, and the size tightened up just a bit (maybe only 10 books per shelf instead of 13-14?).

Time: 2 hours
Scoring: base 7, +1 for puzzles, +1 for vast library, -1 for incomplete walkthrough
Score: 8

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