Number of Reviews: 3
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A great introduction to IF, July 9, 2021
Grandpa’s Ranch stands out in the Comp for being the only ADRIFT game, and also for being initially intended for a different competition entirely, the recent Text Adventure Literacy Jam. That slight delay is to ParserComp’s benefit, though, as this is a refreshing palette-cleanser of a game. The plot is simple and lighthearted – you play a kid whose grandfather is looking to give away the family valuables via a treasure hunt – and the small setting (the grandfather’s house and yard) is agreeable to explore, with compact descriptions enlivened by some pleasantly-chunky pixel art. And while there’s a tutorial that walks new players through the basics of playing IF, you can deactivate it if you’re more experienced or want a challenge, which I’d certainly recommend, as while the puzzles aren’t especially hard, they’re definitely fun to work through.
I haven’t played many ADRIFT games, but Grandpa’s Ranch is a good case for the platform by making thoughtful use of its features. In addition to the previously-mentioned graphics, there’s also an always-available map window that starts out showing the locations the player would already know about and updates as you explore more of the world. And there’s a clear attention to ease of use throughout: objects present in an area are listed out and underlined, making it easy for new players to understand what they can interact with, and when picking up objects whose use is obvious, the relevant command is disclosed, avoiding guess-the-verb frustrations.
This clean presentation makes most of the already-easy puzzles even simpler, but that’s not necessarily bad – there’s a primal joy in discovering secret doors that can be messed up if the process is too obfuscated. And I thought the climactic puzzle sequence was very well done, with several clever steps that all made sense given the goal you’re trying to accomplish, and no parser fiddliness despite the somewhat complex physical manipulations required. As with the rest of the game, the puzzles of Grandpa’s Ranch aren’t going to set the world on fire, but they’re better than they need to be for something with such a clear introductory remit. You could do a lot worse than have this as your first piece of IF, but even if you’ve been around the block a time or two, it’s still a worthwhile coffee-break diversion.