IFComp 2009: Byzantine Perspective, Gleaming the Verb

This is another Interactive Fiction Competition review.

This time we’re looking at two games that each exist to set up a single puzzle.

Byzantine Perspective

By the time I’d got to Byzantine Perspective I’d been through a run of awful, buggy games. So when the game told me there was one exit to the south and then let me go west, I thought oh no. Then I realized, to my amazement and relief, it was on purpose!

Byzantine Perspective is little more than a single puzzle—you make one key deduction and everything falls into place. But it’s clever and flawlessly implemented. Best of all, it doesn’t feel like an arbitrary puzzle—the logic is a little off the wall, but it’s well integrated into the setting and fits the minimalist story. It’s miles away from the games where random brain teasers turn up in caves.

Gleaming the Verb

Gleaming the Verb is another simple one-puzzle game, but one that didn’t really need to be IF. In fact, this simple puzzle didn’t have to be presented as any kind of computer program at all. The game is about deducing verbs by finding patters in a series of nonsense phrases. There’s no other way to interact with the game, and only one line shows any flash of personality. (“You are completely naked. Good thing it’s pleasantly warm in here.”)

At first the puzzles look like cryptic crossword clues, but it’s less interesting than that: to get the verb you choose one letter from each word in each phrase. Gleaming the Verb isn’t a bad puzzle as far as it goes, although one of the verbs (titrate) is obscure—a definite flaw, since many players won’t recognize the right answer when they have it. As an IF game, though, it isn’t all that interesting. The cleverest thing about it is the title.