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An entertaining old-school romp through time, August 4, 2022
Uncle Mortimer's Secret intimidated me, but at the same time, I wanted to play it. Details leak out from a game's reviews even if nobody means to spoil anything. And that worked both to draw me in and push me away. It was obviously a big game with a custom (and old-school) parser, replete with scoring, but it was also well-organized, by someone who knew what they were doing. It probably got fewer ParserComp votes than average because of the custom parser. It's got its oddness, but that's not a cover for the author's laziness or inability to put a story together. It feels more focused and assured than Somewhere, Somewhen, which the author submitted to the previous ParserComp, which had That Something. UMS had a lot more, maybe because the author didn't need to focus as much energy on the parser itself. It was the first ParserComp game I came back to post-judging, and I was surprised how quickly I did so. I'm grateful to the people who pushed others to play this game, and I hope I can do for so beyond ParserComp.
Your eccentric uncle Mortimer has disappeared and left you a letter. He's gotten involved in magic and alchemy, and he's probably been captured by someone quite evil. To rescue him, you need to visit several important time periods and events, and you may not have to do much, but when you do, you'll gain the trust of historical figures Mortimer meant and get the next piece of the puzzle. You travel through time by twiddling four numbers on a bracelet while in Mortimer's machine, and for me, it was nice to be able to get something right before doing what I had to.
I did so in all cases except the (Spoiler - click to show)Whitechapel murders in 1888, I was clueless as I never connected them to Jack the Ripper. This isn't all bad; for me, it was nice to know a lot without knowing everything, and also there was enough of a new spin on (Spoiler - click to show)Kennedy's assassination in 1963. I think with this sort of buffet-line approach to important historical events there's always going to be something you wished to see more or less of, and nobody's pleased perfectly, so your tastes may differ from mine, but overall it should work out right. For me the funniest puzzle was finding (Spoiler - click to show)Sir Francis Drake's bowling ball in 1588.
Eventually you do find Uncle Mortimer with a weird tesseract puzzle. The journey is worth it to me, though you will have to dedicate a lot of time. But it's the sort of game you can blow by with a walkthrough, if you have to, and you will get a lot out of it, and maybe in a few weeks you'll find yourself coming back to it, too, to see how much you remember. I found, briefly poking around, I enjoyed both what I remembered and what I forgot.
A few things still slow it up a bit, though. I'd still like to see a more understanding parser--the disambiguation isn't great, and there are some abbreviations, but maybe I'm spoiled with Inform. I'm pretty confident that the author will tweak what they want and need, though, given how they've honed a lot from the promise shown in Somwhere, Somewhen.