The Libonotus Cup

by Nils Fagerburg profile

Pirate racing
2021

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Number of Reviews: 2
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Jolly little game where you repair your boat for a big race, January 28, 2022
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2021

The Libonotus Cup provided a nice break from the more serious entries which certainly had their own virtues. It's a pirate race, replete with weapons, treasure and mythical sea dangers. It's not too long, but replayable, and it has very high presentation values. While I put the web version of my game in Parchment, this goes a bit further, with custom CSS. It's a combination of JavaScript and parser and choice I didn't quite grok technically, but they're blended welll, and it's not hellishly complex. You've got a compass rose that changes to show which directions you can go...that sort of thing! It fits in great with the pirate theme, so LC never wore out its welcome with me, and I once quickly got tired of "talk like a pirate" memes and jokes.

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.