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About the Story
You're going to perform a three-card trick or your name isn't Morgan the Magnificent.
Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Setting; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee, Best Individual PC - 2016 XYZZY Awards
Entrant, Main Festival - Spring Thing 2016
Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling
It’s a compact and effective horror story. The player’s actions are highly directed at every point, but there are stakes enough, and a sufficient illusion of freedom, to make it really satisfying.
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Cool gimmicks abound in Three-Card Trick: directional commands are played with, there are misdirections to make Derren Brown proud, and there is one hell of a surprise later on. Actually, make that two.
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Old Games Italia
Il titolo è autenticamente capace di tenere sulle spine il giocatore, riuscendo a stupirlo con alcuni veri colpi di scena, ma -soprattutto- tratteggiando in modo magistrale un mondo di gioco affascinante e misterioso, di cui però ci viene volutamente rivelato solo una parte piccolissima. Esempio perfetto di un autore che sa dire molto con poco.
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Wade's Important Astrolab
Three-Card Trick manages to develop multiple dimensions of surprise and suspense over its duration, and thus, like a good magic trick, is itself surprising in a delighting way.
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|Average Rating: |
Number of Reviews: 3
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Groover's works are dark and delicious, and this one especially so. You are Morgan the Magnificent, the esteemed magician. Last year, your two-card tricks granted you the favour and popularity from the most influential, wealthiest patrons.
Now, however, a rival has emerged: ostentatious, flashy Ivan, and his three-card trick. Now is your chance to regain your rightful title.
Despite a carnival-like setting - one often associated with summer and fun and play - there is an unsettling undertone (why would you need guards around a group of magicians?) which hints at higher stakes than are initially stated.
Highly polished both in style and substance, Three-Card Trick once again features several parser tricks which enhance its delivery. Text is doled out to control pacing; directions are highly simplified, similar to What Fuwa Bansaku Found.
It's a delicate balancing act Three-Card Trick does. It remains one step ahead of the reader, through to the end; yet, the required actions are hinted with sufficient contextual clues - one is unlikely to get stuck for too long - to give the sense of player agency. This is a game that is well deserving of its multiple XYZZY nominations.
Chandler Groover has put his characteristic mark on the magician genre. The game is similar to "An Act of Misdirection" in tone and concept (where the player is forced to perform magic tricks without completely knowing how, in a grim setting). However, the focus is on atmosphere over puzzles. I felt on the edge of my seat the whole time, wavering between fear and mild disgust.
The game is about dueling magicians who will go to any length to disrupt each other. This part reminded me in a good way of The Prestige, especially as the magicians use new tricks to upstage each other and try sabotage.
The game is thoroughly polished, and credits a lot of testers for a compact game, which helps explain its smooth gameplay. I encountered no bugs, and the parser was very well-stocked with synonyms. Playing this game was like watching a thriller, with the parser so slick that it essentially disappeared, leaving the player to interact directly with the story.
The opening feels like a farce, with an appropriate level of slapstick and humor-filled writing, before the early twist that brings this into a darker, more macabre mood.
Groover experiments with navigation frequently, and in this work, the area of play is established as a two-tiered festival ground organized in circles. On either tier, the player heads 'in' to the center, where most of the action occurs, or 'out', to the transit spot between the two tiers.
Mechanics are simple and satisfying, divided into two sets of actions. First the player must explore; second, they must perform the magic trick. Puzzles are fairly constructed and should be easy to solve, aided by well-written prose.
This is a compact, atmospheric piece which I highly recommend. It may be my favorite of Groover's work, which I hold to a high standard as it is some of the best new work appearing.
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