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Hercules!

by Leo Weinreb

2021

Web Site

(based on 5 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

The man. The myth. The soon-to-be legend. Your cousin has tasked you with twelve impossible Labors, but nothing is impossible for the great hero HERCULES!

…so long as you remembered to bring your inhaler with you. Wait, did you not? Shit.

Oh Gods, is your eczema flaring up again? This is going to be one bumpy ride.


Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2021
Current Version: Unknown
License: Freeware
Development System: Inform 7
IFID: AA736272-EE17-4411-80F0-09BBD1DC0F13
TUID: exjnabu1c2tm8ock

Awards

36th place - 27th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2021)

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Number of Reviews: 3
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Mythology without the Importancy, November 24, 2021
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)

Hercules! raised some warning flags that I'm happy to say were just flags. First, it drew heavily from mythology, not the first IFComp game to do so. Second, it promised yucks, specifically yucks with a main character who's less than cool (eczema, asthma, lack of strength in general, perhaps mild OCD that is used to help Hercules know which task on the list is next.) Third, I was worried it might play a bit too dumb about Hercules or make the twelve tasks trivial. There's also the general possibility it would either force you to know too much mythology, or it would imagine all the wrong thing.

However, overall, knowing a bit of mythology helps the puzzles go down easier. And Hercules may be more brain than brawn, but not in the "look at all the weird stuff you know, you dork you" sort of way. He uses his wit to solve impossible-seeming tasks given to him by his cruel cousin, Eurystheus. Twelve total, just as in the mythology. Yes, the list says ten, but if you remember your mythology, you'll know why this is faithful, and it may even provide a hint. (Spoiler - click to show)Hercules got dinged for enlisting help on two of the original ten. So that was well-played. And while some of the puzzles feel like a stretch, the game's supposed to be the clever side of silly, and overall it works. The payoff in laughs is more than good enough. However, since there are twelve diverse puzzles that really all should work, there's a good chance one could be a stopper. So don't feel guilty consulting a walkthrough to keep the fun going.

Hercules is the sort of game that could fall apart at any time, because it's a farce, and "wait, it got TOO corny" is always a step away. But then I looked back once done and it never did. There's some suspension of disbelief I am a-okay with. Trick guns did not exist B.C., and neither did asthma inhalers. So if you're the sort of person who thinks a clever obvious anachronism invalidates a piece of work, well, you will miss out. Also, I like how Hercules, so bad at physical stuff, bounces from isle to isle. It reminds me of The Adventures of the President of the United States, an IFComp entry from way back when, where you were the President and did very silly things as you traveled to rooms labeled Canada and Mexico and whatever. That game's jokes landed but never quite came together. Hercules does better. The puzzles are a bit deeper, and they were a lot more fun than the times I was assigned mythology for an English class. I felt undedicated because I had trouble moving up from D'Aulaires. I wanted it still to be fun! Well, now I've had some fun mythology. That showed those adults from my distant past whose names I don't even remember!

The first quest with the lion establishes the sorts of jokes you're going to see: your cousin gives you a gun to shoot the lion, but it's a stage prop. You want to cut the lion's fur, but you're allergic. And so on. You enlist the help of your troublemaker nephew Iolaus for another task. Some areas are closed, because you panic if you do tasks out of order, and you don't want to visit certain scary places without a good reason. This is a creative way to help the player not wander too much, and certainly my big-picture fear starting out was "what if I go on completely the wrong tangent when discovering where to go?" While this whole ordering-the-tasks restriction may leave you stuck, overall I think it helps prevent sprawl. Though really, the game's not very big. At twenty room-countries, with at most one thing to do in each, you can cross them off and move on. But if you don't know your ancient Greek geography, it's a bit hard to envision, so I appreciated all the bumpers I could get.

The gags (and in-game hints) all held up well enough to get me through the maze on Crete (of course there's one! Every big text adventure that pokes at conventions needs a maze and a few cool ways to subvert it.) There were a few joke solutions, a few trivial solutions, and a few slightly odd ones, like what to do with a frozen ham. I admit to using the walkthrough a bit, but everything was sensible enough that on playing again in a few weeks to revisit the fun, I was able to logic everything out. The backstory with how Hera hates you is amusing, too. I forgot why this is the case in actual mythology until I googled afterwords, but I like how it's covered here. Hercules genuinely has no clue why Hera hates him or could hate him. He assumes it's because he's just clumsy and such. It reminds me of adults I was probably smarter than, hiding stuff from me as a kid, and not figuring the secrets is less shameful now. Hercules doesn't think of that sort of thing--and, as a side point, I'm glad the game doesn't play the "HA HA HERCULES IS BAD WITH GIRLS" angle, which would've made me cringe.

