Tales Of The Travelling Swordsman

Tales Of The Travelling Swordsman by Mike Snyder (Hugo)

One thing a game should never do by default is override the colours I’ve specified previously. If I’ve specified the colours, it’s a fair bet those are the colours I want to use when playing the game. Changing them is just going to annoy people. Fortunately this game, unlike one of the others in the IFComp (“Legion”), allows me to change them back to what I want. Which probably explains why I’m reviewing this one and not the other.

The game itself is actually three small games in one, each of them different enough that they could have been released separately and worked well in their own right. The first involves you, the travelling swordsman of the title, arriving at a farm house where a few things need sorting out. The second part has you aboard a flying boat, fighting off overly large spiders and helping the captain to keep things shipshape. In the third part, you come to an abandoned fishing village and have to overcome a tyrant. (There’s also the epilogue as well, in which certain things about the game are explained, but as this takes only a few minutes to play through, and can be completed in a handful of moves, it doesn’t really count as a part in the same way that the others do.)

Of the three parts, I found myself liking the one with the flying boat the most, with the abandoned village a close second and the farm house a distant third. While the flying boat and the abandoned village had bizarre elements about them that I liked, the farm house didn’t. It seems quite plain and ordinary compared to the strangeness of the later parts. A pity the game started here. I think the travelling swordsman coming across a flying boat or a village terrorised by a tyrant would have been a better start to the game than a farm house where he’s required to harness a bull, find a way to bar a door and other not very exciting actions.

There seemed to be a few references within the game to the player being deaf (a girl screaming which the player is aware of but cannot hear, and then later on the same thing happening with the tyrant) but this was never resolved at the end of the game so maybe I simply misunderstood the references.

If there are parts of the game I wasn’t keen on, it’s the puzzles and solving them. Some were pretty easy and even I managed to figure them out (which shows they must have been really easy) whereas most just had me scratching my head and referring to the walkthrough for a clue as to what I was supposed to be doing. In particular, the fight with the tyrant at the end of the game was one part I’d have never figured out if I hadn’t cheated as it used several commands that it would never have occurred to me try otherwise.

All in all, though, I definitely preferred this to the author’s previous two games even if most of the game was spent with the walkthrough to one side of me.

6 out of 10

I’m a bit puzzled by the many reviews I’ve read that are confused about that (the deaf PC). Yes, it was weird at first when the PC couldn’t really talk to anyone in the story, but after a while I just rolled with it and the epilogue explained it neatly enough. I found it quite touching, really.

I liked the first part at the farm house the best. It had the most enchanting fairy-tale quality, like this part:

The second part felt fantastic and cool, but also a little jumbled and off-pace, particularly in the battle with the spiders. I noticed this too in Tower of the Elephant, it’s difficult to coordinate IF turn-based action.

I’m curious about what your preferred color scheme is and why you’re so set on it. Tales instantly struck me by its excellent presentation. Shouldn’t some games have license to present themselves in the uniqueness of the author’s vision?

I like white text on a black background as I always find a white background painfully bright. It’s one of those things that never fails to annoy me: when I’ve set the colour scheme to something I want, I start a new game and it gets changed. At least this game let me change it back so I went ahead and played it; Legion wouldn’t let me change it so I quit right there and then.

Yes, ultimately it’s the author’s decision on what colour scheme they use; but it’s the player’s decision on whether they play the game or not.


I was puzzled at first, until I found out what (I think) is going on. One player didn’t take the signing to be a clue to deafness (I think that if you can’t sign – like I can’t – then it’s probably easier to make the connection). Others didn’t like the rest of the game, so they weren’t really interested in doing much but skimming the ending. Others liked the game (or liked it well enough), but balked at the main twist and just didn’t notice the signing at all. I think the last group are those that didn’t get to the end (ran out of time or just didn’t like it enough to play to the end).

Yikes, is “rushng” my typo, or yours? If mine, I’m going to kick myself. I did notice a handful after the comp version, but I don’t remember that being one. :frowning:

But anyway, thanks! The pattern I’m seeing is that most people preferred the 2nd chapter. You’re the first (maybe second) I’ve seen who preferred Part 1, and nobody seems overly thrilled with Part 3. :slight_smile:

I’ve never been bothered either way. DOS was white-on-black (or light gray-on-black, at any rate) and I used it for years (still do, sometimes). When I remote into my Linux servers, it’s the same. Windows is black-on-white (email, text editors, etc). I think if I had to pick, I’d stick with the black-on-white. It’s the Gargoyle default, and the HTML TADS default (unless I changed it a long time ago and just forget).

Without replaying the game I would say that’s my typo; perhaps I’m just too thick to figure it out but I’ve never been able to use cut and paste with Gargoyle.

Is it possible to cut and paste out of Gargoyle? I’ve never been able to myself. When I needed to copy some text from it, I had to start a transcript to do it.

Don’t think so. Hopefully Tor will add that soon - it’s a little annoying.

Me too. I was very impressed by the lengths the author went to make sure it looked beautiful - not just in Hugo, but also in Gargoyle.

I loved this game. I found it charming, relaxed, and effortless.

Some (most) games make the author’s work and effort all too apparent, and you can practically see a little author-entity running around, struggling between each thing, trying to make it all work, and pointing at random stuff going ‘look at this, look at it, isn’t it clever?!’ Not this game; Swordsman felt like I really WAS reading a fairy tale that I could control. The author’s influence was entirely invisible. This factor is what really makes a quality game for me; only Swordsman and Floatpoint achieved it for me in this comp. For Swordsman the effect may have been broken a tiny little bit during the chase scene, but after that it recovers beautifully.

I also liked that it didn’t consciously throw itself into some controversial sci-fi conundrum, or a sappy romantic arc, or an overtly shocking theme. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those - it’s just nice to see an author who is confident enough in his writing and his medium that he can just relax and tell an entertaining story. That factor reminded me of Winter Wonderland from a previous comp, another game in this vein that I really enjoyed.

As for the twist with the deafness, it was a minor ‘aha’ moment at the end for me. I had noticed that nobody talked, and I had considered it briefly, and chalked it up to the author’s storytelling style (and really, to do anything else would be to actively and artificially find faults with the game, in my opinion. There’s no reason a game HAS GOT TO have dialogue. If you can communicate an idea by having a character point at something and not talking, then to do so is perfectly acceptable, and in fact, better, I think). When I got to the signing at the end I went, ‘oh, so that’s why…’ And left with a nice feeling of having been a part of a little boy’s pretend games.

I’m not sure if the game itself would have improved by letting the reader in on the ‘It’s a pretend game’ from the very beginning, but I think it would have. I mean, why not? What’s wrong with saying to the reader ‘You’re gong to be playing in a little boy’s imagination today’ instead of ‘You’re a strong swordsman in a medieval land… …naahh just kidding you’re just a little boy!!’ So that would be the one suggestion I would make to the author… you didn’t need to make it a ‘twist’, the story was fine as it was.

Anyway, well done and certainly one of my two favorite games in the entire comp.

I’ve been too fixated on the complaints lately to stop and think that people did like the game. I realize it – I just have this odd urge to dig into the how’s and why’s of the more critical feedback. It just wasn’t to everyone taste. So I guess what I’m saying is… thank you all!