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The Purple Pearl

by Amanda Walker profile


Web Site

(based on 1 rating)
3 reviews

About the Story

A stolen treasure. A desperate king. Two valorous volunteers will prove their worth as a team to recover the luck of the kingdom, or die trying.

This is a 2-player text adventure. You will need a partner to play. There are 2 separate game files, player A and player B. Your partner can be in the same room with you on a different screen, or anywhere in the world as long as you are in contact during play via phone, text, email, or direct messaging.

Game Details


1st Place - tie, Classic - ParserComp 2023


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Member Reviews

Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 3
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Two-player parser puzzler, July 5, 2023
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

I didn't play this game in the intended way (just opened two windows and played both).

I've played 3 or 4 two-player IF games in the last few years, and I think this one definitely benefits from being in the same room or able to talk to each other. The other two-player games I played had a major twist that was apparent from the start and sharing info would have ruined that. This one is different; even having complete knowledge of the other game doesn't really help you in the current game.

Instead, codes are used primarily to move objects from one game to another. When this occurs, you get a code you send to the other player, and they type that in to get an effect in game.

The puzzles are designed to be fairly light, but there were times when I got stuck in one of the games for ten or fifteen minutes, which is why I wonder if it would be better for the two players to talk to each other and bounce ideas off each other.

I loved the humor in the game; puzzles were oddball and events were shocking at times and cute at others. Despite this I never felt immersed in the game world; it definitely felt artificial and made as a kind of puzzlebox; but it was a very enjoyable puzzlebox, even as a single player.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
ParserComp 2023: The Purple Pearl, July 8, 2023
by kaemi
Related reviews: ParserComp 2023

One trend in IF over the past several years has been a resurgent interest in two player games, starting with The Last Night in Alexisgrad, then Ma Tiger’s Terrible Trip, now The Purple Pearl. Whereas the first two games were Twine, with context fractured decision sets advancing a mutually determined sequence, this is a parser game, where the multiplayer elements are rendered as a more granular interaction with a shared puzzlebox.

Literally a puzzlebox, as you are stuck in a cell chockful of random machines and the bricabrac implausibly associated with them; semiliterally shared, as you’re in an adjacent cell from which you can influence the other player but which still locks you in your own puzzles. Your interactions with the other player consist of sending items over to them or making environmental modifications that affect the situation in the other cell. As you set about solving, you’re in constant dialogue with the other player (thanks Josh for playing with me!), considering in what ways your playstate might require their intervention and in what ways you can intervene upon theirs.

The Purple Pearl tries several ways to encourage this communication and be clever about underlining the multiplayer component of the puzzling. First, your cell is just similar enough to theirs that the solutions you encounter can be conveyed to them as potentially useful information. This led to the only real moments of collaborative puzzlesolving, where a dial puzzle we had brainstormed earlier suddenly showed up on my side, and a brick with a weird message was easier to interpret when I found a similar message. Second, there is a clever solution to the “you’ve gotten stuck in a two player game” problem that invites your partner to participate in helping you through: “There is a hint system, but it contains hints only for your partner.” This helps to soothe any tedium that might build up if you’re sitting around waiting. Third, the gaps in your puzzles that are filled by the items or events that your partner sends over are pretty obviously clued, meaning that whenever something shoots your way, you can quickly set about using it to reveal what’s next, creating a seamless pacing that allows for the back and forth to flow.

