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