Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

IFComp 2016 Review: You are standing in a cave…

Posted by Reiko on November 29, 2016

This is a review of a game from the 2016 Interactive Fiction Competition. Scoring criteria can be found here.

You are standing in a cave…
Author: Caroline Berg
Format: Z-code

This is an old-school cave crawl romp with good prose and fairly good puzzles made completely obtuse by poor implementation and outright bugginess. Sadly, there was no walkthrough provided. I tried really hard to solve this one, and even checked some other reviews to see if I could get some help. A couple commenters said they were able to solve the thing and reach an ending, so it seems to be possible. One helpfully mentioned a forum post where the game was originally played out with the author responding directly to command suggestions, which helped me find a couple things I’d overlooked, but even that wasn’t enough because enough things were different.

I was stuck for awhile because I couldn’t find the right tool to get the sunstone out of the constellation room. I literally tried using almost everything in inventory on the other items and the gems at that point. Finally, the forum playthrough pointed me to the chisel, which I completely didn’t notice when I first entered the chasm room.

I could find no way of making a torch even though I had all the right ingredients: a stick of wood, moss, twine to tie them together, and matches to light them. I couldn’t get any syntax to give me anything other than “You would achieve nothing by this.” or “Are you sure you want to do that? You could get hurt.” I was able to get into the secret room without a torch, and I could light a match to see the celestial door long enough to get into the telescope room, so that wasn’t quite game-breaking.

I can’t do anything with the telescope, though. The forum playthrough suggests that a dial in the secret room need to be switched so that power goes to the telescope instead of the chasm pipes. Okay, that’s reasonable. But no matter how many times I switch the swirl or telescope dials, they don’t change their settings! I cannot get the telescope to activate, so I’m stuck.

I also couldn’t get the gear door open in the secret room. Another review said it wasn’t necessary to do that to win, but it’s still aggravating to have the right items and not be able to use them. I chewed the gum and tried to use it with the gear, but nothing worked.

I did some more poking around and found one more hint buried in another forum thread elsewhere. There’s a very specific and non-standard command that’s required in order to both make the torch and use the gear properly. Then I went back and tried the telescope and miraculously it was working. Apparently only the reporting of the dials was wrong, although I thought I had tried both settings already. I guess in my exhaustive examination and turning, I must have set them correctly somehow, although I couldn’t tell.

So, technically I finished the game, as I reached an ending. I’m still going to have to score this one as broken, though, given the bugginess and how much digging I had to do to find the exact right commands. Next time: beta testers! Several of them, preferably. I’d even volunteer. I like puzzly little things like this, but I like them even better when they work properly. I hope there’s a post-comp release.

Time: 1.5 hours
Scoring: base 4, +1 for shiny descriptions, -1 for broken puzzles
Score: 4

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