(A Magnetic Scrolls puzzle-romp. Funny, frustrating, elegant, unfair, very entertaining. And quite under-rated on IFDB. Jinxter - Details (ifdb.org))
If you play this game without slavishly following the walkthrough to the smallest detail, you will ragequit when the endgame throws you out right before the final 6 or 7 moves.
Many puzzles in Jinxter have a straightforward adventure-game solution. This solution has potentially life-threatening side-effects. You don’t actually die though, but it takes a little bit off your luck-stat. Which you need. Which I didn’t know. Which I only found out when I was thrown out of the endgame because I was low on Luck.
Restoring this late in the game won’t help, the only way to experience the endgame and the good conclusion of the story is restarting and finding out the intermediate steps of caution in every solution.
“Somehow, you don’t feel quite as lucky as you did.”
If you read the above line, it’s time to restore and tackle that last puzzle again. Carefully…
Now, do play Jinxter! It’s fun!
No, really, it is.
For ages, Aquitania has been under the protection of an enchanted bracelet which grants above-average luck to its inhabitants. Recently, the power of the bracelet has diminished by the theft of several of its dangly charms. An opportunity for the Head Green Witch Jannedor to enlarge her influence on the land of Aquitania.
Your quest is clear. You must find the missing charms, restore the bracelet’s enchantment, confront Jannedor!
Wait… Who is this “You”?
It appears that our savior of the land is actually a random hapless passer-by, designated by Fate (and a rather befuddled Guardian) to take on this land-savioring task.
Perhaps Magnetic Scrolls earlier works provide a clue to who You is…
-There’s no mention of gills and fins, so it’s not the dimension-portal jumping goldfish-detective from Fish.
-No exceptional catburglary skills, probably not the thief from Guild of Thieves either.
Nope. Seems like You is just an ordinary adventure person without any distinguishing traits.
The world that unfolds for You to explore is large and varied. It all starts out in the mundane comfy familiarity of You’s own home, and it goes progressively more into fairy-talish territory with each new area.
(Ahem… When I said mundane, I should point out that’s a rather relative term. The street right out the front door is a literal Neverending Lane, and your furniture becomes, well, animated from time to time, presumably caused by the uncontrolled leakage of Luck.)
When I glance at my pen-and-paper map, the general shape is a narrow connecting line with bulges that represent multi-location puzzle areas. Four large areas are connected by some sort of vehicle ride (with attached puzzle). Apart from the connection between areas 1 and 2, these are one-way only. I love vehicular travel in adventures. It draws open the map and gives an impression of real long travel, as opposed to traversing unrealistically long distances on foot.
At least one sneakily hidden passage requires some weakly clued detection work, but the area it leads to is more than worth it.
Jaunty and exuberant writing pulls the player into the cheerful atmosphere of the game-world (despite the supposedly world-threatening danger of the Green Witches taking control, there’s not much of a sense of urgency…); vibrant location descriptions are supported by beautiful pictures that are helpful in constructing a clear mental image of You’s surroundings.
This cool spring, surrounded on all sides but the west by steep banks, bubbles up from underground. It looks entirely artless and natural, belying the fact that Xam’s crazed gardener constructed it by means of an intricate system of dams and hydraulics, initially flooding half the neighbourhood and leading to a series of acrimonious lawsuits lasting several years.
At other times, it’s more restrained, slipping in a drily humorous response to an EXAMINE-command.
The telephone is a telephone, just like a red one, except it is green.
Speaking of the EXAMINE-command… You can type it in full, but the abbreviation X is not understood. I did everything with L. It took some conscious effort to redirect my fingers’ deeply engrained automation from X [object] to L [object], but the adjustment wasn’t too big.
On the whole, the parser is perfectly adequate. It recognises complex commands (DROP ALL EXCEPT) and multiple-action commands (SMELL DEAD FLY THEN LICK IT). It is however somewhat too fine-grained, making the PC feel like a toddler who has to be pointed to all the discrete components of a seemingly simple action. Until you get used to holding the PC’s hand, this leads to a lot of “With what?” and “To whom” responses where a modern parser would deduce these things without problem.
---->Short aside as to why I’m mentioning this: Jinxter was published in 1987, when these finer points of parsing were not by any means to be taken for granted (still aren’t, actually, when you look beyond the strongest of modern parsers). Boasting about parser-strength was a real promotional tool, and players then would not have found these “shortcomings” to be disruptive.
To be sure, I never encountered an instance where parser inadequacy hindered the solving of a puzzle. The puzzles were more than enough of a challenge all by themselves.
The first area is gentle enough, the puzzles are easily recognisable and the limited amount of items in You’s inventory makes it rather straightforward to come up with the correct solution. (Look out for that additional Luck-complication though!)
The later areas, however, are much harder, especially the midgame. A bunch of interdependent locations necessitate running from one part of the area to the other to find the right item to use on a distant puzzle, there’s an unknown order to the obstacles that needs to be figured out in order to make real progress, and the puzzles are just harder.
Add to this a further complication: the “carry-all” You picked up early in the game turns out not to be a carry-all at all. It’s handy to keep all You’s stuff together, but each item still fills up your inventory, whether it’s inside the container or not. The inventory-limit is generous, but in a game like this it’s hard to predict if you’re going to need those nailclippers a second time or not. It never certain when it’s safe to discard an object, so You ends up carrying every carryable article around. This becomes a problem when one of the one-way passages prohibits the transporting of the carry-much and forces You to choose which items to bring.
The majority of puzzles are clever and fun to hypothesise about. Some are very elegant and surprising, with a solution so simple that it’s not obvious at all. Others are obscure, underclued to the point of unfairness, requiring many attempts and possibly a few RESTOREs.
---->Be sure to put a checkpoint-save at the beginning of each new area. Allthough it’s impossible to die in Jinxter, it’s exceedingly easy to wind up Zombified. I also encountered a bug that would have made the game unwinnable had I not been able to restore to my checkpoint. (The Bartender gets fussy when you give him the wrong coin. He gives you a glass of beer that you cannot interact with.)
There are many NPCs to interact with. They’re of the thick cardboard type, but the cardboard is painted in bright colours and cartoonish features. They’re amusing caricatures, fun to mess with a bit, but don’t expect any depth of conversation. Their main purpose is to serve as obstacles, to be fooled, distracted, mislead in the search for the missing charms.
There’s also a weird Guardian (the one who appointed You as the right person to undertake this quest in the first place) soaring around who will regularly appear out of nowhere. It’s worth asking him about the problem at hand, but don’t count on a helpful answer. He might point You in the right direction, but it’s just as possible he’ll be too confused to help in any way, or too busy with finding the nearest whatever-it-is that he’s after this time. In short, you shouldn’t rely on the Guardian as an in-game hint system to help you find the charms.
Collecting the charms grants access to the magic powers they possess. Each charm encapsulates a single spell. These work as simple and straightforward manipulations of the surroundings, nothing too complicated, but a nice extra toolbox to consider when pondering a puzzle. And of course they’re a lot of fun when thrown around randomly at innocent, unsuspecting things or people in your immediate vicinity…
I started this review with a warning about the unfairness of the endgame, or, more precisely, about the necessity to do everything just right during the entire game to even be admitted to the endgame. And I did not restart and replay to enter the final few commands that separated me from the conclusion of the story. Nevertheless, I found Jinxter to be an engaging and entertaining exerience. Just watch your step and leave your temper at the entrance.