Still, the game feels more like a sketch than a fully designed experience. Rather than function as any cohesive set of obstacles, the gauntlet offered here is a series of abstract ideas seemingly devloaded into the space with unfinished textures. Listening to a plaque shaped like lips for a code for the nearby vending machine, after which it puckers for a kiss, which then raises a platform with a safe, which requires a key randomly tied to a frog sent through from your partner, but which requires some disambiguating to work (“>unlock hex lock with hex key / That doesn’t seem to be something you can unlock.”), your progress through nested interactions seem vague and disconnected, which detracts from the multiplayer environment puzzling. Often, I would disappear down a gnarl of dream actions, then five minutes later I’d have a code to send to my partner for their own inexplicable journey. Moreover, this disconnection meant that it was hard to know what to send over to my partner: for some reason I give them a rock, a cube, but I’m supposed to keep the egg, the feather, the potion…

Combined with the handwave plot and the perfunctory tone, The Purple Pearl performs more as a proof of concept than the latest Amanda Walker opus. So the good news is that the concept works! There is quite clearly a rich set of possibilities hinting towards fertile veins of design. The greatest strength evinced is the increased awareness of rhythm in gameplay: rather than disappearing down the parser, your journey keeps throwing you back to the surface to connect with your partner, creating a metronome that enriches your sense of progress. Parser exploration becomes less immersive and more discursive. Because these explorations are presented as interdependences rather than the shared spaces of MUDs, an ambiguous metalayer sheens over the objects that define your interactions, transforming sounds to echoes. With a little Walker emotive magic, one could imagine a setting in which, for example, two people explore the same mansion separated by a century, with the stories of the past bubbling up to the present day and the needs of the present reminiscing in the missingnesses of the past, crafting resonances only recognizable through two vantage points, a new degree of freedom for plotting meaning, alchemy emphasizing the parser as perspective.

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Teamwork in a fishbowl, September 11, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)

Milo van Mesdag opened the Pandora's Box of two-player interactive fiction. It explored themes of oppression and war, pitting two characters against each other, leaving the players to suss things out later. The Purple Pearl feels more in the text adventure tradition. Yes, a purple pearl has been stolen, but the other player in this case is someone you cooperate with. You're both cordoned off into small cells. There's a way to shuttle items between rooms, and useless items are rejected. The game has separate binaries for the player in each cell. You can pass items between cells, and once you do so successfully, a code to give to your cooperator drops it into their game.

The Purple Pearl is a good, successful experiment, but if you think too hard, it does feel a lot more like an experiment more than the author's other works. You know you have stuff to solve, and you know it's not the real puzzle, and your main goal is just to get out and start your main adventure. So it doesn't have the usual emotional depth of one of the author's games. But it's still unique and fun and well-executed, and the puzzles, while not profound (they feel as though they've been done before and some, you can use brute force) require some lateral thinking. Receiving the player code once your partner did something, though was a nice surprise gift, as usually you have to keep hacking away or examining everything until you find a clue. Now you hope your partner has, or that they missed something. There was a good deal of encouragement between me and my partner no matter who went first. We wanted to get out of our cells, but it was nice not to have death hanging over us.

And the gifts? Well, they felt like a white elephant party, except they were useful. In one-player games, discovering such things might've seemed too random. I found, first playing one side than the other, it was still a fun surprise to receive an item I'd given, and vice versa. And I was glad the person I played with didn't reveal too much when they were briefly stuck. Purple Pearl has hints--or, more precisely, you can ask for hints to send to your teammate, so you can't spoil anything on your own--but neither of us needed them. (I did poke through them later. They're cheery and fun and do well to steer you only into what you need, with some rhymes that don't spoil things until you know what item they're talking about!) Generally, the items that you didn't need any more conveniently crumbled, which didn't leave much room for confusion.

The Purple Pearl is definitely replayable to see the other side. It took us about forty minutes the first time, then less than twenty for the other. Of course you can play both sides on your own, but I found it a bit difficult to keep track of, even though many puzzles were similar (three switches with three settings, a dial with three digits.) The main moments were the mystery of what might be coming my way, as if waiting for a holiday gift, or asking my partner what we should be looking for--we were walking a fine line between getting through our half of the game and not spoiling the other half, and it was pretty clear we each wanted to see how the other half worked, especially for the bit when we'd escaped our cells and were in a corridor with just one more thing to do. I think that is the main, lasting draw of The Purple Pearl. And it will be unique, unless a MUD version of Inform 7 becomes active again, with its own puzzles.

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