Exploring the 'Best Games': Lost Pig, by Admiral Jota

(I’m not putting everything in spoilers for this review if it occurs near the beginning of the game).

There are a few games that tend to top any Best of All Time Lists. Photopia, Counterfeit Monkey, Spider and Web, Hadean Lands, and Anchorhead are some that frequently top lists. Lost Pig is another that is almost always near the top of Best Of lists.

Surprisingly, the author wrote this game in one month, according to a SPAG interview. However, the concept was brewing for over a year, and the PC was borrowed from a blog the author was writing.

The game deals with an orc who has lost their pig. They travel underground and find a semi-bandoned Cave home.

What does it do right?

== Dealing with the parser==

It is hard to get used to a parser. It requires a very specific sort of syntax, and everyone struggles when they first try a parser game.

Lost Pig has some of the same issues; I couldn’t figure out many commands in the game when I first played it years ago, and some people recently who’ve tried it that are new to parser said they had trouble with it.

However, and this is a big however, this game has a big advantage over other gsmes: the PC talks in the same way as parser commands. GET SPOON, GO UP, DROP PIG are all a sort of caveman language, and this game is completely written in that caveman (or orcish) way. This, combined with its light puzzles and great writing, have made it a common recommendation for those new to parser.

==Strong PC/Narrative Voice==

This game and Violet, the next year’s winner, have incredibly strong PCS. You completely enter Grunk’s world when you play this game. Everything is described from his point of view, and it can be hilarious. Much of the enjoyment of the game is trying to puzzle out what Grunk is actually talking about. As one of the IFDB reviewers noted, Grunk seems dimwitted, but if you read between the lines, he has a sort of sweet cleverness that shines through.

==Strong NPC==

This game has one of the strongest NPCS of all time: the gnome. The gnome seems to be everything Grunk is not: intelligent, loquacious, irritable. The gnome can talk about a huge number of topics. The game will give you suggestions; pursuing this leads to more suggestions, and more and more. Many people have spent an hour or hours just trying to exhaust all the topics mentioned.

The gnome is also complex in his motivations and personality. Irritability is tempered with kindness, and intelligence is tempered with a lack of motivation. He is powerful, but feels trapped. His relationship with Grunk is something that’s hard to pull off.


As mentioned above, conversation is very deeply implemented in this game. But that’s not the only deep thing in this game. All sorts of synonyms and verbs were accounted for; one reviewer was amazed that you could REACH IN CRACK WITH POLE. All of the standard responses have been changed. EAT ME is accounted for, as is lighting your pants on fire and eating them before and after burning them.

The author has put a lot of care into providing nice surprises for the player and anticipating their responses.


Interestingly, Lost Pig is one of only 3 Best Games not be nominated for Best Story. I think this is because it’s characters, setting and feel were so well developed and polished that the traditional storytelling could take a back seat to the characters and their development. Few games have been able to achieve that level of storytelling through character development alone; Galatea leaps to mind.

In any case, Lost Pig was a very strong games and marked the beginning of a much more user-friendly Era for best games.

IMO, Lost Pig’s puzzles are really hard, especially for newbies, because it requires a lot of guess-the-verb. Standing on the chair? Hitting the box? Getting water with the hat? I’ve played this game with newbies and they have never figured them out, say nothing of the “real” puzzles like the color magnet.

This was one of the games I played some years ago. I can’t remember if I beat it, but I do remember needing hints.

I use walkthrough for most games, so it’s hard for me to judge difficulty. I couldn’t solve it when I first played, but I’ve been told the puzzles are light to some…

I feel like the ‘introduction to parser’ games recently that people have been using are much easier, using limited verbs, like Lime Ergot and Grandma Bethlinda Variety Box.

Brad Smith of the Post-Meridian Radio Players has repeatedly run live playthroughs of “Lost Pig” as an audience participation event in a 90 or 120-minute window. As far as I know, they’ve always succeeded.

On the other hand, I suspect he usually has a knowledgeable audience plant to steer the game in case people get too stuck. (I know he did at least once, because it was me.)

How big was the audience?

That… is a really cool idea, actually.

Varying sizes, I guess. 20 to 100?

I’ve never done it with a group larger than half a dozen. :shrug:

Did you run from position to position between questions, put on different funny voices and adopt different disguises to encourage the audience to believe one random person wasn’t the source of all the help?


My experience (having been at a couple of these) is that if you have a few people in the audience who know parser IF in general, the crowd will handle Lost Pig pretty effectively. You don’t need people giving game-specific hints.

Whether they do it swiftly or slowly depends, as you noted, on whether people get interested in interrogating the gnome on every possible subject.

You think that, but really those people were all Carolyn in a serious of clever disguises.


Being Carolyn VanEseltine, a very specific pastiche of Fifteen Minutes.