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on GitHub (release 11.​1)
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Counterfeit Monkey.gblorb
on the IF Archive (may not be the latest release)
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Counterfeit Monkey

by Emily Short profile


(based on 237 ratings)
23 reviews

About the Story

Anglophone Atlantis has been an independent nation since an April day in 1822, when a well-aimed shot from their depluralizing cannon reduced the British colonizing fleet to one ship.

Since then, Atlantis has been the world's greatest center for linguistic manipulation, designing letter inserters, word synthesizers, the diminutive affixer, and a host of other tools for converting one thing to another. Inventors worldwide pay heavily for that technology, which is where a smuggler and industrial espionage agent such as yourself can really clean up.

Unfortunately, the Bureau of Orthography has taken a serious interest in your activities lately. Your face has been recorded and your cover is blown.

Your remaining assets: about eight more hours of a national holiday that's spreading the police thin; the most inconvenient damn disguise you've ever worn in your life; and one full-alphabet letter remover.

Good luck getting off the island.

Game Details


Winner, Best Game; Winner, Best Setting; Winner, Best Puzzles; Winner, Best Individual PC; Winner, Best Implementation; Nominee, Best Use of Innovation - 2012 XYZZY Awards

3rd Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2015 edition)

1st Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2019 edition)

1st Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2023 edition)


This version fixes various bugs discovered since the last release. See the change log for a list of major changes, and the commit history for details.

Thanks to Dan Fabulich,, 2lindell, Ed King, jackk225, Kevin Lo, nosferatu-if, OtherOlly, Sabe Jones, Sukil Etxenike, and thehatless for testing and reporting bugs.

Special thanks to Dannii Willis, Andrew Plotkin, and, of course, Emily Short.
Reported by Petter Sjölund (updated on August 11, 2020) | History | Edit | Delete
Thanks almost entirely to the work of @angstsmurf I am pleased to announce the Counterfeit Monkey Release 6. This is just a small update, but one which fixes a couple of crucial bugs:

- When the player has performed a game ending action, undo the game if they choose, rather than putting them back in the game but with the same broken game state
- Updated Ultra Undo so that it works reliably
Reported by Dannii | History | Edit | Delete
Release 5 is now available from emshort.com, and will be working through to a place in the IF Archive soon as well. Change log details can be found at http://emshort.com/counterfeit_monkey/source.html .
Reported by Emily Short | History | Edit | Delete
More news... | Add a news item

Editorial Reviews

Rock Paper Shotgun
With over eight hours of delicious wordplay, Counterfeit Monkey is a powerful start to interactive fiction in 2013.
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Invisible Walls show
Screenshots, discussion of gameplay, and spoilers for the first puzzle, about 8 minutes in.
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What’s most-special about this remarkable game is the primary puzzle mechanic, and how expertly (not to mention seamlessly and completely) it’s been incorporated into the play experience. Over the course of the game, you’ll find yourself equipped with a number of remarkable tools that change the nature of game objects by adding, removing, changing, re-arranging or restoring their letters, or combining their names with the names of other objects: sort of a “Scrabble® set for real life”... I can’t say too much more without spoiling one of the best pieces of interactive fiction I’ve ever played.
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Neogaf forum thread
Adventure games were always filled with great little moments off the beaten track that would reward you with their content. Achievements may be dumb, but the acknowledgment works with the faint metroid feel I get from the abilities and areas I uncover.

Ok, that's enough, but the plot is also fun and highly allegoric (I love that stuff) there's only a few real speedbumps, and with the nouns being the thing, the guess the verb stigma of interactive fiction is slight.

