IF Comp 2012: Irvine Quik & the Search for the Fish of Traglea (Duncan Bowsman)

Irvine Quik & the Search for the Fish of Traglea is a parser-based puzzly game concerning goofy space adventures. As usual, the jump will be followed by non-spoilery comments; then if I have anything spoilery to say, there will be spoiler space. The fact that I am reviewing it at all indicates that there are beta-testers.

I had some difficulties with this game, which led me to get stuck about halfway through even following the walkthrough as well as I was able. The walkthrough doesn’t list every command in sequence, and some of the commands it does list didn’t work quite right on the ADRIFT interpreter I was using, and had to be rephrased. It’s possible that these issues were only partly the author’s fault.

Because I’m not sure whether the issues I encountered were down to author error, interpreter bugginess (an old ADRIFT 4 translation via SCARE, running on a Mac), or some other mischance, I’m not going to gripe too hard about under-testing. But the experience I had (whatever the reason for that experience) could have been quite a bit more robust.

What I saw of the game was a largely good-natured romp about a puny cadet who winds up in space and who is inexplicably given tasks significantly above his pay grade. Cheery, inconsequential stuff, but potentially fun.

The design was sometimes surprising, though. One puzzle required a skill I’ve never seen tested in IF before, the ability to memorize a sequence of seven numbers rapidly and then type it back after it’s been removed from the screen. By “rapidly”, I mean “you see the sequence for a short enough time that you can’t possibly write it down”. It turns out I am terrible at this. I generally rely on audio memory for strings of numbers, but the flash on screen was short enough that I couldn’t finish inwardly vocalizing the string before it vanished again; instead I had to try to memorize it as a visual image instead. Hard! My brain doesn’t normally handle this task this way! Someone with a different approach to short-term mental number-storage would probably do fine, but struggling with this puzzle was surprisingly anxiety-producing for me. It’s clear there’s another route entirely that you could take at this point in the story, and maybe I would have found that one easier, but somehow after my first number-spitting failure I felt like I had something to prove to the game, and that I needed to continue on that course until I succeeded. I got scolded first by an angry feline captain, but I won out in the end.

So I am not sure whether that was much good as a puzzle, but if it was intended as an emotional manipulation to induce stress in the player, then it probably worked as that. (Of course, immediately afterwards I landed in a calming space jungle and walked along a serene brook where I met an adorable kitten, so the stress was not of long duration.)

Reading the walkthrough for the part of the game I couldn’t get to also suggested that there were going to be some combat puzzles forthcoming, as well as more traditional fetch-quests and tasks involving getting items that were out of reach and finding combinations and that sort of thing.

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