IF Comp 08: Ananachronist (spoilers)

First sentence would flow better along these lines: Every so often a magician starts poking around in the deep mysteries of time only to discover that, rather than the ‘you-don’t-know’ type of mystery, they’re the ‘you-don’t-want-to-know’ kind. “You don’t want to know” is basically your punchline* for that sentence, see, so you want it at the end.

*Not in the sense that it’s funny, per se, but that’s the part of the sentence with impact, dig?

The prose in general is… loose, so far. I had a specific example, but I don’t want to come off all snotty and pretentious, so let’s just say there were a lot of periods where commas would have been better. Anyway, that’s all I’ll say about the writing style. (Well, one more thing: just because you ran spellcheck, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to proofread. Just because a word is spelled correctly, that doesn’t mean it’s the word you meant to use. (Later: so many instances of this.))

Ahh, a time-travel story. I really like time-travel stories. This is bad news for you, Joseph Strom, because it means I’m going to check your paradoxes and loose ends very carefully.

For something that claims to report “exactly what spells are applied to” an object, the tracer is pretty unspecific about the “illegal time magic” attached to these things.

If my job is to break these things, why don’t I have a hammer?

What the hell am I supposed to do with these clocks and shit? This is seriously too early to have to look at the walkthru.

Aha — needed to point the thingy at the only thingy I hadn’t pointed it at yet. All right, I’ll call that one my bad. In reading these reviews, it may be helpful to keep in mind that my usual failing with these sorts of games is to completely miss something simple and obvious, get frustrated, and reach for the walkthru far too soon. In my defense though, in this particular case, I was told to smash these things, and attempts indicated that it was somehow possible. Using them to enter a strange portal would seem to be outside the boundaries of my assigned task, no? Oh well.

“Patch on the arm”? Of the shield? A patch on the arm of the shield? What?

Aha. The officer’s uniform is described as “a stout wooden shield”. That explains the patch on the “arm” of the shield I examined before. So is the swapping of the item descriptions a clever hint at time paradox, or a bug? Darn me for being a cynical bastard, but you know, I’m thinking bug.

The description of the welding equipment, which is takable, refers to gas cylinders that are not necessarily in the room that I am in. The welding equipment also behaves very oddly time-jump-wise, so I guess it wasn’t meant to be takable.

After some more wandering around and swapping things between times, I lost interest and looked at the walkthru. The main thing that jumped out at me was: how was I supposed to know to “look up x on computer”? It’s not referred to as such, and the instructions given are “enter search term”, which was unhelpful. Bleh.

The puzzle is clever, I guess — a lock-and-key puzzle where you have to manipulate the keys into being the right thing at the right time on the right side of the door. But, it’s badly clued, if at all — I was basically wandering around with no guidance and no inkling of what I was meant to be doing, apart from “break the clocks”. The extremely patchy item and room descriptions did not help — many, many objects were referred to which turned out to not really exist. I thought for a long time that the entire smithy didn’t really exist, because it’s not referrable to in the room in which it’s described, and I didn’t try going southeast until I saw an explicitly southeast-leading door in another time zone. “Enter smithy” should have worked — “enter tent” did.

Also, it doesn’t work as a time-travel puzzle. Feeding oats to a horse in Rome is not going to charge a hovercraft battery in the future. That makes no sense. Also also, I never in a million years would have gotten the final “put hourglass in pliers” “squeeze pliers” “stand on pliers” guess-the-verb chain. I mean, seriously? (I said Spoiler Warning before, right? Right.)

Anyway. Dissatisfying, but I’ve seen worse. Score: low, but not a bottomer. Also, I’m in a cranky mood, which wasn’t the author’s fault, so I’ll be charitable when it comes time to pick numbers.

Proofread next time, k?

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