I felt very frustrated by this game. I wanted to like it a lot, but I had to go to the walkthrough twice, including for the “critical puzzle.” In both cases, the puzzle solutions felt random/unfair, even in hindsight, because they were inexplicable “guess the verb” puzzles.
The setting is a delight; the character arc is quite good. I feel that the authors should update the game during the comp to fix these puzzles, which I’m sad to say kinda ruined the game for me.
The first time I went to the walkthrough:
[spoiler]You have to “rub makke” to remove her clothes. I have no idea how any of the beta testers figured that out.
>x makke Mákke is cold and stiff, grotesquely twisted in a death-spasm. Mákke wears the rune of Akka tattooed on her skin, under the damp, dark clothes still holding snow in their folds. >x clothes Mákke's garment is a simple woollen dark tunic, just like yours. A witch garment. >get clothes Mákke is too stiff and cold to take her clothes off. >cut clothes Mákke is too stiff and cold to take her clothes off.
I don’t know a lot about corpses, but I don’t think it’s common to rub a dead body to get its clothes off, especially when you have a knife that can cut the clothes.[/spoiler]
The second puzzle, the “critical puzzle,” had the exact same problem. Curiously, the walkthrough includes a big spoiler warning like so:
I found this interesting for two reasons:
- It’s a walkthrough! I know I’m going to get spoiled!
- It’s clear that the authors felt confident that this puzzle had “plenty of hints” for players to solve it fairly, and that solving the puzzle would be much more enjoyable than reading the solution in the walkthrough.
I deeply disagree with the authors’ opinion on this. This “guess the verb” puzzle has no useful hints that I could find.
[spoiler]I went to the walkthrough because I needed to “stab akka”. I didn’t think to try that verb specifically; instead I tried to “cut akka” which gives this useless negative feedback.
>cut akka You already have the rune of Akka, you don't need to keep on cutting up Mákke.
I’ll grant that cutting and stabbing aren’t technically the same thing, but they’re nearly synonymous. I felt very frustrated reading the final solution, especially after that huge spoiler space build up.
It should have just let me CUT AKKA and then it would have been fine. Or, at the very least, if the feedback had more clearly said, “It won’t help to cut the rune with the edge of the knife. You’ll need to do something even more drastic.” That might have led me to try stabbing. I’d never stabbed anything else in the game; I had no reason to think that the game was going to use a more specific verb.[/spoiler]
Without the walkthrough I would never have solved it, and I’m frankly shocked to read that seven beta testers apparently figured this out themselves.
In conclusion, this game is almost great. A few fixes will take care of it.