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by David Welbourn
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Search for the Lost Ark

by Garry Francis profile


Web Site

(based on 7 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

The stories about the Ark of the Covenant are well known, but its current location is a mystery. According to French author Louis Charpentier, the Ark was taken to the Chartres Cathedral by the Knights Templar, but no one outside the cathedral has ever seen it. There may be a good reason for this.

You were raised in a small village about 100 km from Chartres Cathedral. According to local legend, the Ark was secretly transferred from the cathedral to your village's church, where it was safe from tourists and treasure hunters.

Prior to World War I, the Ark was hidden in the local forest so that it would be safe from the invading German army and it has remained there until this day.

The priest that hid the Ark recently passed away, taking the location of the Ark to his grave. The Church Council has decided that it's time to recover the Ark. As a seminarian (or trainee priest), they have asked you to return to your local village, use your local knowledge to find the Ark and return it to its rightful place on the altar in your church.

Game Details


1st Place - tie, Classic - ParserComp 2023


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Number of Reviews: 3
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A chill search for the Lost Ark in a forest, July 15, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

This game is an Inform/PunyInform game that centers around you, a young priest, receiving a charge to search for the Ark of the Covenant that had been entrusted to your local church for generations and hidden in times of war.

+Polish: Like most Garry Francis games, this is smooth and polished. Many interactions have been anticipated and coded for.

+Descriptiveness: The text is straightforward but detailed. Locations are described both by form and function, with nice little details thrown in about the history you have with things.

+Interactivity: Puzzles were set up in a way that I could form hypotheses and strategize and carry out my plans with just enough difficulty.

-Emotional impact: This game combines two very weighty topics ((Spoiler - click to show)the ark of the covenant and vampires) and treats them in a pretty matter-of-fact way. Dramatic actions like (Spoiler - click to show)unearthing the corpse of a beloved friend and (Spoiler - click to show)burning a vampire to ash are given the same treatment as unlocking doors and climbing ladders.

+Would I play again or recommend? Yes, I think people will like this.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
ParserComp 2023: Search for the Lost Ark, July 1, 2023
by kaemi
Related reviews: ParserComp 2023

The time has come to return the Ark of the Covenant to its caretakers. By which I mean of course “its rightful place on the altar in the local church.” From Josiah’s cave deep in the Temple Mount to Chartres Cathedral flourishing in its Scholastic heyday, millennia of mystery culminate in, naturlich, a jaunty bit of sleuthing for a seminarian.

This sleuthing revels in the simple joys of text adventuring, as par for Garry Francis’ indefatigable output, but Search for the Lost Ark presents perhaps his most vibrantly themed escapade yet, with several thematic puzzles that sizzle like quips. Favorites include Father Matisse taking his secret to the grave, so we dig him up, and having to defeat Father Alucard, replete with sharp canines and a Romanian accent, by showing him a crucifix. By so tightly connecting the colorful exuberance of the puzzles into the overarching scheme, rather than the sterilized laboratory logics of disjointed brainteasers, we get a committed whimsy that makes the church grounds a vivid playspace to explore. Most importantly, the cartoony silliness melds with a lighthearted intentionality that prevents the antics from veering into sacrilegious superciliousness. Jokes stay Sunday safe: “Q: Who was the fastest man in the Bible? / A: Adam, because he was first in the human race.” Moreover, the twist ending sidesteps some of the more charged implications of the Ark, electing instead for a cutesy satisfaction: “Oh, wow! Your eyes are dazzled by the brilliance of the gold-covered object in the chest. It’s the Ark of the Covenant! It’s not the real thing, but a one-fifth size replica. Even so, it’s just as beautiful as you imagine the real Ark to be and you immediately understand why the Church Council wants it to be recovered.” Somehow I found this reveal kind of heartwarming, settling neatly into the provincial devotional vibes and helping to modulate the tonal dissonance to where “That will look good on your resumé when your training is complete” feels like an adequate denouement. And I’m sure it has spared Garry from having to brush up on his Amharic as he navigates a deluged inbox.

