IF Comp 2013: Threediopolis (Andrew Schultz)

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Threediopolis is a parser-based wordplay game with minimal story, running probably at least half an hour and possibly quite a bit more, depending on how fiercely you choose to avoid hints and walkthrough helps. No spoilers in the review.

Andrew Schultz is the author of Shuffling Around and A Roiling Original, both surreal wordplay games. Threediopolis belongs to that tradition: there’s a very minimal plot concept, but mostly the point is to solve a series of crossword-like puzzles.

Part of the point of the game is to figure out how the main mechanic works, so I will avoid going into detail about this. But I can say that I preferred this game to Schultz’s two previous wordplay pieces: it felt more self-disciplined, and it relied less on severely unidiomatic prose, which made it a lot more tolerable to read.

I also appreciated the number of included easter eggs — wrong guesses often elicited some sort of amusing comment that at least acknowledged what I’d been trying to do — and the effort that went into gentle helps for the player. Being able to list all the clues in the command line made the experience much more tolerable than if I’d had to constantly recall this list by hand.

I do think the whole game experience would have been better had Schultz omitted a few of the more obscure and (in my view) unfair puzzles. There are a couple of answers that are brand names, items I hadn’t heard of, or alternate spellings of standard objects, and I mostly felt frustrated when I saw these in the walkthrough, having given up on working them out myself. This may be a judgment call — I didn’t really want this game to be ferociously hard, because I only moderately enjoy this kind of puzzle in the first place. So I may not be the target audience.

Anyhow, this is a solidly-built implementation of what it is; not only that, but the particular puzzle style in question is one that does indeed make the most sense in the context of an IF game. It’s not, however, for people who are primarily seeking story, characters, or atmosphere. I enjoyed it moderately, and suspect that other players with the right temperament will enjoy it quite a lot.

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