IFComp 2009: The Grand Quest

This is another Interactive Fiction Competition review.

The Grand Quest started so well. It had a Maltese Falcon style setup about a legendary artifact which for its owners “is the beginning of their true lives, marking the end of the mundane, and the start of the fantastical.” It had a PC complete with interesting hints of backstory—he’s held down a job, raised a family, and now has gone, carrying reminders of his loved ones, in search of his life’s obsession. It looked pretty good!

Then I started playing. Damn.

The first sentence in the first room is “Behind you is the entrance that you worked so hard to find.” This was the first thing I tried:

You can’t see any such thing.

In the next room are several stools:

>sit on stool
That’s not something you can sit down on.

In the room after that are two tables:

>x tables
You can’t see any such thing.

Eventually the game just broke down entirely. I don’t think this was tested. But it might not have mattered if it had. The Grand Quest is nothing more than a series of arbitrary puzzles. Not the good kind of puzzles, the ones that arise naturally from a game’s story or environment. Puzzle puzzles, posed free of any context by a disembodied voice. If I hadn’t been forced to quit by that bug, I might still have been too disappointed to go on.

I’d like to play the game suggested by that intriguing prologue. Too bad this isn’t it.