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Intricately realized puzzling, December 2, 2020
The Impossible Bottle is a parser-based game by Linus Åkesson, published in 2020. In it, you play as a six-year old girl who has to clean up and help do other chores around the house. Things are complicated by the fact that (Spoiler - click to show)she and her family seem to live inside a fractal arrangement of doll houses. Or maybe it’s all just the power of the girl’s imagination?
The gameplay is all about puzzles. The core mechanics here are really clever, supported by a well-designed and responsive world that encourages (and demands) experimentation. I was a bit frustrated by (Spoiler - click to show)how chronically helpless Dad is, but I guess most games wouldn’t exist if everyone else in the game world were more competent than the player.
The writing is efficient. The tone is sometimes ordinary, sometimes imaginative and whimsical. It does its job without wasting words.
The game has three clearly defined acts, but it still feels like a loosely structured “sandbox” puzzle game at heart. The drawback with this approach is that the gameplay can feel a bit uneven. I solved some puzzles before even realizing they were puzzles, and then, at other times, didn’t have the slightest idea on how to even begin accomplishing some task. Some random or timed events can also add to the confusion.
The way the game is playable either parser-based or choice-based is a nice and unique touch. I played the online version and thought the presentation was all around smooth.
The Impossible Bottle is an impressive puzzle game that makes me interested in the potential of Dialog. Even though my playthrough had some small snags and confusing moments, it’s probably nothing that can’t be fixed in a post-comp version. It’s fundamentally a solid title that does some unique things, and it’s simply fun to mess around with.