Looking for next big puzzler

Hi all! I know there are plenty of lists on IFDB for this purpose, but since I have all you warm bodies to bounce off of here, I prefer that.
As many of you know, I’ve recently released Prince Quisborne to the public after working quite intensively on it for four and a half years. I had scarcely any IF playing time in that period (what play time I eked out was usually beta testing, or playing recently released works of fellow TADS authors). Well, now… it isn’t that I have all that much more playing time available to me with my current family situation in life, but I can at least entertain working my way through a game solely for enjoyment.
I expect in the coming years I will sample many games, perhaps blaze through some good ones heavy on hints/walkthrough just for the sake of seeing the content of the game.
What I’m looking for at the moment is one single title to be my next challenge: the title that I chip away at with no hints, let it simmer and stretch over the course of a year if it must, until I solve it. I’m looking for

-large (although it doesn’t have to be larger-the-better)
-challenging puzzle-wise
-old-school more in the sense of Infocom’s prime through ≈2000, not so much in the two-word parser sense; more recent games that have this feel can also qualify: for instance I just finished and enjoyed Illuminismo Iniziato

There are so many good options out there, but I need to just pick one and want to be happy with the one I stick with. I anticipate I’ll only be able to stab at it in small chunks for quite a period of time.
I present this list as a gauge, and as probably containing the eventual winner, but if this list prompts you to think of another title that you would recommend even more, by all means do so:

Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina
Lydia’s Heart
Worlds Apart
1893: World’s Fair
Mulldoon Legacy
Return to Ditch Day
Finding Martin
Blue Lacuna

I have already played Counterfeit Monkey, Anchorhead, Thaumistry, Unnkulia 0, 1/2, 1, 2, and X; Legend Lives!, Horror of Rylvania and some more. I beta tested a large portion of Only Possible Prom Dress.
I’m interested in Hadean Lands but it probably won’t be before some of the other titles on the above list.

Thanks for your input!


Savoir-Faire is one of my all-time favorite Infocom-esque parser games.

Curses is a brutally hard puzzle-fest, but also a lot of fun.

And of course, a smaller game which I still love (Finley+Ingold is one of those rare collaborations): Shadow in the Cathedral.


If you enjoyed Anchorhead, you may enjoy Cragne Manor, which is very big and very puzzly.


You have all the ones I’d first think of, except for Jigsaw.

A more ‘deep cut’ one would be Tryst of Fate: Tryst of Fate - Details

Worldsmith is pretty great. It starts with a kind of ‘board game’ where you have to create an earth with optimal characteristics, and that game is big in itself, but once you get past it it opens up to a wider world that is itself huge.

Andy Philipps games are a genre of their own. If you try one and like it, you might as well play them all, although they’re very different than most parser games, and tend to have 90-style thriler plots (dead prostitutes in a bathtub, weird plot twists like best friends being evil). Inside Woman is probably his best game.


Mulldoon Legacy would be my choice! It’s my favorite large scale puzzler.
(There is one puzzle early on involving a locked room and a windup toy that I would highly encourage seeking a hint for) however, it’s amazing how much you can solve especially if you’re willing to walk away and think about it


I would also recommend Worldsmith very much. Remember to choose story mode otherwise you will not play the full game.


Sounds interesting, I’ll add it to my list even if it’s not first in line!

As with Hadean Lands, I’m also interested in Cragne, but I don’t think I will opt for that before some of these other classics!

@mathbrush @Denk Worldsmith and Tryst of Fate will also get added to the list, even if not first! The Philipps stuff sounds interesting, but that might be something I’d just play through without being so concerned about the solving part, to see what it’s about.

@Zephyr , Mulldoon defnitely started out as one of the top contenders! And yes, I love the kinds of challenges that get you stuck not because of inscrutable difficulty but which can come to you while you’re away from the game. Thanks for the heads up on the one puzzle!

I’ll hold off choosing for another couple of days, probably, so let the votes keep coming!


-Return to Ditch Day is amazing, but I wouldn’t recommend it for months of chipping. I solved the main story line in a week without hints. If you add the optional side-path, maybe another day or two.
-Same goes for Tryst of Fate. Great game, on the big side, sure, but not really for weeks of adventuring.
-Worlds Apart would go in this same category for me. This is my favourite game of all time, so I recommend it with all my heart. Not really what you’re looking for though, I think. It’s a very long story, but it’s also on the easy side. I expect it wouldn’t take much longer than a week, maybe ten days.

-Lydia’s Heart is one of the best puzzlers I’ve ever played, and it has a creepy atmosphere of tension running all the way through. The only game I purposefully closed all cabinets behind me to make sure none of the NPCs would notice I’d been in the room. If you’re going in hintless, I expect you would resurface eventually, probably a month after we’re all wondering if you were eaten by a grue. Highly recommended!

