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Nominee, Best Game; Winner, Best Implementation; Nominee, Best Use of Innovation - 2018 XYZZY Awards
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Number of Reviews: 4
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I've played and reviewed over 1500 interactive fiction games, and there has never been anything like Cragne Manor.
This game was written by 84 authors. Some authors (including me) wrote small rooms with one minor puzzle, or, occasionally, only one.
Others wrote rooms that themselves could be entered into IFComp and do well, including complicated conversational games, (Spoiler - click to show)a miniature version of Hadean Lands, a monster breeding game, and story-focused cutscenes.
The game is a mishmash of different styles and levels of implementation. One room might be the most elaborate and smooth game you've ever seen, with varied tenses, custom parser responses, and complex state tracking; while another room might be basically a pile of dirt with nothing implemented. Puzzles range from super easy to very unfair.
For fans of big puzzle games, people who wish that longer games would be released, Infocom fans, fans of any of the people in the author list, conversational games, or IF in general, this game will provide hours of enjoyment.
As a warning, this game is overwhelming. It has 500K+ words, which is huge for parser games. As a comparison, Blue Lacuna had less than 400K, and much of that was devoted to verbose text descriptions. This game is just pure content. This game is longer than Curses!, Mulldoon Legacy, Worlds Apart, and roughly the same size as Finding Martin.
Prepare for the sinking in your stomach you will experience as you open a door to find another 6 or 7 rooms, each with their own fully-fleshed out puzzles. Prepare to keep notes for information you find in the game, tracking the many keys and doors.
The content warnings for the game are accurate. Every author has their own style, so some rooms have more of profanity or explicit content than others. I would say that maybe one or two rooms has anything sexual, and about a dozen rooms have violence or gore running from silly to horrifying.
As of writing this, there is no walkthrough, although that will likely be remedied soon. With the help of many of the authors, as I tested this game, I still took well over ten hours to beat this. Expect a long, long, long play time.
Perhaps the last thing I'd like to say about Cragne Manor is that this is almost like a little IFComp of its own. The number of games in the two is similar and the quality of the entries is similar, except that even the weakest rooms in this game have been tested and worked on as a group, and all the rooms in this game support each other, instead of fighting against each other.
Please enjoy this wonderful game.
(I wrote an unmemorable 1% of this game. The stars are for the other 83 people.)
I'd like to push back just a little bit on some of the introductory text from Cragne Manor. Not the parts about how the game is insane and brilliant and fun; that's all true. I'm immensely proud and grateful to have been part of it. No, it's the stuff about being prepared to be frustrated or overwhelmed on account of its hugeness. I completed it a few days ago, and I was surprised at just how playable it was.
There are a couple of things that distinguish Cragne Manor from something like The Mulldoon Legacy (which is amazing, but is definitely overwhelming). First, Cragne provides a fantastic amenity in the form of an item that tells you if you're able to solve the puzzles in a given room, or if you need additional information or items from elsewhere, or if you've done everything you need to do already. It's difficult to overstate how comforting this thing is. I get overwhelmed in huge games from the combinatorial explosion of rooms, puzzles, and information. I can't keep everything in RAM, so to speak, and become exhausted even looking at my inventory. The (Spoiler - click to show)coffee cup in Cragne kept my headspace manageable.
It also helped tremendously that each room was written without knowledge of the other rooms. Without saying too much about how the game and its puzzles are structured, this means that almost every item or piece of information is single-use. There are definitely things you'll need to take notes on, but for the most part, you use an item or a piece of info, and you can then throw it away (or put it in the zipped-up trash pocket of the brilliantly-implemented carryall). And many of the biggest and best set-piece puzzles are standalone.
I worked alone in my playthrough, and only needed a few hints. It probably took me over 30 hours to finish, and 6800 turns (maybe twice that when you consider moves lost to restores). But I always knew what I could do next, what would have to wait until later, and what items were still useful, and that made it manageable. Don't let the size of Cragne Manor scare you off.
84 rooms, each written by a different author, but co-ordinated into a structure and based around a tight enough theme that it all hangs together though often with intriguing incongruities.
Roughly, you can split the rooms into two different sorts: rooms which function as typical text-adventure rooms (a key might be hidden somewhere, there might be a short puzzle to get it); and rooms which are short games in themselves, which immerse you in their own unique stories, force you to learn a new set of interacting systems and so forth. As such, the game is constantly confounding your expectations.
Some of the rooms are genuinely horrifying, others are laugh-out-loud funny, more still are challenging and satisfying to work through. I recommend to anyone who likes text adventures especially its inspiration, Anchorhead. Expect to need hints!
(I contributed to this game, so per my own policy I've omitted my rating from the average.)
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