A Checkered Haunting

by Andrew Schultz profile


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Shades of Threediopolis, May 21, 2017

(Disclosure: I participated in EctoComp 2016.)

The following is not Andrew Schultz's fault, but when I saw the title, I got a strong mental impression of a shaded, elegiac ghost story. What it is is a decidedly non-complex "visit all the rooms without retracing your steps" puzzle, with some plot justifications involving ghosts and the afterlife. No descriptions, no NPCs, essentially nothing to interact with (though the last part is justified, given that you're non-corporeal). Still, once I started I found it a fun, semi-mindless way to spend an afternoon. An ASCII auto-map is included, and the game is just the right length not to feel too light, nor to outstay its welcome.

(Spoiler - click to show)Then, you have to guess a verb in order to win the game. While I found that part difficult, I wouldn't call it illogical. It also stands out as a puzzle that wouldn't work in any medium other than IF, and draws attention to the PC's powerless nature as a ghost in a way that is somewhat darker than anything we have been led to expect.

Technically, it's good: I appreciated the map, and there is even a system where progressively more blatant hints appear if you get stuck. (Also, as Easter eggs, try going UP or DOWN.) The only place where I felt the constraints of the three-hour time limit was in the writing, which felt a bit unpolished, even to the point of being difficult to understand. In places, this may even have affected my ability to solve the final puzzle. That is the only major fault I could find, though.

There is a bit of a story, even a pretty good one, but it's almost exclusively doled out in the intro and ending text.

Not horror in any sense of the word, and barely counts as the F in IF, but a fun diversion if you're in a puzzly mood, and technically robust for a speed-IF.

Comments on this review

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Andrew Schultz, May 22, 2017 - Reply
Thanks for this review! It's good motivation for a re-release that allows the player not just to guess the verb but rather to slowly figure out the math behind the puzzle. You get increasingly cluey-er items as you go along.

With three hours to program and a few bugs to figure in the puzzle, yeah, I sacrificed story a bit. That's not an excuse, but I hope it's an explanation.

More generally, thanks and good job for going through the EctoComp games...I think it's a cool, underrated competition and it's certainly helped me share and figure odd stuff I always meant to.
Christina Nordlander, May 22, 2017 - Reply
Oh, I love EctoComp, and have had great fun participating in it. And I enjoyed your game. Of course it's not flawless, but nothing that's made in three hours is going to be.
Andrew Schultz, May 23, 2017 - Reply
Thanks! In a way the 3 hour limit can help, because you don't have the time to try to be flawless or worry too much about mistakes.

And I've found I enjoyed a lot of EctoComp games that made me go "huh" at first once I realized what they were trying to do, which made me worry less about my own faults.

Seeing this review turned up some possible ideas for this year, so that was a Very Good Thing, and I hope you find something to participate again, too!
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