This was one of the four games we played at the London IF Meetup yesterday, and it kept everyone on board to play all the way to completion, despite being a longish puzzle game. This group often will play the first 30-45 minutes of a puzzly parser game and then stop when we get stuck somewhere, but that never happened.
The author was kind enough to bring along printed copies of the feelie maps, and that was great – it meant that players had an easier time keeping track of what was going on and people could easily shout from the back “we haven’t seen the Saloon yet” or so on. Considering how well this worked, I think I’d recommend this strategy for group-playing parser puzzle games in general, given any game for which it wouldn’t be a total spoiler.
One thing I particularly liked about the structure, though this is deeply spoilery. (I am about to talk about the construction of elements leading up to the very end game so seriously don’t read it unless you’ve played.)
[spoiler]The handling of the escaped gorilla was great.
The game sets you up for it with the news report about the gorilla escape very early on, so you’re thinking that there’s going to be a gorilla at some point… but for a long time it’s not clear how that could possibly come into the story. Still, you keep finding bananas around the grounds, so every time you find a new one or check your growing inventory of bananas, you’re reminded about the promise of a future gorilla.
Then you steal the scarab and you’re told you’re free to go, and you find yourself thinking – cool, I’ve just about won, except why was there no gorilla??? At this point, you’ve built maximum expectation around the gorilla, so that when you finally get to the folly and Leghorn in the gorilla suit, you don’t think “this is a ridiculous deus ex machina” (though it really is an absurd coincidence even by the plot’s intentionally silly standards); rather, you think “finally, the gorilla! took long enough!”
And then you play through the end game, escape in the gorilla suit, etc etc etc. And it’s not until the game is actually truly over that it hits you: you never DID encounter an ACTUAL gorilla.[/spoiler]