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The Magic Toyshop

by Gareth Rees


(based on 18 ratings)
2 reviews

About the Story

A one-location game in which you play a series of puzzles against a shopkeeper in order to get a present.
[--blurb from The Z-Files Catalogue]

Game Details


3rd Place, Inform Division - First Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1995)

Editorial Reviews

Baf's Guide

A one-room puzzle feast. No plot to speak of, a modicum of atmosphere, one interesting character: Catharine, the toyshop's owner's daughter. She plays nine games with you, some traditional, some based on puzzles from other adventure games, a few requiring bending of the rules. Contains references to Trinity and Curses!, but the only puzzle that requires knowledge of either is optional. The final puzzle is very hard unless you're familiar with the works of Raymond Smullyan. Has an in-plot hint system (ask Catharine for help). Contains good examples of how to include board games in a text adventure.

-- Carl Muckenhoupt

The limited vocabulary set combined with the sketchy descriptions of what is going on reduce Toyshop to one of the most frustrating games of "guess the verb" that I've had the misfortune to encounter in years.
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Each time you solve a puzzle, you miraculously notice something else in the shop, which of course is part of the next puzzle. This makes the game very linear, as you only have one puzzle available to solve at any given time - solving it then produces another puzzle which either pops out of nowhere, or is given to you by Catharine.
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Number of Reviews: 2
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
Warning: This is not interactive fiction., March 7, 2008

In 1995, Inform 6 was under development and the first IF Comp was organized. The modern era of interactive fiction had not yet begun. Author Gareth Rees has been instrumental in bringing about the modern era; he helped kickstart the adoption of Inform by contributing to the Designer's Manual and producing the well-regarded Christminster. It is not necessary to be enthusiastic about The Magic Toyshop to acknowledge the debt of gratitude we all owe him.

This game is much more akin to "Hunt the Wumpus" or some other ASCII mainframe relic than it is to a work of IF. It has a framing story, but that story in no way affects the gameplay. Gameplay consists of a series of increasingly devious logic puzzles, most of which are based on the kinds of pen-and-paper games that kept kids busy on rainy days before the invention of the game console. To advance, you often have to figure out a way to creatively cheat. While this is somewhat amusing, it is also slightly perverse -- you have no motivation for doing so other than to "win" by any means necessary.

As if that weren't enough, the game loses its consistency about two thirds of the way through and introduces a "puzzle" requiring knowledge of the Infocom classic Trinity (and others?) to even have a clue how to proceed. Resorting to the walkthrough did not leave me with a sense of failure -- only puzzlement that the author could expect anyone but himself to figure out the right sequence of moves.

Should you make it to the end of this player/author grudge match, you are sent packing with little more than a cursory "*** You have won. ***" and no sense of accomplishment.

It is hard to imagine, but this all-work-and-no-play entry scored 3rd in the Comp. While this piece may be worth examining by a programmer for its noteworthy adaptation of classic timewaster games, it holds little value to a player -- except maybe the kind of militant puzzle fiend one can only find in Britain. I would not bother with this one unless you really get the urge to solve bent logic puzzles using a text parser.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A collection of mini games and homages to Curses! and Trinity, February 3, 2016

This game was entered in the very first IFComp in 1995. The competition was originally intended to give sample code for Inform authors. This game uses the z-machine to model games like tic tac toe, dots and boxes, towers of hanoi, etc. using ASCII graphics.

The puzzles are unfair, and you must cheat to beat about half of them.

The game is full of homages to Curses! and Trinity. Several puzzles require explicit knowledge of these two games. Even with this knowledge, some steps near the end are extremely difficult to guess.

This game is interesting as a sample game and for fans of puzzles as described above.

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