My time: 90 minutes, fairly generous use of hints, I do pretty ok with puzzles.
This is probably Arthur DiBianca’s most approachable dungeon-crawl puzzler yet. It’s worth trying at least the first floor if you’re the kind of person who wants to like parser puzzlers even if you’re bad at them…
In the late-game of last year’s Trouble in Sector 471, movement around the map got tedious:
N <enter> E <enter> E <enter> S <enter> and so on. This game streamlines things by moving as soon as you press the letter, which is terrific. Then all commands are single keys (letters): you gain more abilities as you go but you end up with all 26 letters unlocked. (Note that you can type a backtick/grave accent to start an out-of-world command like
transcript, though I don’t think you can softlock yourself.)
Sector 471’s map also got hard to read toward the end with so many three-letter room abbreviations: this game alleviates that by breaking it into 4 separate levels of the dungeon (three levels and a boss). So it’s easier to read the map but then you don’t know how long the game is until you get right near the end: I used the hints pretty liberally because I was worried about running out of time.
But I think it’s right around two hours without hints if you’re decent at puzzles and don’t worry about getting all of the twelve optional treasures. The puzzles do get harder as you go down through the dungeon but Level 3 felt like it had fewer harder puzzles than Level 2 so I suspect it may take approximately the same amount of time. And the boss level is quicker than I was expecting.
It has the usual thin-but-silly/fun frame story: in this one you have been sent into the dungeon to retrieve the Staff of Many Powers from Senior Librarian Zolmaskar who stole it in a fit of rage after being passed over for promotion to President of the Society of Wizardry. You’re NOT a wizard yourself, but you’ve been given the titular Vambrace of Destiny, a forearm guard which allows you to slot in spell-gems and use their powers by tapping them.
Despite the limited command set, Sector 471 felt more like a usual parser puzzler: despite having more commands, this one reminds me more of Inside the Facility where all you do is move around and things happen as a side-effect of your being there. It does a really good job of having fairly systemic actions, so despite ending up with eleven spells, seven possible objects to draw on, and (I think?) three sprites who will temporarily upgrade one of your spells, it was usually pretty obvious which ones were useful in the current situation, even if it was tricky to figure out the right sequence and timing (oh yeah, there’s a “wait” command:
Z for zzzz like sleeping/snoring as usual in Inform games, and that’s important sometimes). Gust to spin pinwheels to power equipment, Radiance to activate things with a burst of holy light, Operate to summon a burly Krotonian to operate simple devices, etc. (the enemies are trickier to figure out, but that’s the fun part so I won’t spoil that).
It’s also fairly Metroid-ish open-worldy in that you very often see the situation where you need an ability before you find it. It’s not designed so that you find the ability first. So buzz around and explore first: none of the enemies actually kill you so there’s no harm trying, and it’s more fun to explore than to bang your head against an obstacle that you don’t yet have the tools for…
Also take note of any mottos and the locations and descriptions of any special items that you come across: they may be important later and the map is big enough that you’re not going to remember all of them. Level and three-letter room abbreviations is enough that you can find them quickly…
Anyway. Fun puzzler, very approachable. There are graduated rot13’d hints in a text file. I thought they were pretty good but we’ve already seen a couple places where they’re missing details that you might not think of if parser games aren’t your usual, so ask over in the hint thread if you need it.