(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.
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.