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Tribute: Just Another Fairy Tale
Author: Finn Rosenlov
Reviewed by Mike Spivey
(Here be spoilers – light ones in the third paragraph and
getting more explicit starting in the fifth paragraph.)
Two old-school text adventures in a row! Much of what I said about the last game I played, Return to Castle Coris, could also be said about Just Another Fairy Tale: large (well, larger than most IFComp games), somewhat sparsely-implemented, lots of puzzles, fantasy world. Just Another Fairy Tale has more of a plot than does Return to Castle Coris, but both feature an eclectic mix of traditional fantasy elements. (For what it’s worth, the largest game I’ve played in IFComp this year, Little Girl in Monsterland, also contains an eclectic mix of fantasy characters and locations.)
With Just Another Fairy Tale we also have a traditional fantasy plot: An evil queen rules the land, and a good wizard has reached out to you in a dream to ask for your help. You’re only a child, but you set out on a quest to return a magic compass to the wizard and save the land.
An interesting early aspect of Just Another Fairy Tale is that it explicitly acknowledges Tolkien’s influence in establishing this sort of setup as a standard fantasy plot. The first dangerous area you enter is actually called “Mirkwood,” after a huge forest in The Hobbit. In addition, some of the characters you meet in this forest are straight out of The Hobbit, the descriptions of the trees sound like the descriptions of Mirkwood in The Hobbit or the Old Forest in The Lord of the Rings, and the magic rope you begin the game with has the same properties as the elven rope in The Lord of the Rings. Just Another Fairy Tale isn’t Tolkien fan fiction, though; besides Mirkwood and the rope I didn’t see anything that reminded me explicitly of Tolkien’s work. In fact, later there’s a very non-Tolkien reference to a certain dragon in American pop culture.
Players should be aware that you can lock yourself out of victory in this game, although sometimes when I thought I had locked myself out of victory I had merely just made things harder for myself. (This I discovered after checking the walkthrough.)
The puzzles aren’t too hard; generally when I got stuck the problem was that I hadn’t carefully examined everything in my location. The primary exception to that was the solution to getting across the river, which requires making an object that isn’t there. I generally don’t think of MAKE (something) as a solution to a puzzle in a parser game. I’m pretty sure that’s because I’m so used to the Inform world model, which generally only allows you to verb nouns that you can see or touch or that are otherwise “in scope” in some sense. Getting across the river in Just Another Fairy Tale is not an unfair puzzle, especially since it’s clued by a phrase with a double-meaning, but I think a lot of players used to Inform games will have trouble with it.
Speaking of game design systems, this is the second Adrift game in a row that I’ve played, and once again I found myself struggling with the Adrift world model and parser. For example, I couldn’t put water in the wineskin when it was in my backpack (reasonable enough), but GET WINESKIN failed; the game told me I was already carrying the wineskin (and I was, in a sense – it was in my backpack). I had to drop the backpack and then take the wineskin out of it in order to fill it with water. A more serious problem for me, as I’m starting to realize, is that Adrift just doesn’t parse like Inform does. For example, one of the puzzles in Just Another Fairy Tale requires you to SHOOT (something) WITH PEBBLES. This works just fine when “something” is the right thing to solve the puzzle. However, everything else I tried to shoot with the pebbles resulted in a response of “I don’t know what you want to do with the pebbles.” That had led me to believe, mistakenly, that SHOOT isn’t a verb understood by the game, since that’s what would have been the case with Inform. (In Inform, any verb you want the player to use tends to be given its own custom default response. So it’s generally quite clear when the game doesn’t understand a particular verb.) Thus, I’m learning that when I play an Adrift game I need to come at it with some different expectations about the way the game responds. (I now think this was also at the root of some of my difficulties with Return to Castle Coris, the Adrift game I played right before this one.)
