Delightful Wallpaper

Delightful Wallpaper by Andrew Plotkin (Inform)

Normally weird arty games that dump me in the first location without any indication what I’m supposed to be doing there get swiftly deleted. But something about this one – perhaps its weirdness and its artiness – managed to grab my attention before I could fire it off to the recycle bin along with all the weird arty games currently in residence there. It was the writing style that appealed to me first – the way I could wander from location to location and see these wonderful descriptions of otherwise ordinary and not very interesting rooms – and then the downright strangeness of it. I wasn’t able to pick up items or open doors and got told MANIPULATION OF GROSS MATERIAL SUBSTANCE IS NOT YOUR FORTE when I tried. Oh yes, weird and arty alright.

Unfortunately, even the appeal of wandering around and seeing nice descriptions pales after a while and I started yearning for a bit of actual gameplay. A bit of storyline. Both seemed strangely absent. As a guide to exploring a large mansion, “Delightful Wallpaper” worked well. As a game, it had more than a few flaws. Namely, that there didn’t seem to be anything to do. When opening doors and picking up items is out (I’m carrying a notepad but not able to pick up anything else), there aren’t NPCs and there don’t seem to be any real puzzles, what you have left is… not much actually.

So to the walkthrough I went.

It seems the game is split into two parts. The first part is unusual in that every command in it (bar one) involves simply moving from one location to another. The walkthrough frequently has the player going one way and then returning, though if there’s a reason for all this backtracking I wasn’t sure what it might be. It could have something to do with the only puzzle in the first part of the game – manipulating a bridge allowing access from one part of the mansion to the other – but as I was blindly keying in commands one after another from the walkthrough by this stage, I couldn’t say for certain.

The second part of the game, where I was able to pick a few items and move them to different places (although why I was doing this, other than it was in the walkthrough, I don’t know) was a little more interesting. There was still a distinct lack of gameplay and the only thing I could find to do was the moving about of certain items. The walkthrough told me what I needed to do with them, but never went into any explanation for why I was doing them.

As a weird and arty game, this was better than some I’ve played. At least it was well written, so I’ll bump its score up a point for that. But ultimately I was left wandering around with not much to do and actually wishing I was playing something else instead.

5 out of 10

Has anyone read a review where the author claims to have compeleted the first part of Wallpaper without a walkthrough? I felt like I got 2/3 of the way to the solution, but when I looked at the walkthrough I realized I wasn’t even close, more like 1/2 way, unless there are multiple paths (which does seem to be the case – even in the walkthrough you can get the first intent before the walkthrough tells you to pick it up). The first part seems impossibly difficult.

Here was a game where reading other people’s comments about it definitely persuaded me to give it more time than I had at first.

I know I played the first part not really understanding what was going on. I thought at one time I must be a ghost because I couldn’t pick up anything or open any doors, but I was carrying a notebook so clearly the ghost angle was out. Unless it was a ghostly notebook…?

I don’t know if I’d have never figured out the first part without the walkthrough, but in all honesty I didn’t try that hard. I was making an effort to get through all the Comp games before the deadline (which I nearly did), so after I’d been wandering around the game for a while and didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to be doing, I went to the walkthrough.

I think this was definitely one game where having the walkthrough included helped a lot. I certainly wouldn’t have got very far with it otherwise; indeed, I’d have probably got frustrated with it and quit.

It seems like somebody did, but what I may be thinking of are reviewers who liked the first part better than the second.

I kind of wish I’d played it (a) outside the competition on a more leisurely schedule, (b) without knowing who wrote, and © without knowing what other people thought of it. “B” and “C” are my own fault for getting spoilers to other games in my “need” to see reviews of TTS. The first part is the kind of thing I could see myself keeping more detailed notes about (partially done while playing), and going through it over the course of several nights for the thrill of solving it on my own. It would have taken me quite a while longer, I think.

I played through the first part of Wallpaper without a walkthrough. (It helps if you think of it more as a textual description of something off than as traditional IF.)