What contributes most to keeping the puzzles contiguous is the themed scavenger hunt at the heart of the game about discovering inscriptions of verses from each book of Torah, then using these to solve a five-digit combination lock. The solution, where each verse includes a number that goes into the combination, is satisfactory enough, although I perhaps overthought things and ended up with a much more baroque answer: the verses, Genesis 1:9, Exodus 31:18, Leviticus 16:1, Numbers 35:13, and Deuteronomy 15:1, all contain one number other than 1 or 3, or the three-in-one, yielding a combination of 98655, which is anachronistically Christian sure but certainly within the “blend between Indiana Jones and Father Brown” Garry evokes.

Demonstrating, of course, that despite the increased commitment to setting, the true lifeblood here is neoclassical adventuring: “When you look under the bed, you find a ladder. That’s a strange place to keep a ladder, so you pull it out.” And, as anyone might expect, it’s pleasant, fun, and funny, so what more could you want, the Ark of the Covenant?

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
It belongs in a museum, September 22, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: ParserComp 2023

Here’s one of the iron laws of interactive fiction: you are in good hands with Garry Francis. There may be a few other contemporary authors working at a similar clip, but even fewer, I think, hit the same consistently high level of quality, serving up adventures that might be old-school in their premises but boast airtight implementation, clear and engaging prose, and solidly-designed puzzles. Yet even judged against these high standards, Search for the Lost Ark is a standout, delivering a game that’s polished, funny, and satisfying.

From the title you might think that we’re in for an Indiana Jones style globetrotting adventure, but the actual setup, delightfully, is both more grounded and wackier: the Lost Ark was found long ago and had been hanging out in Chartres’ cathedral for several centuries, until being moved first to a village church and then – out of an admirable but perhaps overzealous protective instinct, Chartres being west of Paris – during World War I it was hidden in the nearby woods to keep it safe from German marauders. Now, as a priest-in-training who grew up in the area, you’ve been ordered back home to find the thing after the clergyman who hid it shuffles off to join the choir invisible. The only problem is, you’ve no idea where to start, and there’s something off about your immediate superior, the rather-wan, just-arrived-from-Eastern-Europe “Father” “Alucard.”

So yeah no points for guessing the plot twist, but this isn’t the sort of game that’s relying on the plot for engagement – and it knows you know that, meaning Alucard will engage in a bit of knowing vamping if you care to toss some pointed dialogue queries his way but you’re not going to short-circuit any puzzles by dint of your genre-awareness. Similarly, the writing does a perfect job of conveying a sense of place and highlighting the details you’ll need to focus on to complete your quest, all in a terse yet informative style that’s a model of effective prose. This is no mean feat, especially since it also has to communicate information that you, as a priest-to-be, would know about subjects like the structure of the Bible or the details of church architecture, but that you, as a player of IF, might not. Many of these tidbits are actually relevant to solving the game, but some are just lovely little factoids:

"> x hammer

"The sledge hammer has a heavy iron head and a long wooden handle. This combination makes it good for breaking big rocks into little rocks. Did you know that ‘sledge’ is derived from the old English ‘slægan’, which means ‘to strike violently’. No? Well, now you do."

I didn’t, so yes, now I do!

As for those puzzles, none are especially hard, but gosh, are they satisfying. There are a series of clearly-signposted obstacles, each with intuitive solutions, and if this were all there was to the game, it might risk feeling a bit too old-school, in a USE X ON Y sort of way, but there’s also a final metapuzzle: as you progress, you’ll come across a series of biblical verses, which you need to combine to reach your ultimate goal. I won’t spoil the details, but it takes just the right amount of thought, and while it rewards a bit of outside knowledge, the game characteristically provides everything you need even if the difference between Corinthians and Thessalonians is all Greek to you.

Writing this review with the benefit of hindsight, I’m not at all surprised that Search for the Lost Ark shared the gold medal in the classic category – this is a near-perfect execution of the traditional form, thoughtful and engaging and not overstaying its welcome. The only problem is, now the next time I play a Garry Francis game, my standards will be even higher!

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New walkthroughs for July 2023 by David Welbourn
On Friday, July 28, 2023, I published new walkthroughs for the games and stories listed below! Some of these were paid for by my wonderful patrons at Patreon. Please consider supporting me to make even more new walkthroughs for works of...


The following polls include votes for Search for the Lost Ark:

Outstanding PunyInform Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best PunyInform game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Eligible...

Outstanding Inform 6 Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best Inform 6 game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Eligible...

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