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About the Story
A classic IF investigation/mystery set in an old mansion. What could ever go wrong in an old mansion?
58th Place - 25th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2019)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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Bradford Mansion is a largish puzzle oriented parser mystery that is possible to solve without understanding anything of the mystery. When I finished it (after 2 hours, 10 minutes and 24 seconds according to the end message) there were still four locked things, and 12 more points to achieve (out of 74). Perhaps a lot is hidden behind these points, perhaps not; without them, at least, the story was quite thin, with the biggest mystery being the behaviour of the butler. Throughout the mansion there are, however, a large amount of symbolic paintings, hinting at a strange and deep mystery that reasonably should stretch far beyond my 12 missing points. I am curious as to what I have missed, but perhaps not sufficiently to play it over again.
I don’t always mind a thin story if the puzzles are good, and for the most part, they were good enough, although not very original. Both interestingly and frustratingly, however, Bradford Mansion is written with a seemingly custom engine, running directly in the console. One one hand, this gave it somewhat of a classic parser feeling, though on the other hand, everything goes much slower without the shortcuts and assistance that modern engines provide. You can’t use pronouns, you often have to write the full name of a thing, the up arrow doesn’t bring up the last command and there was no abbreviation for ‘look’.
During my playthrough I ended up consulting the walkthrough twice. While the last one was the matter of me overlooking a fairly obvious clue, the first was the result of a very strict parser to the point where I never could have guessed the correct syntax. In fact, the parser is generally quite unforgiving here, with many reasonable synonyms not being accepted. For anyone else that would like to play Bradford Mansion – and it’s still quite likeable, despite its limitations – I’m fairly certain that you don’t need to ‘search’, nor to ‘look under/inside/etc’, something that would have reduced my amount of moves significantly had I known it.
In this game you play the role of a young associate at a law firm. Your task is to find a will in the Bradford Mansion. The story is minimal but sufficient for a good puzzlefest. The homebrew parser was pretty good. However, I think the author should have chosen some different verbs for some of the problems. However, by experimenting I found out that if I couldn't guess a verb, I should often use "USE", e.g. "use hook with fishing rod" (fictive example).
It took me only a little more than two hours to complete the game without hints. However, I did not have maximum points, so if you like to improve your score, there is more entertainment in this game. The ending was a bit disapointing though.
The game is quite classical with some typical NPC's (butler, gardener and maid). Some of the puzzles I had more or less seen before, but that does not necessarily mean that the author didn't come up with the idea himself. It is just hard to think up a puzzle, which hasn't been used before in some form or another. Still this was a very entertaining game. Four stars.
Homebrew parser games are notoriously difficult to get right. Most are frankly bad, with poor parsing and tiny games.
Bradford Mansion is one of the better downloadable, executable homebrew parser games I've seen. Sensible floor layout, puzzles tied by common themes, most puzzles relying on simple verbs.
But the parser isn't completely up to the challenge. There are small inconveniences (like L not being recognized as LOOK), but larger ones as well. A few key puzzles require extremely precise commands, with anything just a tiny bit off being unrecognized. This makes the game extremely difficult to solve without the walkthrough.
It has some tricky combinatorics/code puzzles, which are not completely covered in the walkthrough (being part of a hidden track). A plus for the puzzle fiends out there!
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Solved without Hints by joncgoodwin
I'm very interested in hearing truthful accounts of at least somewhat difficult games (or games that don't solve themselves at least) solved completely without recourse to hints, walkthroughs, etc.