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An interactive feelie, December 24, 2021
(This is a lightly-edited version of a review posted to the IntFict forums during the 2021 IFComp. My son Henry was born right before the Comp, meaning I was fairly sleep-deprived and loopy while I played and reviewed many of the games, so in addition to a highlight and lowlight, the review includes an explanation of how new fatherhood has led me to betray the hard work the author put into their piece)
I think the cat is sufficiently out of the bag that folks realize that this game isnít a standalone, but rather a companion piece for And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One. In the course of that 1980s-set story, the protagonist winds up playing a game that randomly generates short Scott-Adams-style adventures; this is that game.
And it does exactly what it says it does! The adventures are simple to the point of minimalism: thereís always an object or character (an altar or a vampire or a idol) that requires exactly one object to be delivered to them (a flower or a kite or another flower Ė seriously, I ran into a bunch of those even in the half-dozen games I played). You can guess wrong, and get a losing result for that game, but you have to work to do so, since the clues are not at all subtle, and plus the neat in-game map clearly highlights the location of the important object, as well as the place where it must be deposited. The prose, meanwhile, accurately mimics the writing of the games it's riffing on, which is to say, itís also stripped down to the minimum level of descriptiveness.
Is this fun? Eh, I could see it being a reasonable way to keep your fingers occupied while binge-watching TV. But I find procedural-generation in story-focused genres pretty underwhelming Ė Iím aware other folks feel differently, but I like to read to get in touch with the intelligence behind the words, and donít feel like Iíve got tools for getting in touch with the intelligence behind an intelligence behind the words. Anyway once I grasped the mechanism at work, I didnít find the game very engaging. There are indications that Infinite Adventure has some easter eggs or connections to the main game if you delve deeply enough, but since itís been a while since I played And Then You Come to a HouseÖ and Iím not sure Iíd recognize the clues. So I think Iíll keep my eyes out for others to surface anything like that rather than doing the digging myself.
UPDATE: OK, others have found some clever stuff hidden here, which I don't think makes me revisit my judgment that this is only a small companion piece, but it's worth acknowledging. Spoilers for those who are interested: (Spoiler - click to show)you can talk to the characters from And Then You Come to a House, and things shift significantly if you play enough rounds of IA.
Highlight: I got DOSBox to work with no trouble! That felt very satisfying.
Lowlight: Once I figured out that the map marks the locations of everything important, I stopped exploring.
How I failed the author: I left the game running overnight and when I checked it in the morning, the screen was just blinking YOU WIN and didnít respond to keypresses, and despite my highlight above, I didnít feel sufficiently motivated to re-mount the game directory in DOSBox to play again.