I also noticed that the set of authors and testers of Return to Castle Coris and Just Another Fairy Tale appears to be a set with only three people in it, all of whom seem to prefer Adrift when creating their games. That’s fine, of course, but I’d suggest that for subsequent games they consider recruiting some additional testers who are used to other systems like Inform, testers who could help them see how lots of IFComp players not accustomed to Adrift will approach playing their games. (Perhaps they tried and nobody offered to help; I know finding testers can be difficult. There is, though, at least one Inform 7 author who is generally eager to test anything. I will not put him on the spot by naming him here, but placing a request for testing help on intfiction.org might produce a response. Also, if I have free time I might be willing to test.) I think this would not only help players like me understand more how Adrift works; it would also help Adrift games be better-appreciated by a wider collection of players.
Two more specific comments on Just Another Fairy Tale: There are some places where the implementation could be better, places in which I don’t think the problem is the parser. (For example, CLIMB ROPE at one point gave me the response “You are currently holding on to the end of the rope. Maybe you should tie it to something sturdy.” Then TIE ROPE TO HOOK produced “You are not holding the rope.”)
Finally, the ultimate punishment in Just Another Fairy Tale fell rather flat for me. Since I’m a math professor, being forced to do mathematics for a long time is rather like throwing Br’er Rabbit into the briar patch. 🙂
In sum, I think fans of older-style fantasy IF with lots of puzzles will like Just Another Fairy Tale, especially those who are comfortable with Adrift’s parser and world model.
Reviewed by Anssi
This adventure starts pleasantly enough. An old man,
presumably a wizard, visits the hero of the story in the middle of the night,
and after this visit the hero is not sure if he was awake or dreaming. But when
he wakes up in the morning, he is in different surroundings from his usual one.
He has been transported to a magical kingdom. When the wizard appeared to him
earlier, he asked him to save the kingdom from an evil queen, so that is
obviously the quest he must embark on. The wizard we encountered in the
beginning helps us along the way.
Playing was often not that smooth: there were some places where the walkthrough had to be consulted because of guess-the-verb issues (for example only ‘remove’ is accepted as a solution in one puzzle; ‘take’ does not work). Sometimes, even the walkthrough does not work properly. For example in the forest we hear voices coming from the east, and the solution, according to the walkthrough, is to listen - fair and simple enough. But listening at that location does not bring the game forward, we have to go round to the south of the said location, where no voices are described as being heard, and then listening there triggers the plot forward. There was no clear reason for this. There was also an incongruity with the magic rope: . There were some language-related puzzles which were not readily intuitional: . There were also some linguistic errors here and there, mainly with the 3rd person -s appearing or not appearing in the wrong places. I stopped playing when I had been caught in a prison cell (with math books), and even if managing to . For some reason, going “in” in the prison cell is possible, and when looking , the room description is “nothing special”. You have to come out again to be back in the cell. Going up in the prison cell, I’m suddenly “Inside the snake” (!) which was not at all referred to previously, and going down again I am back at the prison cell. This snake is not also referred to in the walkthrough at all, as far as I can understand, it seemed like a leftover code that was not intended to be in the final game.
The puzzles in the game were mostly fair, and the story charming enough, but due to the various rough spots, guess-the-verb issues and incongruities, the gameplay was not as ideal as it could have been. 6
This is a classic style fantasy adventure, seemingly written for young children, but much too hard for me. I picture the boy from Time Bandits as the protagonist, taken from reality and inserted into a fictitious world filled with magic and fraught with danger, but nothing a young boy can’t handle.
The reason I did not get very far in two hours is mainly down to the verbs. Perhaps Adrift has a different set of standard verbs than Inform and Tads; a lot of the ones I’m accustomed to were not recognised, and when I finally gave up and had a look at the walkthrough, the solutions surprised me. I was reminded of the challenges Jason Dyer writes about when playing very old games 3. In these games, you need to forget any expectation you have about which verbs will work and which will not. In a sense, Inform games have made me very comfortable with a certain way of interacting with parsers, and I’m not really equipped with the lateral mindset for something completely different.
As far as I came, I found the story to be quite okay. It’s very stereotypical, but also cute in a way. The moments in which it shines are whenever it is obvious that you are a little boy, and a rather obedient one at that. A feature I enjoyed – which sometimes was necessary, but only occasionally implemented – was being able to examine elements over a distance. In the end I think I might have enjoyed it more if I had consulted the walkthrough earlier and gotten a bit further, though that would also have been counter to my instincts.
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