IFComp 2016: Night House   Leave a comment

By Bitter Karella. Completed using desktop on the web application.


nighthouse

Night House is the first “traditional parser adventure” I’ve played of the competition. It uses the Quest interpreter (see above) which means that there is an auto-map and the ability to click on important items and select verbs. A *very important* detail to share: if you play the web version of this without logging in to textadventures.co.uk first, you will not be able to save your game. Either log in first or download the Quest interpreter before playing. I do also recommend leaving on sound.

Night House is an atmospheric horror-fantasy. You play a child who has awoken in his house with the power out and the other family members gone.

You wake up with a start as a deafening thunder clap shakes the house. Your heart is racing but you lie frozen in bed, confused and disoriented. Where are you? What’s going on? All you hear is the steady patter of gushing rain against the roof above and the ragged wind rattling the windowpanes. After a few moments of blinking into the darkness, you start to remember. You’re at home, in your own room, in your own bed. You were having some sort of nightmare, but you can’t quite remember what it was.

This is out of the “slow build” school of horror, and due to what I’m fairly certain is an inability to die, the game is less about the jump-scare and more about the slow realization of what’s really going on.

I did enjoy myself through about 2/3 of this — the puzzles are tractable, and while the parser is fussy…

> in
You try to open the driverside door, but it’s locked. You aren’t getting inside unless you can find the keys.

> unlock door
I can’t see that. (door)

> unlock tercel
You pull out the spare keys and unlock the front drivers’ side door.

… the fact you could click on objects and get verb lists was enough that I got past issues quickly. (Still, would it have hurt to put in just a few noun synonyms?) While Night House uses the typical adventure-house architecture (including useless sinks and the like) there was enough world-building and tension I never was annoyed by it.

Then comes what is more or less the climactic puzzle of the game, which I’ll hide behind spoilers–

S
P
O
I
L
E
R
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S
P
A
C
E
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The finale puzzle is to make a decoy out of a set of objects to do away with a monster-thing that’s been prowling the house. There were issues piled upon issues:

1.) It is first not obvious that the monster really needs to be done away it; it doesn’t actually threaten the player past a certain point and the end result is merely to get an item.

2.) There is a hint about what goes into making the decoy but the connection with the monster is extremely vague.

3.) Constructing the decoy requires moving an initial object in a way that must be done BEFORE making the decoy; I assumed (after my initial attempt at making the decoy failed) I was using the wrong item, but it’s just the game is incredibly picky about when things get started.

4.) Once the decoy is started, objects need to be placed in the correct order. There isn’t really a good reason for this.

The resulting combination of all 4 problems plus the parser issues that plagued the rest of the game made what could have been a glorious end puzzle very frustrating. I would normally have recommended this game “straight,” without hints, but I’m going to have to revert to “play, but with walkthrough in hand for the latter parts.”

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Posted October 11, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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