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About the Story
“You? Win the Libonotus Cup?” Sammy scoffs. “I'd be impressed if your ship even makes it to the starting line tomorrow morning, let alone Portobello.”
Nominee, Best Game; Winner - Hair Swap, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee - Cécile, Best Individual NPC; Winner - Tie, Best Implementation - 2021 XYZZY Awards
Number of Reviews: 2
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This is a pirate racing game with a multitude of different puzzles, some optional, including a maze, a crossword puzzle, traditional parser puzzles, directing people, shopping and economy, logic puzzles, etc.
The idea is that you are entering a racing competition with pirate ships and have 1 day to get and spend money and time to prepare your ship for the race. Then you enter a choice-based segment where you race, encountering various threats and making choices you don't know the consequences of ahead of time, like classic CYOA books.
I found the game overall enjoyable, but I felt like it was missing some key direction at various points. In the beginning, it wasn't clear what was desired or what was possible. Similarly, during the parser interlude in the race, it was unclear what form commands should take, and it was somewhat fussy overall.
That's my only real complaint with the game. Otherwise, it has excellent polish and a fun setting.
Having the hybrid of parser and choice works well for when you have to do things with ship--you're the captain, so it might be a pain to type, say, "Have Joe tie the knots." It cuts through a lot of guess-the-verb, and it's better than the game spoon-feeding you the actions, which would make you feel less like a captain and break immersion. (Compare and contrast with Sting, where the parser does a good job of putting you in a slightly confused player-character's shoes without, well, confusing you.) and the choice options are quite nice especially when you see, okay, it would be hard to guess the verb for certain actions during the race, and at the same time, having the game spoon-feed you them would break immersion. So LC combines the best of different system, and sometimes the text of a hyperlink changes if you click it.
And if races have been done before, the puzzles are enough to make things rather interesting. You start with a damaged ship (you need new sails and a cannon) one day before the big Libonotus Cup race, and worse, Henry, the shipwright who could help you repair it, is dead drunk in a bar. Searching for a cure for drunkenness is an amusing puzzle, and it's been done before. Twice this IFComp, in fact! I wound up feeling a bit silly it took me a while until I realized there were twice the options I thought there were, and this only happened when the way forward seemed like the way back. One clue in the game text made me feel particularly silly, but it was a good one, and it fits in with the good-naturedess of the game, where even the death text and messages add nicely to the story. It's one of those "I don't want to spoil the obvious stuff. Trust me, it's funny" moments.
The race itself is fast-paced, with an emphasis more on knowing which crew member does what than on having to know, say, how precisely to tie a bowline. But given what a big chunk of the game the race is, you sort of need a bit. And contrasting Libonotus Cup's race with Sting, each captures something different–your character's more the one in charge in LC, and so I was glad they were combined together. Each also both got me googling a few terms, because it left me generally curious, and it was more about "Hey, I want to make sure I'm enjoying this fully" rather than "oh geez more studying before I understand things." The basic choices are: take risks maybe going too fast, take risks in battle, or just sail through. Err, don't rock the boat too much. Well, you know what I mean. It's clear what the big-picture choices are.
LC also has a lot more ways to fail and undo on failure (I like the explanation and GUI for undoing choice-based stuff) so that there's really no risk of messing up horribly.
Doing the arithmetic, it looks like you can buy all the best stuff if you perform a small task to get a discount on your new sails. There also seem to be several ways through other encounters. I played chicken, mostly, to survive, and I got second place. While I still have other entries to get through, my sneaky side is plotting how I might get to first. I sensed pretty clearly that some of my on-boat activites made some purchases redundant, or vice versa, and that all seems clued pretty well. Looking at the source, there are some nice surprises and funny deaths indeed. I didn't give myself the time, but I suspect players who are interested will find that time. I like the author's strategy of providing a walkthrough to get "only" second place.
With LC, I don't have much to say about it other than it's well-balanced and just a lot of fun and well thought out. It's innovative technically and well-tested, and I really like the concept of a race that takes a long while, yet manages to be packed into a relatively short game I want to revisit. Maybe I'll even use those cannons the next time through! And while I tried not to think too much about final placings in IFComp, I was happily resigned to LC bumping my entries down a place, because the fun I had was more than worth it. Other authors in our private forum agreed.
For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Best Overall Puzzles of 2021 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2021 which you think might be worth considering for Best Puzzles in the XYZZY awards. This is for the overall puzzles of the game; there is another poll for best individual puzzle. This is not a...
For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Best Individual PC of 2021 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2021 which you think might be worth considering for Best Individual PC in the XYZZY awards. Please include a comment mentioning the PC. This is not a zeroth-round nomination. This is not an...