Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Wand (review)

"The Wand" is Glulx game written by Arthur DiBianca for the 2017 interactive fiction competition.

I chose this as my next game to play because I was familiar with the author's past work, and was very quickly drawn into the puzzle mechanism during the opening minutes of play. DiBianca has entered several years in a row now, specializing in whimsical puzzles implemented on a tightly constrained parser. I can think of few other authors who write this sort of game, and none who do it consistently as well. Last year's entry "Inside the Facility" allowed only six commands: N, S, E, W, wait and look. This one introduces a few more to handle the player's only carried possession, a magic wand.

Although the wand can be programmed to cast a variety of useful spells, the player only acquires knowledge of these spells incrementally. The pacing is appropriate to this type of game: the player acquires a new spell, finds a need to use it immediately, and then has to apply it elsewhere in a less obvious situation. With increasing power of knowledge, the puzzles also become more challenging. By mid-game often a whole series of spells must be cast to solve a problem. The final challenge is delightfully and absurdly complex, requiring the player to invoke nearly every spell they've learned in a carefully timed sequence. But by this end-game the player is fully trained and well prepared to solve the puzzle.

I must admit that during the second hour I got a little impatient and checked the walk-through once. I did solve the end-game on my own. I am sure that a player with just a little more self-control could solve the whole thing without a walk-through. Much recommended.

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