IFComp 2008: The Ngah Angah School of Forbidden Wisdom

(This is an Interactive Fiction Competition review .)

This one’s a mystery.

The Ngah Angah etc. is an ALAN game. It’s a little-used system. In the folder is a game file, and a tantalizing jpeg showing some sort of hieroglyphs. I opened the file in Spatterlight, the Swiss army knife of MacOS interactive fiction interpreters, and got this:

As you enter the twilight zone of Adventures, you stumble and fall to your knees. In front of you, you can vaguely see the outlines of an Adventure that never was.

SYSTEM ERROR: Checksum error in Acode (.a3c) file (0x22aac5 instead of 0x22aa94).

Apparently it’s not just me.

So… is this a joke? We get a couple every year. But the 120k game file seemed big for two paragraphs. On a whim I opened it in TextWrangler… and it turns out that ALAN games don’t encrypt their text at all. And so I can confirm that, no, this is not a joke. It’s an intended game involving a secret valley, tests of some kind, butterflies, tigers, and warriors who seem to want to kill the player. There appear to be multiple solutions to at least one puzzle, and some intriguing images, like this:

“Now, let the second test begin,” he says without further ado. He sounds his gong and the three men suddenly give out a shout and spread their cloaks wide open. From the inside of their cloaks, hundreds of black, brown and grey butterflies take flight and fill the air!

And this:

Diridu gives a shout and the tiger makes a leap. Running in the air, it rises higher to the sky and heads out of the valley between two high mountain peaks. You feel the rush of a cold evening wind against your face as you cling to the fine animal’s fur.

It’s also an intended game that was clearly not beta tested at all. As a result, nobody’s going to play it. And that’s a shame.

Here’s a prediction: the number one lesson of this year’s competition will be the same as last year’s. You want to write interactive fiction? Beta test your game.

5 thoughts on “IFComp 2008: The Ngah Angah School of Forbidden Wisdom

  1. This ran for me under Spatterlight. You’re not missing much. It’s a series of single-solution puzzles, severely underclued. No hints or walkthrough included. I solved the first room by reading the game file in a text editor. It appears that you’re supposed to burn your staff in the second room, but I played guess-the-verb for ten minutes and couldn’t figure out how to light the damn thing. Game over.

  2. Also ran for me on Spatterlight 0.5.0. Took me a while to get through the first classroom. I mistook the letter described as an ear as another symbol on the paper. All the clues were there, it was just my interpretation of what the symbol looked like that made the puzzle hard. The puzzles get easier but the last one is a frustrating case of guess the verb. I wanted to like this game as I enjoyed the atmosphere. But the game play was flawed. I only beat the game through stubbornness.

  3. It ran fine for me in Gargoyle (with the exception of not displaying the accompanying image file in-game). Perhaps none of the testers had a Mac?

    @Kevin: there’s another solution to the second room.

  4. Ran fine for me in the Alan runner included with the competition as well (aside from a few quirks in the runner). It’s a shame the game may be disregarded by those with older or non-compatible Alan runners, because it’s a pretty decent little game.

    Is the second room really solved by burning the staff? I never got that to work, and solved it by (BIG SPOILER) taking one of the doorway curtains and then wearing it for protection. I think the torches may pose an unintentional red herring.

  5. Ah — so there’s something about burning the staff in the text of the game file. Odd. No, I never got that to work, and I tried quite a few things. I wonder how you actually do that? Anybody know?

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