A great game, and a great text adventure.
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Totally Dublin
The pen may be mightier than the sword, but mightier still, according to Counterfeit Monkey, is the Tipp-Ex brush. This is a text adventure that exploits the medium to a degree rarely seen.
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Platform Nation
JP LeBreton of Double Fine described it quite astutely as “Portal for English” and he’s right; it feels almost exactly like that. Obviously, you aren’t crafting literal portals, but the changes you can actuate and the rate and capacity for which you do it definitely feels like you are zipping around the world through portals.
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Dork Night
The gameplay is fun. There are multiple solutions to nearly all of the puzzles, and I found myself looking for all of the different words I could make with the tools available to me, even when I already knew what to do. The actual puzzles were occasionally cloudy, but on the whole, they made sense in the universe that the game had constructed. Moreover, it's immersive. At one point, you sidle up to the bar and order a strong drink, and I couldn't help but feel like it was the most appropriate spy moment I've ever experienced in a game, and even that was influenced by the linguistic overtones of the game.
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Counterfeit Monkey is consistently surprising and adroit, engaged with its own core without drowning in witty self-referential winks; putting the basis of language at the forefront, the verb and the noun, without piling on verbose diatribes of exposition. Successful, smart, and fun, its puzzles and pace bridge the gap between curling up with a good book and letting you save the world. Or at least your own skin.
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Die Charaktere sind lebendig beschrieben und ihr Schicksal lässt mich nicht kalt. Am Ende leide ich mit jedem von ihnen. Geschickt wechselt die Erzählperspektive zwischen zwei Protagonisten und ermöglicht Seitenhiebe und bissige Kommentare des Spielgeschehens und der Aktionen des Spielers.
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Multiple solutions almost always exist, so it’s possible to get creative if you’re stuck, and in fact I ended up developing an intuition for solving the puzzles (none of that “rope + banana = fishing rod” nonsense, thank you).
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XYZZY Awards blog
Reviews of Best Puzzles Nominees
I’m here to discuss the puzzles, not the story. The puzzles, though, are those of a storyteller. Just as there’s an arc to the plot, there’s a discernable arc to the puzzle content... Now, the whole progression here is one of increasing power, but this doesn’t make things easier. On the contrary: pretty much everything you’re able to make in the intro area is useful, but the set of things you can make grows far faster than the set of things you can solve puzzles with, drowning intent in possibility.
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XYZZY Awards blog
Reviews of Best Use of Innovation Nominees
At the highest level, convenience features abound, including a GO TO command, tutorial mode, and a way to track active goals. But on a deeper level, the world of Anglophone Atlantis and the structural conceits of the game are tailor-made to showcase the joys of text and elide its limitations... At its core, Monkey structurally zeroes in on the strong point of parser-based fiction (making you feel clever) while minimizing the frustrations (making you feel stupid).
See the full review

