Trick or Treat or Trick or Treat or Trick

by Stewart C Baker profile

Seasonal, Science Fiction

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Groundhog Day for kids, November 15, 2022
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: EctoComp 2022

One of the things you have to face when you are writing a SpeedIF is, what should I leave out? It's stuff you'd rightly get destroyed for leaving out in a more robust piece. ToToT makes the right choice here, as what it leaves out only adds to the brief timed puzzle. (Plus, UNDO blocking is left out. Strictly speaking, it should not be, but for me, it added to the feeling of being stuck.)

It can't be the first Groundhog Day style game, and I've probably played one and forgot, but it fits the format well. You're knocking at the door of Old Man McGuffin, because your friends dared you, and when he answers, he sticks you with a weird-science item that sticks you in a temporal loop. You need to dump it on some poor unsuspecting soul. You have a fixed amount of turns, or you'll wind up having to do things over again.

And here's where the puzzle gets interesting. Stuff like directions to exit and so forth aren't revealed, because this game was written in 4 hours. So you wind up bumping around a lot, and in fact it's probably more efficient to avoid finding the items you might need first to make a map! This would be a poor design choice for IFComp, but here, it reinforces you're a little kid who's walked out well past where they should, and you're pretty lost. (My technical side notes it'd be neat to have a post-comp release that slowly fleshes out the directions you tried. That could be a programming exercise that takes well over four hours!)

There aren't many items, and if there were too many, things would be a mess. However, I always enjoy a good candy joke and seeing the box of L&L's (REAL candy! But you don't have time to eat it!) reminded me of the box of W&W's that the Suspicious-Looking Guy gave you every Halloween in Kingdom of Loathing, back when I played that game too much and enjoyed it.

I admit I disassembled to see the text of what happened at the end. I'd come up one move short, and I had trouble actually finding the person to give it to, though I knew they must be around. One feels sorry for the poor schlep.

ToToT reminded me of Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree by sort of being its opposite in many big choices. You're alone in ToToT, but HT has a whole group of kids. In ToToT, you're in essence getting free time as a kid and extending your Halloween beyond what you thought possible, while HT takes a year off the end of each kid's life. But I think each, if it actually happened, would provide a kid with a bunch of neat weird stuff to share for years. As for the end, I enjoyed thinking about why your friends may've poked you to see Mr. McGuffin. The possible motivations can vary greatly depending on how much they actually know about him.

There are spoilers I want to add and spoiler-fy, because they gave me a good chuckle going down some mental back-roads, but I don't want to add them into the review until after EctoComp, if at all. Part of the fun is being in that area of optimal confusion-versus-progress I think ToToT hits well.

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Stewart C Baker, November 21, 2022 - Reply
Thanks for these insightful comments!

This was my first time writing a parser game, and I spent way too much of my 4 hours on the "reset" aspect, lol...

I'll definitely make some tweaks to make playability less frustrating now that the comp is over. :)

(Also, yessss, Kingdom of Loathing!)
Andrew Schultz, November 21, 2022 - Reply
Glad my comments were helpful! Yeah, I'd play an updated version for sure. I think you made great choices to make things accessible with the programming time you had.

I was so lucky to have played KoL at what felt like the right time. I came by a year before they revamped ascension and skills, and the result was that I hardcore permed a bunch of Disco Bandit skills in one swoop with 40 Instant Karma I didn't really need to use.

Then the Avatar paths -- fun! My favorite was probably Ed, where you could get killed a lot, but that made each turn last even longer. I was able to do 2-day hardcore runs pretty consistently.

It taught me so much about game mechanics as well as comedic pacing. And I still cherish the "fumble" line from fighting the protagonist: "he raises his sword, which starts a 90-second show of swirling lights. It's boring, but not particualrly painful."
Stewart C Baker, November 22, 2022 - Reply
Ha, nice!

I have fond memories of KoL too, although I think I stopped playing before they revamped everything. I played it back in, gosh, 2004-2006, maybe?

I checked in recently and was amazed to see it was still running, although I've been gone way too long to try it again. (Plus I don't have the free time I had in college.)

It definitely taught me a lot about comedy. Interestingly, it also led me to start writing haiku, something I'm involved with now professionally as well (inasmuch as "professional haiku" is a thing)

Thanks again for your comments! :)
Andrew Schultz, November 29, 2022 - Reply
KoL certainly shaped my sense of humor and the jokes I wanted to tell! Ailihphilia probably would not exist without it.

My favorite joke is still the fumble message for the protagonist in the Penultimate Fantasy Airship. "He raises his sword, which stats a 90 second show of swirling lights. It's boring, but not especially painful."

I think they had a few waves of revamping. All of the regular Naughty Sorceress quests got revamped one every 6 months around 2010 when I dropped by, to be less random and make the speed runners who brought Mr. A's more excuse to stay.

Big-picture, I think there was ascension, then there was NS-13 (2007,) and then they revamped ascension and perming. That was really big for me, because I figured I was about to move on, because I didn't want to re-Hardcore perm something I already permed in Softcore. The ascension revamp 1) allowed you to upgrade softcore perms and 2) let you trade 9 instant karma for 99 afterlife karma, or one softcore skill. So after a few Disco Bandit runs I permed a bunch of AT Hardcore skills at once.

I really enjoyed the Avatar of Boris/Sneaky Pete/Jarlsberg challenge paths, too (I got a silver medal for my Jarlsberg run--#12 in day count/total moves!) as well as when you played as Ed the Undying. The writing's really funny. Maybe there's a way to take a quick run through using the KoLWiki. Then Picky and Class Act are good for just building a character quickly.

I don't know if I could go back now, either. Too many rules to relearn, too much frustration with a lack of skills, and I'd miss those perms I couldn't get back.

Off topic here but I hope this brings back memories!
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