IF Comp ’09 Review: The Grand Quest

Next up is The Grand Quest, by Owen Parish.

Spoiler-free summary: A long chain of puzzles. Story is sparse, but the scenery is very well-implemented and the writing is solid. Puzzles range from tricky to (in my opinion) unfair — your enjoyment will depend on your patience for such things. Haven’t got much, myself.

Standard disclaimer. Spoilers follow after this reminder to myself that I need to catch up on The Venture Brothers.


So. Some sort of fantasy thingy, searching for an important MacGuffin, in this case a magic goblet. Frankly: “ho-hum”. Still, the introductory text is well-written and error-free, if maybe a little overwrought (but then what fantasy writing isn’t a bit overwrought?).

> xyzzy
You don’t have a licence for that.


> x me
You’re a little tired, but otherwise all right. The excitement is keeping you alert.

Very nice. I’m feeling pretty optimistic now.

Entrance Room
Behind you is the entrance that you worked so hard to find. To the north, a craggy passageway leads into the distance, spotted with small pools of lava and cracks.

Here and there are decayed bits of foliage, and other assorted debris. In one corner, an animal seems to have made a nest of some kind.

> x nest
It’s filthy, and doesn’t have anything interesting inside.

> x foliage
It looks as though as this stuff has blown in through the opening to the south.

> x lava
They don’t feel so hot when you get close to them. Strange.

> x cracks
They make the passageway rather uneven.

Check it out! Nearly every noun in the room description has its own descriptive text. The nest even has a little message if I try to pick it up. This is incredibly refreshing after the last couple games.

> n
You cautiously make your way north. You emerge from the shadows, and a gate crashes shut behind you. No way back. And all the supplies are with the horse.

D’oh! What a shitty adventurer I turned out to be.

Ugh, a riddle. And a hard-looking one, too. Looks like I get a taste of my own medicine. (And all the KoL players cheered.)

Whew, got it. That was tricky, and I had to Google “royal water”. I feel pretty satisfied with it now that I’ve solved it, but this paragraph was nearly a mini-rant about how it made no sense to me and was too hard for the first puzzle. Of course, lack of patience has always been my major failing with IF games. Still though, an in-game hint system would be well-received, I’m sure.

(Also, stools should be sitonable.)

The next room (the Library) is not nearly as well-implemented as the previous ones. Of course, if you have the chance to hang around looking at things, you’ve already failed, but anyone stuck in here is going to be poking around at everything in the hope that they don’t actually have to restore, so they’re going to find every undescribed object here. The description of the bookshelves is fun; there should be more of that in this room. (For the record, I didn’t initially fail here, but I UNDOd the turn and redid it incorrectly to see what would have happened.)

Lack of descriptions for the coins is a major miss, imho. I ‘d like to know what a “jin” is. is it a unit of currency, or of weight? At least tell me whose faces are on them. Also, it is my strong belief that every game with coins in it should have “flip” implemented as a verb. Even if it’s not important in any way. Verisimilitude!

Dammit… has anyone got change for a 5-jin?

Hell, I give up on this one. I’ve only got two hours to get through this, after all — I can’t spend the whole time staring at one puzzle. Walkthrough says… Oh. Phooey. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I mean, hooray for lateral thinking and all, but it still seems like cheating.

This next puzzle, I have no idea what format my answer is meant to be in. The HELP text has a lot of general info about how to play IF, but nothing on how to talk to people. This is something that changes from game to game, and is therefore kind of necessary. Otherwise you end up with “guess the verb”. (Oh, and it turned out to be a lateral thinking puzzle again. If by “lateral thinking” you mean “this entire setup is is a red herring”.)

…And a little later, I’ve got some items that I don’t seem to be able to guess the verbs for, including a friggin brass whistle that doesn’t recognize the verb “blow”. I’m getting tired.

(Upon consulting the walkthrough again:) Ugh. You do realize that’s one of the oldest tricks in IF, right? And all you’ve done to make it new is cover it in red herrings?

And seeing that huge list of cards for the next room doesn’t exactly inspire me to keep going. I think I’m done here. I started out really optimistic for this game, but my goodwill has been worn away along with my patience.

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