XYZZY Awards blog
Reviews of Best Implementation Nominees (Sean M. Shore)
Assessing Counterfeit Monkey‘s implementation is a bit like being a judge in Olympic ice skating: you really have to factor in degree of difficulty. It’s one thing if the skater performs a safe routine that dutifully checks off all the compulsory elements. It’s another if he or she almost flawlessly executes a quadruple lutz and triple toe loop.
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XYZZY Awards blog
Reviews of Best Implementation Nominees (Jason McIntosh)
I predict a long life for Counterfeit Monkey, especially if the author returns to address some of these snags for the sake of increased accessibility. The game is destined to sit beside Anchorhead on most any parser-IF aficionado’s shortlist of canonical long-form works. Just as Gentry’s game epitomized adventure game themes and techniques up through the latter 1990s, Monkey succeeds in synthesizing adventure-game developments from diverse sources with the unique powers of text into an ever-surprising and truly unforgettable work.
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XYZZY Awards blog
Reviews of Best Setting Nominees (Jacqueline A. Lott)
It seems obvious, that in a world where you can add or remove letters from the names of objects, smack them with a homonym paddle, or zap a phrase into an anagram of itself, that there’d be substantial consequences: it would deeply affect people’s lives, the economy, politics, everyone’s world view… all manner of things. But the reality is that most games (heck, even many static fictions) that are fortunate enough to latch onto something truly original are so excited to share the novelty with you that they fall short or completely fail to round out the rest of the world. Not only does Counterfeit Monkey fail to fall into this trap, it avoids it so adeptly that you may not even notice.
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XYZZY Awards blog
Reviews of Best Setting Nominees (Duncan Bowsman)
The creation and formation of language is not only political in Anglophone Atlantis, but paramount. It forms the topography of a cityscape, such that Anglophone and Francophone worlds are full of different possibilities. Depluralizing cannons make fast work of enemy ships in an invasion. Wordplay is resistance.
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XYZZY Awards blog
Reviews of Best PC Nominees (Stephen Granade)
All of that makes Alexandra, the player character of Counterfeit Monkey, one of the best PCs I’ve seen in years. Alexandra combines the technical fireworks of a subverted protagonist/narrator dichotomy with two exquisitely-developed characters whose emotional arc drives the story.
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XYZZY Awards blog
Reviews of Best PC Nominees (Jenni Polodna)
I’d like to imagine some kind of not terrible future for Alexandra, one where she doesn’t descend into gibbering Lovecraftian madness, but it’s so hard to even wrap my head around who Alexandra is, what a cohesive blend of these two people would even be like, that I suspect she is maybe just hosed. Sorry, Alexandra. Good luck, though! You never know! Have fun doing crimes and stuff!
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Old Games Italia
Le possibilità sono potenzialmente infinite ed è incredibile come Emily Short sia riuscita a prevedere tutte le differenti opzioni che la rimozione di questa o quella lettera sono in grado di generare a partire da un singolo oggetto. E siccome gli oggetti in gioco non sono certo pochi, l'impresa assume toni sovrumani. Un grande applauso a Emily e ai suoi beta tester.
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Member Reviews

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Number of Reviews: 23
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful:
>point P-remover at preview, January 7, 2013
by Edward Lacey (Oxford, England)

Emily Short's Counterfeit Monkey is a large and ambitious contribution to several IF genres, but I think the description that best indicates the gameplay experience is "wordplay puzzle game". Short imagines a world in which names are more fundamental than physical properties, and to rename an individual object (subject to given rules) is to transform it to something else. The game's island setting of Anglophone Atlantis is a centre for development of word-altering technology, and the protagonist must make use of this technology in order to smuggle plans for a new device out from under the noses of the island's oppressive government. A tool available from the start of the game can remove any letter of the alphabet from an object's name; to give an example not from the game, a BEARD could become a BEAR and then an EAR. The game allows any appropriately-named object to be modified, often in more complicated ways than this example suggests. The range of options seemed daunting at first, but I found that puzzles were arranged to ensure that new abilities and locations become available only once I had demonstrated proficiency with the resources already available.

A puzzle game founded on such depth of simulation would be noteworthy in itself, but Short combines it with a setting and plot that are engaging in their own right and make the fantastical premise seem almost credible. Over the the course of the game, the player learns about the history of word-altering technology and its likely future development, not to mention its competing uses by criminals and the authorities. By making clear the legal and technological constraints on the transformations, Counterfeit Monkey not only explains how a world in which "animal" and "mineral" are mutable categories escapes incomprehensible chaos, but provides a natural basis for the police-state setting and industrial espionage plot.

Although this review has referred to a "protagonist", the player character Alexandra is actually a verbal and physical "synthesis" of two people, linguist Alex and spy Andra, who have decided that sharing a merged body temporarily will give them the opportunity to leave Anglophone Atlantis unrecognized. The player's input is interpreted as attempts at action from Andra, while Alex takes on the role of the narrator and parser. The contrast between the dominating, problem-focused Andra and the more cautious, locally-knowledgeable Alex provides a perfect fit for the player-parser relationship.