So Hercules! does a good job of playing slightly dumb without veering off into stupid territory or abusing its protagonist. Its easy targets are about silly laughs, which may seem unambitious, but it just hits so many of them. It reminded me of an Internet study done where people seemed to think mean people knew more. Hercules is definitely not a mean game, whether to its main character or you, the player who may not remember their mythology. It doesn't seem to know much, because it doesn't force anything in your face. There are enough jokes to distract you along the way that you never feel lectured to. Maybe it's the amusing ranks you gain for each quest you solve. Or perhaps it reminds you of your own physical or emotional weaknesses without cutting you down. It had a lot more heart than I thought it would, and the jokes that made me roll my eyes also made me smile.

It also reminds me of the quote from Amadeus where Mozart asks "Come on now, be honest! Which one of you wouldn't rather listen to his hairdresser than Hercules? Or Horatius, or Orpheus?" Well, here, we are Hercules, and we'd rather be him than the other mythological characters who sit on thrones or what-have you.

Oh, and on the self-indulgent side, I was thrilled to see someone with a last name of "Weinreb" enter IFComp. I considered Bernie Weinreb as a pen name for Ailihphilia, but I went with N.Y. Llewellyn and, in the second version, Sir Apollo Paris (mythology tie-in, sort of!) I commented on this and wasn't surprised the author himself was aware of, and enjoyed, that sort of speculation.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A mythological romp that's childish in a good way, January 4, 2022
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2021

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review posted to the IntFict forums during the 2021 IFComp. My son Henry was born right before the Comp, meaning I was fairly sleep-deprived and loopy while I played and reviewed many of the games, so in addition to a highlight and lowlight, the review includes an explanation of how new fatherhood has led me to betray the hard work the author put into their piece)

I have to confess to finding the initial presentation of Hercules! off-putting. Sure, the twelve labors provide a sturdy framework for a puzzley parser adventure, and I’m hardly in a position to object to injecting comedy into old Greek stuff after my IF Comp game from last year, but the blurb, from the sophomoric premise (Hercules is a puny asthmatic) and use of profanity to the content warnings’ promise of scatology to come, seemed to promise a game with an annoyingly middle-school sensibility.

Happily, though, while that impression isn’t far off, Hercules! wears its relative immaturity well, exuberantly boasting jokes that mostly land on the entertaining side of dumb (I appreciated being told that the shoals weren’t hard rocks, but classic rocks, for example) The mostly-simple puzzles are usually pleasant to work through, with polished implementation and a plot that hits enough of the classical beats to show the author’s done the work while making some welcome tweaks to better accord with modern tastes (there’s no wife- or child-murder here, thankfully, but there is a climax calling back to all the friends you’ve made along the way).

Highlight: one of the most charming aspects of Hercules! is its map – you’re plopped down in a geographically-accurate but much-compressed version of Greece where a simple “GO SOUTHEAST” will take you from the shore of the Peloponnese to Crete. And while the available geography is large, if you go to a location too early, Hercules gets a bad feeling, which helps keep the scope manageable (all the labors must be done in order, understandably enough).

Lowlight: while the puzzles are mostly straightforward object-manipulation exercises, there are a few that feel underclued or fiddly (Spoiler - click to show)(falling asleep so you can hunt the hind in a dream world, for example, which doesn’t seem to be an idea suggested anywhere, and having to do the pendant rigmarole four times with four different mares is annoying busywork), especially I think in in the second half of the game (though see below). Exacerbating this, you can pick up a large number of junk items during labor number seven, which clogged up my inventory in the latter half of the game and made sussing out what to do more challenging – other labors get rid of unneeded items once they’re concluded, and it’d have been better if the same approach was taken here.

How I have failed the author: I was able to get through the first two thirds of the game in an hour, with baby napping next to me. He started to stir, though, about when I was trying to get the mares from Diomedes, and let me tell you, there is no video-game timer mechanic more stressful than trying to finish a parser game before a newborn wakes up! As a result I kind of panicked and wasn’t thinking very clearly for the last chunk of the game, and had recourse to the hints if I couldn’t solve a puzzle in like thirty seconds. On the plus side, I did get Hercules to his happy ending just before Henry needed a diaper change, so that’s doubly a win.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Big, funny linear parser game about a nerdy Hercules, October 8, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

In this game, you're a clueless, weak and nerdy Hercules who's cousin assigned him 10 impossible tasks.

There's a pretty big map, spanning several continents (although it's mostly abstracted, so you can 'go se' to Crete and back, for instance).

The writing is pretty funny. There is a large cast of characters that are all characterized strongly and each puzzle is an amusing take on the original.

Structure-wise, you can only take on the challenges in order. More than half of the challenges are solved directly by using an item from the previous challenge. The game alerts you if you are going out of order.

The solutions start out pretty reasonable (I think I solved 5 on my own) but quickly become kind of moon logic/Sierra-style puzzles where it's hard to guess the author's solution. However, there aren't that many red herrings (for most of the game) and so if you just make sure to try out each item every way you can you can probably work it out.

I had a lot of fun. The puzzle logic didn't click but the game is amusing even with a walkthrough. There is occasional mild profanity which doesn't really fit the game's style but otherwise this is just fun and silly.


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This is version 5 of this page, edited by Leo Weinreb on 28 December 2021 at 8:24pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item