IFComp 2017: The Wand   3 comments

By Arthur DiBianca. Played to completion on desktop.

Arthur DiBianca has, for multiple years running, entered IFComp with puzzle games that use a reduced parser. That is, a parser that only understands a small subset of possible verbs; for example, in 2014’s Excelsior, it was direction commands, examining, and the USE verb.

The Wand starts off with a similar set, but very quickly changes things up to disable USE entirely. (Even though this happens early on, I don’t want to spoil what happens – let’s just say I went from apathetic to very interested in a short time.) All interaction is done via a wand, that can be set to different spells using a three-color system.

You can SET a sequence of three colors on the wand like this: SET RED GREEN BLUE.

To save typing, you can abbreviate using one letter for each color like this: SET RGB. To make it even shorter, you can just type the three letters: RGB.

There are ten colors. In reverse alphabetical order they are yellow (Y), white (W), red (R), purple (P), orange (O), green (G), gray (A), brown (N), blue (B), and black (K). (Note that gray, brown, and black do not go by their first letter.)

As one might expect with a wand, this is generic fantasy: you’re supposed to make your way through obstacles in a castle and gather enough new spells (things like “levitate” and “fire”) to escape. In a way, the presence of spells makes this the most expansive verb list Arthur DiBianca has ever used, since each spell is a verb of sorts. The lack of ability to TAKE things means even the simplest of activities gets turned into a spell-related puzzle.

This might be his peak in this style; every puzzle was reasonable to solve. The prose was nothing remarkable but it was clear and clean, and even with some complicated mechanics I found the entire game polished and bug-free.

I still say “peak” insofar as while I don’t think this sort of game can get much better, I felt like something was lacking. This is, after all, retro: come solve puzzles with essentially no plot or characters of interest whatsoever. There’s not even enough substance to call it setting-as-backstory. It’s possible there’s some essential mystery I missed (one about why this scenario is happening in the first place is vaguely hinted at) but even an after-story would be missing the point: I found myself craving something more during the game to grab onto.

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Posted October 30, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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3 responses to “IFComp 2017: The Wand

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  1. I quite liked this one. I also discovered that the faster you complete the game, the better your “reward” at the end. So there’s some incentive to replay for optimization.

  2. Pingback: IFComp 2017: Summary and Mini-Reviews | Renga in Blue

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