IF Comp 2011: Escape from Santaland

Escape from Santaland is a moderate-length puzzle game themed around Christmas at the mall. More details follow the jump.

Escape from Santaland is a classic old-fashioned puzzle-fest. The setting pokes fun at faux Santa villages, which is not really a novel object for mockery, but it provides enough color to make the game feel thematically coherent. There’s not much of a story beyond “protagonist gets stuck in awkward situation, protagonist has to solve three related puzzles and a boss puzzle, protagonist wins!” — but as the game never misleads the player about what kind of experience it’s going to be, I wasn’t too frustrated by that.

The puzzles themselves are by and large fairly clued. I missed a couple of objects and had to look at the hints for that reason, but I probably should have investigated the environment a bit more thoroughly, so I blame myself rather than the game. Otherwise I found them accessible and not too difficult. They do presume a bit of familiarity with US Christmas traditions and culture, so I don’t know whether they will be more challenging for players from other countries. Implementation was clean and solid; I didn’t notice any missing scenery; hints were built in.

The emphasis on implausible brain teasers and light layer of fiction may not appeal to everyone, but the game thoroughly accomplishes what it sets out to do. People who like Hollywood Hijinx or some of the classics of the mid-90s will probably find Escape from Santaland a light-hearted and tidily constructed entry in that tradition. See also: Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina.

One very small spoilery comment:

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Though I didn’t do this myself, I have the impression it’s possible just to solve two dials and then brute-force the last one by turning it until one hears a click — which means that it is probably possible to skip about a third of the game’s puzzle content. That seems a bit of a pity, but I’m not sure how you’d get around it other than by using some much pickier triggers.

Alternatively, maybe the way to see this is that it’s like a crossword: you don’t have to get all the clues, as long as you get enough of them to fill in the board.

6 thoughts on “IF Comp 2011: Escape from Santaland

  1. While I liked the idea of the boss puzzle, I spent way too much time checking my work with the reindeer ordering reversed. Not ever having driven a team of reindeer, it seemed to me that if you start listing with Dasher and end with Rudolph, Dasher should be near the sleigh and Rudolph leading the team… It never would have occurred to me to put Dasher at position n-1 and then circle back around to hit Rudolph. Apparently that’s canon?

    • I don’t think there’s canon about where they go in the team, but I assumed that the order would be front-to-back the same as it is in the standard listing (with Rudolph as a special exception since he’s leading). So, erm, I think you thought about this more than I did, possibly with unfortunate results for you.

    • I didn’t try to remember the standard listing — if I wanted reindeer n, I just set the dial to Rudolph and then typed “turn dial” n times. Fortunately that worked.

  2. Pingback: IF Comp 2011: Overview | Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling

  3. Per the walkthrough, the author intentionally left open the option of solving two puzzles and brute-forcing the third. It makes sense, as a way to make progress if one puzzle is eating your lunch but you managed to solve the other two.

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