Adventures in the Tomb of Ilfane by Willershin Rill
I was ready to give this game a very low rating for being unsolvable and hence a waste of my time, when MathBrush pointed out to me that it is actually one of a trio of games, together with Incident! Aliens on the Teresten! and Terror in the Immortal’s Atelier. As a meta puzzle, this seems rather weak. You can count on people playing at least two of your trio in a much smaller competition, but what are the chances in IF Comp? I suspect that there are many players out there who did not ask MathBrush for help and whose time will, in fact, have been wasted. (And there are already several reviews of this kind.) But I’m not one of them, so let’s move on to a review of the entire trio.
Or maybe ‘trio’ is not the right word? It seems easy to argue that Adventures, Incident! and Terror are in fact one single game, so much so that it would seem fair to treat them as such when the prize money is being distributed. What we get are three tightly interrelated explorations of The Knot, an artefact of untold power that has been used unsuccessfully by peace-loving aliens to protect them from tyranny; that has been used more successfully by tyrants to make themselves immortal and all-powerful; and that is ‘now’ being coveted by the Nazis in their quest for total domination. Playing the three games gives us different glimpses of this overarching story, although things never become fully coherent – or, one suspects, fully consistent. But that is no doubt part of the intended effect.
The game has a clear political theme in the sense that it paints a chilling picture of fascist totalitarianism. What I liked most were the books in Terror, which twist well-known tales into horrifying little pieces that perfectly demonstrate a future that is – in the immortal words of Orwell – a boot stamping on a human face, forever. (There are some indications that the author is thinking about contemporary US politics, but the tales work on a larger level less bound to a specific moment in time.) So I quite enjoyed that, and I actually read all the ending scenes with some trepidation. Having it all end with a slapstick conclusion was unexpected, but frankly quite funny. “I often varned the little Nazi children against him!” Brilliant. (I probably misremember the quote, by the way.)
As puzzle, not much; as mood piece, more effective than I had anticipated and deliciously ambivalent. I think I’m going to score this in the 6-7 range.