Victor's Variomatic #2: "Savoir-Faire"

For the second instalment of the Variomatic, I’d like to try a much longer and much tougher game. Savoir-Faire (2002) is probably Emily Short’s most difficult puzzle game. I played it a while back, and remember liking it a lot, but certainly didn’t come near to completion.

Let’s play it! I’m making a solemn promise that I will not turn to hints or a walkthrough. If I get stuck, I’ll keep trying and perhaps also ask for help here in this topic. You can choose your own strategy, but if you’d like to follow this example, we could help each other out.

You can get the game and the feelies here. (The map is probably spoilery and should be avoided.)

I’m in! I’ll follow the same rules; collaboration as the only source of hints. Savior-Faire was coming up on my queue anyway.

Oooh boy. I played this one fairly recently, and you boys are in for a treat.

I ended up capitulating to a walkthrough because I never really fully grasped the intricacies of the magic system, so let this be a hint to you - it’s intricate!

The map is not particularly spoilery, but the game’s geography is not that big anyway - once you’ve mapped it, you’ll have it commited to memory.

We’ll see! I have now scored 13 points out of 125. Below a not-too-spoilery list of my accomplishments so far.

[spoiler]* 2 points for finding two objects in an early room

  • 2 points for making a link in that same room
  • 4 points for getting the coins
  • 5 points for reaching the dining room


Good on you! I never got those points because I never realised that to get the points I had to physically remove the coins from the bag, so I just carried the bag around, all time time wondering whether I’d made a mistake in sacrificing an item - the bread - to get that bag, since I didn’t get rewarded with points![/spoiler]

Yes, that is peculiar. In fact, almost a bug, I’d say.

Interesting, I just died. Interesting. Heh.

I’m certainly not stuck yet, that is good. :slight_smile: But now is the time to go to bed.

Yeah, I too played this recently and could not get through without consulting a walkthrough in multiple places. It’s good, no argument about that, but I felt like some of the puzzles were under-clued.

My free hint: remember that this game thinks “examine” and “search” are different.

Victor, thanks for the welcome over on the Monk-Fish thread.

So the second game in the Variomatic is Savoir-Faire? Wow. A slight change of pace, then. I might have to sit this one out. Everything I’ve read about it is terrifying! :open_mouth:

It isn’t as terrifying as all that, I can assure you. You want terrifying, think about tackling Varicella. Savoir-faire isn’t easy, but it isn’t cruel.

Though it is de-motivating that your goal for the majority of the game is… well, I won’t spoil it, but it’s so mundane that when you get stuck you just think “Why am I bothering?”. Not unlike Curses - wouldn’t it be easier just to actually buy a map of Paris?

If you get to the final credits, you’ll note that Storme Winfield and I are listed as the first non-testers known to have finished it; and it is no secret that I generally suck at puzzles. (We both got hints along the way from other people who were playing, of course. But it is not anywhere near as difficult as yer average old-school puzzler.)

Don’t worry! This is the best opportunity to tackle such a game. You may get stuck, but then we’ll help you out. Feel free to post frequently! We’re not competing to finish it as soon as possible.

The number of items in the early game may seem overwhelming; but you’ll find an item very soon that allows you to carry everything at the same time.

I’m about 300 moves in and have 2 points. I’m not ready for hints yet, but this is proving to require thinking skills I haven’t exercised very well.

It sounds to me like you haven’t wrapped your head around the magic system yet. (More or less every puzzle in the game requires you to use that.) Reading the instructions or the feelies may help, but in case anyone wants to have a gentle introduction to using the magic system, I’m putting it below.

The magic system works with the link command: “LINK thing1 WITH thing2”. You’ll need to find out which things to link and what to do with them afterwards.

It is only possible to link things that are similar. You can’s link a carrot and a door, because they’re not like each other. But it is important to note that aesthetic properties are also important. If two things have the same colour, that makes them more similar. If they have the same design painted on them, idem.

