What, were you expecting a three word review? Not a chance.
You can picture this one as an Infocom text adventure streamlined to within an inch of its life. Maybe it’s the white text on black background, but I swear it had something of the same feel. The first story could almost be the Readers Digest version of “Enchanter.” That’s supposed to be a good thing, by the way.
This is one of those elegant, minimalist-without-fundamental-loss-of-content ideas that makes you shake your head in wonder that nobody’s done it before.
Those old Infocom games always stood out for their high-quality descriptive writing and imaginative world building, and so you might think that a game this stripped-down in those departments would really suffer for it. That didn’t seem to be the case, though. It takes a couple of tries at each scenario to get a good sense of what’s going on, but pretty soon I had a clear picture in my head. Yeah, I was really proud of my brain for filling in the sizeable blanks as well as it did!
What they lose in depth and detail they make up for in pacing. A unique result of this simple scenario-action-consequence system is that it adds a dynamic element to the game, a real sense of immediacy that I’ve never seen before in a text adventure. A sort of rhythm emerges as you bop along from event to event that adds its own style of immersion. You find yourself speeding up during the action parts and pausing to consider your move when you run into some trap.
There are quite a few of those and you’re going to die a lot, but who cares. Worst case scenario, it’ll take you a minute or two to get right back to where you were. More than half the fun here is exploring all of the options they give you, for better or worse, and screwing up in amusing and creative ways. The encounters are largely random, so no two playthroughs will end up being quite the same. Then somewhere along the line, after enough deaths by pit, troll and chicken, you figure out what’s going on and make it through the actual plot.
One thing I would have liked to have seen is for them to develop a bit of a meta-verse across stories, like Zork, etc. Those games always had little common threads, subtle winks and nods to one another that tied them all together and added extra flavor. Well, the Infocom torch is just lying there, waiting to be picked up, so maybe we’ll see more of that in the future.
I guess everything old really is new again, huh?
Nice job, game.