A-ha! I’m thrilled that the randomizer put the latest DiBianca so early in my list!
I’m pleased to report TVoD is an unequivocal recommendation. Put it on your must-play list!
Like last year’s “Trouble in Sector 471,” we’ve got a compact puzzle-fest with a helpful minimap and limited verbs. “Vambrace” takes the limited verb thing a wonderful step further by binding most actions to a single keystroke. It’s one of those innovations that feels obvious in retrospect - if you’re limiting the player to a dozen actions, why make them type the whole thing out? This results in a game with the breezy controls of a Rogue but granularity and puzzles more like conventional IF.
I should caveat that Rogue’s controls are only breezy once you’ve properly learned them, and here DiBianca’s MO shines because you begin with a simple set of commands, and earn more as you snap gems into the titular
Infinity Gauntlet Vambrace, producing the appropriate learning curve. I’ll admit by the end of the game I was regularly mashing H(ELP) to review the available commands, but even this process was smoother than it would be in most games. (There might be room for a cheat-sheet above the minimap, though.)
I found the puzzles logical and well-clued (I found half the treasures on my run) - there’s a language to the goblins, orcs, elementals and other obstacles you encounter where earlier puzzles guide you towards solutions to later ones. Then the game ends with a great boss fight, which borrows a page from the book of insult swordfighting by asking you to apply your powers in familiar ways, and then gets unfair (in a fun way) exactly like a wizard fight should.
Another absolute gem! I expect to revisit this after the comp.