-I’m going to add two games which weren’t on the list or in the suggestions yet:

  • World - Details (ifdb.org):
    This’ll take months. Seriously. If you get hopelessly lost, that would be good, because it would give you a reason to look at Volker Blasius’ fantastic narrative walkthrough and detailed map.
  • T-Zero - Details (ifdb.org):
    Actually not that big judging by map-size, but the puzzles will keep you occupied through all your waking hours for a couple of weeks, and you will wake from your dreams in the middle of the night with the obsessive urge to just go try that one command your mind came up with in that last dream.

Very helpful, thanks @rovarsson ! The commentary on T-Zero is very intriguing!
It’s also possible that if some of these on the list are must-plays, but also on the shorter side, maybe it’ll make sense for me to do those first.
But then again, “a week of your time” for the average individual might mean “a month of your time” for a father of 3.5 children 4 and under :slight_smile:


I will certainly recommend Curses and Finding Martin, the latter of which I indeed chipped away at for over a year, but I’ll be impressed if you can finish them without hints …


BTW, Never Gives Up Her Dead already has ten 5-star ratings so I think I will personally go for that one :slight_smile:


I beta tested most of NGUHD, but at some point I’d like to see the finished product as well!


I see some of my favorite games of all time on your list :grinning:. Just in case you haven’t checked it out already, I’ll quickly mention that Risorgimento Represso, the prequel to Illuminismo Iniziato, is definitely worth a playthrough. Lengthwise it’s about on par with Illum and it’s just as packed with puzzles and shenanigans.
There are two more games I’d like to throw in to the pool for consideration, neither of which seems to have ever gotten much attention on this forum.
1: Windhall 1: The Path to Fortune is a fairly large epic fantasy quest with an open world and a decent amount of NPC interaction. It’s nowhere as big as, say, Curses, but will probably keep you busy for a good few weeks. (Warning: it contains some game mechanics which have thoroughly fallen out of fashion today including a sleep timer.)
2: Vacation Gone Awry is a scifi/espionage title which was technically written in 1988 but went through significant development before its final release in 2006. You’ll definitely notice some '80’s-era design principles in the game’s structure, but there are built-in hints and a detailed walkthrough available for sticky situations.


Thank you everyone! I’m very intrigued by the number of recommendations which are new to my radar. I expect that a number of these games I will investigate sooner rather than later, in the kind of capacity where I will try to make it on my own, but won’t quibble about using hints in order to see the end of the game and get on to one of the many others.
@Morningstar , after finishing Iniziato, it was basically a given that I’ll give Risorgimento a whirl too!
Nonetheless, I also want to have a queue of games that I play to conquer, no matter how long it takes. That’s what this informal poll was about: not just games worth playing–of which all of these suggestions no doubt are–but which games I should approach with that “once I start this I’m sticking with it till the bitter end, hintless if humanly possible” mentality.
As tantalizing as many of these new (to me) titles sound, I’m thinking that I’m going to go with a classic first. Lydia’s Heart sounds amazing, but generally speaking horror isn’t my first love.
I think Mulldoon Legacy is going to be it. There’s something quintessential about it, that makes me feel like I need it on my resume. It is wholly possible that I will sample or even complete some of these other recommendations, with a less strenuous approach, before I reach the end of it. But I need to put down the stamp on something so I don’t end up in an eternal window-shopping mode, never finishing anything because I haven’t made up my mind what I’m going to buckle down with.
So, thanks all for helping me decide, and also for providing me a bunch of other selections that I eagerly anticipate checking out!


Alas! @rovarsson I could not get the World file to expand on my Mac.


How unfortunate! I remember having to switch DOS files because the saves on 106 were behaving wonky.

You could just download and read Volker Blasius’ walkthrough to get a taste…


Perhaps not @johnnywz00 's next big puzzler, he seems to have decided on The Mulldoon Legacy (let’s cross our fingers we hear from him again), but this feels like the right place to plug two mansion-exploration games that are less known (7 and 2 ratings on IFDB respectively) but do fit the conditions of the original question:

-challenging puzzles
-Infocom-style old-school

and of course the additional property of being loads of fun to play!


I’m actually going to finish up Prom Dress before launching Muldoon… I beta tested quite a bit of it and I’ve been meaning to see the rest of the game ever since it came out. I like to support my fellow TADS authors :slightly_smiling_face: Currently still retracing steps from my testing days. I may use hints if necessary for this one, since I’m mainly just checking out the second half of the game. I’ll let you know when I go under water with Muldoon (unless something else wins out over it before then)!


As I’m currently researching original Adventure in some detail, I feel compelled to mention Adv770 by Mike Arnautov and Adventure in Humongous Cave by David Malmberg. These are ARNA0770 and MALM1000 respectively in the Adventure taxonomy. I think they meet all the criteria in your original request.


A few more suggestions:
Mirror Of Khoronz;
Birmingham IV;
Castle Blackstar.