IFComp Reviews: Lost Pig

Another IFComp review. Spoilers past the link.

Lost Pig deserves to win. Whether it will, I don’t know; players tend to get excited about serious or innovative Competition games, and this is a traditional lighthearted fantasy-world romp. On the other hand, this year’s best “serious and innovative” games are love-them-or-hate-them types. And while Lost Pig doesn’t do anything new, exactly, it’s done with loving, painstaking care. This game is solid, skillful, a joy to play. I defy anyone not to love it.

I’ve complained about games with bare environments and nothing interesting to do. Lost Pig is a small game with few objects per room–about the size of Across the Stars‘s spaceship. It’s also the richest environment in the Comp. There’s a sense of freedom in a deeply implemented game. Stepping off the walkthrough doesn’t break the environment. It feels like anything will elicit a response. The game is willing to work with you.

While we’re on the subject of working with the player: Lost Pig has a vending machine. You drop in a coin and pull a lever; then you thump it to get your coin back, because you’ll need to use the machine again. The first couple of times you use the machine you have to type each step… but after a couple of tries, just before it gets tedious, the game automates the whole thing. Trying things is fun. Doing the same thing over and over when you’ve already figured it out is less fun. Lost Pig gets both of these things.

It also has Grunk, the funniest and best-defined point-of-view character of this year’s Competition: friendly, patient, well-intentioned, and optimistic. He seems more alive with every line. The key to Lost Pig‘s success is that there’s so much room for characterization; Grunk narrates in the first person, and almost any action gets a response. Try standing on the statue’s pedestal, and rather than just tell you there’s no room Grunk wistfully speculates that, hey, maybe someone will make a statue of him someday, with a pedestal of its own.

Grunk’s also on the not-so bright side, and self-concious about his illiteracy. At one point the pig stares at a page of text, and Grunk is amused because “pig can’t read.” Then there’s a paragraph break, like a little pause. And, uncertainly: “Can pig read?”

I finished Lost Pig feeling a bit happier than when I started. That’s something I can say about damn few of this year’s IFComp games. This was the one I scored a perfect 10.

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