The game's tone is also something of a synthesis. Some excellent humour arises from the bizarre objects the player can create, while the dystopian background is treated quite seriously. The ethical implications of Alexandra's actions receive due attention, but I felt that it was here that the only perceptible tension arose between the plot and puzzles. ((Spoiler - click to show)Concerns are raised in the game about the power of word-manipulation to bring people or animals into existence, and Alexandra's equipment is initally configured to prevent this. However, the puzzles assume that the player will be happy to create "animates" routinely once this ability is acquired.) This criticism is trivial in light of the remarkable achievement that Counterfeit Monkey represents as an adventure game, a simulation, a narrative and an experiment in IF player-parser relations. I hope that any player not allergic to wordplay will download it and enjoy it as much as I did.

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent technical accomplishment and a great sense of fun, June 6, 2013
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)
Related reviews: emily short, humor

Play it if: you want a lengthy and engrossing puzzle-solving experience and a healthy dollop of satirical humor to occupy you for a day or two.

Don't play it if: you're in the mood for something that more heavily emphasizes atmosphere or depth of characterization.

Boy, did I like Counterfeit Monkey. It had me grinning like a maniac within five minutes of starting, and that grin never let up. Even when my face got sore after the first few hours.

The most consistent tonal impression I got from Counterfeit Monkey was that of a high-quality Monkey Island game. Surreal plot devices, anachronistic histories, a coastal setting, a light-hearted story with streaks of darkness...it's all there. Oddly enough it also reminds me of The People's Glorious Revolutionary Text Adventure Game in its tone and charm, though I prefer Monkey for its outstanding gameplay and depth of setting. There's even a hint of Planescape: Torment lurking in there somewhere (a detailed setting where belief and opinion have physical power).

In gameplay terms, Monkey combines a feeling of casual puzzle-solving fun with a profound degree of technical effort. In that respect it feels like a sort of leveled-up crossword, which is appropriate because almost all of the puzzles here are navigated through some form of wordplay. I spent a chunk of the first half of the game a little concerned that the gameplay wouldn't significantly change. The letter-removals were great, but they also felt fairly straightforward, more so than what I think I'm used to in the early stages of a longer Emily Short game. But then the story starts to throw in some fun alternative powers, and remains fairly dynamic from there. Mixing it up with some memory exploration and the ongoing plotline, and you have a story which is fairly excellently paced.

It's difficult to overstate how much effort it must have taken (at least form the perspective of a novice like me) to have implemented the wordplay. A lot of my enjoyment came out of trying some more obscure ideas and realizing just how thorough the research was - how delighted I was to find that the author had taken the time to implement a cad, complete with "smouldering gaze"!

Definitely worth your time. Entertaining and impressive.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A truly amazing feat in modern IF, October 8, 2020
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 8-10 hours

First, let me begin by saying that this has to be the pinnacle of IF programming. This game is large and deep, and amazingly robust with its responses to player input. I can't even imagine how much time Emily Short put into writing and testing it. Bravo!

As far as the user experience is concerned, this is a great game. It has a well-built environment/world, with backstory for both the setting and the characters. The characters aren't particularly deep, but much more fleshed out than your typical IF game, complete with memories that pop up to reveal more about you (the player character) and the NPCs.

The map is quite large and mostly revealed from the beginning of the game (I highly recommend playing with the built-in map on), but you aren't overwhelmed with possibilities. As you complete the main tasks in an area and clear roadblocks to advance to a new area, you rarely (if ever) have to go back to get an object that you didn't know was important the first time you came across it. I loved that, it both made the puzzles easier to wrap your head around and gave me a real sense of progress as you moved around the map.

The puzzles are revolutionary, using a mechanic that I don't think had been explored before (or since?) this game. It is a nice change of pace from the more mechanical or character-stimulus puzzles of other games. The only downside was that because the puzzles were all word/letter based, it got to be a bit repetitive and a few times a little too easy as it was obvious what you needed to progress and you just had to find an object one letter off from your solution.

I enjoyed this game a lot and appreciate it even more. A must play for any IF enthusiast.

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This is version 47 of this page, edited by Cerfeuil on 11 February 2024 at 7:37am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page