Beythilda the Night Witch

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Quick fun spooky touching poetry, December 27, 2022
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)

EctoComp does let people run wild with their imaginations or throw something out there they might as well. It certainly helped me say, sure, I can try to write something, why not? Lots of works never succeeded perfectly, but they worked quite well.

Beythilda is such a game, from way back when to just after EctoComp opened itself to non-ADRIFT games. It has some of the tricky guess-the-verb/noun stuff (note: use WINDOW instead of WINDOWS) that ADRIFT games and Speed-IF tend to have, but fortunately there's a WALKTHROUGH command, and on replay I was surprised how well the verbs were clued. Maybe part of that was knowing where to look, or having confidence that I played it years ago, and things eventually fit in.

You, Beythlida, find your familiar Tissues the Rat is missing. But Tissues will be tough to find. There's a mad mob determined to burn you, and they're about to ransack your house. Avoiding them is your first line of duty. The poetry in the descriptions and actions creates an interesting effect. It was written in three hours, so you can't expect a ton of emotion to come through, but it's atmospheric enough. The actions involve typical witch things, though again, reading the descriptions will tell what is useful.

The end puzzle is sort of cute, too, as you put a guard to sleep in surprisingly nonviolent fashion, calling into question how oppressed the mob really is.

This is one game that I shrugged off as "a neat idea or try I guess" when it came out, but it's stuck in my mind and I wish more people would try it. EctoComp or short efforts seem to work well for this so we don't get tired of the poetry, and also so we don't have to put on our pedantic critic's hat.

With twine, a poetry angle has been much more common. The medium is well-suited to it, from rhyming doggerel to free verse. People should take advantage of it. But I hope there'll always be a chunk of the community that would like to throw in a parser game, where either the player or writer is there to explore poetry, perhaps with a special typed command here and there.

I sort of shrugged this game off when I originally played it, but somehow I kept coming back to it. EctoComp has had its share of successfully zany games, but this was an experiment, one that was largely successful. There are side questions of if Tissues was helping you find a new home or just plain scared, and thinking on that and the overall design, I've been through it more times than several (also worthy) entries that excited me more when they came out. We all need a good deal of oddness, especially if it's not forced, and here it is not.

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