After you’ve linked two things, whatever you do to one of them also happens to the other (within some limits – they don’t share physical movements, for instance). So if one thing gets cut up, the other thing will also get cut up.

You can use this to perform actions on things that would otherwise resist them, or would be unreachable. If you cannot open B, but you can open A, and A be can be linked … then you can open B by typing: “LINK A WITH B. OPEN A.”

[spoiler]Here’s an actual example from the game, though one that is, I believe, completely useless.

link teapot with snuffbox
Bending your will, you form the link between the hinge-lidded teapot and the snuffbox.

open teapot
You open the hinge-lidded teapot.

The snuffbox opens.[/spoiler]

Edit to spoiler-tag. If Victor meant for a gentle introduction to the magic system, I realised I was spoiling the whole thing, even though there aren’t actual game-spoilers.

But that’s only half of it. There’s more than one type of link, and that’s what kept frying my brain. When I reverse-linked I never knew which of the items was going to be affected, and what property was going to be “absorbed”.

You know, I had a lot of difficulty finding the similarity between the items, because that’s so broad a definition. In some cases I had trouble visualizing the items. In some cases the similarity was a throwaway adjective in their description, something I paid little heed to. In some cases I just failed to see how those items were similar - because there’s a world of difference between a property that defines what the object LOOKS like (colour, decoration), what the object is MADE of, and what the object DOES (open/close, most commonly).

I’m getting dizzy just remembering it all over again. :stuck_out_tongue: This is what I never could completely wrap my head around, and what ultimately defeated me.

Yeah, I just hadn’t tried the relevant combinations. I’m past that now

I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to fill the sink with water (using the handkerchief – forgot about the cup in the cupboard) in order to flush the silver cylinder out of the drain. I’ll go back to that later.

I’m wandering about more freely now. I’m not sure how you’d play the game at all without the feelies. There just doesn’t seem like there’s enough in-game context for what you have to do.

I’ll keep working at it; I haven’t had as much time to play the last couple days, but I really like the Variomatic. It’s nice to be able to play through something that other people are playing through at the same time, providing a context for discussion.

I think the last time I played it – five or six years ago, I don’t remember much – I didn’t have the feelies. But you can learn about the nuances of the magic system in other ways. (Teh remembered flashbacks are especially important.)

I had a tough fourty minutes, unsuccessfully trying to

either cut the roses or retreive the tea recipe

but then hit on the right idea with another puzzle and scored 9 points

retrieving the bauble

which means I’m now at a score of 26 points. No, wait, 30 points. Nope, 34. Success leads to success, but I’m not sure how my new item will actually help me.

Status report at 34 points. Nothing below should be very spoilery once you’ve had the opportunity to explore the main part of the house – I’ll keep things vague.

Tasks I’ve solved:

[spoiler]* Move the brick.

  • Open the doors into the house.
  • Unlock the ‘hidden’ door.
  • Make light in the darkness.
  • Get the bauble.
  • Make the model universe reveal something.

Tasks I think must be performed but that I haven’t solved yet:

[spoiler]* Cut the roses. (I have an idea, but to try it I have to solve another of these tasks first.)

  • Retrieve the tea recipe. (Surely this should be easy? I think I managed it the first time I played the game, but can’t remember how. Nope – loaded an old save just to check this, didn’t get it out then either.)
  • Get rid of the yellow hangings. (I have a detailed plan, but I think I have to perform another of these tasks first.)
  • Open east door in the long salon. (No idea.)
  • Read the encrypted letter. (I have an idea, but need to solve another of these tasks first.)
  • Stop the bee from killing me. (No idea. Don’t seem to be able to link it to anything.)
  • Find olive oil and salt so I can cook something. (I managed to find out where the olive oil is, but I can’t get there.)
  • Open the cellar doors. (No idea how to manipulate them yet.)

(I’ve been updating this a bit as I have new ideas.)

Savoir-faire is a deliberate throwback to the olden days, where the feelies were not optional.

I never felt any feelies were optional in any game, tell you the truth… copy protection, atmosphere, instructions, it’s all essential to me…